Five for Friday – how living in Thailand has changed me

I moved across the world and it changed me man.

I hear and read this BS all the time.  I have blogged plenty of times before about how much it infuriates me that people attach this ‘life changing’ stigma to world travel.

Aaaaaand now I’m going to be completely hypocritcal and become one of those changed beings.

Not quite completely hypocritical though, I’m not saying that I have experienced life changing changes, just that I have had to make some adjustments in how I lead my day to day life that have actually become more permenant as time has gone on.

These are in no particular order, as none of them are particularly ground breaking.

1)  I can be in the same room as a cockroach without completely freaking out.  I still shout for T to come and rescue me, but that is just me falling into the role of woman of the house, I swear if I lived along I could totally deal with it myself.  And by deal with it I mean put a cup over it and wait for T to come home.

I’m not quite as in love with cockroaches as this lady clearly is…

2)  I now eat tofu.  And my favourite part of noodle soup is the little balls of questionable reformed meat.  I eat fish, as long as it isn’t fishy fish.  I will eat meat off the bone.  I eat bananas.  Basically I am no longer as picky as I used to be at eating.  I still have a loooong way to go!

Photo: Apologies to any vegetarian followers I have... had to share just how much chicken you get when you buy one here, even from Tesco!  Head, feet and all the insides... It is Halal though, which is nice.
I still ain’t eating no chicken head!

3)  I am a cat lover.  Some may say, crazy cat woman.  I’ve gone from actually quite disliking animals in general to rescuing a kitten and now taking in an old leukemia ridden cat too.  Not only do I love my cats (OK, I love Cat a bit more than Brian) but I also now have to (like, have to, it is an actual urge) approach every cat that I see on the street, which in Thailand means making stops every few yards.  I want more cats, but the prospect of flying them all back to the UK when I decide to leave is the only thing that stops me.

Photo: Sleepy Brian (AKA the leukemia cat).
Sleepy Brian. I realise he doesn’t get shown off very much but he’s crusty, you know…

4)  I have shunned the make up, the hair straighteners and the high heels.  In this climate make up slides off your face, so minimal is the only way forward.  I even have had to forego the bat wing eyeliner (although the search for a sweat-proof liquid eyeliner continues).  Straightened hair stays straight for approximately 7 minutes before the humidity and your scalp/forehead/neck sweat permeates the hair.  Add to that jumping on a motorbike to go anywhere and your hair will never look good again, unless you get ready in air conditioning and stay in that air conditioned environment all night long.  And high heels?  Have you seen the pavements in Thailand?  No way.

I do miss my sequins and glitter though.

5)  Finally, and yes I saved the best til last, my toilet situation has been transformed.  I have embraced the bum hose!  Who needs toilet paper any more when you can have a complete wash?!  When I visited the UK last year I actually missed the fresh feeling of the bum gun…  I even have learned how to successfully use a squat toilet, complete with bucket flush/bum cleaner.  And by successfully I mean not pissing on my feet/shorts/underwear/the floor/the wall…

And here are some useful toilet tips from hobotraveler.com

Have you moved away to work?  How has expat life changed you?

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Five for Friday: visiting the cinema in Thailand

Going to the cinema in Thailand is the perfect way to spend a dreary afternoon during the rainy season or to take advantage of the super power air conditioning on a hot day.  Cinemas can usually be found in large shopping centres and even in Tesco.

Most good cinemas offer at least one English film subtitled in Thai and for the more adventurous, English subtitles are usually available on the Thai films, which is good for anyone embarking on a Thai/farang date.

Here are my five top tips for visiting the cinema in Thailand:

Don’t trust the online times as in my experience they are usually wrong.  This shouldn’t be too much of a worry though as you will be subjected to around 20 minutes of adverts and trailers before the movie begins.

Bring a cardigan. And a scarf. Maybe go the whole hog and bring a blanket – the air conditioning is always set to arctic conditions – on my last trip to the cinema I almost lost the feeling in my toes.

Turn off your phone. OK, so most westerners don’t need to be reminded to do this (at least people from the UK) but in Thailand it isn’t unusual for people to keep their phones switched on throughout their visit to the cinema- l once witnessed a woman playing candy crush during a screening of the Hunger Games!  Thai mobile network provider Happy have even created this catchy advert to remind people to switch their devices off- although it doesn’t seem to be all that effective…

Please stand for the King’s film.  You may feel silly or you may like to think that you don’t have to because you’re not Thai, but please have the common decency to stand politely as the obligatory film in honour of the King is played.  Here’s a little taster of what you can expect so thats it doesn’t come as a complete surprise.

⑤ Here’s a tip for those of you who truly want to make your trip to the cinema an experience – spend that little bit extra and get a sofa.  A standard cinema ticket in Thailand is around 180 baht but if you don’t mind spending a little extra you can get a sofa for 500 baht per couple – these bad boys are super comfortable, spacious and they recline so far back that if the film turns out to be a flop you can always have a nap (there’s reason number 2 for bringing along a blanket).

Want something even more special than a sofa?

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Check out this floating film festival in Koh Yao Noi – incredible… only in Thailand.

2013: A year in review

It’s that time of year again when we all look back on the year that is almost over, and look forward to the year coming up ahead.

Before I start thinking of what New Year’s Resolutions I am going to attempt to keep up next year, I thought it would be a good idea to look back at 2013 and all that I have got up to; I’ve added some links if you want to have a nose at the posts from that time of year…

We saw in the new year on beautiful Koh Samui.  It didn’t quite go to plan, with storms and cancelled speedboats throwing a spanner in the party plans, but we still managed to have a great time exploring all that the island has to offer.

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Sunset on Lamai beach, Koh Samui

We moved out of our Hat Yai city centre apartment and into our own Thai home in the village of Ban Pruh.  We got to know the locals, adjusted to the Thai way of living and welcomed a few unwanted snakes, scorpions and other delights into our home!

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Our humble abode.

We found and rescued a tiny, weak kitten from under the stairs in one of the school buildings.  Luckily, with a bit of attention and a lot of love she got fit and healthy and Cat is now a fully fledged member of the household.  Love her!

kitten

The box that Cat called home for a short while.

It wasn’t long before we stumbled across another animal that we couldn’t help but take in.  Patches the puppy didn’t stay small forever and he’s now almost fully grown and has his own pack of street dog friends, but he still calls our front garden home.

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Patches the puppy.

We took part in the world’s biggest water fight at the Songkran festivities in Chiang Mai up in the north of Thailand, stopping off in Bangkok on the way where I developed a newly found hatred for ‘traveler’ types (sorry guys) and we also discovered a culinary gem of a place in Little India.

We’ve been caving, lived the traditional life on the river for the weekend, found the most beautiful waterfall in all of Thailand, visited a whole load of temples and discovered paradise on the island of Koh Lipe.

At school I’ve been dressed up like a Thai princess for the day, helped the students to perform for super important Malaysian visitors and tried out different lessons in my new English Writing class.

sportsday2

I visited home and got to see all my family and friends, ate far too much western food and generally enjoyed the simplicity of home life for three weeks.

We’ve seen the protests (and there are more to come), a very wet rainy season and a very un-Christmassy Christmas period.

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Happy protester.

I’ve moaned about teaching in Thailand quite a bit, and the general annoyances that come along with it.  But once I  let those frustrations go, I can see that I’ve had a cracking year in Thailand and I really look forward to whatever the next year brings with it.  With no real plans with regards to staying put or moving, who knows what the next year has in store for us?

Finally, I’d like to say a big Happy New Year to all who have been kind enough to visit, follow, comment and like posts on the cornishkylie blog over the past year.  I’ve whizzed up to 16,000 + views and counting which I am truly grateful for and humbled by.  Here’s to another twelve months of whatever life may bring.  Enjoy it!

A to Z of me: F is for…

F is for favourites (or favorites for all the non-Brits out there).

I’ve had a look at different favourites surveys out there on the internet but they are all so long and boring so here is as far as I got until I got bored and realised that you too will be super bored….

Favourite…

Colour: purple

Food: cheesy, doughy things

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Animal: cat (this is a very new development – a year ago I would have said NONE)

cats

Style of clothing: clashing patterns and colours

patterns

Subject at school: English

Day of the week: Sunday

Month: April

Time of day: mid morning

Thing to do when happy: see my friends

Thing to do when sad: listen to depressing music to make myself feel worse

cry

Thing to do when angry: plot revenge

revenge

Song: there are too many!  Let me get back to you on that one…

Book: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Alcoholic drink: gin and tonic

gin

OK, getting back to the song, this is in NO WAY my favourite but it is the first song that sprung to mind… think of that what you will… not for the easily offended BTW…

Five for Friday; myths about TEFL teaching

This time last year I ws just starting my TEFL course on Koh Samui, diving head first into what would happily turn out to be something that I absolutely LOVE doing.  I had toyed with coming out to Thailand to teach for a while running up to actually doing it, so I had done my research (in fact, it got to the point where I had seen absolutely everything there was…) reading websites, books, speaking to people, following blogs…  doing all of this really helped to prepare me and I knew what to expect (at least, some of the time)…

Warning – this is ever so slightly RANT-y.  But it also has some simple nuggets of advice for anyone considering teaching abroad.

Here are my top five myths about TEFL teaching;

1.   You don’t really have to teach.

Put simply – you do.  Some teachers find that they can get away with doing anything they like, including simply playing games and watching movies, but in most cases those teachers are posted out in the sticks, are the only foreign teacher in the village and the schools are happy just to have a farang face to show off.  In reality if you want to teach abroad and live in a city (or at least somewhere with a bit of life in it), you are likely to end up in a big government school or private institution, both of which will expect you to submit lesson plans, to teach multiple subjects within ESL (communication, writing, reading, social studies, health…) and to write and grade midterm and final examinations to prove that the students are actually learning something.

My school is at the more ‘by the book’ end of the spectrum.  At the start of term we are required to submit lesson plans for the whole semester (sixteen teaching weeks).  The foreign teachers teach anything from 1 – 5 different subjects over 20-22 hours per week and need to write and grade exams every 8 weeks.  Exam grades, along with grades collected throughout the semester from written work and speaking tests must be input on a spreadsheet and external database (which is handily completely in Thai).  Some teachers have 500 students on their books – that is a lot of testing, grading and inputting!

 2.       You will live on a paradise island

Contrary to common belief, we don’t all live on the beach in bamboo bungalows, floating from the hammock to class in a bikini and flip flops.  In fact, I am particularly lucky to be based on the Gulf of Thailand so paradise islands are only a few hours away for me.  In Thailand the majority of TEFL jobs are in and around Bangkok or in the northeast of the country – where there are no beaches.  This doesn’t mean that they aren’t beautiful places, but please don’t assume that because we are teaching in a tropical climate that we spend all our time in these paradise settings.

 3.       TEFL teaching is one big holiday

Leading on from the last point, not only do we not live on paradise islands but we also don’t spend every weekend jet setting to them.  A lot of people begin TEFL teaching because they think that they will have to do a couple of hours ‘teaching’ here and there and then can spend the rest of the time travelling and generally being on one big vacation.  SHOCK HORROR but we have to work Monday – Friday!  In fact, at my school we have to work 7.45am – 4pm every weekday regardless of if we have lessons or not.  Luckily I am based in Thailand and so we get a lot of public holidays resulting in a good amount of three day weekends, but you still have to work for a while between each of those.

I have encountered TEFL teachers who have no shame in admitting that they are only teaching to get a visa so that they can travel around, hopping from job to job, and who despair at the thought of having to actually teach – don’t get me wrong, of course I chose to come and work abroad so that I could see some of the world too – but I also love teaching and get just as much enjoyment from my teaching experiences as I do from my travels.  As nice as it is living in a different country if you hate your job what kind of existence is that?

TEFL teaching is a job, not a holiday.

 4.       TEFL jobs are all expenses paid

Free flights!  Free accommodation!  Paid holidays!  In some cases, yes, your flights may be reimbursed on completion of a minimum contract term, and you may receive a basic accommodation budget (or worse be housed by the school, which usually means in the school, or in a tiny bedsit) but in most circumstances this is not the case.  I fell foul to this, as the teaching agency I was originally supposed to be placed with following my TEFL course boasted that they pay for your accommodation and pay you for all your holidays; only in my case that place fell through and I ended up with another agency who don’t give you a penny for accommodation and employ you on 11 month contracts so the long school holiday ends up unpaid.  Had I known that I would be paying my own rent and not receiving a salary every month I may have saved a little more before coming out here.  Lesson learned – things barely go to plan.

My advice would be to save as much as you comfortably can in the timescale that you have before coming out.  Over-save.  I thought I was going to be in the northeast, where things are probably the cheapest in the country.   I ended up in the south where things are more expensive, with an agency that wouldn’t be helping me with accommodation costs.   The initial cost of moving somewhere will include housing deposits, buying bedding (and potentially furniture), buying teaching clothes (because no matter what you prepare for each school has its own policy and expectations)… most of these costs will be going out of your account before and salary has been paid in.  Then there is the cost of arranging a visa and work permit which again can often be the responsibility of the teacher to fund.  Not all TEFL jobs will be paying for that kind of stuff so just bear it in mind; it’s not a free ride.

 5.       Any native English speaker can get a job as a TEFL teacher

Again, as in #1, I am sure if you are happy to live in the middle of nowhere, be the only foreigner in the village then yes, any native English speaker can get a TEFL job.  But if you want to live in a city and work in a real school environment as a real teacher, you are going to need some sort of TEFL certificate at minimum.  Even with a TEFL certificate and degree, a native English speaker can still come across barriers to finding work.

So many people come out relying on their nationality (and in Thailand, colour of skin also goes a long way), but find that without the right certification and the right frame of mind, good jobs don’t just come along.  Do your homework, gain the correct certification.  It’s up to you if you want to work for it or go and buy it on Khao San Road, but don’t assume that simply being an English speaker will guarantee you a great job.

I realise that this may come across as pretty negative but there are so many people who come out here with completely unrealistic expectations, having not done their research and making silly assumptions.  These people then spend their entire working time complaining about how their experience isn’t what they had expected, resulting in them either not having enough money, or being unprepared, or not landing an amazing yet easy job on the beach, and of course all that they can do is bitch and complain about it, bitter that they aren’t living the tropical island paradise life that they surely deserve for coming out here.

OK… rant over!

Teaching in Thailand is an amazing, enriching experience, but if you have ridiculous expectations and don’t prepare, you only have yourself to blame.  Stop moaning and go home!