Waiting game…

The waiting game is about to be over. I’m still here in Ban Phe, Thailand. I decided to stay for the weekend and not move around too much because it’s easier to not spend much money that way. If I was in a bigger city the baht flow a lot faster. I have a beautiful room at Christie’s with A/C, hot water, TV and a great WiFi connection. I spend most of the days inside trying not to spend any money. The job in Medan is what I’m holding out for and I was told I would hear an answer a week from last Tuesday. If I do get the job I have to decide if I want to wait till the end of August to start. It is a tough decision because I really want the job but going that much longer with out a salary isn’t the best idea.

If I do decide to wait it out I’ll probably stick around Ban Phe longer and rent out this guest house for a month along with a motorbike for a discounted price. The interview itself didn’t go really well last week so I’m not expecting much with that job.

Could be worse places to wait around for employment

That leaves Jakarta, my eternal safety net of a job as my probable final destination. This is by no means a consolation prize as Jakarta is sure to be a great city for me. A lot of people don’t like it because it is a crowded mega-city but I can find the good in most places. If this is the plan then instead of flying the expensive $200 route from Bangkok to Jakarta, I’ll instead take a train south through the Malay peninsula to Singapore and then do a short hop on to Jakarta for much cheaper.

Either way, by Tuesday my future should be clear. Either I’m going to live in Medan or Jakarta for at least the next 12 months.

TESOL Certified! (TEFL International)

I completely forgot to update the blog with the news that I completed my TEFL course and received my certificate to teach English as a second or other language (TESOL). This is a big milestone in becoming an ESL teacher around the world.

TEFL International has been great. The head trainer was a Florida boy like myself and born in New York with Italian ancestry. He’s the same age as me but started out his teaching 5 years ago and has made amazing strides. His personality and delivery of lessons was engaging and definitely the best part of the course itself. The 120 hour course doesn’t necessarily provide you with the practical tools needed to be an ESL teacher. The trainer’s job is to get the trainees comfortable and compotent as English teachers and I feel that was accomplished in my eyes. It isn’t that a certification is required to teach all the time but it opens the door to more countries, higher pay and an edge on my resume with competitive jobs.

The other really great thing about the course was the friends that I made. Dave and Gareth, both from England were together most of the time on the course and really pushed each other to succeed. These are friends that I’ll have for a life time and we made it a point to make sure we stay in contact. Then there was Derek, the 77 yr old Englishman who fit right in with us. His stories were amazing and he is a true English gentleman. I’m going miss all 3 of them and look forward to a reunion somewhere in Asia.

Certified!

Certified!

If I had one complaint about the course it might be the facilities themselves. They were moving out of the building we were staying in and into a new location and as the last residents they probably weren’t too concerned with fixing pipes or broken appliances. That being said, most of us on the course just sucked it up and dealt with it.

Again, in a practical sense, not a whole lot can be taken away from this course. I wasn’t provided with specific directions on how to lesson plan or what day to day life as an ESL teacher will bring. That will only come with experience and research on my own. There were several quotes posted around the classroom and two stood out in particular for me.

“A good teacher always knows what to do.” and “Sort it out!”

To me, these quotes basically mean, no matter what the situation, whether it be a mistake made by someone else that you have to a fix, or a problem you create yourself, it is up to you to take care of it yourself. Sort it out! Ultimately, it will always be up to me to make sure something gets done, even if the fact is true that someone else dropped the ball or there are issues out of my control. These are quotes that can translate into almost any profession or part of life. Don’t blame other people. Sort it out. Figure out what you have to do.

So, the next step is landing back on the island of Sumatra on Tuesday and begin my life as an ESL teacher with a 2 month volunteer contract in the town of Bukit Lawang. Here we go!

TEFL Certification Day 14 & 15: Practice Practice Practice

I had my second and third days of teaching practice this week. Tuesday was better than my first day and I’ve gotten some nice praise from the trainers. This morning I was a bit off my game but apparently it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Internally I was more nervous. I made a slight mistake at the beginning in a structured lesson and then it threw me off. I regained myself and finished the lesson well. The students are so much fun to interact with. We’re struggling though, because it’s school break right now so they are having a hard time finding students to volunteer to come in. Some of the ones that do come in are really young and a just bodies in the seat. They are too young for the lessons and then become distractions. The ones that the lessons are age appropriate for really seem to enjoy it. It drags pretty hard towards the end of the 4 hours.

I had the unfortunate or fortunate task to go on in the fourth hour yesterday after some of the students just heard the same exact lesson. It was up to me to try to find a way to engage them. I did the best I could with gesturing since my chalk board skills are pretty bad. It’s one thing I really need to work on. Although, most schools will probably have white boards anyway. If you go on fourth you get all the trainers watching, all of your classmates and both classes combined. I found it better this way as having more students feels natural. I’m not afraid of the trainers because they both give really good feedback and I’d rather get truth from them than not know what I’m doing.

I’m really beat and just realized that I feel like I’m not putting a very good blog post together here so I’m going to go to bed. I have super exciting news but I want to wait till tomorrow to share it.

CULTURE SHOCK IN THAILAND?

It doesn’t happen often to me anymore but every now and then it creeps up on me out of nowhere in the least expected places. Put yourself in my shoes for a moment. Arriving in an unfamiliar city at a bus station that is at least 3 miles away from the town center where you know there are guest houses. Problem is you’re not really sure that it’s far away so you start walking in the direction you think it is. The bus driver that brought you there is of no help because he doesn’t speak English and since this isn’t really a tourist destination, no one else speaks English either. You have no local currency in your pocket, no hotel reservation and no credit on your cell phone to call anyone. And to add insult to injury you have to go to the bathroom really bad. What do you do?

With experience I’ve learned to be patient and take my time. I took a deep breathe, put a smile on my face and began waking. I walked, and I walked, occasionally trying my luck on a local to see if they understood what I was saying. No luck. I continued on. I found an ATM! Money was important. Unfortunately the machine only dispensed 1000 baht notes, which is equivalent to $30. No Tuk Tuk driver was going to make change for this. I did however find a nice lady with a motorcycle who agreed to take me to the area I was looking to go. I used the little Thai I know to negotiate a price. She said 40 baht. I showed her my 1000 baht note and then offered her some of my Malaysian money instead. She took a 10 ringgit note which was about 3 times what she asked in baht. But I wasn’t worried, I was just happy to get where I needed to go.

I had been to Had Yai once before but I am by no means an expert on it. I passed through for one night 4 years ago. I did remember that there was a large shopping center near where some of the hotels were so that was my goal. She dropped me off right in front of the mall and I headed off in search of accommodation. I am traveling with out a guidebook in hand so I wasn’t sure what I was looking for and being nighttime everything looked different. I wandered around and was amazed that I couldn’t find a single guest house. Where did they all go? Now I’ve been walking around for quite awhile with my backpack on, working up a sweat.

I had forgotten how different Thailand can feel. The language is much harder than Indonesian and Malay and the alphabet is not Latin based so reading a sign is difficult. Thailand is the country I’ve spent more time in outside of the U.S. than any other country so I came in feeling confident and was quickly reminded that it takes some getting used to. This is heightened by not arriving in Bangkok and instead coming by land through the south which sees far less tourists.

Culture shock is pretty much a minor anxiety attack while traveling. For me it always seems to come in places where I feel I should be most comfortable. Arriving in London I was incredibly overwhelmed and started to feel like I was losing it because of how simple I thought being in England SHOULD be. I didn’t get culture shock in Lebanon or in Somaliland because I probably had my mind prepared for the worst.

Either way, in Thailand it is pretty easy to get yourself back in the groove. A stop over at a pub, a glass of scotch and maybe a foot massage before bed and I’ll be ready to go. I think my cold is behind me but I do have a pretty debilitating cough left over. I’ll have to load up on Halls for the bus ride to Phuket in the morning.

Got it!

In a fantastic turn of events and with a little help from my NEW guest house owner, I received an extended 60 day tourist visa for Thailand that will take me through the month of April so that I don’t have to make any visa runs during my TEFL certification course. The nice lady at Civillian’s Inn on Love Lane in Georgetown, Penang took my visa application, passport and two passport sized photos and went to the consulate for me this morning. She had to wait till 3:30pm to pick it up so she went back and just brought it to me! The best part is that it is a free visa! I just paid a small fee of $10 to her for taking care of it for me.

This is great news and really lifts the cloud that was hanging over me regarding Thailand. I may have sounded frustrated in my last post, which I certainly was, but at the end of the week it worked itself out.

I’ve been feeling a bit sick since Tuesday night but I hop on a minibus to the southern Thai city of Hat Yai in a few moments. I passed through here my first time in Thailand and I am only stopping again to break up the 13 hour journey to Phuket. I’ll be meeting Shawn and Mike, both friends from Florida where we’ll hang out for 3 nights. After that, Thailand is mine to do whatever I please until my course starts on April 4th in Bah Phe.