My first day in Sriracha, I wasn't feeling so keen about this place. I was cranky, frustrated, and lonely after receiving zero instruction from my school and spending all day looking at apartments that were either too expensive, too shitty, or too far. Finally settled on a place, although not near the school, walking distance to the mall and main part of town. Working air conditioning, 24/7 security, wifi and a proper hot shower = sold. After 2 months of being with others, I was suddenly alone in a new place. I didn't know anyone, found nothing exciting about the city, didn't see any sign of English speakers, and struggled to communicate with the local Thais with my poor Thai and their non-existent English. To top off the typical bad first day, I spent the night ill from food poisoning.
Saturday things began to look up. I was put in contact with 3 English teachers from another town, about 30-45 minutes away. Despite the language barrier, I managed to figure out the local bus with a connecting songtaew (a popular, cheap mode of transportation here; looks like a large pick-up truck with benches and standing room with as many Thais as possible packed in) to the Bang Saen Beach to meet the English folks. Although I wasn't feeling 100%, I got on quite well with my new friends, and it was comforting that I will at least have friends near enough for the weekends.
[Bang Saen Beach at sunset]
Other than meeting those people, I have been exploring Si Racha solo. It has definitely grown on me, and there is a lot that I look forward to exploring (Tiger Temple, a jetty-connected island, "health park" with outdoor aerobics, and an island that is a 30 minute ferry ride - Ko Si Chang). There is what appears to be a decent nightlife, I first just needed to get my hands on some friends........
Today was my first day of school. An expensive motorbike taxi ride later, I arrived at Surasakvityakom School. I taught 2 classes today, Mattayom 6 (17-18 year olds) and Mattayom 3 (13-14 year olds). My schedule is now finalized; I will be teaching 24 classes each week, so that every single student in the school is exposed to me. The class sizes are enormous, 45-50 students per class that I am responsible for on my own. I only see each class once a week. I was also advised to not give written homework, to focus on conversational English. This means that although my days will be exhausting, I'll only need to make 1-2 lesson plans a week and tweak them slightly. Not bad!
Since I'd been listening to my friends' stories who had been teaching already, I was fully prepared for all the quirks that come with teaching in Thailand. I was given the wise advise to never take bad behavior personally, and to instead focus my energy on those students that want to learn (and remember, I am getting paid no matter what!) Although there are plenty of little shits, the sweet students make me smile a million times over! They "wai" to me - or bow down in a prayer like pose - a sign of respect here. Even when I am at my desk, they will lower their head below mine as they walk past me. They come talk to me on their free time "Hello teacher!" "I love you, teacher!" "Are you happy teacher?" I even sat with one group of older students at lunch today. Two girls were kind enough to help me sort out a cheaper mode of transportation; they followed me back to my apartment in order to show me the songtaew route.
So I go out to get myself some dinner, chatting on my Thai phone to my friend in another town, when I spot the first white person (in a pizza shop....standard). After conferring with Connie on how weird it might be to go talk to him, I go for it. Turns out of course, he is an English teacher at another school nearby, along with about 10 others! I'm sure he could tell that I was jumping for joy inside that I just hit the jackpot on discovering the farang in Sriracha! Going up to a complete stranger in Western world might seem odd, but I like to think that here it is acceptable. The community of English teachers worldwide is really unique, and they're always happy to include a new face. Tomorrow I have plans to meet the rest of the farang teachers for dinner and drinks.
We go our separate ways, and I can't help but just smile to myself, so blissfully content with how things are falling into place. And then I hit another major jackpot: I stumbled upon the most brilliant food night market of Sriracha. My dinner consisted of 3 perfectly crisp fried chicken drums for 20 baht (they make some mean fried chicken in Thailand) and an amazing beef skewer for 15 baht (good quality beef for once), finished with an iced chocolate drink that had some sort of tapioca balls at the bottom for 10 baht (dinner total = about $1.50). The market was literally incredible, with all types of mysterious and delicious looking fried foods, curries, seafood, fruit, and more. This will surely become my nightly dinner spot. Not to mention for those sushi lovers out there, there is a huge Japanese immigrant population in Sriracha, boasting colorful sushi creations for 5 baht a piece at the market.
LIFE IS GOOD! xx