I’ve been in Thailand for just about a month now, and I have finally moved to my placement in Trang City and found an apartment! But let me back up just a second real quick.
The past month in Chiang Mai has been the longest shortest time of my life. I feel like I’ve been here forever and I’ve known my TESOL friends forever, but at the same time the month of April flew by just as I was warned it would. Let me first say, I feel so fortunate for the group that I had the pleasure of taking my TESOL course with, as well as the wonderful XploreAsia staff that made transitioning into life in Thailand so welcoming and smooth. Having a group of only 22 people made it easy to become close quickly and develop significant relationships with every single person in my group. I’m already becoming homesick for Chiang Mai and missing my friends, but it’s good to know that I have people all over the country and I’m confident that we will all see each other again soon.
Without going into a crazy amount of detail, I want to try and briefly touch on some of the highlights of the past month:
Week one was orientation…if you haven’t already seen it, I posted a video compilation of a lot of what we did in just that week. We went to a rice plantation and planted rice, we took a muay thai lesson (Thai boxing), we got to visit Doi Suthep (a temple high up in the mountains of Chiang Mai), as well as a Tunnel Temple in Chiang Mai, and we took both Thai language and culture classes. The orientation activities began to ease us into realizing, yes we are actually in Thailand.
Our first weekend, and our only real full weekend (we had some class on the weekends because of our songkran break), about 11 of us decided to go up North to Chiang Rai for the weekend. My friend, Aida, had been to this place called the Bamboo Nest before and highly recommended we go, even handling all the booking which made it really easy. We took the bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai and then had a couple hours to walk around Chiang Rai city and check out the White Temple before getting picked up to go to the Bamboo Nest. The Bamboo Nest is probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to. It was up in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mountains. We had the place at capacity with the 11 of us and three other travelers that were there. There were 2 people to each small bamboo ‘nest’ – they were made entirely of bamboo, each with a balcony and a bamboo hammock. It was just peaceful and serene and unlike anywhere I’ve ever been in my life. We decided to go on a hike with Noi, the man that works at Bamboo Nest and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He spoke perfect English which he learned solely through speaking with guests over the years. Noi led us through the jungle and showed us how to cook rice, chicken, and eggs simply using bamboo. After our hike we took a boat to a small village and got to walk around and see their very minimal way of living. After everything we said our goodbyes and headed back to Chiang Mai.
Later that following week was Songkran. I also posted a video compilation in my last post from Songkran because I can’t even begin to explain in words how much fun this holiday is. We got two days off of class for Songkran, the Thai new year, which we spent on the streets of Chiang Mai engaging in water gun fights with every man, woman, and child we came in contact with. It was even more fun than it sounds.
In our second to last week, we had three days set aside where we got to actually teach! Because that is why I’m here, isn’t it! I got paired up with my friend Alex and we came up with a lesson plan on superheroes and a lesson plan on snacks. We went to two different schools, one very small school where we had a class of about 5 boys, and then one massive school where we had around 40 kids per class. It was crazy to finally get in the classroom, and although it definitely proved tough I think that everyone did a really great job. We got to spend some classes teaching, and others observing which was helpful because I’m definitely stealing great ideas from everyone else’s lessons! I entirely lost my voice, and then developed a cough which I still have two weeks later, but it got me even more excited for what’s to come once I start teaching.
The last major thing we got to do, which I planned literally week one, was to go to the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai. Almost everyone in our group came, about 14 of us, and we got to feed, bathe, pet, and walk with rescued elephants at the park. This park in particular is really special in that they make their visitors aware of the maltreatment of elephants all over Thailand. People should not ride elephants, elephants are badly broken and beaten in order to use to make money and entertain tourists, as well as carry out manual labor. All of the elephants at the park are rescue elephants, some have missing ears, broken bones, holes in their ears from hooks, and many are blind. It was really horrible to see, but also amazing because the elephants at the park are free to roam wherever they like and are treated as they should be, with kindness and respect. They are such gentle and smart creatures and it was surreal getting to actually meet so many of them. The park also has many other rescue animals – dogs, cats, water buffalo, goats, etc. Everyone had an inspiring and incredible day and I highly recommend this particular place if anyone is in Thailand and wants to get a chance to really interact with elephants.
Finally, in our last week we had our exam and graduation (and a screening of the season premiere of Game of Thrones on our classroom projector – obviously equally important). I’m really excited about my placement, and I got incredibly lucky because my best friend Baylee got placed in the same school as me! I’ll give a full description of my placement city, my apartment, and my school in the next post!