I have been in my new city of residence for approximately five days. Chonburi City, Chonburi, Thailand. It is between Bangkok and Pattaya, about an hour and a half southeast of Bangkok. So a pretty good location. It is a coastal city, however we don’t have a beach in our town. And I hear the water is too dirty to swim in. However, the closest beach, Bang Saen, an adorable college beach town is only 20 minutes away.
Speaking of which. This city is dirty. And smelly. The smell of the canal that runs by the road my apartment is on is unlike anything I’ve ever smelt. The closest thing would be midtown Manhattan when its 100 degrees, 110% humidity and the garbage is piled up for pick up. That kind of stank. But you get used to it. “Dirty and smelly, she must want to kill herself! Or run straight back to her America, where it all smells like sunshine and roses!”, you must be thinking aloud. But believe it or not, you are wrong. I really love it here. My dirty, hot, smelly city is absolutely perfect. I’m like a parent with a sick, snotty, slobbery baby that I think is just adorable, always. That kind of love.
No but really, I exaggerate. It’s not that bad. I have come to find that although Thailand is one of the most beautiful, surprising, and exotic places I have been, it is a rather dirty country overall. And you get used to it rather quickly. If you people saw the restaurants (store fronts that have a wok, tables, some chairs, and a sink) I sit and dine in these days, you would be amazed. To all the haters who called me high maintenance, see ya never.
Anyway, I digress. Back to Chonburi. Let’s talk about what I’ve done, where I live, where I will work, and what it’s like. Since I know now that you are all DYING to come visit me.
I live in Punna Mansion. Don’t be fooled, it is not a mansion. But it is a really nice apartment building that is about a 10 minute walk from my school, right off two main roads, a 15 minute walk to the night market and fitness park, 15 minute ride to the Tesco (Walmart) and mall. So it’s pretty ideal. The four other girls who are teaching in Chonburi with me live in the building as well. One on the third floor, two of us on the fourth, 2 on the fifth. It’s really great. And feels like college.
Being that the “apartment” consists of a queen bed, dresser, fridge, desk, closet, bathroom, it really is like college since its a glorified dorm room. It’s great though, super clean, spacious, furnished- exactly what we need for our 6 month stay here. Everyone has put up pictures and we bought things at the stores to make it homey and it really is perfect. And its really nice for Thai standards. No Thai’s have kitchens and we are no exception to the rule. Thank god food is cheap. You can see my digs below. I have decorated more since this photo, don’t worry.
Is purple. It’s the cutest little school you ever did see. It is also huge. Chonburi City is the capital of the Chon Buri province and my school is the largest school in our province. There are 3,300 students total in the entire primary school. The school is broken into 3 programs: English Program (EP), Junior Program (JP), Regular Program (RP). I am fortunate enough to teach in the English Program with only 700 kids. What does that mean? The parents of Chonburi pay for their kids to go to this side of the school and learn over 18 hours a week of their lessons in English. And it’s airconditioned.
I will be teaching 4th grade and have no idea what to do! Thank god I found out today (Tuesday) what grade I am teaching to ensure I have enough time to prepare for the first day, Thursday! This is typical of the Thai education system. The fact that I have my placement, schedule and a school calendar 48 hours ahead of the first day of school is actually ahead of the game. This will be my biggest struggle. Trying to slow down and just let go. I will be teaching all 3 of the 4th grade classes grammar, reading & writing, and conversation. About 120 kids. More updates on that after I start teaching.
What I’ve been doing
Eating. Obviously. Not a whole lot though contrary to popular belief. I have been conquering the Thai food very slowly and carefully. Approaching it as if it were a sleeping bear. Lord knows if I were to attack this food it would attack my stomach right back and probably kill me. Just like a bear. Like that analogy? I may teach it to my kids.
What does my diet consist of you ask? You guessed it! Rice. A lot of rice. I’ve eaten more in 2 weeks than I have all year and it’s almost 2013. Luckily rice is a safe, bland food. I also eat chicken and stir fried vegetables and have forayed in a bit of pad thai obviously. So far so good. My more adventurous friends, the ones that don’t have stomach issues, have been diving in full force and say everything is amazing. Some have had to pay the piper for it though. And by piper I mean imodium.
That will be another challenge. Getting over food. I love food. (Insert snide remark from J. Craig). And Thai people love food. Everywhere I have traveled I love tasting the food and spices and trying new things,I believe it’s all part of the experience. Here however, with my stomach being as sensitive as it is (understatement), it just hasn’t really been worth it. I feel well playing it simple and keeping it safe so I will probably continue to do so. And learn to love Thailand in a different way. Which hasn’t been hard. Even though Thai’s loveee food.
How I get around
There are a few songtao’s in my town. A songtao is a pick up truck converted into cab/bus/van. It has two rows on the back and an overhang and you flag it down, jump on the back and push a buzzer when you want to get off. It goes up and down the main roads and is pretty awesome. See my awesome friends below on a awesome songtao. Best part? It’s 10 baht. Aka about 30 cents. To go as far as you like, 10kms even. Can’t beat it!
I take this very Thai form of transportation to do very American things: go to the mall, go to the grocery store, go to get a massage, go to get our nails done, go to the beach, etc. It’s great.
The city of Chonburi decided to welcome me and my farang (foreign) friends with their annual Water Buffalo Festival. Just as we arrived late last Thursday the city was gearing up to get ready for the ONLY event Chonburi is know for. Literally. Google Chonburi and all you will see are images of these buffalo racing. Anyway, all weekend there was a carnival, fair, and mega market set up for the festivities which would commence on Monday, when people far and wide would bring their buffalo to Chonburi to race in a 100 meter dash. With their owners jockeying bareback. It was so bizzare.
Monday morning we had to meet our other foreign teachers and have a new teacher meeting at the school. After we were all done with that we headed on down to the festival. In the middle of the day. Do you have any idea how hot it is here? At NIGHT let alone in the middle of the day. I don’t know why they couldn’t just wait until sundown to race these large, smelly creatures. Even they were pissed they had to race in the middle of the day. Everytime they lined them all up in their stalls and got all the “ducks” in a row, one would get hot and pissed and buck their jockey off and they’d have to start all over. Needless to say we only watched 2 rounds of races. 10 minutes of lining them up, relining them up, chasing them, lining them up, talking in Thai, then all the sudden they ran without warning. It was too much for 100 degree weather. I did get the opportunity to test my sports setting on my fancy cam though and took some cool pictures. As seen below.
And that pretty much sums it up! The basics at least. I am now going to go to bed to the sweet lullaby of stray dogs howling at each other. About midnight every night the local stray dog gang gathers to howl at the moon. It’s so soothing and melodious. I am sure my mom is calling CIEE/OEG right now to get me airlifted out of this place. I’m fine Mom, I swear! There really aren’t that many dogs. It’s fine. Stray dogs in Thailand is common and they are quite harmless.
Seriously though, my city is really quite cute with such a spunk, I am so lucky to be living here, teaching at this school and meeting amazing people. I feel like I have been here forever and it’s only been 2 weeks, but in a good way. I have experienced so much, met so many great people, and learned a tremendous amount about the Thai culture and my surroundings. The days are really exhausting because all of your senses are on fire, all the time. The sights, smells, food, heat, light, landscape, people. Everything, you just want to drink it all in. And I’m thirsty.