The past couple of weeks have been filled with teaching, goodbyes and a whole lot of water. After returning from the Lahu village, 17 of us ventured into the last chapter of our time in Thailand, TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language). The TEFL program is located at the Language Institute at Chiang Mai University and taught by four British men who are wonderful and very invested in our success throughout the program. We usually begin class at 10:30am with an hour and a half session, a lunch break and then another hour and a half session until 2:30pm. The TEFL program requires students to observe other teachers at the Language Institute as well as teaching a class ourselves.
All seventeen of us are split into four groups and placed with a trainer and a class to teach. On Tuesday and Thursday evenings, we head to their various classrooms and teach. In the beginning, we would “team-teach” and teach for a half an hour. Now, we have upgraded to teaching for one hour by ourselves. We have the same trainer and class for two weeks, and then switch trainers and classes for the last two weeks. The past two weeks, my group has been traveling to a business in Chiang Mai to teach English to the employees. At first, teaching adults intimidated me because I felt like I would not be taken seriously because I am quite younger than all of my students. However, I ended up really enjoying my class. They were energetic, eager to learn and knew a lot more English then I had expected.
While the TEFL program is an intensive program, we have had a five-day weekend because of Songkran, the Thai New Year. To many, Songkran has now become known as a three-day water battle throughout the country of Thailand. The throwing of water originated as a way to pay respect to people. They would capture the water after it had been poured over the Buddha for cleansing and then use the blessed water to give good fortune to elders and family members by pouring the water over their shoulders. To prepare for the festivities, our group purchased buckets, water guns and plastic bags to protect our valuables before heading to the street. The streets were lined with people throwing water at one another as well as trucks driving down the middle of the street with people throwing water (usually ice-water) from the truck beds. There really is no way to stay dry during this festival unless you stay indoors all day. Even riding through the city in a rot-dang (red trucks that are similar to taxis) resulted in people opening the windows or running to the back of the truck to douse us in water. Playing Songkran the past few days has been a wonderful way to experience Thai culture and also have great fun.
At the beginning of the TEFL program, we had to say goodbye to friends we had made over the past three months. Some were headed home, some were headed to Laos and others were headed to various parts of Thailand to work on other projects. In two weeks, we will have to do the same as the majority of us head home to the United States. Speaking for myself, these past four months have flown by and I cannot imagine having spent this semester anywhere else. The friendships I have formed, experiences I have had and memories that I have made will forever make an imprint on my life. See you soon USA!
This blog post was written by Lauren Pelaia (pictured above, middle), junior social work major from Messiah College located in Grantham, PA.