Tuesday, 23 December 2008
Rebekah Waite - Northern Thailand Education update!
What an experience!!
My placement is amazing, there are no other words for it. I'll give you a bit of a run down on my typical week and answer some questions which will hopefully get you thinking about what to expect.
The crew here is fantastic. At the moment we have only a small number of volunteers (5, four of which are from Australia). But we are surrounded by NGO staff, Thai interns and Japanese interns. Most people are here for a reasonable amount of time, so there is plenty of opportunity to learn about another culture or even learn another language. All the staff and interns are keen to improve their English if you have the spare time.
I am sleeping on a matress on a wooden floor. Blankets and pillows are provides, but I find it much more comfortable wrapped up in my sleeping bag. It has been cold here (I've been wearing thermals to bed) so be sure to pack some warm clothes.
Of a morning we all have to be up by 8:30am (so pack an alarm of some description - phone?) for breakfast and morning meeting. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will always be rice or noodles, so be prepared, but the accompanying dishes are delicious (most of the time). Lunch and dinner is much of the same. If you get desperate and simply cannot bring yourself to eat one of the meals, the icecream man comes up every lunch time, there is a small grocer down the road and occasionally you will be blessed with a visit from the dumpling man. These all make great additions to meals as well - so bring a little extra money! If you are off site for whatever reason (to be explained further on...) The centre will provide your meal from a local restaurant. Friday nights you will spent your evening meal in Chiang Rai and then you are free to go about your weekend as you please. You are welcome to go back to the centre, but there will be minimal staff on site and you will need to buy your own food for the weekend from the markets while you are in town.
During the week we work to a roster. You will get a choice as to what you do, but basically you will either be doing a staff English class in the morning, and teaching either a childcare class or a school class during the day. You will have time to prepare for this before you leave. As you are in control of you lesson you make like to start looking for some simple games or simple craft activities. In the afternoon we'll do an extension class for the kids and some people tutor the staff. Some days we will go into town and work on the guesthouse (this may involve painting so shirts and pants that don't matter are a good idea). Of a weekend you have a choice of where to go. Last weekend four of us volunteers headed two hours north on a bus to Mai Salong and spent the weekend eating, shopping and hiking. It was bliss! Over New Years (if you are here?) you may have the opportunity to do have up to 5 days free time, so have a look at some info and check out things and places that are reasonably close to Chiang Rai (no more than 3 hours by bus).
As far as needed resources go things like stickers, pipe cleaners, coloured paper, white board markers, simple childrens books that are not too culturally specific and can be easily related to a simple lesson (the bigger and easier to read, the better) - basically any craft stuff (glue, paint, glitter, paper plates, straws, balloons etc).
For yourself - bring a good pair of walking shoes. You will do a homestay over one weekend that involves a fair bit of walking. Good shoes are a must. Aside from that, a pair of shoes that are easy to slip on and off is very valuable, as the custom here is to remove your shoes before entering a room. Thongs or crocs are ideal. If your feet get cold easily bring plenty of socks for indoors. Bug spray is not a necessity at this time of year (winter) as most mosquitos are dormant, therefore a mozzie net is not really necessary either. I brought mine and am yet to use it. A quick drying towel is a good idea (there is very limited hanging space) and if you can fit in a few coat hangers and pegs they also may come in handy. As an alternative you might want to look into a pegless clothes line. Make sure you have a good antiseptic as any cuts and scratches here can quickly lead to infection (don't be paranoid, just sensible).
DON"T forget some toilet paper!!!! You will find it very hard to find paper in any toilets in Thailand, so have some in your carry on luggage for your trip up to Mirror. Once you are here we all just share a bulk pack. You may find that a packet of tissues (or two) is a good back up that is easier to fit in a pocket.
So sorry to rabbit, but I know how good it was to here from someone before I left. I hope some of this helps and as Fiona said, PLEASE email me if you have any questions at all. I would love to help. Aside from that, have a lovely festive season and I look forward to welcoming you all here!