For those of you who have read my last couple of posts or who follow my blog, you will be well aware that the Thailand honeymoon period is most definitely over for me. Over the past few months those little things that were charming points of humour have started to grate on me. The things that I used to shrug off and put down to ‘just being Thailand' now get me worked up beyond frustration. The newness and shininess of life in Thailand has certainly dulled down, especially when I am looking at a more permanent life out here than first expected.
Before people shoot me down about how I should get out of Thailand if I don't like it; I have absolutely no problem with the day to day way of life out here and certainly not with the people. In fact, it is Thai people and their smiles, generosity and playfulness that sometimes make the frustrations bearable, and more often than not, make it totally worth it.
No, I have no issue with the general way of life out here. Initially I was worried that was what was winding me up (having chosen to live and work out here that would be a major spanner in the works) but I've managed to locate my frustration and work out a solution - the Thai education system just isn't for me. Not the government schools anyway, or at least the school that I have been teaching in for the past 18 months. So I've decided to get out. Not out of Thailand, just out of the system.
I have been lucky enough to secure a new position as a teaching assistant at an international school in Phuket. Although on paper it may seem like a step down from teacher to assistant, I will be working within the British Curriculum and will be part of a school that appears to be doing some really positive work with their students and the community.
My class sizes will be less than halved, resources quadrupled and staff support and career development opportunities increased to infinity. Not to mention a significant increase in salary, plus I no longer have to hear people saying that I'm ‘just' a TEFL teacher any more. Perhaps people at home will even think that I have ‘got a real job' finally.
I don't want to be yet another newbie teacher who thinks they have earned the right after five minutes of teaching to slate the education system here or preach on how I think it should be done. Let's just put it down to a set of personal differences - I like things to have an end point, some sort of feeling of working towards some sort of achievement, I like to work within a system that places importance on a sense of accountability and that recognises the impact that school can have on young people growing up.
Many people are able to fit into the way of working in a Thai school, but after 18 months of trying I guess I am not one of those people. At least not at the school I have been working in. And so, instead of becoming a moaner and bad mouthing a situation I have got myself into, it's time to get out and move on.
I will be relocating to the richest province in Thailand - moving from my current city in the deep south I anticipate that this will have a huge impact on my experience living in Thailand. I won't be the only foreign female in my village. I will have access to beaches where I can openly wear a bikini and where the water is clean enough to swim in. There will be farang food other than the two overpriced restaurants!
There are things that I will miss, of course. The countryside commute through rubber plantations and past grazing water buffalo. Every person shouting hello when I go through the village. Rarely having people try to rip me off because I'm a foreigner. Cheap living. Feeling like I am truly experiencing the culture of Thailand.
I am well aware that my moving up to Phuket is actually a backwards step with regards to my immersion in Thai lifestyle. I have read the forums, I know I run the risk of becoming a cynical expat, hating all tourists and Thai people. I know I am putting temptation in my way; Patong will only be a taxi ride away with its neon lights and late night parties.
But after 18 months of ‘Thai' living I have reached the point where I would like to have the option to some more foreigner friendly things when I fancy them. I might even treat myself and have hot water at my next place; I will be living the dream indeed!
So watch this space for what I am sure will be plenty of observations as I make the transition from the deep south of Thailand to Phuket, from a government school to an international school and from teacher to teaching assistant. I'm looking forward to whatever it brings.