The Hard Part of Taking the Leap

The Hard Part of Taking the Leap

Sometimes people say to me that no matter what I do, it seems like I always land on my feet. I am very grateful for the many gifts life has given me. I do follow what’s in my heart, it’s true. What most people don’t see is how hard I work to make this happen.

I have thought about coming back to Thailand for years. There is a website, ajarn.com, that posts teaching jobs in Thailand everyday. I have had this site bookmarked on my computer since 2002. I have read books about job availability and the salaries offered in Thailand. I have bought books, downloaded CDs, spoken and listened to people in Thai and watched youtube videos to try and learn Thai language. I have a CELTA (the Cambridge Certificate in Teaching English Language to Adults), a Master degree in Education, an Oregon Teaching License, and my ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) Endorsement from Lewis and Clark. I’ve taught ESL to adults for 8 years and have taught elementary school for 6 years.

In short, I’ve done my homework, and I’m highly qualified.

I have spent the past week interviewing for jobs that, to be frank, that I am overqualified for.

First, I had an interview in for a school in Lampang. The director of the school was a wonderfully kind English man. He and his wife walked me through the town, then to dinner, and then put me up in a guesthouse. Wow, very nice indeed. The next day, I went to see the school where the job position available would be teaching high school ESL, not really the age I want to teach. The director realized that I was extremely qualified and did everything he could to make me want to stay. The salary was average for teaching ESL in Thailand (which is a pretty low salary), and the cost of living in Lampang would be very low. An advantage would be that I’d have to learn Thai by necessity, as English is not spoken much at all in Lampang. I only saw one other tourist there. That being said, it was kind of a small Thai/Chinese town, and I think I’d crave a bit more to do. When I asked one of the teachers at the school what he did outside of work, he said teach private lessons. Hmm, I didn’t come to Thailand to work all the time. I thought about it, considered it, but I just felt like I’d be taking a step backwards. I’d have been thrilled with this job when I’d just finished my CELTA when I was 25, but I’m not anymore.

I returned to Chiang Mai and breathed out a sigh like I had arrived back home. I may consider jobs in other places, but at the moment I would like to find a job here. Today I found the school where I want to work, called Panyaden, even though the position is for teaching younger learners. I spent the whole next day focusing on it, writing my résumé and cover letter for that school. It’s a Buddhist, environmental, bilingual school that sounds perfect for me. I sent off my application in high hopes.

I ended up having 3 interviews in 2 days that were bad, worse, and horrible. Here are the cliffs notes of how one went, “I don’t know where you saw that teaching position posted on our website, there isn’t a teaching position available. Actually, I don’t know how to navigate our website. You would be an assistant to a teacher who has no qualifications, you’d have 40 kids, you’d be responsible for the after school program from 4:00-5:00 with no extra pay, you’d start your day at 7:30, and the salary would be 18,000 baht a month (that’s $600).”  The guy talked with me in earnest like I would actually want that job. Are you *expletive* kidding?!!

My friend Alana who is also looking for teaching work (but is younger and just finished her CELTA  course) discussed how the job search process goes in ebbs and flows. I was feeling down after 3 job interviews for positions that really wouldn’t suit me at all. Alana suggested going to bed early and that the next day things would be better.

She was correct. The next morning I had an e-mail from the director of Panyaden and they wanted to interview me. We had 2 hour interview that afternoon. I could not tell if the director would like me to work there or not, he asked me a lot of questions, but it was hard to read what he thought of my answers.

It’s mid-October and my 15 days from my last border run are almost up. I need to go on another visa run – this time I’m southbound to the Cambodian border. Here’s to hoping for the best.

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Border Crossing

Border Crossing

Crossing a border is always a somewhat nerve wracking experience, but you don’t normally do it to turn around and come back in to the country you just left 10 minutes later. That’s what I did today…

In Thailand, if you cross the border into another country, you can come right back in and get 15 days on your passport free of charge. It used to be 30 days until a few years ago.

Today, Oct 1, I got my coffee and left Chiang Rai in the morning for a bus bound to Chiang Khong. I couldn’t believe how beautiful the countryside of Chiang Rai province is. After about 21/2 hours of winding through rice fields, little towns, and mountains n the distance I arrived in Chiang Khong.

Chiang Khong is a border town in Northern Thailand on the Mekong River. Across the river is Laos. I made this border crossing into Laos in April of 2000. So, although things constantly change, I had a little idea of what to expect.

I was picked up on the back of the lovely Maeleewan’s motorbike to go to her guesthouse called Baanrimtaling. It is slightly out of town with a beautiful quiet view of the lazy river. She assured me that the whole crossing experience would just take 1/2 hour and that I had time for lunch first. I ate a delicious vegetarian green curry with Maeleewan, her American boyfriend, and a Peace Corps volunteer friend of theirs. Being stationed in Chiang Khong for the Peace Corps has to be pretty nice we agreed.

Maeleewan let me borrow her one of her bicycles to ride across town to the border crossing. I pedaled through the town as motorbikes and truck whizzed by. I arrived to the border control, got my Thai exit stamp and was off to the muddy riverside where the little boats make the river crossing for 40 baht (about $1.30)

Oddly, the first sign I saw today "Obama blended spirits"

On the bike ride I saw this extremely groovy picture of the King

Condoms for sale anyone?

I waited about 5 minutes for some other people to fill up the boats, then we made the 2 minute river crossing and I was in Laos. I have not been to Laos since 2000, and I know that it has gotten money from Japan, Korea, and China for development since then, but I imagine it is still much less developed than Thailand. This is slightly evident at the border.

Boats going to Laos

I was surprised that I needed to pay $36 for the 30 day visa to Laos even though I was only staying for all of 5 minutes. The Lao immigration officer, who was not too pleased with me for only being in his country for a Thai visa, explained that I pay for the visa even if I’m in the country for one minute. Live and learn.

the Thai/Lao border

Crossing back into Thailand I wanted to get a 90 day visa, I asked for this in my rudimentary Thai. The immigration official said no and that I got 15 days. I said, 90? and the guard joked with me, “These people get 15 days, but you, maybe 2 days.” I decided to take the 15 days and get out of there. I didn’t know you had to get that processed while out of the country. Another lesson learned. Amount of money it cost to cross back into Thailand with 15 more days on my passport? $0.00.

Laos

I was glad to be back in the land of smiles. I think I’ll stay a while…if they let me.