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.

Salsa Dancing with Ganesh in Chiang Mai

Salsa Dancing with Ganesh in Chiang Mai  – A Day in the Life in Thailand

Searching for jobs in Thailand independently goes a little something like this: check ajarn.com, find the names of other local schools on the internet and by looking around and talking to people. Sometimes I can’t pronounce the names of the schools. I write my résumé and cover letter in google docs, download them as .pdf files, send them as an e-mail, copy them onto my USB drive, go to the laser print shop I finally found and print them out.

Next, I find where the school is, get directions in Thai, and thankfully I have a Thai friend named Prem, who has a motorbike and is happy to take me to schools. I pay for gas and our meals. I call schools to see if I can drop off and application and try to meet with someone, which is not always possible, but dropping off a paper copy of my résumé and seeing the school is always worth a visit.

Before heading out Prem gave me a tiny helmet that was nothing more than a fashion accessory, which I politely declined. Although most Thai people don’t wear helmets, I value my head and always make sure to get one that actually will protect me. I was given a second helmet. This one was so big on my head that, despite the straps, I had to hold it so it wouldn’t fall off while the motorbike was moving. After driving about 3 blocks Prem and I traded helmets. After adjusting the straps and putting my hair up in it, finally my third hemet fit. In exchange, I gave him my sunglasses for eye protection. Driving in Chiang Mai traffic is a little unnerving, and I’m glad I’m not the one doing it. I am extremely thankful to Prem, because although I could take public transportation, it would be hard for me to find these places on my own.

Getting to the school, I ask for the nearest hawng nam (bathroom) and change into non-sweaty work appropriate clothes and shoes. The next steps are finding the correct building where someone might speak English and there might be Roman script, filling out an application, where the space provided doesn’t begin to fit my amount of degrees and job experience, and giving them my cover letter and résumé, and hopefully meeting someone who works there. Then it’s off again with dear Prem to the next school to do it all over again.

Whew! After searching for jobs all day, I wanted to go do something fun.

I had heard about an art opening at Chiang Mai University and thought it might be a nice thing to do in the evening, if I had the energy. I asked my friend Alana, who is also looking for teaching work, if she wanted to go to the art opening, but she had plans for Salsa dancing around the corner. The art opening was from 6-9. At this point it was 7:30 and I wasn’t sure exactly where it was, or how readily public transportation would be available to get out to the university and back. I opted for more conveniently located salsa dancing instead.

Alana and I walked over to a bar on the second floor, ironically right upstairs from where I had printed my laser copies earlier that day. It was a nice little bar with a small dance floor and an open air seating area in back and a balcony in front. Both Thais and foreigners were there. The lesson was about to begin.

We lined up in 2 lines with women on one side and men on the other. There were more women, so sometimes I had a female partner as we moved down the line switching partners every few minutes. A Thai guy taught the brief lesson in English. Some of the songs played were actual salsa songs, but they also varied into Oye Como Va by Santana, and a few others that salsa aficionados might wrinkle their noses at. But I thought, “Come on, we’re in Thailand, which is in Asia and we’re salsa dancing! This is fantastic!”

I danced with a few people, none of whom were talented dancers. In fact, I don’t think there was one latino in the whole place. Off the dance floor, I ended up talking to a guy for a few minutes who said he can’t really follow the steps so he just does his own moves. I said, “That’s my kind of dancing.” To which he replied, “Do you want to dance?” And off we went.

We were the only ones on the dance floor and people were watching us basically make dancing fools of ourselves. At this point I was quite glad there were no latinos, because we probably would have horrified them. The thing was, with all the spinning and swooshing around, I was having a great time. Both of us were laughing our heads off while dancing.

As we got off the floor, some English guy said to me that our dancing looked like some sort of bizarre Indian mating ritual. I talked with my dance partner who I found out was from Malaysia, but of Indian heritage. His name, yes, it was Ganesh. I showed him my necklace depicting the obstacle removing Hindu elephant god of his namesake. He the told me that he had watched Elizabeth the night before.

Why live abroad inThailand? Where else am I going to be salsa dancing in SE Asia with a Malay/Indian guy named Ganesh?