Tag - students

Isaan Life – Graduation

issan_graduation_1
Isaan Life Graduation
Isaan Life Graduation
Isaan Life Graduation
Isaan Life Graduation
Isaan Life Graduation
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Isaan Life Graduation

Graduation is a time when family and friends come together collectively to celebrate individual achievement and the passage from one phase of life to the next. Graduations are a time to reflect on the past, to smile, relax, enjoy the moment and feel optimistic about the future. A week ago a dear friend Jaruwan Supolrai received her diploma from Ubon Ratchathani University, a college with about 5,000 students some 15 kilometers south of the city. It was indeed a celebration but hardly a spontaneous or stress-free one!

This graduation was an explosion of color. Reds bled to crimson, baby blue and shimmering golden hues! Nervous, smiling students dressed in their most fancy uniforms, shirts and skirts for the young women and tight white suits for the boys. Each graduate wore a lacy, baby-blue gown. The graduates carried multi-colored flowers carefully cradled in the arms of teddy bears.

This colorful scene was hardly serene. The crowd was noisy and boisterous. Thai people love to take pictures and there was a constant whirring and clicking coming from every direction. Proud parents, happy students, smiling brothers and sisters, confused babies masked the underlying tension the graduates felt. Jaruwan explained that the preparation that went into the event was “exhausting and formal.” Rehearsals were rigorous, lasting for hours for two days before the actual ceremony. Also Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn was there to hand out the diplomas. This was nerve wracking; there is no room for error in the face of royalty. Jaruwan explained, everything had to be perfect. The princess is a scholar having earned a doctorate in Development Education from Srinakharinwirot University in Bangkok in 1987.

Next there was time pressure. Some 1,140 students had to collect their diplomas in around 1 minute meaning that 35 students had to march to the front and receive their diplomas each and every minute. The graduates worked on their timing in practice, even counting the number of steps they had to take every second!

The day of the ceremony was so stressful that Jaruwan said there was “no time for sleep.” Wake-up time on graduation day was promptly at 3 a.m. for a pre-dawn hair and make up call. The scene was hysterical. Imagine a queue of half-awake girls standing in the glow of a dimly lit convenience store dressed only in their nightgowns waiting to get into a nearby salon just outside the University gates. Soon there was a second line, the same girls parading out of the salon, still in their nightgowns, but with made-up faces aglow and freshly coifed hair carefully arranged into swirls atop their heads.

Jaruwan dressed for the day at 4 a.m., a quick and simple task; first slip into the neatly ironed shirt and dress, then the gown. Next a quick breakfast; there would be no time for more food until much later that afternoon. Exhausted and not yet dawn, Jaruwan headed out to meet her classmates. Soon she would parade formally into the gymnasium where the Princess waited.

The gymnasium was graduates and students only. The processional and the ceremony were worth the frenetic middle-of-the-night effort. The graduates, identified by their flowing blue gowns, marched in first. First and second year students stood on either side solemnly singing the school song. Jaruwan said she was, “nervous because everything was so formal.” Later she said that when the 52-year-old Princess entered the gymnasium and the Royal Song played she “got goose bumps all down” her arms.

An hour later the ceremony complete the students emerged clearly relieved the formalities were over. “I did it!” was a common exclamation. Now, the celebration, the graduation party could begin! First year students honored graduates from different faculties surrounding them singing or dancing to show respect. There were flowers everywhere. Thousands, every color of the rainbow, purchased from street vendors that morning were showered upon the graduates. I felt like a beast of burden carrying more bouquets than I could handle; so many had been given to Jaruwan.

The formal party began to wind down. Families that have traveled far distances get back in their cars or vans and headed go home. The graduates headed out for food and a moment of relaxation. Everyone was exhausted but there was one more celebration, one final party. The graduates headed out to the bars for a last college bash before taking that next step into the “real world.”

About the author:
Eli Sherman is a graduate of Montpelier High School in Montpelier, the capital of the state of Vermont, USA, and a “young blood writer” living in Ubon Ratchathani, Isaan – Northeastern Thailand. He’s been to Isaan four times in his short life. Once on a cross cultural exchange with Montpelier to Thailand Project; once coming for five months as an exchange student at Benchama Maharat school in Ubon; and again coming as a guide for Montpelier to Thailand Project. He now works as a volunteer at the Institute of Nutrition Research Field Station, Mahidol University in Ubon Ratchathani and is writing to present Isaan Life to the world, and especially KhaoSanRoad.com visitors.

So you want to teach in Thailand?

Teaching in Thailand
Teaching in Thailand
Teaching in Thailand

Easygoing people, fantastic climate, great cuisine, low cost of living; it’s no wonder so many travellers visit Thailand and decide to stay. Thailand’s ESL teaching scene is on the rise and companies like ECC and English Plus are cropping up all across the country. A teaching job can be fun and breezy for some, stressful and draining for others. Below is a list of tips for potential teachers.
Expect Options

ESL teachers have options in Thailand; those with English degrees and/or impressive teaching resumes should look into university teaching jobs where the students are keener and the holidays are usually paid.

Teachers who work for language schools can expect evening and weekend classes with good resources but a wide range of levels. A typical teacher’s schedule may include private lessons with a 5-year-old, advanced business English for adults, and anything in between.

Teachers who work in public elementary or high schools have lighter schedules but bigger classes; often 40 or more kids per class. These teachers might also participate in school events like sports days or campus television shows.

Expect Variety

Some language schools give you a fantastic course textbook and a library full of additional resources, and all you need to do is teach from the book and add extra activities as you see fit. With other classes, you may find yourself in a room full of students with one pen between them, and you’re forced to design every lesson plan and write up your own tests. You should figure out how much input you want in course outlines, and find a school to meet your expectations.

Expect Surprises

As far as teaching jobs go, you may be told with a few days notice of a new class to teach, a test that’s to be given, or a school holiday. This may be the mark of a disorganized company, but it’s most likely just another difference between western jobs and Thailand jobs. Your best bet is to try and adopt the “mai pen rai,” attitude and not get stressed over small matters.

Expect Visa Hassles

The Thai policies regarding non-immigrant work visas seem to be ever-changing. While your school will handle the application process, you may be asked to produce documents that weren’t required two months ago, like a letter of confirmation from your university, or a letter from your TEFL instructor.

For the many teachers working in Thailand on tourist visas, monthly border runs are a necessary while their paperwork comes through. If you’re close to the embassy in Bangkok, a 2-month visa from Cambodia or Laos can be arranged in advance. If you’re crossing the border once a month, ask your school about their policy on refunding your travel costs, as many will comply and remember – new visa regulations suggest you can only do this for 90 days in any 6 months. All details regarding your work visa should be addressed before any contract is signed. In addition, remember that you can…

Expect the Taboo

If you’re teaching children, it can be difficult to control a classroom. Public schools often have classes of 50-plus students, and Thai co-teachers might treat your class as an optional commitment. It’s said that Thai classrooms are sometimes a bit unruly so even seasoned ESL teachers will have to figure out the best way to keep order. Never touch a student in any way to discipline him or her. It’s best to discuss discipline techniques with Thai teachers before starting and they are likely offer some good tips.

Expect to Make Connections

To live in Thailand, a teacher will see up-close how different things can be for tourists. A smart newcomer will learn the “Thai price” for taxi rides, food stall dishes, and admission costs, and learn enough Thai to haggle it down. Even if you’re living as a local, you’ll still be met with the inflated tourist prices on some goods. It’s smart to master how to count in Thai so that price-bargaining goes smoothly.

You’ll likely be approached for private lessons from many people, and many teachers find it useful to swap Thai lessons with English lessons in order to best pick up the language. If your schedule is full, politely refer the person to your language school, and they can arrange one-on-one classes from there.

Expect Scrutiny

Unless you’re living in Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket, your arrival in town will be discussed and scrutinized. Most teachers don’t realize how much they’re talked about, but the truth is that foreigners stand out a mile away and for Thai people, make great fodder for gossip. Whether you’re arguing with someone at the market or drunk at the pub, don’t forget that people talk. Some discretion on your part will make life much easier. Schools have been known to fire teachers if their public reputations start concerning parents and students.   
  
Anne Merritt is Canadian and has an English Literature degree. She has worked as a journalist for a university newspaper. She is currently living in Ayutthaya as an ESL teacher and is sharing her experience of Thailand with KhaoSanRoad.com.

Coming Together on Koh Samet

Coming Together on Koh Samet
Coming Together on Koh Samet

For passing tourists, the island of Koh Samet might seem like a small-scale version of its southern neighbours, Koh Samui, Phangan and Tao. However, this bustling beachy island should not be overlooked. Any Thai long weekend will mark a boom in Samet’s tourism. Students, young professionals, and urban-weary Bangkok residents make pilgrimages out to the island in search of sand, sun and fun. For Western travelers, this means an opportunity to holiday like Thais, with Thais, sharing SangSom buckets and bungalow accommodation with Thailand’s most diverse mix of beachgoers.

Unlike other Thailand beaches, where your interactions with natives may be limited to bargirls and tuk-tuk drivers, Samet is a place to meet peers looking for tranquility by day and parties by night. If you’re keen for a beach holiday, but still hoping to take a few steps off the Western tourist path, Samet might be your Eden.

From Bangkok, the beaches of Koh Samet can be reached by an easy 4-hour bus-ferry-taxi trip. While travel agencies throughout Bangkok will easily coordinate a package trip, the journey is a simple one. From Ekamai Station, travelers will be dropped directly at the pier in the coastal town of Bang Phe. From here, the island is an easy 30-minute boat ride away.

The beaches of Koh Samet vary from bustling to secluded, and its narrow, 2-road layout provides easy navigation. However, motorbike enthusiasts should note that outside the busy northern part of the island, the roads start to resemble motorcross courses in their uneven rockiness. Novice bikers might be better off traveling by taxi, or else choosing one beach and parking their rucksacks there. 
    
Those looking for quieter beaches are best heading south, where coral reefs populate the secluded sands of Ao Kiu and Ao Wai. More social-minded travellers are best off staying in the north. On the northeastern tip, Hat Sai Keaw and Ao Phai are Samet’s most popular beaches. Here, the scene is clean beaches crowded with a great mix of people; university students, young families, and intrepid backpackers swim and sun among vendors selling sarongs or fruit, henna tattoo artists, or masseuses patrolling the beach.
  
Here, beachside restaurants compete with extensive Western-friendly menus and nightly movie screenings. Come nightfall, parties ignite along the beach. Share cocktails in buckets at Naga Bungalows’ bar, or dance til all hours at the ever-popular White Sands Resort bar. Day or night, people-watchers will delight in the mix of Thai and foreign vacationers, traveling families and backpackers, couples and singles. This variety makes Koh Samet a unique Thai travelspot; diverse crowds are proof of the island’s diverse attractions. Divers, snorkellers, campers, partyers, relaxation-seekers, scenery buffs can all leave Samet satisfied.   
  
Anne Merritt is Canadian and has an English Literature degree. She has worked as a journalist for a university newspaper. She is currently living in Ayutthaya as an ESL teacher and is sharing her experience of Thailand with KhaoSanRoad.com.

Loy Krathong – of Light and Water


Loy Krathong - of Light and Water
Loy Krathong - of Light and Water
Loy Krathong - of Light and Water
Loy Krathong - of Light and Water
Loy Krathong - of Light and Water

“November full moon shines, Loy Krathong, Loy Krathong, And the water’s high in the river and local klong, Loy Loy Krathong, Loy Loy Krathong, Loy Krathong is here and everybody’s full of cheer, We’re together at the klong, Each one with his krathong, As we push away we pray, We can see a better day.”

This is an English translation of the song sung by Thai students to celebrate Loy Krathong.

Quite the opposite of Songkran, Loy Krathong is by far my favourite Thai festival. In Thai, Loy means “to float”, whilst krathong is the name of the small lotus-shaped rafts, which are specially constructed for the occasion. Loy Krathong is held on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the lunar calendar. This usually falls in November and is celebrated this year (2007) on November 24th. Loy Krathong is long anticipated all over Thailand and especially in Bangkok, where people gather in their thousands on the banks of the Chao Phraya River and take boat trips along the intricate canal network.

Last year, I took a small ferry boat across the Chao Phraya River after dark. The sun had only just set, yet there, near the Phra Pinklao Bridge, several hundreds of people had already gathered.

I walked around the small park area, where groups of people had gathered to celebrate together. Folding metal tables and chairs had been set up everywhere, the tabletops already covered with bottles of Sangsom whiskey, glasses and buckets of ice. All around, stalls were set up selling krathongs in every size and colour, fireworks, toys and even baby turtles as many people believe that it is good luck to release turtles into the river during festivals.

At around 8 pm the boat parade began. I found a spot on the river bank and watched in awe as about two dozen elaborately decorated barges glided down the river. Each barge was strewn with coloured lights and decorated in a certain theme. Of particular note was a barge bearing an enormous saxophone, a tribute to His Majesty the King’s musical talent.

There was a spectacular fireworks display at the end of the parade. Several children joined in by firing tubes containing small rockets into the air with reckless abandon.

Then it was time for me to launch my krathong. I patiently waited my turn at the water’s edge, then lit the candle and incense sticks in the center and lightly placed my krathong on the water, making a wish as I did so. Many people believe that their wish will come true if their candle continues burning until the krathong is out of sight.

I watched in wonder as my krathong drifted into the river and weaved amongst the hundreds of others already floating there. The flickering lights of the candles on the water created a magical atmosphere.

The Loy Krathong festival dates back about 700 years. Coinciding with the end of the rainy season and the rice harvest, it is a way of apologizing for polluting the water. Thai people float a krathong on the water to thank the Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha. The act of floating away the candle raft sybolises letting go of anger and grudges so that a person can start life afresh.

Another symbol of Loy Krathong are the beautiful kom loy lanterns. As I wove my way across the park once more, I came across a group of students holding aloft one of these large paper lanterns and waiting for it to fill with air. When inflated, a candle was placed inside and the lantern was released, rising high into the air to become another flickering point of light.

Another interesting event during Loy Krathong are the beauty contests, known as “Noppamas Queen Contests” after the consort of the former king of Sukhothai, King Loethai. Noppamas is credited with starting the tradition of krathongs when her beautiful tribute caught the attention of the king as it drifted down the river. Loy Krathong is a great opportunity to experience a Thai festival. Whether you choose to do it simply as and onlooker or get fully involved, Thai people are extremely found of this festival and pleased to share the experience.

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is a freelance writer currently living in Bangkok. She has kindly agreed to write for KhaoSanRoad.com and share her love of all things Thai and, especially, all things Khao San Road!