Greetings from Sanpatong!

Authored by:
E. H.

Wow, two months certainly flies by FAST. Turns out I still have a blog, fancy that! I suppose it’s time to dust off the cobwebs here and give a little bit of insight into my life the past few months. To be honest, I cannot believe it is already December 28th. I’ve celebrated my birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and it’ll be the new year in a few days. Utter craziness!  

I’ve grown to love and cherish my hometown in Sanpatong, Chiang Mai (didn’t take much, or long). My daily routine consists of biking to school with the three other “farang” (Thai word for foreign) teachers, signing in, going to morning assembly with the other Thai teachers and students, and starting our teaching day at 8:30am. Monday’s are tough for me with 6 classes. I teach nearly the whole day but I also get a jump start on my week so I don’t mind. I’ve come a long way since day one of teaching. You learn a lot about your students as learners and yourself as a teacher every single day. Our school structure goes like this: the farang teachers all teach an entire grade. For example, I teach Mattyom 4 or the equivalent of 10th grade in America. Each Mattyom is broken up into 10 separate classes: 4/1 - 4/10. I wish I could say that 4/1 is the best and 4/10 is the “worst” but the science behind the groupings is not perfect and there are lots of outliers. My 4/1 class is certainly the most advanced but my 4/10’s have some quite gifted students as well… I only mention this to expose the vast amount of learner levels and abilities you can be faced with teaching an entire grade by yourself! Some students can speak so well and others can’t tell your their name in English. Again - crazy! You learn and you adapt though the best you can. Oh and did I mention we all teach 400 students each?! It’s a crazy, challenging, frustrating, wonderful, rewarding and unforgettable experience. It’s all the things. And I couldn’t be happier to be here doing it!

We just celebrated Christmas in Sanpatong and wow - they just may celebrate Christmas bigger and better than we do in America! We had the entire day reserved for Christmas-y festivities. The students all practiced and prepared skits (nativity!), singing, dancing, playing instruments and much more on the main stage at school. It was SO impressive. Seriously, these kids are incredible. And, it was all in English! I probably I heard “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran performed 3 -4 times in a new capacity every time. Thai’s absolutely love western music so incorporating music into your lessons can be pretty helpful. We all did a music lesson with our respective grades and they went really well. I did a “cloze” activity to the song “Love Story” by Taylor Swift and the students went bonkers - literally bonkers. Later on Christmas night we had a Christmas party with all the teachers - also quite the event. All the Thai teachers dressed in traditional Hilltribe (colorful, flashy, knit Thai clothes) and danced to traditional Thai melodies. There was a buffet, Chang (Thai budweiser ;)) and a huge raffle giving away gifts to the lucky winners. Our Thai coordinator won a refrigerator. The other three farang teachers won a rice cooker, Tupperware and a Towel. So very practical.

Anyway… Sanpatong is beautiful. We have a lake near our apartment complex that we often bike to at sunset. It’s “Suay Maak”, which means "very beautiful" in Thai. There’s an outdoor gym there as well (quite common in Thailand). I’ve gone… once. Not exactly working on that 6-pack here. Oh and have I mentioned the food here? It’s unreal! First of all, my apartment complex has a bubble tea shop attached to it. Our landlord is the best. Her daughter Ning runs the shop and has a little son running around all the time named Pa Porn. He’s a delight. Ning makes the best bubble tea. We have the Som Tom (papaya salad) lady on our right. We have the Cow Soi (coconut soup) lady on our left. We have the pad see ew (drunken noodles) lady across the street. And not to mention the Chicken Pad Thai/Curry/Pad Pak Ruam (mixed veggies w/rice) lady, the coffee man, the night food market down the road, and I could go on and on. We are well fed, to say the least. I’m not sure what I’ll do without Toey’s friend chicken and sticky rice, Anee’s special salads or the rotee (thin fried dough with drizzled condensed milk) all from the night market here. I’ve also failed to mention that all our meals cost 30-35 baht locally. That’s just under $1. So… ya. Lunch at school costs 20 baht, so much variety and it’s delicious. We also have fully morphed into geriatric senior citizens and eat dinner at 4pm. This is Thailand man. Oh and 7-11 is the greatest gift to Thailand since rice was discovered. Just go easy on the pork buns, trust me.

Thailand is a such an interesting way of life and you learn more about it day by day. We comfortably travel into the city 50 minutes by songtaew (trucks with cabs and benches on the back) for 20 baht (60 cents). We stay in hostels for $6/night and don’t think twice. We enjoy massages for $8/hour. We take photos with Thai people upon request but also frequently without consent or awareness; it’s pretty funny. Thai people love farang, especially our skin. We are the white celebs in Sanpatong. However, Chiang May city is filled with backpackers giving you ample opportunity to meet some pretty cool people on the weekends. Chiang Mai is the place to be, really.

Ah, what else?! Teaching in Thailand is an adventure. I can’t believe I’ve already been here for half my term. I live a happy, healthy and simple life here. I’ve actually learned a bit of Thai, too. I can order food, tell a driver where to go and certainly get along with the pleasantries. More Thai than I ever thought I’d know! I have the time to improve my teaching practices at school and at home. I try out new topics with different classes. You learn which classes can handle certain material and which can’t. I sometimes change my powerpoint 5 times before I get it right. Sometimes it changes every class! The learning curve is pretty steep so it’s empowering to realize how much you’ve progressed since day 1. My very first day teaching I was given my schedule and a classroom told to set sail. I didn’t know how to use the projector, how to read the attendance sheet (ALL in Thai), or even when the period ended and you know what? … it was okay! Something about being so autonomous in such a foreign place is exciting and thrilling. It's all you. It can be tough but it’s so worth it. Teaching in Thailand allows you to be on your own, learn on your own and become who you want to be as a teacher and as an individual while you’re here. It can be a new beginning or merely a chance to shine.

This blog post is so very long and I apologize for that, but one last update… we’re off to Phuket tomorrow for New Years! The beach… I can’t believe it. While my family and friends back in Maine await the negative feels this weekend I’ll be dipping my toes in sand and turquoise water. Sorry guys! Come to Thailand! ;)

I will try to write a bit more often from now on…’til then.



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