This past week was our orientation with our placement agency OEG (overseas ed group). Busy, busy, busy. After arriving in Bangkok we were put up in a hotel a little bit outside of the city to get ready for our crash course in teaching, Thai, and culture. It was a great way to get your feet wet, meet the amazing people who will also be teaching with you around the country and try your best to learn Thai. Which I have learned, will never happen.
The beginning of the week was filled with teaching seminars, language seminars and other sessions focusing on getting our visa, the education system, etc. A ton of information in a short period of time but really well done. A few days into the week also included visiting the Grand Palace in Bangkok which was truly amazing. It was one of the first times since I arrived that it hit me: I am on the other side of the world. I am in Thailand. As you sit in seminars in air conditioned conference rooms, that kind of gets lost on you. The King of Thailand doesn’t actually live at the Grand Palace, but it is the “official residence” and all sorts of important things go down here. When foreign officials visit they usually stay on the grounds. Or so our tour guide said.
It really was incredible. The grounds include a few different buildings and temples, all different in style and architecture and color. But all striking. The Grand Palace is also famous for the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It is in the middle of grounds and houses the Emerald Buddha, which isn’t actually Emerald at all, but made of jasper, which is the semi precious stone in between jade and emerald. Don’t quote me, just going by what our tour guide said. And I can’t promise I completely understood him either. But he was the cutest (see below). Anyway, one of the most interesting and what I think is the coolest thing about the Emerald Buddha is the King changes his clothes for every season! See our tour guide, Song, explaining below.
Now I expected to walk into this temple (shoes off please) and see a MASSIVE Emerald Buddha. He was actually rather small, 66 cm to be exact, but still very cool. Everyone sits on the floor when they enter the temple they wai (more on that later) and pray or meditate, it was very nice. After we saw the Buddha we went to the textile museum on the grounds to check out the Queen’s wardrobe. She was on the Best Dressed list in the world when she and the King did a tour of the West in the 1950’s – right after they become King and Queen. It was interesting to learn about her and the King and her early days as Queen.
A few other fun things we did during the week included RIDING ELEPHANTS. I did have the privilege of riding one in Bali last year, but it didn’t lose it’s novelty and this experience was a bit more authentic. We took a bus about 3 hours west of Bangkok to Kanchanaburi, a city very close to the Burma (aka Myanmar, can someone tell me why the name was changed?) border. We were out in the country a bit and by the River Kwai (pronounced Kwaaa, I think), known for it’s Death Railway, that was built by POW’s to connect Japan to Burma during WWII. There is a movie, The Bridge on the River Kwai, that made this famous. Never seen it. I am intrigued now though.
Anyway, we rode elephants, floated on bamboo rafts down the river, saw the bridge and went on an amazing dinner river cruise that turned into a monsoon rave. It was incredible. Almost 100 kids floating down this river on a pontoon, completely sober, dancing in this torrential downpour to bumping Thai music. One of the coolest things I’ve experienced. I will be posting more pictures of everything on Facebook and will try and figure out how to put an album on here as well.
That pretty much sums up the week! At the end we met our coordinators and dispersed to our schools. I have just arrived in my city, Chonburi City. It’s the capital of my Province, Chon Buri and is on the coast, about an 1.5 hrs south east of Bangkok. It’s a really cool place and I am still getting settled. More on that later!