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Teaching English in Thailand: Funny and amusing stories from my school



Joanna Horanin

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Last updated at 23/04/2024, 08:30

Hi, I'm Joanna, the author of The Blond Travels. In the worlds of Thailand and Portugal, I feel like a fish in water - and it's no coincidence! I've been exploring Thailand for over a decade, and I've settled in Portugal for 6 years now. My mission is to support Dreamers - just like you - in discovering these fascinating countries and helping those in love with them find their own place on Earth, preferably for good! Let's uncover these unique corners of the world together.

Thailand is an endless source of amusement. Most of the things don’t surprise me any more, like 3 people riding a bike, or cats sleeping on tables in restaurants. It’s just an every day life. I must say that after being here for almost a year now it is hard for me to find an inspiration for my posts. However, one thing always brings excitement into my life, and that thing is my school of course. Almost every day is filled with something funny, surprising or shocking. I just love observing the teachers and students here and gathering materials for the blog. Here are a couple of stories that will amuse you, too.

Let me start from my boss – Ajarn (Teacher in Thai) T. He is over 60 years old, very short (I am 1,65 cm and he is shorter than me), with black hair that are slowly falling out. His skin, as for a 60 year old man, is perfectly smooth, without any wrinkles. He actually looks 50. He has a very feminine demeanour and I heard from other teachers that he is in fact gay. Very often he sits at his desk, looking in the mirror, making faces, or putting baby powder on his hands. Other than that he loves sleeping at his desk. He puts his ipad on, and pretends that he looks at it when in fact he has his eyes closed, so you would never know that he’s sleeping. His other hobbies include: laughing at others, gossiping and eating a lot.

But he also works hard, checks assessments, tests and coordinates the whole department. Only when something goes wrong, he suddenly disappears.

I have never seen him wearing anything casual. He always wears shirts, ties and black trousers, completed with black leather sandals and socks. He carries a linen bag with him, where he keeps pens and students’ notebooks. And when he walks with that bag is like something is chasing him. He makes little, quick steps and I always have to try hard to keep up after him.

He teaches English here. He studied the language at a university and spent a whole year in the US, but his English is so bad (as you will find out soon) that I have a real difficulty in understanding him.

Here are Ajarn T’s greatest moments from the past few weeks.

The phone in the teachers’ room, where we sit, rings a lot. We only get calls from other teachers, who work in different buildings in our campus, or from the administration office. As a foreigner I don’t have a duty to pick it up. Most likely the person on the other side won’t speak English at all.  One morning Ajarn T. was having a breakfast at his desk when the phone rang. ‘You pick up’ he said to me. I hesitated. ‘Pick up. It is funny. They don’t understand you’, so I walked up to the phone and picked it up. I heard him chuckling behind me. ‘Hello, Joanna speaking’ I said. There was a dead silence on the other end. ‘Uhmmm’ I heard finally. ‘Yes? hello?’ I said. At that stage Ajarn T. just burst out laughing. He covered his face with his hands and started stumping his little feet.

On the other side of the line the person was talking in Thai really fast. ‘Mai kao jai’ I said (I don’t understand) ‘put cha cha noi’ (speak slowly). That just got Ajarn T. to laugh even more. Finally, I understood that the person calling wanted to speak to Ajarn Yu, the maths teacher, so I called her to the phone, while Ajarn T. was still cracking up.

He then asked me to tell him what the person said and how awkward the beginning of our conversation was. He was laughing so hard the tears were streaming down his face. ‘Oh, Thai people are scared of foreigners. It is funny!’ I just shrugged my shoulders at this. I will never understand the Thai sense of humour.

The school next door was playing music one morning. Ajarn T. pointed at it and said: ‘Joanna, next week’ nodded and turned around.

Me: Next week what?
AT: Next week song and open school.
Me: Huh?
AT: Open school for 22nd until new year.
Me: Aaahhh

Communication with him is really difficult , but I got used to agreeing to everything he says without questioning. I learned quickly that there’s no point in asking. He is not really able to explain anything. It turned out that ‘open school’ was a sports day.

Whenever we have some celebrations at school Ajarn T. runs around with his iPad and asks me to take photos of him with other teachers and students. One day he handed it to me, I pressed something and opened his photo album, where I saw a lot of pictures of naked young, good looking men. And by naked I mean – completely naked, lying on beds with a clear erection. I quickly pressed ‘go back’ button and pretended I hadn’t seen anything. I mean…who brings an ipad full of these kind of photos to work?

During the sports day, except sports competitions, there was music for students to dance to and the students themselves played drums and traditional instruments. At 10 am Ajarn T. produced a bottle of rice wine and poured it into a small plastic cup for me. ‘Drink. Good’ he said and made me drink 3 more cups. At 3 o’clock I saw him dancing with some students to the beat of the drums. At 4 he was jiggling his booty next to a car, playing loud, Thai pop music, at 5 he was napping at a table. I sat next to him and started laughing. ‘Mao’ he said, indicating he was drunk. ‘Mao mak mak?’ (very much drunk?) I asked. ‘No, a little bit’ he answered ‘let’s go home’ he said and before anyone could say ‘rice wine’ we were both out of school and on our way home.

During the mid term exams I always sit with him, coordinating the students, which usually means us sitting outside of the classroom, chatting and drinking coffee.

The last time during the exmas he couldn’t stop saying how stupid students were. ‘They no have nothing in their heads’ he said ‘they no come to school, no doing homework. They only like girls and whiskey. And they have no discipline. In Thai culture they bow to teacher, but now they don’t want to. It is bad’ he went silent for a bit and then said ‘I am teacher for 20 years. When I start teaching we can hit students. Now you can not. 20 years ago we have discipline and we hit students….ah good days’ he finished with a dreamy sigh.

And one more – Christmas themed:

AT: You choose students to be super models for Christmas activities this year.
Me: Ooookk… What students? How many?
AT: Up to you. Choose pretty ones and ladyboys. Ladyboys are funny.
Me: Ok. What will they do?
AT: They will be super models…
Me: Ooookkk (I tend to use this two letter word a lot when I talk to him).
AT: and then you tell history of Christmas during the activities.

Ladyboys, super models and a story of Jesus – this is going to be one hell of a party! I can’t wait to witness it on Friday.

I really do like Ajarn T. He is so amusing I could write a whole book about him. Sometimes I just sit and secretly observe him and can’t get my mind around the fact that he’s the director of our whole department. Thanks to him my work is not boring and every day is filled with surprises.