Hard to believe orientation is over and I’ve moved into my new place in Lampang! The week was jam-packed with helpful workshops, exciting excursions and opportunities to bond with new friends who will also be teaching in Northern Thailand.
A few highlights…
On the first day, I met the girls I will be living and teaching with in Lampang. They are all around my age and are incredibly kind. We’re definitely going to have a lot of fun together! We went out for drinks the first night and finished almost a whole “bucket” before realizing that we were supposed to add the alcohol ourselves. Basically we just drank a gallon of soda.
In our workshops, we talked about tips for teaching English as a foreign language and how to manage classes of 50+ Thai teenagers. They are generally very shy, but they love sanuk (fun) and have a lot of respect for foreign teachers, especially Westerners. We also discussed important cultural differences and how to be sensitive to local customs, such as taking off your shoes when entering a temple or someone’s home and wai-ing (bowing) to elders and people of higher authority. Later in the week, we got to practice some basic Thai phrases to help us when ordering at restaurants, asking for directions, and (more importantly) going shopping.
My favorite thing about the week was getting to explore Chiang Mai. We went to the famous Night Bazaar, enjoyed a traditional Northern Thai dinner and dance performance at the Chiang Mai Cultural Center, explored the Sunday night walking street, visited Doi Suthep and Chedi Luang temples, strolled through the Old City, and even played with chang at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang.
Finally, we were picked up on the last day by three women from Bunyawat Witthayalai School, where we will be teaching. They were so excited to meet us and immediately embraced us as their “four new daughters.” On the two-hour drive to Lampang, we finally had the chance to ask all the questions we’d had, like “How much English do our students know already?” “Is there a curriculum or syllabus we should follow?” and “Are the classrooms air conditioned?” It was nice to get some real answers, since the response to any question brought up at orientation was usually: “It depends on your school.”
Upon arriving in Lampang, they took us out to dinner, showed us around the English department office at the school, and brought us to our new apartments. Bunyawat is probably bigger than most college campuses and is fully equipped with any resources we might need. It is uncommon to find libraries in Thailand because books are very expensive here, but Bunyawat has just finished construction on their ninth building, one floor of which will house their expanding library. The students are very disciplined and teachers are very organized, though it will still be a big adjustment!
Our apartments are very comfortable. I am living with one of the other girls in a two-bedroom, one-bath apartment with a kitchen and small dining area. Our kitchen, which is very nice by Thai standards, is complete with a small refrigerator, stovetop, toaster, microwave and washing machine. A cute spiral staircase leads up to the bedrooms, which both have a television, closet, vanity and desk. I also have a King size bed, though it is by far the hardest mattress I have ever seen in my life. And I don’t just mean firm—I mean it is ROCK HARD. Most every bed here is similar and Thais don’t understand why we like things to be so plush and soft. Umm, maybe because it’s comfortable?! Anyway, I bought a comforter and sheet set to try to compensate and so far it’s been tolerable. Overall, we love our place and it is ten times better than we even anticipated.
Our first couple days exploring the city on our own have definitely been challenging and even the most basic things are difficult when you don’t speak the language, but we will learn the ins and outs and get to know the area over time. We start teaching on Monday so this weekend’s focus will be lesson planning and preparing activities. Also on our to-do list is trying new restaurants and checking out the weekend markets along the Wang River.