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First day of school, here we go!

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We’re ready to learn to get some knowledge!

Yesterday was my first day as Teacher Katy, working in one of Bangkoks largest and most prestigious Catholic girls schools. Surprisingly considering how ridiculous I’ve been recently I wasn’t that nervous, maybe it’s because I had to be up at 6, who has energy to waste that early when you haven’t worked in 3 months?

My apartment is only a few minutes walk from the train station, with school a few minutes walk the other side of the 15 minute journey so commuting wise I’ve had worse. One thing I have noticed though in Thailand, there’s no such thing as rush hour…busy hour yes! Rush? No. Thai time takes on a whole new meaning when you, as a fast paced westerner are trying to duck and dive between commuters who are, quite literally ambling along (!) while simultaneously managing to take up the whole stairway in the process. For a nation of tiny people this is quite a feat! I’d love to see my friend Jen try this, after walking behind her in London and witnessing the tutting and eye rolling she directs at confused people on the tube I think it would be hilarious! (love you!)

Anyway at 07:30 I was in school, after a funny lift ride (see previous blog) I was sat at my desk and ready to roll!

I forgot about Thai time…again!

Three hours later I was still sat at my desk. First period had been cancelled due to first day administrative stuff, I don’t have a second period on Monday and when you take into account morning morals and break time it was 10:30 before I was on my way to my first class. Many of us hadn’t brought anything to occupy our time either, and being the first day there was no work to do so….100% serious… People napped! At their desks! On the first day of work! Welcome to Thailand!! Ha!

There are around 5000 girls at St Joseph’s, around 500 in p4 which I will be teaching, so between my co teacher and I I’m going to have around 250 9/10 year old girls calling me Teacher. This week the lessons are quite simple, we start with an introduction…first the girls all stand and say ‘gooooood mooooorning teeeeeachaaaa’ ‘good morning girls, how are you?’ ‘fiiiiiine thaaaaaank you and youuuuuuuu?’ ‘we are fine also, please take a seat!’ ‘thaaaaaaaaank you’….’this is Teacher Loriel! He’s from Ameeeerica, Hawaaaiiii! And this is Teacher Katy, from the UK, hands up who knows the UK? *small spattering of hands* Ok who knows England? *more or less hands appear* and who knows Wales? *no hands*. No? You don’t know Wales? What about Prince William and Kate? *all hands up*. Yay for having your own Prince!! Or Prince of Wales to be anyway 😛

After this we have been asking them to write their name, nickname and student number on a sign in sheet and draw their own name tag. Thai people seem to have a ridiculously long name, a shorter nickname and then each class is numbered 1-50+. Some of the nicknames are amazing, for example some of my girls are called Proud, Film, Ice, Nokia, Dream, Love and Nice! While Loreil has Japan, Cheetah, Pond, Sea and Quit. Going to be fun remembering all these! Though with their name tags I shouldn’t have to initially. Going to use my old SRC trick too and write all their names down on a seating plan to help me remember.

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Makes me think of Doctor Who! Come on Pond!

Lunch followed third period. There are two (at least) cafeterias, one where the teachers (or some of the teachers) eat and one for the kids. The kids one is WAY nicer! They have a huge choice of food, deserts, ice cream, fresh fruit etc. Staff can eat there also but at their own expense, where as the staff food is free and delicious! You only have one option (yesterday it was some sort of spicey green curry!) which comes on what resembles a prison tray, haha, buy it was yummy!

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We had one more class after lunch, a really spirited and seemingly intelligent bunch (the first group were so timid and the second group just didn’t get it!) then last period was free so yippeeeeee early finish! I had a few errands to run such as getting a letter from the agency office which will allow me to open a Thai bank account, and I also needed to provide 24 photos for my work permit. That’s a lot of copies of my face!

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All in all it was about half 5 by the time I was done. I hopped on a 15 baht taxi boat to pier 13, home of Khoa San Road. I love being on the water so this is definitely my preferred mode of Bangkok transport!

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Apparently most of my school avoid this place like the plague as it’s full of annoying tourists, haha, but I kind of like it! I wanted to visit a bookshop Robbie and I had spied. Another Thai lesson? Take photos of stuff! One book shop looks very like another and it took me AGES to find the one with all the books I wanted, especially ones which weren’t photocopied! A lady called Ky leant a helping hand finding a few that I wanted and has offered to hold one for me when it comes into stock, so that’s cool! Need to go back in two weeks. Think this lot should do me till then…

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One recommendation from Miss Peg, one from Mr Young, one I’ve wanted for a while and a random one…good start to my Thai collection, for the bargain price of £8! Armed with my new entertainment I headed over to Shewa Spa for a pedicure. One thing you realise when travelling is you need to take care of your feet! Sounds like something out of Forest Gump. Now I’m working at a job where I stand up all day, after months of travelling…spa time was needed! Firstly I met Em who told me off for not coming sooner (oops!) and called me nalak (cute) for being ticklish! Then I went to see Eve for a deep leg and foot massage, Em explained how ticklish I am to which Eve replied ‘oh no! Please don’t kick me!!’ haha’ I explained that reaction was saved for my brothers!

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It was almost 8 by the time I was done and I was feeling peckish…noodle soup time!! Robbie and I had had some really good stuff, while being entertained by a guy with a guitar so I took a seat and enjoyed listening to Proud Mary, American Pie and Leaving on a Jet Plane with a big bowl of veggie noodles. Yum!

I love this place at night, it becomes so bright, colourful and for the most part chilled out (until later). I took some time to wander around, enjoying the cool evening before jumping in a taxi back to the BTS and home for Skype times with my mum!

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All in all it was a really good first day and delicious evening. Might have to make that my Monday routine, or at least a monthly treat!

Day 2 is going well so far…check out what we had at lunch!

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The AC crew will appreciate that one, feeling more at home already!!

Smile 3 – Find a happy place, find a happy place, find a happy place!

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Today was another small victory filled day, so much so that it’s hard to choose one to blog about, pretty much worth a smile on its own!

I think my best story of the day comes from the very start of it. It was the first day of school, my first ever day as a teacher! I arrived by 0730 and weaved my way though hundreds of girls to the lift where a group of Thai teachers where waiting. They were chatting away and once inside I picked up on the words ‘ferrang’ (foreigner) and suwei (beautiful) so I turned around and said thank you. The look on Ems (which turned out to be the speakers name) face when she realised I had understood her was priceless and all the others were full of praise at my (reeeeeeallly basic) Thai knowledge. Still hoping they meant pretty and not the other meaning for suwei which is unlucky! Haha!

Anyway, I really feel like I started on the right foot with those ladies. Onwards and upwards right? Pass me the phrase book! 🙂

Pad Thai, slurpeees and chocolate milk…

Sawadee ka!

Well it’s been an eventful few weeks. I got here in a rush after receiving an offer of a job in Krabi only to arrive and be told I had been placed in Hat Yai So that was fun! Deciding to decline moving to the land of bombs and earthquakes I returned to Bangkok to hunt for work. I’ve been so lucky with contacts here that within a day I had a job interview and less than 24 hours after that was offered work at one of Bangkoks most prestigious schools, St Josephs, an all girls convent school near Lumpini Park. I start on the 14th May after a week of intensive training…so yay! That’s that sorted!

I had a few fun filled days in Bangkok with Kaley and George. There was ladies night at a rooftop bar (unlimited free gin: free hangover included!), lots of time chilling by the condo’s pool working on my tan and generally enjoying catching up with friends. I took a ride in a Tuk Tuk, ate pad thai, tried mango sticky rice and started to get to grips with the language. A good first few days!

On Monday the fun went up a notch or two with a trip to the famous Khoa San road. This place is a one of a kind tourist trap that’s just so hard to describe. It’s a bustling street of stalls selling all sorts of clothes and memorabilia, interspersed with bars and clubs while street sellers offer pad thai, funky hats and annoying wooden frogs all around. You’ve seen The Beach right? The road with the snake blood…that was there! Not that I have ever been offered this delicacy but the last time I was there I ended up having a fish pedicure at 2am! This time there were sangsom buckets, hanging out of tuktuks, almost being charged 600baht to see some very seedy seeming ping pong show and dancing the night away with drunken friends. Welcome to Thailand folks!

The next day I had to go back to the office to sort my visa, then met the guys for lunch and a spot of shopping back on Khoa San before catching the night bus to Chiang Mai. I’ve caught an overnight train before now but this was my first bus experience and seriously, go for the train! Yes the bus is cheaper, 350baht rather than 700/1000 but on the train you get a bed and if you’re using this instead of accommodation then that’s priceless. I loved the night train, the seats turn into lower bunks and the upper bunks are folded down from the ceiling making it feel like something straight out of Harry Potter! Whereas the bus, while it did have seats which reclined quite a bit, also played some crappy movie at top volume for the first leg of the tour and then turned the lights off at 8. Aaaaanyway, moving on! The bus got to Chiang Mai for around 7am and having hardly slept on the journey it was time to make the most of the VIP guest house Kaley recommended and get some shut eye!

Chiang Mai has a very different vibe to Bangkok. A big red brick wall separates the old city from the new and the river has fountains and elephant statues all the way along it. The bits I have seen have a small town feel even though this is the largest city in the North of Thailand. It was nice to explore, have a delicious raspberry shake (I swear this country does fruit shakes like no other I have visited, yum!) and as dusk approached take a red bus to Doi Suthep, a hillside temple. Apparently around 6pm is the best time to visit this place as the monks perform a ceremony and blessings, sounds good to me! The songteaw wouldn’t go all the way to the top of the mountain, but the 10 minute walk was actually quite refreshing and cool, a nice change in hot season!

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Once you reach the top of the hill there are 300 steps to climb to reach the temple. Temples here are so ornate and just gorgeously peaceful. Doi Suthep is no exception, golden spires stretching into the sky and beautifully detailed hand painted scenes adorning the walls. It just feels special. For 10 baht you could buy a flower, incense and candles to aid you in following the tradition of the temple. First you kneel and light your candles, placing them in the holders provided. Then light the incense using the candles and walk round the temple three times with that and your flower. There are prayers to take with you as you walk, but sadly they were all in Thai and I just ain’t that good yet!

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After this the monks came out to pray and chant to the statues of Buddah. I learned there are 7 Buddahs, one for each week he was in the jungle representing the different positions he prayed in. The day of the week you were born on dictates the Buddah you will best relate to and so pray to. I think. I was kind of piggybacking onto someone else’s tour at this point, but it’s made me want to learn more about the religion.

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A songteaw with some English boys spending a few months Thai boxing later and it was time for a nice refreshing Singha beer or two and dancing at Zoe in Yellow. Good start!

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The following day held a visit to Bantang Waterfall, a place not many ferrang (that’s foreigners to you) know about but many Thai people love to visit with a picnic to enjoy after spending time in the natural mineral waters. You begin by climbing down some concrete steps (they’re made to look like wood) and immersing yourself in the falls at the bottom, then climb 1,500 metres to the top. The water is made up of so many rich minerals that over the years the rocks have made a sort of natural staircase. The water was the perfect temperature too, I didn’t want to reach the top! There was a terrifying moment where the guy in front of me lost his footing and slipped, getting caught in the flow of the falls and thank goodness stopping just before a huge drop. I can’t explain how scary it is to see someone fall like that, knowing how far you’ve climbed and so how far they could fall. Luckily he got off with just a few scratches and, most importantly (to him) didn’t break the camera he was holding. Good effort dude!

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After visiting the source of the falls and lighting an incense stick at the temple there to appease the spirits protecting the water it was time for lunch. Check out this for a view to have your dinner by…

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Beautiful huh? It felt like it was all too soon to head back to the city but actually it turned out to be perfect timing as the heavens opened within 10 minutes of arriving back. There was thunder, lighting and WOW rain! I forgot what downpours can be like here. Imagine a days worth of British rain but in the space of an hour…intense! I hopped on a songtaow (I explained they’re like buses right?) back to the old city…hanging out of the back of a covered pick up in the rain is hilarious fun! Sadly (I’m serious) the people inside made room for me after a minute or two and I felt too polite to say no so took a seat. Outside was far more fun!!

Then the last two days, well I think they’ve been the best I have ever EVER had. I’ve been at Baanchang Elephant Park, the trip of a lifetime, just wow. But sadly for you guys I have 7% battery left and this blog is already long enough so…that’s another story!

Till next time 🙂 xx

Day 7: Going somewhere?

So today is the 7th day of our Alphathon, the 7th letter of the Alphabet being G, here are our options:

Katy S: Going West – a certain someone’s travel plans!
Peg: Green Space – How much do you wish to have in your life? City or Country?
Katy P: Guilty Pleasures

Honestly I could quite easily have written about any of these topics, but as someone’s was ever so subtly directed at me, it would be rude to ignore.

As you may have heard I’m planning to take a little trip starting in March. I’ve wanted to do this since I was about 16 years old and while through one reason and another, this trip is slightly different to the original plan I’m still really looking forward to it.

I’ll be starting in NY in March, meeting up with some friends from when I worked at a Long Island summer camp in 2007. Then I travel to Las Vegas to meet my old uni flatmate. We’ll have a few days of gambling, ooing and ahhing at the neon lights and visiting the Grand Canyon before flying to San Francisco and working our way down to L.A. From there we fly back to Philadelphia for a few days (it’s the most round about trip round America ever) before Omelia goes home and I fly down under. We’re still looking at trips and accommodation for the States so I don’t have all the information, just a basic outline.

On continent number two I’ll be visiting another uni flatmate, Steph, in Sydney for a few days before travelling down to Melbourne to see a different friend and go on the Neighbours tour (because I’m cool like that!). From there it gets a bit hazy, I’m hoping to fly up and visit Fraser Island and/or the Whitsundays for a few days but honestly I need to do a bit of research. I have three weeks there though, so plenty of time for adventures!

Then I hop on another jet plane for continent number 3 and the final stop, Thailand, where I’ll be setting up shop and teaching English for a while, hopefully travelling round to Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and beyond when I get the chance. Eventually I want to travel to South America too, to teach there for a bit, and obviously there are plenty of more places to visit one day…South Africa, China, Canada, Mexico and Eastern Europe. But there’s plenty of time for all that, one step at a time eh?

The Plan.

For those of you planning to buy me a birthday or leaving present I would kindly ask that instead you visit this page

xx

Twitter Blogathon Day 8 – Same same, but different

What do you guys think about same gender vs. mixed schools? That’s our topic for today.

Having experienced mixed gender schools myself I can only comment on the stories I have heard from others about single sex schools, something I don’t like to do as you never get an accurate picture. If you believed every story you heard you’d probably think that all boys schools are filled with rough housing and (excuse this) buggery, whereas all-girls school stereotypes vary from lesbian pillow fights (calm down boys) to something akin to Mean Girls.

There have been times when I have experienced an all-female environment outside of school; my student house at university was shared with 6 girls. Living with people can be tricky, so the occasional blow out was to be expected, but for the most part I loved living with them. I suppose it helped that none of us were too girly, but having 5 extra wardrobes, make up sets and dvd’s to share was excellent! It has to be said for me though it was far more fun when a group of 6 guys moved in upstairs. We started wars (holding possessions ransom etc) and had amazing joint flat parties. It was really fun.

Then a few years ago I worked as a counsellor for a Girl Scouts camp. This was part of the Camp America programme, a whole camp of girls ranging from age 5 to around 40.  This is one experience I have not relived, however if I ever were to go back to Camp I’d request one which had boys. I really think you need them! Women are bitchy; it’s a fact of life. I appreciate that everyone needs to moan but when it’s all girls it can go past that and get personal. Whether it’s expectations of how they should behave or something else, sometimes ‘the sisterhood’ just isn’t enough. From what I’ve seen of boys living together I believe this works both ways. Having girls around can result in boys taing a little more pride in their environment (sometimes a very little), a mixed group tends to bring out the best in both. Having a good variety of people is the best way to achieve harmony in a group, because one way or another there will be people you get on with.

To me boys are just funnier than girls, they are often more straight talking and simpler (I mean that as a compliment).  When my grandfather was sick a few years ago I’d gone up to my office thinking no one was around to have a good cry. It turned out someone was working up there, one of my male colleagues. Had a girl found me in tears I’d probably have been given a very much needed hug and a cup of tea, this guy however, soon had me in stitches having decided to shoulder the wall in an attempt to  ‘make the offices open plan’. I’ll always love him for cheering me up that day, only a boy would be that silly when faced with a girl in tears.

More and more these days I find myself turning to my guy friends when I have a problem, because I know they will listen to me moan, give sound advice and it’s never going to turn into a bitching sesh. I can always trust my male friends to see what I’ve said for what it is, a moan which doesn’t need to be taken any further. I believe I am a more rounded person because I grew up with brothers, lived with boys in uni and have a very good group of male friends who are great at advice. My girls will always be my girls, but having a mix is important.

I digress. My point is sometimes you need to surround yourself with those of your own gender (the arguments for same sex schools being a ‘safer’ environment with fewer distractions are valid up to a point, but I think people will always create distractions one way or another!) and sometimes you need the opposite. There’s a marvellous quote which reads “Growing up is the time to find your bridesmaids, not your groom” something I intend to tell my nieces and possibly daughters one day. Find your girlfriends yes, but you also ‘need to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your Prince’…school is for learning, and that’s a big lesson to get right!

The title of this blog is a phrase very popular in Thailand, it sort of means similar. It seems to me that school is school no matter how it’s made up, but at the end of the day the parts outside the classroom are just as important as those inside it, you are becoming who you will eventually be. Therefore schools are all ‘same same, but different’ 🙂

This post is part of the Twitter Blogathon.

5 places I dream about when having a bad day:

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  1. Llansteffan castle and beach
  2. Sitting in a hammock in my dads garden on a sunny day
  3. My GORGEOUS raft house, Koh Sok National Park, Thailand
  4. Cookies bungalows, Koh Phangan, Thailand
  5. Oldbury Court, Bristol


Do you have a few little places in your memory bank which make you feel calm, relaxed and happy? Maybe it’s not the places exactly, but the time you had when you were there. For example Llansteffan Castle makes me think of being young(er), in love and playing around in ruins. Oldbury Court reminds me of sunny afternoons off work, chilling in a park with a good book and peace and quiet! My dads garden is the place I grew up, I remember the hammock stand being built, and soaking my brother with the hose while he sunbathed…haha!! These are the places and times which send a little secret smile to my face while I sit here in my chilly turret with the wind and rain billowing round the castle!!

Where are yours?

If I could go anywhere….

It’s always been my ambition to go round the world. I’m not sure when *exactly* I got the travel bug, perhaps it stems from my ‘Forces family’ and seeing my dad go off on exercise. He’s been to so many cool places, from trekking through Canada to living in snow holes in Norway and taking baths in ice water….not QUITE my cup of tea, but still very cool. His father was in the army too, he fought on the beaches in World War 2 and then went to be a ‘Desert Rat’ in North Africa. He doesn’t talk about his army days much, which is a shame because I bet the stories would keep me entertained for hours! My Grandfather on mum’s side was in the RAF. He was the navigator in a crew that flew a Vulcan over Kilimanjaro, Got in the paper and everything, what a dude!

Here he is, Colin Forrester – Last one on the left :) Looking very smart!

Anyway, I went on my first ‘non family’ adventure in 2002 when I was chosen to represent my school in a Rotary Club exchange. First of all a group of Americans from North Carolina came to stay with us, we took them camping in Scotland, on a day trip to Dublin and of course several places in England and Wales. Then it was our turn to go to sunny NC. It was my first taste of freedom with people my own age and I loved it. The following year I took part in another exchange with a girl from Italy and the year after I saved up to visit my American friends again….I had ‘the bug’. So when the Daily Post suggested we blog about ‘our top 3 places to go’ my thinking cap was firmly on my head!

Not that it’s going to take much thought to be honest, except for maybe narrowing my list down to 3. I decided around 2 years ago that I’ve rather had enough of Europe now, it all just seems the same to me. Although this might in fact be cities in general, seen one, seen ’em all. You need to get out there, into the communities and actual culture of a country to experience it for real.

That being said, here’s my list:

1. Thailand.
Maybe this shouldn’t be top of the list, as I have actually been there already, but I literally fell in love with the land of smiles within hours of getting off the plane. From the bustling streets of Bangkok to the tranquil rainforests of Khao Sok national park, I was hooked. I enjoyed every second of my 3 week holiday and have been suppressing the desire to jump back on a plane and move there for good since I left. I’m really hoping that after I’ve gained some work experience and my boyfriend finishes his degree, we can get teaching posts out there and really experience life in Thailand. I also want to explore the mountains of the North and adventure into Laos and Cambodia which we just didn’t have time for. The people, the food, the weather, the culture, it all just ‘fit’ me, I want to go back. I want to go back now!!

2. Brazil
We studied this amazing country during my Year 9 Geography class and I’ve wanted to go ever since. For a while it was specifically Rio that attracted me, the colourful and vibrant carnival and that impressive statue of Christ the Redeemer watching all the city folk below. But then I learned more about the country, the Amazon rainforest fascinates me for a start. I really want to see trees with buttress roots taller than me that have stood there for hundreds of years…then there’s the goliath bird-eating spider which is the size of a dinner plate and something I wouldn’t mind missing 😛 It’s an area of our planet that is still relatively untouched, with indigenous tribes who have still never met a white man or been ‘tainted’ by the West. There was a program (programme?) on a few months ago where people took their families on gap years and one family actually went to stay with a tribe like this, learned how to live off the land, learn new games (for the kids) and traditions and how to hunt and cook. It looked like an amazing experience.

3. The tough one.
I’m really struggling with this one. I’ve always wanted to go to Australia, to hire a car and drive across America…I want to climb Table Mountain, see the Sahara, visit the Pyramids, trek to Matchu Pitchu…the list goes on. I’d say if I had to prioritise then Matchu Pitchu would win, just because of all the rumours that they’re going to shut it soon and the opportunity will be gone forever, not unlike Ayres Rock which fascinates me.

To live…perchance to dream. I’ve got the dreams, have even turned them into plans. Now for the living part. Bring on 2012!