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Waai Chiang Mai

THAILAND | Friday, 31 May 2013 | Views [470]

Waai Chiang Mai?

Curious; adjective.
-Desiring knowledge, understanding.

1st April 2013

I arrive in Chiang Mai not only with my luggage but with anticipation for the following 6 weeks.
And what an amazing 6 weeks it was.

The Living Place was my hostel for the next 7 days and I immediately loved it and felt so welcome. The owners were artists and musicians, their artwork covered the walls of this 3 story guesthouse and they treated their guests like they were long-time friends.

The first Friday I was there they put on dinner for everyone. Ari, cooked an incredible vegetarian meal that could have probably catered half of Chiang Mai. Local friends and ex pats came in and joined us at periods throughout the night. Dessert was an activity made for everyone. It involved us sitting around the table rolling balls of mysterious dough and putting them into a cooker of a milky green liquid. (pandanus leaves turned the coconut milk green and was a very light and delightful taste). The dough would cook for about 10 minutes and then was time to eat. I didn’t think much of the dough like balls, but the juice was lovely!

I spent that weekend wandering around Chiang Mai with new hostel friends and then I was on the lookout to find my school that I would be attending the following Monday for a 4 week TEFL course, (teaching English as a foreign language). After asking for some ‘guidance’ – not directions, from the US consulate, I continued. I then hear a man stop behind on his motorbike saying ‘excuse me, you remember me?, I was one give you direction’. Instinctively I ignored him, then realized, yes this man was the one I just spoke to. He told me he was going in my direction to eat and that he could give me ride. (I know what you are all thinking, don’t get on the back of a strangers bike Brooke.) This did go through my brain, but I figured, if I can’t trust a guard from the US consulate, who could I trust? He took me to where I needed to go and I walked right in.

The staff of the school/training centre were extremely friendly and they showed me around the school and introduced me to the director/Thai teacher. I felt so much more at ease after my meeting and enjoyed the remainder of my weekend.

In my hostel the previous weekend I had met a couple of English girls who were also starting the same course on Monday, so we arranged to meet in the morning and walk to school together. Our first day was great, meeting everyone was my favourite part and hearing each person’s story as to why they had come to Chiang Mai and complete a TEFL certificate was inspiring.

Our four weeks consisted of several grammar inputs, Thai lessons and 6 observed teaching practices. The first 2 weeks were fairly straight forward with preparation for our teaching practices. Then the second two weeks were crazy! We were to create lesson plans for our given topic, find and cut out pictures for flash cards, draw up a whiteboard plan and start thinking up ways of how we were going to completely screw up our lesson.

Two of our lessons were at a government school about 45 minutes outside of Chiang Mai with one of the classes being primary school and the other kindergarten. The primary class was one of my favourites. The students were interested and co-operative. Kindergarten was a completely different story as you could probably imagine. 35 four year olds who i'm sure had been given a bag of sweets before class, were challenging to say the least. I had a bag of props to go with my lesson to keep them interested and I personally thought I did fairly well with my lesson, but with the looks of my fellow classmates as they returned from their classes were faces of defeat, emotional exhaustion and they were utterly flabbergasted, i began to feel the same way. It was quite a scene.
Another of our teaching practices were held a Chinese temple school. It wasn’t a school as such but more of a community centre. The small classes were made up of about 4 to 8 students ranging from the ages of 5 to about 40 (i couldn't really tell to be honest).

The last 2 teaching practices were held funnily enough at a correctional centre for juveniles. I think these were the most rewarding. These lessons would have been the first English instruction they had ever been given and it was extremely tough. Some students picked it up straight away, others weren’t as quick. During one of my lessons, towards the end I had not realised that I had accrued about 15 other in-mates who seemed to genuinely want to learn. They were not apart of any classes, so they stayed a little distant but their faces and eyes were following my instruction and I felt extremely ‘warm and fuzzy’. I must be doing something right.

After 4 weeks, I became a qualified TEFL teacher and I couldn’t have enough thanks and praise for this company – SEETEFL. I highly recommend John, Ying and his team at SEETEFL and urge anyone interested in this course to give them a shout or send an email.

Throughout my time in Chiang Mai I had learnt a lot about Buddhism and Thai Culture and I wished I had learnt sooner. Small things like Thai etiquette went a long way. I felt like my eyes had been opened for the first time since arriving in Thailand and I began to enjoy my time a lot more. A few things I learnt about Thai culture in case you would like to know, were things such as; touching of the heads – This is most sacred part of your body, babies and toddlers are okay obviously but as they start reaching about 8 and 9, it’s not a good idea. Feet- The lowest part of your body and should not be blatantly pointed at any authority figures and should not be put on anything like resting on a coffee table for example.

Then we have the title of my post ‘Waai’-ing, (I loved this part of their culture) Waaing involved two hands together in the pray position, with index fingers touching your upper lip/end of your nose and bowing your head a little saying Sawadee ka at the same time (hello). There are three levels of the waai; the first I just explained, then the second is used for older family members/bosses etc and is done moving the thumbs up to touch the nose. Lastly the third level is used for the Buddha and The King and is done by placing your thumbs to touch the middle of your forehead a little above your eyebrows. In this case, you would be on your knees, so you bow your head to touch the ground and place your hands beside your head and you complete this step 3 times in a row. These are all used as a sign of respect. If someone waai’ed you, you waai them back. Just a bit of trivia.

Tags: buddhism, chiang mai, tefl, thai culture


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