Can you eat spicy?

It was lunchtime.  I walked around the corner to my local noodle soup shop.  They don’t just do plain old noodle soup, they have my favourite, tom yam, or in this case creamy tom yam with pork.  Delicious.

Now I’ve been going to this particular noodle soup shop for a while now, and I know that I like the food that comes out of there.  There is just the right amount of noodle:meat:veg:sauce ratio, you always get those yummy crispy pork crackling bits thrown on top and most importantly it tastes good.

I walk up to the counter ready to order what I always have.  It wasn’t the usual girl behind the counter and she didn’t understand what I was asking for.  She gropes around for a laminated picture menu reserved for occasions such as this and I point at what looks like my usual noodle dish.  She nods, now she understands what I was asking for in the first place.  And then she asks the question that us foreigners are so used to being asked in restaurants, and we are all a little afraid of being asked it in case it leads to a somewhat fiery situation;


Gin pet dai?  (Can you eat spicy?)

Dai ka!  …I can!  I replied with gusto, not thinking about the potential repercussions that this may have.   I eat this noodle soup at least once a week.  What’s the worst that could happen?

Unfortunately for me, when the girl behind the counter heard my eager reply, she took it as a personal challenge. Yes, I can eat spicy, but I am still a foreigner.  I’m wired up differently inside, doesn’t she know that?  

Barney Stinson Challenge Accepted animated GIF

The noodle soup was prepared and handed over to me in an assortment plastic bags (luckily for me this was a take away lunch so I wouldn’t have an audience for what was going to happen next).  I got a glimpse of the soup as it was put into a carrier bag and I could see that it had split, and a bright red layer of oil sat atop of my creamy tom yum soup.  It looked fiery as hell and definitely far spicier and less creamy than usual.   

I walked home, cursing myself for getting myself into this situation.  Yes, I can eat spicy, but spicy for me.  Not spicy on the Thai scale.  I wish I could say that in Thai.  Not that I would ever tell a vendor that I couldn’t eat spicy, especially when ordering a typically spicy dish – my pride couldn’t take the hit.  It would be like ordering a vindaloo and asking for it not to be spicy.  It just doesn’t work that way.

I got home and assembled my lunch.  Noodles, veg and pork balls slipped out of the first bag and into my bowl.   I fished out the bonus pieces of offal and gave them to one of the cats.  I took the second bag and observed how the sauce had indeed curdled from the pure hellish power of the amount of chili that could be found within.  I gave it a shake and poured it atop my noodles.  The hot, spicy steam rose from the bag and hit my eyes.  I now understand why mustard gas was used in warfare.  If how my eyes felt was anything to go by, my throat was about to go through it’s paces.  A third bag containing chili powder was left untouched.  Did she think I was some chili eating super woman?


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There was only one thing for it.  I’m not going to let a bowl of what is usually my favourite noodle soup go to waste.  Taking care not to take too much sauce, I took a mouthful.  The back of my throat seemed to close over in what can only be a survival instinct to save my insides from what was headed down there.  I swallowed, and coughed, mostly so I could gulp at the air around me in search of anything that didn’t contain this flaming concoction.  The first bite is always the spiciest.  I reassured myself.  I braced myself and went in for a second go.  Keep going, your mouth will get used to it.  Yes, my mouth was getting used to it, because all nerve endings were being obliterated by the burn of birdseye chili and tom yam paste.  

I persevered.  I fished out pieces of green vegetable and let the sauce drip off.  I took noodles and blew on them to try and ease the pain.  Nothing worked.  I had to admit defeat.  By this point my hunger was gone and I wasn’t sure if I even had a stomach remaining.  All I could feel was spice pouring from my every orifice.  My stomach burned, my throat ached and my eyes watered.  I was covered in a thin sheen of chili sweat and my lips felt like they had been pricked with a thousand tiny needles dipped in chili-laced acid.

It’s at times like these that I wish I could drink milk without feeling sick, but I can’t, so I made do with a bottle of cold water (yes, I am aware that this wouldn’t actually have helped me but needs must) and I waited for my spice ride from hell to come to an end.  In time, the spiciness subsided, but to this day whenever a food seller asks me that question I try my best to let them know that I can eat a little spicy, but not too spicy.  If in doubt, I politely shake my head and let them think that I can’t stomach it at all.  Anything to avoid getting myself into this situation another time.  Never again.

Video LOLs: Americans Try Thai Snacks

Once again my favourite source for time wasting and cat videos has come up trumps with a little video to help you to while away 2 and a half minutes of your time.  It will also give you a little insight into the day to day things that I have to go through as a picky eater living in Thailand.

P.S. Curry puffs and sesame nuts rock – omnomnomnomnom.

Teacher Tuesday: Following instructions FUN activity

One thing that I have stumbled across time and time again is that people rarely read instructions properly. (Note I said ‘people’ – this certainly isn’t limited to students…). With multiple tests throughout the year it is important for students to learn this skill and how important it is and this activity is perfect for doing just that.

I first came across something similar to this on a training course. It’s a bit of a trick but mostly a way of highlighting how so few of us actually read instructions fully and completely. Let me tell you, out of a group of twenty adults, we all fell for it.

There are many versions of this activity on the internet but this is one that I put together with language that I knew my students would understand.

The key with this activity is to not say too much. Hand out the worksheet (I have included a link to the PDF file at the bottom of the page) and simply say that students have to follow the instructions written on the paper, then sit back and see if any of them actually do that.

Read on to see the instructions that students have to follow:

Please read all of the instructions before doing anything, you are allowed 10 minutes to complete this task.  There is a prize for the student that fully completes this task.

  1. Find a pen and paper.
  2. Write your name at the top of the paper.
  3. Write the numbers 1 to 5 in a line with 1 at the top and 5 at the bottom.
  4. Draw five small circles next to number 1.
  5. Put an “X” in the 2nd and 4th circles next to number 1.
  6. Write the word ‘encyclopedia’ next to number 3.
  7. On the back of the paper multiply 7 x 9.
  8. Put an X at the bottom of the paper.
  9. Draw a circle around the X.
  10. Underline your name.
  11. Say your name out loud.
  12. Draw a circle around number 4.
  13. Count the number of words in this sentence and write the answer next to number 2 on your paper.
  14. Put a square around number 1 and number 5.
  15. Draw 3 small flowers anywhere on the paper.
  16. Write your first name next to number 4.
  17. Write today’s date next to number 5 on your paper.
  18. Circle every letter ‘e’ you have written.
  19. Stand up and say ‘I HAVE FINISHED’ out loud, then sit down.
  20. Now that you read all of the instructions, only do number one and two! If you have followed the instructions correctly, you should only have your name on the paper!

Did you figure out what the trick is? The instructions clearly state that participants are to read all instructions before doing anything. If the students actually do that then they will of course read the final instruction that states that they only need to do the first and second instructions and nothing more. In reality what happens is that most, if not all, will do each and every instruction as they read it. It’s funny to watch as they all work their way through the different instructions and even funnier when it gets to the end and you have the pleasure of telling them what they should have done!

If you have any switched on students who appear to have not been fooled, try your best to make sure they don’t give it away to the rest of the class – no one likes a smarty pants.

Click here to download a PDF of this activity.

Why not have a go at this in your classroom?  You don’t have to be studying instructions specifically, this works as a fun warm up regardless.

This is part of a weekly feature – Teacher Tuesday – make sure you come back next week for another lesson idea.  If you have an idea to share as part of Teacher Tuesday feel free to get in touch.  



7 ways to be an exceptionally mediocre TEFL teacher


Do you have what it takes to be a really bad TEFL teacher?  Time and time again TEFL teachers are referred to as backpacker layabouts with no dedication, and every school can relay a tale of a certain TEFLer who left them in the lurch and now wary of every other foreign teacher who comes along.  Follow this advice and you will most definitely succeed at being yet another mediocre TEFL teacher giving the rest a bad name.

  1. Firstly, start from the viewpoint that anyone can do the job.  Don’t worry about considering your English skills or if you are suited to working with children – anyone can be a TEFL teacher.  In fact, don’t even bother with any sort of certification, so many schools will be simply falling over themselves in desperation for you, there will be plenty of job offers and you will have your pick of the establishments across the length and breadth of your country of choice.  The world, and its children, are your oyster.
  2. On the subject of your country of choice, you should most definitely make your decision based on the number of beaches, the level of debauchery to be found in the nightlife and how easy it will be to hide away from the problems you have at home.  Don’t consider the culture, the food or the way of life that you will be invading – you won’t be throwing yourself in to deep anyway.
  3. But then again, you probably won’t be sticking around in one place too long anyway.  That’s what this TEFL malarkey is all about anyway, floating from country to country doing half-term stints at any school that will take you with no consideration of actually immersing yourself into the way of life or making any meaningful relationships.  Always have your eye on the next destination, the next place that you can use to impress the next travelers that you meet.
  4. Of course, don’t make friends with the locals.  You should only mix with other ex-pats and feed off their bitterness for the job, the country and the people.  Better still if you become that grumpy old man as quickly as possible, to blend in with the others and be better equipped to join in on the conversations about how this country needs to change x, y and z to make things better for you – the coveted and most highly-revered foreigner gracing your presence on this inferior country.
  5. When it comes to inside the classroom (where you will of course spend the bare minimum required amount of time), make sure you are uninspiring, and use the least amount of enthusiasm and energy possible.  Don’t take the time to get to know your students.  Dish out pointless worksheets that you will never look at, let alone mark.  Then again you could just sit at the front of the class and wait for the hour to be over – everyone in the room is more than aware that this is just a means to a paycheck at the end of the month, why waste anyone’s time any further by actually attempting to impart any knowledge?
  6. Don’t bother planning for your lessons, certainly not beyond a cursory glace at the next page in the workbook and most definitely not in the comfort of your own home.  Who needs a range of learning tools and stimuli anyway?  There are a few old flashcards in the bottom of that teacher’s desk – the one that never came back from the last long weekend – that you could probably use if you had to.
  7. Finally, when it’s your turn to disappear, don’t worry about informing your employer or the students.  Don’t concern yourself with grading those tests or planning for the first few weeks of your absence.  Just fly off, ready to grace your presence on the next unsuspecting country on your list.

So, do you think you’ve got what it takes?


Video LOLs – A Taste of Britain

This video parody from China has been doing the rounds in response to all the food stereotypes we portray in our cooking shows about the great nation – rice, spring rolls and sweet & sour come to mind – and so they decided to have a dig at our most cherished and revered cooking ingredient, the humble potato.

It did make me laugh, especially as it is pretty true.  And now I have a massive potato craving…

Do you have any foods from home that you miss?  Or if you are still on home turf, is there one thing you can’t live without?