SE Party at Anothai

This past Saturday, the Super English team gathered at a great restaurant called Anothai.  I think it’s probably the first time any of us have been there.  It’s a bit of a trip out there–all the way down to the highway near Big C, near the outskirts of town, but worth every second of the drive!  It’s safe to say we dined on some of the best dishes I’ve had since living in Surat.  My particular favorite was the green chicken curry with roti!  Delicious!  Of course, I was running on Thai time and had the directions.  Naturally, it’s the appropriate time for my phone to not work, either!!  Luckily, the caravan of teachers on motorbikes weren’t too late to enjoy the festivities!

We also welcomed two new team members, Cati and Aleya, to our staff!  They’ll be starting at the International School next week.  It was nice to have a comfortable, relaxed environment to hang out and enjoy one another’s company outside of school.  I know we all get busy with our day to day schedules and individual activities outside of the workplace, but it’s nice how we all come together and support one another.  It’s important we show support for one another while being so far from home.  Next time the rest of the teachers from the International School will be able to join us, as they were traveling back from visits home.

The night concluded with plenty of laughs, wine/whisky flowing, and a good time.  Some of the teachers went to a local pub that’s become popular, Feel Good.  Not sure how long the evening lasted, as I think people were well full and feeling merry!

We’re all looking forward to our next get together–the much anticipated pool party in August!

CELTA in the Classroom

After the end of last year’s school term, I headed up to Bangkok for an intensive, month long CELTA (Certificate in Language Teaching to Adults) certification course.  It was a stressful month, but I think it’s helped me in the classroom this year.  As a part of the course, each of us taught 8 practice lessons.  The lesson plan was amazingly brutal!!  However, I think it’s helped me see traps in my lessons and how to avoid pitfalls.  Anticipating problems seems like an obvious thing to do, I just never focused on it as much as I should.  Additionally, I think my instructions have become clearer (thanks, instruction cycle notes).  I know I still confuse them from time to time, but I’ve cleaned up my approach.  Even something as simple as a whiteboard/chalkboard plan has helped me de-clutter my board.  With all the areas for points, homework, and weekly items, it’s easy to get messy!

I knew this certification course was aimed at adults, not the P4 class I’m currently teaching.  Never having any sort of certification, I figured might as well take the best one out there and not an online TEFL course that will provide minimal results.  I was amazing the amount of time and energy poured into these lesson plans–not because I wanted to, but because I had to in order to pass!  Filling our a Grammar Analysis Form or a Lexis Analysis form for each lesson really makes one think about aspects our our language–connected speech, pronunciation, etc.

We also had to write 4 written assignments to complete the course.  I do recall a few late nights burning midnight oil, grimacing over every sentence.  These topics varied from the grammatical/pronunciation mistakes we observed of students during others’ teaching practices, analyzing text for meaning, and other things.

While it was a hectic month, I do recommend the course, even to somebody teaching Prathom-level students!

Having fun in science

It has been a fun couple of months teaching Science. The students love to conduct experiments and love being able to see and touch things first hand. It’s a privilege being able to take the students outside in MEP. It’s great allowing them the freedom to walk amongst the gardens whilst looking at and documenting the things they can see. Being able to see, touch and feel real living things really helps to highlight the similarities and differences between various topics. Here are some other fun things we’ve done this month.

Science Experiments:

For each experiment we made a prediction, discussed the methods, and drew up conclusions. Discussing a prediction has really helped the students develop abstract ideas in relation to considering all the possible outcomes.

1) How does a plant grow?

We planted 4 different types of seeds and made sure each plant got sufficient water, air and sunlight each day. Some seeds began to show results after 3 days, sprouting into baby plants called seedlings. The tiny green shoots grew up towards the light and white stringy roots grew down.

  • Sunflower seeds.
  • Papaya seeds.
  • Basil seeds.
  • Zinia seeds.

2) How does water move through a plant?

We took some cabbage leaves and flowers and placed them into various pots of green and red food colouring. After a couple of days the flowers and cabbage leaves changed colour and at the end of each stem were coloured dots. These dots are narrow tubes inside the stem that draw up the dyed water into the petals showing the direction of water flow.

3) What do the parts of the plant do?

A carrot is seen to be the root of a carrot plant.What do roots do?

First we propped the bottom half of a carrot in water and second, placed the cut top of another on a saucer of water covering the top with a glass. The carrot propped in water began to grow extra thin white roots to help it soak up the water. The carrot top we placed on the saucer of water, like a root, soaked up the water, helping the stalk to grow.

We also had lots of fun in science this month making crafts based on the new things we had learnt. Here are just some of the things that worked well including a list of materials used.

  • Life cycle of a plant- Paper plates, circular sectioned template, split pins, scissors.
  • Seed packets- Rice, seed packaging template, scissors, glue.
  • Two dimensions flowers- straws, string, cake cases, leaves, rice, scissors, glue, paper.
  • Leaf rubbing- Leaves, crayons, paper.

Jungle Life

There are two types of places to live in Surat Thani. The town, or the jungle? Last year I lived on a Soi just off DonNok in a fairly big 3 bedroom-shared townhouse. This year I decided I wanted to try something completely new. I wanted to live a little further out of town in the tranquil life of the jungle. Surrounded by lush greenery and wildlife, there are five small places situated over the bridge popular amongst teachers called the ‘bungalows’. The bungalows are a much sought after place of residence; they are quiet, peaceful and relaxing little places. Your bungalow is very much your own space, with a river situated on one side and a pond on the other; the beauty of the jungle encloses you in.

Most days it takes about 10-15 minutes to drive to school. I usually take the route beside the river driving through many fruit and vegetable stands along with fish market stands each morning. The Thai locals go about their morning business whilst the air is still cool and the sun is still down. With a constant flow of traffic alongside the pier, I find the journey to school a pleasant and easy one to take.

Most evenings after school are pretty quiet down at the bungalows. Being a little secluded over this side of the bridge there’s not really much to report, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s like a small community; there are 8 of us living here this year, 6 of whom, including myself are Super English Teachers at Thida. Each day we have the option of cooking in a spacious open kitchen shared amongst everyone equipped with a burner, a toaster oven, a rice cooker, and a sink. Or, alternatively, a ride into town takes approximately 5 minutes by bike. Everything including food, 7/11 and laundry is well within reach.

After living in Thailand for over a year already, I’ve fortunately had time to adjust to the creepy crawlies. Jungle animals naturally live and usually stay in the jungle areas. I often see monitor lizards taking a dive in the pond or making a run across the path. The other animals to be vigilant are the poisonous snakes and frogs.

All in all, it’s a beautiful and somewhat luxurious life living out in the jungle. Despite the creepy crawlies, I really have no more complaints. The evenings are peaceful and it’s stunning to see the sun fade behind the palms across the pond. The boats along the river can be a little loud of a morning but nothing to really complain about. I look forward to seeing the year ahead out here!

Tips and Resources for Learning to Speak Thai

There have been a couple of posts published by prior teachers on this topic before, but I wanted to share some of the useful phrases I’ve learned and resources I’ve come across, which differ from the previous posts.

Before coming to Thailand I spent time listening to podcasts to attempt to come prepared with a basic knowledge of the language.  When I first arrived in Bangkok I found that I knew some things to say, but was often too scared to say them!  I thought I’d sound silly or make a mistake.  But I’ve learned it’s better to try and make mistakes than to just speak English.

Since being here I’ve found the best way (for me) to learn is to try to pick up one or two new words or phrases every day and start incorporating them into my interactions with people.  Interacting with others is how I’m learning best.  I try to push myself to interact with locals and speak in Thai.  When I first bought fruit at the market I used to just point at the fruit.  Then it progressed to pointing and saying “ah-nee,” meaning “this.”  Then I learned that “oww” means “want,” so it went to “oww ah-nee.”  The I added “chan,” meaning “I” for female (“pom” for males), to say “chan oww ah-nee” and of course adding the polite “ka” at the end.  Yay for full sentences!

People used to ask me if I spoke Thai and I didn’t understand the question until I learned “puut pasat Thai dai mai?”  Which is “do you speak Thai?”  More literally it’s “speak Thai language can yes or no?”  People used to ask me questions and I just shrugged my shoulders until I at least learned to say “mai kao jai,” which means “I don’t understand.”  I am beginning to understand more questions now though.  The most common questions I get are “Do you live here?” and “Are you a teacher?” in Thai.  I also am often asked where I’m from and where I teach.  I learned how to say “chan yuu ti ni” Which means “I live here,” and “chan pben kru,” which means “I’m a teacher.”  I think learning these basic phrases is important when you are living in Surat.

Just today I just learned how to say “Do you have this?”  It’s “Mee __(insert topic you’re asking about)__ mai?”  Which is basically “you have ____ yes or no?”

Here are some websites I’ve found useful:

Learn Thai with Mod has some great videos.  Mod does one-on-one Skype lessons, which I haven’t tried, but I’ve learned a lot from her free online resources.  A cool free document I got from her site is “190 Words You Already Know in Thai,” which is a  list of words that Thai has taken from English and just made to sound Thai, like “fan” for example, means boyfriend/girlfriend, but was taken from English “to be a fan of” someone or something.  I can send anyone who’s interested.  Some of the words:

apartment » à-páat-mênt อะพาร์ตเมนต์
bakery » bay-ger-rîi เบเกอรี่
ball » bawn บอล
bar » baa บาร์
basketball » báat-gét-bawn บาสเกตบอล
battery » bàet-dter-rîi แบตเตอรี่
beer » bia เบียร์
bikini » bì-gì-nîi บิกินี
bill » bin บิล

I’ve learned that even if you don’t know the word, if you say it in English and make it sounds Thai they get it more, even though you feel a bit strange doing it!  Like I say I’m from “Ah-mer-i-CAH” instead of a quick “America,” it feels odd but my Thai teacher here told me it’s not offensive and it is helpful for them.

Before coming to Thailand I was listening to Podcasts through Thaipod101, which is a great site, although you will be bombarded with emails about deals and discounts every week.  Despite this it IS a great site.  It’s not free, the cheapest membership is about $8 a month, but there are some free videos available on Youtube.

If you want to learn the Thai alphabet there’s Learn Thai from a White Guy.  It’s not free either, but he does have a great free app for your phone with the Thai alphabet and Thai numbers.

Another app that I’ve used lately has been Google Translate on my phone, although sometimes people don’t seem to understand the translation.  I tried to translate the word “bridge” the other day to explain to a tuk-tuk driver that I wanted to get off at the bridge, and it didn’t help.

Thai-language.com is a good free resource.

After publishing this blog I will attempt another conversation with the Som Tom (papaya salad) lady I met yesterday.  I’ve learned how to say “mai sai nam bpla,” which means “without fish sauce,” and “mee kao nee-ow mai?” which means “Do you have sticky rice?”  And of course “Tao rai ka?”  Which means, “how much?”  These actually are really useful, because she doesn’t speak much English.  I’m hoping to keep extending my language learning, and hope you do too!

Beach Camping in Khanom

Ali, Joel, and I recently went camping in Khanom. We stayed at a big empty bay about 15-20 minutes north of Khanom with a guy who does Muay Thai training from his place on the beach. We were also able to visit Jungle Roots and scope out where the accommodation is around there. It’s possible to camp at Jungle Roots as well as at Jambay. It seems like the rules about camping here in Thailand are fairly relaxed, although I don’t know the exact regulation on this. We made a bonfire, had coconut water from the nearby coconut trees, visited a coral temple and Buddhist cave, fish nibbled our feet at a natural fish spa, we shopped at a local market and had a barbecue, rode around on a small boat called Tops, and just had a great time. Having Khanom so close is definitely a big perk to living in Surat Thani.

I found out through this trip that it is possible to take a minibus and rent a motorbike in Khanom, although it cost about 200 baht per day for the motorbike and 100 each way for the minibus, and I also had to pay about 20 baht for a motorcycle taxi to get around. I also recommend being able to say in Thai “I want to go to the Surat Thani minibus station,” and “I’m looking to rent a motorbike.” Something along those lines. I do think driving to Khanom isn’t too bad as long as you don’t push the speed with the motorbikes, after my experience fracturing my foot about two months ago I think they aren’t meant to go too fast, but driving there is more convenient and saves money. We also found out there is supposedly a “short-cut,” or alternative route from Surat Thani, so we’ll have to possibly check that out sometime.

Also I must recommend a Western-style place to eat called the Dusty Gecko. The pulled pork is so good! (aroi maak in Thai!)

Teacher Food Favorites in Surat Thani

The teachers here often go out to eat rather than cook, as the food here in Surat is affordable and delicious.  An average meal will run you just under 100 baht, or about 3 U.S. dollars/2 British pounds.  I figured it would be fun everyone what their favorite places are to eat, their favorite dish, and favorite dessert around town.

Not always knowing the Thai names of places they become referred to as “Lady,” “Guy,” or “Place,” such as “Chicken Lady” or “Chicken Burger Place.”

Here are the favorites of our teachers:

Emma

Place: Bandon, an open-air restaurant near the bridge.

Dish: Deep-Fried Shrimp with dried seaweed and lemon sauce from Bandon.

Dessert: Coconut and corn bowl/cup from the night market.

Calum

Place: The night market close to the pier, especially the kabob stand there.

Dish: Pad See Ew Gai (also transliterated as Phat Si-io or Pad Si U)–Sitr-fried thick rice noodles with soy and chicken.  In Thai pad means fried, see-ew is soy, and gai is chicken.

Dessert: Roti with chocolate sauce from Roti Lady at the pier.  Roti is a popular Muslim dessert similar to a crepe.  Many teachers get it with banana and a sweet sauce (usually chocolate sauce).

Torie

Place: Orange Box, a small street food place that serves Thai food and salads.

Dish: Deep Fried Coconut.

Dessert: Roti Lady at the pier, closely followed by Waffle Lady at the night market, then very closely followed by Ice Cream Lady at the night market.

Will

Place: The place behind 8/1.  8/1 is a popular open-air Thai restaurant that is open all night ’til early morning.

Dish: Tom Yum Kung, a hot soup that is a bit sour with spices and herbs in the broth; the broth ingredients like lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lime juice, fish sauce, and crushed chili peppers.

Dessert: Brownies.

Brittney

Place: Corner Guy/Sweet Kitchen/Massaman Curry Place (three-way tie!)

Dish: Massaman Curry

Dessert: Legit milkshakes from Sweet Kitchen (totally not Thai, but so good!)

Joel

Place: Chinese Chicken Man.

Dish: Pad Kra Pao with a fried egg.  Pad Kra Pao is a spicy Thai basil dish usually made with pork (moo) or chicken (gai).

Dessert: Chocolate hazelnut milkshake from Sweet Kitchen.

Ali

Place: Corner Guy/Massaman Curry Place

Dish: Pad See Ew Gai with a fried egg.

Dessert: Roti from the pier.

Jenna

Place: The pier.

Dish: Fried vegetables with tofu.

Dessert: Mango Sticky Rice.

Josh

Place: Gun-et-te, a restaurant near the bridge.

Dish: Fried Sea Bass.

Desert: Hazelnut latte.

Brady

Place: Sweet Kitchen, a restaurant near the pier.

Dish: Pad See Ew Gai.

Dessert: Roti from the lady at the pier.

Ben

Place: Central Plaza.

Dish: The pork burger from Nature Cafe.

Dessert: Milkshake from The Train Place.

Keith

Place: Bandon

Dish: Pad Prik Gai/Moo, which is chicken or pork stir-fried with chili peppers, and curries, such as Massaman Curry.

Kris

Place: The pier.

Dish: Kabobs from the pier.

Dessert: Roti from the pier.