Village Voice

Amy Salmon's E-Mail from Thailand (Part 7)

I've been teaching a lot at NES in Lamphun, a small town about 30km from Chiang Mai, which ends up being about a three-hour round-trip commute from my apartment.  I did a book which took forever to send to New York thanks to technical difficulties, the Fourth of July, and the language barrier.  I had to go to Mae Sai (to renew my visa) last week and I missed the bus back to Chiang Mai, instantly turning the day into a 13-hour "travel adventure".  So with one thing and another, I hadn't realized it'd been a while since I'd written. 

 I've gotten a great new job that kind of just landed in my lap when I wasn't looking.  I'll be teaching full time, Monday-Friday 8-3, at a private Christian academy called Dara Academy, and I start tomorrow.  I'll be teaching kindergarten classes, doing "Fun With English" -- going into their regular classes where their Thai teacher will still be there for 30-minute sessions with them.  It kind of feels like what I had with French when I was in kindergarten, and that would seem to have a nice symmetry to it, if I'm doing that now with English.  The classes are bigger than the ones at NES, significantly so, but the ones I've observed have been better in every way.  The kids are interested and well-behaved and interactive, and as an added bonus the Thai teacher is there mainly to assist with discipline if it should be needed. 

They're not sure exactly what curriculum they want me to be doing since this is a new program, but I'm supposed to do things like games, activities, crafts, and songs rather than reading them stories or having them do worksheets.  They're also not sure how many classes I'll be teaching right off.  One I think will be Level One, which is 2 1/2-3 years old, and they really are seriously, seriously cute.  I'll have one of that age group and the others Level 3, two years older.  It'll be "play it by ear" for a while, but I can do that.   

I'll also be working as a sub for when other English teachers are out.  This is a huge school, age 3 to 18, with some 8,000 students and 400 teachers.  Only about 30 are English teachers, though; this is a regular school, so all subjects are taught, obviously mostly in Thai. 

The other part that excites me is that they want me to "help" with the annual end-of-school English play.  I have no idea at this point what that will mean -- I could be in charge of the whole thing, or something else entirely.  The director told me that she wanted me to start from scratch, from choosing the play to casting and directing and delegating responsibilities to everyone else.  So that's a huge responsibility, but I'd enjoy it.  It'll take a lot of patience, but so does living in Thailand in general.   

The job includes visa and work permit (meaning that I won't have to venture into Myanmar any more when the papers are all taken care of).  I'm pretty over the moon.  I just think it's going to be wonderful.  I'm nervous about the first week, but I'll get through it.  I love that it's a Christian school (Church of Christ) and that there are so many other English teachers; that it's much more of a real teaching job, but still in the overwhelmingly warm, forgiving environment of Thailand.  A Christian school where I can fall back on all of those old Bible School standards will be a big plus for one of the classrooms I was in last week there was the exact same portrait of Jesus that I've seen all my life in one church or another.  I see "Arky Arky" in the not-too-distant future.

The school is on the other side of town from where I live now; on the east side of the Ping River.  It's a lot closer to where Jenn lives, the US consulate, Rimping, the Presbyterian church that I saw once and wanted to take another look at, the bus station, and Lamphun, where I still have some classes to finish off for the next two weeks.  So I've found another apartment building where I'm going to move until the on-campus housing is finished.  It's really nice and within easy walking distance of school, which will not only save me time and headaches getting across town, but a fairly significant amount of money as well, in commuting to not only Dara Academy but Lamphun as well.    

 Today I had to frantically shop for new clothes, after teaching all day, to wear tomorrow.  There's a dress code that I was completely unable to meet -- and it's not easy to find dressy clothes here that fit.  Thai women are miniscule; they look at me and just say "No have!".  I say frantically because the market where I'd been told I could find what I needed (that is, clothes that would fit me!) is a day market, not a night market, and by the time I was done teaching in Lamphun it was already 5.  By the time I got back to Chiang Mai it was a quarter to six and things were rapidly being packed away.   I had to have at least one white blouse and dark skirt; that's the dress code for Monday and Wednesday.  For Tuesday and Thursday they say "on your own" but they want essentially the same thing; Friday is "traditional Lanna Thai dress", which I also don't currently own, judging from what all of the other women were wearing this past Friday.  

I managed to find one very unflattering white blouse, but it fit and it was really cheap, so I got two, along with a couple of slightly less objectionable skirts, one black and one navy, and a pair of heels. (The woman who interviewed me told me at least three times that I needed to get new shoes.  I wanted to say, so sue me, lady, I've been teaching barefoot for six months!)  I'll look like the public health nurse, but if that's what they want, that's what they'll get.   

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