A Bangkok & Chalkface Diary

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The Chalkface Diary Year 1

Heres what happened in my first year in Thailand and why I left the big blue.
November 2001 - March 2003

Some of this was on the old web site and got lost when I accidently deleted the wrong section.  OOOOPPPPSSSS! Most of the 2001 thoughts are reconstructed from emails to friends at the time.  I only set up the first web site around March 2002 but I think it gives an insite into what I was think and maybe how long for.
November 20th 2001 
At the moment, I am not enjoying work as my boss is being very strict and shouting at me for every little mistake I make. I have applied for a couple of jobs
since I last wrote so fingers crossed for some good luck. The only problem is for internal jobs, the new manager will ask my current one for his opinion.  I
just hope he wont stop me moving.

One thing I have thought of doing is going back to college to get a Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate.  Most schools abroad wont hire
anyone without this certificate.  It would mean a big big change but I dont know at the moment if I have the courage to do it.  But at the same time I want to do
something like this while I am still fairly young and not settled.  I wouldnt need to give up my job just to study as I could go during the evenings at Langside College in Glasgow.

I dont even know where I would go !  Probably somewhere in Asia but I dont know.
November 26th
I feel I have to do something otherwise I will be just sort of drifting along and look back and regret not doing something about it.  If I analayse it, I have
maybe only enjoyed 2 years working out the last 10.  The rest has been a case of just turning up to get money for things that I wanted to do. 

Although my current job is well paid, I could get another job fairly easily when/if I came home, maybe not at the same pay but I would only have to make a couple of adjustments ( ie not waste so much on things I dont need ! ) to my lifestyle to keep the status quo.

I am still waiting on some of the information coming back to me from the colleges so I will wait and see.  I still have to actually tell my parents about what I am thinking about doing.  In particular my mother. She actually has the Teaching English as a Foreign Language qualification but never used it.  She wanted to move out to Spain and teach out there but my parents eventually decided they didnt want to move out there permanently.  So I will get her advice as well.

In all probability she will probably be thrilled for me as I would be something that I wanted to do rather than drift even if it meant we were far apart for a
year or more.

December 14th 2001
Ive announced to the boss that he had pissed me off too often and I am packing my bags and he could feck off out of my life.

Well, more like I told him I was unhappy with his micromanagement and needed a career break/move.  But ibm has these wonderful rules and regulations you have to jump hoops through, so no career break, more just a
straightforward resignation in a month or two.  If I take a career break, I am not allowed to take paid employment, even if its at local levels.  I suppose I could just lie but I dont know if I really want to come back to possibly the same palce, the same job and the same boss. 
My mother funnily enough has got the TEFL qualification and I know another couple of people that have done it.

The logic being, I need a break, I have no wife/girlfriend, compelling reason other than fear for not moving out there and trying something different. I have been out there before, I like it, the culture the people, the weather etc so why not?

I have come to the conclusion it will be better to crash and burn at something totally different than just burn in the hell that is my normal job at the

At the moment I am looking at a few colleges to get the qualification, one in Rayong, one in Bangkok and one in Phuket.  At the moment, Phuket looks the
winner.  One month of college and then working.  After that, who knows where I would work.  Most of the salaries I have seen for the teaching jobs is between 20-35K baht a year basic with the higher range in BKK. And
of course any private lessons you have on top of that.

If it were possible I wouldnt mind getting a job similar to my own out there but I havent seen any on the web sites Ive looked at so far. The call centre
revolution hasnt quite hit SE Asia yet.  I have also applied for a couple of jobs in Japan but they are very strict on what criteria they will accept on qualifications and I am marginal.  Too be honest, I would love to go to Japan and would even place it above Thailand.

So at the moment, it looks like Thailand but who knows, I may yet be seduced by the mighty Japan or Taiwan for the money.

A lot of the arrangements are still hazy but I have made my mind up to go.  Christ, I am scared and excited in almost equal measure about it. 

January 2nd 2002
Happy ( Western ) New Year 

Unfortunately, I have a cold so decided to stay in the warm ( it was -5c last night ) for the new year and not go out.  :(

Things are progressing here.  I have narrowed down the collges I want to go to down to two.  One in Ban Phe (next to Rayong ) and one in Phuket.  I could get the course in the UK but have decided to study out there.
Mainly its because, if I go there I have made a commitment and have to go through with it.  If I study here, I may chicken out.

After that, I really dont know where to go.  Anywhere that pays good money ( !) I have been looking round some of the job web sites and have seen some horror stories about language schools. But of course, it is the same for any new employer, there are good ones and bad ones.  The bad ones though get most of the publicity.

One of the main ones I have been looking at is www.eslcafe.com  It seems to be pretty balanced and most of the people on it seem to be giving good opinions but there are a few that are just there to promote their own company or rubbish a former employer.  It just dragging out the truth thats sometimes the difficult bit.

My family are ok with my decision and my mother especially is giving me all the knowledge about classroom management she built up over the 30 years
she taught, so at least I should be a little prepared.  Whether that will make any difference the first time I get up in front of a class is another question !

January 22nd
I am going through what can only be described as an ohmygodwhatthehellhaveiletmyselfinfor couple of days. Its just nerves as I get everything organised.  I have been going through all my junk and giving stuff away or throwing it out or selling it.  I have come across quite a few things I had forgotten I had. 

If I was confident about the course being easy option to escape from work, I got a wake up call yestrday.  I was reading an Australians site yesterday about his experience and it does not come as easy it it looks. www.ic.convineo.com  Ah well, I will find out soon enough.

I am still looking at leaving here in the middle of March and I am trying to get some practical experience here on a voluntary basis to get a leg up before I
start for real.  I hope I will get everything sorted out this weekend as far as dates / flights etc.

February 15th
I am taking the plunge, have quit the job and will be going out to LOS on March 14.

I am, at least to begin with, getting the TEFL qualification and teach english until something else (better paid ) comes along. Of course I could discover that I love the job so much thats all I will do but time a plenty to discover that.

The course starts on March 25 so I have a few days to acclimatise before I shut myself off to the world like a monk and study. 

So thanks to all who have given their wisdom, input, advice, encouragement and warnings.

Its only hitting in stages exactly what I have done, the thinking about it, the nah cant do it, the yes I can do it, the researching, the nah cant do it, the can do it, the telling the boss I am going, the nah cant do it I am going to tell the boss I was wrong, the yes can do it, chucking out stuf from my flat, selling stuff from my flat, giving the boss formal notice, booking the flight, booking the course, telling the rest of the office I am going ( strange mix of reactions here - from the you lucky bastard I wish I was going to the company man why are you leaving a great company like this to take such a risk ) redecorating the flat to rent it out, then moving out to my parents for a couple of weeks then flying out then oh shit no turning back now!
I am packing up, throwing out or selling a hell of a lot of stuff.  Its amazing what us decadent westerners aquire and forget about and then buy another of
because we dont remember we had the first one !
I will of course keep you updated as the events progress. 

March 14 - 21 2002
Its not been easy this last week as I am now in Thailand. The reality has set in and the butterflies are flocking round like nobody's business. After suffering from a
combination of jet lag, acclimitisation to the heat and probably the emotions of moving I am beginning to settle down.  I was feeling fairly lousy the first
couple of days.

I have met up with a few friends I got to know over the web so that was good but it provided only a temporary release from the anxiety. I want to treat these last few days before the course as a holiday but once I start work it will be a job not a holiday.  I have also met up with a couple of people who have gone throught the same course and they have given me some confidence back about it.

I had forgotten how hot it is here.  They say they have 4 seasons in Bangkok.  hot, bloody hot, hot and humid and hot and wet.  I think we are in the bloody
hot bit.

March 27th
Well, here I am in Ban Phe, which to those in the know, gives away the name of the school I am at - TEFL International. Its hot, very hot. First impressions are mixed. The standard rooms are not that big (small in other words) and are basic considering we will be all here for 4 weeks. There are 10 of us in the group and its seems to be a decent group so far. No obvious obnoxious folk.

The lessons so far are going ok but its early days, the first real teaching starts next week. But at least my Thai has improved and can now ask properly for a large beer - kor beer chang neung kwat yai !

March 30th
Went on a day trip to Ko Samet. Beautiful. Picture postcard white sand, aqua sea.

April 3rd
We had our first real live pupils today OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!! nice but noisy !

The tan is coming along nicely but am starting to peel a bit now. Decision time for the weekend. What to do, which beach to go to etc its a hard life !

April 8th
I cant believe I am now 2 weeks into my training course and already let loose about poor unsuspecting real students! Mind you they are a lively bunch as it is officially their summer holidays and they have "volunteered" to come in for extra English.

I am getting more confident about teaching now, if I had just gone straight into teaching and not bothered about the course I would have just floundered. I thought it would be before but now I know. I have stuff to fall back on, I know what sort of things to expect and how to plan and structure a lesson.

The only problems are we are all now dreaming about our dialogues ( 6 lines of English we teach in each lesson ) in our sleep and talking like them out of school.
How are you ? I am fine, and you ?
I am fine too. Where did you go ?
I went to the market. What did you buy ?
I bought some mangos.

If you see a primary school teacher, please have pity on them as they no doubt suffer a similar fate of modified speech !

For those of you that thought I was having too easy a life, the classroom was about 40 degrees C on Friday with no air con - only fans. Sweat City!

Went back to Ko Samet on Saturday and topped up the tan again. Really is a nice island but the internal roads are awful, much better to get a boat directly to the beach you want to reach.

13th April

Today was the day of the last teacher practice. Strange to think that after all the worries I had at the start I will now miss it and the students. After the teaching there was a little ceremony to give the students certificates of attendance of the summer school. Then a surprise, a traditional Songkran ceremony for all the student teachers. We all had water poured over our hands and given little gifts and garlands of flowers. As I said, a real surprise and very touching. I have put
a picture of me after the ceremony on the pictures page.

Songkran How to describe it? Officially its a week long celebration and is a number of ceremonies to celebrate the Thai new year which is linked into the lunar calendar. You gently pour water from a bowl over the hands and feet of your elders ( and others ).

Unofficially its Xmas, New Year and every other holiday rolled into one and the only time when you can pour / throw water over anyone and I mean anyone and be able to get away with it rather than a jail sentence or a doing. It seems to be that police are favourite targets ( unsurprisingly ). In the weeks celebrations, there is officially one water day when the whole world is the target. Again unofficially, it spills over to a few days before.

14th April
Each town can decide what day is their water day so Rayong had their day today ( Saturday ) and Ban Phe will be Tuesday. As we will be working on Tuesday we headed off to Rayong.

Basically, on the water day its a case of, if you get wet you have to grin and bear it, no one will have sympathy for you if you dont join in you may actually increase your chances of being a target if you say no especially if you are a falang. So on that day wear something that you dont mind getting wet and bring a plastic bag for money etc that you dont want to get wet. There are two ways to participate

1) stand at the side of the road and throw water at anyone passing by in cars, bikes etc or
2) have someone drive you round while you stand in the back of a pickup van with a barrel of water so you can throw water at everyone you pass.

Although bowls or cups of water are the traditional methods, more and more people are using water guns and pistols. Although I had heard about it, this would be the first time I experienced it. And well, although tv programs like Frasier are intelligent and appeal to the brain, at a base level there is something deeply satisfying about pouring a bucket of water over someones head !

What I think is so enjoyable, is that everyone plays the game and has a great time. Even if you sneak up on someone that forgot to roll their car window down and splatter them, they smile and congratulate you ( then quickly wind down the window ! ). Even checking if the car doors are unlocked is considered fair game to expose a target. And of course, if you get a sneak attack on you, you have to accept that as part of the game.

Its just as well this is a warm country, I cant imagine doing this back in Glasgow even in May, half the population would go off sick with the flu afterwards!

April 17th
Well, only one day to go and unless I burn down the school I have passed the course. Now its a case of actually getting a job now. Scary, to think that the big bad unknown place of Ban Phe 6 weeks ago is now the cosy snuggly place I dont want to leave.

Surprisingly , given that we as a group have been in very close proximity and pressure the last four weeks there have been few real bust ups between us. Some minor tiffs and fall outs but no square goes. Someone earlier pointed out that we really are quite a mature group i.e. no brash newly degreed loudmouths ( from America or anywhere else ) so we have all taken an adult approach to things that might have set someone younger off. Well, so far, I have no replies to the job apps I have sent but still early days yet. The key seems to be to turn up in person rather than send an email which is ok if you want to work just in one place, but because I dont have a certain place I want to work, it could mean a lot of travelling for me.

At least it is a cheap place to live until I get something !

April 19th


Well, I am off tomorrow to Ko Chang for a couple of days just to relax and chill. As can be expected we are all going out to celebrate tonight before heading off our different ways tomorrow.

April 25th
Ko Chang is quite a nice place, it ended up that we went to the first resort on the songthaews route, maybe we should have gone further but hey, its a place I had never been to before so it didnt really matter. One problem was the Old Firm game just was not mentioned and it drove me crazy. Can anyone tell me what really happened ?

Well, I am now back in Bangkok for a few days street pounding and for an interview in Ratchaburi which is about 90min west of Bangkok. Its probably going to take me most of the day to get there and back but hey, what else am I going to do. I also have a possibility of a Prathom Job in Bangkok, it sounds pretty good. But it starts in June - but then again it would give me a chance to do more travelling and even do some evening work in the meantime with a private school. So wait and see.

April 27th
Well, the interview went OK except for the fact that I was about 4 hours later than I should have been.  This was partly my fault and partly theirs.  I wanted to go by train and didnt expect the service to be only every 2 1/2 hours.  Then the directions I got from the school were rubbish.  I ended up in the wrong pigging town!  Which was the whole reason for getting the train in the first place.  It turns out that the advert only had Ratchaburi as the town but in fact the school is in Ratchaburi PROVINCE and the town is something different.
Apart from that I think the interview went OK for my first one but they werent offering a Visa saying they were close to the border for a Visa run is I needed one.  Pay was OK and they would help me get accomodation but I would need to pay for it myself, no allowance.  They seemed nice enough but time will tell if I am what they want.


Taking a break from the course on Ko Samet

May 6

OK well I think I am settled maybe, probably, sort of.

I now have a job at a Prathom ( UK Primary - US Grade 2-6 ?) school that starts on May 20th. It seems quite good as I know someone who will be working there with me ( but in a different building ). She actually introduced me to it, as one of her friends worked there last year. The Thai teachers basically let the farangs get on with it with little interference which is unusual apparently.

The hours are part time - only 14 contact hours but the hourly rate is good and if I am not teaching I dont have to be there. Also every Friday is off ! So I have a choice of surviving on that salary or getting another part time job to make things comfortable. I think I will be getting another job.

I have now started flat hunting and its a nightmare. I dont know where to live and am just wandering round the streets looking for condos and then going into the office to ask about prices etc ! Some of the places I have looked at are not worth a second look but a lot of places that look nice from the outside are full. It seems that the start of the university academic year is filling up places.

I am probably going to have to revise my estimate of how much I will spend on the rent to get a place I like but since I will be living there it will no doubt be worth it.

There is a nice condo just round the corner from the school but with a fridge ( which I would have thought was essential ) they want 8000 Baht a month and then I need to buy a tv, sheets etc etc. If anyone knows of a nice cheap place to leave let me know !!!!

May 12th
I now know that I will have to revise my estimate for rent each month. I have looked at quite a few places now and really I might have to go to 10000 to find somewhere with the space and facilities that I want / need.

I have agreed a deal with the hotel for a monthly rate for May so I dont have to worry about moving immediately.

The job starts a week tomorrow and its strange, my main contact is someone that I met through TEFL Int and she has been away, the thai staff dont really speak good english and there are things I need to know i.e. holidays, do I get paid for them, what the school calendar is like and so on.

Its hard to believe but its almost 60 days since I landed in Bangkok. How do I know ? My Visa is almost up which means a trip to the Immigration Office here to get a 30 day extension. Once I get a letter from the school, I will need to do a proper Visa run and go outside Thailand to get a different 90 day Visa which will then hopefully be converted into a 1 year Visa with a work permit.

May 18th
Not a lot has happened really. I have had a chest infection which laid me low and I am just getting rid of so I have spent a lot of time this week sleeping ( no comments at the back please ! ) through the day and just trying not to be too miserable.

The job starts on Monday so the nerves are jangling to say the least.

The apartment hunt continues so lots more have been looked at and discarded because of price ( too high ), quality ( too low) or full. Nothing new on the shortlist yet.

They are showing the new Star Wars movie on an IMAX cinema in Bangkok so I will try and go and see that tomorrow. Should be fun although I have seen the reviews which are mixed to say the least. Ah well, they have been wrong before on things.

May 27
Well, I am still alive, I think.

I am wondering if I have made the right decision with the school.

Bad points - There is no syllabus, I am hourly paid, so no work no money, holidays = no work. I am teaching 6-8 year olds who seem more intent in making noise and killing each other than learning. There is very little co-ordination between the ( 3 ) western english teachers. I have tried to get us all together but they dont seem to be that worried about it and havent bothered. There are no materials provided by the school. I didnt want to do it but last week maybe proved that you need materials of some sort for children that age and I have ended up buying some.

Good points - I see each class once each week so I can actually teach the same lesson and vary the difficulty. If I am not teaching I dont have to be there. The hourly rate is good.

I will stay with it another few weeks and see what happens. I will be trying to get another part time job ( hopefully with older students ) to get my salary level up to a reasonable level.

Ah well. I suppose its one of the reasons I came - to try something new wasn't it ! Yeesh

I am moving into an apartment here next week. Its pretty good as it is near a skytrain station which means I can get around quickly without getting trapped by the horrendous traffic here.

Watching Star Wars on the IMAX screen was just sensory overload !!!!!! Sometimes, there was just too much happening on the screen to take it all in, so I have had to go back and see it on a normal screen just to check if I missed anything !!! Good movie, not great but not the stinker some people say it is.

May 31
Well, this week went better than expected, the material helped a lot and I felt really good about a couple of classes. I hope I will get the money back for the material at some point. There is still the class from hell though.

Well today is the start of the old world cup so yeeha. Not sure who I want to win though.

June 9
I am back this morning after a very stressful couple of days followed by one moment of insanity then two stress free days. I had to go outside Thailand to change my Visa - it cannot be done in country. So I went to Laos and the consulate in Ventienne on a brief visit to minimise loss of earnings.

The plan was to leave Bangkok Wednesday night cross to Laos Thursday morning hand in the Visa application, get the passport back with the new Visa Friday then back to see Dick and Miaw Friday/Saturday and get the sleeper back Saturday night. It worked but not without real stress being involved.

I had so much hassle changing my Visa from a tourist to a 90 day Non Imm B ( which is the first step to getting a years Visa and a work permit ) . The consulate wanted a contract as the info I had given wasnt enough. After spending almost 1000B on phone calls to the school and a couple of teachers Thursday afternoon and Friday morning with no positive result I was going to throw myself on the consulates mercy Friday afternoon.

When I turned up, they said nothing about the contract and just gave me my passport with the visa. Talk about relief ! Yeesh. I couldnt even say TIT ! ( This is Thailand ) to calm myself down because it wasnt but TIL ( This is Laos ) must be just as strong.

The actual crossing into Laos and back is quite easy just fill in a couple of forms pay a Visa on arrival fee and you get 15 days in Laos. I didnt really get to see much of Vientienne just because I was only there for about 24 hours but I suspect
its a place that really you could see more or less everything in about 3 days. I have been told that it is a bit like Thailand was about 15-20 years ago. So good news bad news. Not much pandering to tourists with associate tourist souvenir tat but only basic essentials like spoken english and internet in the main areas. Outside of town its either Lao or French.

After leaving Laos I met my friends Dick and Miaw in Nong Khai ( which is the town the train goes to from Bangkok ), it is only 3km from the border. After having a nice day and a half seeing them and some relatives - Hello Gan ! - I got the train
on Saturday as planned.

But..........I was leaning against the edge of the window when I suddenly realised my arm was wet. The was a huge stream of water coming from the metal window surround. My sleeve was sodden, after finally getting someones attention they came and mopped it up but didnt seem to understand that I wanted to swap berths.

At the next stop more water came out ( onto the bed that they had made up ), this time they guy opposite me saw it and translated it to the guard who said he will see what he could do. 50min later nothing so I got another guard who had seen the water, showed him the damp patch on the sheet and asked him if it was ok to move to the top berth. He said yes. So I jumped up and went to sleep.

At I think Khon Khaen I heard the curtain being opened then a conversation and falang being mentioned but I just pretended to be asleep. The next morning I discovered they had made some poor woman sleep in my berth. I just hope no more water came out !

After a lot of problems ( even MBK couldnt unlock my phone from the UK to take a Thai Sim card ) I now have a mobile phone ! I ended up buying one at Carrefour in Bangkok today.

So back to the battle front tomorrow with my dreaded Prathom 3s. Sorry mum, all is forgiven !!!!!!! ( for those who dont know, my mother used to teach )

The World Trade Centre, Bangkok
The World Trade Centre, Bangkok

June 29
The job is still strange. Last week I turned up on Monday for my class and they said this week you teach in the language lab. For once it was my turn to do a goldfish expression ( instead of them when I ask for things ). There was one ? Where ? How do I use it ? Does it work ?

It turns out that there are 2, they didnt work first time, nobody had thought to test them before landing us stupid foreigners in them. The last 2 weeks I have just been sort of stumbling in the dark guessing on how to use it.

I watched another teacher do his class - totally different from my style and approach but I have no idea whether his or mine or neither is what the school want. We have had no feedback at all !

I dont have anything else to add to this as some things have happened that have put me on a real downer.

July 13

Well, I am now officially plural in the employment stakes. I have now got two jobs teaching adults in companies ( or corporate work as the terminology goes ) Monday through Thursday. This should work out ok as it still leaves me with a 3 day weekend and the possibility of getting some more work on Fridays if I want.
At least this will give me a bit more variety of what I am doing here.

Once this money starts to come through then I will probably start to venture more outside Bangkok on day trips and the like.
The guestbook for some reason doesn't seem to be working properly for everyone. I have no idea why as I havent made any changes to it at all. Maybe it will correct itself as I have checked the code and it is correct.

July 21
Finished my first week of corporate work and I felt absolutely shattered. Its not so much the extra hours teaching its the getting there and back and not being able to relax before going back put again. Not much else to report this week. Except,
what was Monty doing yesterday in the Open ??? Couldnt quite believe it, well I could unfortunately. Another major gone, another chance wasted. Even today he came in with another 75 to finish at +13. Yeesh. Even Sandy Lyle beat him. There
is a name from the past, it would be great if he could pull something out to compensate him for the last few horrible golf years.

August 1 -31
Ok, well. Lots to report and nothing to report in a way. Lots of life living and boring stuff like getting a bank account, paying the rent and so on. The school continues to frustrate and pay the wages as before. Even more so now. The school have
just confirmed that the school is not certified with the ministry of education which means I cant get a work permit. Which means a change of job or going illegal. Also today, I found out, I need to do verbal tests on all the students! I found this
out through another teacher, not the school. Typical.

The school holidays are soon here - dont know when exactly, the school havent told me - and am just trying to work out the calendar as I have the chance off some work up in Chiang Rai and my parents are going to be here.

September- the 6month anniversary!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well more of the same really, living real life, meeting people, going to work and so on.

In some ways having hit the 6 MONTHS !!!! mark, it should be more familiar, easier to cope with but as with life, everything is a shade of grey. I know more about - living here than I did, working here than I did.

I have made some friends, a lot of acquaintances, had some great conversations, some arguments, met nice people, met some arseholes of the first order, yet ( prepare for deep philosophical comment ) am I happy?

Like maybe the majority of the people on this planet. Mostly is the answer, but whats the missing bit or bits ? Someone else to share it with ? Maybe. More money ? Only a few people could say no to that one. Am I happier than if I had stayed with IBM? Almost certainly. I dont know if I could have mentally coped with much more from the boss there. And of course it helped push me into something I had been wanting to do for a while but was scared to. Work abroad.

Anyway, enough of that. School has now finished and it looks like I wont go back but will go to another school full time. Its more hours but more pay, just 10 minutes walk from the apartment and holiday pay.

I am going up to Chiang Rai for a holiday camp so thats going to be a new place to see. My parents are coming over for 3 weeks so will show them round Bangkok and then maybe to a neighboring country for a short trip, depending on how they feel.

I decided to move to the new school and it starts on Nov 4. Its quite good how its worked out location wise as its only 10 minutes walk away from my apartment. The only drawback is that it will be teaching Primary boys only no more girls. I've found the girls, whilst on some levels to be equally as frustrating to teach at times - on the whole they are far better students at that age. And cuter too!

October 25
Well, the folks came over to see what the fuss was all about and over the piece they liked it. They were definately impressed by the Grand palace and the Teak Palace in Bangkok - who wouldnt be. Not to be impressed by the palace would surely mean you have no eyes.

We managed to get away for a few days together down to Hua Hin in the South. We went down by train and it was a relaxing journey. The first hotel was very nice but about 4k out of town so it made it difficult to just pop out for a wander. the 2nd hotel was much more central but not nearly as nice.

I dont know what the caddies must of thought about my first round of golf in about 6 months but they must be been going something like " oh my Buddha" 2 fresh air shots on the first tee and about a 9 or 10 to end up with. Never mind. I got better and started to play some decent shots. Just a shame its so hot. Some of the courses in Thailand are really nice.

I also managed to get away to an english camp up in the Golden Triangle - literally. From the hotel you could look out the window and see Burma on one side and Laos on the other side of the Mekong River. Didnt get to see much of the countryside unless it was in the company of the kids. But got to see a couple of local museums and the Queen Mothers holiday home. It was at the top of a large mountain and had great views of the countryside.

The Golden Triangle
Burma to the left, Laos to the right and Thailand in the foreground.

Well, I have started at the new school and its not bad. The boys are well, as lively as you might expect at that age and dont always want to learn so its my task / pleasure / hell to bring their minds back to focus. The rest of the teachers seem to be ok with a mix of characters.

Turns out one of the teachers lives directly above me in the apartment! He moved in just a couple of weeks before term and another one lives in an apartment just a 100m away. "Its a small world after all"

Dec 25th
Merry Xmas everyone. It seemed very strange here. It was really a normal day with only a very few places closed. This is after all a Buddhist country ! So I spent most of the day watching tv, reading and shopping. Almost all the shops have Xmas decorations of some sort or another but the Thais treat like its becoming in the west. A reason to sell more stuff !! A lot of the lights and things outside on the buildings are very nice to look at. I think maybe they should keep some of it going all year round.

Jan 1st 2003

New years eve I met with someone I used to work with and headed to Samut Prakan - 10k down Sukhimwit road and joined another couple of guys and their girlfriends who live down there.

The plan was to meet in a local bar then head to a thai venue ( bar / concert ) for new year. But by 9.30 3 of the women didnt want to go and stayed in the apartment. So we split into 2 groups and went off. We stayed about 2 hours in the place, it was the same as most places with live music - loud, very loud. Were back in the local bar by about 11.30 to watch the bells on tv ( done that a few times before )and then by 1.00 everyone started to go home. Part of the trouble was some of the guys had been drinking well before I met them at 4pm so there were some very "emotional" ( OK, drunk ) people by midnight. I think that was the reason it finished so quickly afterwards, they had nothing left in the tank!

It was the same as previous years but it was strange seeing a different approach to how Thais celebrate it. Same same but different. I think it was the first time I had ever sweated at midnight when sitting outside.

Jan 18
Well here we are into another new year - according to the chinese this time its the year of the goat ( or sheep depending on the version you see ). According to the horoscopes this is my year. All sorts of good things will happen. We will see.

I havent really put much in about the school yet so here we go.

Its - yikes - a catholic school. Oh dear, my season ticket for Ibrox will never be returned now. The way its working out, it does seem to be a much better place in a lot of ways compared to my old one. Now I have been there a few months I seem to have settled in relatively easily.

There are a few teachers in there, that if I had the choice, I wouldnt want to be near. There a couple in particular that just seem to take the mickey in what they do. They dont care, they take days off whenever they want - which means someone has to give up a free period to take their class - their opinion is right and everyone else is an idiot. I know that there are always going to be people like that in any big group and I do try and smile sweetly and say nothing but......Anyway, the school is actually quite well equipped, with a tape recorder and tv and video in every class and the biggest thing. Every class has air con. For people who have been out here, you know that is a big big deal. Some schools dont have that
and it is literally sweat city 8 months of the year. Imagine standing for 6 hours a day in 30C degrees and 90% humidity. Not good.

The class sizes are 20, which is very good for a normal school. My last one had me teaching between 35 and 51. The building I teach in is maybe only 5 years old so its sparkly !

One drawback is the boys, imagine teaching 7 or 8 year olds conscripts in a foreign tongue that they dont really want to learn or are maybe just learning themselves in Thai. Lets face it, at that age all you want to do is run around and scream and shout and punch your best mate. So thats what they try and do. Its not a case of them being evil ( well, ok a couple maybe ) or deliberately naughty but they are just being kids. I really miss teaching the girls.

We were all observed for feedback in the last couple of weeks and although I havent had my feedback yet there have been a few strange comments. One of the other P1 teachers was told his class were too rowdy and he didnt control them enough. He actually thought that they had been better behaved as normal. You have to wonder about people that like - they are young boys, of course they are noisy. You will never get total silence in a classroom. But then the observer is a teaching professional with her BA ed, dip, Cit and other upteen letters so she must know, right ?

My contract comes to an end on April 12th. When I signed it with the agency, there wasnt too much discussion about holidays and so on but it was made clear that all the teaching and marking would be finished by the middle of March which would let me go home. ( I came out on a years ticket and the year is up on March 14 ) So I was not really bothered about paid or unpaid holidays. The agency announced last week that there would be only 1 weeks holiday in April and the rest of the time would be spent teaching english camps. A few people suddenly became drama queens and wanted to walk out immediately because they
had been promised 6 weeks paid vacation. They was a whole lot of drama and talk ( mostly from the americans ) about doing this and that and most of the british teachers were "lets wait, negotiate and then see what happens ". The upshot is that the agency came back with a far improved offer which everyone has accepted. The sad / funny thing is that there was a new years party thrown by the agency of Friday ( after the settlement ) and some people refused to go on the principle that the agency tried to screw them. Yeesh

Well, I bought a VCD / MP3 / CD player last week and so far it seems pretty good. The really good things is that it now lets me buy all these umm copied films and MP3 CDs for 100Baht. And thats what I am about to do, I am in Panthip Plaza where it is rumoured you can buy these illegal copies.

( technical note - MP3 is just a way of storing data. It can be stored on a hard drive of a computer or on a CD disc. A MP3 CD has the capacity to store music of around 7 CDs, so you buy an artists full output on 1 CD disc )

Feb 4

Well Chinese New Year has been and gone and was quite nice to see. I didnt go down to Chinatown as I thought it would be mobbed - turns out I was right but I still caught a couple of the dragon displays so I hope to upload the pictures soon.

They definately fitted in to the It Would Never Happen At Home category with fireworks being exploded just yards away from a big shopping centre and exploding right over the audience. Health and safety would have had a fit and then three canaries.

The school year is almost beginning to wind down and we are doing mainly revision with the kids. We have a few half thai half western kids or kids that have extra tuition at home or at a language school so we get a big range of ability.

They have been getting mock exams this week and last and its been

What is your name ? I am fine thank you


What is your name ? My name is Thanaporn, I am 7 years old, I have two brothers and one sister.........

By the way, as you might have noticed, there are a few adverts on the site now so if you need to buy anything, please use me!

Feb 14
Coming home - The latest is I am still on the China Air waiting list for March 14. So I have to check back in about 10days. They still havent said what will happen if my ticket runs out and there is no seat. I have decided that I will come back here - for a while longer at least.

Add to the fact that somehow I have lost my ticket and its a bit more stressful than it needs to be ( I am not that stressed yet, plenty of time yet ! ) They can reissue the ticket no problem but will cost US $ 50, which is not bad compared to some. I will need to check the insurance but I reckon the excess will be more than that.

I am going to come back to Thailand but I will just get a one way ticket this time and spend some time travelling until school starts in May. Maybe south Thailand and Cambodia.

We have just started the exams just now. The way its structured is quite good. All my group of teachers have clubbed together so one is doing the listening, one the writing and the 3 others the speaking tests. All the other teachers are having to do all their own which is a bit more stressful. How they are coping I dont know but after four days of where is the ball, what colour is it, where do you live the three of us doing the speaking are beginning to crack. Because of the level we have to help or give prompts, but that is the problem. We are resorting to Where do you live ? County Durham ? Wajajaland? Thailand? My Basement ? etc we are really losing it! One more day to go.

All the exams will be finished this week apart from those absent, next week is catch up, then its no teaching but turning up at school until the end of March and then official holidays until May.

Of course, I am coming home in the middle of March so might have to take unpaid leave but will speak to the headie and see if I can get away with paid leave.

Feb - March 10
Well, a lot has happened and nothing has happened. I have had a bit of trouble getting connected to the web site and add that to the fact I was very lazy and only tried 4 times has led to no update for a month. So to my devoted band of 3 / 4 readers apologies !

Got to the airline office last week and I am still on the waiting list on March 14. But good news is that they have a seat on March 19. So I have taken that. This is over the year validity of my ticket but they issued the new date with no problem - wonder if that period thing is just a scam and a ticket is valid indefinitely. Who knows?

Problem is, I get into Amsterdam at 09.30 and my connecting flight is scheduled for 19.50 !!!!! I am on a waiting list ( again ! ) for a flight at 13.30 - I think it was - They seem to think there should be no problem getting on an earlier flight - have I heard that one before ? I am sure I will get an earlier one. But then again, I could always have a day trip round Amsterdam ! I might think about that.

I will have to buy a ticket back at home. I can buy one here but it will be full price.

Life is now boring. I have finished marking, writing reports and am now just coming into the office to do um well um nothing. Its crazy. I am being paid to do nothing except turn up but when I fly back home I will have to take unpaid leave, then on April 1st I get paid leave. You tell me if that makes sense. It doesnt to me but thats the way the boss says it has to be.

My birthday passed and went with nothing happening, I thought about going out but in the end just sat in front of the tv drinking a few vodka and cokes and munching at some crisps.

I finally managed to get pictures from my camera transferred onto CD Rom so if the connection stays good I will upload a few now.

Watched the 1st race of the new F1 season yesterday and it was actually a good one! Trouble was the commentary was in Thai, so missed half of the important info the commentators give but enjoyed missing the other half they dribble on so much about. Win some lose some.

I cant believe its almost a year since I came out here. I suppose I will need to do a retrospective award/reflection piece. Maybe next time.


Here's a list of some of my favorite movies:

Godfather 2, Bladerunner, The Matrix

Here's a list of some of my favorite music:

Depeche Mode, Radiohead, Kraftwerk, Sheryl Crow

If it makes you happy
It can't be that bad
If it makes you happy
why the hell are you so sad