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Small Elephant, Big News

I saw an elephant on my way to school today.

Pat and her assistant, Aang, were driving me to school to meet with some people, sign some things, and become employed. The elephant was small and being led through the streets by its owner – a practice that is illegal these days, Pat told me.

When I got to the school, everyone I spoke with was really welcoming and kind. They handed me a stack of textbooks and some papers including my new class schedule and maps of the school, and read through the contract with me. Then the Head Foreign Teacher showed me around the grounds.

I met many people – so many I couldn’t tell you their names if I tried. Luckily, Mark told me I didn’t have to wai at anyone, which relieved of pressure of doing it the wrong way or to the wrong person.

I got to see the English Program teacher’s room, in which my new desk is located alongside all of the other foreign teachers’ desks. They showed me some of the classrooms I’ll be using and the teacher’s “cafeteria” where I can eat breakfast and lunch if I want. Then I was shuffled back out the door and into Pat and Aang’s care for a second round of apartment-hunting.

Have you ever tried to find an apartment in a city in which you don’t speak the prevailing tongue? Maybe you have and you know how stressful it can be. Well, it gets even more stressful when your sole companion and connection to the outside world speaks mostly Thai and very, very little English.

Pat left me wearing my “official” long black skirt and black shirt from the morning meeting at the school (sweating!) with Aang who spoke only the most basic of English. Our mission was to find me an apartment in Pinklao.

We hailed a taxi and put my stuff in it. I asked Aang, half-kidding, if the taxi driver would drive away with all of my stuff when we got out of the car to look at apartments. Thank goodness he seemed to be a very, VERY kind soul – he got out of the taxi too for every stop, even talking to people on the street trying to help me find a place.

Fast-forward to 3 or so stops at full apartment buildings (I’m starting to worry we won’t find a place…) and here we are with two older Thai ladies who speak no English except to tell me over and over and over that I am “very beautiful.”

“Kha, kap koon kha” I thank them and smile. Smile, smile, smile as Aang gathers information about the available apartment for me. The owner isn’t here but one of the ladies calls the owner, gets the keys and we climb the four flights of stairs to see the place.

Blue room
Pinklao, blue room. Sorry for the mess – unpacking, you know the drill. (More photos to come once I can connect my camera to my computer again…)

Blue. It’s all blue. Lovely with the sunshine – two windows and a porch…A fridge, a bed, an armoire, Internet that I should have access to tomorrow…And all for the wonderful wonderful price of 4,000 baht without utilities! That’s below my price range, it’s a short walk to the pickup point for the van to get to school, and it’s aqua. So yes, I will take it.

I request to see the contract before paying anything. It’s all in Thai. Aang reads it and tells me the highlights. It all sounds perfectly reasonable. I pay and they give me the keys.

And so: I start tomorrow as the new 5th grade English teacher. I live in a room of aqua. And I really hope I get to see that elephant again.


  1. KimVo says:

    This is absolutely fabulous…What is it about the elephant on a leash that is illegal I wonder (other than that it is not your normal pet?)…and how fortunate that people are so helpful. The apartment sounds like a cool oasis. You should be able to keep in shape with those 4 flights of stairs. Good luck with the 5th graders! They will likely be starting to get hormonal later in the year…something to look forward to?

    • mishvo says:

      Thanks mom! The 4 flights actually aren’t too bad! I kinda like that I’m getting exercise without meaning to…since lord knows I haven’t gotten exercise in a deliberate way in far too long…

  2. Ben says:

    The elephant thing is illegal because they aren’t allowed to be within a certain proximity to densely populated areas. I see them quite often in Bangyai and Bangbuathong. The trainers bring them into the towns to try and sell people food they carry with them and allow them to feed the elephants that food. It’s a pretty depressing situation all around, and many of the elephants are just kids.

    And you weren’t kidding, that is an extremely blue apartment.

    • mishvo says:

      Hahaha yeah it doesn’t seem right that those elephants should be used like that in a city environment however it was really super duper cute and I would really like to feed one…

      See you tomorrow πŸ™‚ Let’s hope those little monsters are more well-behaved….

      • Allison says:

        My two cents on loud and rowdy kids: you can always try talking really softly. Surprisingly enough, it’s often more effective than yelling. If I can dig up a teaching book or some materials that I thought were useful my first year teaching here in the US, I’ll send them your way.

  3. mishvo says:

    I talked to my Head Teacher and he made some calls – I think the Thai teachers must have said something to my problem classes because they were perfect angels today. But yeah – no more yelling, ever. (yes to the materials – I don’t know how I will ever improve if I’m not exposed to new methods/ideas!)

  4. KimVo says:

    My junior high friends went to Our Lady Of Lourdes elementary and always used to talk about the strict Catholic school nuns. They used to hit their hands with rulers! Too bad you can’t get away with that anymore. πŸ™‚

  5. Karim says:

    Hey Michelle,

    LOF following your adventures in NonthabUri. I hope your first week of teaching went went! I am pretty sure that you enjoyed any single moment…and hope you stopped gesturing..;)
    Have you met w/the elephant again? I see elephants (actually 2 Chang πŸ˜‰ ) almsot everyday! Haha..know I learned how to say elephant in Thai…!
    Have fun! We should try all of our team to meet in a couple of days/weeks to know how our experiences are going! I am starting next week in Nakhom Pathom..60 km of Bkk..a quiet place…not worried to leave crazy/dangerous Bkk..!

    • mishvo says:

      Hey Karim! So good to hear from you!! That’s awesome you got a job out there – I would love to see some nature and I bet it will be much quieter there as well. Keep me posted on how things are going. I haven’t even worked a full week yet so we’ll see how things over here πŸ™‚

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