‘Sawadee ka’ and greetings from Bangkok! 😀
Now, this month and the next are considered part of Thailand’s cool season. Flowers are in full bloom and the weather here can often remind you of a warm spring day.
I took it as the perfect opportunity to get a bit of sunshine, and seek out the greener parts of Bangkok.
The Green Lung
On Saturday, I headed south towards Prapradaeng, a district not necessarily on the tourist radar.
There you’ll find Bang Krachao, a secluded island, accessible only by boat, and aptly named, “The Green Lung.”To ge there, I essentially paid this man 20 cents to sit in his wooden boat and ride over to the island. 😀He chatted with me the whole time in Thai, as if we were long-lost friends, and as if I understood a word of what he was saying. Hah.I just kept nodding and smiling. 😀
The island is a network of elevated pathways surrounded by thick rice paddies and marshland.When walking around the island, there are limited opportunities to veer off the path. Either walk straight or turn back. The water beneath the path is an opaque green, and you can hear plenty of rustling in the forest from the lizards and birds. I also ran into plenty of guard dogs, causing a hoot and holler with their barking, as I approached each house with the clipping and clapping of my sandals. 😛The island also has a nice park, filled with joggers and families, plus plenty more street dogs being fed by the local security.
The street dogs may have a few wounds from dog fights, but overall, they seem to be content, and in good body condition.
It took around three hours to walk the island, and in the end, I took the boat back across the river, catching a great view of the sunset along the way. 🙂
Lat Phrao Sunflower Field
On Sunday, I headed north to the Lat Phrao district to visit a sunflower field I had read about.The article I read was in Bangkok Coconuts, and it stated that the field was behind a local school. When I got there on Sunday; however, everything surrounding the school was blocked off and all neighboring roads were dead ends. I was slightly frustrated, but I am also persistent. I had decided to see the sunflowers earlier that week and I was determined to figure out a way to get there.
I decided to speak to the school security guards, which was a laugh. I guess I should have looked up the Thai word for sunflower beforehand or maybe had a picture handy on my phone. I tried words like flower or field to see if maybe they had heard them before. No dice. Then I got this silly idea that if I said the words louder and slower, maybe it would make more sense. F-L-O-W-E-R. They obviously still didn’t understand and I just felt like an idiot. Hah. Poor guys.
Finally, after some creative drawing on paper, they figured out where I wanted to go and one of them took me on their motorbike through the school grounds to the field. Bless!Behind the school, men were fishing and swimming the pond.
The field was full of gorgeous sunflowers, blooming right there on the side of the highway.There were tons of bees and butterflies swarming ’round, and everyone was armed and ready with their selfie sticks.
It didn’t take much convincing for me to jump on board. #sunflowerselfie Hah. 😛Overall, a gorgeous and budget-friendly way to spend the weekend in Bangkok.
On the way home, I took a taxi, which is also very cheap in Thailand. The forty-five minute ride cost only 7 dollars. I also stopped to try some Asian Jackfruit, a sweet treat, and one of the world’s largest fruits. The consistency is chewy, almost rubbery, and very dense. The flavor is a cross between a peach and pineapple when ripe, but unripe jackfruits often taste like chicken or pork, and can be used as a hearty meat substitute for vegetarians.
Thai Symphony Orchestra
Since this is Thailand’s cool season, with minimal rainfall and bearable temps, Bangkok also hosts a lot of outdoor concerts.
On Sundays, they hold a free concert in Lumpini Park, hosted by the Thai Symphony Orchestra. The theme this Sunday was, The Sound of Music, and they also included a nice selection of Disney tunes as well.
Courtesy of Bangkok Coconuts Thanks to Facebook, I found out an old coworker and fellow Menomonee Falls graduate was visiting Bangkok for their first time, so went to the event together to catch up.We both appreciate different types of music, so as a send off last night, I also took him to a cozy Jazz and Blues venue in Bangkok called Saxophone Jazz Pub.
The bar doesn’t charge a cover, so you’ll only have to pay for beers. More budget-friendly fun! 😀
Anyway, while at the pub last night, I received a rather distressing email, informing me of a suicide bombing near Sultanahmet in Istanbul. Currently, I’m still registered with their embassy, since I have friends living there, and receive emails to stay updated on travel warnings there.
It was both shocking and saddening, and fortunately all of my old coworkers are alright. From what I’ve gathered, the bomber had hoped to scare away tourists with this act of terrorism, and it’s truly unfortunate that someone gets to a place in their mind where they feel that this is the right course of action. Many innocent lives lost, in yet another tragic event in Turkey.
Side Note: Teaching in Thailand
On a lighter note, I’ve compiled a bit of helpful information for all prospective teachers looking at working abroad, and for those interested in the type of ESL work I’m currently doing here in Thailand.
You may have noticed fewer teaching posts compared to when I was in Mexico.
That is essentially because my role there was as a primary teacher, where I worked with 24 students total, for the whole year. I was able to create a variety of unique projects for the kids, and incorporate lots of Pinterest crafting into the classroom, which I loved. ❤
I also got to know each student on an individual level, and share many of those stories with you. 🙂
My role as an ESL educator is much different now, considering I work for Cambridge. It’s a completely different style of teaching, and the rewards and challenges are very different.
During a typical week, I see about 120 students. Each class runs less than an hour, and is focused mainly on speaking and listening activities to build conversational skills.
All of the students here are evaluated using the CEFR or Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.CEFR is an internationally recognized English scoring system, and the children will take examinations at different grades to assess their language level. Currently, my students will be taking their Flyers test, and some will be preparing for the KET.During each class, we look at visually appealing pictures and talk about what’s happening in the images, introducing a variety of new grammar and vocabulary. We may even look at a sequence of images, and have them to tell a story.They may also have a black and white picture, and listen to a tapescript telling them which objects to color.I like to incorporate lots of games as well, getting them comfortable with impromptu speaking. Sometimes I put them in two groups and have each group form a single line. The first person in line is asked a random question. For example, tell me an object found in a kitchen drawer or tell me an action verb related to sports. The first person to respond, sits down. The other student goes to the back of their line. The first group with their whole line seated wins. They love a bit of competition, and anything that gets them out of their chairs.
I also play an ESL version of “Simon Says.” In this case, they repeat what I say and the action I do. For example, when I say, “play baseball,” I’ll stand there and swing an imaginary bat. I’ll also add goofy ones like, “blast off into space” or “crawl like a crab.” Repeating what I say offers a controlled way of improving pronunciation, and the game also really helps them get out any pent of energy. 😀
They especially love anything that involves running. Hah. Sometimes I’ll do a running dictation, where I’ll hang several texts around the classroom, and assign team members as either runners or writers. I’ll ask a question to the whole class, and the runners will have to run to the text on the wall, read the information, and then run back to relay the answer to the writer, who then writes it down on their whiteboard. The first team done, will get a point.
It seems oversimplified, but the main point is to get them practicing the language. It’s really challenging as a teacher to get them comfortable using English over Thai when speaking. When looking at motivation as well, most students don’t see the benefit of learning English, since they can’t see the direct impact on their lives.
Monitoring speaking activities in the classroom, and creating lessons for 120 students with a wide variety of abilities has been incredibly challenging. Some children don’t speak or understand any English, whereas a few of them will chat with you for a solid 15 minutes, and tell you everything they did over the weekend, or share silly stories with you. That’s what makes my job worth it in the end. 🙂
As a silver lining, my role as a teacher will be shifting for the second term. The first term will end in February and the second term will begin in May. For the second term, they are planning to have the Cambridge teachers focus on smaller groups of struggling students, which will help me get to know the kids a lot more, and be better able to assess their progress throughout the term.
In the meantime, this means that between February and May we will have over seven weeks of vacation. 😀
My next planned trip in February will be a three-week journey through Mainland China, visiting five very different cities, and doing some volunteer work as well. 🙂
The visa application process was quite rigorous and pricey for Americans, considering poor foreign relations, but it is worth it. The tourist l visa lasts for 10 years, with multiple entries, lasting up to 60 days per visit. To volunteer, I also had to go for a full medical exam, but I know that all of this hassle will be worth it in the end.
Anyway, that’s all for now! Enjoy the week everyone. Until next time 😀