Archive for the ‘Ban Phe’ Category

A message from a monk

I gave out my email address to a few of the monks on our last day in Ban Phe, and one of them sent me this email (the subject line was “i am sumit”):

how r u ?i am sumit.i feel happy when u come this school because i speak english.i miss all forgien. thank u for u give happy . now new forgien no friendly so i don’t talk with new forgien. not be most only some person ,.can u help me? i konw u help me plz send mail & pic ,when u free time . ok now say good bye.

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Ban Phe

Sunset in Ban Phe. How artsy is that?

If you want to picture Ban Phe, just multiply this by about 10,000. The entire city is basically a giant fish market, with a few flower shops and assorted market stalls thrown in. Aside from the internet cafes, the occasional 7-Eleven, and a few restaurants down by the pier, the entire city is made up of stalls like this one.

This is the only sit-down restaurant in Ban Phe until you get down near the pier. Try the fish soup, it’s delicious.

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This is our favorite convenience store here in Ban Phe. It’s right at the end of our driveway at the Condo Chain. The woman who owns it clearly makes at least 95 percent of her livelihood from TEFL groups, as does the woman who owns a similar little shop on the other side of our driveway.

The place sells bottled water, beer, iced coffee, and red bull, and most of us stopped in at least once a day. They also have a full food menu, but as far as I know none of us have tried any of it.

Like many of the little shops in Ban Phe, it also doubles as the family home and farm. The entire family lives in the back, including a number of chickens, which walk around all day in what you might call the living room.

If you walk past, you might see the family having dinner in the front of the shop or you might catch five or six children crowded around a karaoke machine while the mother cheers them on. It’s a bit strange to think about, but there are quite a few people here who conduct all of their business from their living rooms.

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More of the monks

Apparently my lesson wasn’t very exciting that day. I didn’t realize one of my students was dozing off until the lesson was over and a friend showed me this picture.

That’s Tom (one of my fellow TEFLers) with a group of monks outside the school building. I didn’t know what they were laughing about at the time, but apparently he was teaching them some pick-up lines in English.

That’s the school in Ban Phe. One of the monks tells me there are 250 students studying there, most of whom live in a building just behind the school. The monks rarely leave the school. He said he’s been into town just once since he came to the school about 4 months ago.

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Teaching the monks

I’m not sure how many sports writers from Bethesda can say they’ve spent a week teaching monks in Thailand, but let’s add another name to the list.

I have now taught four full English lessons to the monks-in-training at the Temple School in Ban Phe, Thailand and I can honestly say that I’m getting the hang of it.

I can also tell you it has been an amazing experience. My lessons have covered such riveting subjects as birthday gifts (“What did you get for your birthday? I got a ball. What color was it?…), shopping (“What did you buy? I bought a hat. Where were you shopping?…), and sports (the monks didn’t know about Paradorn Srichaphan; what are they teaching these kids?). But it was great fun, and I am really looking forward to doing it for real.

It should surprise no one to hear that monks, even at 12 years old, are extremely well behaved, attentive, and generally wonderful people. But rest assured that everything you’ve heard is true.

In addition to being completely adorable, the monks are definitely the best students I’ve ever met. At the end of each lesson, they all rise in unison and recite, “Thank you, teacher. I’ll see you next time.” And on our last day at the school, they all went around with their notebooks and asked for our email addresses.

The real test will come when I have to teach actual public school students in a few days.

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Our beach

That’s the scene right outside our front door at the Rayong Condo Chain.

And that’s my roommate Simon sitting on one of the most comfortable beach chairs ever invented. I don’t know how they do it, but these chairs look like they cost about 12 cents to make and they are twice as comfortable as anything back home.

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Coffee and eel

I’ve often thought that after something like 20 hours in the air, nothing hits the spot like a big bowl of eel and a caramel Frappuccino. So I was thrilled to discover that both were available at the food court near the international connections gates at Tokyo’s Nakarita Airport.

I had almost six hours to kill before my flight into Bangkok, so I sat down to my coffee and eel when I saw something across the food court that reminded me of how small a world it really is. On the front of a little bar that apparently caters to Midwestern tourists, a small decal proudly designated the establishment a “Johnsonville Brats Grillin’ Zone.” And as I packed up my tray to head to the gate, a Japanese man in a business shirt sat down to a cup of Starbucks and what may have seemed an equally exotic snack: a nice, tasty brat.

PS: The eel was pretty good. It tasted like a tender piece of fish, and was surprisingly easy to eat with chopsticks. You should pick some up the next time you’re in Tokyo.

PPS: If you’re ever in Ban Phe, Thailand — which you won’t be unless you happen to be taking a three-week TEFL course there (we’re literally the only westerners in the entire town, which is great because there are about 60 of us and we like to hang out in ridiculous places like Ban Phe’s only Irish Pub) — try the fish soup. They take the term quite literally over here.

The entire town of Ban Phe is basically a giant fish market that spans some 15 or so city blocks, and so far we’ve found only one sit-down restaurant. It has no English sign, of course, and no English menu, but we were told by the waitress that the place specializes in fish and prawns.

So, there being five of us at the time, we ordered three fish and two prawns. The fish ended up being fish soup, which meant a whole fish (head, tale, scales and all) floating in a bowl of clear broth. The dish came out in about 12 seconds, which leads me to believe that fish soup basically requires the chef to drop a fish on the grill until it’s cooked through, place the fish in an empty bowl, and pour a bit of broth on top.

The dish, of course, was delicious. Everything is here, regardless of how ridiculous it might look on your plate.

Despite the lack of actual restaurants, Ban Phe is full of street vendors with such offerings as squid on a stick, squid and fish cakes, Thai crab cakes (that would mean whole crab with some breading on the shell), skewered barbeque chicken (for about 3 cents per skewer), etc. Whatever you order, they will cut it into little bite-size pieces, put it in a plastic bag, and give you a wooden skewer to eat it with.

All of it is absurdly cheap and tastes amazing. Just don’t make the same mistake my roommate made on our first trip to town, when he decided his bag of grilled squid could use some spicy chili sauce.

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