Super English Best of 2010

Chris Ansell

Best Movie: Inception. Perhaps someone planted that in my mind. If they did then Shutter Island would be my top movie of 2010. Either way, big thumbs up to Mr. Di Caprio this year!

Best Cologne: Paco Rabanne – Million. Trust me.

Book: Wild Swans – Juan Chang. Quantity and Quality. This 800 page epic reads as a personal history of Mao’s China. I got more from this book then from 2 years studying a-level history!

Album: Black Keys – Brothers. Quality throughout. Eminem’s Recovery album was the best he’s done for a long time too. What? What the f@%* man? How can you even mention those two in the same sentence? I just did. It’s my choice. Let it go.

Tristan Rentos

Best Album: Stampede by Hellyeah – Let’s put it this way: I know these guys are a bunch of rednecks, but this album is good times, party hard rock and reminds me of the old GnR days

Best movie that I thought would be rubbish but actually turned out to be quite decent: I spent most of 2010 watching classic films (e.g. Lawrence of Arabia), but I did enjoy the A-team movie. I don’t care what the critics said, I thought I was a good representation of the old TV show.

Best retro comeback: The new Lancia Stratos – If you don’t know what I’m talking about, google it. If you have a spare 25 million baht, can I have it please?

Best place to have a coffee and baguette: Sapa in Vietnam – Best. Place. Ever. Go there and see what I’m on about, and if you don’t believe me then ask Chris…….

Best TV show: It is, and always will be Top Gear. These guys get crazier as they get older, and it’s back on in 2 weeks!

Peter Meltzer

Best Single: Another Night Out by UNKLE featuring Mark Lanegan

Best Sound: Solo laughing

Best SE moment: Mitch deciding to stick with his classes at SE (and pick up a second one), rather than transfer over full time to Thida. Respect!

Best SE event: Thai Culture Party at the Wang Thai hotel.

Best iced drink in Surat: Banana & Chocolate shake at Coffee Zone (around the corner from SE). This drink isn’t on the menu, so you’ll have to order a Banana Mocha shake and tell them “Mai auw mocha kraap. Auw cho-co-lat kraap.”

Jessica Gallant

Best Classroom Moment: Anunban 2/2 at Noonoy doing board races while acting out animals. Adorable and hysterical.

Best Drink: tie between a mango margarita from Dos Segundos and Smart Water. Dos Segundos is a Mexican restaurant on 2nd Street in Philadelphia, and they have the best margaritas ever. I literally daydream about the mango. Soooo good. And yes, I know I am a snob, but I just love Smart Water.

Best Party: My friend Matt’s birthday party, it was a theme party, which I’m usually not crazy about, but it was International Beer Olympics and I got to use a fake Russian accent all night.

Best Weekend: The weekend that my best friend Sarah got married.

Best Restaurant: Punjab Cafe in Quincy, Massachusetts, USA: my most favorite Indian food.

Best Book: The Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore

Best TV Show: Dexter

Best TV Couple: Pam and Jim

Best Haircut: When I got my bangs cut super duper short for the first time.

Mitch Burbick

Best Cat: Juicebox. She’s like a miniature panther, and she’s made my heart grow to sizes I didn’t know it could.

Best Decision: Moving to Thailand. It’s been hot and sweaty and rainy and moldy and hard and good and up and down but damn it’s good to feel alive.

Best Beer I’ve Drank In Thailand: Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. Brought from America by Brittney to blow up my taste-buds and make 4th of July great.

Best 3D Movie Seen In Thai Without English Subtitles or 3D Glasses: Piranha 3D. I think that’s kind of self explanatory.

Best Podcast: KEXP Music That Matters/Song of the Day. A local Seattle Music Station that is funded solely by listeners and plays some seriously awesome music that helps make me feel at home.

Anneliese Charak

The Top Ten Thai People I Frequently interact with in Surat Thani:

10. Singing Lady at Night Market

She stands at the end of the Night Market street every night. She ‘plays’ a guitar with two strings. Her singing is more like yelling. She provides daily comic relief.

9. Smoothie Lady at the Night Market

She speaks great English, and makes a killer fresh fruit smoothie.

8. Entire Crew at Coffee Zone

There is always at least 5 people behind the counter, usually 2 make your coffee and the rest of them hang out. They are super friendly and refill my water every 2 minutes.

7. Laundry Lady (near Cooling Out)

She is super sweet. Last week she was closed, but saw me coming and came out from behind the gate to take my laundry. She charges only 60 Baht for a large bag of clothes AND she has a baby pug named Rambo, whom I love.

6. Fluke from P3/3

Not that I play favorites or anything. He is a tiny, tiny kid with a raspy voice. He is like an adorable old man in a 7 year old Thai boy’s body. He often performs his favorite dance moves for the class, he is super smart, has great handwriting, and everyday asks me, “How do you do?”

5. Rice Lady

I love the rice lady. She is funny, sassy, makes me vegetarian meals, and has some of the best wireless in town.

4. Smoothie Lady #2

She speaks EXCELLENT English. I stop by her stand everyday after work at Thida, and she always makes pleasant conversation. After she makes my smoothie, she tells me to drink some so that she can fill the cup up with more.

3. Yoga Lady (Noi)

Noi teaches a great yoga class, and instructs in English as well as Thai. She has a beautiful new studio. Every time I’m sick or have a bug bite, she finds me some sort of natural remedy. She’s a really giving and really kind lady.

2. Alec (neighbor)

Alec! He is about 60 but looks like he’s 40. He is an effervescent man, and a wonderful neighbor. He also speaks great English, and is very helpful. He lends us things, gives us advice, checks our water tank, and when we buy those big jugs of water from him, he’ll carry them all they way to the second floor.

1. Wen

She does so much. She has accompanied me to the hospital, immigration office, and even offered to take three of us to Khanom in her car. I don’t know what I’d do without Wen!

Brian Steinbach:

Best Movie: The Postman – because it might be the greatest movie I ever forgot existed. Go watch it, now!

Best Classroom Moment – A student waving goodbye to me on a test day with the biggest smile, screaming “Goodbye teacher Brian. See you tomorrow!” ….All of the answers were written on the palm of her hand.

Best Ride – My motorbike. I’d never ridden a motorbike before coming to Thailand, and it’s some kind of awesome I never knew.

Best Meal – Homemade Mexican with some of the other teachers. With the exception of one time on Koh Samui, this was the first Mexican I’ve had in six months, and it was fantastic.

Best Book – The Crossing.

Brittney Johnson

Best Weekend: My going away party in Dallas, Texas. Roof top drinks and swimming pool at the W Hotel, Moroccan dinner, pub crawl, and back to the W to swim, dance and watch the sunrise with my best friends.

Best Food: Laotian food. In Luang Prabang…ate amazing soup every morning (spicy broth, vegetables, thick noodles, meat)

Best Beach: Railay. It’s got everything! Remote, breath-taking views, rock-climbing.

Best Country: Laos. I was blown away by Laos! It’s got something for everyone…parties, temples, mountains, amazing food, interesting history.

Best Hotel: The Hilton in Phuket! VIP status, Executive Rooms & Lounge, free food and cocktails.

Janet Phelps

Top more than 5 list:

Best meal of 2010: Homemade avocado cheeseburgers for John’s birthday.

Best book I read this year: On Pilgrimage. This biography of four American authors I really like.

Best beach vacation: Koh Chang. We went out there on a whim and found this perfect little beach with no internet or phone connection or bars or atms and just hung out in a bungalow for as long as we could (until we ran out of cash.) Some fishermen gave us a ride in their boat to get out there.

Best sunrise (There haven’t been that many): In Koh Chang, bungalow literally on the beach. Slept in my swimsuit and woke up early the morning we were leaving. I walked two steps to the water and swam out as far as I could. It started raining and I looked up and saw the sun rising over the dark jungle and rain falling all around me in the still water and causing of little rainbows in the drops. I can’t even describe how beautiful it was.

Best impractical vacation: Ireland for a friend’s wedding. Ridiculous trip to make from Thailand but so awesome.

Best feeling: A story I wrote for this little start-up New Monasticism magazine got published. It was something I wrote from a very sincere place in my soul about something that meant a lot to me. I didn’t get paid, but you know. It was also a little embarrassing because my grandparents and parents read it, and it said some weird stuff.

Best decision: Staying in Thailand a second year. Good, good idea. I feel so much more at home here and enjoy life so much more in my second year. Teaching is easier, and I’m traveling more, finding more what I like to do, enjoying people here more. All better in the second year.

Best classroom moment: My P5 students in the spring got me a giant fruit basket and wrote a speech and learned a song to say thank you (just for me!) on the last day of school. After struggling through my first semester and feeling discouraged a lot, it was a really good way to end the year.

Blake Schlaich

Best Restaurant:

Earth Zone… The internet is good and the food is great.  The owners speak very good English and are always joyful and eager to talk to you.

Best Beach:

Haad Yuan on Koh Pangan… Only a 150 baht/ 10 minute boat ride around cape from Haad Rin, Haad Yuan is an awesome beach to chill out on during the day, bungalows are dirt cheap, and it has some cool bars that throw parties at night if you want to have a good time without the craziness of a Full Moon Party on Haad Rin.

Best Air Conditioning:

Room 5511 at Suratpittaya School… I pray for classes in that room.

Best Christmas movies (since its the holiday season!):

#3. A Christmas Story… too bad there’s no 24 hour TBS marathon out here in Thailand!

#2. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation… makes me want to put Christmas lights up all over my house. but not really.

#1. Die Hard… “Ho, Ho, Ho. Guess who’s got a machine gun?”

Honorable Mentions: The Nightmare Before Christmas, Bad Santa, Elf, and Home Alone.

Best Burger Joint in ST:

Baan Satek (near the river)… Spicy Basil Burger hands down.

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Sticking with It

by Chris Ansell

Good things come to those who wait. It may have taken a little more than simply waiting for those good things to come to me when the going has gotten tough, but the sentiment remains and is one I would advise anyone experiencing similar issues to consider. If you don’t wait, show some patience and stick with it, how will you ever improve as a teacher and as a person?

One of the unique aspects that Super English should be congratulated upon is it’s willingness to employ new teachers and, more importantly, it’s commitment thereafter to groom them into confident, creative and essentially good teachers. I am still in Surat and still with Super precisely due to this initial risk/trust/willingness to employ me and the desire/help/commitment for me to improve. I am not going to pretend, however, that the road to where I am now has been as straight, flat and aesthetically pleasing as the one running parallel with Khanom’s straight, flat and well erm…aesthetically pleasing coastline.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Although I would have found this slightly difficult to comprehend when I was being shot at with something similar to a BB gun whenever I had my back turned in a fifth grade class last year, I now feel fully comfortable using it as the opening line of the third paragraph of this article. That was the only lesson I have left feeling ready to quit on the spot. I can say with my hand on my heart and head held high that I made the correct decision not to. At times like that you need a solid team of workmates and friends around you to offer advice and support. Fortunately my workmates are also my closest friends too, so I didn’t have to look far for help. Help came to me. But what if I had of quit there and then? It may have felt good for a couple hours, perhaps even days, but beyond that, what of the consequences? How about the students that actually do pay attention, who genuinely do learn to speak English because of me and who’s day instantly gets better for an hour when I walk into their classroom or just pass them in the playground. These students would be negatively affected. And from a personal perspective, how would it look on my CV when trying to find another job? Questions would certainly be asked. Why couldn’t you control your students Mr. Ansell? Will you always quit when things don’t fall for you Mr. Ansell?

Experience is the key ingredient of a good employee in all lines of business. It’s what makes the difference in sport too, which is very big business for some. Take the legendary cyclist Lance Armstrong for example. He won the Tour de France an unprecedented 7 times. He won the first few simply because he was the strongest man. The last couple he recognized himself as being the toughest. This was because he was getting older and was not necessarily the clear strongest anymore. What won him his last couple of victories was just as much his experience as his legs. In the teaching profession, life in the classroom also becomes easier and is aided by experience. In retrospect I lacked sufficient experience to deal with situations such as being shot at by the gun or speaking at the front of class and realizing that not a single student is listening to me. If I had quit I would have lost all confidence and may not have been able to work as a teacher again due to the fear of similar situations arising. Less than a year later and I have no fear. I am just as serious about wanting my students to take something away from the lesson, but have perhaps become less serious myself.

If you don’t laugh you will cry. This is what sticking with it has taught me. Ultimately students will never change (at least at the age we are teaching). They are excitable, mischievous and loud. They are just children and are just being themselves. If I had that unruly fifth grade class again today and was being shot at when I was writing on the board I wouldn’t cry. I would laugh. I would make a game out of it. Maybe have one kid act as a moving target and if they hit him he has to answer a question, but if not then the shooter has to answer a question. Use what is given to you. Experience and confidence will come with time. So will teaching excellence. Life inside, and outside, the classroom will get easier and better the longer you strive for it to be so. This is what sticking with it has taught me. This is what my fellow teammates and friends have taught me. And this is what I would teach to others.

First Impressions

by Jessica Gallant

I came into this experience knowing that I had to give everything I was going to encounter a fair chance. I knew I had to have an open mind, and never forget that although the Thai way of life may be foreign to me, I am the foreigner here. I am the weird, different, unusual one, and it is I who has to adapt. I am so happy that I fully embraced this mindset, because I think that it has made my acclimation a lot easier. So far it may sound as though this wonderful frame of mind is the sole thing that has caused my first couple of weeks to be a success. This is far from the truth. I would not be where I am in this adventure if it were not for the kindness, friendship, and help of many people from Super English and people of Surat.

I have only been in Surat Thani for 38 days now, so I am still slowly reforming and shedding first impressions. I can’t believe it has only been 38 days! It feels like a lot longer than that. I don’t mean that to sound negative at all, because it is not. It’s just that going through so much change in such a short period of time can really make you feel like you’ve lived a lifetime. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s okay to run a range of emotions, being that in the past few weeks I have moved to a new country, got new roommates, and started a new job. It’s a lot to process.

When I first got off the plane I was surprised. My plane was the only one on the runway; the only one in the entire Surat Thani airport. That was a first for me. I got off of the plane and Peter was waiting for me. I was so relieved; not only was he an American who spoke English, but he was as cool and nice in person as he was via the internet. We walked out of the airport and the heat hit me. I had read about, had been told about it, but you don’t really have any idea until you’ve been in it. It reminded me of a heat wave in Philly, but it was just a normal day. Then we got in a car with the steering wheel on the wrong side, and everyone was driving on the left side of the road. The ride from the airport to Surat Thani was unreal. I saw what looked like the jungle in every movie ever made about the Vietnam War. I saw countless motorbikes with little kids squished in the front not wearing helmets. I saw ramshackle stands by the side of the road selling everything you could ever want. Peter then brought me to my new house, and he brought me and my new roommates out to eat.

The first impression that I love the most was that of the town itself. That night my roommates and I decided to take a tuk tuk into town and see what it was like. We flagged one down and the driver had the cutest puppy in the tuk tuk with him! He let us hold the puppy for the entire ride, and dropped us off near Coliseum. I had no idea what Coliseum was at the time, but this quasi-mall has become an important landmark in my navigation of Surat. We wandered around looking for the night market and happened upon a huge Buddhist temple observing the Vegetarian Festival. We looked in and were immediately invited inside by the elders. They showed us how to properly light and place incense around the monument and tables, and then invited us to eat for free! They gave us many delicious curries and other vegetable dishes, and plenty of rice. One of the elder women sat down at the table with us and ate. We could not speak the same language, but there was a beautiful understanding that made me feel really welcome. It was the perfect first night here in Surat Thani.

When we first got to Super English for our training, my immediate thought was just, wow! It is a beautiful building. It is very nice on the inside, and it is huge! I was a little surprised, actually, at how nice it really is. I was also really happy to find that it is fully air-conditioned and has internet access. I was in heaven. The classrooms were all well equipped, of comfortable size, and my room for the little kids is just adorable. The training was really very informative. Peter is an excellent teacher, and he was able to give us some tips on teaching in Thailand. He especially helped me in preparing for my level 3A class at Super English; a class made up of 3-6 year olds who know very little English. This was an intimidating undertaking for me, as I had just come off teaching four years of high school in the United States. It took a little bit for me to get out of the history teacher to high school seniors mode and into the preschool mentality. Peter was really helpful in this, because he is really good at it. He had to tell me more than once to relax, to be goofy, and to just have fun. After I stopped worrying so much about being serious and producing perfect little speakers of English, things got a lot easier for me.

My first impression of the students at Super English was “Oh my goodness they are too adorable!” which they are. There is something about 3-6 year old Thai kids that is just too damn cute for words. They are generally really happy, excited, and easily entertained. Classes are fun, and the students seem to really enjoy themselves. As a teacher it is fun because they actually want to be there, which was not always my experience teaching high school in the United States. It is also really challenging, since a three year old can’t even understand me when I say “Please sit down”, but it makes it all that more rewarding in the end.

At first I was totally overwhelmed, but luckily this impression has faded away. There is just so much energy in a room full of 3-6 year old kids, and trying to channel that energy can be extra difficult when we cannot understand each other. But things have been much easier lately. After I built a rapport with my students, they began to really open up to me. Even if we cannot have a long, in-depth conversation, I feel as if I know them pretty well at this point. Every afternoon when I walk into the lobby to gather up my kids to go upstairs to class I have such a blast. They hug me and bring me donuts and run toy cars over my feet. Although fifteen students feels like a million at times, it is really such a wonderfully small number. I can actually have (limited) conversations with each of them individually, which is something that is an impossibility at the Thai schools. I can assess each of their strengths and weaknesses and really try to help them with what they need most, which is really every teacher’s dream.

I think that overall my first impressions hold true to the reputation that Thailand has as being the Land of Smiles. Almost every person I have encountered has been so genuinely kind to me. People are not only nice, but really willing to help out in any circumstances that they are able to help out in. I have had Thai people take me to the beach, give me rides home, help clean up my yard, and invite me out for dinner. There is so much warmth and hospitality that it is not hard to feel comfortable right away. In addition to the kindness of the Thai people here, the expat community, and the Super English family in particular, has made the adjustment period so much fun. Other teachers are really eager to show us new things, take us places, and just hang out in general. They are also incredibly helpful in helping us to develop as teachers. I have had no moments of despair as of yet, because there is always someone right there to catch me if I fall.

First Impressions: Corn Sundaes

by Anneliese Charak

Before arriving in Surat Thani, I tried to mentally prepare myself for this new life. I had never been to Thailand before, or anywhere in Asia. I made a feeble attempt to gain control over the massive change that was about to happen. I eventually realized that trying to make predictions about my upcoming experience was both impossible and unnecessary. I had to just jump in, feet first, and see what happened. So that I did.

Upon arriving in Thailand, I soon began to think about one word a lot ‘adapt’. Things are different here, as you would expect, and as I wanted them to be. There are a few obstacles present in everyday life, such as- how to get around town? where can I find food? where can I get vegetarian food? how do I even ask for vegetarian food? how do I do anything, go anywhere, or ask for anything when I haven’t yet even mastered how to say ‘hello’? And most importantly how do I gain access to the tripod of happiness : coffee, films and the internet? The faster I would be able to adjust to my surroundings and this way of life- the better off I would be.

So I arrived, met the new roommates, saw the new house, and devised a game plan to make the house a home. Next came training, which was great. I had time to focus on the task at hand- teaching Thai kiddies, all the while being given time to adjust. The time came or my first day, and although I had spent the past year teaching, I was nervous. Totally and completely. I had been living in Prague, and teaching adults. Our classes consisted of conversation, about politics/business/culture/travel and grammar, copious amounts of fun fun grammar. Note the sarcasm. I was (extremely) happy to be trying out a new method of teaching with Super English.

My classes usually involved exercises from books, very dry, painfully boring exercises that I was required to assign. I mean grammar is great and all, of course important, but who wants to sit in a class where all you talk about is the first conditional and gerunds, and when and why and what the rules are, and then why the rules are always broken at some point. I am glad that I can focus on having a fun class that engages the students, thus easing the learning process-for both parties.

Although I was anxious about the first day, it went great. My kids are ridiculously awesome. I came into class the first day and they were cheering. Seriously. They all wanted to shake my hand and give me high-fives. Nothing will boost your ego like a room full of excitable 3rd graders. I love em’! And you would think a classroom of 50 some odd tiny human beings would be too much to handle-but it’s really not so bad. It doesn’t hurt that they are also the cutest little tiny human beings. >> So now I find myself three weeks into my Thai adventure and so many vital things are good so far. The roommates, the other Super teachers, the kids, the school, and the community as a whole. I have also located coffee, internet and films. To my delight, I have found that theThai’s and I both have a massive sweet tooth. How would you like your coffee? With two cups of sugar? Why yes please. There are a number of places to pick up the internet, some are adorable coffee shops, and one is a road side restaurant and unlikely place to find wireless. It’s actually the quickest connection I’ve found-who knew? And the films are plentiful. Peter is nice enough to bring in a flash drive full of stuff for us to get our American TV and film fix.

I now spend my time enjoying my surroundings and observing the fun differences in my new home. Some differences: corn sundaes (ice cream’s unlikely companion seems to be a big hit here), three people to a motorbike, using a spoon in instances where instinct tells you to use a fork, fish sauce in unlikely places, seaweed flavored Pringles, pork floss (?), sugar in everything(awesome), deodorant with skin whitening agents (not as awesome). A short list of the things that are now important to me that I would never think would be important to me: 7 Eleven (aka my new grocery store), hand sanitizer, baby wipes (the poor man’s shower), flip flops, tuk-tuks. And how about some things that stay the same no matter where you are in the world: KFC, Hannah Montana and super stores. Just little reminders of the homeland.

So I guess my first impression of Surat Thani so far is: a good place/a different place/the place I hoped it would be, with some extra fun surprises. It seems that Thailand, specifically Surat Thani will continue to surprise me, will be fun, and maybe sometimes have some minor obstacles (still learning how to order vegetarian and explain where I live to tuk-tuk drivers). So, everyday life is not always filled with everyday comforts, but comfortable is easy and easy is boring, and really who wants that?