Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Advice for new teachers


Looks like it's moving season here in NST. People coming, people going. If you are new to Nakhon, welcome! You've made the right choice. You will soon notice that Nakhon puts the Thai in Thailand. It isn't perfect and can certainly be frustrating. But if you are up for a bit of a challenge and a great adventure, you have found it. With that, I will try and sum up my 2 years here in some timbits of information for you. (I realize most people say tidbits. They are wrong. Timbits are a small, delicious treat....just like these tips)

1-Getting a bike and a house are priority number one. Not being able to drive around the city and explore is a huge disadvantage. Take your time but try and learn. It's worth it. I would also keep like 200 baht locked inside your bike just in case you need it for gas or food sometime. 

2-Learn Thai. I can't do it and it has been a disadvantage. There are some English speaking Thai people around town that will surprise you sometimes. For the most part, you are on your own. You will probably stay more than a year and it is worth the effort. Which brings me to point number 3.

3-Stay for more than a year. I was for sure out of here after my contract was up my first year. No question. I liked it here but NST is a little too small for my liking. Then I started thinking. I don't want to go home to a Canadian winter, maybe I will just stay here in paradise for a few more months, have 2 months paid vacation and come back to a house, a bike, friends and an understanding of how things work here.

4-Get out of Nakhon as much as possible. Nakhon is a cool spot, especially for Monday to Friday living. Whenever you get the chance, go to a beach, go to an island, go to another country. It starts to mess with your mind a little and makes you a bit more cynical in my experience. If you are feeling a little down, take a quick trip out of town and enjoy this beautiful country. 

5-Start bringing bottles to restaurants and bars if you like drinking but want to keep the cost down. Most places will even pour your drinks for you. Just makes financial sense.

6-Make Thai friends. This seems obvious but tons of people don't have any Thai friends. I don't get it. I've noticed quite a few Thai people around and they are super friendly and want to be your friend. Do it.

7-You will have tons of free time. Start up a hobby. Want to learn to play the guitar? Read 100 books? You have the time, just make the effort.

8-Nakhon is sort of like high school. It is small and people know what other people are up to. Just the way it is, embrace the immaturity. 

9-Don't give up. Nakhon can be a tough place to get use to. Make a few friends, try and get into a routine, eat at the same places so people start to recognize you and will start to feel a little more like home. It isn't fair to you or your kids to pack up and leave two weeks in.

10-Have an incredible time. You will make some of the best friends you will ever have here. Thailand is amazing, explore and make some amazing memories!

Henry-Ford-Opportunity-Picture-Quote


“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”  

Albert Einstein  

Monday, March 25, 2013

Let's talk about money



If you haven't noticed yet, I am not a baller. I do not have many baht. One day the tide will turn. I hope. Unfortunately, this is the reason I didn't go to Cambodia for my March break. I am under the impression that New Zealand may be slightly more expensive than Thailand. I have a feeling my $1.50 hair washes and food will be a thing of the past. It has taken me 11 years of having a job and making money to figure out that it isn't fun spending money you know in the back of your mind you shouldn't be spending. I wouldn't say I love spending money but I certainly don't hate it. I'd like to blame my parents for this but my dad was super into wanting me to save money. So much so that I had like $200 once and he told me he would give me a dollar a day in interest if I didn't spend it. In retrospect, I think that parents should legitimately force their kids to save money. No choice. When I'm older (I think tons of people say this when they don't have kids then once they do, they act differently) I think I want to sit my kids down and show them how much money our family makes, how much our house costs, expenses, etc. I think kids can handle it and should understand why they can't have a certain toy or go on an expensive March break. I think kids are smarter than we give them credit for and it could help them when they are older. This is only a thought but I think it's a good one. 


For about the last year, I've been writing down everything I buy. I'm pretty accurate, almost exactly every baht I spend I can track. All it has told me that I didn't know how big my love for juice was and drinking is expensive. So to sum up, sorry I didn't go to Cambodia, have no stories or pictures. If you have any money saving habits or advice, let me know. Enjoy your week, enjoy March Madness, and stay classy.



“The speed of your success is limited only by your 

dedication and what you're willing to sacrifice”

― Nathan W. Morris


“Every time you borrow money, you're robbing your future

 self.” 

― Nathan W. Morris

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Kait's corner: Life after Thailand


Some people struggle with life after Nakhon/Thailand, some people continue to succeed in their next adventure. Many people leave Nakhon only to come back a few months or years later. The prospect of being unhappy after my time here made me message my good friend Kaitlyn about any advice she would have for life after Thailand. She lived here for two years, went back to Ottawa for the summer and is now living in Osaka, Japan. 



The decision to leave Thailand was not an easy one. As my time in that wonderful country drew to an end, my experience only seemed to be getting better and the bonds I made only growing deeper. My last few months were spent strengthening friendships I didn't think could get any stronger. I began to feel as though I were falling more and more in love with an entire group of people. Separating from them meant enduring 30+ heartbreaks all at once.
But my nature (and that of those I had grown so close with) is a restless one. Part of our bond had stemmed from a longing for adventure. While incredibly tempting, staying in Nakhon for another year wasn't an option for those craving challenge and change.

I'm often asked about life post-NST. No, it isn't always easy. Yes, there are days where I just want to run away to the beach and dance all night in the jungle. But I haven't once regretted my decision to move forward with my life. My phones background picture is still a group shot at guys bar, and okay I do occasionally click through past photo albums with massive grin plastered on my face, but I rarely pine for the past. Here are a few things I try to concentrate on whenever I feel a tinge of NST homesickness.

1. Never stop searching for adventure. Whether you move home to work a desk job or continue tefling in a new country, push yourself to explore. This could be as simple as leaving the city and going for a hike, or getting in a car and driving with no particular destination in mind. There is natural beauty everywhere, you just need to seek it out.
2. Step, jump or lunge way out of your social comfort zone. Meet someone you think is relatively cool? Ask for their number, make some plans with them. Approach groups of interesting people. Yes--it may be painfully awkward and it's entirely possible you will be shut down--but you may also be opening the door to wonderful new friendships. Joining a club or picking up a new hobby are also stellar ways to meet like minded folk.
3. Keep busy & challenge yourself. Cook a new dish, try playing the piano, write   (or just read for that matter). Set goals and work toward them. Keeping a journal full of what you hope to accomplish and what you have succeeded at accomplishing is helpful. Even if it is used just to look back and remind yourself of what you are supposed to be doing.
4. It's all about NOW. Right-- I know its cliche but I do genuinely believe it is the most important way to effectively deal with lpnst (life post nst). There is no denying that for most of us, life in Nakhon was pretty swell. Yet sometimes we look back on life experience with rose colored glasses. It's easy to put the past on a golden pedestal, omitting the lows and focusing on only the highs. Although this is a beautiful human characteristic, it can lead us to believe that the past will always be better than the present moment. It's easy to take the now for granted and unfairly compare it to what once was. The same goes with the future. Have something to look forward to but don't spend all your time wishing for the next stage of your life. If you are always planning for tomorrow, how can you enjoy today?
So wherever you may be in the world, or however much you may be missing your friends and the NST lifestyle, take a second to appreciate this exact moment in your life. When you do look back, do it with a smile and no regrets. We all have the capacity to be just as happy as we once were in Thailand, but we may just need to roll up our sleeves and put a little more effort into it this time around.
"We can't always keep running after yesterday. Life moves forward. And so must wet." Unknown.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Thailand Report Card

Why not enjoy your Easter break on a Thai beach
Just finished up doing report cards for my kids and thought I should type up a quick report card about Thailand. I brought this up a few weeks ago with my roommates and we all sort of had a different opinion. I tried to be a hard grader, you be the judge!


Food: B+ Thai food is good, no doubt about that. I'm in the middle of doing a post about my favorite foods. There are a lot of food here that isn't good though and super unhealthy. And eating rice everyday kind of gets old. I'm trying to be a tough grader. 

Price: A. Things are cheap here. Hair wash: 50 baht ($1.75) Shave: 50 baht($1.75) Bottle of Johnny Langer 195 baht ($6.50) Delicious cashew nut chicken 100 baht ($3.25) Flight to Bangkok. 1200 baht ($36ish) Rent 2900 ($89). Things are cheap cheap but good good. 

Location: A- Super close to other countries like Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Malaysia, China, India, Singapore. Along with discount airlines like Air Asia and Nok Air, cheap flights are to be had. 

Weather: A. It is so hot here, it's great. Consistently 30+ degrees, over 40 with the humidex. Rarely rains, no winter, no complaints. A. 

People: B.Thai people are super friendly, very respectful and interested where you are from. Not everyone is overly welcoming but nothing is perfect. This takes a bit of a hit because Thai people are great and I've met life time friends here. Not everyone who comes to Thailand is of the highest moral character. Strange old men looking for girls/boys is one of the worst parts of this beautiful country. 

Safety: A. I can only speak for myself and what I've experienced. Other people would certainly rate this lower, especially if you are a girl. But I've never really gotten into an argument with some Thai guys or even come close to fighting anyone here. I feel very safe. 

Activities: B+. Scuba diving, snorkeling, trekking, water sports, cooking schools, Muay Thai, mountain biking, cliff jumping, kayaking, golfing, yoga retreats, fishing trips. There are things to do, especially if you are in more tourist areas like Phuket or Bangkok. 

Transportation: B-. Flights are easy, tons of air con buses and mini-buses and Tuk-tuks in most places in Thailand. My town however is horrendous for transportation. If it is pouring rain and you need to get to the airport and don't have a ride, good luck. Their are motorcycle taxis but not actual car taxis and less than 1% of them can speak English. It would be a D- without the rest of Thailand picking up the slack. 

Beauty: B+ (Well these two A+, overall grade B+) 

Nightlife: B. I could see how people could argue higher, even an A. Full moon parties, Phi Phi, Haad Yuan, I get it. I also get that Full Moon parties are overrated, the beer here isn't great, Thai music isn't the most fun to listen to and going out late at night in my town isn't out of this world. I'd say average. But I understand if you disagree. But I'm right...

Health care: B. My school pays for my health care up to 20, 000 baht so that helped me a few different times. (http://bertbrandon.blogspot.com/2012/12/i-dislike-roofs.html)
Tons of people specifically come to this side of the world for medical tourism because it is way cheaper. Bangkok has good hospitals, my town....

Environment: C Trash is everywhere, smells super bad in some places, I wouldn't be surprised if they dumb trash into the oceans on the islands, not overly concerned with green living.

Animals: C. So many stray dogs and cats. Zoos are not like zoos at home. Room for improvement here. 

Overall quality of life: A-. Teaching the way I want to, eating out every night, tons for friends, not being cold, super cute babies, girls thinking I'm handsome, shaves, hair washes, a house to live in, 4 minute commute to school, tons of holidays and an interesting culture. 

Final grade: B+

Thailand is great. Easy to find a teaching job, great food, very cheap, friendly people, great weather, massages, virtually stress free, life is good. Corruption is also a concern in the government and the police force. Efficiency and planning ahead could also be majorly improved. In general, I have really loved it and would recommend staying here for an extended period of time if you can make it happen.

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." Annie Dillard

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Teacher Bert's words of wisdom

Teaching has come to a close for this guy.(I am unimpressed)
We finish school next Friday but the tests have been given and kids now have the summer to forget everything I taught them. Before they left, we all took a group picture together so I had 27 printed out, gave each of them one and my Thai teacher a copy. Every student also made a memory box, little things you can put inside to remember when you are older like pictures, movie stubs, pictures or whatever. I had one when I was little and really enjoyed it. So I told them to put these things in their memory box and I gave them this small letter to them to help them later in life. I'm unsure how much this will help.

Teacher Bert's words of wisdom

1-Read anything in English. Read a library book. Read articles on the internet. Just READ!

2-When you are older, don't smoke. Nothing good will happen, I promise.

3-Travel. Go somewhere new. Eat different food, meet new friends, live in a new country. Learn about new places, the world is a big place. You will have fun, I promise.

4-Work hard. Don't be lazy. Do your homework, don't cheat and try your best.

5-Go outside and play. Don't spend all of your time playing video games or watching TV.

6-Be nice to your family. Play with your brother and sister. Respect your mom and dad. Help your family when you can, even if you don't want to.

7-Wear a helmet when you grow up and start driving. Accidents happen.

8-Save your money. Spending money is fun but try and save half for later. Trust me, saving and having a budget can be fun.

9-Go to sleep early. You need sleep to grow, get big and help you learn. Sleep is good.

10-Have fun. Whatever you do, try and have fun and do what makes you happy. Life is short, enjoy it.

Teacher Bert had a lot of fun with you guys this year. You are all very clever and funny. I will remember you guys forever. If you want to ask me any questions or send me pictures when you get older, my e-mail is bertbrandon@gmail.com. If you have any questions or need help with English I will try and help you. Good luck in P4, have a very safe and fun summer.

Teacher Bert.

"The average teacher explains complexity; the gifted teacher reveals simplicity." Robert Brault

Here is a video that has nothing to do with teaching and is also somewhat depressing about inequality in America.
http://mashable.com/2013/03/02/wealth-inequality/

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Is Nakhon dangerous?


If you tell a Thai person that you live in Nakhon while you are travelling around, you will get one of two response. The most likely is that they are from Nakhon themselves or have friends and family that live here. Nakhon is also the name of the province, like a city in Ontario being called Ontario. The second reaction you will get is that is less common but still prevalent is that Nakhon is a gangster city that is very dangerous. True, I am pretty gangster/hardcore but I didn't think word would travel this fast.

Apparently Nakhon USE to be way more dangerous, had and still has a mafia presence that goes largely unnoticed, especially in the foreign community. The most common story I heard about this was that a foreign teacher gave the finger to a random car, may or may not have had a vulgar conversation with the car and drove off. Apparently, they found out who this guy was, went around bars asking if this guy was around and telling people to warn him that he should leave town. He did. I don't know how much of this story is true but I know some of it happened for sure. 


One of the schools had a drug bust, a few months ago a student brought a gun into school, crossed the street into the local college, found a guy that was seeing his ex-girlfriend and shot him. Sometimes people on bikes will try and steal your bag or purse. And most recently, and stories vary, a girl said she got raped late one night after getting too drunk, wandering alone all alone and not remembering what happened to her. It is an awful thing and is terrible that we live in a world where this isn't uncommon. 

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/336283/foreigner-raped-after-night-out

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/336869/man-rapes-scottish-student-arrested

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/crimes/337535/cops-cast-doubt-on-rape-claim

I've never felt unsafe here. That might be because I'm a guy, people are nothing but nice, want to say hello and let you drink from their drink when I go out. But more girls are having encounters with Thai guys that aren't positive and is making people take more precautions while out at night and even during the day. Also, all of the news is in Thai so even if this were a huge problem, we wouldn't be hearing that much about it and some cases are probably never even talked about. Some teachers that were suppose to work at my school have backed out because of these incidents. I understand that hearing these stories is scary and moving to a new country is hard enough without worrying about your safety. But not going somewhere because you hear of one horror story would be the same thing as something bad happening where you live and immediately leaving your city or country. Bad things happen everywhere, this isn't a Nakhon, Thailand thing. This is unfortunately a world problem that nobody can escape. These are wake up calls that no matter where you are, you need to show caution, be smart and stay with the group. Is Nakhon dangerous? Maybe. Is going outside your door right now dangerous? Maybe. Is being scared of everything and everyone the answer? No. 


"Everything is dangerous, my dear fellow. If it wasn't so, life wouldn't be worth living." Oscar Wilde.