by Dylan Bird
(Note: This is a very quickly typed, short note that I wrote to all friends from home that care to read my Facebook rambles. and for that reason it is a very true and honest view of teaching and Surat. I hadn’t intended any of this for an official website but for mates with whom I can speak honestly and open-heartedly. and thus is a very pure opinion of my time here. It may need editing as is written as I think and probably makes little sense (especially given my Yorkshire tones and bizarre English colloquialisms!!) but here it is- voila. I just thought this may be a nice natural piece from the heart!! enjoy.xxx)
Kay, so it’s been exactly six months today since i packed up my few possessions in a spotted hanky knapsack and trundled off to Thailand to try and spread my yorksha tones (as slight as they are) to some Thai nippers!! I have been living in a wee place in southern Thailand called Surat Thani for six months now (minus a months travels ooop norf) and in all honesty, I couldn’t be happier!! There are so so many things to talk about and tell and not enough time (or baht) to spend in a toasty hot internet cafe to write all, so I’ll just write the best bits (like one of them cheesy flash back scenes on the tellybox)
Working at a beautiful white marbled catholic school filled with nuns in white habits and thousands of beautiful Thai kids is a dream job!! I teach classes of 60 excitable and happy little smilers English by basically playing games, and the more ridiculous and rowdy the game, the better- as long as it includes the basic syllabus for the English programme, you can be as creative and crazy with the games as you feel. And really that can be the best and worst part of the week. Trying to think up some game or other to top the week before (and for me my aim is to get the kids as hyper and silly as I can in the hour that I have!!) is always a fun challenge!!
And the kids? The kids are just something else-so nice and sweet, and so so unbelievably loving. Having a class of 60 kids make up a song AND dance routine about you on your birthday is amazing. And every day my desk has some little letter or card or gift of some sort (cakes, sweets, handmade little bead bracelets, pictures, teabags, biscuits, a half-eaten apple). The bestest of best bits in a week is walking across the courtyard of maybe 4500 kids in the morning before we sing the I-love-the-king song, and getting mauled by tiny kids wanting to high five you! And watching the same 4500 kids every Wednesday doing morning exercises- basically half-assed dancing to bad hip-hop tunes, and the fact that once a week everyone in the school (including teachers-male and female, but thankfully excluding me) dresses up in scout uniform (picture grown Thai men with moustaches in shorts, a woggle and a hat), and me getting the kids to do the stupidest things in class – balance fruit on their heads, dress in my clothes, throw chalk at each other, play with poi, and run and jump around like nutters, all in the name of English speaking!!! Every day is so different and so much fun. Even after riding to school in the rain, on a broken bike, being chased by dogs that want my tasty white farang blood, I still can’t wait to get there. It’s the best pick-me- up in the world, and gets you over any kinda ridiculous trauma you think you might be experiencing- being in the classroom for a second makes everything negative disappear!!
And Surat itself? Well apart from the very obvious fantastic location- great for island hopping at weekends, for beach bumming, snorkeling, diving, partying, and all manner of wonderful courses in alternative hippy nonsense (I am racking up a few), and anything else you can think of doing right on your doorstep and only a night boat away! And the peaceful and serene and sssh spot of Khanom beach only a short drive away. And the breathtaking views of the Khao Sok national park with its mighty rainforest and lakes, again just a short trip-trap away from Surat. But this geography stuff is all for the guide books to inform you of.
Surat Thani itself, well Surat is a kinda small and very Thai town- there is nothing flashy or touristy about the place, and for that reason all guide books give it a bad rep. But for that reason, for me, I love it- it really is Thailand. Trying to order food in my baaad Thai, and going out listening to Thai rock bands (good, in a bad cheesy way) is all part of the wonderful Thai experience (except when you get fish head curry- which has happened!!!). I love Surat – the food is amazing ( i could rant for hours about the assorted treats- even for the annoying veggie that I am!) the Thai people are great, so lovely and will go out of their way to help you (even if you’d really like them to just leave you alone sometimes- their friendliness and helpfulness is overwhelming, and hearing the almost constant cheery voices shout hello after you as you peddle about really does make you feel special), the nights out spent drinking cheap cheap Thai whisky and listening to Thai reggae (Job to Do – I will never know or ever forget the words!!), or shaking my thang in Thai clubs. There are so many ace places to eat and drink, and I still find new ones everyday!! And of course the beautiful folk that reside here- a wonderful gaggle of Super English teachers from all over the globe and a great group of beautiful Thai friends who are making this place the fantastic place that it is!! Happy just isn’t a big enough word sometimes!!
There’s my little house, that I love, filled with all kinds of interesting creepy crawlies looking for a party, and water which comes on and off when it chooses (off when you smell the most and on when you can’t really be bothered to shower), and the electricity that trips out EVERY time you turn the stereo on, and the fan that electrocutes you, and the lights that burn, the lack of fridge (until last week-whoop whoop), and the ‘stove’ which is really a hole in the work surface with a metal dish that you must make and start your own fire to cook things on EVERY TIME you want to cook, then clear the ash up afterwards!!! It’s crazy, it’s Thai, it’s sometimes frustrating but ALL of the time fun, and I adore every single second of it!! And every water shortage (though smelly and annoying) is fun as you learn to wash your body, your hair, and your clothes aaaaand flush the toilet with the teensiest bit of water from a bucket!!) And furnishing your place with stuff you make or find on the beach, in the forests or in the bin. I love it, it’s the most fun house I’ve ever had!!!
Then there’s some real surreal Thai stuff that must be mentioned too , like hanging out at the monkey training school (train ‘em to climb trees for coconuts; the stories of this place are endless- furniture making, and playing with monkeys, and smoking out bee’s nests to eat the tiny bee larvae), or the crocodile farm, eating crickets and chicken feet at the night market, the factories that make birds nest soup by housing a million birds and stealing their nests to boil down to extract the saliva to make a nice broth-mmmm, the vegetarian festival where we witnessed maybe 30 men all sticking different things through their faces- swords, poles, tridents, a gas pump and my favourite, a fire extinguisher, and who beat their chests with axes, and cut their tongues with swords- crazy veggies!! or the very obvious lady boys, and the ‘special’ karaoke bars filled with girls in teeny hotpants and massive platform boots (good for a cheap beer and a game of cards).
I’m loving every crazy, surreal Thai second of it!!!