Sunday, July 1, 2012

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Downtown in the south
I was going to talk about my multiple bus rides, train rides and drives up and down Thailand from the deep south to the far north, but got bored.  In short, I took a job in the south, stuck in the middle of a rubber plantation, teaching at a school that made me feel more like a Peace Corps volunteer than a member of a staff, and living in a damp house filled with bugs, bats and anything else passing through.  In a few days, I was discouraged and frightened at the prospect of being stuck in such a foreign land that I packed and went back to Bangkok, considering going back to the US.  I spent over 50 hours riding in the dark, back and forth, screwing up my chances to survive here and wondering how I would get out.

The school I taught in was a government school that looked like it had been built 40 years ago and never touched again.  Toilets were filthy holes in the floor, boys had to pee on the outside back wall, and classrooms looked more like cattle pens than a place to learn.  Students spent as much time wandering around doing nothing as they did in class.  I couldn't figure out how I could even make a dent in a group of near-adult children who barely knew even basic skills, let alone English conversation.  My contractor also seemed hell-bent on giving me as little information as possible, forcing me to use all I could to even figure out where I was supposed to teach.  I kept thinking, "this is a job for Superman," and I am not Superman.
One of my classrooms in the south

Going home was considered.  Unfortunately, I don't really have a home to go back to.  The furniture, house and transportation are gone and I have little prospect for a job.  Thus, I decided to stay in Thailand.  My plan was to work in language schools in Bangkok and live in our place there.  Nee, however, still yearned for the north which lead me to applying once again for work in Chiang Mai.  Fortunately, I had another contractor there who had not given up on me.

The choices were a very rundown college in Lamphun, about 45 minutes south of Chiang Mai, and Fang.  The Lamphun college was offering me an apartment and three meals a day.  The apartment was uninhabitable for me.  The walls were bare boards, the toilet another hole in the floor, the shower unheated and the sink a concrete glob.  The teachers really wanted me to stay, but I couldn't.  That left me with Fang.

I had visited Fang a few months ago as my brother-in-law has family there.  The mountains are beautiful though you do have to drive 3 hours of winding road and driving rules in Thailand allow insanity to rule behind the wheel.  We took another bus up and met with the school.  I could see I was needed and that I needed it, as well.  The town had a Tesco Lotus, the Thai version of Walmart so at least I knew I would be able to eat.  Thus, I dropped my bag at an apartment across the street from the school and Nee went back to Bangkok to send things back up here to allow her to stay here, too.

Fang has been my home now for two weeks, taking up my time to blog.  I have discovered that I like teaching high school, enjoy a small town, and don't mind taking the occasional 2.5 hour bus ride south to Chiang Mai.  I am learning how to work with 14 classes of 50 kids each and accept that wherever I go in town, some young person is going to wai me and say, "Hello, teacher."  Things could be worse.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Roy!! I am so glad you found a spot that is okay with your inner soul, and the town/people sound like they are too your liking too. 14 classes of 50 ppl?? Yowza! You are a dedicated person and will do well there I feel - and know half the town because you teach so many folks. Hope the apartment is livable - send your address out when you know it - its nice to get real mail too! Your friend Darcy