Professional Give-a-Shit-er: Bad Coverage of Two Months in Thailand

It has been far too long. Over a month. It’s gotten to the point where I can’t possibly imagine where to pick up the threads of this blog and start again. So I’m just going to have to suck it up and do it.

Here’s a quick rundown of what’s happened since last I posted. Please listen to this whilst you go through the list. As you do, I want you to imagine, if you actually know what I look like, my slightly worn out and annoyed face. And I want you to read each point very quickly.

OK, GO:

I have

  • Left Samuii
  • Spent several hours in a house in a satellite neighbourhood of Bangkok, in which time, I closely studied the poster for Return of the Jedi and decided it definitely has something on it, hovering around Jabba the Hutt, that strongly resembles a penis
  • Got a temporary job at a school in Chachoengsao (a town 50km outside of Bangkok)
  • Been nipped at by potentially rabid dogs
  • Been driven at ninety miles an hour down the wrong side of the motorway in a rickety tuk tuk and paid for the privilege
  • Been taken on as a permenant English teacher at the same place in Chachoengsao
  • Sweated all over the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya like a big red and white hog
  • Gone back to Samuii
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No wonder Bib Fortuna looks so startled there

Oh, so many rip-roaring adventures to be lost to the annals of time, because who could possibly give a shit. I mean, I could explain the Bangkok house story, but really, isn’t it better we all just use our imaginations? But, this is supposed to be a travel blog, isn’t it, so I suppose I should really make some comment on the things I’ve seen over the past few weeks. I’ll have to save speaking on the topic of my new job for another time, or I fear, much like a nineteenth century lady, I might collapse from sheer exertion and probably sprain my dainty ankle. I simply daren’t try.

The problem is, to take yet another unwanted detour before I get into the travel stuff, I’m feeling quite tired at the moment. It’s not so much from lack of sleep, as from the absolute exhaustion that comes from the, to me, mammoth amount of socialising I’ve done since being in Thailand. It doesn’t come naturally to me. I’ve been sharing a room most nights. I’ve been speaking, a lot, every day. I’ve been listening, a lot, every day. And Jesus, I’m worn out. Don’t get me wrong, everyone has been nice, and to resort back to that well-worn phrase, it’s all my own madness. My ability to keep up the appearance of being fine to talk is slowly breaking down. By next week, I’ll probably be found naked in the bushes, having joined the feral dog pack of Chach, scavenging discarded chicken sticks and chasing down frightened pedestrians.

It all feels very self indulgent to talk about. I’m that stereotypical introvert who wants it both ways – I want people to be available when I need them and to piss off the moment I need to be alone. I want to hide in my room for three days without making a sound and then emerge to rapturous applause and instant social gratification. It’s never going to happen. I’m definitely too much of a moody shit, and you need to be broodier and more handsome than me to be able to carry that off. You need to look like a confident and mysterious “professional-doesn’t-give-a-shit-er”, not like a “mad recluse who’s sat in all weekend marathoning cartoons and ordering from Pizza Company”. I’m saddled with the paranoia that everyone sees me for the bastard I really am.

I’m currently on half term, but will be going back to work on Monday, which may go some way to relieving my current social issues. I suppose we’ll see. What I wouldn’t give to be naturally extroverted.

Well, enough with that, let’s get to the meat.

Ayutthaya. It’s old. There are temples. Recommend. We cycled about like healthy young dickheads, masquerading as though we had any health and/or vigour in our Chang-ed out husks of bodies. I think I might be slowly dying. I have weird scabby elbows and a cough I haven’t been able to shake in a month.

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Ayutthaya. Nothing witty to say about this. Old, innit.

Bangkok. It’s a city. The capital city. There is a cinema there that does delicious nachos. I like it. The taxi drivers I like less. 13 baht (about 30p) on the train from Chach, where I live, so no doubt I’ll be there a fair bit to get my fix of food that isn’t rice or noodles.

Chachoengsao. My new home town. Not many foreigners here. “FALANG” and “HAHA! WHITE PEOPLE!” in common parlance. Bit of a problem with stray dogs that get very ballsy indeed in the dark. There’s a KFC in one of the supermarkets.

That’s that covered then, and quite efficiently too, if I do say so myself. What more could you POSSIBLY need to know?

Four of us from the TEFL course decided to head back down to Koh Samuii for a little break over half term. It was like a completely different place to the first time around. Very quiet; quite overcast and grey. I mostly sat in the pool and listened to the soothing noise of both German and Thai being spoken at the same time. Yeah, think about that. We got overnight coaches both there and back. Twelve hours. Vaguely nightmarish.

No. Let’s not beat around the bush here. Quite harrowing.

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Lady Boy Excitement

But, here I am. I’m sat in my own little room in Chach. I have two soft Oreos and half a packet of crisps and an HDMI cable. I’ve been in Asia for over two months now and I’m OK. There’s no humour in writing “I love everything and everything has been fine”, but most things have, so far, been straight forward. It’s better than being at home. I’m looking to the future though, to the end of term in March, and thinking about where my next step will take me. Somewhere quiet. English Language School for Hermits?

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Koh Samuii: The First Ten Days

TEFLing and Touristing

Chloe and I woke up in our Bangkok hotel, grabbed our stuff, and off we traipsed to our next destination – Koh Samuii. Our airport driver, Moo, graciously allowed us to experience the oldest tourist con in the book, forcing bracelets onto our wrists as we looked on bewildered and too tired to protest. We dutifully handed over a “tip” and left him waiing and smiling. That seems like a million years ago now.

An incredibly short flight later and we were on the island of Koh Samuii. We quietly hummed the Jurassic Park theme as we descended into the tiki hut that comprises the airport. A man named Jack picked us up and drove us to T-Phak Phink, our hotel. We were dripping in sweat and bright red. I was overly excited to see a Charlie Chaplin restaurant/massage parlour on our way down the winding road; nothing here makes much sense.14068193_10154475790217238_6522383116008226739_n.jpg

I could go into detail about all the things I did on the first few nights here, about how I met people on the same TEFL course as me, how I drank a lot of 89baht (£1.96) cocktails, but I’m sure you can imagine how it went, and it wouldn’t make for particularly interesting reading.

I should probably speak about the TEFL school I’m attending – Samui TEFL. I prefer “Samuii” with two Is but I suppose we’re all allowed to make our own stylistic choices. The class is tough. Turns out I know next to nothing about my native language. Did you know that the word “him” can be an adjective? I mean, I always knew my education was pretty shit, but Jesus, I don’t know what on earth they were teaching me at home for twelve years. As I write this, it is the Wednesday of week two of the course, with two weeks to go until it’s over, in which time I’ll deliver lessons to primary, secondary, and adult classes. God help them. God help us all. I’d definitely recommend Samui TEFL if you’re considering training as an English as a Foreign Language teacher as its incredibly thorough, but I won’t lie, it’s difficult and I’m absolutely knackered.

There are five other British people on the course, and we are naturally drawn to each other like incredibly pale moths to a flame. It is inescapable. I find myself making eyes at them in the classroom. There have been discussions as to how we might access The Great British Bake Off while we are here. You should have seen the reaction when it was revealed that Thailand has its own version of Tesco. Pandemonium. Joy. A physical need to return to some semblance of the mother-supermarket.

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The class has around twenty people in it. Majority American, then us, then some South Africans, one Australian, and two people are half Thai. We are at that point where we’ve sort of figured out basically what we’re all like, as much as you can figure people out in ten days. Originally, I was putting on a bit of a posher accent when I spoke to the Americans because I kept getting blank stares back when I would say things. I’m losing it though; it’s too hard to keep up. The Boltonian in me will always win out.

How’s the social aspect of TEFLing, I hear you cry. I’m naturally introverted. I wouldn’t say I’m shy, I like pretty much everyone on the course, and I think I’m lucky to have found myself with such a good group, but I still need a few hours a day to withdraw and to sit with Netflix on my own. I think the key to not going completely insane when spending so much time with the same people every day is to try and maintain a strong sense of your deeply sacred personal space. Swing your arms around at all times so that nobody can ever get too close. That’s my best advice.

Americans, on the whole, are very earnest and genuine. They make trivial things seem like serious business and are, and please remember I’m speaking in gross generalities here, very eager and sweet. I hope if any of them ever read this, which seems a bit unlikely, they won’t mind me having said that. We Brits seem both reserved and constantly bemused by comparison. We like to discuss the weather and other such nonsense whilst the Americans get into the minutiae of what it means to be and to live. Not all of them, of course, and it’s not like it’s a bad thing at any rate – it’s just different to what I’m used to. The Brits are all seemingly well-versed in our national, unspoken, enshrined code of conduct – keep things light and don’t talk bollocks.

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Aside from a bit of drunken night-swimming (probably not advisable), we hadn’t really been able to spend much time at the beach because we’d been so busy with school, and so come the first Saturday, we were all up early to lay out on towels and catch some rays. Chloe and I had a lot of catching up to do. We were [are] incredibly white. Glowing. That’s actually a rather coveted thing in Thailand, as it turns out. All the beauty products, deodorants, lotions, all have whitening agent in them. It seems everyone wants what they can’t have.

We are no different. We want to be brown. Eager to get my transformation into bronzed goddess underway, I dove in at the deep end. I lay flat out under the sun like a fool. Don’t get me wrong, I was covered in my factor fifty, but I was fully aware that I was basically cooking myself. After a few hours of sitting like a lizard on a hot rock, I went along with some of my fellow TEFLers to a shady beachfront restaurant for some food and a drink. When I stepped back out, a couple of people began to look me up and down and I watched as their expressions slowly changed.

“Fuck!”

“Shit!”

“Oh fuck!”

“Stop shouting fuck and shit at me,” I said, quite confused about what was going on.

What was, in fact, going on, was that I’d turned bright pink and was radiating heat like the elephant’s foot at Chernobyl. I was promptly sent home to sit indoors and to apply aloe vera. I literally took a step back when I caught sight of myself in a mirror. I looked like a wet, burnt witch. I would’ve sent tiny Thai children running from me in terror. I left the hotel again only under the cover of darkness. The burn has now settled into a faint, dull red. My shins are still shockingly white. I don’t want to sound entitled, but when do I get my colour? I feel I’ve really put the effort in and I’m not seeing results. 

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I should talk about some of the stuff I’ve done. I feel like I’m going down a checklist right now. My brain is mush. Temples. Markets. Bars. Riding in the backs of trucks. Apparently, it’s absolutely essential on any whistle stop tour of the island to visit the Grandmother and Grandfather rocks. These are big rocks that look like a penis and a vagina. Yeah.

The food has been mostly fine, although I can’t convey how much I’m missing stodge. I want something to bite in to. You can’t bite rice. I want a big fuck off burger. I woke up last night with a churning stomach, feeling freezing cold, and sweating like some kind of demented bear. I’m fine now but I think my body is in total Asia-shock. I suppose it’s the new food and a form of “freshers’ flu”.

img_0084.jpgFinally, I feel something would be terribly amiss if I didn’t talk about the turlet hose. The Americans are all calling it “the bum gun”, but I don’t like that. It seems wrong for an American to use the word “bum” for arse. I nominate “turrrrlet hose” (toilet hose) as the official nomenclature and that’s what I shall use. The turlet hose is a hose attached to Thai toilets that you use to clean yourself after you’ve been to the loo. I was a bit apprehensive at first, but I’ve got to say, I’m a full convert to the church of the holy hose. Let’s put it this way, if you had shit on your arm, would you want to dry-wipe it off with a bit of tissue, or would you want to give it a good old wash? I don’t know if I can ever go back to my old self. I haven’t had to use a squat toilet yet, thank God, I think I’d rather just hold it in until I quietly died in a corner. I asked around if other people were using the hose and the group seemed quite divided. A memorable response was “I don’t want shit-water on my balls”. Fair enough, I thought. You can’t convert them all.