Teachers and Tourists

One thing you quickly realize, or I did rather, is that you want to distinguish yourself as a local and not a tourist in Surat. There are quite a few tourists wandering through Surat waiting on a bus or ferry to their next destination. If the locals confuse you, a teacher, with one of them, you’re very likely to get treated differently.

If you want the local price and the local treatment, you’ve gotta make it known that you aren’t a tourist. What’s the best way to do that? Well, it isn’t saying “hey! I live here!” or “I’m not a tourist!” Usually, speaking a bit of Thai, frequenting the same shops/food stalls, and not dressing like a backpacker will help.

Once you’ve lived here for awhile it’s pretty easy to pick out the backpackers. If you see a guy walking around town with his shirt off, which is exceptionally rude in Thai culture, you know he’s not a foreign teacher and you want to distance yourself from this guy as much as possible. If you see someone paying a tuk tuk driver 400 baht for a quick ride down the road, you know they’re a tourist.

I once got a tuk tuk home after getting off a night boat and had an interesting experience. In the little Thai I can speak, I told the driver where I wanted to go and didn’t ask the price. Typically, if you don’t ask the price for a tuk tuk and you speak in Thai, they know you know the ropes. After telling the tuk tuk driver where I needed to go, I watched him haggle with 3 Swedish girls, who he ended up charging 400 baht for roughly a 1km ride. How much did he charge me for my ride that was easily 3 times as far? Well, I gave him 30baht when I got out of the tuk tuk and he knew that he couldn’t argue; I was a local.

Bombarded with Bracelets

Rubber band bracelets. They are all the rage in Thailand right now, and that’s probably an understatement. Kids from Anuban all the way to Mattyom have become obsessed with creating some serious rubber band bling. Every day at the end of my IEP class, students shove their way to the front of the crowd, in an attempt to be the first one of the day to shove their latest creation onto my wrist.

At first, it was just the standard bracelets being whipped up at lightening speed, but oh man, the trend has grown. One day at beginning of my MEP class, one of my students said, “Teacher, come with me, please.” and proceeded to reveal what appeared to be a never-ending necklace, snaking deep down into the depths of her desk. Yes, the trend now includes mega necklaces, rings, watches, bracelets adorned with shoes, earrings, and more.

Sounds like it isn’t just Thailand that is in love with this trend, though. I’ve seen pictures of purses, swimsuits, and even whole dresses created out of these loom bands. I’m sure the trend will fade at some point soon, but for now I’m enjoying these sweet daily gifts from my students and how excited they get when they run off to tell their friends that the English teacher is wearing their bracelet.





Health Benefits of Fruit Found in Thailand

There is no shortage of fruit in Thailand, and each have numerous health benefits. You might be missing bread, cheese, wine, and salsa but you can (try to) trade in those cravings for something much, much better for you. These are my top 5. I love fruit. I love Thailand.

Papaya was called “the fruit of angels” by Christopher Columbus. He might not have got all things right, but I’m on his side on this one. Papaya is also known for having papain, an enzyme that helps digest proteins. It’s strongest when the fruit is unripe. Som Tom with marinated pork or barbequed chicken… Genius.

Mangoes are said to be great for clearing skin, helping with digestion, boosting the immune system, and lowering your cholesterol. They are a great source of Vitamin A and Vitamin E. Also, if you juice a green mango, drinking it with water and a sweetener, you can apparently remedy heat stroke. I would argue that eating it with sweet sticky rice makes it a little less than half as healthy.

Bananas – Do you teach Anuban? Do you need a seratonin booster? Eat some bananas. Are you hitting the gym after school? Need energy before and muscle cramp relief after? Eat some bananas. Got the runs? Did I just say that? Eat some bananas.

Mangosteens, the Queen of Fruits. Get these things while they’re hot. I’m not sure what that yellow stuff growing on them is all about, though. She’s been used in traditional medicine for centuries, containing some of the most potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal compounds in nature.

Coconuts can kill you if one decides to fall on your head. We should all remember this. Coconuts can also save you from being dehydrated as well as help you take the Cosby kids to the pool.

Thai Nicknames

After teaching in Korea for a year where a majority of the Students had English nicknames such as: Hunter, Angelina, Andy, and so on, I was a bit surprised by the nicknames Thai people had when I started to teach.

On my first day teaching I remember reading down the register of my first class to see names like: Ice, Oil, Milk, and Earth. “That’s pretty odd,” I thought. “Did these students give to names to themselves?” The answer is no, for the most part; most of these names were given by their adult parents. After being here for 2 years now, I’ve realized that it’s not at all unusual to have students, or meet adults for that matter, with names like: Donut, God, Beer, Bum, or even Big C (a local department store).

Of course there are still plenty of Thai folks with “very Thai” nicknames like: Mook, Ploy, or Peem, but who remembers those? When I leave Thailand, it’s the names like Pancake and Boss that I’ll remember.

Little Library

If anyone is getting tired of their Kindle or other such device, I have quite a few books in print. I have not read all of them, so I might ask for the book back when you finish it, but I’m happy to play library.

A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven – Sherman Alexie

Finding George Orwell in Burma – Emma Larkin

All the Pretty Horses – Cormac McCarthy

Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Murakami

Let the Great World Spin – Colum McCann

The Mists of Avalon – Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Shining – Stephen King

Bodily Harm – Margaret Atwood

The Help – Catherine Stockett

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence – Robert M. Pirsig

Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

Wild Ducks Fly Backwards – Tom Robbins

Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test – Tom Wolfe

East, West – Salman Rushdie

The Madonna of Excelsior – Zakes Mda

Haunted – Chuck Palahniuk

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon

I Drink For a Reason – David Cross

The Irish Way – Robert Emmett Ginna

Hell’s Angels – Hunter S. Thompson

Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Audacity of Hope – Barack Obama

I also have a variety of travel books on Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

International Funds Transfer (New)

Some of you might have student loan or credit card payments linked to your bank account in your home country, so I thought it might be helpful to share my experience handling this, as I am lucky enough (or really just a leadfoot of a spender) to have student loan and credit card bills.

I heard Siam Commercial Bank, aka SCB, charges somewhere towards 1500 baht for an international wire transfer, and someone even told me that they were denied the service even after it was done for them once already. I got the tip about going to Bangkok Bank instead from a teacher who has now sailed back to his motherland.

First step, obtain a copy of your work permit. Bring this as well as your passport to the big Bangkok Bank branch on Talad Mai, to the right of the Diamond Plaza Hotel. It’s next door to another big bank, the one with a green logo. There is usually a “George Bread” truck right in front of the entrance.

Ask to open an account. Bring some money, 200 – 400 baht should be fine, just to deposit into this account. Also, bring the money you wish to transfer in cash. When filling out the application, do not opt for the debit card option, as you will have to pay for it. The account should be free without a card. SCB will remain the bank your salary is deposited into, so I’m guessing you don’t need another debit account. A Bangkok Bank passbook will be made for your account. When filling out the form, you’ll need an address. If you don’t know yours, best to give them the address for Super English:

38/1-2 Bandon Road, Tumbon Talad, Aumper Muang, Suratthani 84000

Then ask for an “Application for Outward Remittance,” which is what is says on the form you need, or tell them you would like to transfer money to an account in your country. You need your account number, routing number, address again, and the address of your bank in your home country. I use Wells Fargo, so I just googled Wells Fargo and used the main address for the entire bank. Check the “Benificiary” box on the form. You can select the reason for your transer as well, probably being “Education Expense.”

Their commission or fee is 400 baht. Your bank will also charge a fee once the money reaches your account. My bank usually charges $15. So over all, it’s about 880 baht to go with Bangkok Bank, which is cheaper than SCB, if they even allow you to do it.

SE Pool Party

Last weekend Peter treated all of us teachers to a pool party at Naraya Resort. I’ve been to a lot of pools in town and this one definitely makes the top of the list. The whole place feels like a nice resort that you would find on Koh Samui and to top it off it overlooks a river and lush jungle. The view is really nice and relaxing.

We all had a great time swimming and enjoying the food and drinks provided by SE. In the afternoon we played a trivia game together that was a lot of fun, especially since my team won and got a nice bottle of Finlandia as our prize.

The monthly SE events are always a lot of fun and are consistently one of my favorite things about working for SE. Thanks to Peter for another great party!

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I think this goes for just about any job or position in life you may have, which doesn’t require you to do physical exercise, but regular exercise is so important to your mental stability when living this sort of life.

About 2 months ago I dislocated my knee playing touch rugby with some of the other local English teachers. Because of that, my regular exercise has been anything but regular. I’ve noticed over the past few weeks that mentally I’ve started to become a bit down in the dumps, negative, or low on motivation. I’ve felt pretty physically sluggish as well.

Yesterday, with the motivation of another teacher, I got a gym membership. After a good workout I felt much better but not back to the usual standard I’ve managed to keep here in Surat. Hopefully after a regular routine I’ll be feeling back to my old self and my knee will improve.

The main thing I’ve taken from this is: having a regular routine for yourself is really important, especially when living abroad. It’s easy to get down and negative or find yourself really getting burnt out with the unusual life you’re leading. A regular routine of exercise has been one of the best ways I’ve found to keep positive when things aren’t going exactly how you want them to be as well as to avoid any culture-shock that may take you by surprise.

Spelling Bee Time

Next week at Thida we’ll be having the 2nd annual MEP spelling bee. The students have been studying hard in class and at home to prepare for the bee. Last week, we had our classroom spelling bees to determine the top 5 spellers from each class that will go on to the MEP spelling bee. My class was really into the spelling bee and you would think that my 5 winners had just been given 10 bags of candy. They were quite excited to be going on the MEP bee. I’m expecting the program-wide spelling bee to be a lot of fun and it’s always neat to have an event like this with all the students in MEP, from Kindergarten all the way to 6th grade. The students are split into 3 different group depending on age, and the winner of each group gets to take home a coveted gift card for Swensen’s ice cream.

Let’s just hope that this doesn’t happen to any of our little spellers: