6: Beyond Bangkok
Sorry for the lack of "Confessions" lately, but the past month has been nothing short of completely manic, it all began when I arrived at Manchester airport...
My first week in Bangkok has been one of the most extraordinary and amazing that I have ever experienced. The whole excursion stuttered at the start when my girlfriend (Sarah, also an EFL teacher) and I were compounded at the baggage weigh-in. We had 15 kg too much in our suitcases. We explained that we needed a lot of things as we were going away for a year, but to no avail. I was prepared to pay a little more for the extra weight but the bill amounted to no less than £435!! The other option was to put the baggage in cargo for £170 and expect it to arrive at least 6 days later than us, no thanks. The only other problem we had was that airport security werent happy with Sarahs violin bow, they thought it may be a sharp (and so potentially lethal) weapon. This seemed somewhat brainless at the time but descended into outright lunacy when we were actually given solid steal knives and forks after take off! After removing some of our baggage weight, we progressed to the aeroplane; the flight was a pleasure, comfortable and very smooth.
I was met by a Kings College representative at Bangkok airport who checked me into a hotel before taking me to meet the Director of Studies at Kings College. After 28 hours without sleep I really didnt want to have to make any decisions but this wasnt to be. After assuring me that the initial contract of work was still on the table, he offered Sarah and I a job working on an external contract (through Kings College, the first time they have done this) at a Thai state school in a small town further north than Bangkok called Lop Buri; a large decision to undertake after 28 sleepless hours! We went to visit the school and Lop Buri itself the following day, and were delighted to accept the job. Whether this is the right decision will be unvailed through the beauty of hindsight!
Lop Buri is a provincial town where traditional values still hold firm, in stark comparison to the Westernised hustle and bustle of Bangkok. The school itself was fantastic, the children bowing, amazed to see bona fide English people on their playground! The parents were being briefed on the idea of native English tutorage for their children and burst into rapturous applause when the school announced that the link with Kings College had indeed been forged.
I am finding myself enthused with interest at the Thai beliefs and customs, Bangkok is a city desperately clinging on to its cultural heritage while being invaded by foreign influence and customs. Lop Buri on the other hand is still very much traditionally Thai, you can tell by the people you meet, the sights you see and (especially so) the clean air that you breath! I believe that six months here, before returning to Kings at Bangkok, will be a valuable insight into Thai society as well as gaining EFL experience.
All this and I havent even entered a classroom yet! That comes tomorrow. This is chiefly a diary chronicling the highs and woes of a first year in EFL teaching (so giving other prospective teachers an insight) but after this week I have realised that the cultural experience goes hand in hand with EFL teaching, and is every bit as important. This will be reflected in the postings which follow.