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Volunthai’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 02 Jun 2010

Location: London, England

MapTo describe my time teaching in Thailand in just one paragraph would be impossible. Especially now that I am back in England, the month in Thailand seems like a dream. There were ups and downs, exciting days and mundane days. Yet when I look back it seems so different. Therefore the best way to explain my time is to put in an extract of my 1st email I wrote home, a week into my stay. It sort of explains everything I was experiencing at the time and I guess it reflects quite well whats its like to be hosted by another culture, especially when your on your own. I stayed near Chaiyaphum, in the Issan province:

'So have spent first weekend with my host, pee-bon. I was driven home on friday and arrived to the house with lots of people milling around putting frames on windows and sheets on beds. I get the feeling looking at the lovely room I have that she might have bought everything new for my visit! sheets, curtains, bed everything. House is quite spacious but basic, two large rooms downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs. The bathroom is walled off section next to the flushing toilet, no shower. just a tub of water and a bowl. Apart from this everything else perfect, you'd never guess where I've landed myself (mum you'll appreciate this)...smack bang in the middle of a prawn farming village. I know! so for my first dinner I had prawn omelette, fryed prawns in garlic, prawn soup (am I starting to sound like the guy from forrest gump?) In prawn heaven. Torrential rain all friday afternoon, they joked I brought it from England. Half way through dinner there was a flash of light and a crack from upstairs, and then a second later a huge thunder clap which shook the whole house. I said 'did we just get struck by lightening?', Quan looks at me 'yes hahah lightning upstairs'. WHAT!? I was hyperventilating, the 3-year old girl next to me hadn't flinched and continued to shovel rice in her mouth.

Woke up at 5am to someone driving around the village on a tanoy, repeating something over and over. Government brainwashing? am I in a cult? Who knows, I rolled over and fell back asleep. More rice and prawns for brekky, noodles for lunch. I wonder whats for dinner...

Sunday we all piled into Pee-Bons truck and headed into town to see her family. We arrived at this little house and she made me sit outside for half an hour while she cleaned the place, and then we (+4 pre-pubescent teenagers) spent the day at the mall. I chose spicy sausage salad for lunch..error. My mouth was on fire, but I liked to think I looked calm and aloof as the rest of the table watched me, the sweat pouring down my face might have given me away though. Then for pudding they gave me what I can only describe as liquorice allsorts soaked in water, with a cup of ice on top. It slowly melted into a sugary soup. It tased off crunchy jelly. Can you imagine that..crunchy jelly? Damn my english good nature and fear of offense. I smiled and slurped at this sugary monstrosity while the thai children knocked it back. After we went to the walk-in the mall. About 500 people all sitting on the floor watching a monk on a microphone. Pee-bon just strolled through the middle, with me following trying to look inconspicuous. I was however the only white woman there and had bare feet on and was acutely aware of my very un-buddhist tattoo. There was a monk museum at the end,and this very nice monk who spoke english talked me through it. At the end he whipped out his camara and asked if he could have a photo with me! Feel like a celebrity.
A long time later, after a lovely dinner at her sisters house (always sitting on the floor, may turn into yogo god at end of the month with all the cross legged sitting I'm doing) we piled into truck. We were taking her parents in law home too, a very old couple who just smiled alot at me. But when we got into car the old man started getting into the back, very tight space. I was like 'oh no sir, you go in the front, I'll sit in the back.' But they all laughed, 'no no, you long legs, long legs.'
I am officially the tallest woman in Thailand.


First day at school. Made to introduce myself on a microphone in front of 900 hundred students. I mumbled and stumbled over my words in my nervousness and then laughed slightly hysterically as if this was the norm. They probably now think all english people are bonkers. First lesson...bit of a disaster. I introduced my self, my name, where I'm from, how old I am etc to class of about 30 13yr olds. Then I gave them a work sheet with 'whats your name? How old are you? Where are you from?' and tried to talk them through it. I then went through parts of the body, then proceeded with a game of simon says. Disaster. but luckily I adapted after this first humiliating defeat and by the 2nd lesson I was on better form. Then while recovering at lunch Quan drops a bomb, can I teach an hour and a half lesson to 80 office workers on friday afternoon with zero knowledge of english?'Of course I can Quan'. Oh god.

Went on my first motorbike today, very exciting! I sat in the back and pee-bon and her daughter sat in front of me...she says she'll teach me to ride later today I'M SO EXCITED! dont worry mum, I'll wear a helmet. well, actually they dont have any helmets but I'll find a sieve or something.'

I had the best month teaching and I wouldn't take back a second of it. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who's interested in immersing themselves in another culture, because this is by far the best way to see what the 'real'Thailand is like.