Teaching In Thailand: Part 2 – Teacher Liam

Teaching a bunch of kids English, how hard can it be?

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That was the dominant thought in my mind, every time I discussed the idea of a TEFL career when I was back in Wales. However, that pre-imagined vision soon vanished when I was stood in front of a class of 30 children, all staring at me as if I was some foreign alien (which I was)………

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As I nervously led my class through my first lesson, I couldn’t help but think how the term ‘thrown in at the deep end’ couldn’t be better suited than right now. None of the online teaching theory you learn prior helps very much. But, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It doesn’t take you long to get in a routine, judge what works and what doesn’t, and of course work out which students are the best behaved and which are truly menaceful. And you’re supposed to teach them English? A near impossible task.

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Any ESL teacher reading this blog will relate when I say that teaching English as a foreign language can be amazing. The comments and work some of the children produce is absolutely outstanding (for the comedy value, if not the correct English). Anyone who disagrees, approach a 7-year-old Thai kid and ask them to say ‘fox’.

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Every day in Thailand is different, every class you teach is different, every motor taxi ride to school is different, every weekend is different and every day something out of the normal and funny happens. This is how I like to live my life. Bamboo, Euro, Theatre, Nurse, Focus, PP, Troy, Book – These are not just random words, these are the names of a few of my students.

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Being a language teacher also gave me a sense of purpose that I never had with any other job. Helping and bettering people makes you feel like a better person.

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-Liam

#TRAVEL – Malaysia: Beaches, Skyscrapers and High Taxed Alcohol!

In March 2014, I travelled around some of the South East Asian hotspot, Malaysia, just days after Malaysian Airways flight MH370 went missing.m1

Malaysia has a worthy blend of city, jungle and beach paradise.  During the trip, I spent most of my time in the capital city, Kuala Lumpur, and the underdeveloped Prehentian Islands.  The concrete capital of Malaysia is a peculiar place. It has the attributes of other Asian cities but most people there speak English and the food is mainly Indian.

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Without sounding too critical of a place I personally enjoyed, I don’t feel Kuala Lumpur (or Malaysia, for that matter) has much of its own identity. Sure it has its own language, but it doesn’t differ too much from English: Bus – Bas; Taxi – Teksi. However, KL has 3 great highlights I would recommend anyone to experience:

The Batu Caves

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In 1920, 272 steps were built up to the 400 million-year-old limestone that forms the Batu Caves. Guarding the bottom of the stairs stands a huge golden Hindu statue. Unlike most tourist attractions, the view from the bottom is actually better than the top. But the view inside the caves at is equally as amazing. If you make it to the top of the steps and past the hundreds of wild monkeys running around searching for food, then you will be greeted by a few naturally formed caves. The most impressive sight in them, in my opinion, is the roofless areas where greenery and sunshine shoot in.

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The Skyscrapers (KL and the Petronas towers)

m6 KL has no shortage of tall buildings. The two most impressive being the KL tower and the Petronas Towers. You can visit the top of both for an admission charge and experience a breathtaking view of the whole city.

The Train Routes 

Initially, a terrifying system to look at and experience; your first two train rides can be quite hectic, but after a short while you will fall in love with the train systems of KL, they are literally the cheapest mode of transport I have ever been on and they cover most of the city. Underground, sky trains, monorails, a normal train route – it has it all connected!

The Prehentian Islands

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After a while, we endured a pleasant night bus journey (not 3 words that normally go together) to the Prehentian ferry jetty, where we had to pay a ridiculous price for a return ticket to and from the islands (70 RMB). However, I soon stopped moaning about the price when we were coming towards the lush green islands with waves splashing in my face, I was excited.

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There are two main Prehentian islands, we visited the smaller one, Kecil. There are two main places to stay: Coral Bay and Long Beach. Both are only a short walk through the jungle from one another and have several restaurants, bars, and places to stay. Long Beach is more of a ‘beach’ if you get my drift. It has a few surfers, large waves and one of the bluest oceans I have ever seen, whereas Coral Bay has a small beach which is mainly occupied by boats. The hidden gem of the Kecil Island for me was a Malaysian man with a red box full of alcohol, who sells it to you for normal prices. It makes a pleasant change from the extreme prices of KL ( Malaysia is a Muslim country so all alcohol is highly taxed).

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I had a good time in Malaysia- it is a fascinating, picturesque and fun place. It does have everything but in my opinion, if you are backpacking on a budget and have a limited choice, I would prioritize Thailand, Vietnam or Cambodia over it.

-Liam

If you’re heading to Malaysia, don’t forget your travel guide –

Learning Korean (Hangul)

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Being born and raised in Wales, different languages have always been present in my day to day life. That sounds a lot more exotic than it actually is; everyone in Wales is required to study Welsh until he/she finishes school, so basically, I always had that in addition to the standard French and German lessons most people have at school. And then,  not to mention the millions of pounds the government spends on road signs in both Welsh and English that can be seen throughout the country (the second most common thing in Wales, with sheep being the first).

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However, it wasn’t until I moved to Thailand where I started to really enjoy learning a language that I thought about seriously trying to becoming fluent in one. I could understand these weird tonal noises (Thai)- ‘How incredible is that?’ I thought.

However, that said, I still am not fluent in any language apart from English (and many may question that). So now, a few weeks before I head to South Korea, I have thrown myself into learning Korean, like a 25-year-old virgin throws himself into a brothel. More specifically I have started learning their alphabet: Hangul. I am determined to study these alien symbols and learn to construct sentences using them. I am studying using the following book, which you can buy from Amazon:

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I have already mastered using a few vowels and consonants, and I just learned my first word:

 한글

(Hangul)

Ill keep you updated on how it goes.

-Liam

All photos were sourced from Google images and Amazon.

Teaching In Thailand: Part 1 – The Arrival

In May 2013, I left my cold and monotonous lifestyle in the Welsh valleys and embarked on a career as an ESL teacher. Here is how it all began….

26/05/2013

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Uncomfortably positioned between an attractive young Indian woman, and a very fidgety old one, on a flight from Heathrow, it hit me like a ton of bricks…… I had just quit my job, uninhabited my home and geographically distanced myself from everyone I knew.

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Sawasdee Krung Thep (Hello Bangkok)

I will never forget that immense feeling of emotion when I first found myself alone in a new country. It was a combination of pure excitement and nerves. My imagination was out of control. I also felt very hot, which will not surprise anyone who has visited Thailand before; the weather is always sweltering.

Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport is huge and complex, but after a marathon distance of walking, at gate 6 I finally found the representative from my agency, LoveTEFL, waiting for me. His name was Lordy, anyone who has used LoveTEFL before will know him. He is a friendly, chilled guy and had no bother answering my millions of questions.

We headed into the concrete chaos of Bangkok City.

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It was dark when I arrived but the advertisement billboards and speeding cars of erratic motorists lit up the highway. The streets of Bangkok were filled were food stalls (this must have been the infamous street food you read about online, I thought to myself), clothes stalls and rushing pedestrians. As we entered the hotel I met the teacher that would be joining me at my school for the next year. His name was Joe, a Cornish Newcastle United enthusiast who had done quite a bit of travelling before. He was an interesting and funny guy.

The 3 of us headed on the cities MR2 subway (an experience in itself for a young boy from Wales) to a bar where the first beer of my Thai experience was consumed. The beer was served with ice. What type of strange world is this?

At the end of the night, we had a meal, soup and water for the equivalent of 1GBP. It was full of flavor and my first taste of Thai cuisine. I loved it.

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Any nerves I was feeling no longer existed.

I was an energy ball of eagerness and excitement.

The drive to the school the next morning was scorching and I felt like an idiot because I was wearing shorts (my definition of smart dress) and the other 2 were wearing shirts and black trousers. Luckily this didn’t matter as the school was vacant when we arrived (my first experience of the unorganized chaos of Thai planning). The school is based about 1 hour and 20 minutes east of Bangkok, in a small town called Ongkharak, in the Nakhon Nayok province (the waterfall province).

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The school is an architectural masterpiece. Its golden bricks shape the structure into resembling a spaceship, and there is an observatory tower at the front of the building overlooking two spectacular lakes and a giant flag

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The following day we returned to school and met the head of English, an attractive young Thai girl with a great sense of humor called Mod (Thai for ant). We also met the assistant director of the school, a middle-aged flamboyant homosexual who no sooner than meeting us was inviting us to his house to ‘play’. I was on edge because our agent had told us we had been hired because of this man’s opinion of our pictures rather than the suitability of our CVs.

A few days of finding our bearings followed. We quickly discovered that there was not much to do in our area of residence but everything was insanely cheap and the people were friendly.

We also made friends with some local Thai lads, an old lady who sells meat on the street (my Thai mother) and purchased some push bikes. The bike choice at the local market was limited, so I ended up with an Angry Birds Limited Edition child’s bike. I looked ridiculous riding it.

We were starting to feel comfortable in our surroundings and I personally was loving absorbing the new culture that was dominant in our everyday lives.

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Then school started…

-Liam