Teaching in Thailand means teaching anywhere in Thailand. If you chose to teach in a far village, expect to be the only foreigner in the area and the only one who can speak English well. But being “the only” doesn’t have to be lonely. Being such can give happiness, peace of mind, healthy lifestyle, and others that you’ve never imagined. But how?
The main challenge is; to get rid of boredom. No night life- silence covers the place as early as 6:00 in the evening (I can’t sleep, ugh!). No shopping malls- wait for the market day once or twice a week for limited hours (I’m late! Is the market still open?). No city ambiance- rice fields everywhere (escalators to stairway rice fields-cool). No chats- as the only one who can speak English well, “good morning how are you? I’m fine, thank you! And you?” could be the longest exchange of talks you’ll get.
It takes a lot of courage to let yourself be isolated for a year of contract or two. Many teachers weren’t able to finish even a month of their contract because of simply getting bored (oh my! Please think hundred times before signing a contract- smile emoticon). Having an average of 3 hour teaching load everyday will really make you sick of what to do next. So, here’s an advice! A personal experience that I wish may help you overcome boredom.
GET A COMFORTABLE ACCOMMODATION. Most of the time, the school provides you a home-to-stay within the school or nearby. However, this may be far from the center of the village. Good thing you can choose where you can stay! Just be willing to pay for the rent if the school won’t pay for you. Choose your own place that you think you will be comfortable enough. You may consider the space, location, design, facilities, and others based on your own choice.
Tip: Make sure that you can do whatever you want to do in your house.
SECURE STABLE INTERNET CONNECTION. Having this means connecting to the world. I am sure you don’t want to miss any updates, news, trends, issues, entertainment or anything especially those related to your job and field of interest. This is also your only way to reach your loved ones faster and cheaper. You can ask your school about having internet connection. They will give you advice on what services to subscribe or you can also get in touch with the service provider’s call centers.
ACQUIRE GADGETS. Not too expensive or posh. Just to keep you doing something in your free time. A simple android or smart phone can do lots of things like storing games and applications, connecting to people with social networks and emails, capturing memories through camera (but if you really like photography consider buying high end cameras), and staying updated. Having a Laptop is also a great help not only for watching movies, but more importantly to your work.
COOK/PREPARE YOUR OWN FOOD. Preparing your own food doesn’t only give you assurance that you are eating safe and right, it also helps you kill your time thinking what to cook, going to market and search for ingredients. Cooking is fun. You enjoy, you learn.
Or LET A FOSTER FAMILY COOK FOR YOU. This is another option if you want to engage in Thai culture. Village leaders will be there to help you, offer you of someone to cook for your meals. In my case, my foster parents prepare my dinner. The feeling of excitement is always there discovering loads of different Thai food every day. This is also the time where we talk a lot with the aid of the “google translate”. I found this very engaging, helpful, and a great experience. They will be treating you as a family member and you will feel the same.
WRITE A BLOG. Writing or blogging is one of the best ways to kill boredom. It really works for me. This is where I write, express my thoughts, and help others in a way that I didn’t expect. Write about your experiences, your happiness, your fears, and unleash your writing prowess. You are not only helping your readers but you are also improving your writing and communicating skills.
SEEK FOR EXTRA CLASSES. Having extra classes will really make your time more useful. You educate students during Saturdays or Sundays and you get extra payment. This will make you busy. But don’t forget that the main purpose of weekends is for you to rest and enjoy so just take an hour or two for your extra class.
GET PHYSICAL. Run, bike, walk around the village. Since you are living away from a busy city, you will enjoy the fresh air, cool environment, peaceful scenery, and silent streets. The chance to run, bike or walk is all yours (just beware of the dogs!). This is a very good alternate activity to set your mood. You can also rest under a tamarind tree, and see birds flying over the fields. You can also use your school facilities like gym and sports equipment. Playing with the people in the community can create friendship while playing sports with the students creates better relationship that you can use during classes.
MAKE FRIENDS. Nothing is more rewarding than having friends and people you can talk to. This is your chance to teach them in a way that you don’t notice you are teaching. Thai elders are hospitable and entertaining so you will find acceptance in the village. They will help you in times of your needs; they will laugh with you in times of joy. Make friends as you can but always set your limitations.
OFFER ALMS TO THE MONKS. If not with the help of a monk friend, I wouldn’t know that monks are actually roaming around the village early in the morning to ask for alms. I was so shocked about this because my place is just in front of the temple’s gate and I didn’t even recognize them passing by. The main reason is that I am deep asleep when they are asking for alms (LOL). Yes, they walk around the village as early as 6:30 in the morning. You have to get up early to see them and offer them alms. They will bless and pray for you.
VISIT FARMS. There will be a tendency that your village will be surrounded with farms. If you happen to have Thai friends in the village offering you to visit their farm, don’t hesitate, pack your things up, with your camera ready, and go! Thai people love to explain things that you see especially when you are amazed. You can relax in a small hut in the middle of rice fields, feed fishes in the ponds, pick fruits fresh from the trees, and even sleep on a swing. Going to farm is an exciting adventure. Try planting too, it’s fun!
LEARN ACTUAL THAI CULTURE. The best way to learn is by experiencing it. Try to fit yourself into the real world of Thailand. Go to the market, talk to your neighbors (you need bags of sign language though), eat with them, observe their lifestyle, the way they dress, they cook, they behave and everything. The opportunity is now within your reach.
GO TO THE NEAREST CITY. Of course you don’t want to feel like isolated forever, so schedule a trip to the city once or twice a month, or even once a week depending on your need. The city has a lot to offer especially for your personal needs such as groceries and clothing. You will also need to visit your bank in the city once in a while to check your wealth (Oh! Bless you!). Just make sure to arrange for your transportation too.
PLAN A TRIP AT LEAST ONCE IN EVERY TWO OR THREE MONTHS.Thailand is amazing! Its tourist destinations are undeniably beautiful. So you shouldn’t miss the opportunity of visiting them at least once in every three months. You are privileged to be here, make use of it. You can search in the internet for your next destination. Just see to it that your trip has no conflicts with your work schedule. The more you go to other places, the more you will be eager to go again.
These are the tips and advice that I can share to you. As the only foreigner in a village in North-Eastern Thailand, I have managed to make this boredom an opportunity to relax, have peace of mind, be healthy, and enjoy the wonderful culture and people of Thailand. Happy Teaching!