Thailand’s Sights, Sounds, and yes…Smells
It is 7:15 AM but the heat outside of our door would suggest high noon. Before our morning shower, we can already hear the sounds of music honouring the recently deceased king of Thailand. Little did we know, that this loudspeaker would become our daily alarm clock.
The background music is the sound of motorbikes, tuk-tuks, and the occasional car or van circling through the courtyard to drop off the 1,300 students who attend Yuchieo Primary School. It’s time to experience the first day of teaching in Thailand.
As my roommate Louise and I walk out of our room ready for the day, we smell strongly of bug spray.
The distinctive smell of diethyltoluamide, fondly known as deet, is just one of many indicators that we are indeed foreigners. The students and 80 odd teachers will soon call us suay, and point out those other indicators with a smile.
Getting to know new students
As we pass the balcony and walk down the stairs, we are greeted by a swarm of tan, blue and forest green. Today is Wednesday, so it is scout uniform day. In other words, it’s just another day where our students are donning delightfully cute uniforms. In addition to the normal wai, we are also greeted with a two-finger scout salute.
Being none the wiser, we bowed to what seemed like every single one of the thousand plus students. To an outsider looking in, it was very clearly a frantic attempt to mumble “sawasdee ka” correctly, while bowing and giving a scout salute to every pair of legs that walked by us.
One of the Thai teachers in the English department took pity on us. She walked over with a bright smile, and in a combination of English and hand gestures, told us to only bow at fellow colleagues and not students. Phew. By this point my ears are buzzing from hearing “good morning teacher” on repeat, the loudspeaker music, and what I would classify as rush hour traffic.
Fast forward past the blur of greetings and a whirlwind of a school tour, and my stomach is grumbling noticeably. Usually this index of heat prevents me from feeling hunger, but the vat of spicy something and pre-scooped bowls of white rice had my name on it. My new name that is…Teacher Becca. Fortunately for me, Rebecca is easily shortened to a more pronounceable Becca.
Unfortunately for my roommate, Teacher Louise is confusing for the children to say, despite the lengths to which your vocal chords may go.
Lunch at school and a break
In the canteen, my ears are buzzing again. This time from the sound of small metal spoons on blue and pink plastic bowls amidst a sea of smiling faces. I will be taking the lead from the students on this one, and filling my bowl to the brim with this deliciously mysterious lunch.
Fast forward twenty minutes later, when, despite the sensation that even my eyeballs are sweating, all I can think of is what else is in store for this afternoon!
A few hours later, we are in our rooms relaxing with what I swear to be the best air conditioner I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. We had spent the afternoon seeing some classes and smiling and nodding to our various welcoming committees.
After cooling down, Louise and I had a chat about some of the highs and lows of the day.
Looking back on the day
It was clear we were going to need to bring a lot of energy to the classrooms to match the enthusiasm of the children. After spending five days of orientation with our English-speaking counterparts, we had seriously underestimated the language barrier. We knew it would be important to take excellent care of our health as the climate, children, and cultural differences demanded it. That being said, we already had a sense that even if we gave 100%, the children would return that tenfold in love.
After dissecting every aspect of our busy day, it was shockingly already time for food again! So, one American and one Brit decided to wander about Kanchanaburi looking for tea…
Teacher Becca Pro Tips
• Drink water. Duh, right? But you can’t underestimate the necessity for your body in this heat!
• Get sleep. Restful sleep. Make sure you have a routine for falling asleep and waking up refreshed. Even though I am so #blessed to have air conditioning, my body was not used to sleeping with only cold air, so I quickly realized that my best overnight option was the fan.
• On the subject of routine: create one at the beginning. Yes, the teaching brings something new and exciting every day. But, you can’t give from an empty cup! Whether it’s recreating (to the best of your ability) your routines from home, or creating a new one in Thailand, go Nike and Just. Do. It.
Until next time,
If Teach Becca has inspired you to give teaching in Thailand a try for yourself, then take a look at our Thailand TEFL Experience: https://www.i-to-i.com/teach-and-travel-abroad/tefl-experiences/teach-in-thailand.html
More tips from Teacher Becca coming soon!