Meet the newest member of the Super team! Ryan and I had been contemplating getting a baby bunny, but we lucked out, and found this little guy instead. No, he isn’t the snuggliest, but he is way cooler than any bunny. He fits in the palm of your hand and rolls up into a little ball. We have coined him Fitzgerald after the late great writer of The Great Gatsby. Daniel has already gotten a nibble. Fitzy has gone to the bathroom on Evan, and Ryan has been hissed at. Hedgehogs are a little nervous, so it will take some time, but he has curled up and slept on my shoulder. So if you are in Surat, you should stop by and meet him. Don’t worry, Peter. He isn’t in Super housing, but I bet Solo would think he is pretty rad.
As you may have guessed, there is a lot of really delicious food here in Thailand. To be honest one of the reasons I wanted to move to here was to experience the real deal, the hot and spicy dishes that I have grown to love in the States. Well it is true the Thai food is better in Thailand than back home. They make delicious curries, spicy soups, and they definitely know how to make pork. Side note, if you are Kosher or Halal, you will miss out on some of the best pork dishes in the world. One of my favorites is called Kaow Moo Dang, it’s a fried piece of pork smothered in some sweet and spicy sauce over rice. I then add about four or five giant spoonfuls of birds eye chilies to perk it up a bit. It is amazing how the pork can stay crispy even when it is covered in sauce, it may be magic.
Here in Thailand there is a large 7-11 presence, there are two within a block of our house. 7-11 here it is not just a convenience store, it is a bizarre treat Mecca. They sell wonderful coconut yogurt, many types of bao (like hum bao, but Thai), and exotic squid and peaking duck flavored chips. There are also the “treats” that are not as good, like ice cream flavored Oreos. They are by far the worst things I have eaten since being here. First you put them in your mouth and you get a burst of fake berry flavor. Who loves fake berry flavor? Not me. The next part is even worse than fake berry, it’s menthol. Yes, you heard that right, there is a cool menthol aftertaste that makes even the strong-stomached gag. Now I haven’t tried the pizza flavored seaweed chips yet, but I don’t think they could be as bad as the Ice Cream Oreos.
So when you come visit us in Thailand skip the Ice Cream Oreos.
P.S. I have not tried durian yet, but when I do I will let you know if it is worse than the Ice Cream Oreos.
Our (Laura and my) journey to becoming a teacher began well over a year ago with our applications, then our Skype interview with Peter, the director of Super English. Training was very low key but quite helpful, we got perspectives and suggestions from Peter as well as from our fantastic, friendly and fun co-workers. The primary message is that we have all kinds of agency and we own our classroom as long as we follow polite Thai customs like dressing nicely and emphasizing fun. Yes indeed, having fun is an ingrained part of Thai culture, especially in English class taught by a farang.
We have all the support we could hope for from lesson planning to games and classroom management tips. But as much as you read and write and plan and discuss, it’s impossible to get the sense of what it’s like to be in front of 55 Thai 11 and 12 year olds (6-7 for Laura.) They come in all shapes and sizes and the volume level is never really quiet. But that’s true always, 24 hours a day here. My nerves on the first day really subsided when I found out the names of the two girls that showed me to my first class; they were Hope and Grace, I kid you not. It’s a good feeling when you are working through your lesson and you look at your watch and the last 30 minutes of your 50-minute class have flown by and you can sense those little tiny bits of learning happening. Being a Super teacher is a pretty great job.
Many of us have been to this wondrous world. You drive and drive and drive down Talad Mai, to curve to the left to be welcomed by a looming giant of goodness. When I first arrived in Surat, Wen drove me here to get my phone jail broken. But, alas, Tesco was far; I was a nervous motorbike driver, and the time just seemed to slip away. However, this term I was reintroduced to this not so hidden gem.
When you walk in, you are greeted by a pharmacy equipped with everything we never thought we could find in Surat. From Neutrogena face wash to Tony & Guy shampoo and conditioner to STICK deodorant and legitimate body spray that is not watered down. The farther you walk, the more it feels like Christmas, with cute little restaurants to stop in and try a bite. If you go to the second floor, you are greeted by Mr. Donut, Auntie Anne’s (which by the way, has some amazing chicken cheese pretzel bites… not to mention their lemonade), a gelato place, and a few other cute, quick food stops.
At this point you can choose to go into Tesco, where you can find Jif peanut butter, Kraft barbecue sauce, freshly made sushi, liquors that will make your tongue quiver, all sorts of salad dressings, SALAD!, Reese’s peanut butter cups, and so, so much more. Want to take up a new sport? They have the equipment. Need post its? They’ve got it. It’s essentially Walmart, but to those of us who have been here for some time, it’s more of a Target– because there is no way you could go in and leave without buying a million things you don’t really need but could not resist.
If you continue up to the top floor, you have arrived at Homepro. There are rugs, bathtubs, crazy fans, beautiful furniture, and what essentially seems like a very high end Home Depot.
So, for the things you miss and have been unable to find, maybe you should take a drive to the land of Oz, also known as Tesco. And for those of you who have yet to arrive, don’t let an entire term slip by before you take advantage!
This year a decent crowd of Surat teachers met up at Songkran in Chiang Mai for a mini-reunion of sun, fun, and of course, getting soaked. There were many a burrito from El Diablos involved, a few Chang, and many a water fight. Songkran would be a blast no matter what, but there was no way it couldn’t be with this crew.
In the wonderful city of Chiang Mai, you can visit an enchanted place filled with tigers of all shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, there are none of the make and model white, but the orange ones will do you just fine. Ryan and I were lucky enough to arrive around twelve or one, which was feeding time for the tiger cubs! This not only meant that they were wide awake and playful (They sleep the majority of the day… After all, they are cats.), but also that we got to bottle feed the fattest little nugget in there. Amidst suckling noises and cute little growls (and that wasn’t even the tiger… Ryan…), it was one of the neatest things I have ever or will ever do. Did I mention that they are real live tigers?
Seeing as how I went and did a silly thing like getting my Masters, it seems I will have many a first week of school in my near and not so near future. It would seem that after spending nineteen years of my short twenty five attending various classes that as my educated self I would be cool, calm, and collected, but alas this is not true. The night before classes were to begin at Thida (a new school for me– small fish in a big pond!), I took some ginger to calm my anxiety, planned meticulously, and had various nightmares of not waking up to my alarm, missing a class, or making a small, Thai child cry. Regardless, I awoke on the first day excited, though a cup of coffee was not only necessary, but a requirement for survival (and will henceforth be). Though the coffee was needed, the nerves were for nothing, because whilst going back and forth between old and new Thida, I have found that not only the children are warm and loving (I feel like a fish in an aquarium in that office, and I am pretty sure it is the closest I will ever come to being famous… besides dating the vampire from the cover of IAM magazine, October 2011 edition ;-)), but also the teachers are beyond kind. Everyone makes it feel as if you always belonged there. On top of that, I learned to bring my own spoon, not give out the homework too early, how to make copies, and wear ten children as a belt all at once. I am still settling into teaching IEP classes and sweating my fanny off in rooms with no AC (pun intended), but the jitters have disappeared and life is looking good.
On billboards, on restaurant menus, on street signs, on packaging, on– you get the idea– misspellings are EVERYWHERE in Thailand. In the beginning it annoyed the hell out of me. I mean, how hard could it be for someone to proof the three words they used for the name of a restaurant– or whatever the example may be? It bothered me. Were they being lazy? Did they simply not know anyone that could help them with their English? Do Google and Microsoft Word not exist in Thailand? [sigh of frustration] Anyway, the times of Angry Blake are over. Nowadays, I keep my eyes open for these common mistakes, not because they annoy me, but because they’re FRIGGIN’ HILARIOUS! Seriously, some of the mistakes out there are just tooooo goooood! (Yeah, I know I put too many “o’s” in too and good, smart ass. An example? Oh, sure… Check out this one I saw at Tesco-Lotus in Suratthani the other day. It’s my inspiration for this blog post:
HEH HEH HEH. I should receive some kind of reward for the self control I’m exhibiting right now because there’s no end to the inappropriate jokes I could go with. Honestly, I just stopped myself again. OK… Well, I guess if there’s a positive lesson to be learned from this, it’s that cultural differences can (and most likely will) get on your nerves at first when living abroad. But after awhile, you’ll find that not only do many of those things not bother you any more, but you actually like them… almost as much as I like vaggie.
… couldn’t resist.
Anyone who has been in Thailand for awhile most likely knows that no matter where you are there is one creature you’re not safe from. No, not spiders. Not snakes. Wait for it… ANTS. You could live in a top floor apartment, sweep everyday, and keep no food in your house, but be certain that a few of these guys will find their way in. You can’t run. You can’t hide. But you CAN confuse the hell out of them and drive them crazy enough to leave you alone. “How?” you ask. Good ol’ Johnson’s baby powder, available at any of the 4 billion 7-11’s in Thailand. This is the one thing that I’ve found will pretty much immediately make the ants leave and they keep them away. Someone told me that the reason for this is that the baby powder disables their ability to follow their trail and communicate with other ants– or something like that. For all I know it could simply be because they don’t like the way a pampered baby’s butt smells. I’m an English teacher not a scientist. But I do know that it works. I usually spray the ants with ant killer, and then sprinkle the baby powder to keep new ones away. But for all of you hippies out there, if you just sprinkle the ants with baby powder, that will be enough to drive them back to from where they came. This works great if you sprinkle the baby powder around the legs of your bed frame (100% keeps them out of the bed) and along door/window frames.