I sat in the auditorium, ready to decide where I'd want to go. But I already had an idea in my mind: Thailand. I had sat back the year previous and missed the meetings because I wasn't sure that teaching was even the thing I wanted to do. Then I saw Education friends who had gone posting pictures of adventures where they cuddled with tigers and road on the backs of elephants (two things I learned were terrible to support and therefore never experienced, thank goodness). My desire to travel was ignited.
I'm not a particularly extraordinary person or even a decent quality teacher – I'm also extremely hard on myself, so take what I say with a grain of salt. Travelling to the other side of the world, basically on my own, wasn't ever something I thought I'd do. In reality, all that I knew about Thailand was what I had seen in movies and on the news – dirty and catastrophic with crime and beaches.
Other places were advertised: 10 weeks in Germany teaching Turkish students; 6 weeks in Costa Rica, helping the less fortunate; 6 weeks in Greece, teaching the sons and daughters of the wealthy. They talked about future plans in the following years – irrelevant to any of us – in the Philippines and China. All of these unpaid as practicum placements are. It would have been amazing to visit Germany or Greece – I was thinking about it – but, as always, it came down to money. How on Earth could I support myself and pay my bills back home for 6-10 weeks in another country? It wouldn't be possible. So, yes, my decision to choose Thailand was largely based on a) the opportunity to travel and b) the fact that we would be paid as any teacher there who had a Bachelor's degree in anything other than Education.
We would be paid roughly $1000 CAD (30,000 baht) per month in addition to a stipend for living. The cherry on top, though, was that the school would cover most of out flight with the remainder coming out of our paychecks over several months. It was virtually no cost to go there. Once in Bangkok, we'd have a day to settle followed by preparation for the school year. We'd have to take classes from Monday to Thursday every evening and would teach full time during the day. We'd have our own students and our own classrooms. Extremely appealing for Education students just starting out.
So I began the process. I didn't tell anyone what I was planning because I was worried that I'd be talked out of it. I applied and sat an interview with Gary and Lloyd before telling my family (I had told my friends the month before). The interview, I think, was more of a formality as everyone seemingly made it on. We met once per week to prepare – all 20-some-odd of us. We were put into contact with current placements out there and bought furniture. We applied for VISAs and, in my case, passports. We bought luggage and prepared for our long-ass travel (29 hours!) to Thailand in April.
On April 28th, at some still-dark-outside hour in the morning, my family and I packed up the car and headed to the airport. I was running late and my family was crying (I avoided this) as I headed through security. I heard my name being called over the PA and saw Lloyd at the end of the security line waiting for me. Luckily, all was fine and I was able to board. Unluckily, I was confused and sat right beside one of my peers, leaving the aisle seat empty. It was weird. I should have moved once the plane was in the air but by that point, I was too far in.
That was the first flight. From Winnipeg to Vancouver. Then we had a 6 hour layover. It's really nice being from a city that doesn't have a lot of direct overseas travel going on.
The longest flight was from Vancouver to Seoul. That was 14 hours and, again, we had a layover, but this time it was only 2 hours. Everyone was exhausted and miserable. The athletic people were doing stretches and yoga-like things while the amorphous blobs like myself let the exhaustion consume us.
The last leg of our trip was from Seoul to Bangkok. There, we collected our luggage and were met by people from the school we'd be teaching at. It was, like, midnight and we were all dying, so the school naturally took a picture of us (I'm sure its saved somewhere and looks like a group of pale zombies ready to give up).
One thing I won't ever forget: the wall of humidity that hit as soon as I left the airport.
Back home, we could get some pretty darn humid days in the summer, but it would usually, for the most part, cool down in the evenings. So, with that logic, midnight in Thailand would probably be cooler. I sure was deluded.
I had never experienced humidity that strong so late. I was wearing a sweater at the time (air conditioning as and always will be my worst enemy), so it made it all the worst.
We loaded up two vans and a truck with all our luggage and all our people before venturing to where we would live for the next few months.