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Teach English In Thailand - A Woman's View - Part II

Posted by Randy LeGrant | Jul 15, 2013, 10:00:00 AM

Carla Gott has been teaching in Thailand with GeoVisions for more than five months. For more information on a woman’s perspective, living and working in Thailand, please email Carla at: gocarla1@umbc.edu

Carla Gott in Thailand with her students

Fears sensibly put in their place, let's get down to the packing. I graduated, packed three suitcases and I was gone. With one terrible mistake and that was the three suitcases. Within a week or two, I had given away half of my clothes.

Thailand is in the tropics which means sunshine, lots of it and often humid, sticky weather. And sometimes gorgeous cool breezes. 

That means you need a few T-shirts or other light tops, and two or three easy-to-wash trousers, dresses, or skirts - they will dry overnight. Don't bring dress suits and three pairs of high heels. Do bring comfortable shoes for walking. 

When you need more clothes, you can have fun buying stuff as you need it at unbelievably cheap markets and road-side stalls.  

Personal accessories - obviously take what you need from day one. But don't overdo it - Thailand has most everything you will want, unless you are in one of the smaller villages. Even in the smallest town, you will see the same brand names that you use at home. One exception and one useful tip: If you use tampons, pack a few boxes of them. They can be difficult to find in Thailand.  

But above all, remember - if you pack it, you carry it. And in the tropics, that can be hot work, especially by the time you add some souvenirs to bring home. So pack light, travel light, and enjoy the experience.

Once you've arrived, is it all plain sailing? If only… I've had good times; I've had bad times, but overall I have loved my experience. 

So what's not to love? 

We all react differently to tropical weather. Your skin can glow - or break out in spots; your hair can decide to shed itself more than is usual - or not. If it does, don't panic - it is called acclimatization. The climate forces some changes, eating exciting new foods brings others. 

One common change - new eating habits mean many of us lose excess weight.   Another plus - except for special occasions, I no longer wear makeup because I soon sweat it off, sometimes almost as soon as it goes on. Who said with travel comes freedom?

Then there are the basics: toilets. Standard Western-style toilets are now common, but squat toilets are still the default type, particularly in trains and public conveniences. Your hotel might have either - or both. Squat toilets can call for a bit of unfamiliar balancing at first - but you soon get used to them. It's good idea to keep a bit of toilet paper and hand sanitizer handy. 

When you have found wherever you are staying, and before you head out into the great unknown, ask your landlord to provide you with your address in Thai. It will be handy when you are taking a cab back to your place. (Yes - I've seen more than one person telling a cab driver - try this road, try that, I'll recognize it soon…) For this reason, keep your landlord's phone number on speed dial.

Now you can get to know your surroundings. Familiarize yourself with your neighborhood. Walk around your apartment building, guesthouse, or hotel and take mental notes. How many blocks to the nearest 7/11? Are there any traffic lights or other easy-to-remember signs that will guide you back to your hotel? Plenty of folks can speak rudimentary English, but helping yourself first makes sense.

An early purchase is likely to be a sim card for your phone - or buying a new phone if you left yours at home. Getting one in Thailand is the easiest thing on the planet - and cheap. You can either buy a dumb phone or use your smart phone. Simcards (and top-ups) are available at 7/11s (you will have no trouble finding one), or from numerous other street outlets. If you want internet on your phone, pay a fee of 300 Baht (10 US dollars) and have unlimited access for a month. If you don't want to unlock your smart phone, you can buy a dumb phone and use your smart phone just for WiFi. 

Yes, there is WiFi! You don't have to try to rely on WiFi cards from back home. You will have Internet at school, there are plenty of internet cafés, and numerous venues and hotels, restaurants and bars have WiFi.

Part III of Carla's adventure Teaching English Abroad in Thailand will be published next.  You can email Carla directly, or enter your comments or questions below.  We have embedded three videos you can watch about the Teach in Thailand experience with GeoVisions.  Two of those videos are by Carla Gott.

Written by Randy LeGrant

Randy is the Executive Director of the GeoVisions Foundation. He has spent the last 44 years managing organizations that send people abroad on cultural and educational exchanges.

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