ESL Life: Expect the Unxpected (clothing edition)

 

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One of the rules of living in Asia, perhaps the first and most fundamental one, is to expect the unexpected. This is true in most areas of life but particularly of the ESL world. Classes are cancelled last minute, students are added or removed without any notice, Friday nights are claimed for work dinners with your boss, again with little notice.

This all becomes second nature after a couple of years. What’s new for me these days is how much the school cares about our clothing. To me, the idea that teachers even have to have specific outfits is completely baffling. Especially for those of us teaching primary and kindergarten students. Wearing ties and skirts and tight clothes is the opposite of practical or logical. That’s not just a Thailand thing, of course.

1532137115006But what maybe is a Thailand thing, or at least something I haven’t seen elsewhere, is that seem to delight in thinking of new clothes for us to wear. Mostly we wear red polos but on Buddhist days (once or twice a week) we have white tshirts to wear and because the King’s birthday is this month we have yellow shirts to wear once a week and now we have traditional clothes to wear once or twice a week too.

It’s not too much a bother, though it’s sometimes hard to remember the correct outfit required for that day. I have to wonder about who is getting paid to think up new outfits and my western brain feels like they could perhaps spend that time on something more productive.

But it’s all part of expecting the unexpected.

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Vegan in Lopburi: Episode 4

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I wouldn’t say I saved the best for last, but I did save the most obvious for last. Nooms is the vegan-friendly restaurant in all the guidebooks; it’s listed on happycow and it’s the one most tourists in Lopburi are likely to find. It’s good, and by western standards it’s not expensive. (Though it’s 5=10 times the cost of some of the other jeh places in Lopburi.)

There is a vegetarian section of the menu. Someday if I go with an egg-eating friend I’d like to spring for the Vegetarian set.

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Nooms is the only place I’ve been to in Lopburi where the Thai food tastes like it does in the west. I think that’s pretty much the appeal–it’s like your favorite local Thai diner, but it’s here in Thailand, amidst monkey-strewn ruins and clinging tropical heat.

I’ve been twice, tried the red and the green curry (not sure which one is better) and once got an order of spring rolls as well. They also serve fruit shakes that are up to the standard you’d expect.

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All in all it’s easy to see why Noom’s has become an expat oasis. Noom rents out motorbikes to many of the teachers at my work, there is a quiz night on Thursdays, and there is a decent street market on Wednesdays just outside.

Vegan in Lopburi: Episode 3

Ngok Nam Organic Farming Center and Restaurant

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Another great little jeh restaurant that sells some selected vegan groceries too. They have a couple different kinds of soup and 3-4 different kinds of curry as well. The food is grubbing and quite cheap. They don’t have much an English presence online but it’s fairly central and there are directions in this post.

 

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2 kinds of curry

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Delicious Raadnar

 

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Now in retrospect I don’t necessarily recommend this particular tin of “vegan chicken” but they have ramen, salad rolls, crunchy rice snacks, and lots more.

 

 

It’s at the Sra Kaew traffic circle, just behind the large monkey statue. You can find it here

 

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Find this roundabout. It has statues of lions with elephant trunks.

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Then find this statue. It’s right behind this Hanuman statue

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ESL Life: Can you save money in Thailand?

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I once heard a story while teaching in Korea about a teacher whose only prior teaching experience was in Thailand. His school in Korea paid him less because of it. Like, less than if he had never taught before. In the immortal words of Fred Willard, “Wha?” What were Thai schools like, I wondered?

I only have one school to base it on, and indeed the kids are naughtier and the classes are bigger. There’s also more paperwork and teaching kindy is added to the list of weekly grief, but it’s pretty much the same job.

The perks here in Lopburi aren’t much. There’s the ubiquitous school lunch, but no severance and flights aren’t paid for. Thailand indeed has a low cost of living, but it’s not any less than Myanmar and Vietnam and those countries pay close to double what Thailand does. Myanmar and Vietnam also feature pretty much everything that Thailand does–street food, night markets, beaches, historic ruins, etc.

So the question is why would anyone teach in Thailand?

I’m not sure. But that’s not really what the question is. If you choose Thailand over other Asian countries, the question is: can you save money? Secondly, assuming yes, how much can you save?

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Salary

This varies. You can make more in Bangkok but obviously expenses are higher and there is more to spend your money on.

English & I

  • 32000 first two months
  • 37,500 after that.
  • around +4000 more/month for Afterschool Classes

So after two months, assuming you’re teaching two after school classes a week, it’s total of 1260 USD per month, teaching 6 or 7 classes a day. It’s half of what you’d make in Korea or Japan, but they have higher costs of living. It’s also half of what you’d make in Myanmar or Vietnam, which have similar low prices and similar perks.

Is it enough to save? Well here’s a look at my expenses.

Some Random Daily Expenses

  • Water (refill station) 1 baht per liter
  • Water (7-11) 13 baht for 1.5 liters
  • Americano 45 baht
  • Bag of Fruit 30 baht
  • Songthaw Ride 8 baht
  • Grilled Bananas 20 baht
  • Laundry 30 baht
  • Bag of snap peas 20 baht

Monthly Expenses

  • Rent     5000 baht / 150 USD
  • Bills     2500 (ish) baht / 75 USD
  • Phone 500 baht / 15 USD
  • Commute 320 baht / 10 USD
  • Food/Entertainment/etc 8000 baht / 240 USD

Total

16,320 baht / 495 USD

Now I could spend less. There are cheaper places to live. I could use my aircon less. I could also buy less food and if I wasn’t vegan I could eat school lunch rather than making mine the night before. But I don’t drink, don’t have a scooter, and don’t go out to eat very often.

At the end of the year I can save at least 5000 USD. It’s not nearly what it would be in Eastern Asia or even other South East asian countries but it’s still enough to live in Thailand for an additional 10 months! Or enough to spend a year in India. Or, say 3-4 days in Norway.

So yeah you can save some cash. Even in Thailand.

Vegan in Lopburi: Episode 2

20180503_154300This is not a jeh restaurant; there is lots of meat here. But the Salad bar is largely vegan, the owners are friendly and speak a little English, .

The good news: There are lots of great options: Lettuce and sprouts and carrots and veggies and kidney beans and potatoes and pumpkins and loads more.

Bad news: Now there are meat options and the tongs aren’t really cleaned so there is some cross-contamination worries. But it’s Thailand and that’s hard to avoid.

You pay by weight and my salad usually comes up to about 60 baht (2 dollarsish).

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If you’re not in hurry then the juices are made fresh and are super good. So far I like number 8 most of all but they’re all tasty and cost a mere 40 baht (a little more than a dollar.)

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It’s pretty centrally located (right next to the kindy). You can find USalad here: https://goo.gl/maps/VtPXiEvMJ4u

Teaching in Lopburi: One Month In

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The first month in a new place often tends to fly by and the last thirty days have been no exception for me. It feels like I just got here but I’m already three weeks into teaching.

Life in Thailand

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Streets go one way, so u-turns are a major part of driving. It works, except sometimes people can’t be bothered to go all the way to the next one and they drive backwards on the highway. In related news, Thailand has more traffic accidents than any other country in the world.

Numbers. 0 is sun, 1 is nueng, 2 is song, 3 is sam, 4 is si, and 5 is ha. Thus to indicate laughing in texts, use 555.

Names Thai names come from Balinese Sanskrit and thus people recognize my name here–more people than did in India! (In Thai it’s pronounced “Ahingsa.”)

You wai everybody, of course, but there are different levels of wai’ing depending on if it’s to your coworkers, to a boss, to a monk, or to the king. Also you can never wai children, even though I sometimes forget this.

95 percent of Thais are Buddhists (Theravada ) and before they are 20 men have monk duty that lasts anything from a couple weeks to a year.

There are lots of critters about. About a tenth of all of the animal and all bird species on the planet live here (more birds than Europe and America combined!)

You can’t ever point your feet at pictures of the King.

Traditionally men end their sentences with krap and women end it with ka. However, I’ve heard that younger generations are mixing these up a little bit, which is cool.

You shouldn’t whistle in a temple (or maybe even in your house) because it will attract ghosts. Furthermore, there are little houses in front of almost every house to attract ghosts as well.

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Work

There’s not a lot of information on English & I so it was kind of a gamble taking the job here. However, as of one month in, I feel like they’re the best ESL company I’ve worked for. They pay on time, communicate as well as they can, treat us as human beings. I do have some quibbles on their teaching methodology, sure, but in terms of being a dependable company they are legit.

I wasn’t sure about co-workers in Thailand, as it has a seedy reputation, but the teachers I work with are professional and friendly.  It seems the burnouts and sexpats are either long gone or closer to the beaches.

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View from my apartment

The Rub

IMG_20180506_180621_133School is fine and it’s great living a couple hours from Bangkok. The flip side is that I’m not sure I like living in Lopburi. I chose it over similar positions in metro areas because after years living in massive cities I thought it would be a nice change. And there are things that nice–low amounts of pollution, cheap prices, vast views of greenery from my room. The ruins are nice as well and of course the nearby peacock temple and flower fields are great. Of course I enjoy cooking every night.

But what I don’t like about it is that it’s really hard to walk around. It’s oppressively hot, sure, but also there aren’t many sidewalks and there are packs of dogs that at night get a little aggressive. Not many people walk either.  There’s also not much to do here.  The weekends are already feeling pretty empty; I’m pretty good at keeping myself entertained but it’s a little challenging here. But thus far sweaty walks while listening to Alan Watts audiobooks has taken me pretty far.

 Prognosis

Things are good. It’s a good space to be in and it hopefully I’ll have the space to get some writing done. I think I can save a bit of cash and in 11 months I’ll be ready for the next step.

 

Vegan in Lopburi: Episode 1

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Look for Jeh. It means Vegan.

Thailand is pretty great for vegans. From Ethos in Bangkok to Khun Churn in Chiang Mai to Ninja Crepes in Samui it’s pretty easy to find a go-to place. (For more information on veganism in Thailand this blog post has some good info.)

Lopburi is a little different; it’s both smaller and has fewer tourists. Happy Cow lists three places but two are hard to find.  (There are also a few salad places littered around as that craze sweeps the country.) Eventually I’ll try to profile all the places in town but I’m going to start with one that as far as I can tell isn’t listed anywhere (in English at least) online.

Guan Yin Vegetarian Food / Jeh Guan Yin

Guan Yin is a humble little vegan cafe located next to Muang Mai School near the King Narai Roundabout. (You can find Muang Mai School on google maps.) It’s quite easy to find once you know where it is.

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Turn left and go down the sidestreet when you see this sign.

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Head toward this….

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This is what you’re looking for. It’s less than a minute walk from the main road.

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Come in and there are 1-2 soups and a few pre-made dishes. I chose to forgo the soup and got a plate of tofu and veggies and some kind of tvp on rice. Even if you don’t speak Thai (and I don’t) it’s easy to simply gesture at what you would like.  It was filling and tasty and in the end it cost 30 baht (slightly less than 1 USD). With soup it might cost a little more, granted, but this place puts the ฿ in bargain. I don’t think they get many farang but when I was there, sweaty as can be, they gave me a cup of ice to pour my water into and pointed the fan toward me. It’s always nice to have our farang proclivities catered to.

I’ve only been once but it’s not far from where I’m staying and I am definitely planning on going back, hopefully at least once a week. Even though I’ve complained about the idea that eating out is cheaper than cooking, at Guan Yin it just might be true!-