A tribute to beautiful Brittney

by Chris Ansell

Roses are red, violets are…ah yes, tribute, tribute, tribute, sorry…let me start again…

I would like you to envisage a wheel. A bicycle wheel if you will. A bicycle wheel made with the finest stainless steel spokes. Now the wheels strength is determined by the quality of these spokes and the quality of the person who built the wheel. Give a novice the finest steel spokes to build the finest steel wheel and the wheel would in all probability unlikely fit its very own definition. Similarly give the crème de la crème of wheel builders some rusty steel spokes and although the definition of a wheel will surely be achieved, it’s longevity will surely not.

Peter is a fine wheel builder. One could even venture that he is indeed a man of steel. And in Brittney, Peter has at his disposal one of the finest of steel spokes. A spoke that will not rust. A spoke that, in wheel building terminology, helps the wheel stay true. A dependable spoke. The pressure put on wheels is great and ultimately if one spoke weakens or cracks the others are put under a far higher pressure than they are supposed to be. If I ever built a wheel, a wheel meant for the toughest of roads, cobblestones, potholes, you name it, Brittney would be a key spoke, one that I could count on to be strong even if others were weakening.

Sometimes I wonder if Brittney is actually partly made of steel. She is mentally very strong and determined. But then I’ve seen some of the yoga moves she can do and there is no way steel can bend that much. Plus, steel is cold. And Brittney is not. She is a warm person. She wants to be cold sometimes, especially now that the sun seems to be scorching us with a sadistic severity. And anyway, steel has no personality. So I think that’s further evidence that she definitely isn’t steel. For more information on steel I would recommend visiting:


For more information on Brittney I would recommend you keep reading. So what do I wish to pay homage to concerning her personality? Well she has always been exceptionally good at listening and giving a calculated and balanced opinion or piece of advice on an array of topics. In Amy she found not only a housemate but also a best friend whom she could rely on and vice versa. I remember that when Amy was experiencing relationship complications at the beginning of their Super days it was Brittney who helped her through it. These were early days in their relationship but a sure sign of a good and honest friend.

Prior to it being acceptable for me to call her names like Honeydew, Tinkerbelle and Sweet-pea, I once spent a whole night (literally) drunkenly (genuinely) talking to her about everything under the sun. We were only friends but she refrained from just telling me I was drunk and to go to sleep. Instead, she listened, contributed, and when I eventually passed out, left for breakfast. She is also very kind to her whining cat called Fah (some may be more familiar with its other name; Mitten). The cat used to whine incessantly from the moment you walked into the house and at every moment there after that you weren’t stroking it. I wanted to throw it off the balcony. Or give it to Fido. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, I cared not. But Brittney persevered and instead of growing mad like me, showed him love. He is better now. I rarely want to feed him to Fido.

I discovered how she shows the same care and affection to her students when I temporarily took over her Super class at the beginning of this semester. Although obviously excited that a tall, dark and strapping young man was to be their new teacher they did ask with genuine sadness in their eyes where Brittney was. She gave me a lot of useful advice as to what level the kids were at and what they enjoyed doing so that I felt comfortable walking into their classroom for the first time. Some of those kids were a teacher’s dream but there were also (obviously) some challenging individuals too. Brittney had showed me a video of her singing the infamous “One, two, three, four, five, I love you” song with them. She had managed to get even the shyest kids, to scream it at the top of their surprisingly sizeable lungs. The whole class was into it. She achieved what a good teacher does and that is to get the students speaking English without them even realizing it. I decided I wanted to hear it for myself. However, on the numerous occasions I began singing it I realized by the time I’d reached the “six, seven, eight, nine” part, that I was singing solo. I just couldn’t get them to do it. Something special about Brittney made them feel comfortable and confident enough to sing their hearts out.

Brittney can be a very independent girl. She has spent time in the past living on her own and actually enjoys having time to herself. Don’t we all? But whenever she is in the company of others she is selfless to a higher degree than most. A large proportion of the Super team have enjoyed her generosity in inviting them to stay at the Hilton hotel (with VIP status baby!!!) on occasions, including her birthday and at Christmas. She wanted everyone who she invited to have the best time possible and so even suggested to a few of them that they were welcome to bring a friend if they wanted! This would obviously use up more of the valuable Hilton points she had at her disposal but to Brittney having a quality time far outweighs the quantity option!

So Brittney…

Roses are red

Violets are blue

We all want to say

A Super thank you!

My Testimony

by Brittney Johnson

My time here in Surat Thani, Thailand has exceeded my expectations. I came here to essentially take up time until I started graduate school in Norway. I figured Thailand is beautiful, I can go to the beach, do yoga, make a little money, and I can teach again. Ten months is nothing, right? I wasn’t expecting to make amazing friends, realize how fun teaching can actually be, and come out of Thailand with a completely different direction and plan than when I came here.

On the teaching side, I had taught in Korea the year before coming to Thailand. But it offered no creativity, fun or challenge. Working for Super English has taught me to be an innovative, loving, and at times spontaneous teacher. I love the amount of freedom we have as teachers to teach what works best for us. Not every teaching method works for everyone, and Super English allows you to explore and discover what works best for you as an individual. SE also encourages you to not stop there, but to keep pushing yourself and strive to always become a better teacher. The classroom should be a fun, interactive and inspiring place and SE supports you to achieve that.

I definitely wasn’t expecting to teach again after Korea, but I’m glad I did. I very well may be teaching again after Thailand. Turns out I actually like it!

On a social level, I have made some amazing and life long friends here in Surat Thani. I think most people that decide to get up and leave their life for 1 year have to be pretty open-minded people. The expat community in Surat Thani is somewhat of a family. Even though some of us work for different companies, we all get along. We have weekend parties, weekend getaways to beautiful beaches, quiz nights, and there always seems to be a reason to have a party or dinner to celebrate a birthday or going away party. Surat teachers definitely make the most of the weekends and the long and short breaks and I love that! Even if we stay in town for the weekend, we go to a night or day market, go to Ko Lampu, out to a new or a favorite restaurant, or get together to just hang out. Most of the farang here are really laid back and easy going. Everyone knows everyone, so its easy to make friends.

Living in a tourist country has been very interesting. I came to Thailand one year ago for 2 weeks as a tourist. Honestly, I didn’t like it all that much. But now that I’ve lived here and actually experienced it, I have fallen in love with the country! Now that I have a feeling for the culture, food, language, and the people, it is 100 times more pleasant to be here. When you just travel through to all of the touristy places, you don’t get a chance to see the real Thailand. I’m glad that Surat Thani isn’t a tourist destination. Whenever I go to Phuket or Koh Panang or another beach or island on the tourist map, I tell myself that I’m glad I live where I do. Even though we have no McDonald’s or a cinema that shows English movies, Surat has it’s own unique charm that you can’t find in a touristy city.

The first three months of living in Surat were challenging. I was adjusting to teaching in Thailand opposed to teaching in Korea, and getting familiar with new friends and the country. SE management was there the entire time to support me as a new teacher.

Life in Surat is a completely different lifestyle than Korea and the west. I taught P2 classes and 2 classes at Super English for the first semester. I’m so glad I got to experience teaching at SE. The classes were smaller than my P2 classes so I got a chance to really get to know my students. It was a challenge, but I’m glad I stuck through it to the end of the semester. Working at SE was a rewarding experience. The 2nd semester I taught 4 P2 classes and 2 regular classes. I have really enjoyed my teaching schedule this semester. Some days I finish at 1:50 and the latest I finish is 3:30pm. I have the entire afternoon and evening to do what I want. I have been able to do yoga almost every night, which is one of my passions. I’m grateful for the amount of free time I have. I am fully aware that most people don’t have the luxury of having free time during the week. And aware that I may not have it again. But at SE, we work for that free time. We put all of our effort into the classroom, and spend our time outside of the classroom how we choose. Every teacher at SE seems to be very responsible about getting paperwork, tests and grades in when they are due. We don’t abuse the amount of freedom we have, because we value it so much. As long as everyone is doing their job, everyone is happy.

I can’t believe my time here in Surat is almost over. Feels like I just got here. Ten months has flown by! I can see why many people decide to extend their contracts. It takes awhile to get adjusted, but once you do, life is good! I wouldn’t mind staying longer, but plans are already in the works of what is to come next. Teaching in Thailand has made a huge impact on my life. I’m grateful for the amount of support I received from SE management and fellow teachers. I will miss the teachers and my students so much! Surat and Super English will always have a place in my heart!

90s Party at Rabiangsai Resort, Khanom

Oh, what an amazingly fantastic and inebriated weekend of celebration, love, and all around beach party madness. We laughed. We cried (Blake cried). We ate. We Drank (Wen really drank). We costumed. We wigged (Oh man, did Peter ever wig). We played hard and slept well.

The evening began with the whole crew making their way to Rabiangsai Resort in Khanom. From there, some light drinking and food was had by most, and your typical beach setting events carried on as one might expect. Among said activities, there was; beach side drinking, beach volleyball, beach on swimming, beach sunbathing, beach reading, beach side hackie sack (90s themed party), and obligatory long walks on the beach.

The party itself kicked off with everyone trickling out of their rooms in varying costumes. Those were– as best I can remember:

  • Peter- Boys II Men
  • Victoria- Ace Ventura
  • Vee- Rufio (Yes, from Hook)
  • John- Kurt Cobain
  • Janet- Dude who might have been a character from Blossom?
  • Mitch- Holes in Jeans and Flannel dude.
  • Chris- Mr. 9 “Ts”
  • Brittney- Dude wearing dungarees
  • Amy- Dude clinging to the 80s
  • Brian- Denim Dude
  • Mike- Nihilist Dude
  • Michael- Forest Gump
  • Annalese- Run Lola Run
  • Jessica- Mia Wallace
  • Blake- Dude who thought Miami Vice was from the 90s

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There. Now let us never speak of it again. Kidding.

The party proceeded past general arrivals and photographs with delicious food and effective drinks. After dinner Peter presented teacher awards for the year. Everyone received a nod of recognition in some area that they’ve excelled or general appreciation for above and beyond efforts made over the past year.

Next, John and Janet presented their unflattering awards. Yes, that’s right… the awards you knew you deserved but were just waiting with your head in the sand for someone, nay… some people, to write them up and hand deliver them in front of an audience. So to John and Janet, I award you the “Ya gotta get up to get down (and kick them while they’re down)” award. Keep us laughing folks. Keep us Laughing.

The rest of the night consisted of a three round nineties trivia quiz (the winners of which walked away with Swensens ice cream gift certificates), classic 90s music (yes, I just said classic about the 90s), and general good times to celebrate a successful year of teaching. Thanks to Peter, Jeab, John, and Janet for putting on a great event. An Extra Special thanks to Solo for putting up with all of us as long as he did.

A Tribute to Miss Amy McIntyre

by Brittney Johnson

I knew from the first email communication I had with Amy that we were going to be great friends. We exchanged several emails after we agreed to work for Super English while I was still in Texas and she was still in London. We both sent each other “freak out” emails right before we left for Thailand. I arrived two weeks prior to her and sent her an email about how I was sad to leave home and my friends, etc. She responded with the most encouraging and helpful email and put all of my worries at ease. She did the same thing to me right before she left for Thailand. This time it was my turn to comfort her. So, we both had a kind of special bond before even meeting each other.

I couldn’t wait for Amy to arrive. My first two weeks in Thailand were difficult for me. It’s always an adjustment when arriving in a new country, with a new job and meeting new people. I didn’t arrive in Surat at the normal time with other new teachers came. So, I was there in an “in between” time, if you will. Some teachers were leaving soon. I was the only “new” teacher for the first two weeks I was there. Although everyone at Super English was extremely nice and helpful, I couldn’t wait for Amy to arrive.

I remember the first night Amy arrived. I wanted to go to the airport to pick her up but I had classes. So I went to her house later that night. She came bouncing down the stairs with a huge smile and bubbly personality. From then on, we did everything together. Wherever Amy was, I was, and vice versa. She moved in to my house one month later. Although we worked at different schools, we worked out together, ate dinner together and went out on weekends together. We both have gone through stressful and hard times while here in Surat. We have both been there for each other to talk, cry, unload, and laugh with. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without Amy during certain times. She is great at giving advice and I know I can always go to her with anything.

This was Amy’s first teaching job so she was really anxious and nervous about teaching. She taught high school and she’s a really tiny girl, so I could see why. She put a lot of effort and time into planning her lessons. She really wanted to be a successful teacher. And I admire how much she cared about doing a good job. She’s not only a fantastic teacher now, she found out she really loves it and is going to teach again after Thailand.

Amy is super outgoing and positive. She is very spiritual and selfless and is always thinking of others. My birthday was 2 months after we arrived in Surat, and she did so much to make me feel special. She does so many little sweet things for people she cares about; always leaving notes, little gifts, flowers, etc, just to let you know that she’s thinking of you.

We had a one month holiday in October so Amy and I spent it traveling around Thailand. I have found that some friends are not good traveling friends. But Amy and I got along great the entire time! We survived a jungle trek in Chiang Mai, saw the horrifying Vegetarian Festival in Phuket, hung out with hippies in Pai, lived like queens in the Hilton several times, have gone to many islands together and partied it up here in our very own Surat Thani.

As time has moved on, we have made more friends, taken on different activities, and both have boyfriends now. She is going to teach in Japan soon and I have plans in the works. So we will be going our separate ways. I believe everyone is put in each other’s lives for a reason and I am grateful that I met Amy. She has inspired me in many ways. I know she will excel in teaching in Japan and with any other endeavor she takes on. Even though we are going different ways now, I am positive that I will see Amy again since we are both world travelers. After all, the world is a small place. I can’ t imagine what Surat would have been like without Amy. I’m incredibly thankful I was able to meet her and I know everyone that met her feels the same. I will miss you Amy!

Making Real Progress

by Tristan Rentos

Before I started at Super English, I remember asking myself if this will be a real job where I can actually help Thai students get ahead in the world, or will I just be going through the motions for a paycheck and the chance to do more traveling? Now that my time at Super English is almost at an end, I can say with complete confidence that you can really help these kids get ahead.

Working at Super English (the language school) has many benefits compared to working at Thidamaepra, Suratpittaya or even Noonoy. These are the Thai schools that we work at during the day, and it is impossible to be 100% effective simply because there are 55 students in each class, and you are bound to have a few kids who are there because mum and dad put them there. They know that English is a difficult language to learn, and they don’t want to put the effort in to learn. Even in the IEP classes (we teach the same classes everyday) only the really interested kids show any real improvement, and these are the kids that more than likely go to a language school (such as SE) in the evening. Noonoy is a bit different because class sizes are smaller, but since a Super teacher only goes to Noonoy twice a week they miss out on a lot of face time with a native speaker. This just leaves the language school…..

My experience teaching at SE has been different, for one main reason. I have never changed my class. For two years, I have taught the same kids. Monday through Friday. And no, I am not exaggerating in the slightest. I have had kids come and drop out (some quite quickly) but the core group of eight students has always remained the same. And this has been where real progress has been made.

Firstly, some background information. Aged between 8 and 14, when I first inherited these kids in May 2009 they were already quite good for Thai ESL students, but due to their age they were limited to what I call ‘one question, one answer English’. In other words – “Gab, what is your favorite sport?” Gab would then reply “My favorite sport is football” and that would be the end of it. They could only answer if the question (or parameters) were exactly what had been drilled into their heads by their English teachers at Thidamaepra school. The good news was that thanks to the sterling efforts of Peter and their previous teachers at SE, their fundamentals were sound and I had an excellent base to build on. I knew that with a bit of time and effort I could do something with this class if I could win their confidence and encourage them to stick with it.

In the early days, the most difficult thing was getting the kids to open up and try new things. Generally speaking, Thai people do not like to speak English if they can help it. Spoken English is a lot more difficult than spoken Thai, because of English verb tenses and articles (Thai language does not have articles and only has one verb tense, Thai people add words before or after a verb to indicate future/past tense or a participle). English also has more difficult grammar rules than Thai. Keep in mind that as with all Asian cultures, the concept of ‘saving face’ is of paramount importance to Thai people, and if they start speaking English and make a mistake then they believe that they will ‘lose face’ and embarrass themselves.

The first year that I taught my class (May 2009 – March 2010), I taught using targets that I thought would be relevant to turn them into more than just Q & A students. I focused on three main things:

  1. Grammar rules
  2. Verb tenses
  3. Using better adjectives

This was tough going for a while, because these concepts (especially verb tenses combined with grammar rules) are tough to learn. As the months went on, I could see these lessons starting to work. No longer were the kids just using one verb tense, they were starting to think about past or future tense. It went from “Woody say Thai” to “Tristan, Woody is speaking Thai” or “Tristan, Woody spoke Thai”. It was this progress that prompted me to stay a second year and see if I could get the kids to the next level, which in my mind was focusing the majority of each class on conversation.

When I started my second year (May 2010 – March 2011) I completely changed the format of the classes. I stopped doing ”one week, one target” lessons and chose topics that I could expand into conversations that would encourage each student to speak. For example, I went from doing Q & A lessons such as “What do you like? I like ____” and started doing “If your parents gave you one million baht, what would you do and why?” This worked really well. Not only did the kids start talking to me, but they started talking to each other – in English. And not just talking. Bickering and insults are common place in my class, and I encourage this (within reason).

For example:

Mulan: Woody is late because he was with his girlfriend.
Woody: She is lying, I don’t have a girlfriend.
Mulan: Woody does have a girlfriend, her name is Pink.
Tristan: Is this true Woody?
Woody: No, she is lying. Mulan, stop lying!

The past four months have seen a huge improvement in their ability to speak and comprehend English conversations. No, they are not fluent speakers, but the most important thing to take out of this (in my opinion) is that they now have the ability to speak English with confidence. The barriers have come down, and they no longer care about losing face or making mistakes. I feel that each of these kids could speak English to anyone without fear, and this is what sets them apart from their peers. I know that there are better English students in Surat Thani than my kids, but as a class they are the best, and their confidence is what makes them the best. This is real progress, and this is what SE is all about.

I like all of my students equally, but I would like to point out one particular student, Nam. Nam is the oldest in the class (aged 16), and her family is quite poor. Because of this and her good attitude towards learning, Peter and his wife Jeab generously allow Nam to study on a scholarship. This generosity has paid dividends and has given Nam a chance to have a brighter future than her family’s financial situation may have otherwise given her. Nam is interested in a career in the tourism sector, and because she can speak English she will have an excellent chance to be accepted into a tourism degree at any given University, and a potential career as a customer relations officer/tour guide at an expensive hotel on Samui or Phuket (a very well paid position for a Thai person). I don’t want this to sound like a World Vision appeal, but the fact is that without SE, Nam would not have a chance at being employed in one of these highly paid positions. She would not be able to speak English, and her career prospects would be highly limited. Now she has every chance of realizing her dream, because when asked “Can you speak English?” Nam will now reply with confidence “Yes, I can.” End of story.

Fitness in Surat Thani

By Blake Schlaich

Before I got here, one of the great things that I heard about teaching and living in Surat Thani town is that you get to experience “real Thailand”, yet you also have access to just about any of the amenities and comforts that you’re used to having at an arm’s reach back home. OK, so maybe the local theatre almost never plays English soundtrack movies. Maybe when you want to watch Monday Night Football at a local bar, you end up watching Liverpool vs. Man U. And just maybe, you’re better off searching for a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow than you are searching for barbecue sauce in a Thai grocery store. There’s always that one thing that everyone misses from back home. While all of these would be nice to have, one of the things I was concerned about before coming to Surat was if they had any fitness centers, gyms, or parks.

Now don’t get me wrong, even though I have been referred to as a young Vin Diesel, I’m by no means a meat head gorilla that lives at the gym and has a diet consisting of pure protein and Muscle Milk (chocolate’s my favorite flavor). However, one of my favorite things in the world is to get a good healthy sweat going a few times a week. It’s my hobby and my way to release. Luckily Surat Thani has plenty of options. After being in town for over five months now, I’ve narrowed down the top four best places to get a workout in. Whether you looking to run, swim, weight train, or play basketball… Surat has it all.

1. “The Stadium”

Located down Soi 7 of Chalokratt (directly across from one of the Super teacher houses) is what we all call “The Stadium”. Why? Because that’s exactly what it is… and more. The actual stadium itself is a big arena with a soccer/football style field in the middle and a standard running track around the outside. If approaching from the Chalokratt entrance there’ an indoor swimming pool to the left and a gymnasium to the right. Just beyond the gymnasium is where the nightly aerobics group meets (literally dozens and dozens of Thai people -young, old, ancient- jazzercising outdoors like its 1989… awesome). Adjacent, is the basketball courts where at 6 pm everyday pickup games start and the local Thai ballers are always eager to get a new farang on the court. Inside this massive community sports complex you can also find tennis courts, badminton courts, and volleyball nets. Last but not least, for 10 baht (about 30 cents) you can use the small weight room located just next to the football field… think Muscle Beach Thai style. So if “Big Thai guys wearing short shorts and weightlifting belts, picking up rust pieces of iron from the 70’s” is your thing… look absolutely no further. But, if a more modern fitness center is what you’re looking for, then read on to numero dos below.

2. “Smart Gym”

The newest and biggest of Surat’s gyms, Smart Gym takes the cake in my opinion. Its a 3 floor fitness center equipped with spacious and clean locker rooms with showers, a sauna, and friendly staff. The first floor is devoted mostly to tread mills and weight machines and the second floor is where you can find more exercise bikes and cross-trainers. Venture on up to the third floor and you’ll find me asking people “if they know where a vet is” (because my pythons are sick!). OK, so maybe they’re more like garden snakes, but there is one weight room in Surat where I want to train them, and this is it. A vast assortment of dumbbells, barbells, adjustable multi-use pull-down/up machines, and several benches are all available. However, all of this does come at a price. Smart Gym may be the nicest, most equipped gym I’ve found in town, but its also the most expensive. With no membership, you can check it out for 120 baht a day… egghhh. A one month membership will run you about 2000 baht (about $60 USD/ month), the three month is 4800 baht (about $52/ month), and the year long membership is even cheaper, but much longer of a commitment. They offer yoga overnight at the gym for an additional cost.

3. “The Other Gym”

If Smart Gym sounds nice but a little too pricey then “The Other Gym” (the sign for it is in Thai, so I call it this) may be a better option. At 80 baht a session, or memberships starting at six months for 6000 baht (about $30/ month), it’s definitely a cheaper choice and actually has some amenities that Smart Gym does not. For an additional price, they offer Thai and oil massages, a sauna and a steam room, a jacuzzi, and a small wading pool. The weight room does not quite hold up to the standards of Smart Gym, but it’ll get the job done. Maybe we should call it “Average Joe’s”… there is two benches, one set of dumbbells, about four or five resistance machines, and a couple of tread mills. If this is all you need, then the price is right. Another plus is that its also located on Chalokratt Rd. about 2 blocks up from The Stadium.

4. “Exercise Island”

Last on my list, but certainly not least, is Koh Lampoo or “Exercise Island”. This place is awesome. Just on the other side of the river there is a giant public park equipped with basketball, volleyball, tennis, and badminton courts. There’s a track and several different trails that interlace throughout the island that are great for jogging (or in my case sprinting… I only have one speed). The scenery is great with the river, a couple different ponds, and jungle like patches of trees spread sporadically around the island. There’s also exercise machines (I guess that’s what they’re called) out there permanently for public use, although usually its a 60 year old Thai women on what looks like a rusty one person see-saw. A strange but added bonus to Exercise Island is that there is free wi-fi all over the entire outdoor park. At the end of your workout there’s plenty of vendors around to grab some fuel in the form chicken-on-a-stick or som tam.

While Surat Thani may have more than a handful of other exercise options… these four are my top picks. Whether you’re out to play a sport or pump some iron… on no budget or a low budget… there’s something for everyone.

A Tribute to Cool Hand Burbick from The Phelps’

by John and Janet Phelps

From John’s brain:

If Steinbeck and Hemingway were read over the ambient beats of Mogwai, you would get the vibe of Mitchell Burbick. What’s going on, Mitch? “Nothing” is usually the reply, but as we all know, sometimes “nothing” is a pretty cool hand. I have known Mitch for the entire time he has been here in Surat. We have even shared half-developed chicken fetus landmine eggs in Cambodia. Nothing freaks this guy out. He has a calm that that he carries unflinchingly.

Traveling to Chiang Mai for Songkran with Mitch was awesome. We walked the streets and talked about his broken heart and post-rock by night. By day we posted up by the canal blasted people with buckets of dirty brown amoeba water. Just as the sun was going down one day, Mitch took a smashing bucket straight to the face and his tortoise shell deluxe vintage limited edition Ray-bans flew into the canal. Did old Cool Hand sit down and cry? Nope. He just jumped into the canal and fished around between the polio, chicken bones, and syphilis until he came up with glasses in hand! I don’t even think his skin changed more than two or three tints. I once watched Mitch sit with sentinel-style poise as a motorbike crashed into his Suzuki from behind. He went down, but certainly maintaining a Steve McQueen grasp on all things nonplussed. Most people would take the opportunity to fly into an angry fit, but not Mitch. He was gracious about it, even though his body and ‘Hello Kitty!’ stickers had nearly been destroyed. (For those of you that don’t know, this Kitty figure adorns Mitch as well as curry on chicken.)

When he came over here, all dark and mysterious, I have to admit I had a little bit of a man crush. No, not a bro-mance. I didn’t write him any sonnets or anything like that. I just figured we could do things like talk about engines, types of barbed wire, and guns… oh yeah, and sports and stuff. Since I am already married, I asked him if he would like to be our housemate. We had a few good months together, and then he fell hard for our huntress neighbor. He would go visit her for hours at night. He would come home smelling like her. Then, he even began to talk about her everywhere we went. Then he finally took her home. Her hair was everywhere, screaming infidelities. Then she shat on my floor. That feline is a home-wrecker!

Even though Mitch may give you sarcastic crack and a wry smile sometimes, he has got the listening capacity of a dense forest of sequoia trees. There have been several times where I needed to talk to someone to get the junk out of my head. Mitch has offered his ears freely, without feeling that he had to fill up the conversational space with extra words. The words I leave with Mitch stay there, maybe getting soaked up by his roots and sent skyward to his leaves. This is a rare thing in people, and I enjoy this very much about him.

My heart is heavy when I think about him leaving us for his next home in Japan. He is now an equipped teacher in addition to being a wise friend and man of solitude. He has cast a broad net in Surat Thani, and pulled many friends close. At the same time, he has kept his quiet life of reflection and poetry steeping and becoming ever stronger to the taste. He will be a gift to all those that receive him.

From Janet’s brain:

It might seem mean, but I kind of decided not to be friends with Mitch when he first moved here. Mitch and his long-time girlfriend were in the midst of a messy break-up when they first moved to Surat Thani, so to avoid “compulsively making things worse” (which — No shit — my fortune cookie told me to stop doing), I decided to cement my blossoming friendship with Girl- who-no-longer-is-friend and leave mopey Mitch behind.

But Mitch was just so damn sweet he won me over.

It started with our trip to Cambodia together. “Together” meaning we ran into each other at the border and ended up sticking together for the entire time. He was so easy-going. He let John and Girl and me make the decisions about where to eat, where to go. He never complained or whined about anything. He was accommodating and kind.

So in the end, when the chips fell and Girl left, I felt like we got stuck with the very lucky half of that pairing.

He’s kind of changed a lot this year— he’s been through a lot of ups and downs —but he’s always been kind and luxuriously generous with his time and energy. He’s always willing to do you a favor, share a drink, take a trip, pick you up, take you around, go out, stay in, watch TV, share a book, drink coffee — or anything else —with you.

When I lit into him with a stream of angry cursing after a housemate-related incident one time, he just looked at me all laid-back and said, “I’m sorry, man.” Just like that. Not defensive or anything. Just simple and real. And that’s kind of how he is about everything. He never complains* about stuff, even when things suck really bad. Like, he never complains about the mess around the house or about how he always has to pick up the cat poop or anything.

When John and I decided to move out of our SE housing and needed a housemate to share rent with, Mitch agreed. When we wanted to adopt a cat, Mitch got excited about it. When we needed our space, Mitch disappeared. When we needed a friend, he showed up! Like magic.

And then there’s the work stuff. I was living with Mitch when I took over as head teacher and had to train and orientate the first group of new teachers. As I made dinner for everyone, Mitch cleaned the house. And then, while I sat in the living room and talked about lesson plans, Mitch made coffee. And washed dishes. And then later he called those new teachers to make sure they were doing OK, and he showed them where to get drunk and get coffee. He never got any credit for it, but he was such a vital part of how well everyone did this semester. And all of that is really, really important when you’ve got a close-knit small group of teachers like we do. That’s, like, what he does all the time.

I love him. But more importantly, Juicebox** loves him. And that’s what really counts.

*He does whine a lot though when it comes to dancing. I’ve never known anyone as whiney about dancing as Mitch. That said, he’s come with me enough times to Pool Bar to reach sainthood for someone who whines about it as much as he does.

**Juicebox is a cat. Mitch named her. She’s brought a new meaning to all of our lives. “Holla, JB.”

How I got here

by Chris Ansell

Monotony. If I had to pick one word to explain my reason for coming to Thailand in the first place it would be this. There was more to it than this of course but I gave myself only one word and I will stick with it thank you very much. Let me explain my choice of word and let me take you back a decade or so to my childhood years.

Big family gatherings are part of growing up as a child. I never once got excited about going to a gathering regardless of the occasion and would often look for excuses as to why I couldn’t make it. Take the following conversation I once had with my mother:

“I’ve got to work this Saturday mum, bosses orders,” was my first shot for freedom. “You don’t even have a job, Christopher!” was the swift response fired back.

“Well actually I’ve got an essay to write for history class,” I would use next.

“Well, Uncle Mick graduated in History from York University, so you could discuss some ideas with him and he could point you in the right direction for your essay.”

A couple of hours later…

Location – family gathering. Yes I had lost. Her suggestion to talk with Uncle Mick turned out to be more of an order than a suggestion. But now here, I noticed a few faces were missing.

“Well that’s just not fair,” I thought and proceeded to voice my thought to my mother.

“But they are not in the country, Christopher, so how could they make it?!”.

“But they were on holiday for the last gathering at Aunty Wendy’s house months ago; how can they still be on holiday?” I retorted.

“Well actually they’re not really on holiday. They are working, Christopher. Jo works in Japan as a teacher. And Cathy is a volunteer in Borneo”.

So that’s how to get out of family gatherings…career path chosen!

Well, in hindsight, my career wasn’t confirmed at that exact moment, for I had university to get through, but the proverbial seed had been planted. It was just a question of when this seed would turn into the flower it promised.

University. Three years of independence. Three years of drinking. Three years of meeting people who made me think, made me laugh and who grew with me. With the A4 piece of paper I had attained, one thought prevailed: What now? Up to this point in my life there had really only been a limited number of choices, or sensible ones at least. But now I had no one telling me what I “should” do or where I “should” go. All I knew is that I needed to make some money and wanted to be healthy and active once again. I moved back home with my parents and three younger brothers and took a job at my local bike shop. I used to race bikes from an early age when my dad took me to his races and I would race in the under 12 event. I had raced until I went to university but had stopped when I began enjoying the things that being an 18-year-old young man can bring. I missed it and although working at the bike shop wasn’t really utilizing my A4 piece of university paper, I enjoyed it.

I spent two years living as a cyclist. I spent my days working with bikes and speaking with fellow enthusiasts and a lot of my spare time out training with the same people. On my days off I would be racing, or if there was no race, going out for a longer 4 or 5 hour ride. I was part of a community.

But then something triggered in my mind. It had been a long winter and perhaps the rain had finally set that proverbial seed’s path in motion. I realized my world was a very small world. I was doing the same job, with the same people and had been riding the same roads over and over. My life had become monotonous.

Change was required. I needed a new challenge. A change of place would solve all problems. I would need a new job and would meet new people and learn new things. But where to go? What did I want?

Sun, sea and sand were three commodities that were certainly lacking in London and so I put these at the top of the list. My lack of teaching experience helped rule out some of my potential destinations too. It soon became clear that my new life would take shape somewhere in Asia. In the end it was a late night viewing of “The Beach” that swung the decision in Thailand’s favour. Yes, you have a certain Mr. Di Caprio to thank or thump for my presence here. The final and potentially most difficult choice was for which school to teach for. This, however, actually turned out to be the easiest decision once I read Super’s job posting on Dave’s ESL café and subsequently viewed the Super website. The choice now was not mine to make. I wanted to work for Super. Fortunately Peter wanted me to work for Super too!

“Mum, I’m sorry I won’t be able to make Auntie Sue and Fred’s wedding anniversary, but I finally have a pretty legitimate excuse…”


by Mitch Burbick

One of the best things about working about Super English is the huge amount of time for vacation that you get. Thailand’s infamous for random Holiday’s scattered throughout the calendar work year but as far as allocated time off for traveling and basically doing whatever you please besides working, Super English offers the most. They’re unpaid, but what are you doing in Thailand if you’re looking to make a bunch of money? We get almost six weeks off around March and April and the entire month of October. I made use of my month this last October and went to Taiwan.

There’s a lot of SE Asia that I’m going to unfortunately leave without seeing. Taiwan is definitely not the usual vacation go to and while I’ll say it was a really tough decision to head there over Vietnam, I won’t say that it wasn’t worth it.

I found a ticket from Bangkok to Taipei with Air Asia for just under nine thousand baht (around $300 U.S.) which for a roundtrip 5 hour flight each way, is a screaming deal. Got into Taipei around 7 at night and took a bus from the airport to the train station, about an hour away. You’ve got to give it to Taiwan, they’ve got busses and trains fast, on time, and just generally nailed down. At the train station I was able to buy a ticket on the high speed train to head down the east coast to Hualien, a town that two of my friends from university work in.

Friends, Taiwan is beautiful. I had never spent time thinking about it, but holy mother, it’s something to be explored. I spent just over 3 weeks there living on the coast with my friends. We rode motorcycles through canyons, saw waterfalls pouring down the sides of mist covered mountains, sat in a hot spring next to a raging river, hunted jade in the rain while knee deep in cold water, surfed typhoon waves and drank a lot of Budweiser out in front of 7-11’s.

The country has a little bit more than 20 million people, 11 million of which live in Taipei. The country’s not huge, you can ride a motorcycle around the entire thing in a couple days. The middle is basically a giant chain of mountains with one road running through along a gorge that rivals the Grand Canyon in beauty. With the exception of one or two larger cities in the south, most of the towns are pretty small. It was easy to feel at home after just a short period of time there and I understood why even after two years, my friends had no intentions of leaving.

There are a few large chain ESL schools operating in Taiwan, HESS being the largest. My friends work for them and they like it alright. For them, after the first year, the job has turned into a way to stay in the country while learning Chinese. They teach kindergarten in the morning, have a 4 or 5 hour break during the day, and return to work at 4 or so to teach a few hours of private classes every night, not unlike the classes at Super English.

The cost of living seems to be a bit more than it is in Thailand, but altogether, I found things pretty reasonably priced. Definitely more than they are around here in SE Asia, but in no way as much as back home, Japan, or even mainland China.

A nice thing I really enjoyed was the weather. Over October it was cool and a bit rainy, but in no way was it like the rainy season we have here in Thailand. The summers are pretty hot and humid, but their winters are actually cold. Coming from America’s west coast, it was kind of like being back home for a little bit. The trip was great. I’d recommend to anyone looking for a vacation a little different than the usual SE Asia circuit to check it out. Flights are cheap, food and staying are pretty cheap, and if you’re looking for an adventure, rent a bike and try to make it around the island in a few days stopping wherever you see fit. And don’t forget Taroko gorge. It’s definitely a must see.

Coming home to Thailand though, like always, was great. I’d missed the delicious Thai food, the cheap beer, the quirky night markets and all the subtleties of the day that make Thailand such a great and fantastic place to live and work.

My five favourite memories from Thailand

by Chris Ansell

I feel like my time in Thailand has brought me an abundance of fantastic experiences and memories that my past life could not and would not have ever been able to provide. So filled with them has this past year and a half been that I am positive and afraid that many have already been lost with only a slim chance of returning, perhaps, if something unknown to me at present, happens to trigger them. So working with the memories that are with me now, I am excited to present to you my five favourite memories from the land of smiles (which certainly had no problem living up to its name!)

1. Walking onto Khanom beach for the first time.

Halloween 2009. Everything and everyone still rather new to me. I had been here for just two weeks. I’d barely stepped foot in a classroom yet and definitely would have felt more comfortable on the other side of one sitting with all the kids! I had arrived via minibus and motorcycle taxi to the party hq which this year was at One More Beer resort. I was to be sharing a room with two of my new housemates, John and Janet, and after we had dumped our bags and donated generous gifts to the bathroom (it takes a couple of weeks to adjust to the food) we all had the same thought in mind: Beach! We left the room, walked through the bar where people were hanging pigs heads and decorating coffins, under some tall palm trees and then….”Wow! Oh man! Holy f#*k it’s beautiful”. We had arrived.

This was by far the most idyllic beach I’d ever stepped on and it took my breath away. I’d only seen beaches like this in travel brochures. Behind us and stretching for miles down to the left of us was a row of tall palm trees that we had just walked beneath. A little way behind them, the land rose up, creating an impressive landscape of dense woodland standing upon jagged hills and scattered here and there with waterfalls. In front of us was a wide expanse of different shades of blue. It was my favourite time of day when late afternoon slowly turns to early evening. We were soon in the sea, cooling our bodies and happy to be alive. We returned to the beach to sit and watch the sun slowly descend and seemingly embrace the far reaches of the ocean.

This really was love at first sight for me and it has remained my favourite place in Thailand ever since.

2. Anubans (kindies).

These little things, most of whom are the height of my knee, are the most genuine and hilarious students on the face of this planet (although some of them look and act like they aren’t necessarily from this planet!) I love them. Sometimes, momentarily, I will believe that I don’t, but I do. With these students I have the license to be a kid/clown again and it is so much fun. My favourite game with them is when teaching them about feelings such as happy, sad, hot, cold, hungry and sleepy. I will draw some faces on the board and we will act them all out with a dance, song or chant. I will then take the eraser and hand it to one of them (they are all eager to be the chosen one) and say “I am…SLEEPY!”. They have to go and erase whichever face is the sleepy one. Problem is this. They have to be quick. They have a five second countdown before funny and goofy teacher Chris turns into a monster/zombie and begins to come after them. The look on their little faces and the high-pitched sounds coming from their mouths is priceless. I will usually come within a whisker of catching and eating them and so they will do the crazy anuban run with legs and arms going in all sorts of directions and angles back to their chair. And because Anubans are indestructible (scientific fact) they will sometimes be running away from monster Chris but with their eyes still looking right at him, run into a table or another student, bounce right off of them onto the floor, get up straight back up and keep going.

These kids seem to have limitless bundles of energy but you then walk passed their classrooms on the way to lunch and see them all fast asleep in all kinds of weird and wonderful positions and realize that they don’t hold anything back when they are with you. They are exhausted. I love the fact that if you give them everything you have got, they will give you everything they have in return!

3. VIP

For a while I was a VIP. I used to go to Earth Zone restaurant about three times a week and after a time made some friends with the other ‘locals’. They enjoyed practicing their English and helping me out with any Thai I wanted to know. I think the alcohol definitely helped the conversation flow! I began joining them at their table and drinking with them. I soon learnt that one of them owned a couple of the nightclubs in town. We would often begin drinking at Earth Zone and then head to one of his clubs later on. We would go in through the back entrance and be shown to a private area of the room. We would have our own waitress the whole night and would have an unlimited amount of Johnnie Walker Black Label at our disposal. Pee Bert, who was the owner, would never let me pay for a drink or have my glass empty. We danced and talked away many a night, and I learnt how packed these clubs can be even on a weekday as well as at the weekend. I loved having these Thai friends as they helped open up a whole new part of my life in Thailand. I may have regretted it on one or two school-day mornings but all in all I had a ball!

4. A visit from Tommy

Last October when I thought my time in Thailand was approaching its end my brother Tommy came out for three weeks in the October break. This was meant to be a grand farewell for me and a grand holiday for Tommy. And it was. Except I didn’t really leave. What this trip did for me was to make me realize how much Thailand has to offer and how easily it can be taken for granted once in a while. On a number of separate occasions Tommy asked me in disbelief why I was even heading home. I didn’t really know. I obviously missed my friends and family but they weren’t going anywhere. In the three weeks Tommy was here we travelled to some of my favourite spots as well as some new places. It was both surreal and fantastic to reminisce and catch up with everything going on back home whilst on the other side of the world. We spent a week in Phuket with a group of people from Surat as well as two of Amy’s friends also on holiday from England. It was a really great time, with a lot of eating, a lot of drinking, a lot of chilling and ultimately a lot of laughter. Good times!

5. My motorbike

Very few of us have ridden a motorbike before coming to Thailand, let alone owned one. It is far more expensive back home and there is a far longer process in being able to ride one in the first place. Having owned my 125cc Honda Sonic for more than a year now I can hardly envisage a life without it. The freedom it has given me, the time it has saved me (compared to riding a bicycle) and the wonderfulness it has achieved in helping me arrive everywhere without being soaked in sweat are things I certainly do not take for granted. Okay, it is not a big and burly Harley, it is not a bike that women turn their heads at the sight of and shriek “Please oh please let me ride with you!” but it works for me! I love the fact that I can cruise down the pleasant highway out to Khanom for the weekend and feel the air rushing through my hair. I love the fact that over here you can change the colour of the lights to any of your choosing and indeed that you can add bright flashing lights to just about any part of the bike. You can change the horn to sound like a high-pitched shriek of a bird and you can make your braking sound like you are riding upon a space ship. You can pimp your bike is essentially what I’m saying! And what mid-twenties guy from south London wouldn’t fancy doing that? Not me I tell you. Not me!