Living in Surat and Housing

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  • How I got here By Peter C. Meltzer 2011

    One of the most frequent questions I get asked is “How and why did you start Super English?” Here is

    the answer:

    I first visited Thailand in the summer of 1999. I had gone to visit my uncle, who was working in Hong
    Kong at the time, and he and I took a quick weekend trip to Bangkok. Even though I don’t really like
    big cities, I immediately felt right at home. I clearly remember the taxi ride from the airport into town,
    driving at breakneck speed while my uncle talked about Thai culture. “Thai people are much more
    relaxed about things than westerners,” he explained. “Thais like to try things out. Maybe mix a bit of
    purple with some orange, add a spot of pink, and see what it looks like? Looks bad? Oh well, never
    mind. Looks good? Great!” It’s a basic approach I have tried to carry over to Super English.

    The rest of the weekend in Bangkok only cemented my initial response to Thailand. The food, the
    weather, the people, the scenery, the prices, everything felt very comfortable. The pad thai I had by
    the side of the main river in Bangkok still stands out in my mind as the best pad thai I have ever had,
    and there is some wicked good pad thai in Surat. I left Thailand with a sense of knowing where I
    belonged.

    I graduated a semester early from the University of Virginia and spent those six months volunteer
    teaching for the International Rescue Committee. I taught a family of Bosnian refugees. I worked
    primarily with the mother and father in the family, while another teacher worked with the teenage
    sons. We sometimes combined the groups and did a joint lesson. It was a truly educational experience.
    The IRC doesn’t have a lot of (or any) resources so there was no training, minimal orientation, and no
    support. They handed me a binder with about 150 random pages and the address of the family. I would
    go to this family’s sparsely furnished apartment once or twice per week and sit at the kitchen table with
    mom and dad, who could speak almost no English. No whiteboards, no photocopies, no get-up-and-
    run-around activities. I used whatever useful pages I could find in the binder provided and improvised
    the rest. I learned a lot about teaching. I also learned that teaching was something I was reasonably
    good at. I already knew what I wasn’t good at (calculus, micro-economics, almost all sciences, etc.) so it
    felt good to discover a fun, rewarding skill that could also help others.

    I had also done a fair amount of coaching during my time at UVA. I worked as the assistant track and
    field coach at Western Albemarle High School, which sits about 20 miles outside Charlottesville, VA.
    This was also an activity I found fun and rewarding. I had some success in coaching and enjoyed
    working with kids.

    I decided to combine my various skills and teach ESL abroad. My first choice was, of course, Thailand.
    However, it was very hard to find any position outside of Bangkok at the time. After a long search, and
    almost ending up in Japan, I found one position available at a language school in Surat. I applied for it,
    never heard back, then tried again, and got hired. I arrived in Thailand on July 27th, 2001.

    The position started out great. I loved it. The paperwork was somewhat reasonable, the classes were
    somewhat fluid, but the kids were sensational. I loved every minute with those kids. They were fun,
    creative, intelligent, affectionate, compassionate and motivated. I was able to see almost daily how I
    was improving their English. I threw myself into their education with great enthusiasm and energy.
    When I wasn’t actually teaching, I was thinking about teaching. What types of fun, interactive
    activities could I do with the kids to help their English improve? What was the next step in their
    English language development? How could I make the lessons challenging, rewarding and
    productive? I thought about the students’ likes and dislikes and incorporated them into presenting
    lessons, dialogues, games, etc. It was a great time.

    The town of Surat also really welcomed me, as it does so many teachers. The people were so warm and
    friendly. There were always invitations and activities. Thanks to their efforts, I felt very much at
    home. I studied muay thai at one of the local gyms and the owner, Ajarn Somboon Tapina, has become
    like a family member.

    After about seven months on the job, things started to take a turn for the worse. The paperwork began
    getting out of hand. They originally required some, but now they seemed to be adding new things
    every other week. The school wanted typed student evaluations (at least one page per student), typed
    class procedures (a 10+ page document updated monthly), typed lesson plans (one entire week
    submitted in advance), typed students profiles (at least one page typed per student and updated
    monthly), plus an enormous amount of additional paperwork required for an off-site class at a
    government school. Over the last few months of my contract I was spending substantially more time
    in front of the computer than in the classroom (I was teaching 24 hours per week). I felt completely
    burnt out. When I got in front of the kids, I wasn’t thinking about the class. I was thinking about
    how I would be at the school until 9:30 pm typing. It wasn’t fun. I felt stifled, both intellectually and
    creatively. A few months before my contract was up I let the school know that I planned on leaving
    when my one year commitment was through. I stayed until the end of my contract, finished strong,
    and knew I needed a break from teaching.

    I moved to Phuket and worked with hotels. I worked as a consultant, primarily assisting Thai hotel
    management in marketing and customer relations. I also worked hands-on with the various
    departments in improving customer service and guest relations. Eventually, one hotel hired me as their
    in-house marketing manager. I was the only foreigner. It was a very educational experience. I won’t
    go into too much detail, except to say that all the managers would meet every morning. The meeting
    would last 2-3 hours. Every morning. Each day the managers would debate the decisions they had
    made the previous day and then change their minds from those earlier decisions. Even worse (or
    perhaps better), the decisions they made in these lengthy meetings had pretty much no effect on how
    the hotel was run because once the managers left the meeting those decisions weren’t discussed or
    promulgated amongst the general staff. So a few hours every morning were simply burned away. I
    lasted six months before I couldn’t take it any more. The straw that broke the camels back was when I
    prepared a meticulous (they wanted exact height measurements of beds and things like that) 30 page
    report for an online reservation system called VIP and the hotel management came back and
    complained that I had to redo the entire report. Why? Because the commission rate they had given
    me was incorrect and their “other marketing manager”, who resided in Bangkok and rarely had any
    communication with the hotel, had already independently offered a different commission rate to VIP.
    Moreover, they said the mistake was my fault. Brilliant.

    After my foray into working directly for Thai people, I went back to teaching. I hopped around various
    language schools in Phuket as a part-time or substitute teacher. I worked with three or four different
    schools over the span of a year. I saw how they operated, how they treated their teachers, how they
    set up their educational programs, and more. It was uniformly unimpressive. There was no
    commitment to the teachers because there was such a high turnover. But one could also argue that
    there was a high turnover because there was no commitment to the teachers. Apparently, this never
    occurred to the schools. The lack of commitment was apparent on all fronts. The schools were very
    hesitant to provide any visas, resources, support or assistance. They simply assigned you a class, usually
    at a Thai school and you showed up. Once again, I learned a lot about teaching. Before going into one
    second grade class, they handed me a paper with the lyrics to “row row row your boat” on it. I asked
    them if this was supposed to be the lesson. They just shrugged. I showed up at the Thai school and
    was escorted by a Thai teacher into the storage room, which was a long, rectangular shape. The back
    half was stacked with chairs, drums, outfits, tables, etc. The front half was moderately clear and had a
    small, A4 size whiteboard on rollers. There were no chairs or desks set up for the students. They
    wouldn’t have fit in the room anyway. I was somewhat perplexed and was about to ask the Thai
    teacher what was going on when 55 eight year olds came storming in and sat down in two long lines
    down the length of the room. The Thai teacher smiled and left without another word. I looked at the
    sheet of lyrics in my hand as the kids were jabbering away in Thai. I tapped the board a few times to
    get their attention and said, “Hello!” They immediately burst into laughter. I folded up the song lyrics
    and did my own teaching. How did I teach 55 eight year olds for a full hour with no book, no
    resources, and no clue as to what their English ability already was? Without them destroying the
    room? I’ll tell you when you get here.

    I could go on and on about many similar teaching experiences such as the one described above. Suffice
    to say that the lack of commitment from the schools towards teachers was, in my opinion, translating
    into a lack of commitment from the teachers towards the students, which isn’t really surprising. How
    is a teacher supposed to do their job without any direction, guidance, advice or support from those in
    charge? It can’t really be done, at least not with any continuity.

    After 1.5 years I realized that Phuket was a great place to visit but definitely not a great place to live
    and work. I had learned a lot but hadn’t achieved much personally or professionally. Surat was where I
    still felt most comfortable and knew I could make the most difference. So in May, 2004, my wife and I
    decided to move back to Surat, which is her hometown.

    I started looking at the other language schools in town and what they were offering. At the time,
    there were three major language schools in town and smaller ones were opening and closing
    sporadically. The final impetus to open Super English came from two main realizations:
    1) The larger schools were good schools, but to me they seemed stagnant, both in terms of academic
    development for the students and the type of professional development they were offering teachers. In
    other words, none of them were trying to be the best they could possibly be.
    2) Some of the newer, smaller schools were opening for all the wrong reasons and were, in my opinion,
    doing more harm than good.

    I wanted to create a school that tried to be the very best it could be. Not the biggest, just the best.
    Whether we achieved the goal of maximizing our potential or not was secondary. The main thing was
    at least to strive for it. I truly felt that the students, Surat Thani, and the teachers who come all the
    way over here, deserved a school like that. In my, and many others opinion, this is really one of the
    very best places in Thailand. I felt like the town had done so much for me during my first year that this
    was a way I could try to show some reciprocity. I also believed that if you let teachers teach with as
    few impediments as possible that they will achieve much better results.

    I took everything I have learned, seen, experienced and thought about and rolled it into Super English.
    I actually often did the opposite of what I had seen and experienced. Instead of checking teachers
    through six tons of weekly paperwork, I tried to completely do away with it. Instead of promoting
    solely based on seniority, I promote based on ability. Instead of either giving a teacher no materials at
    all or very strictly regulating what page has to be taught in class on which day, I tried to find a middle
    ground that allowed the teacher as much creative autonomy as possible. Instead of shooting down
    every idea anyone had, I tried them whenever possible. Instead of thinking of
    management/administration as a controlling body, I thought of it as a supportive entity. Instead of
    calling everyone in for lengthy, weekly meetings, SE generally has just one meeting at the beginning
    of each semester. Instead of requiring office hours, we give teachers the freedom and flexibility to
    think about their classes whenever they choose.

    I believe that over the past six years we have achieved great success. I am proud of what Super English
    is. As far as I know, we are the only language school that:

    - offers a unique, multi-structured support system for teachers
    - has students that study for free based on financial need
    - allows teachers to choose what to teach
    - requires no office hours
    - hasn’t raised the price of classes in over three years (we are the least expensive language school by
    more than 30%)
    - consistently tries out new ideas and approaches to educating the students
    - offers teachers additional money making opportunities, such as writing online articles, taking
    photos, or recording audio files
    - has monthly out-of-class contests for the students to help them improve their English
    - has monthly cultural events, such as a muay thai lesson, a Thai cooking lessons, a beach party, a
    riverboat trip, and more

    As much as possible, we are a school built by teachers and for teachers. Whatever minimal paperwork
    we do ask for is either required by the Thai schools we work with or the Thai government.

    As far as I can tell, our teachers enjoy their work immensely and feel that they are really helping the
    students. Our teachers operate relatively independently and, I believe, as a result the students learn
    faster, better and have more fun doing it.

    Our aim is to live up to our slogan, “The Best School for Teachers and Students”. While we may or may
    not have achieved that goal, we will continue to strive for it. And if we are someday recognized as the
    best then we will still continue to strive to provide the best possible education for our students and the
    best possible work experience for our teachers. Without either of those two, there would be no Super
    English.

  • How I Got Here – Teaching English in Thailand by Mitch Burbick 2010

    I finished school in May of 2008 and after a few finance and bank internships, couldn’t stand the
    idea of going into an entry level corporate job. I got some seasonal work in northern California, made
    a bunch of money and spent half a year not working and living with friends, all the while telling myself I was simply adjusting to real life. After this, while I was still living in San Diego, I worked with a wealth management company putting together 401k packages for small businesses and monitoring wealthier client’s investment portfolios. It was interesting for about a month and then deathly boring for the last 4. I figured I’d try something different and moved up to San Francisco to live with some friends. Again I found myself unemployed and spending most days and nights drinking and wandering around the city. After a few months I realized I was going nowhere and secured an internship writing for a magazine in Seattle, Washington in the summer of 2009.

    Having grown up in Seattle, living and working there close to family and friends was nice. I wrote for the magazine half the week and worked at an organic farm the other half. My thinking was that if I enjoyed writing in a journalistic environment, then graduate school could be my next move. I learned a lot about the industry and the business, but mostly, I learned I wasn’t ready to go back to school.

    I spent a year in Spain while in university and had always told myself that I’d teach English sometime. Somewhere. Twenty three years old, two years out of school with no real job prospects or inclinations seemed as good a time as any to go ahead and jump on the boat. With the decision made to get out and teach, really, the only other thing to decide was where? The world is a big place, and when you put out a map and look at all the places you could possibly move to and live in, it’s almost overwhelming. First, I wanted to go back to Europe. But abysmal pay, few job opportunities, and the almost universal need for a TEFL certificate changed my mind quickly. Second, I thought South America. I mean, why not? I speak Spanish, it’s close enough, I’ve always wanted to go… Not. Jobs seemed to be solely advertising positions for volunteers paying their own way or for certified teachers with years of experience. What to do?

    Asia! Who would have thought? In the end, the decision to come to Thailand specifically was very random. I had a couple good friends in school who had done a semester abroad living outside of Bangkok and had loved it. I remember listening to their stories when they got home and thinking I have to see this place, it sounds otherworldly. I began to look into jobs and grew more and more excited about moving to Thailand. I booked a ticket for the end of January 2010 and began to look for jobs a few weeks before leaving. I figured I’d either find a job before leaving, or I’d arrive and head north to Chiang Mai, taking my chances with applying in person and getting work somewhere. Probably like most Super English teachers, I stumbled across a job advertisement on eslcafe.com and applied immediately. At first glance it sounded like an ideal place to work. In the south, close to tropical islands and beaches, a small and authentic Thai town? Yes please.

    Peter got back to me quickly and after a few e-mail exchanges with both him, other teachers and a Skype interview, I felt extremely comfortable, welcome, and assured about the job. I was offered training and assistance which for someone like me with minimal experience coming into this type o work, was a huge deal maker. Lots of schools I’ve since seen will simply throw new teachers into a classroom and kind of tell them to sink or swim, something that usually works, but not without a few weeks or even months of considerable distress on the side of the teacher. My transition into teaching wasn’t without its nervous moments, but Super English, Peter, and the other teachers did everything they could to make sure I felt as comfortable as I could in those first integral weeks.

    All in all, I chose to teach abroad because I’d tasted a different part of the world while I was in school and living in Spain. I’d seen how big and different place it could be, and wanted to see more. What other opportunities are there widely available to people our age who are looking to find gainful employment for a long period of time in a different country? Sure, you can backpack around and see a hundred countries in the course of a lifetime, but there’s something huge to be gained by spending a significant period of time in one culture, in one place. Thailand’s wide open to people new to the ESL profession and gives you an authentic experience to really sink your teeth into and get you going. There are opportunities to do this type of work everywhere in the world, but I’ve never for a second regretted starting this type of work here with Super English in Thailand.

  • Baby’s First Christmas in Thailand by Mike Rogers 2010

    Every day for the last three weeks complete strangers have been treating me to a bald faced lie. I walk down the street, and stores lie to me, I go to work and the school, and the students lie to me. There is conspiracy, there has to be, because there is no way that it is actually Christmas, it just can’t be. Where is my evergreen Christmas tree? Where are the gimmicky sales in stores? Where is the Hot coco with whip cream and ground up candy canes? Where are the carolers? Where, in the name of all that is holy, is the snow? Sure, decorations have been put up, but it feels like someone described Christmas to a mischievous conspirator and they put up their own second hand interpretations. Perhaps it is because I am from the cold north that I am having trouble accepting this as Christmas, perhaps a southerner might feel more at home with Christmas T-shirts and beach trips, but I think not. Christmas is so pervasive in America, beginning with Black Friday, an engine to our economy, it is involved in our life every day. Every single person, regardless of religious denomination is swept up in the seasonal feeling; Christmas in the states is no longer a religious holiday, but a national one. That, I believe, is really the big difference; here Christmas felt like Passover might back home. You know its going on, you probably know some people who are celebrating it, but in the end its just another day, or stretch of days.

    This is not to say that Christmas is not enjoyable in Thailand, it just means you have to reset what you are expecting from it. I woke up early Christmas morning, opened the package from my parents (they sent coffee beans and a French press, it made me giddy) and then went to an internet café to Skype with them on their Christmas Eve. It was a pleasant morning,and a nice way to feel connected to the festivities back home. I suppose that, right there, was I my western Christmas. When I got back home my Christmas in Thailand started. I was sitting on the stoop outside of my apartment debating the merits of actually riding my bike somewhere to get food, when the problem solved itself. A rolling som tom (papaya salad) cart drove up, essentially a tiny little kitchen attached to a motor bike, and stopped just a couple doors down. I walked over, ordered my food and watched as the chef made the meal, throwing me glances with an expression I couldn’t read. He held up an uncooked crab, I considered it,
    nodded, and he threw it in. I knew something was strange when, after I had sat down at the table of the store next door, the maker of my food moseyed over and began speaking to the owners of the shop. I began to eat. T he first bite was good and had the flavor and kick that all good som tom should have. The second bite was very hot, and I made the ill advised move of drinking water to quench the fire, a mistake that no matter how many times people warn me about I continue making. The chef was sitting there expectantly, trying to be nonchalant; I pointed at the food, and gave thumbs up, “good, thank-you”. He fanned his mouth, making the universal sign for, “your mouth is burning with an intensity and passion that you didn’t think was possible isn’t it?” to which I shrugged, nodded, waved at my mouth and took another bite. Now, I have an appreciation for hot food; I love hot wings in the states, and I
    have never been stingy with my stars at restaurants, but the burning in my mouth was not decreasing, or even plateauing as one might expect. No, it was increasing in intensity, and suddenly it was not doing so at such a relaxed pace. In four bites the meal had gone from tasty, if a little hot, to unbearably spicy. I had to get up, walk around, frantically purchase some milk from the store, anything to make the fire stop. I couldn’t believe it, it just kept getting worse. The chef was laughing heartily and going back to his stand. I was ashamed. I could not believe how totally and completely the standard dish in the Thai diet had kicked my butt. One of the owners of the small shop I am sitting outside of comes over and looks at my bowl, gestures to herself, than the bowl, than holds up one finger. I am confused, and it
    shows. She gestures again at the bowl, but this time I see she is not pointing at the bowl, but rather one of the many peppers in the bowl. When she gets this dish, there is only one pepper, when I got it, there were at least five. She goes over to the man with the cart, briefly berates him and brings back some sticky rice suggesting it might help with the inferno, and disappears into here store. I tried it with the rice, but in retrospect this was like hoping my squirt gun could end a wild fire. A moment later the owner emerges from the store with a small bowl of mushroom soup that his wife, the nice woman who alerted me to the problem with my dish and got the rice, had made, telling me, “My wife make this, it's not so hot, good for you!” It was good for me, delicious and only hot temperature wise, a welcome change.

    After that experience I wandered back to my room trying to wrap my head around this Christmas, and how very different it was from any previous Christmas. I decided that I would make a cup of my fresh from the States coffee in my brand new French press for my helpful neighbors that evening. When I showed up they were gathered around the same table I had nearly killed myself at earlier, having a beer or two and socializing. After pouring the coffee for them, and appreciating the taste of real coffee for the first time since arriving in Thailand we fell into very enjoyable, dare I say merry, discussion about my Thai experience up to this point. The owner of the shop brought me beer, filling up my cup enough times that I lost track and stopped trying to count. He offered me and my roommate a small berry and told us to eat it, which, without question, we did. When we asked what it was he told us it was “miracle fruit” and proceeded to cut up and offer us a lime. The lime ended up tasting more like candy than
    the sour fruit we expected. In fact, everything tasted a good bit like candy after eating the berry, including our beer and dinner later that night. It was funny and enjoyable at first but eventually became monotonous.

    This wasn’t Christmas, it lacked everything I had come to expect from the holiday over the years, but it was still a special and festive day. Being in Thailand provided me with opportunities to have some fun and adventurous times that simply would not have been available if I were enjoying my traditional “White Christmas”. Really this sort of day could have happened on any day in Thailand, with a few less merry Christmases thrown in, but that it was Christmas gave me the bump, or push I needed to enjoy the day fully. Even if the feeling of Christmas was not so thick in the air as I’m sure it was elsewhere in the world, I had a Christmas that was memorable and thoroughly enjoyable.

  • My five favourite memories from Thailand by Chris Ansell 2009

    I feel like my time in Thailand has brought me an abundance of fantastic experiences and memories
    that my past life could not and would not have ever been able to provide. So filled with them has this
    past year and a half been that I am positive and afraid that many have already been lost with only a
    slim chance of returning, perhaps, if something unknown to me at present, happens to trigger them.
    So working with the memories that are with me now, I am excited to present to you my five
    favourite memories from the land of smiles (which certainly had no problem living up to its name!)

    1. Walking onto Khanom beach for the first time.

    Halloween 2009. Everything and everyone still rather new to me. I had been here for just two weeks.
    I’d barely stepped foot in a classroom yet and definitely would have felt more comfortable on the
    other side of one sitting with all the kids! I had arrived via minibus and motorcycle taxi to the party
    hq which this year was at One More Beer resort. I was to be sharing a room with two of my new
    housemates, John and Janet, and after we had dumped our bags and donated generous gifts to the
    bathroom (it takes a couple of weeks to adjust to the food) we all had the same thought in mind:
    Beach! We left the room, walked through the bar where people were hanging pigs heads and
    decorating coffins, under some tall palm trees and then….”Wow! Oh man! Holy f#*k it’s beautiful”.
    We had arrived.

    This was by far the most idyllic beach I’d ever stepped on and it took my breath away. I’d only seen
    beaches like this in travel brochures. Behind us and stretching for miles down to the left of us was a
    row of tall palm trees that we had just walked beneath. A little way behind them, the land rose up,
    creating an impressive landscape of dense woodland standing upon jagged hills and scattered here
    and there with waterfalls. In front of us was a wide expanse of different shades of blue. It was my
    favourite time of day when late afternoon slowly turns to early evening. We were soon in the sea,
    cooling our bodies and happy to be alive. We returned to the beach to sit and watch the sun slowly
    descend and seemingly embrace the far reaches of the ocean.

    This really was love at first sight for me and it has remained my favourite place in Thailand ever since.

    2. Anubans (kindies).

    These little things, most of whom are the height of my knee, are the most genuine and hilarious
    students on the face of this planet (although some of them look and act like they aren’t necessarily
    from this planet!)

    I love them. Sometimes, momentarily, I will believe that I don’t, but I do. With these students I have
    the license to be a kid/clown again and it is so much fun. My favourite game with them is when
    teaching them about feelings such as happy, sad, hot, cold, hungry and sleepy. I will draw some faces
    on the board and we will act them all out with a dance, song or chant. I will then take the eraser and
    hand it to one of them (they are all eager to be the chosen one) and say “I am…SLEEPY!”. They
    have to go and erase whichever face is the sleepy one. Problem is this. They have to be quick. They
    have a five second countdown before funny and goofy teacher Chris turns into a monster/zombie and
    begins to come after them. The look on their little faces and the high-pitched sounds coming from
    their mouths is priceless. I will usually come within a whisker of catching and eating them and so
    they will do the crazy anuban run with legs and arms going in all sorts of directions and angles back
    to their chair. And because Anubans are indestructible (scientific fact) they will sometimes be
    running away from monster Chris but with their eyes still looking right at him, run into a table or
    another student, bounce right off of them onto the floor, get up straight back up and keep going.

    These kids seem to have limitless bundles of energy but you then walk passed their classrooms on the
    way to lunch and see them all fast asleep in all kinds of weird and wonderful positions and realize that
    they don’t hold anything back when they are with you. They are exhausted. I love the fact that if
    you give them everything you have got, they will give you everything they have in return!

    3. VIP

    For a while I was a VIP. I used to go to Earth Zone restaurant about three times a week and after a
    time made some friends with the other ‘locals’. They enjoyed practicing their English and helping me
    out with any Thai I wanted to know. I think the alcohol definitely helped the conversation flow!

    I began joining them at their table and drinking with them. I soon learnt that one of them owned a
    couple of the nightclubs in town. We would often begin drinking at Earth Zone and then head to
    one of his clubs later on. We would go in through the back entrance and be shown to a private area
    of the room. We would have our own waitress the whole night and would have an unlimited amount
    of Johnnie Walker Black Label at our disposal. Pee Bert, who was the owner, would never let me pay
    for a drink or have my glass empty. We danced and talked away many a night, and I learnt how
    packed these clubs can be even on a weekday as well as at the weekend. I loved having these Thai
    friends as they helped open up a whole new part of my life in Thailand. I may have regretted it on
    one or two school-day mornings but all in all I had a ball!

    4. A visit from Tommy

    Last October when I thought my time in Thailand was approaching its end my brother Tommy
    came out for three weeks in the October break. This was meant to be a grand farewell for me and a
    grand holiday for Tommy. And it was. Except I didn’t really leave. What this trip did for me was to
    make me realize how much Thailand has to offer and how easily it can be taken for granted once in a
    while. On a number of separate occasions Tommy asked me in disbelief why I was even heading
    home. I didn’t really know. I obviously missed my friends and family but they weren’t going
    anywhere. In the three weeks Tommy was here we travelled to some of my favourite spots as well as
    some new places. It was both surreal and fantastic to reminisce and catch up with everything going
    on back home whilst on the other side of the world. We spent a week in Phuket with a group of
    people from Surat as well as two of Amy’s friends also on holiday from England. It was a really great
    time, with a lot of eating, a lot of drinking, a lot of chilling and ultimately a lot of laughter. Good
    times!

    5. My motorbike.

    Very few of us have ridden a motorbike before coming to Thailand, let alone owned one. It is far
    more expensive back home and there is a far longer process in being able to ride one in the first place.
    Having owned my 125cc Honda Sonic for more than a year now I can hardly envisage a life without
    it. The freedom it has given me, the time it has saved me (compared to riding a bicycle) and the
    wonderfulness it has achieved in helping me arrive everywhere without being soaked in sweat are
    things I certainly do not take for granted. Okay, it is not a big and burly Harley, it is not a bike that
    women turn their heads at the sight of and shriek “Please oh please let me ride with you!” but it
    works for me! I love the fact that I can cruise down the pleasant highway out to Khanom for the
    weekend and feel the air rushing through my hair. I love the fact that over here you can change the
    colour of the lights to any of your choosing and indeed that you can add bright flashing lights to just
    about any part of the bike. You can change the horn to sound like a high-pitched shriek of a bird and
    you can make your braking sound like you are riding upon a space ship. You can pimp your bike is
    essentially what I’m saying! And what mid-twenties guy from south London wouldn’t fancy doing
    that? Not me I tell you. Not me!