Jenn and I both took an online Teaching English as a Foreign Language course to receive our TEFL certification. While this was not required for our teaching jobs, we thought it would be very beneficial for our resumes, would provide us with some insight prior to being thrown into the classroom, and will also help us to get other TEFL jobs in the future if we end up really enjoying teaching English as a foreign language (EFL).
We landed in Bangkok very early in the morning on May 10th. CIEE, Council on International Educational Exchange, and OEG, Overseas Ed Group, are the two programs who helped us receive our job placements in Thailand. We spent a week with OEG in Bangkok for orientation. Other than checking in with OEG, our first day was spent working on our TEFL course, since some of our final assignment deadlines fell on the day of our arrival.
We took a walking tour of the area with the OEG staff and we met some friends right away. Andrew, who goes by Rew, is a software engineer who, like me, could no longer stand being chained to a desk. Sib, an elder Indian and Kenyan man, is by far my favorite person I was able to connect with. You will be hearing a lot more about Sib in upcoming posts. He has traveled all over and I connected with him immediately.
We also got to know our program coordinators. OEG has offices in Thailand and CIEE has offices in the United States, so some of our coordinators remain in this country, while others were only here for orientation. I was so impressed throughout orientation with the professionalism of this group, but also their cohesiveness. As a whole, they worked together well and it was very clear to myself and many others how much they care about our teaching experience. We were told many times that if we have any concerns throughout our time in Thailand, we are always welcome to reach out.
Orientation days were long and covered a lot of information in a short time. We were provided a lot of crucial information in regards to finances, work Visas, etc. and we also had a few lessons on basic Thai language. For program participants who did not take the online course I am taking, we had a lot of TEFL “crash course” sessions, going over the basics of lesson planning and other important information. Much of what we discussed had to do with Thai culture and the differences in the Thai educational system as well as the culture in the classroom.
For instance, students in Thailand do not “fail”. It is not something that the educational system here allows. Communication here is extremely indirect, and showing any negative emotion is considered losing face. The students will not respect a teacher who shows negative emotions, so we have been encouraged to smile through everything.
While in Bangkok, I also went to a weekend night market called Chatuchak. I was very proud of myself because while ordering dinner, I asked in Thai, “mee tofu mai paad mai?” which means, “Do you have tofu without fish?”
Unfortunately, the answer was “Mai mee”, which means “we don’t have that,” but I was very proud that she understood me!
Speaking of… “Vegetarian” is essentially unheard of in Thailand. While there is access to many vegetables and fresh fruits, every meal includes meat, and the idea that it would not is incomprehensible to many. “Vegan” is definitely not possible here – egg is included in every dish, and at this point, I have found that I am heavily relying on it for nutrition. While vegan and vegetarian substitute options have been growing in popularity and availability in the United States, they are nonexistent here. This results in me eating the same meal as everyone around me except without the meat. So far, I have been doing my best to stay positive and making sure to eat a lot of vegetables, rice and fruit many times per day.
I’ve included some photos below, but much more on Bangkok to follow!
In the first photo, you’ll see me enjoying my first Thai meal that I ordered for myself in Thailand. The second to last photo shows a picture of durian. Durian is a local fruit that smells terrible! Many people say it tastes great, so it is worth the smell, but because it is only the start of durian season here, I have yet to try it for myself. The reason why this photo is so funny is because this was posted in our hotel – they actually ban people from bringing durian into the hotel because of how bad it smells! Haha!