Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Raw INFJ: 2-18-14 Another Day In The Life Of A Farang Teacher

     It’s 4:45 PM, I just purchased my Thai iced tea, and I downed about half of it within a minute. Yes, it’s one of those days. My original plan was to stay after school, mark some books, and then come home and read, but after staying after school for merely 10 extra minutes, I broke and just decided to leave.
     Every week has been an uphill battle to learn my kids’ behaviors and fine-tune my teaching methods to fit them. Some days, I feel like I really make a difference with them, and I feel so proud of them and myself for finally making it through. I often smile on those days and come home wondering why I ever felt like giving up or asking myself if I was sure I really wanted to leave Thailand. But most other days, I remember why I feel like I’m just wasting my time and effort, wanting to move elsewhere where I feel like I can have an actual impact on others.
     As unbelievable as it may sound, especially when I go on rants like this, I love my students; I wouldn’t trade them for any of the other classes, even if they behave better than mine. They are adorable, I love their personalities (although a few are questionable), and I really want to help them grow as English language speakers. Maybe my goal for them is too lofty, seeing as my class is completely different from how I first imagined it was going to be. I saw myself--before all this--creating fun learning games all the time for kids that would be eager to learn from me.
     Every time I’ve tried to do something fun though, my students ruin it. Just the other day, I tried to bring in a science experiment to illustrate the concept of sinking and floating. Half of my students just spoke over me when I tried to explain the terms, even as I used simple and broken English and gestured wildly with my hands. The other half kept getting up from their chairs and coming over to drop things into my giant tub of water or sticking their hands in. I yelled, I demanded for them to sit down, I even took the experiment away, and yet they still continued talking over me, standing up, and completely taking advantage of there being something occupying my hands. I ended up shutting off the lights, yelling at everybody to copy down the table I had put on the board, and allowing only a few good students to come up to do the experiment. I found this extremely sad because I really thought they’d enjoy doing something hands-on and would follow directions if they knew they could really get involved.
     That is not an isolated incident. Sadly, it happens almost every day, so I’ve had to rely on worksheets and packets to get them to actually do work. I never wanted to become that type of teacher that screams and throws packets at her students, and I know I wouldn’t be this way in a better-controlled classroom environment. What I walked into, however, was this, and try as I have to fix everything, I honestly can’t do it on my own. My Thai teacher, whose responsibility it is to help me control the students, is so frustrated with them herself that she leaves during my teaching periods. 
     Anyway, today, toward the end of the day, I realized yet again that my students only respond to me letting them work with their friends on worksheets. After working for an hour and a half, I asked for our little cleaning team to clean up the classroom, erasing the whiteboard and sweeping the floors. Two of my boys decided to puncture holes in their water bottle caps and spray the floors with water. Noticing this, I was very angry and told them to clean the floors, but one of them ran around, slipping and sliding with a broom, screaming at the top of his lungs. The other stayed across the classroom from me so I couldn’t grab him and continued to spray water when he thought I wasn’t looking. I was miserable and I knew this would look horrible to my Thai teacher when she returned. I knew I had no control over them, so I took the broom away from the screaming kid and told him to sit in a corner for 10 minutes after school. The other student who refused to help clean up the mess, well, I made him sit down in another corner too. 
     I wish I could say that I handled that the best way possible, but I know for a fact that I didn’t handle that well at all. What I can say though is that I handled it the best I could what with the students ignoring my commands and thinking it hilarious to disobey me. Thankfully, the Thai teacher returned, and like a tattletale brat, I immediately pointed at the two students and tried to mime what happened to her. I was so embarrassed because it happened under my watch, but seriously, I wanted the students to be accountable for their actions more than I cared about how irresponsible I looked as a teacher to her.
     With all that mess taken care of because the students jumped to do her bidding at once, I just slumped down at my desk and tried to get work done. I couldn’t even begin because I was so disappointed in the students and myself. My mind still races to find solutions all the time, but there is pretty much one and a half weeks of school left, and I’m running out of time. I think part of me is just going to stop caring really soon, which means I’ll just let them talk over me as long as they’re seated in the classroom. Well, if they fail, it’s not my fault. 
     I hate being this teacher. I still come to school every day with hope in my eyes, and I feel that every time I leave, I’m disappointed, frustrated, and plain exhausted from trying so hard. I’m definitely glad that I still have some energy left to try, but there’s only so much energy I have left for these particular kids before I’m sucked dry.
     Speaking of being sucked dry, another issue that has arisen is the multitude of mosquitoes taking over our school. Every classroom teacher is battling with them, especially as they like to hide in the kids’ cubbies, the bags the teachers carry to school, and they fly in from the outside when our kids go to the bathroom. It’s disgusting. As I was leaving, I picked up my backpack and literally 20 flew out. Already so frustrated from my students who were basically creating a breeding ground for mosquitoes with all the water they poured on the floors, I can’t even begin to tell you how much stress that added onto my shoulders. Ugh! Tomorrow I will make sure to bring my spray bottle of Off! to school to try to ward them off. 
     But anyway, this is my very quickly-written rant, so I apologize for any strong or hateful messages I may sound like I’m sending. The truth is I don’t hate my students in any way, I still love teaching, and well, I still hate mosquitoes. Not much has changed since I moved to a different country in those areas, but sometimes I just have one of these days and I need to express my frustration while I’m feeling it the strongest. I hope with all my heart that they’ll behave a bit better this next week and a half or so, but I highly doubt they’ll surprise me. I guess I’ll just have to cross my fingers and wish for the best, but if not, a week can’t be that long, right? 


***Actually, I forgot to add that my students made me feel a bit bad, but also inspired, by this male substitute that was in my classroom when I had to get my work permit. They asked for him to return for a couple of days after I came back. It reminded me that I needed to up my game as a teacher and be more entertaining. 

However, he subbed for me yesterday and my boys were so bad that his yelling at them was heard through all the walls and down the hallway. Two of my teacher friends actually entered the classroom and offered to pull some of my students out because my sub was livid at them for running and being out of their seats during class.

My students didn't ask for him to return today; one of my girls told me that they all called him mean. Anyway, I'm glad I'm not the only person going through this with my class because I honestly thought it was my fault the kids were acting like this, but apparently it's not. Still, though, I wish I could have some form of control over them. :( ***

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Raw INFJ: 2-16-14--An Unpredictable Future

     This trip has been about traveling, just as much as teaching...if not more. 
     Actually, I take that back. Definitely more.
     The thing that has me putting my proverbial pen to paper is the knowledge that in a little bit more than a month, I will be setting foot back on American soil and I will finally be home. And it hit me that honestly, I just don’t feel ready for that quite yet. 
     Sitting in a bus terminal waiting for a 12-hour bus ride back to Bangkok from one of the northernmost cities of Thailand, Chiang Rai, I feel very nostalgic of all the trips I’ve taken so far in the past few months since I started teaching in a different country. This recent weekend trip proved to be one of the most fun and appeasing; it included some of the most authentic local culture I have seen (in other words, they weren’t “gentrifying” for the sake of tourism) and I was able to proudly cross a few items off my list of things I wanted to see and do in Thailand before I left. 
     I saw my favorite temple in Thailand (and trust me, it’s a daunting task to make a decision, as there are definitely an abundance of beautiful temples to choose from), and although I was at Wat Rong Khun, or the White Temple, for at least half an hour, I still can’t believe I was there. After hopping out of our taxi, I kept looking at the temple, thinking that if I looked elsewhere, it would shimmer like a mirage and disappear. Not even when looking back on my pictures can I believe my eyes beheld something so grandiose, so spectacular, so beautiful.
     I also stood on Thai ground and stared out at the Golden Triangle, meaning that I was as close as physically possible to being in three countries at once. Looking across at Burma/Myanmar and Laos made me feel amazed that a few months ago, I never even knew I could travel to a place that granted me such a view. I remember looking through my Thailand Tour Guide book and thinking that I would never visit any of the places it described because I would be far too busy with teaching to travel. Yet here I am today, with pictures of me in waterfalls, driving a motorbike across mountains, taking night buses to travel across the country, and supporting causes I believe in, like an elephant sanctuary. Wow.
     At the same time as I’m reminiscing about all the sights I’ve seen though, I’m on my phone, casually reading my friends’ status updates and picture posts. Looking at everything on Facebook certainly makes me feel a pang of homesickness, reminding me where I came from and all that I left behind for the time-being. But at the same time, I don’t want to go back and fall into a rhythm just yet. I’m not mentally or emotionally prepared to be back from all the traveling I’ve been doing each weekend to see the same friends and sit around doing the same things. Don’t get me wrong; I love everyone dearly and do really miss them, and I love being my introverted self. But I feel an itch to keep moving, and that itch won’t be satisfied with just one scratch. (I’m sure that analogy was very settling and something you will not want to unsee.)
     I know people can dismiss my thoughts, thinking that I’m running away from reality--as in the necessary career and saving up I’ll need in order to settle down one day soon--or on the opposite end of the spectrum, feel disgruntled that I want more than what I already have...or worst of all, they may believe that I somehow feel that my life is much better than theirs, so I am now all high and mighty because of all my great new experiences. 
     With all my heart though, I feel the need and strong desire to keep chasing after life, reaching for the tendrils of the natural world, for that is what instills the most peacefulness of peace in me. In a sense, I had a taste of living a different life, one that had me literally wanting to keep my eyes open at every waking hour so I wouldn’t miss one breathtaking moment, and I’m not ready to stop. I want more.
     Both this dream and the reality of it nurture my soul and have awakened the strongest feeling of determination and yearning in me yet; the desire feels so heartbreakingly pure and devastatingly raw that my words barely hold a candle to it. It’s like a calling much, much stronger than that first calling that inspired me to be a teacher. Questions, burning for answers, whirl through my mind, asking, Why can’t I? Why can’t I follow my passion and be able to tell people that I am doing exactly what I love?
     Forget the physical aches, forget the language barriers, forget the sweat-stained clothing and smelly shoes covered with who-knows-what that I’ve been wearing for the past 5 months. Despite all that, I want to be free to explore the world, giving myself the opportunity to fill my mind with wonder and allowing myself to learn to my heart’s content. Isn’t this what life is about? To me, it’s about continuing to see new things, breathing in that fresh mountain air, and metaphorically spreading your arms wide everywhere and anywhere you feel like it, opening up your mind, and most importantly, your heart. 
     Unfortunately, the world operates on money, even though I would normally argue like a romantic sap that it runs on love. But although I believe wholeheartedly in compassion and people’s goodness, I can’t deny that you need some form of currency in order to survive. But the way I see it, everyone and everything is constantly paying me. The world and its natural landscapes are one of the greatest of life’s rewards. On a smaller scale but just as great of a daily gift are the smiles I manage to put on people’s faces as I struggle to ask for what I need. Seeing someone use a loom to thread together a scarf that I would not have given a second thought to is a touching treasure and a delicate reminder of everything I should not take for granted all the time. 
     These and every other precious instance like it are invaluable beyond compare, and knowing that there is so much more I’m missing out on fills me with awe and excitement at just how much more I have to see for myself. What people can create, the fascinating lives people choose to live, and what people have the opportunity to see and do on this planet give me an insatiable feeling of longing--almost even a slight desperation to see more, to feel more, and a definite drive to live more.
     These are the thoughts and feelings I have been struggling with every day since returning from my December holiday trip. The yearning is definitely more persistent the closer my departure date to Chicago is. I think I’m beginning to come to terms that I’ll be thinking about this a lot more before I return to America, but even after going back, I’ll also constantly think about where I’ll want to be next or what new prospective opportunities I’ll take by the horns.

     So what will I do when I return? That is a question I’m both excited and scared to find out the answer to because right now, I sincerely have no idea. But in regards to that, I guess I’ll figure that out and know what will be best for me when the time’s ripe. So no, I don't know right now, but I'm sure that life will give me what I need, and well, I'll be waiting with my arms open wide, ready for life's next exciting adventure!

Monday, February 10, 2014

1-10-14 Pattaya Shows and Bangkok Burgers


The weekend of the January 10th, I visited Pattaya with Lindsay and one of her friends. However, instead of staying longer, which I definitely could have, since the protests were growing, I decided to return to Bangkok and meet up with my other friends, Kiel and Yeonji. (By the way,
I was not working for the next week or so because of the protests.)

Yes, let's go to there.
I began my journey before the protests at Victory Monument.

We spent a night at a really nice place (I forgot to take pictures of it,
but it was very spacious.) Then, the next morning 1-11, we went to
a busy and crowded beach.

I fell asleep a few times. Because this is a big
touristy beach, there were many vendors walking around.
Whenever I fell asleep, guys trying to sell tattoos would
blow some sort of whistle that would jolt me awake. Then,
they would ask me if I wanted one on my stomach. Walking
away, after I angrily said no, they said, "Sexy lady."
That, my friends, is sexual harassment.

Boo, vendors, go away!

I haven't been on a beach since Naiharn!
How I miss this...

     Lindsay, her friend, and I went to a very weird show at night in the gay party scene area. Let's just say the show itself was pretty unprofessional, but it was definitely an experience. I will probably never see one of those again though.

The next morning, as the other girls took off to another island,
I decided I was done and wanted to go see Kiel and Yeonji.
I stopped at a stand down the street from the hotel and ordered
my favorites: Thai iced tea, som tam, and khao niao. :)

Can't escape these! :)

I took the BTS to Wongwian Yai, met up with Kiel, and then walked around, getting ice cream and stuff with Yeonji. It was very relaxing and I really enjoyed spending time with them. At night, we went near Khaosan Road (which was definitely not a good idea, as there were blockades in all areas due to the protests and traffic jams, but we were safe) and ate burgers.

Kiel and Yeonji were waiting for my exclamation of enjoyment...
Unfortunately, I ruined it because I'm not a big fan of burgers.
It was definitely delicious though! :)

Plus, I really miss fries. YUM!

Haha, not the greatest entry or the most exciting news, but there was definitely a lot of normalcy in just meeting up with friends and trying something new that made this a very fun and memorable weekend. I'll probably never get invited out to eat burgers again :(, but still! I love trying new things :)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

1-4-14 Ellies: The Friendly Giants of Thailand


     The next morning, Jess and I departed from Tong House to go to the Elephant Nature Park. I was jittery already and we were running late (if we wanted to make it to our meeting place on time by walking). While waiting, I took a bunch of pictures of Tong House Resort. :)

The balcony (top left), view of the other resort houses from the balcony (top right),
more resort houses (bottom left), the stairs leading down from our room (bottom right)

The meeting area at the bottom of the stairs (top left)
and two views from the bottom of our resort house :)

The view of the path between all the resort houses.
I loved staying here and I've been lucky to have visited twice since I've been in Thailand!

Tong House Resort

This seems like a nice place to visit to meet up with friends :)

Jess and I actually hailed a red car that drove us to Tesco Lotus.
We proceeded to sit there and waited for them for about 1.5 hours >:(

On the bus, we watched a video (which also made me very carsick) that talked about
many of the elephants. Many of them had been abused by mahouts and people who used
them for logging. I remember two stories most distinctly.

1. People would train baby elephants to beg for money on the streets of Chiang Mai. Because they look so cute, carrying baskets or pails, tourists would pay the elephants. However, as you watched the video, you could hear the cries of distress of the baby elephant. She was shaking, and because elephants figure out where they are with the bottom padded areas of their feet, she was even more so terrified--she could feel the vibrations of people walking and cars driving all around her. If she stopped, the mahout would hit her so she would keep walking around asking for money. :( Even if you feel bad, try not to support this! :(

2. Jokia, a strong and young elephant, was pregnant. She gave birth while logging (carrying logs up high hills) and her baby fell. Because she was unable to rescue her baby, the baby died, so she was to heartbroken to continue working. The mahout, angry that she wasn't working, shot her in the eye with a slingshot until that eye went blind.
     One day, she was very angry at the mahout for forcing her to work, so she swiped him with her trunk. In turn, he stabbed her other eye, so she was blind in both eyes. He tried to sell her to the Elephant Nature Park and when the owner asked him why she was blind, he kept telling her he didn't know, so she refused. She found this out one day when he admitted the truth.

We finally made it! The park is beautiful :)
Awww a herd of a family!

Our first stop on the tour were these two adults and a baby.

The baby was the one that had knocked down the gate! 
Here he is, returning to the scene of the crime, to play with the pole.

We walked to two elephants and followed them. :)

Afterward, we fed them. You just had to place it near their trunks and
they'd scoop it up! This was one of the elephants that we had been walking with.

Every day, all the elephants eat a crazy amount of local fruits.
This was just one part of the storage area... also, there were actual
workers who had to open all of them for the animals!

This elephant is a sweetie! Although her hip is broken,
she is still the sweetest angel of an elephant. :)

Here I am, standing beside her :)

She let me pet her while she was eating. 
I was probably disturbing her--if someone
pet me while I was eating, I'd be like >:

The elephants had to be distracted so we could bathe them. They had floating
baskets full of watermelon. Here we are in action!

I gave my camera to our tour guide, so the pictures aren't that great. :(

But it's okay :) Because I had forgotten my sandals, I actually am
standing on rocks barefoot. OUCH! Sometimes I feel like I'm just
too spoiled because I could barely move in the water. Painful stuff!
Oh well, it was super fun to be bathing the elephants :)

Remember how I said that our tour guide had our cameras?
Well, this is what happens. This is one of my creepers who
apparently wants me to remember him.

Contrary to what you may believe, I am not wet because of the
elephant or because I clumsily splashed water all over myself.
There were kids on the other side who would fling the water
a little too much, so it would fly over the elephant to me...

After we finished, the elephants (the nerve of them! haha jk) climbed
the rocks on the other side and flung mud on themselves to stay cool.

Our group headed back to catch that wandering family of a herd.
Here's the baby! At one point, they had to shout at me to move
because babies can be a little unpredictable and I accidentally stood
in front of the baby. (Don't worry, it was some time after this photo.)
My stalker is enjoying posing with me, by the way. :(

Scratching his bum! :)

After I went up some stairs and was staring down at these wondrous creatures, this guy
climbed the stairs and stared at me the entire time he was going up. I freaked out and turned
the other way. Seriously, WHAT ARE YOU STARING AT?!

Jess went to the nurse because she was too sick, and meanwhile,
the rest of us went and watched more elephants bathe!

They're scratching at their favorite scratching posts!

A lone elephant in the distance
That one stood there for at least 15 minutes...
I wonder if it was daydreaming about life lol

Ain't she a beaut with her earring? :)

Can't believe I almost forgot to mention that there were
dogs everywhere too! The tour guide warned us against
the ones with red bandanas tied around their necks. Those
were the more aggressive ones. However, this sanctuary
was amazing, saving all those animals :)

At one point, we went to watch three other elephants.
I lost track of which ones, but these were in an enclosed area.
I think they were training a little to basic commands, so it's
easier for vets to examine them and all.
Anyway, we were allowed to pet these, but all they wanted was food...
This elephant was trying to check this lady (one of the caretakers) for food!

Equality for everyone and everything <3:
"The animals of the world 
exist for their own reasons.
They were not made for humans 
any more than black people
were made for white or
women created for men."

Pardon that mini-interruption. Here was a baby
elephant that was trying to break the stick to get
the juice from inside. He got frustrated at one point
and threw it down, trying to step on it. He picked
it up and tried again though. :)

Cooling down with some sand!

Okay, I look grosser than normal in this
selfie, but I love this photo because the
elephant thought I was going to give her
food... so she came toward me. LOL

With the baby! (and the sun in my eyes)

One day, shortly in the future, there will be a pool area for the elephants to
play in and bathe themselves! Awww, maybe I can come back for that :)

Anyway, this was the last day of our trip. The van dropped us off at the terminal after this
fabulous day. Jess and I headed back to Bangkok on an overnight bus and again angrily waited
for taxis that had meters running to drop us off back home. Overall, a great journey and a ton
of fun new experiences. Everything was beautiful in the north and well, let's just say it was very
difficult to ease back to the school's routines after that... haha :)