by Ryan Johnson (January, 2008 – March, 2009)
Having been in Thailand for (nearly) eleven months now I discovered (to my own surprise) that I truly look at Surat as my home. The everyday eccentricities and peculiarities that startled me when I first arrived have melded into that comfy little package of a home environment. Of course, my home in Thailand greatly differs from any place I ever lived in the United States, but the subtle day-to-day parts of everyday life that allows one to be comfortable all exist; albeit in unfamiliar shapes and forms.
While I left all my friends and family behind to come and work over here I found staying in touch remarkably easy. Internet shops are everywhere. Half a dozen shops can straightforwardly be found within five minutes (by bicycle) from my house or any school I happen to be working in. Connections, while not one hundred percent reliable, are consistent enough and cheap enough (generally 10-30 baht an hour) so that if something goes wrong everything remains pretty low-stress. Combined with inexpensive cell phones and cheap calling plans, the greatest trouble with communications arises not from the price of the calls, rather, the effort put forth by each individual person. Some people I know call back to their country of origin at least five days a week without any significant drain on their bankbooks, while others choose to go months at a time without communicating with anyone outside of Thailand. The decision is totally up to you.
While communication with people from the past significantly matters (understandably), it is the people who live and work around you that really make you feel like you’re not half of a world away. The staff at Super English is, in effect, its own little family complete with a magnificent support system. Yes, you will naturally meet and befriend teachers from other schools (and should!), but you will consistently find yourself in the company of the people you first met at SE and find them willing to help you with anything you might need. Whatever needs to be talked about, every person in the school shares a very simple, yet very powerful common thread: they also came to Thailand to teach at Super English. We share all of our triumphs and band together to smooth out any difficulties. Every teacher brings something new to the table. The current teachers are as wide-ranging in personality as in geographical origin, yet everyone inevitably gets together to share common experiences. Since arriving here my friends inside our system have always made me feel comfortable, respected, and valued. It really is hard to miss ‘home’ when the people around you are so supportive.
Life, however, is not fully contained to the school or limited by work. A huge part of living and working in Thailand is to go out and see the country you’re in, paired with meeting the Thai people who have graciously welcomed us into their country. The guidebooks got it right when they decided to dub Thailand the ‘land of smiles.’ Thai people are so naturally friendly and want to please foreigners so much that many newly landed travelers are confused by some people’s eagerness. Once you spend a short amount of time becoming familiar with the locals and their mannerisms (same as visiting or living in any foreign country) you will learn the true beauty and spirit that Thai people embody. Of course, you will see this most predominantly with your children in the classroom (you will get to know many of them quite well) and as you continually break down language barriers with them (that is our job right?) you will learn, piece by piece, what it means to be Thai. Of course, we can never get the full picture, but I enjoy each new fragment as it comes to me.
Thailand really (for me a mostly unconscious experience) starts to feel like home as each new experience fits itself into the grand scheme of your life. The combination of readily available communication, a support and management structure so well designed it even looks like a family tree, and the abundance of friendly Thai people everywhere make working at Super English a most intensely gratifying experience. Oh, and I really should mention that Thailand is home to some of the best beaches, diving, trekking, rock climbing, partying, snorkeling, rainforests, national parks, marine parks and sunsets on Earth. Most certainly a once-in-a- lifetime experience, I see something everyday (whether it’s a student progressing past a difficult obstacle or a dog riding on the back of a motorcycle—not kidding) which reaffirms my joy in living and working here.
Thai School Manager