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. 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.