Since I’ve been slacking with this blog a bit, let me rewind to catch you up on the big events of the last few weeks.
1. Wai Kru Day
This is pretty much the Thai version of Teacher Appreciation Day held in the United States. Except teachers are highly respected here, so the whole affair is a lot more extensive and extravagant. In Thai, to “wai” someone means to bring your hands together as if in prayer and bow. There’s different types of wai (pronounced as “why”) you do, depending on who you’re talking to. So, wai is a way of showing respect. The word “Kru” means teacher. There you have it: “Respecting Teacher Day.”
Now, some schools have students “respect their teacher” by giving everyone 1-2 days off from school. Personally, that sounds like the best Teacher Appreciation Day(s) ever. My school, however, holds a ceremony instead. Hey- beggars can’t be choosers. Plus, it was a pretty nice ceremony. Granted, the whole thing was in Thai, but I got the general picture.
After the ceremony, the really cool part of Wai Kru happened. We headed back to our classroom and my Thai teacher brought out three chairs: one for her, one for me, and one for the student teacher.
Suddenly, all of our kids whisked out flowers and candles that they had brought from home. In groups of three, our students came forward and dropped their gifts into our laps and “wai-ed” into our open palms. At first, I felt a little uncomfortable with having my students bow down to me. But, when in Thailand… Plus, this is an experience that I don’t think will happen too often (read: never) back in American public schools. Might as well enjoy the experience as it lasts. And indeed, 5 minutes after our classroom ceremony, my kids were back to being the little monsters I know and love.
Later that day, my fellow CIEE participant and I got another surprise: school was going to be let out early the next day due to the vital need to spray our school down in mosquito repellent. I’d never been so happy about a herd of mosquitos! Leaving school early on a Friday really makes a difference when it comes to traveling in Thailand; leave early and you can beat the Bangkok traffic, catch a bus/train/plane, and arrive at your weekend destination hours ahead of schedule.
Perhaps slightly overreacting to a 2-hour early dismissal, I made the impulsive decision to leave town for the weekend and head northeast to visit my friends from orientation. Which brings me to my second big event…
2. Roi Et
That weekend, my friends were visiting the city of Roi Et. The direct translation of “roi et” is “101.” Supposedly, the city was once guarded by 11 city gates, which was documented as “10-plus-1.” Someone must have misread the ancient writing at some point though, so the city became known as “101.”
So far, my motto in Thailand when it comes to traveling has been “live in the moment and hope for the best.” There’s no such thing as Point A to Point B in Thailand. It’s Point A to Point B to Point C to Point D etc. ect. And don’t you dare think about Point C when you’re still trying to get to Point B. Why? Because that’s how you end up having a mini-mental breakdown. There’s too many independent variables to make any traveling go the way you want it to.
So let’s see, to get from Chonburi City to Roi Et, I took on several means of transportation: motorcycle –> van –> BTS Skytrain –> cutting through a park in the pouring rain –> tuk tuk –> overnight bus –> tuk tuk. About 16 hours after leaving Point A, I finally made it to Point F! But, hey, I am not complaining in the slightest because my weekend in Roi Et ended up being so worth it!
I’ve found that the more rural a place you go to in Thailand, the more generous and sweet the people are. Don’t get me wrong, about 99% of Thai people are generous and
sweet. But in the more out-there areas, Thai people go out of their way to make sure you are comfortable and happy. So after breakfast Saturday morning, the owner of our mini-hotel called in a taxi driver to drive us anywhere we wanted to go all day for 500 baht. Between 4 people, that’s roughly $3.90 per person. Awesome! Our morning was spent shoving GoogleMaps in our taxi driver’s face and asking him to take us to multiple temples (plus a pond to ride swan boats).
Poor guy must have been thinking that he should have charged a higher flat rate. But instead, he was super nice and laughed at all of our requests. After dropping us off at our first temple, he disappeared and returned with a nicer car to drive us around in. Later, he even took us far out of town to visit Temple #4. We must have either bored or exhausted him though because we came out to find that he
was sound asleep in the car waiting for us. Oops. Still, he drove us back to town, took us to a place to eat, and actually came in with us to eat and make sure we got the food we wanted. “Call me and I will drive you to the airport tomorrow!” Taxi driver of the year right there.
After a day of temple roaming, we went out to a night market by the water, where I was able to buy a dress for 30 baht (less than $1) and pig out on crab, fruit and coconut water. Sweet bliss.
Unfortunately, my time in Roi Et went by too fast and much of my Sunday was dedicated to traveling back home. This time, I went from taxi –> airplane –> shuttle bus –> BTS Skytrain –> van –> motorcycle. Only Point A to Point E this time!
The following weekend, a few girls and I went to Pattaya. To put it nicely, Pattaya is the “wild child”/ Los Vegas city of Thailand. There’s a lot you can do there, including… all-day snorkeling where “you would be really unlucky to NOT spot a sea turtle.” Since Pattaya is a coastal city, we were able to head out into the Gulf of Thailand on our boat (cleverly named “Nauti-Girl”) and island hop!
On our boat with us, we had some Thai people (obviously), Chinese people, Germans, and Russians (hmmm, this sounds like the beginning of a bad joke…). It was really interesting to see how each group of people would talk amongst themselves in their native language. Yet, all instructions were given in English. I then saw the Chinese tourists and Russians talk to each using English. It just seemed really odd. I never thought of English as this second language used to connect people from different backgrounds. It made me realize how much I take for granted my ability to speak English; these people and my students are all learning English as a second language in order to communicate and make it in the business world. Meanwhile, until now, I’ve lived in this bubble where there was no vital need to learn a second language. Call this my profound thought of the day.
Anyway, back to snorkeling… As with Bang Saen, these islands are not the ones featured in Thailand beach ads. Still, they were gorgeous to sail by and go on. Unfortunately, there was a lot of green algae in the water, making cool underwater pictures impossible. However, it was my first time snorkeling and I was satisfied with swimming in warm water and looking at the coral and fish.
Well, almost completely satisfied. Turns out we are really UNlucky as there were not sea turtles to be found.
However, I did get a second chance to look for turtles this week. Which brings me to…
4. The Khao Open Zoo
This week, my students and I had our first field trip of the year to a local zoo!
At first I was a little weary of this trip. For one, 44 students are hard to maintain in a classroom, let alone out in the open at a zoo. I was secretly hoping that the zoo would provide us with those leashes you can attach to kids. Secondly, I had to wear my “sports day” clothing for this trip, which means I was decked out in all black with a collared shirt and sweat pants. The perfect ensemble for a high-90 degree day at the zoo!
But, it actually wasn’t that bad. The majority of my kids were on their best behavior (I think my Thai teacher might have threatened to take away the elephants in Thai) and we were actually in shade for the majority of the day. More pictures below!
So, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip at the zoo. Probably more than my kids. Hmmm, I’m apparently unlucky though because I still have yet to see a sea turtle…