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?