Shanice tells us what it's like teaching after the Samui TEFL course
"Since graduating from the course, life has been moving super fast; finding a place to stay, getting my own transportation, settling into the school, etc. It honestly has been a whirlwind of adventurous adulthood.
I teach in Phang-Nga in a small town called Khok Kloi (north of Phuket). There's really not much to do since it's a small town. Tourism there is small so, there aren't any shopping centers, big supermarkets, or much entertainment. I call it 'real' Thailand. You rarely see foreigners. If you do, they're teachers or one of few tourists visiting the bay or markets. It's nice, if you're looking for a quiet, laid back, small town vibe. If you're not, it may be challenging and a real culture shock. I don't mind it, but it's really hard to find a place there... like really. I mean, there are places but without fridge, kitchen, wifi, and sometimes no aircon (which they'll install for a fee). So, I had to find a place 30 minutes out, equipped with everything (which I do not mind). I would rather be comfortable than close.
The school is really nice. It just opened this term (May 2018). I like the Thai teachers in my classes (a lot people don't have good experiences with theirs). I teach K2 and K3 (3-5/6 year olds). I'm a homeroom math and English teacher. The students are pretty cool. They make me pull my hair out sometimes, especially the 5/6 year olds, but they're awesome. The course really prepared me mentally thanks to teacher pracs (TPs). Even the strategies that Kathryn and Chiara taught are essential to my everyday work life. I've already implemented so many games and 'tricks' to manage the class that has helped a lot. There are still some things you'll have to alter to the likes of your class.
We have accessible facilities at my school, which I didn't expect: printing access, laminating access, bits and pieces for arts and crafts, computer access, an on campus coffee shop, a pool (student use - still cool), a dance studio, the works. The school provides the materials/lessons they want us to teach and we teach it. I come up with the delivery. It's still tons of work, though. I catch myself bringing work home, at times. During the day, there's a lot of book checking and meetings so it's hard to plan or finish resources before the work day is over. My schedule is 7:45-4:30. It goes by quickly, when you have things planned and "10 organized", if not, good luck. Lol, I can honestly say it's not what I expected! It's really quite a bit of work. When you get the hang of it and get into the groove, it's actually really cool. I'm still adjusting.
The weekends mean everything to me. I hang out with my friends from the course who are in Phuket working at schools and online. It's nice to have someone here to relate to and just chill with after the week. There's quite a bit to do in Phuket, so we randomly find fun things to do and we'll travel to other islands. It's good fun.
As of right now, I'm not sure if I'll stay passed my 11 months. I'll decide later. There are other places I want to grace. I say if you love children and have incredible patience, go for it. And if you're not teaching children, patience, in general. Do it! You'll form endless attachments."
Samui TEFL Grad
Tatyana tells us how being a TEFL teacher has changed her life
After completing the course, Tatyana went on to teach in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, and has now headed back to Thailand to teach. This is what she had to say about her time on the course and how being a TEFL teacher has changed her, as well as her lifestyle.
Where to go after your TEFL course
So, you are holding a TEFL certificate, a magical key to many doors, a visa to most of the countries. Where to go? Too much choice spoils. Any new job posted in Facebook seems a better option than the one you’ve got. That island looks beautiful, this school offers attractive bonuses, that offer sounds tempting… Oh, if only I had waited a little longer! And then you change your job just to find out that any job is inevitably imperfect – either the cost of living is too high, or the classes are too numerous, or there’s too much work to do, or the city is too big/too small/too polluted/too boring/too noisy...
But any job inevitably has some delights to offer, let it be beaches, a nice school, good management, friendly staff, high wages… After all, we do essentially the same job, enjoy the same small pleasures (mine, for example, are morning yoga on the roof and making lesson plans in a cozy café), travel around (so what that it’s mostly visa runs and border bouncing), learn new languages and make new friends absolutely everywhere.
I think it is natural to always have this feeling that there’s a better place and greener grass somewhere else. But since I love what I do and I live in comfort, it doesn’t matter where I got the last “arrived” stamp in my passport, does it?
How my TEFL job changed me
If tomorrow they tell me something like, “The human race is evacuated to Mars, your spaceship leaves tomorrow”, I’ll just put my poker face on and ask, “What’s the luggage allowance?” Seriously, I should mention “stress-resistance and adaptability” as my strengths at the next job interview, my only strengths, probably. A TEFL job leaves you no time to panic. I have covered classes (on a very, very short notice) for someone who suddenly left the job, fell sick or is late from a border run more frequently than I hit the gym (and just for the record, I used to be a fitness model). I spend more time preparing lesson plans (and resources) than actually teaching. I don’t waste time regretting my mistakes, but I rather look for a way to correct them.
This job has changed my way of life. Formal shirts compile 75% of my wardrobe. All my possessions fit into two suitcases of total weight no more than 30 kg (6 of them are books. Weird, considering that I have a Kindle, PaperWhite and Audible app). I can pack and unpack all my stuff in 15 minutes. I catch myself duplicating my words with gestures while talking to people. I learnt how to keep my voice low when all I want is to raise it. I can easily find my way without Google Maps after spending 3 days in a new place (to be frank, I lose my way only if I rely on the maps). One can learn geography of Southeast Asia by my passport. And, honestly, I’ve never felt better in my life.
Would I recommend Samui TEFL?
“What TEFL course would you recommend – online or in-class?” someone posts in Facebook every day. Seriously? You think you can learn how to teach well (WELL is the keyword here) purely theoretically? Let’s be conscious, please, teaching is a responsible job. I understand that not everyone has money for an in-class course. I understand that those who have money, don’t always want to invest it into something they aren’t going to do for the rest of their lives. I understand that someone just wants to volunteer, or to move to the another country following his/her partner.
But aren’t we who we are mostly thanks to what and how we’ve been taught? Don’t we enjoy what we do when we do it well? Aren’t we feeling satisfied at the end of the day when we know we’ve done a job to the best of our abilities?
The Samui TEFL course was one of the best experiences of my life, and it entailed a lot of other great experiences. It was absolutely worth every penny, second, and effort spent (and I’m not talking of the beaches). It gave me a profession that is in high demand, but even if I quit teaching tomorrow, the knowledge, skills and memories I acquired will remain with me. Thanks to the course I became more organized, more adaptive and flexible, I learnt how to make my explanation memorable, how to encourage my students, how to elicit the right answer from them, how to keep them interested and busy all the time and how to discipline them. I’ve learnt to anticipate possible problems and to do things fast. Thanks to the course I can do my job well, and that says it all.
Thailand is known for its beautiful beaches, and Ko Samui is no exception.
Being one of Thailand’s most popular tourist locations, Samui’s beaches may no longer be as secluded as those of the smaller islands. For some, this is not a negative; a beach with a party scene or more activity being preferable. Those still opting for isolation or authenticity need not worry, as this can still be found along the island’s southern shores, as well as a few hidden bays amid the busier north and east coast beaches.
What makes a good beach? To some it means soft white sand, clear and calm water, a coconut palm to offer shade and no distractions. To others the mental picture of the perfect beach involves plentiful deck chairs, entertainment in the way of music, a barman on call to top up that cocktail and a crowd to share this with. Still to others with young children this would imply a safe swimming beach, bathroom facilities, family friendly restaurants and no topless bathers. It is therefore not possible to list Samui’s beaches from best to worst, as this would be in the eye of the beholder. We have made a few suggestions, allowing one to choose the best spot to lay your towel, depending on your ideal memory-making beach.
Chaweng Beach lies on the island’s east coast, and is Samui’s longest and busiest beach. Should one arrive early morning, it is easy to see why this was the first beach area to develop in tourism. Private villas no longer grace Chaweng’s shores and every available space has been used for economic benefit in the way of resorts, restaurants and bars. Room rates along this beach are inflated, and there is no longer anything available in the backpacker or even flashpacker range. However, those wanting a social scene have made the right choice in Chaweng, as venues such as Ark Bar pump out music and fill every open patch of sand with sun beds. Do not expect peace and quiet – if the vendors don’t disturb you, the jetskis will. At night the party continues, and day beds are turned into chill platforms, while the serious deejays hit the deck.
Those enjoying water sports have several options with all the main beaches offering some form of equipment hire. Surfers will be let down however, as Samui has no waves – at all. SUP (stand up paddling) has become the latest trend on the island as no waves are needed, and boards and lessons are available in Chaweng, Lamai and Mae Nam. All the busier beaches, as well as many of the resorts will hire out kayaks at around 100 to 200 baht per hour, a great way to exercise the upper body, and see Samui from a different angle. Kite surfing is popular along Mae Nam beach, particularly at the point in front of the W Retreat, where Mae Nam beach meets Bophut beach, and the wind is at its best by Samui standards. Jetskis are controversial on the island, as they annoy anyone not on one. However, should you prefer engine power over muscle power, then they’re available for hire at Chaweng, Lamai, Choeng Mon and Bophut beaches. Be aware of bathers, as there don’t seem to be designated areas for the jetskis, and nasty accidents have happened.
Underwater world lovers may want to book a day snorkeling trip to Ko Tao, about 90 minutes by ferry from Samui, and known as one of the best snorkeling and dive locations in South East Asia. Should you not want to venture as far, then the best snorkeling option would be to either take a longboat trip, only a few hundred metres across to Ko Tan and Ko Matsum, two small islands off the southern harbour of Thong Krut. Here the snorkeling is even better than the Ang Thong Marine Park. Without leaving Samui, try the small bays of Coral Cove and Crystal Bay, between Chaweng and Lamai.
If the thought of a quiet beach, shared only with a few fishermen and perhaps a water buffalo appeals to you, then explore Samui’s south western coastline. Taling Ngam beach, is long and at parts is shared by a few resorts, but other parts are totally isolated as is neighbouring Phang Ka Bay. Don’t be afraid to travel down a dirt path and explore -- Samui is safe to do so, and there’re a few patches down south that are completely void of development. Samrong and Thongson Bays at the north eastern tip of Samui, although not undeveloped, have managed to escape mass tourism, as they are not on the main routes, and only those in the know, or guests of the resorts in these bays will share them with you.
Choeng Mon beach (where our TEFL centre is located) is popular with expat families, due to clean water and protected bay. You’ll find good restaurants as well as a few food vendors around when the hunger pangs arrive, but the bar scene is unobtrusive. Bang Rak beach is popular with Thai families, and here one will see children swimming early evening, while grandmothers dig with toes in the sand in search of clams for dinner.
The best backpacker spots can still be found nestled between high end resorts and villas along the much underrated Mae Nam beach as well as a few to the western end of Bophut beach.
Whether a cushioned sun lounger, attentive barman keeping the Mojitos rolling, and cool vibes blaring from nearby speakers -- or a patch to spread your towel under a palm, book in hand, to call your own for a few hours is your scene, Samui has it to offer. Time to explore.
As a traveller around Southeast Asia, you should be aware and sensitive to the different religions and customs.
No matter the religion, food plays an integral part in the beliefs as well as ceremonies and rituals.
Since Eve handed Adam the apple and doomed the human race for eternity, food has played a strong role in religious beliefs. Some of us are more religious than others – some follow strict orthodox practices determined by their religion, and others loosely observe the ‘rules’ dictated by the religion that they were born in to. For many, dietary habits are derived from religious laws, and all over the world many people choose to eat or avoid certain foods according to their religious beliefs. When a country’s people are predominantly from one religion, it can be difficult to eat a food frowned upon by that following – for example, it might not be so easy to get a big juicy beef steak in India, where the main religion is Hinduism, and the cow is considered sacred. Likewise, a bacon sandwich in Jerusalem might not be so easy to find…
Most religions involve practices of both fasting and feasting – with fasting showing restraint and feasting being a time of celebration, thanksgiving and coming together as a community. While some practices involving food may seem obscure to those not of the faith (such as consuming wine and communion wafers representing the blood and body of Jesus), with a little research, you’ll find a reason for the practice, often going back millennia. Food choice is due to different reasons, with religion being one of the strongest principles on which diets are based. Sacred places such as altars and shrines and sacred times such as feast and fasting days, as well as symbolism and myth (what foods represent or the stories they recall) are all part of religious rituals linked to food.
So let’s look at the basic principles involving food and the most common religions, starting with Buddhism, the prevailing religion of Thailand. Many believe that all Buddhists are vegetarian, but strictly speaking, that’s not true – just think of all the pork consumed here in Thailand! Buddha was not a vegetarian, and he didn’t prohibit eating meat. Roughly speaking amongst the two major Buddhist traditions, the Mahayanists are vegetarian and the Theravadins (the form practiced here in Thailand) are not. Buddhism considers living beings to be sacred; a belief that has translated into widely practiced vegetarianism and veganism.
Violence towards animals is considered to translate into human aggression; hence most Buddhists will keep to the principle of ahimsa (non-violence or harmlessness) and avoid all foods related to processes where harm was done. Hence, some Buddhists avoid meat and dairy products while others avoid only meat. Monks of this religion fast in the afternoon and rely on ‘alms’ or donations of food as they, along with Buddhist nuns, are not allowed to cultivate, store or cook their own food. The birth, enlightenment, and death of Buddha are the three most commonly recognised festivals for feasting, resting from work, or fasting. Buddhist monks fast completely on certain days of the moon, and they routinely avoid eating any solid foods after the noon hour.
You’ll see spirit houses throughout Thailand, and strictly speaking, they have nothing to do with Buddhism. Animism, or spirit worship, is probably the oldest form of religion in the world, and when Buddhism arrived in South East Asia, it developed alongside the ancient spirit worship. Today many of the beliefs are knitted with Buddhism and form part of everyday life for Thai people, and you’ll often see locals keeping the spirits happy with food offerings placed at the spirit houses. Fresh fruit, rice, chicken or duck, beer, water and cold drink, keep the spirits' hunger and thirst at bay.
Christianity is the religion predominant in Western cultures, and food regulations differ from one Christian denomination or group to another, with some groups not observing any restrictions at all. Catholics and orthodox Christians fast on certain religious days such as Good Friday (the Friday before Easter Sunday) or during Lent (the 40 days before Jesus arose from the dead). In earlier centuries, meat and dairy products were avoided during a substantial portion of the year, but today it often just means eating fish instead of meat on a Friday. The ritual of consuming bread and wine (Holy Communion or the Eucharist) is regularly celebrated but its symbolic or actual meaning in relation to the body and blood of Jesus Christ depends on the denomination. While most Western children happily enjoy their chocolate Easter eggs, few realise that the egg represents new lift – symbolic of Jesus rising from the dead and allowing Christians to be born again, free of their sins.
Hinduism is one of the most ancient religions in the world and, although meat was not originally prohibited, many Hindus today regard vegetarianism as a way to maintain the respect observed for life. Hinduism is characterised by the avoidance of the killing of any animal, the cleansing of those involved in food preparation, which is a reflection on previously existing caste-restricted practices, and the symbolism of certain foods. The cow is sacred to Hindus, and therefore no beef is consumed. Other products from the cow, however, such as milk, yoghurt, and butter are considered innately pure and are thought to promote purity of the mind, spirit, and body. Many devout Hindus fast on the eighteen major Hindu holidays, as well as on numerous personal days, such as birthdays, and anniversaries of deaths and marriages. They also fast on Sundays and on days associated with various positions of the moon and the planets.
Islam is the faith practiced by some of Thailand’s neighbouring countries, including Malaysia, so you’ll find small Muslim communities within Thailand. The main food practices in Islam involve specific ritual slaughtering procedures for animals of consumption (haram practices), fasting during the month of Ramadan, the avoidance of pork and of intoxicating liquor. Foods are categorised as halal (those than may be eaten) and haram (those that should be avoided), as are other aspects of life. Most foods are halal while the list of haram foods includes pork, alcohol and any products that may contain emulsifiers made from animal fats (such as gelatines and margarines). Bread and bread products fermented by yeast may contain traces of alcohol and in some cases may be considered haram. Moderation in all things, including eating and dietary habits, are an integral part of Islam. Fasting on these religious occasions includes abstaining from all food and drink from sunrise to sunset. In Turkey and other predominantly-Muslim countries, iftar – the nightly meal that breaks the Ramadan fast – has gone from being a humble affair based around dates, soup and some freshly baked bread to something much more elaborate (at least for those who can afford it).
Another of the more well known faiths is Judaism, and in this religion foods are divided into kosher (allowed) or trefa (forbidden). Characteristics of kosher foods include animals that have a completely split hoof and chew cud (such as cows, goats and sheep), while kosher fish must have fins and scales. In general, all plant foods are considered kosher, and a specific slaughtering process must be followed for meat to be considered kosher. Animals such as pigs and rabbits as well as creatures of the sea, such as lobster, shrimp, and clams, may not be eaten. Meat and dairy products must not be prepared, stored or eaten together and certain fasting days are observed (especially Yom Kippur). During the celebration of Passover, food helps to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt.
There seems to be a growing Rastafarian movement on the island – some just following for the great Reggae music, and others taking the religious aspect into practice too. Most Rastafarians are vegetarian or vegan. Foods that may be consumed by people practicing this religion are called ital, with these foods being characterised by having no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, so are considered pure or natural. Rastafarians also avoid the consumption of alcohol and in some cases also tea, coffee and other caffeinated drinks as it’s considered that these foods confuse the soul.
On an island with a diverse community of locals and expats, it’s good to know the basic principles regarding religions and their food rules, so as not to offend at a social gathering. And there’s no harm in joining in with religious feasts of friends of other religions, such as at Christmas time, or the breaking of the Ramadan fast, when food is plentiful. And we’ll forgive you for tucking into that delicious Easter egg – even if you don’t celebrate Easter.
The Life of a Teacher in Thailand and China
Written by Sarah Ezdani
I’ve been fortunate enough to live and work in Thailand where I started off my ESL career. Thailand is my absolute favourite country in the world, and the feeling I get once I walk out the airport is that of feeling my most comfortable and balanced self. I lived in Thailand for less than two years and travelled all over this country and marvelled at its beauty. Undoubtedly, my zest for exploration and new places fuelled this lust, but the ease of life for foreigners in Thailand too encouraged my excursions. I lived way up North in an idyllic and pretty town called Phayao, and 7 hours later in a bus, I could be in Bangkok, the energetic hub of this country.
I now live in China (a year and a half now) and I’m keen on reporting the veritable differences in these two countries. I’ve made my fondness for Thailand known, but the truth is, I also willing left it and moved here to China with my husband. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” might be a telling expression, but we thought differently. We were so deeply content and blissful in our little bubble among the rice fields and open skies of the North, that we decided to test the waters in a different part of the world, a challenging part of the world we knew very little about.
Based on my personal experience, here’s my take on Life in Thailand and China:
Does the thought of using chopsticks in public bring on a cold sweat? Here’s the lowdown on their history, how to use them as well as chopsticks etiquette.
Bill Bryson, author of humorous travelogues, wrote, “And I find chopsticks frankly distressing. Am I alone in thinking it odd that a people ingenious enough to invent paper, gunpowder, kites and any number of other useful objects, and who have a noble history extending back 3,000 years haven't yet worked out that a pair of knitting needles is no way to capture food?” – an excerpt from Notes from a Small Island.
Most Westerners feel the same way as Mr Bryson about eating with chopsticks, yet for Asians, their use is second nature, and from a young age, they can master the art of using these simple, yet infuriating utensils. To them, knives at the table are taboo, and in contrast to the Western writer’s statement above, ancient Chinese philosopher, Confucius, wrote, "The honourable and upright man keeps well away from both the slaughterhouse and the kitchen. And he allows no knives on his table." Now few will agree with his out-dated theory that men should stay away from the kitchen, and in fact, most of Samui’s top chefs are men. But many Asians do believe that knives should not be used at the table – granted, a thick fillet steak is not a regular dish on the Asian menu, and most meals are already served bite-sized. Confucius equated knives with acts of aggression, which went against his non-violent teachings, and some experts credit his influence with the widespread adoption of chopsticks throughout China.
So let’s look at the history of chopsticks. While the precise origin of chopsticks is unknown, they were definitely in use by the Shang dynasty (1766 BC - 1122 BC). Their increasing popularity since that time may actually be linked to Chinese cooking methods - before stir-frying the food is cut into tiny pieces, making them easy to manipulate with a chopstick.
For Westerners, the majority of which are fork-using eaters, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the fork has only recently become common cutlery at the dinner table. True, the Byzantines used forks in the 10th century, and Catherine de M'edici introduced this pronged utensil to the French court in the early 1500s. But in the USA, it wasn't until the eighteenth century that people felt the need for more than a knife and spoon. By contrast, chopsticks have been the utensils of choice throughout all of China since the Han dynasty (approximately 200 BC to 200 AD).
Most foodies will agree that Chinese food just tastes better when eaten with chopsticks – in much the same way that pizza or hamburgers really should be eaten with the hands. Not sure how to handle your ‘Kuai zi’? (The word "chop" is pidgin English for kuai, which means quick or speedy, as in chop chop). Here’re a few tips to get you using them like a pro:
If possible, use wood or bamboo chopsticks when you’re a novice, as plastic chopsticks are more slippery and harder to hold. Always grip the chopsticks in the middle, making sure that the ends are even and do not cross. Pick up a chopstick and hold it so that it's resting comfortably between the tip of your fourth finger (the ring finger) and the hollow gap between your thumb and index finger. Keep the fourth finger straight. This will be the bottom chopstick. Now pick up the other chopstick and place it on top, firmly between the tips of your thumb, index and middle fingers. The index and middle fingers should be curled.
When eating, always keep the bottom chopstick stationary and use the top chopstick to move and pick up food. To pick up food, straighten your index and middle fingers as much as needed to move the top chopstick outward. Grab the food, and then bring the chopsticks together by curling your index and middle fingers. The basic idea is to use the chopstick as a pivot, with the thumb being the axle. Lift the food up to your mouth, leaning over if necessary. (It’s not rude to lean over your plate as it is in the West). For food that contains bones (such as chicken), hold the food with the chopsticks and eat around the bone. Children often find it easier to hold chopsticks nearer the bottom instead of in the middle.
No matter where you happen to be enjoying Asian food in the world, knowing how to use chopsticks correctly will come in handy, and a little practice will stop you feeling like a clumsy idiot. But knowing how to use them is one thing. Being a real pro means that you also understand chopsticks etiquette and the dos and don’ts of using them.
Despite the temptation to play with them, remember that chopsticks are eating utensils, just as a knife and fork. You would never play drums on the table with two spoons (well, you shouldn’t), point at someone with a fork, or leave a knife standing up stuck into a steak, so treat your chopsticks the same.
When taking a break, place your chopsticks neatly to the right of your plate, preferably with the tips on the provided rest and without pointing them in anyone's immediate direction. Putting chopsticks on top of your bowl or plate indicates that you are finished and the staff may whisk it away before you can enjoy that bite you were saving for last!
Chopsticks may seem extremely impractical for eating certain foods. However, there are polite ways to overcome this issue. In many Asian countries a spoon will accompany dishes that are difficult to manage with only chopsticks. And lifting a bowl to face-level and pushing rice into your mouth is both acceptable and perfectly normal in all parts of Asia with the exception of Korea. Alternatively, chopsticks can be held side by side to shovel rice from your plate. While considered impolite in the West, slurping soup and noodles, even noisily, is perfectly acceptable in Asia. It’s also quite fine to drink directly from your soup bowl.
Large chunks of food can be torn or cut apart on your plate using chopsticks, but it’s bad manners to impale a big piece of food as a way to transfer it to your mouth If no serving utensils are provided at a communal meal, turn your chopsticks around to use the clean ends when transferring food from communal dishes onto your own plate.
A few more no-nos when using chopsticks include the following:
Don’t tap your chopsticks together in the air or on a bowl to make noises (yet slurping is fine?). Don’t leave them standing vertically in a bowl, and don’t use them to gesture or point at other people or dishes, in much the same way as you wouldn’t use your knife to point at somebody. Don’t hold chopsticks in a clenched fist as you would a weapon and don’t suck sauce off the end of your sticks.
Remember not to pass food to other people using your chopsticks, as doing so resembles the practice of passing cremated bones at a funeral. Rather, put the piece of food you want to share directly onto the other person’s place (with the other end).
And if you really want to be adept at chopsticks etiquette, then here are some more tips to consider:
Particularly when eating in Japan, allow elders or senior members at the table to lift their chopsticks first. Don't pick through dishes (either communal or on your own plate) for morsels of meat or vegetables that happen to be your favourite. Also, avoid crossing your chopsticks, as it symbolises death in some cultures. If disposable chopsticks were used, place them back inside of the paper wrapper at the end of your meal and leave them to the right of your plate. Koreans use spoons to eat soups and even rice. But always put your chopsticks to the right side of your spoon when resting on the table … as the reverse is done at memorial dinners for deceased loved ones, so you could easily offend without realising it.
Now while wooden chopsticks are easier to use, as they are less slippery than the plastic or metal varieties, there’s a factor to consider when using them. Demand for disposable chopsticks far surpasses the ability to make them from wood scrap or off-cut wood. This means that an estimated 20 million mature trees are logged each year just to supply China alone with billions of throwaway chopsticks. Plastic and metal chopsticks are far more sustainable – or if you want to use wood, let them be reusable ones. And that’s not even considering the vast quantity of paper or polystyrene takeaway containers that accompany these disposable chopsticks. Quite something to consider, isn’t it?
Tefl from Thailand, to Japan!
Hi, my name is Chelsea, I’m 25 years old, have been abroad for 15 months, and have loved every minute of this wonderful journey.
I started my journey in Koh Samui, Thailand, with Samui TEFL. My experience with Samui TEFL was outstanding. Kathryn and Rosanne are professional, experienced, and throw you into the real world of TEFL with full support the entire way. Kathryn really brings the classroom alive and instils excitement into her students with what I can only believe to be genuine passion and vast experience in the industry. I quickly found that the Samui TEFL accreditation was well respected and known among schools in Thailand, and for good reason! Kathryn and Rosanne still keep in touch and support me today! It makes a huge difference being well equipped and to feel supported, especially as you begin your TEFL journey.
Thailand was wonderful, challenging, eye opening, cultured, beautiful, thrilling, and so much more. I was lucky enough to interview at an international school on the paradise island of Samui, and got the job. It was all quite a whirlwind when the school opened. I was thrown into a classroom with children from all over the world that all spoke completely different languages, of different ages and abilities, and this was where I really appreciated how well Samui TEFL had prepared me. The challenge was so exciting and rewarding. The grounds of the school were beautiful and I made some amazing friends. Although it was disorganised in places, I really enjoyed where I was. The school definitely had its challenges, but all of which were worth it! The kids made every day so rewarding, I was working in paradise, making great friends, and really enjoying life. The skills attained and the lessons learned were invaluable. I still speak to many of my 5-6 year old students from Thailand now and keep in touch with their parents! One of the most rewarding experiences for me were two boys who were in my class, one that spoke only Russian and one only Thai. They were both very shy and had difficulty when they first arrived in all aspects of school. By the time I left, they were best friends, conversing in English and always smiling in class! Beats an office job!
The Thai culture is simply amazing. They are very respectful, kind, welcoming and I felt privileged to be able to immerse myself in such a wonderful culture. The weekends were never dull, whether you are on a beautiful beach, climbing a waterfall, engaging in a local festival or simply trying some amazing food at the local markets with friends, I can’t imagine ever getting bored! Thailand was definitely the wonderful experience I was looking for when I decided to travel.
After nine months I finished my contract in Thailand, and was contemplating what to do next, stay in Thailand or further my travels. I loved Thailand, but I felt that I needed more experience to further my career, and broaden my experience. I had been learning Japanese and did a lot of research into areas of Japan. My experience in Thailand, and accreditation with Samui TEFL led to endless job offers from all over the world, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, South Korea etc.
Japan was more challenging; they required multiple interviews and screening. I finally landed a job in Okinawa – which was perfect! Okinawa is the southernmost point in Japan, it’s also a paradise island! A lot of people don’t even know Japan has such places! I was excited to go further my language skills, immerse myself in another culture, especially as the Okinawan culture is very unique. When I first arrived, I was excited to be in a first world country again. I was quickly taken aback by the fast paced, strict way of life I encountered, especially compared to Thailand! I did not enjoy the job at all. It was disorganized, lonely and very long hours. I almost gave up but applied to another job on the other side of the island. After 8 interviews at a science and tech institution, I was offered a job at the university’s child development centre! I was to be the English kindergarten teacher for 3 year old children of scientists and PhD graduates. Did I know how to teach 3 year olds? No. Did I know how to potty train? No. But I did my research and learned very quickly. I’m still working this job now, and I absolutely love it. The facilities are beautiful, the hours are great, it comes with private healthcare, pension, insurance, housing allowance, and the opportunity to partake in scientific research if I want to! The university grounds are like a little community and I have met some amazing people. I’m even going to apply to do my PhD in Developmental Neurology at the university next year! It’s funny where life takes you.
The culture here is wonderful, calm and welcoming. The beaches are beautiful, there is a lot to do and experience and mainland Japan is only a couple of hours away! Actually, as are many countries – I just got back from a trip to Taiwan! Japan is built up, so you have all your Western amenities and first world conveniences and security. Things are done by the books here, unlike Thailand. However, people do not speak English on mainland Japan, but the Japanese are very accommodating and will do everything they can to help you! It’s an amazing country. Northern Japan has the beautiful snow, ski slopes and cabins, Tokyo has the main city vibe, Kyoto has its 4 seasons, cherry blossoms and unique food and really flourishes their culture, not to mention the historic sites and influences all over the country! Then down to Okinawa that is a little hidden paradise. I miss Thailand very much and will definitely return though! I’m extremely excited to be where I am now, with the opportunities in front of me and the experiences I have had already. Not to mention I’m being sent to LA for a conference in June! The opportunities that arise are endless. I would have had none of it without the Samui TEFL course, and the ongoing support from Rosanne and Kathryn.
Breakfast. What springs to mind? If you’re a Westerner, most likely you’ll have a few staple breakfast dishes – foods that you wouldn’t usually eat for your evening meal, but have the exclusive honour of being your first meal of the day. On a weekend, or when you have a little more time, you might go for the ‘Full Monty’, which will include eggs done the way you like them, bacon, sausages, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans and toast. If you’re in a rush, you’ll probably chuck back a bowl of cereal or a yoghurt, or perhaps some toast and jam. If you’re not watching your carbs, you may enjoy a continental breakfast with some muffins, croissants and other pastries, and if you’re on a health kick, fresh fruit and muesli may be your kick-start to the day.
Most of us wouldn’t think to have cereal for dinner, or a roast for breakfast, and in the West, dishes are confined to their designated meal times. Now while there are dishes that are popular for breakfast in Thailand, a local would think nothing of having a spicy curry for their morning meal. But, here are some of the most popular dishes a Thai would enjoy to start their day.
If there’s one food that immediately pops into mind as a Thai breakfast, it’s the thick rice porridge known as joke. It’s made of short-grain rice that’s boiled until it turns into a thick oatmeal-like porridge. It’s served piping hot with an egg cracked in the middle, some pieces of pork for flavouring, and garnished with slices of ginger and parsley. Joke would be the equivalent of a Western-style morning bowl of cereal, and you’ll see vendors setting up early to sell it, catching those on their way to work.
KhaotTom (rice soup) is closely related to joke, but instead of short-grain rice, normal long-grain Thai rice is used. The grains are boiled in water with flavourings, until they’re soft and floating in a ricey soup. Khao tom includes similar Thai breakfast toppings as joke, such as pork, eggs, ginger and parsley, and even seafood.
If joke is the on-the-dash cereal of Thai breakfasts, then khao neow moo ping is the energy and protein equivalent of ‘sausages and eggs’. A few satays of fatty grilled pork with a little packet of sticky rice is easy to eat on the go, and is a great way to start off a busy day in Thailand.
Those that enjoy a sugar boost for breakfast should keep their eyes and noses open for a vendor selling the Thai doughnuts called patongo. This slightly sweet blob of dough is deep-fried, forming a crunchy outside and a soft, fluffy centre. It’s served with a sweet custard dipping sauce or sweetened condensed milk. Breaded deep-fried sliced banana is also a great morning snack, and cheap too, at only about 20 baht for six big pieces. Little backed goods such as waffles with various fillings, are popular too.
Thailand has a strong Chinese heritage, so no doubt, the food has been influenced by Chinese ancestors. Dim sum dumplings are a popular breakfast food, including the steamed buns and the greasy pork dumplings.
Little banana-leaf packages of sweet, sticky rice are great on-the-go morning snacks. The rice, with a smoky flavour from being cooked on the open grill, sometimes encases banana or sweet red beans. You’ll find many different variations of this, and sometimes, the rice is cooked in bamboo too.
Eggs are served in so many ways in Thailand and very popular is an omelette, often filled with minced pork or seafood. But for a muscle-building breakfast, try kai luak, which is basically a soft-boiled egg served in a shot glass, and accompanied by a fresh cup of coffee.
From early in the morning, you’ll find vendors standing over hot coals preparing little chicken or pork satays, or various types of sausages and meat or seafood on a stick – food on a stick is the best Asian invention; no cutlery required.
If you’re after a healthy breakfast, there’s no shortage of fresh fruit vendors, who’ll present your purchase neatly chopped and in a bag with a wooden skewer used to pierce the fruit for eating. Usually only around 15 to 20 baht a portion, there’s no reason not to get your daily fruit dose.
Like the rest of the world, Thailand has fallen into the fast-food trap, and every Family Mart and 7-Eleven will sell a selection of off-the-shelf-and-into-the-microwave breakfast meals. There’ll always be an urn of boiling water so you can buy your pot of instant noodles, rice soup or joke, fill it up and walk away eating your breakfast on the go. You’ll also find grilled sandwiches that the friendly teller will pop into the toaster for you, as well as over-processed filled sandwiches, cakes and muffins. But with so many great fresh options available, such as homemade joke or some fresh fruit, there’s no need to go the fast food route, as the fresh options are equally as fast to be served.
No matter what you have for breakfast, remember that it’s the most important meal of the day, so having a nourishing meal in the morning can start your day on a good note. Thais will seldom skip breakfast (or any meal for that matter), and they’re one of the happiest nations in the world. Is it because they have a hearty breakfast? Who knows. Could be. But it seems to work for them, so grab a bowl of joke, some Thai doughnuts or a couple of satays and start your day on a delicious note.
Joe Moore completed his course five years ago. He tells us what he has been up to.
My name is Joe Moore. I graduated from Samui TEFL five years ago, on November 19, 2011. Ever since that day my life has been full of new experiences. My first involvement with teaching came a few months later in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai where I volunteered at a language school that assists Burmese refugees and indigenous Thai people with English conversation skills. The center of Chiang Mai activity is old city which is easily walked. Chiang Mai has a large town feel rather than a city. There are no real sky scrapers or metro systems and the cost of living is much lower than Bangkok.
After six months in Chiang Mai I was offered an ESL position at a Thai government high school in Samut Sakon province about 45 minutes south of the Thai capital. The town of Mahachai is a fishing village next to the Bangkok bight which houses many of Thailand’s frozen seafood factories. Fresh seafood is available at the markets at wholesale prices. Although, only a short ride from Bangkok, very few westerners live in this part of the kingdom.
From Mahachai I moved to the southern province of Surat Thani where I worked at two Thai government high schools over an 18 month period. Both schools were located in the countryside. This area of the mainland is mostly rural surrounded by rubber tree and palm oil plantations. Surat Thani city is a travel hub which includes Thai Rail, long distances buses, an airport and ferries. It’s a jumping off point the Thailand’s southern islands. Samui can be reached by a bus then a ferry in about two hours.
After my time in Surat Thani I was offered a position in Xuzhou, China, Jiangsu Province to teach seventh grade ESL. The main city of Xuzhou has a population of 2 million people. Beijing and Shanghai are both a four hour high speed train ride away. The city of Nanjing is only one hour away. I lived and worked in the new city of Xuzhou which was a 30 minute taxi ride from the main city. The new city was somewhat of a ghost town. Very few people actually lived there. Most of my students were bused from the main town. Altogether, I spent 14 quiet months in Xuzhou. The Chinese people were friendly and very eager to learn English.
In February 2016 I moved to Dubai, United Arab Emirates to work as a History/Social Studies teacher. I also teach ESL reading and writing. Dubai is a great city and an excellent location from which to travel. Two thirds of the world’s population and cities are within an 8hr flight. New malls, beaches, clubs, and five star hotels are the norm here. Alcohol which is heavily taxed is available at bars or clubs that are attached to hotels. The actual native populations of Emirati’s are a minority in their own country. Dubai is a melting pot of Indians, Pakistanis, Filipinos, every gulf state country, and westerners thrown into the mix. Many different cultures can be experienced just by walking out the door. Of course the UAE is a desert country and during the summer it can reach 50C or 120F degrees. The UAE is a Muslim nation which does practice sharia law, but with that said its moderate compared to bordering countries and has freedom of religion.
Joe has made the most of his TEFL course, and used it to teach in three different countries so far. Let him be an inspiration -- teaching English as a foreign language is a great way to experience different countries on a deeper level than being a tourist.
Our first in a series on 'what it's like after the course'. Samui TEFL graduates tell us what it's like teaching, all about their school, the area where they are and other useful insights. This chapter is about Matt, who completed the course in May 2015, and has been working with the same company ever since. These are Matt's words.
I graduated from the Samui Tefl course in May 2015. I'd made some amazing memories during the four week course and was sad to leave behind some great friendships I'd made. The course taught me a lot about how to conduct a lesson, the planning required for a week of teaching and how to control a potentially rowdy group of students. I left the course feeling nervous but extremely excited and prepared for what lay ahead.
I had an interview with Fun Language while still on the course and was accepted for a job with them to start a few days after leaving Samui. I headed to Bangkok and went to the Big Training event the company laid on. It was a daunting few days learning the Fun Language style of lessons, a plethora of songs for kindergarten kids and a catalogue of games to play in the lessons which could range from simple games for Kindergarten children up to more complicated Prathom or Mattayhom level students. I then took the minivan to Ban Pong in Ratchaburi province where I met my coworkers and fellow teachers. This is where it all started to feel very real. Arriving into a town where only a minority could speak English and where a lot of the locals would stare at you as you walked down the street (any new foreigner or "farang" gets this experience upon arrival in Ban Pong where the locals are sussing out the new arrival).
I have been working for Fun Language for almost two years now and love every second of it. They provide you with lesson plans, a Thai teacher in every class, flashcards, pencils, crayons, workbooks and a basket full of items you'll use for games or activities during the lesson. The children are hilarious and even if you're ever depleted of energy, seeing their smiling faces soon perks you up. You're fully equipped and given more training but I still use the knowledge I learnt on the Tefl course every day!
I teach a range of courses from conversation to reading and phonics and also interactive white board lessons. It's a great way to learn a wide range of teaching styles and how to plan for a different type of lesson.
I teach from Pre-school (around 2-3 years old) up to Mattayhom 2 (13-14 years old) and being able to jump from a kindergarten lesson where you're getting them to name 4 different colours, rewarding them with stamps and stickers and then going to a Mattayhom lesson where the students are telling you their future aspirations or differentiating between crimes; it's something I never thought I'd be doing. This company really makes you adaptable to any class you come into contact with! We're based at one main school here and then could be teaching at potentially three different schools around the local area but due to always coming into our main school to lesson plan (and also because I teach three days a week there) I've gotten to know a lot of the students and it's been great seeing them grow from term to term. It's an extremely rewarding job!
The local town of Ban Pong where I live is full of helpful and kind people. As mentioned before, I initially thought there were very few English speakers but as time has progressed, I've become friends with a whole load of Thais in the town whose English is a lot better than my Thai (I'll trying practicing my Thai and they'll resort to correcting me or just speaking to me in English). We have a night market every Monday and Friday and as the majority of teachers all live in a small resort-type complex, we're very sociable with one another and the local community.
I've enjoyed every second of my life in Thailand since Samui Tefl and cannot thank Kathryn and Rosanne (and my other course mates) enough for their support and knowledge! If you're ever thinking of teaching abroad then definitely check out Samui Tefl and Fun Language! I don't regret a thing!
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