When my battery power failed last night I was beginning to tell of Saturday’s apartment search in Phuket Town.
In Thailand, most apartment buildings are called “mansions” and we looked at quite a few that were anything but. We saw some really tiny shoe boxes for which were being asked rents of 4,500 baht per month and up (the large apartment I just left was 4000 baht per month since I was a farang — the landlord charged 3,500 baht for the same apartment when renting to Thais).
Somehow we ended up crossing the bridge to Koh Siray — a relatively sparsely-populated area to the southeast of Phuket Town. We had a good laugh over the “Monkey On Road” signs and stopped at a monkey viewing area/shrines (photos later). We also ran into an American ex-Marine/current hippy that my friend had met previously on a Bangkok-bound bus. We told him our desired price-range and he pointed us into two directions that were supposedly full of inexpensive rental homes. While we saw many cute homes in the first area, we were glared at by people alongside the roads and then a group of young boys began shouting at us to “Go home!” I’d never had something like that happen to me in Thailand! The hippy had also told us about a bunch of “really nice places built over the water” for around 2,000-2,500 per month. As we entered the Baan Sansuk area we were greeted with smiles along the narrow roadways and quite a few greetings of “Hello!” That’s the Thailand I know. But then we came across the houses over the water — these were dilapidated mostly wood-beam or corrugated sheet metal skeletal structures. It looked like a war zone! Most had broken windows and some lacked roofs and even walls. More than one was slipping off of the pilings and into the murky water some ten feet or more below. So much for that…
We slowly made our way back towards the Chalong Bay area; my friend knew someone who rented a nice apartment near the roundabout for 2,500 per month. We’d both forgotten that the bars were closed all weekend because of the election so he couldn’t find his friend as she wasn’t at work. Our planned last stop before finishing up was a nice group of bungalows near the shoreline. The smallest was a steal at just 6000 baht per month but that’s far out of my price range at this point.
Shortly afterward, while stopped on the roadside my phone rang and that was the job offer. I’d applied at his particular language school/teaching agency several months ago (during which some of my former students had stopped to say hello) and thought I’d failed the attached grammar exam so I didn’t bother following up. During the Saturday evening phone call I was asked if I was interested in teaching at a school in Phuket Town starting Monday morning. Of course! The director asked me to stop by their office at noon on Sunday so he could give me the details. Before heading home that night we went up to Tesco-Lotus so I could buy a new white dress shirt, belt, and shoes as my old ones were fairly shabby and somewhere in a box at any rate.
Yesterday I had my meeting and all went well. The contract is for fifteen hours per week at 300 baht per hour (I’ll be paid 260 baht per hour but receive the remaining 40 baht once I finish the contract). It’s not a lot of money but I can make up the difference by teaching in-house in the agency’s language school during the weekends and evenings. It’s a pretty full schedule on Mondays — six classes (grades five and six) — but then I have three classes each day on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays with nothing at all Wednesdays.
After the meeting (more of a friendly chat than an interview), my friend and I set out once again for Phuket Town initially to check out the school. There are two main buildings — one very old and the other quite new — right across from Phuket Prison. We then started criss-crossing the area looking for accommodations for me. Much of the area is full of government offices, parks, temples (Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim), and more schools. We looked at a few apartments; the one I liked the best is perhaps a five-minute walk from the school. The rent there is 3000 baht per month plus a security deposit of 4000 baht so I’ll have to teach a few private lessons this week and hopefully move in by Monday.
We’d already settled with my old landlord — I thought I’d be getting some money back but ended up having to pay him a little over 2000 baht (and he wasn’t very gracious about it, either) — so the next step was to find an inexpensive room to stay in while I accumulated enough to move into my chosen apartment. It turns out there’s plenty of nice guesthouses in the downtown area in the 250-300 baht range (for a fan room; air-conditioning is usually about twice that). Even better than the ancient On On Hotel is Thalang Guesthouse nearby — it’s a wonderful location and I’m staying in a very large fan room for 320 baht — it was actually so cold last night with the fan and the breeze from an open window that I got very chilly and had to climb under the blankets! It’s also extremely quiet.
I slept in late this morning as I was due to meet my contact with the school at 1:00 this afternoon. I walked to the nearby office and she drove me over to the school and introduced me to several Thai teachers. I then observed the substitute teacher’s lessons for three hours, meeting the kids and trying to assess their abilities. It was just the P5 students today and they were reviewing how to tell the time. I’d forgotten how hot classrooms could be without air-conditioning! I was sweating profusely and I wasn’t even teaching. I’m really looking forward to getting right into it tomorrow with the third grade kids — the lesson is to cover “meals that you eat at home.”
Finally, I got a ride over to the teaching agency’s office so I could report my initial impressions to the director. He’s actually the source of this article’s title as he greeted me by saying “Welcome back to the world of teaching.” I was already thinking the date — American Independence Day was rather auspicious as I’d left the world of teaching on Christmas Eve. I also managed to run into Neal and Chynkee again as well as a former teacher at my old school whom I hadn’t seen in two or three years so I gave them all the good news. My driver-friend then took me over to his apartment so I could retrieve a few needed supplies from my boxes and I got back to my guesthouse a couple of hours ago.
It’s very late now so I’ll report more tomorrow…