Dylan Bird Testimonial 1 and 2

One Year Testimonial by Dylan Bird

This week I have just made the bold decision to stay here in Thailand and working as a teacher for Super  English for another year. Bold only because it means being away from my friends and family for another  year, and will miss dearly friends who are choosing not to stay another year (fools!), but otherwise a very  easy decision to come to.

Over the past year of working here, I have fallen in love with Thailand. I love the people, the stunning  natural beauty of the country, the amazing cheap food, the ease of getting around, the adventures, the  Thai people and culture, the amazing friends that i have made here over the year, and mostly because i  love what I'm doing here in my job everyday.

I came here as a teaching novice, very bright eyed and bushy tailed and more than a little petrified at the  prospect of teaching Thai children!! I had been wanting to teach abroad for some time and probably as  many of you are doing now, would sit idly trawling the Internet for jobs (probably whilst supposed to be  doing something else on a works computer!!). As soon as I saw the advert that Super English had posted,  my mind was made up. I hadn't even really contemplated Thailand as the place I might end up, but without  a doubt, this place was the place I wanted to be. I stopped applying elsewhere and even before I knew that  the position was mine, I declined all other options. A little foolish perhaps, but it hasn't let me down, not  even for a second, in fact it has surpassed everything I had thought it might be!!

I have been touched by the incredible support of Super English and all its staff. As soon as I touched down  in Thailand I was greeted off the plane by Peter and Victoria, smiling and pleased to see my weary sleepy  eyed self off the plane. I was then taken to my new home and met a happy munch bunch of housemates all  just back from a weekend on Koh Phagnan island together. And instantly I felt at home. The people that  work at Super English are an incredibly special bunch. I have made some wonderful lifelong friends, and  they have helped me through all kinds of crises- from finding where the nearest 7-11 is, to talking me  through how to use a squat toilet, to nights sat up chatting to wild parties into the wee hours. And they  have really really helped me as a teacher. They all bring to the mix something very different - some have  more arty creative methods of teaching, some are very hands-on and physical, picking the kids up,  spinning them round, some are very energetic, racing around the room, and others have a more gentle  calm approach. Seeing them all teach, and having them all  offer their own advice and help has been the  most beneficial thing for me as a teacher, I have been able to combine all kinds of different methods and  suggestions and add my own take on things to make them my own and feel comfortable with them. They  are an inspirational lot, and I have a lot to thank them for. (thankyou)  They have helped me no end with  my teaching. And now I feel that I have gone from someone who was in Thailand to see Thailand and  explore another country and culture, whilst having a go at teaching, to being a real teacher- someone with  a genuine care and love for my students and with a real passion for what i am doing. And I think that is  where I can credit Super English the greatest, there is that genuine passion for teaching English, and to do  it in the most fun, interactive and stimulating way possible. And I still have so much more to learn. I feel I  am only just getting into the swing of everything, realising what works and what doesn't work, and how what  works may suddenly not work, and what didn't work before suddenly will. I am only just learning more about  the kids and really getting to know them all as individuals, and only just getting to know myself as a  teacher. Its a great learning curve, but every new lesson is one learned in fun!

And aside from the teaching? Well I remember when I first arrived and was told that above everything  "Thailand is what you make it." At first I didn't really appreciate what that meant, but a year on, that is really  the perfect sentiment to sum up my experiences here. It really is whatever you want it to be. And that is its  beauty. If you want the beaches, and the islands and parties on the beach and jungle raves and Sangsom  whiskey buckets and nights of dancing and fire twirling and music, then its all here, both in Surat with its  bars and beers and clubs and on the islands just a stones throw away!! And if you want adventures and  nature and the great outdoors with all its mountains and rafting and climbing and mountain biking and  kayaking and scuba diving and trekking and snorkeling and camping and national parks, well then, you  can have that too!! If you want the cultural stuff then just look around your town - the monks collecting  alms, or the weddings in the streets that go on for days (tasty eats and lady boy dancers- they rock!), and  festivals (including the bizarre 'vegetarian' festival where hundreds of Thai men stick swords, tridents,  poles and even a fire extinguisher through their faces) and the more day-to-day Thai stuff - cooking with  lovely Thai mamas, and eating and drinking with Thai neighbours and friends. And if you want to find  yourself and some inner peace (especially after all the adventures and jungle raves) well then, that can be  yours too- meditation retreats, yoga, Reiki courses, massage, alternative therapies, monks and temples. I  think no matter what your interests, your hobbies, your preferences, loves, and likes, then it can be found  here in Thailand!! If anything, you will be finding yourself with too much to do and see and experience  whilst here, that you just wont fit it all into a year, and will have to stay just to make sure you didn't miss a  single thing (like me!!).

And Surat Thani? Well apart from the very obvious fantastic location- great for island hopping at  weekends, for beach bumming, snorkeling, diving, partying, and all manner of wonderful courses in  alternative hippy nonsense (I am racking up a few), and anything else you can think of doing right on your  doorstep and only a night boat away! And the peaceful and serene and sssh spot of Khanom beach only a  short drive away. And the breathtaking views of the Khao Sok national park with its mighty rainforest and  lakes, again just a short trip-trap away from Surat. But this geography stuff is all for the guide books to  inform you of!

Surat Thani itself, well Surat is a kinda small and very Thai town- there is nothing flashy or touristy about  the place, and for that reason all guide books give it a bad rep. But for that reason, for me, I love it- it  really is Thailand. Trying to order food in my baaad Thai, and going out listening to Thai rock bands  (good, in a bad cheesy way) is all part of the wonderful Thai experience (except when you get fish head  curry- which has happened!!!). I love Surat - the food is amazing ( i could rant for hours about the  assorted treats- even for the annoying veggie that I am!)

The Thai people are great, so lovely and will go out of their way to help you (even if you'd really like them  to just leave you alone sometimes- their friendliness and helpfulness is overwhelming, and hearing the  almost constant cheery voices shout hello after you as you peddle about really does make you feel  special), the nights out spent drinking cheap cheap Thai whisky and listening to Thai reggae (Job to Do - I  will never know or ever forget the words!!), or shaking my thang in Thai clubs. There are so many ace  places to eat and drink, and I still find new ones everyday!!  And of course the beautiful folk that reside  here- a wonderful gaggle of Super English teachers from all over the globe and a great group of beautiful  Thai friends who are making this place the fantastic place that it is!! Happy just isn’t a big enough word  sometimes!!

There's my little house, that I love, filled with all kinds of interesting creepy crawlies looking for a party, and  water which comes on and off when it chooses (off when you smell the most and on when you can’t really  be bothered to shower), and the electricity that trips out EVERY time you turn the stereo on, and the fan  that electrocutes you, and the lights that burn, the lack of fridge (until last week-whoop whoop), and the  'stove' which is really a hole in the work surface with a metal dish that you must make and start your own  fire to cook things on EVERY TIME you want to cook, then clear the ash up afterwards!!!  It’s crazy, it’s  Thai, it’s sometimes frustrating but ALL of the time fun, and I adore every single second of it!!  And every  water shortage (though smelly and annoying) is fun as you learn to wash your body, your hair, and your  clothes aaaaand flush the toilet with the teensiest bit of water from a bucket!!)  And furnishing your place  with stuff you make or find on the beach, in the forests or in the bin.  I love it, it’s the most fun house I’ve  ever had!!!

Then there's some real surreal Thai stuff that must be mentioned too , like hanging out at the monkey  training school (train ‘em to climb trees for coconuts; the stories of this place are endless- furniture  making, and playing with monkeys, and smoking out bee's nests to eat the tiny bee larvae), or the  crocodile farm, eating crickets and chicken feet at the night market, the factories that make birds nest soup  by housing a million birds and stealing their nests to boil down to extract the saliva to make a nice broth- mmmm, the vegetarian festival where we witnessed maybe 30 men all sticking different things through their  faces- swords, poles, tridents, a gas pump and my favourite, a fire extinguisher, and who beat their chests  with axes, and cut their tongues with swords- crazy veggies!! or the very obvious lady boys, and the  'special' karaoke bars filled with girls in teeny hotpants and massive platform boots (good for a cheap beer  and a game of cards).

And no, working and living in Thailand is not without its faults- as you would expect from living in any  foreign country, the language barrier can be very tough, but a little more than that in Thailand is the  cultural barriers at times- like the very Thai custom of smiling and nodding when they really don't  understand, of saying yes when they mean no (and you end up very lost in your taxi because they didn't  want to upset you by telling you they had no clue where you wanted to go in the first place), and their habit  of changing things at the last minute! The importance of appearances was very tough for me to deal with  at first - being a scruffy sort by nature, so having to spent a good 15 minutes of my day everyday trying to  stretch and flatten my dreadlocks into a teeny tiny bun every morning and having to remember which  colour shirt I have to wear on what day of the week to match the Kings colours was a little difficult, but  really your  appearance and your smile will go a long way out here. So frustrating as it can be sometimes,  it will always work to your advantage - as some of the boys know all too well when they had to remove their  much loved facial hair (r.i.p. the beards!!). Also, at first I found it difficult being stared at quite so much, but  I have come to appreciate that it is done with a genuine curiosity for our funny looks and silly ways and that  a smile and a hello will win you lots of friends! And while Thailand is a happy friendly and very fun place to  be, of course it is not without its dark side. There have been robberies of foriegn teachers, and bags  taken. I have lost my own bag and camera to a full moon party, and have had money taken from my home.  But in honesty, I can say that i am in part responsible for both those things, with my own stupidity. Being in  Thailand can make you forget some of the very real practicalities that you would NEVER forget at home-  like don't put your bag down on the floor during an enormous beach party and expect it to still be there  when you return (duh!!), and don't go to bed with your house unlocked (no-brainer!!). It is very easy to  become forgetful - generally the majority of people you meet will be wonderful, helpful, happy sorts,  and  Thailand is a fun exciting place with lots going off and lots of partying and beer, but you have to remember  that Thailand is still the real world, with real people, with real problems, and you just have to be aware of  that! Just don't do anything you wouldn't do at home!! 'Nuff said!

I wanted to write this thing to show as real a picture as I could of Thailand- with the good and the bad, and  really, I have sat wracking my brains for the bad bits! As I said before, I have fallen in love with this  country!!

 I’m loving every crazy, surreal Thai second of it!!!  

Second Year Testimoial by Dylan Bird

Sadly this will be the last testimonial that I will be writing for Super English, at least for this year anyhow (who  knows what the future will hold). Next month I will be off on a whole new set of adventures back in England and  beyond. It is with great sadness indeed that I will be leaving Surat and Super. I have had the most amazing time  here. I have made some fantastic lifelong friends (who will not be hearing the last of me) and I have fallen in  love with the lovely little kids that fill my life with life everyday.

This term has seen some new faces in the way of teachers at Super, we continue to grow, which means more  dancing partners and neighbours to annoy for me!! It has seen some old faces leave, you have been missed  already!! And I have had some lovely (and one not so lovely) new classes to teach at Thida. We are already  nearly finished the term and it feels like it has gone by so quickly!! This term has seen us learning to cook Thai  food at a local restaurant, getting very soggy on a rainy boat trip down the river, quiz nights hosted by a few of  the super teachers at at Biggs bar, leaving parties and Bingo nights for Codie and Caleb, a new cinema set up  at the "happy house of Lala and Sunny" (how did it get named that???), and brilliant birthday dance routines  for your truly. It has really flown by and all too soon it is time for me to again pack up my little spotted knapsack  and be on my merry way.

I have had the most amazing 18 months of my life. I came here travel a wee bit and have a crack at teaching  and I feel I will be leaving (without being big headed) a bloody good and very inspired teacher. And that is owed  so much to my friends, co-workers and fellow teachers who inspire me daily to be the best, most creative and  fun teacher I can be!! An almighty thank you to Peter and Victoria for giving me this amazing adventure, one of  the happiest experiences of my life!! Thank you for giving me the help, the advice, the ideas, the tools, the  props, and the creative freedom to become the teacher I am now, and for inspiring in me a love of teaching!!  This experience has definitely changed the course of my life for the future too as I plan to continue teaching in  environmental education when I get back to the UK . Again a huge thank you!!