Just one more of the joys of being an expat
Last Christmas, for example, I got to Skype-in for the entire typical set of Christmas morning festivities. With video sat right there in the middle of the living room, I opened presents with them, had the Christmas morning eggnog and even played a board game long distance!
An enjoyable place but Bangkok still edges it
Hong Kong actually quite surprised me; I wasn't expecting it to be as clean as it is, and honestly my only impression of it beforehand was night scenes of the city from Hollywood scenes I've seen.
I wasn't all that impressed with Cambodia's capital
I'm sure that like Bangkok, once you get to know the city, it has its own draws and charm - and one certainly can't complain that it's expensive! But it's certainly no Bangkok.
It can be a difficult choice for parents
I'm not a parent, but having been a teacher for several years in both Thai and international schools, I've noticed huge differences in the atmospheres of various institutions - often regardless of the tuition fees.
Where to go for that festive taste of home
As an expat in Bangkok, honestly there are very few things you can't get "from home" these days, but the Christmas season does tend to bring out the wants for those hard-to-find items and typically-Christmas things to do
A look at Google Classroom and the Microsoft Surface
I've worked in several classroom environments using a variety of technology, but I'll be honest: in my [not so] humble opinion, most tech implementations end up being little more than gimmicks, or worse, distractions.
Buying a second-hand car in Thailand
Buying secondhand is always a gamble, but in the end I went with a low-mileage Chevy LPG converted sedan and haven't had any problems thus far.
Surprisingly it's not that difficult.
I arrived just after 8:00, and was out of there by about 12:30, which considering my experiences with the Georgia DMV in the US, is a walk in the park - and the majority of the staff there were nothing but smiles.
Does it beat cocktails on the beach? Hell, no.
If you do end up wanting to go all-in with teaching, it's probably more important to not burn yourself out, and I'm certainly feeling the strain as most of my colleagues are sending me pictures from the beaches they're drinking on.
It's a hectic team for teachers especially
International schools are approaching the end of the year now, and for both teachers and students, it's among the peak stress periods of the year.
Local expats treading the boards
One of the most under-rated aspects of living in Bangkok, to me, is the availability of affordable live shows.
Is communicating with students using apps and social media a good idea?
I think the social media connections have been more helpful than harmful, and I'll likely continue the practice with classes to come.
What do these standardized tests actually prove?
Is there a better way to determine what a student knows, or how he/she could perform in whatever environment for which the score is required?
What are the pros and cons of splashing the cash on your own place?
There's a lot to be said for not having to worry about messing up the landlord's sofa, and it's nice to feel like you have a "home" rather than "a nice place to stay" as I had for years before.
Second time's a charm
My advice? Try not to have to spend 12,000+ THB on visa application fees like I did. Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.
How easy is it to buy your own place?
If you plan on being a permanent expat in Bangkok, it makes financial sense to go for buying a place of your own.
Here we go, folks. It’s rant time.
The irony is, I don't even want to visit the States; although it'd be great to see my family, this kind of bureaucratic nonsense is exactly the reason I don't live there anymore. Well, that and the fact that other Americans generally annoy me.
How to get a double-entry tourist visa in Savannakhet, Laos
I won't claim to be any kind of expert on the matter, but from everything I've heard from the many people and agencies I've talked to, Laos is the only country you can easily (relatively and without flying) get to from Bangkok that will grant you a double entry tourist visa.
A good experience with semi-private hospitals
I must say, having gone with others before to appointments at government hospitals, I'm impressed. Everything was well-organized, the appointments actually ran on time and the doctors/nurses had an understandable grasp of English
A variety of flavours
In my few years in Thailand, I've both applied to and interviewed with a number of different schools, so I thought it may help those new to the profession to clarify a few points, along with what general qualifications you need to even bother applying.
A trip to Tuscany
Don't get me wrong, I love Thailand. But, being of Italian heritage and having visited four times already, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to meet my sister in Rome a few weeks ago to hire a car and drive around Tuscany and the Mediterranean Coast.
Why get into arguments over which form of English is best?
The problem my students face is getting confused when encountering, for example, British English in one course with one teacher, and the next semester encountering American English with another teacher; it is hard enough to understand one way of speaking and writing, much less understanding that there are differences in what is considered correct
The party rages on
When it comes to needing a little taste of home every now and then, holiday or not, it's really hard to beat Bangkok.
That sounded like something different to do
I recently stumbled upon an advert in Bangkok Magazine for a free symphony concert being held at Thailand Cultural Center near the MRT stop of the same name, and having never been to a classical concert figured it would be a great experience.
Beautiful but not for the faint-hearted
This has been my third holiday season in Bangkok, yet I'm still absolutely baffled by everything that the city has to offer.
When teachers probably enjoy a day out more than the students
Last week, I had the opportunity to help take our Mathayom 1-3 students (grades 7-9) to the "NASA: A Human Adventure, The Exhibition," that's going on at Central Ladprao shopping mall.
Or should that be riding the rolling coffin?
I've been on many trains in Europe of varying price points, but even the lowest class trains I saw in Italy are a more pleasant experience than this "express" train. I can wholeheartedly say that I'll never do an overnight train in Thailand again.
You guys who live there don't know how lucky you are
There are beautiful beaches, marinas, rivers, mountains, temples, and wildlife galore to see and enjoy. I would say Phuket has a little bit of everything for people of all tastes. Sure, it has its pitfalls, and it may be a bit more expensive than Bangkok, but to me... Phuket is worth every penny.
Imagine being a student trying to get to grips with all those accents?
As a native English speaker who has done some fairly extensive travelling, I've realised the advantages I've had when it comes to understanding the many different "flavours" of English that exist.
Nutters can be anywhere at any time.
Generally, one of the top questions I get asked from people who have never visited Thailand is: is it safe? They automatically assume that, because Thailand is still considered (by some sources) to be a third-world country, it must be at least a bit dangerous.
Sometimes I decide to just look on the funny side of trying to teach
I've been teaching in various capacities almost two years in Thailand now, and the differences between teaching students who want to be with you versus those who must be there are quite clear.
A trip to Khao Takiap
I'm not going to lie and say it's the most awesome place you can go, but as a relatively no-hassle trip to and from Bangkok over a weekend (I usually try to stay two nights to make the trip worth it), it's hard to beat.
Inevitable Thai government school issues
Anyone who has ever worked in a school of any kind in Thailand can tell you that you're bound to run into a fair share of issues: getting work permits and visas, pay discrepancies, untruthful job descriptions, and the lot. That said, and correct me if I'm wrong, it seems that Thai government schools are the worst of the lot.
Asking for end-of-term student feedback
At the end of each semester, I ask my students to write down one thing they liked about class, one thing they didn't like, and one thing that they think I should do better.
An approach to teaching special needs students
Because I am teaching primarily in an English program where students' parents are paying for them to be there, I do not encounter many special education students. That said, I do have two students in one of my mathayom 2 (grade 8) classes who definitely have learning disabilities.
One aspect of Thai culture that must be the envy of the world
We foreigners may see some aspects of Thai culture as idiosyncratic, but it truly warms my heart when I see even young people in Thailand getting along in spite of personal differences
Don't stick your nose up at them
For anyone living in Thailand on a budget, it's silly to pay twice the price for an electronic brand you know versus the Thai equivalent that works as well or better.
Five tips for success
I have a few common-sense time management tips to offer for any of you newbies out there struggling to have a night on the town without stacks of work to be done nagging you in the back of your mind.
Always keep in mind that good news doesn't sell.
Hopefully, political views aside, the tensions can be resolved without much more conflict, and Thailand can stay the peaceful paradise I've come to love.
Possibly the final instalment of my summer camp trilogy
As the semester at my Mathayom-level government school came to a close, the students in the Mini English Program (MEP) got the chance to go to two different camps, one in Cha Am beach near Hua Hin, and the other in Green Beach, also near Hua Hin.
A fun school outing to Samut Sakhon
Apparently, once per year my department goes on some kind of a retreat. I felt quite honored when I was invited (more like coerced) to attend the all-Thai getaway.
I didn't realise teaching could be so much fun
I was asked by one of the companies I work for to help out with an English camp last week. Although I work during the day at a government school, my other employer was desperate, and I thought... why not. I only had to have a few classes covered, and it was a good excuse to try something new!
What to do when the odds are stacked against you?
So apparently my current Mathayom 2 reading class didn't finish the reading book assigned in Mathayom 1. The result is that I've been told I must teach both that book AND the one I was assigned to teach... in one semester.
A year in Thailand
Land of Smiles, if it's not terribly inconvenient, might I stay forever?
Thais certainly know how to put on a show
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Thai schools love to put on a show. It's not always a GOOD show, but at least once every week or so, my school has some kind of event happening during morning assembly that lasts well into the school day.
The joy of midterm exams
Midterms means a week of sitting bored out of our minds in classrooms with students that usually aren't ours. I feel bad for the students; I'm bored, and they're having to sit there and take test after useless test.
Losing and replacing a US passport
Well, after traveling through 14 countries in the last few years, I finally managed to lose my passport. Luckily, it's not the end of the world for US citizens living in Bangkok to get it replaced. Just don't plan on leaving the country anytime soon.
Travelling to Phi Phi Island
A friend of mine visited a few weeks back, so once my summer school ended, we decided to hoof it down to Phuket to spend a week or so. We decided to visit Koh Phi Phi first, and if I'm honest, we never made it anywhere else.
From jail cell to resort
Since November, I have been living in a Thai university student dormitory near Sripitum University. But, after six months in it, I decided it's time for me to grow up and be a real boy... and get a real boy pad.
The new school term starts - and not without problems
Much of this blog may sound negative (and to some extent, it is), but in all honestly, it's par for the course. I love Thailand, and generally speaking, I love teaching in my Thai school. Even so, there are little things that crop up all of the time, and you just have to take them in your stride.
Where's our risk assessment?
I'm hoping to be invited on another Thai school field trip. The students are well behaved, and it was quite a lot of fun! Who would have thought you could get a job that pays you to have a good time at the zoo?
The joys of working for a teacher agency
I wouldn't say I have a "horror story" per se, but rather a three-ringed circus. I found the whole ordeal quite amusing for the most part, although the never getting paid on time or the correct amount, along with the constant harassing emails from whom I can only assume to be a mentally imbalanced employer did get a bit tiresome by the end.
Mixing it with the suits
A few weeks ago, an opportunity finally presented itself through my part-time language school to teach two evenings per week at an engineering firm in the Ekkamai area. I jumped on the chance, and I must say: I'm so glad I did!
Temple-spotting is a fine way to spend a Buddhist holiday
Apparently, Monday was (loosely translated) Buddha Day. It is therefore fitting that I should visit temples for the day, and thanks to an invitation from a lovely fellow teacher at school, that's exactly what I did! Ayutthaya is a mere hour and some change train ride from Bangkok.
How am I going to get the best out of my students next term?
It's the last week of school, and I find myself thinking of ways to conduct my classes better than I have during this term. It's not that I think I've done a poor job, but I know there's always room for improvement. Besides, I'd hate to get bored; a bored teacher equals bored students. Bored students don't learn.
A few days in Satun Province
I'm currently sitting in the Hat Yai airport waiting for my return flight back to Bangkok after five days in one of the most beautiful areas I've ever visited. This area of Thailand certainly isn't for everyone, but I must say... I had a wonderful time.
Not something you would expect to find in a Western school
For the past few weeks, all the students in our school have been preparing projects, posters, and games for the school's Open House Expo which is apparently held once every three years.
A trip to the remarkably efficient Thai immigration office
I must say, I'm highly impressed with the efficiency of the whole process. It's not something I would expect from a Thai government office, and the process is far more efficient than getting a passport or similar document in the States!
A relatively carefree couple of weeks at school
The Foreign Language Department put on a nice 2-hour long show for the entire school the Thursday before Christmas. I'm not sure why this date was chosen instead of Friday, but I do know that during Christmas itself, midterms were in session. It was quite nice, and I think the kids generally enjoyed it. But then again, who doesn't enjoy getting to miss two hours of class first thing in the morning?
Healthcare in Thailand trumps what's available in the USA every time
I can completely understand the reasoning behind the US system of over-carefulness; drugs should be administered safely and correctly, and you should always know what's actually wrong with you. But, even if I wasn't positive of my illness (based on multiple past experiences), I can find a doctor here, no appointment needed, and pay about 1000 baht ($30) on-the-spot, no insurance needed.
Preparing a student for an important exam and the joys of being paid late
Aside from keeping busy with school and extra lessons, it's been an interesting week. There's no point in going into details, but I will say this: do be careful what agency you sign up with. Things can easily go wrong. Our salaries were paid to us several days late, and this is after the agency changed the pay date stated on our contracts after we had already signed them
Which one comes out on top for a teacher?
I have to remember that I can't just do things for anyone who asks, else I'll bleed dry in a hurry. I'm bad about always agreeing to do things, even if they cost me time and money to do so. There's a point where you must say no, like it or not.
Honouring and respecting the Thai King
Tuesday's ceremony was quite interesting. I have no blooming idea what was going on, but I showed up in a nice yellow/gold tie with a gold flower I bought from a Thai teacher earlier in the week to show my support for the King
A world of classroom activity and the odd jaded colleague
I've now taught two sessions of a Sunday 6-hour class at a language school near Ekkami here in Bangkok, and I think I have a pretty good feel for what it's all about.
Teaching kindergarten for the very first time
Today's class was my very first 2-hour stint with a group of kindergarteners. I've never been the world's largest fan of little kids, not because I don't like them, but because I have no earthly idea what to do with them. Well, all things considered, I'd say my class went quite well!
You have to go with the flow in Thailand
Here's another example of why you must roll with the tides here in Thailand, too. I spent a good two hours making a 40-question midterm for my Mathayom 2 class. My paperwork shows that the M2 class I have is divided into Science 1 and Science 2, but the curriculum is identical for both
An impromptu tour of Bangkok's biggest shopping malls
The last week has been quite busy! Ever since I got back from Laos, it's been nonstop business. I arrived back in Bangkok from Savannakhet early Saturday morning. I went home, caught a nap until around noon, and ventured out in the hopes of finally opening a Thai bank account.