Sky Koff

Or Sky Cafe, is a pretty cool little restaurant/coffee shop/bar located just outside of town.  Heading down Talad Mai, it’s just a little bit past the main intersection heading towards Central Plaza.  Instead of turning right at the light, keep going straight.  Not the easiest exit off the main road, but well worth the visit.

I enjoyed a really good meal there last Saturday–a very spicy spaghetti and chicken wing dish.  I normally don’t take pictures of food, so unfortunately you’ll have to use your imagination.  It was surprisingly busy for the oddish time (about 1600).  It’s a very clean restaurant inside and offers excellent service.  The views itself are awesome–it was cool to see a panoramic views of Surat city and all its development.  It felt like being in a remote area without dealing with the commute to get to that type of area.

Next door is the Sky Bar, which is a small but fun looking area.  It would be nice to head there and have a beer watching the sunset.  There’s even a small rectangular swimming pool on the premises.  It looked like they show movies there often, as there’s a large screen there.  I attempted to find the cafe online, but only a Facebook page pops up.

Pricewise, Sky Cafe isn’t terribly expensive.  Between my girlfriend and myself, we spent about 450 Baht for our meals, some coffee, and water.  The typical price range for an entree runs about 120 Baht, but there’s options for several hundred Baht should you fancy it.

I’ll definitely go back there, as I think it’d be a nice place to unwind and get away from everything.  A good spot to clear the head!

 

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Getting lost and rescued in Surat!

I am new to Surat and Thailand this year and have been overwhelmed by how friendly and helpful the locals are.  I am also new at driving a scooter, having previously always been a car passenger. This has led to lots of opportunities for the local Thai people to help me, generally whilst simultaneously laughing and saying Farang a lot!

Surat is reasonably easy to navigate, as I have been told from many different sources, however I apparently have the worst sense of direction in the world, especially when its raining! The day we (the three other newby teachers and myself) went to pick up our scooters we were invited out to lunch with the family who rent them out. When we left they checked we knew where we were going  and we arranged to follow the one who knew the way. It literally took 30 seconds for us to get separated and a few minutes later I passed two of the others going the other way down a main road. A few minutes passed and I was beginning to worry I would never find my way home, not having the address and not speaking any Thai. Luckily before I could go into total panic mode I heard a voice calling my name, X and Reffa had seen me and escorted me all the way to my door, where they then waited in case they needed to send out a search party for any of the others. Bless them 🙂

The second incident requiring my rescue occurred after school one day.  It was the first time I had driven in a proper Thai rainstorm and I neglected to pay attention to where I was going, so focused on negotiating the puddles, traffic and trying to keep my poncho covering as much of me as possible.  By this time I had been around Surat a bit more and had a few landmarks to guide me home, however an hour later, having passed the same electricity pylon four times it was obvious I was just going in circles and needed assistance.  I then had one of those hilarious, increasingly familiar, conversations where you don’t speak the same language but somehow manage to communicate anyway and very gratefully set off again with a map and a restored belief that I would eventually find my way home.  So there I was, happily counting turnings, preparing to turn down what I hoped would be the road to take me somewhere familiar when a voice says, “you go” from next to me.  The very helpful good Samaritan had not only drawn me a map but also jumped on his bike to make sure I got home okay. What an absolute sweetheart!

The third, and hopefully last, occasion where I have required rescuing was en route to Koh Sok national park during a rainstorm in the dark on a Friday night.  It’s about a two and a half hour drive from Surat and was a pleasant drive on good roads until the dark and rain set in, at which point it immediately became scary and freezing.  We were not comfortable driving any further, especially as I had a minor falling incident which resulted in the foot board falling off  my bike, so pulled off the road to realise we were unintentionally opposite a police station. We asked them if there was a hotel or restaurant nearby and they looked after the bikes overnight for us, drove us to a nearby hotel, restaurant and picked us up in the morning to bring us back.  More lovely Thai people!  The next morning we continued the journey and came across a bicycle repair shop where the man hunted through his box of screws and managed to find some to fix the foot board back on, and wouldn’t accept any money for his screws or trouble. Another true gem of a person!  Suratthanians rock!

 

Animal Club

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With a new school year comes new clubs, and this year I am in charge of Thida’s Animal Club! We meet once a week for about an hour and, as the name suggests, get to learn about many different animals. I have students from P1-P3 in my club so it’s a fun way to meet and interact with kids that are not in my class every day. So far we have drawn our favorite animals, learned about chameleons, and played Pictionary. The kids look forward to it every week because they get to practice their English but while doing something outside of their books. Pictionary has definitely been their favorite. We divide the class into 2 teams and the students take turns drawing and trying to guess the animal on the board. Their guesses are usually hilarious, such as when they all screamed out “CAT” but it was actually supposed to be an elephant. I am looking forward to many fun Mondays with my club.

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Deciphering Thai – Part 1

Learning Thai is something I’ve tried to do since I got to Thailand and I’ve had varying degrees of success. I learnt some essential phrases like “Hello.” and “Thank you.” but sadly my listening skills are awful and I learn best when I see words written down. So I decided I was going to learn how to read Thai.

When I arrived in Thailand, the symbols on signs had a mystery and complexity to them that my brain just couldn’t deal with. So for a long time they were glanced at and filed under “cannot process; do ignore”.

But it’s important to persevere so I looked online for some help. A great resource for starting out is thai-language.com. It has has an excellent guide to the Thai alphabet and lots of reading exercises.

The first thing I did was try to memorise the sounds of all 44 different consonant and then some vowel sounds.

But that was boring.

So I moved on and tried to decipher some basic words I knew. I like puzzles and there’s nothing more puzzling than a Thai word. I mean, just look at this:

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Just look at how puzzling that looks.

This happens to be the word for chicken. It’s pronounced gài (the à accent here is used to show it’s said with a Low tone).

But why?

This word is made up of three things: a consonant , a vowel and a tone marker.

Sometimes Thai vowels are written before the consonant they’re attached to even though they’re said after it (gah!?). This vowel is one of those sneaky fellows and has the sound ai where “” can be a consonant sound. For this word, the consonant has the hard g sound that is needed.

So what about the tone marker? Well, that little dash above the word is one of several tone markers that change the tone of a word. Thai is a tonal language and the tones are important. If I were to just write ไก, it would be said in a Mid tone and could mean something completely different or nothing at all without sufficient context.

For reasons I’ve yet to fully comprehend, when this tone marker is used with , it makes the tone of the word a Low one.

Hmm well that’s one puzzle down! Sort of. Solving puzzles seems to lead to more questions than answers! Why exactly does that tone marker do what it does? Is it the same for all consonants? Why not?

But this is all part of the appeal! I’ll keep going and maybe someday there won’t be any questions left to answer!

First Month in P5!

Today marks the five week mark at Thida!  It’s amazing how quickly the weeks fly by.  All of the new teachers have adjusted very well to the workload and are doing great!  Luckily, we’ve had limited abbreviated class time for assemblies and such, so we’ve been able to absorb a lot of material since the beginning.

While I do miss all the wild and entertaining personalities I had from P3 and P4, having only 18 students has been great.  I’m able to check more worksheets/notebooks/workbooks, give more one on one attention, and get to know my students a bit more.  While they might be a bit shy in the classroom, talking with them during break is nice, as I get a sense of their life outside school.  I know a couple of students have family on Koh Samui and other parts of Thailand.

In math, we’ve been focusing on fractions.  While some parts we’ve been able to breeze through, like adding fractions, other parts were more challenging, like converting mixed numbers to improper fractions.  We’ve done a lot of board work to mirror the problems from our workbooks and the kids really enjoy coming to the board.  I think it also helps them with their energy….they have a lot of it!  Getting them moving about is always a plus.

In science, we’ve dealt with cells and genetics.  Unit 1 in our textbooks has four chapters, so I’ve been trying to get through it quickly while not losing the students.  We do a lot of coloring (ie plant cells) and labeling, which is fun.  While the words are pretty tough, the more exposure to the pictures the better.  We have a pretty challenging spelling quiz next week and we’ve reviewed with a lot of vampire this week to prep them.

In English, we’ve studied the comparative form, but added the ‘as fast as’ element to the questions and answers.  The book did a nice job with animal pictures and matching KPH speeds.  It helped the students understand the material a lot faster.

Yesterday, we played an ‘UNO’ type game.  I had eight animal pictures on a PPT slide I printed out.  Each pair choose four pictures.  The students walked around the room playing RSP.  The winner asked the loser, “Is a(n) _____ as fast a(n) ____?”  If the RSP loser had the card in question (from first blank), they responded, “Yes, it is.”  If not, the loser said, “No, it isn’t.  It’s faster/slower.”  The losing student then gave the card over to the winner and the cycle repeated itself.  We played for about nine minutes and the winner was Gook, who won 14 cards!!

Here are a few pics from the first five weeks of class.

 

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A Great Kickoff to the Year Hosted by Peter

Recently, the Super English team gathered to celebrate the success of the new school year at Sweet Kitchen.  The restaurant is always a hit with the teachers and this time was no exception!

We broke bread to celebrate a smooth transition from the end of last year’s Thida calendar year to the end of year two at Surat Thani International School to the start of this school year back at Thida.  We’ve added some great team members in Johnny, Thomas, and Michelle on the Thida side, while Marlana is holding down the fort at Noonoy school.  Additionally, Marcus joined us to celebrate a strong finish to STIS’s second year.

Much like family is well, family, there were no shortages of back and forth regarding this events dinner.  Many of our teachers are fan favorites of the macaroni and cheese/sweet potatoes…fortunately, Ali T. did a great job giving us a wide ranging and delicious meal we all enjoyed.  In fact, a common question around the MEP office leading up the dinner was, “What’s your favorite dish?”  I know I was hard pressed to pick a favorite one, as I enjoy pretty much whatever’s on the table–salad, bread, chicken, potatoes, and mac and cheese.  Seating was an interesting watch as everybody angled to be near his/her favorite things.

Thankfully, the start of this school year has gone swimmingly.  It’s hard to believe we’re approaching the middle of June, as Sports Day, national holidays, and midterm exams are not too far off.  It was great to see everybody at Sweet Kitchen, letting the proverbial hair down a bit to have the opportunity to talk about anything but school, ha!  It’s nice to see that everybody’s functioning as a cohesive unit and has been supporting one another in the office, but getting to know each’s outside interests and goals while in Thailand makes it that much better.

Our next event probably will be sometimes in July.  As the weeks get rolling, it can be challenging to find a weekend that works for everybody, which makes the strong participation that much more meaningful.  I’m hoping we can have the pool party like my first year, though this rainy season (seems so early!) has made weekends wetter than usual!

 

Fun with extinction!

In P3 this week we put a little twist on the topic of extinction. Each student used their imagination to come up with an extinct animal and an explanation of why it became extinct. I used the “Elephant-Butterfly,” who was too heavy to fly away from predators, as an example, and the students had a blast coming up with their own. Even though the animals they created aren’t actually real, this mini-project worked out perfectly because it got the students thinking about possible reasons why animals become extinct. Here are some examples of what my creative students came up with:

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The “Giraffe-Turtle” became extinct because its neck was too long to fit inside its shell to hide from predators.

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The “T-Rex-Raptor” became extinct because it ate all of the prey in the world and couldn’t find anymore.

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The “Long Neck-Three Head-Big Ant” became extinct when a big asteroid fell from the sky and killed the entire species.

 

 

Impressive right?!