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Teaching in Thailand, Rayong

So I ended up teaching in Thailand but not online, nor on Koh Phangan. I felt that I wanted to get some experience in a classroom setting first and KP doesn’t offer many opportunities for that. I was first thinking of Vietnam but it turned out to be too much of a hassle because I’m not a native speaker. I started to panic a bit and wasn’t sure if I would get any work at all! But then I ended up having multiple offers here in Thailand and I think I made a good choice. I know Thai culture and people and don’t have to worry about taking Chase overseas. The school year here starts in May and many schools were in a rush to get teaching positions filled. Lucky me!

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Visa worries

Some challenges on the way, yes, we are in Thailand after all. I ordered a police clearance from Finland but Thailand Post hasn’t got the most reliable reputation when it comes to delivering mail. No sign of the letter, even though it was registered mail. Hence I rushed to Bangkok hoping the Royal Thai Police would do the clearance if I explained my situation. They did but I won’t be getting the paper before a week or 2. Which is minorly inconvenient since my visa runs out in a week. This paper is vital as they cannot make my non-b visa before I have it (which is basically working visa). So I probably need to do a border run to Cambodia to extend my current visa and after that -permitting I have received the police clearance- I need to leave the country and fly out to one of the neighbouring countries where they will prepare my non-b visa. Sounds complicated? It bloody is and at times it’s making me irritated as well. Welcome to Thailand!

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Morning assembly
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Students sit in neat lines after the morning prayer

Teaching Social Studies

I didn’t actually end up teaching English but Social Studies in an English speaking programme at Rayongwittayakhom, in Rayong. It’s a big public school with 3700 students or so. The English progamme is well-resourced and it’s a bit like teaching in a private school. So I consider myself very lucky. Classrooms have air-con and I have only 27-30 students. I heard that there are often 40-50 on the public side and no air-con. It can get quite hot here and you can guess what that does to your attention span. Kids are nice but they can be quite noisy as well (yes, my patience has been tested at times). My colleagues are super nice and friendly, as is my head of studies.  We have both Thai teachers and farangs (Thai name for foreign people) here. This is actually a very good way to learn more about Thai people and their culture so I am very grateful for this opportunity. Furthermore, there are not too many farangs in Rayong so the locals don’t speak much English. I am practically forced to practice my Thai and I have to say I have made some progress in just a few weeks.  Anyway, after more or less chilling 6 months on KP now it’s the time to work, study, evolve, practice yoga and Thai. Concentrate on making a better version of me, and less socialising and partying.

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Students rallying for recycling, clean environment and no smoking
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Some artwork made by the students

I teach mostly M1 and M2 groups (12-13 years) but I also have one group of older students, M6 (17 years). In Finland we haven’t got a subject called Social Studies but here it includes for example History, Economics, Civics, Geography and Religion. It feels really funny that I’m teaching them Buddhism and things about Thai society because I am not an expert on those. Then again, I’m really happy that I get to learn all these interesting things while I’m getting paid. My South African colleague is struggling with these topics and he’s not so keen on teaching religion that he is not very familiar with. I have always been inquisitive when it comes to different religions so I don’t mind at all. In addition to that, since Buddhism is connected to Hinduism I am also learning about Hinduism which then again is linked to yoga philosophy. At the moment it feels that everything is connected. Or maybe it’s just because I’m in Asia.

With the older students we are able to compare the differences in Thai and Finnish society and I think that makes the lessons all the more interesting. At least that’s how I feel. Sometimes it’s hard to know if the students share the same enthusiasm: some of them enjoy the Thai national hobby which is meticulously checking their face in case of pimples (and squeezing them if any are too be found).

Obviously I need to spend a good amount of time researching and learning the topic before teaching it but luckily my schedule is not too full and I have plenty of time to prepare the lessons. My head of studies told me that it’s not so easy to find Social Studies teachers for the reason above: it means more work for the teacher when he/she doesn’t know the topic. I think I may have found my niche if I want to continue working as a teacher here in Thailand! Ok, I would have so much to write about but I think this is enough to start with. More next time!

Siriraj Medical aka the Anatomy Museum

I’ve been super busy lately, so haven’t had time to write about some things that I would’ve wanted. But I will do it soon. Meanwhile, here’s a post that I was supposed to publish a while ago but never just got down to it. I was in Bangkok a few weeks ago and was able to visit this museum that my yoga anatomy teacher, Ewa, at the yoga teacher training recommended. Should I actually now inform that some of these photos – in addition to the actual museum – are not for the squeamish?! Just kidding, don’t worry. I’ve left out the freakiest. They might get banned anyway.

 

This place is situated at the Faculty of Medicine or Siriraj Hospital area and it actually consist of 5 different museums, in a few different buildings. It can be a bit tricky finding the correct place but luckily you can always ask someone: plenty of security guards around who are used to tourists looking clueless. The place is not too far from Rattanakosin which is the historic part of Bangkok (Khao San Rd area also included in the definition, though it is separate: same same but different, you know). It has a plethora of things to see, so maybe next time extend your stay in the area and do something different!

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Have you got some skeletons in the closet, hehe

The most interesting museums were the Pathology and Anatomy Museums. In the first one they had deformed babies in folmadehyde (it’s strange that the creepiest stuff is always the most interesting). They had a very informative exhibition about the 2004 Tsunami’s effects on human bodies and how the forensic investigators worked to identify the bodies and medical team helped people with serious injuries. This was a part of a wider Forensic Museum collection which had eg. bodies of murders, skulls showing gunshot holes and what might happen to your head if you die in a car accident. After this, you will want to wear a seat belt and a helmet! Unfortunately most of the information here is in Thai but in the Pathology Museum you can ask a headset if you want to hear the explanations in English (perhaps they have other languages as well, I’m not sure). In the same building they also have the Parasitology Museum which I didn’t find super fascinating. Can stroll it through in 5-10 minutes though, since it doesn’t cost extra.

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A glimpse of the Anatomy Museum

When you get to the Anatomy Museum you feel just…wow! At least I did. It would make a perfect scene for a horror movie. The building itself is very old and when you climb the wooden stairs up to the museum, it makes the same creepy sound that you could hear at your grandparents’ old house when you were little. When you get in to the museum, everything is, well… old. And damp. It’s amazing how well everything has been able to preserve in this humidity. Prepare to see numerous dissected body parts and human bodies. Bones also, but they seem a bit tame after the REAL deal. Obviously deformities as well. Babies in jars, in the same vein as in the Pathology Museum. This Museum boasts also being the only one which has the whole body arterial system and central nervous system. Imagine the person who has scraped off everything else, so there is nothing but a fine, thread-like matrix of peripheral nervous system left (google it, or better yet, go and see for yourself)!

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Central nervous system

Strangely enough, I found the museum somehow beautiful: numerous rows of old shelves with glass doors and glass jars. I’ve always been a bit romantic when it comes to things from the past: I like to imagine what life was like then, what kind of life would I have lead and so on. Okay, I have to admit that I was wondering that will some of the shocking images stick in my head. But they didn’t. If you are very sensitive this might not be the place for you, though. And small children, leave them home. The museum should be open daily from 10am to 5pm, except Tuesdays and public holidays. The admission to all of the museums is only 300 baht. After the creepy(?) experience you can chill your nerves at the riverside where they have some nice cafes and restaurants and a new, cool and hipstery mall, Tha Maharaj on the east bank of Chao Phraya (Rattanakosin side) where the ferries cross the river. The ferry cost only 3 baht and they run frequently.  Oh, and you are not allowed to take photos at the museums. Don’t tell anyone. I know I won’t…

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Johannesburg, South Africa

The thruth to be told, my first trip actually didn’t go AT ALL the way I planned it. I think the main problem was that I got sick from day 2. Actually, had been feeling it in Bangkok already. It might be because of air-con and the constant temperature changes. I felt fluish and had a very sore throat. Because I was so sick there was no exercice either which gave me the perfect excuse to drink wine (a bit too much, it was so cheap!), since I was on holiday as well!

The lack of Internet or non-functioning/ too slow connection caused a few problems as well. Really wanted to see downtown Joburg with its Constitution Hill and Apartheid Museum but I couldn’t get my Uber to work before it was too late. There is no public transport for white people/Caucasian. Only black/coloured people use the local taxis/ minivans. I was being told that it would not be a safe way to travel. Very sad to witness the duality.

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These twin towers are apparently Joburg’s landmark

davAnyway, some good things: I got to see Soweto which was Nelson Mandela’s home for a long time. Got to see his home as well from the outside which is a museum nowadays. Unfortunately it was closed because of Eastern. I got a glimpse of Africa (and by by this I mean the very minuscule part). I knew it was unequal but when you are here it hits you so hard. Coming from the social field it is always very hard for me to see poverty around me. However, I feel that I want to go back there and see, feel and learn more about the culture and way of life.

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The highlight was definitely the Rhino and the Lion Park. Wooooooow! Seeing wild animals mere one metre from you. What I perhaps loved the most was seeing the big cats (lions, leopards, cheetahs..) and seeing the resemblance to our felis domesticus. Made me miss my cats back home. We were also lucky because they feed the big cats only once a week and we got to witness that.

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Highlight of my trip, breathtaking!

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I have wanted to visit Cape Town for a very long time. Next time I will definitely do that. It is a bit easier to get around to, I’ve heard. In Joburg I was a bit stuck in the burbs, though it was a very nice area and my host had a nice home.

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Hi! I’m Pygmy Hippo (for real)

Penang and the unadvoidable Visa run

Penang is perhaps the most typical choice if you need to do a Visa run and you are living on Koh Phangan. Some people hate the place, some like it. Anyway, if you have a 3 months tourist visa (to be more precise 60 days, which you are able to extend 30 more days at the Immigration office on Koh Samui) you have to leave the country after it expires. I bought one of those packages which included transportation, hotel with breakfast and Visa arrangements. That meant that we didn’t go to the Immigration office ourselves. We just filled the applications, gave them to our travel organisers and received passports back when everything was ready. In a way it is quite convenient but next time I would take the train and do it by myself. Travelling cramped in a minivan is not the best fun in the world. I would’ve also wanted to see a bit more of Penang but I was feeling pretty worn out after having slept only some hours in the vehicle. So this time I spent the whole time in George Town (1,5-2 whole days depending on how you look at it) which is a really cool place, but ideally, I would’ve wanted to explore the island a bit more. There are so many sights to see within walking distance (George Town belong’s to UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites) so it is very convenient when you don’t need to stress about catching a bus or taking a taxi. You might also want to try rickshaw if you are not so keen on walking.

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There aren’t 7/11:s in every corner like in Thailand though, so it might get a bit hot during the day. Luckily the hipstery coffee shops are never too far away in this part of the world either. My favourite one was loftyish Awesome Canteen. Such a cool place! Another great one was the Mugshot at Chulia Street’s backpacker ghetto. This street has everything that a backpacker needs: travel agencies, hostels, cheap eats, bars etc. A very convenient location, I’d say.

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George Town is famous for its murals and street art. Both are close to my heart since my Master’s Thesis was about graffiti and zero-tolerance policy. I was very happy just wandering around and discovering all these beautiful pieces of art, and sitting down for a cappuccino or a fresh coconut every once in a while, to rest my legs. Other sight that I would very much recommend is Pinang Peranakan Mansion. If you want to catch a glimpse of how lavishly the upper class used to live, this is the place to be. The rooms are so beautiful and there is ample of antiquities, such as cut glass and china.

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Pinang Peranakan
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An inviting boudoir at Pinang Peranakan

Just around the corner from Pinang Peranakan is the Indian quarter. So much inexpensive Indian food and products. I got a bit carried away at the local Indian version of Target. The idea was to take a brief look inside but the shop was so much larger when you made it inside and they had so many things. In the end I needed to go exchange some more money because they didn’t accept foreign credit cards. Oh well… I would especially recommend buying incence, Henna colours. soaps and kitchen ware, such as beautiful bowls or plates. It is one of my favourite things overseas anyway, going to the local supermarket and checking all the different products, whether it be food, cosmetics, kitchen utensils or something else.

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All vegetarian and cheap, cheap!
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Got a bit carried away…

Chase the dog

I thought I would have to dedicate a whole page to my dog, Chase. He is my loyal companion. Always there for me. I really wasn’t planning on having a dog but my ex needed to leave the island earlier and I really didn’t want to give up this dog. Learned to love him so much. In retrospective, things turned out perfectly. Me and my ex broke up but I am left with this beautiful dog. I believe things happen for a reason. I would never give up this dog and hence he is already a well travelled dog and seems to adjust to different surroundings quite easily: he is happy at the festivals, travelling by train, car or air. Doesn’t mind cold weather nor the rain. Actually, I believe the hot, tropical weather is his least favourite. Last year I flew to Finland with him. The progress was a really stressing one (for the owner at least) and not the cheapest but worth every penny altogether.

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The reason why I am so determined to keep him is because I learned from my mistakes. I had to leave behind 2 beautiful cats in Finland to my ex boyfriend at the time. I really missed them so bad when I arrived here at the end of 2015. Luckily my ex is so sweet that he sends photos of the cats every once in a while and lets me know how they are doing. I got to see the cats last summer anyway. They are still as lovely as ever and luckily they have the best care taker as well.

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Chase is a “typical” Thai mix dog with short legs but otherwise his trunk is medium sized. For some reason I tend to fall in love with this type of dogs. They are just so cute! Would love to have another one but I can’t because I travel quite a lot. Anyway, Chase is the friendliest dog ever. Not the brightest, nor the bravest but he has a big heart. Because he is so good-tempered it is also easy to take him to a friend or my Mum to look after if I am away. He has been really healthy as well. No health problems at all. Just have to keep an eye on his eating habits because he has started gaining weight. In Finland we made long walks everyday but here he is free outside. Anyway, here the dogs have their territories and they don’t normally go around so much. It’s also quite hot and Chase’s hair is thick and black. That is why he actually enjoyed the cool weather in Finland. Luckily snow came early last year and he got to experience a proper Finnish winter. He loved it! We made some relaxing walks in the woods when it was a winter’s wonderland and snow until my knees.

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I will surely write more about him and the whole export/import process a bit later. But this is a good start now, I think.

Something to consider when booking a yoga teacher training course

4 weeks went so fast. It would’ve been nicer to get to know some of the girls a bit more but the time was limited and I had other obligations as well. If I had stayed at the yoga centre I’m sure I would’ve gotten to know them even better. Anyway, the price for the accommodation and food onsite was quite high. And when you know the average prices in Thailand you do not want to pay much more than that. And I don’t know when I will be getting my first salary – nor do I know when I will start working again – so have to think about the budget as well. But it might be worth thinking if you want to spend some extra money and live onsite. This way you get to know the others more and save time. Those who stayed at Orion got to know the other customers and yogis better as well. I didn’t because I was always coming and going. But I am not necessary very chit chatty with strangers anyway so it might also have something to do with one’s personality. If you have the meal plan you don’t have to think about cooking either. Food is healthy and nutritious and supports the whole practice and cleansing process. This way it is also easy to explore if you would like to go vegan or would like to have a raw food diet or perhaps eliminate sugar completely.

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It took me 15 minutes to get to Orion which is not that long but when our breaks were about 2-2,5 hours it didn’t leave much time to stay at home. And then of course you need to clean, cook, feed the dogs, do your laundry etc. Didn’t leave much extra time at all. I was constantly rushing from one place to another. Something I do not enjoy at all. I need my own time. During the course there really isn’t. Saturdays we did have off but that was usually the day when you needed to do all the things you had been procrastinating during the week. And then you had only half of the day left.

But, if you have your own house you have your privacy. If you live in a dorm you need to consider the others as well. I, for example tend to postpone my bedtime quite often and I also love listening to music. And while cooking does take some time, kitchen is a privilege. You can store your food in the fridge or make yourself a cuppa whenever you wish. I made myself a chia pudding or raw porridge almost every night before going to bed and took it with me in the morning. That was a healthy brekkie but also cost-effective.

One thing to consider is the language. I mean, I speak fairly good English but I was still struggling with the words when I needed to say that “take this limb under that limb and turn it like this and the other end over there”. Pheeeew! So while I can name all the body parts in English without hesitation, I got occasionally a bit lost when I needed to say what goes where while trying to sound like a proper teacher. However, over half of us were non-native English speakers and we all made it through, so language shouldn’t be the off-putting thing. Now it would actually probably feel quite easy teaching in Finnish. Of course the bonus of going it through in English is that I know the correct terminology both in Finnish and in English. Therefore, I would  be able to teach with both languages. Not so bad at all!

I will not dig deep into the obvious ones, ie. which style you want to practice, where, who is the teacher, does the teacher represent the right lineage or who has the teacher been practicing with. Might be a good idea to check if the yoga school has offered teacher trainings earlier and what kind of testimonials the previous students have given. That’s what I did and it made me more convinced that I wanted to do my TTC (teacher training course) at Orion.

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Practicing forward bends

It might be worth knowing that some places offer discount of the course price if you volunteer either at the course or yoga centre or perhaps do some voluntary work at a local charity organisation. This in my opinion shows that the yoga school is willing to give the opportunity to do a TTC for someone who is not so loaded but still wishes to learn. And this is the spirit I like yoga schools to have as well. Yoga is a massive business nowadays and it is very contradictory to talk about spirituality when at the same time yoga is not super cheap, at least not anymore. Then again, I also do understand that if some people have chosen to become yoga teachers and live in the modern world they need to get their bills and rent paid. They use money to part take on different courses and perhaps go study in India annually to learn more and become better teachers. This is all at their own expense. So yes, the whole logic is a bit funny nowadays.

And for the last, but definitely not the least, be prepared to realise that you will not be a super knowledgeable or “ready” yoga teacher after completing a 4 weeks course. The more you learn, the more you realise that you know soooo little. Of course compared to a total novice I know quite a lot. But if I compare myself to my teachers I know very little. So I feel I wouldn’t be a super qualified teacher at the moment nor would I want to start teaching now, at least for money. Then again, if you do not start teaching you will not learn either. And the more you postpone teaching, the more daunting it becomes. Perhaps it also makes a difference of what kind of yoga you want to teach and what kind of students you have. If your students are moderately healthy and they want to do “just” stretching or yoga as exercise the burden might not be as heavy.

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360 bar, an awesome place to watch the sunset

The last day

So the 4 weeks went very fast, as you might have guessed. On the last day we had our morning practice as usual and after that a test. In this test you needed to write down the whole primary sequence, naming all the asanas (ie. postures) with their Sanskrit and English names, count in Sanskrit until 17, know the drishtis, which means the gazing point during each asana, the 3 bandhas, which are the body locks, the 8 limbs, which describes the Ashtanga yoga philosophy, yamas and niyamas which belong to the 8 limbs and can be described as behaviour codes for yogis to follow, and also the definition of pranayama (extension of the breath/prana, or the extension of the life force) and chakras.

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The lovely sauna/ steam room
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This was a great place for relaxing after a demanding training day

In the afternoon we had the graduation ceremony. It was 4pm and maybe a bit too hot for the ceremonial photos because I think you are supposed to look nice and fresh in them. Everybody was sweating. Mind you, I had just been to the sauna as well, so could be that that was causing my extra perspiration. At the ceremony we also went through our tapas and how the 4 weeks have gone with our chosen tapa. And just in case you haven’t read the previous posts I will explain that this has nothing to do with the Spanish small dishes. Tapa is a way to discipline yourself. We all needed to choose one thing we live without during the course. For me it was not so hard to be without refined sugar. Of course I felt like having an icecream every once in a while or my sweet tooth was aching occasionally but nothing that I couldn’t handle.

It was not difficult being without meat as I am mostly vegetarian. Here in Thailand I love the cheap soups though that they sell on the street and they have a little bit of meat in them. I noticed that my diet become more monotonous, though, because of the constrictions. I did not have time to make my own food and so most of the time relied on Thai takeaway or made myself an omelette. So my diet was quite Thai curry and rice or vegetable noodles based which is not necessary a super good thing. Quite a lot of carbs in these and not always so many vegetables. For breakfast I made myself a raw porridge or a chia seed pudding with lots of fruits, seeds and nuts so the start for the day was always super healthy and balancing the overall diet. The healthy and conscious vegetarian&vegan meals are quite pricey here, especially if you eat out so I couldn’t allow myself to eat over 200 baht meals every day. Many of the girls ate at Orion every day and the dishes there are very healthy and delicious but I just didn’t want to spend so much money on food.

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I allowed myself to buy a few brekkies onsite. These breakfast bowls were beautiful but quite sweet

 

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With our lovely teachers Ewa and Coco at the ceremony

Anyway, I have been feeling very healthy and my skin is glowing so I must have gotten something right. For sure I will try to follow a healthier eating habit and consume less sugar and meat. I actually got myself a soy yoghurt but it tasted way too sweet. It must’ve had so much added sugar. Didn’t feel right eating it. I also made a focaccia a few days later and was stuffing myself with wheat and consequently felt a bit sick afterwards. So I think healthier eating habits, or more precisely, more conscious eating habits are here to stay. Hopefully.

Around sunset we went to Romanzo Tropicale again to celebrate this special day.  Lots of pizza and wine consumed. Have to give heads up to some of my yoginis who could order their pizzas without cheese. I could never do it. I went vegan when I was about 14 or 15. Did it for about a year or two.  I don’t think I could live without cheese anymore. It’s just too damn good! A few others were also planning to go out on this special occasion but in the end, I think I was the only one who went out dancing. Was quite liberating when you don’t need to look at the time constantly or worry if the last drink is a bit too much for you.

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Cheers!