- Sweet nothing -

7th January '17

The couple of days after writing the last blog were kind of rough.

I'd been so focussed on making sure that I didn't accidentally find myself in a relationship, that it took a little while to realise that... damn, the person I've been closest to for the past three years is no longer part of my life.

It suddenly hit me and I was fairly emotional (for me) for the next couple of days. Life goes on though, and the rest of this holiday continued... basically as I detailed in the last blog. And I loved it.

I cooked a lot, trialling many new recipes. I walked a lot, seeing many new areas of Bangkok. I ran a lot, and then publicly set myself the target of running 1,000km over the course of 2017, which I'm already regretting.

I ran 533km in 2016, but for much of the year had a fear of running in Bangkok's daytime heat. With that gone, there's no reason that I can't run 1,000km in 2017, but I do wish that I'd kept such a goal to myself.

I enjoy running because it's an escape from pressure and from work. It's just something that I do because I enjoy it, and setting myself such a target takes away some of the fun. But still... I'll use it as motivation.

My life over this holiday started resembling the life that I had in China, where on having five days-off every week, things just took longer.

My sleep app will testify that I've been sleeping as well as I have done in a long time, getting a string of 100% nights over the past week or two.

Normally I'm the kind of person who's unconscious as soon as their head hits the pillow, and jumps out of bed as soon as they're awake. That's how your nights become when you have more to do than you have time to do it in the day.

But now with nothing definitive to do each day, I was lying awake for longer before I'd fall asleep, and I'd have much dozier introductions to my day.

After a slow awakening, I'd shower, have a smoothie, then a cup of green tea... it'd already be after midday.

If I was cooking something new that day, I'd make the trip to the supermarket, which became an almost daily endeavour as I sought fresh ingredients.

Combine this trip with the time cooking and eating, and it'd often be four or five pm by the time I finished lunch.

I'd maybe go running at 6pm, getting home and out of the shower at 8pm. Then cook dinner and it was time for bed.

It was almost like being a student again, with no real responsibility and taking things one at a time.

In the real world, you can't set an hour aside each day to drink a cup of green tea; you drink it while you're working. When I have no work though... I can.

On days where I wasn't running or cooking something new, I'd set myself a goal, or somewhere new to go, and I'd walk there, no matter the distance.

By this final week of the holiday, my watch was setting me a target of 780 active calories everyday, which I found translated to about 20km of walking.

Other people would find this boring I'm sure, but it was a perfect existence for me. It was nice to live a life... void of responsibility essentially.

I had no responsibility to anyone but myself. I had no job to do, so no times that I had to be anywhere or do anything. For three weeks it's been nice to just wake-up and not have anything to do.

It was relaxing, it was uneventful, I continually ate good food and exercised well.

Very intentionally, I didn't study even a second of Thai during this holiday. It was another thing that I really needed a step back from so that I could reassess how I was studying, and how and if I wanted to proceed.

And I'll put it bluntly; learning Thai has been a very frustrating and unrewarding endeavour for me.

Whenever you tell people that you're living in Thailand, an almost reflex response is "You should learn Thai," while having zero appreciation for how hard and how much work that actually is.

My success in picking-up the language has been woefully unimpressive. And despite being about eight months since I started, I'm yet to actually find a school or a method that I'm comfortable with.

In fact I would say that my ability to use Thai peaked probably in September, ironically when I arrived back here from England having had the time to study properly.

Since then I've slowly regressed, and it's been months now since I said anything meaningful in Thai.

I don't need it in my daily life. Bangkok is a city made for English-speaking tourists, and almost every person I encounter has better English than I do Thai.

It's why I needed to take a step back and think about what I'm doing.

Last term I "studied" 40+ hours of observation-only classes at my school.

I tried so hard to be open-minded with this method of learning but... I'm still not convinced.

It gives you listening practice, sure, but... I want to be speaking. If I'd spent forty hours actually speaking in Thai, I am absolutely convinced that it'd have been more beneficial.

The first school I studied at wasn't perfect and felt like something out of the 1950s, but I actually quite liked it, were it not so intense.

If I could go to a school like that for two days per week instead of five, it'd be perfect for me. You try finding one though.

There are dozens of schools, just like this one, which offer courses of five days per week. I've already earmarked Duke as the best one if I am ever to return to that method. But I can't study that much while also working. Not if I hope to maintain my sanity, anyway.

Therein lies a lot of the problem actually, in that most Thai courses seem to be designed for people who have no jobs.

Students on gap years, or housewives of businessmen. That seems to be who studies Thai, but there's very little out there for people who have actual jobs.

That's not true actually, but the schools that cater to people with actual jobs, have prices that reflect what a wealthy businessman working abroad might pay.

Duke is 7,000 baht for 60 hours (or cheaper if you buy more), which translates to 117 baht (£2.66) per hour. And that's with a weak pound.

It's roughly equivalent to what my school charges for an English course, and seeing as native English teachers command a higher salary than their Thai counterparts, you'd think that a Thai school wouldn't be able to charge much more.

Wrong.

Pricing themselves more on the wealth of their customers than the wages of their teachers, other schools which do offer less intensive courses, are up to three times the price that I was paying my private tutor. And I searched dozens of them.

From looking at the ones nearest to my apartment, to lists that I found online, it's the same thing. From what I've found, you basically have a choice:

You study five days per week, or you pay an absolute fortune, neither of which I want to do.

It's why I resorted to getting a private tutor last time I was looking for a school, but I'm not so inclined to do that again.

It's all very frustrating when you actually want to learn, in a normal school, for reasonable money... but nothing exists, and your best option is classes at the school that you work at, which don't even allow you to speak.

This all sounds very defeatist I'm sure, but I'm kind of running-out of ideas. I wanted to have something definitive lined-up by the end of this holiday, but alas, I don't.

I could perhaps try a different tutor; I'm not inclined to go back to my last one, she was too unreliable. I could perhaps see how far I can go on my own, using books, Pimsleur, Anki etc., to study, and Tandem to talk to people.

I don't know in all honesty. If I could find a Thai clone of the school I teach at, it would be perfect. I don't know of one that actually exists though.

Of course all of this was going to be influenced by my schedule, which finally arrived in my inbox from my mysterious new manager last night.

Considering that most teachers have never met him, it was a very innocuous message, not really giving any kind of introduction, rather "Hi everyone, here's the schedule..."

And well, the big question for me, was is my request to not work very hard going to be honoured?

Last term taught me that I can live on a reduced salary, and even fund three weeks-off, very comfortably with the way that I live. I don't want or need more hours.

Fuck, I've got more hours.

Now having an Apple Watch, there is literally zero in the world that I want to buy. I have everything that I need in my life, so it's with great frustration that I'm going to be making more money than I want or need. I would much rather have the free time, but I've been returned to a normal schedule.

That was the bad news. The good news is that I'm teaching level 2 and level 12; both levels that I had last term, so I have zero to actually plan from scratch. That's a first.

Alright, maybe this new manager isn't so bad.

Level 12, if you remember, was the testing level in which I had that real piece of shit student. I'm quite glad to have it again, because despite the unwanted stress of teaching students towards a test, it'll give me a chance to make amends for that dismal showing last term.

Hopefully I've got students who actually deserve to be in this level this term, and who want to learn, although I won't hold my breath on that.

And level 2 I had twice last term, so having it twice more this term shouldn't be a problem, except for a couple of caveats.

Do you remember that when I started this job, another girl started at the same time as me?

I like her, we get along well, but she's certainly an out-of-the-box thinker.

For some reason she requested to teach level 1 last term. She wanted to try something new. But then once she got it, she panicked and messaged me asking for help. I have a lot of experience teaching level 1.

My response was to send her my first few lesson plans.

Well, she had level 1 last term. Now I have level 2 this term.

I gave her some of my best low-level activities, and now I have the same students.

That kind of sucks, because it means that they've already seen some of my best material, and I've never even taught them before.

It just goes to show, that being a nice person, never pays-off.

She would also tell me about these classes, and one of them she loved. Cool. The other she fucking hated. And I have the class that she fucking hated.

If a student is in level 1 to begin with, you have to wonder why.

Thai kids learn English at school, so if they can't even say "Hello, my name is...", then it may just be that they didn't pay much attention in school, but now they actually want to learn.

I was forced to learn French for five years at school, and I can barely make a sentence.

But it may also be because they're a little slow, or they struggle to pay attention, or they just don't give a fuck.

I teach at an adult school, which means above age fifteen.

You do therefore get stuck with some people that you might still consider kids, who're being forced to be there by their parents, but have no desire to learn.

I think that's what this class was. It was late teens who were made to come by their parents, but who'd rather spend their time staring at Facebook.

I'll go into it with an open-mind, but that's something to look forward to.

This is a five o'clock class as well, which I fucking hate. Well everyone fucking hates them.

Instead of having 12 × 150-minute classes over the term, at five o'clock you teach 18 × 90-minute classes.

A good English class should introduce new language language, and then crescendo into using it freely and naturally.

You try taking twelve classes that do that, and spreading them out over eighteen; it's a fucking pain, and is a surprising amount of work. So the only real work I have so far, is butchering twelve well thought-out and structured classes, into eighteen, for a bunch of kids that don't want to learn.

Great.

Still, it could have been worse. I'm looking at the bright-side of it.

My weekend schedule is still to come. I'll likely get that on Thursday or Friday. But my weekday schedule... could be worse. I have zero to plan from scratch, so at this juncture, I quite like my mysterious new manager.

One thing that I also noticed, is that one teacher did get the easy schedule that I requested... and I'm not sure if he actually asked for it.

Entering into the workplace politics again, you might remember that I mentioned a teacher who flunked the irrelevant surveys for two consecutive years.

In no uncertain terms, this teacher was told by the big boss, that 'if it was up to me, you'd be fired.' It was only my boss that saved his job; that's how I understand it.

Well my boss is gone now, and my mysterious new manager apparently has a close relationship with the big boss, so... I wonder if this is them trying to push this teacher out the door.

It sucks for him if it is; he's a nice guy, and he's taken my not working very hard schedule, the fucker. But it's no secret that student numbers are down.

This is me speculating about something that I know nothing about, but on having to work normal hours this term, the first thing I looked at was 'well who doesn't have to work very hard then?'

It immediately jumped-off the spreadsheet at me, that it was the guy who'd previously been threatened with his job.

It sucks to be him, and it sucks to be me, because now I'm being forced to make more money than I want or need, which throttles my motivation and ability to learn Thai even more. I'm genuinely not sure where I go from here.

I haven't given up yet, but to all those people who mindlessly responded "you should learn Thai...", fuck you. What a stupid thing to say.

This blog marks the end of what has been a rather unique vacation. I didn't really go anywhere or do anything, and I loved it.

I have unfortunately got my hearing back again, which kind of sucks. I genuinely enjoyed having everyone's bullshit muffled, but I can unfortunately hear it all loud and clear again now.

I haven't yet gone swimming again, because as much as I enjoyed being part-deaf, I do need to be able to hear to do my job. If I went swimming today and couldn't hear properly for another two weeks... yeah, I might not find myself employed for too long either. So I'm a little bit scared to get in the pool again.

And I... I can't tell if I have a next door neighbour or not.

I'm sure that I keep on hearing people go in and out of the apartment next to mine. In fact, there were two pairs of women's shoes outside the door a week or so ago, after I heard two non-native speakers walking down the corridor speaking English.

But... well if I do have neighbours, they're the quietest person/people ever. Or the walls are really thick, I'm not sure which.

It may sound ridiculous seeing as I've been living here almost a year and a half, but I have no idea how good the walls in this apartment insulate you from sound because... well I've never had a next door neighbour before.

On one side of me is a fire exit, and on the other has been a continually vacant apartment, so I've never really had people in the next room making noise, other than the occasional workman. And drills aren't really a fair test.

So I possibly have neighbours. Speaking non-native English, they're obviously not Thai, and I've seen a lot of French people around recently. I don't know where they all came from, but just suddenly there was an infestation.

So I may even have French neighbours; God how horrible would that be?

I'm not sure yet though.

You can probably tell by the way I'm rambling on about absolute bollocks, and the fact that I've had way too much time to think about things like studying Thai and this term's schedule, that it's been an uneventful holiday.

It was uneventful and perfect. Just the way I like it.

I never even got around to going to Green Lung or to Ayuthaya. The prospect of them seemed to get in the way of my desire to do nothing, so everytime I woke-up intent on going to Green Lung I was just... fuck it, I'm going back to sleep.

It's good; it means I've got something to do in the future.

For now though, I have level 2 and level 12 to look forward to... just like last term. Only this time I've taught them both before.