Yes, blog readers, after two long, stressful weeks of job hunting, I got a job. And I couldn’t be happier. Remember the school I told you about that laid a job advertisement in front of me when I went in to apply? The one that I said felt like a gift from the universe? Well it turns out it was. A very special gift, in fact. I went to Hangdongrathrathupathum School (no, I have no idea how to pronounce it) for an interview on Thursday, spoke with the Director of Foreign Languages—a very kind woman named Kru Jume who is now my boss/supervisor—met the Vice Director and Director of the school, answered a few questions, agreed to a salary, and received a smile, a handshake, and an offer of a job, which I gladly and gratefully accepted. Kru Jume (kru means teacher) showed me around the school, explained some of my duties and the expectations at the school, and then took me to lunch where I got to eat a combination of pad thai, fish and chips, and chocolate cake. Quite a delicious spread, really. The school is located in Hang Dong, which is a district southwest of Chiang Mai city, right off a major highway, so it’s in a very convenient area and, being akin to a suburb, provides a little relief from the hustle and bustle of Chiang Mai.
My first day of work was Friday. My boss suggested that I take the day to prepare for this week’s classes instead of teaching right off the bat, which I gladly agreed to. The day started off very rocky. I walked in to the office I share with my boss and the other foreign teacher, was showed a large book shelf covered top to bottom in textbooks, and was told nothing else. I was given the freedom to teach whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, which sounds great to some, but for me, who craves structure, organization, and direction, it was a nightmare. I sat down at my desk, stared at a blank computer screen for about an hour, and was almost in tears when the other foreign teacher walked in. His timing couldn’t have been better. I sat there picking his brain until his next class, and he explained how he organizes his lessons, how he does grading, and how things generally work in the foreign language department. Within an hour I had relaxed, and I felt confident that I would be just fine when I started teaching on Monday. In fact, by the end of my work day I had completed my lesson plans for the next week and, even though I was exhausted, I was very happy with the progress I had made that day. Lots of other positive things happened that day as well. I met many of my coworkers, who are all so helpful, kind, and welcoming, participated in a merit making ceremony, made a few friends, received sporadic Thai lessons from the incredibly kind Thai English teachers, and figured out how to buy lunch at my school with the help of my coworker. By the end of the day, I had students coming up to me (keep in mind that I haven’t taught a class yet), telling me hello and asking me where I’m from. News travels quickly in Thailand, and it had obviously gotten around that there was a new white face at the school. Based on my first day of work, I have no doubt that I’ll be happy there. I already have one member of the staff asking me to call her mom, the view from the foreign language department is amazing, and the students seem like they’re going to be a lot of fun to teach.
I have been assigned to teach Mattayom 4, 5, and 6. In Thailand, Mattayom is about the equivalent of junior high and high school in the states, and the higher the number, the older the students. So my students are considered upper secondary and will probably be between the ages of 14 and 18. Daunting? Yes. Challenging? Yes. Fun? I have no doubt. I’ll have about twenty periods a week, although my schedule hasn’t been nailed down yet. In Thailand, things tend to happen at the last minute, but they usually happen as they should. This is very different from America where we expect things to be organized and done far in advance, and it has certainly been an adjustment, but it has been a good lesson in patience and acceptance of things I can’t control. Because I only see each of my classes once a week, I should (in theory) only need to create three lesson plans each week—one for each level.
With the new job came a new apartment. It was very hard to leave the hostel and my friends, especially my roommate Li. Those two limbo weeks were hard, but I got so many good memories from it, and because of that those two weeks will always hold a special place in my heart. But the late night hangouts in the courtyard, the walks to get dinner at Warorat Market, and my daily trip to the corner store to buy banana chips couldn’t last forever, and it is exciting to move on to yet another stage here in the Land of Smiles. The school provides housing for the teachers if they choose to accept it, but the house where they want me to live is currently being renovated, so until I can look at it and see if I want to live there, I’m renting an apartment at a dormitory next to the school. It’s cheap and a little rundown, but I’m grateful to have a bed, air conditioning, and a hot shower. I came to Thailand with the goal of living a simpler lifestyle, and this apartment is forcing me to do that, so I welcome the opportunity to benefit from that experience. The school and my new place are very close to a market, a Big C, gas stations, and convenient stores, so I’m set. I recently got a motorbike (I plan to have a blog post dedicated to it) which is allowing me to get around very easily and to visit Chiang Mai, which is about thirty minutes away, whenever I want to. I love the area and the people, and I think I will love my new job after I get settled into it.
The next step is to get my work permit to allow me to work legally. This requires a urine sample, a blood test, a trip to Vientiane, Laos, and an expensive visa. The trip to Laos will be happening this weekend and should prove to be quite an adventure. Until then, I will be settling into my new role as Kru Jennifer and, if my intuition is correct, enjoying it immensely.