Backyard plants make great models


There are two realities, one optional and one inevitable, when teaching English in Thailand.

Caught in the act
1.Copying, copying, copying!

2. Saying goodbye

For me, this time, saying goodbye was not optional.

My last few weeks in Thailand were a whirlwind of eating as much of my favourite food as possible, taking a final holiday (Koh Samet), going to the dentist and doctor (it is all so very cheap in Thailand), packing and re-packing and re-packing my bags, seeing friends, sorting through my things and donating, setting and marking exams and working on a painting.

The days to my departure rushed by and before I knew it it was my last day at school, taking a thousand photos, comforting distressed girls, handing out treats and sweets, clearing out my desk, exchanging contact details with the students and, yes, finally crying when sweet little Nob wrapped her arms (and legs) around me, her little body shaking with her sobs.

When my students left to go home on that final Friday, they left my life. No longer would I see them every morning, serve them lunch, despair at their confusion, laugh at their antics, be the recipient of their little drawings, be there to hold Nut back when he gets a little out of control and starts to beat his friends. No longer would they hang on me and hug me, play with my 'funny' hair or flutter their lashes to try get extra treats from me. I was leaving the next day and I might not ever come back.

Quite sad, really and a few weeks later, in South Africa I found myself looking through all the goodbye photos and feeling a little heart sore. Being in Thailand was wonderful and educational (for both me and my students..sometimes) and hot. I learned of the culture,the good and bad, a little of the language, the mannerisms, a little of the history and, quite amazingly, I learned how to interact and talk to children. Thank you, Thailand, you were a good teacher!

The lovely Dusadee, the HOD for the English department and sweet T.Jum, the other home room teacher for my class

The faces of my homeroom class.
Mild and Meen, two sweethearts that I tutored every Tuesday. Their Mother's name is Bee 

Now I am going to gush about my agency for a few paragraphs.

I worked with a really great agency while I was working in Thailand. My job was secured through them and they assisted or provided me with the necessary paperwork and procedures needed to get my Non-immigrant visa (necessary for legal work in Thailand). They suggested housing options and would liaise with the Thai landlords if necessary, provided me with more than the basics for my new home and treated me to a lovely welcome dinner.

But that is not all. They went over and beyond what is generally expected from an agency. The agency consists of two people, Michael and Supamas, a couple. Supamas was very concerned that I was eating enough and any visit to her house resulted in me either seated at her table eating something or at least carrying some sort of food back home with me. Her other main concern was that I was happy at work and in Thailand. Michael would feed me foreign food that he cooked and, many times, during my stay there, they took me and their other teachers out to dinner. They opened up their home to me and I organised a few dinner parties, creating mayhem in their kitchen.

Both Michael and Supamas were extremely helpful when it came to assisting their teachers in the questions and queries we might have, from work, to travel, to doctors appointments, to Thai culture, language and policies; making phone calls, doctor appointments, embassy visits with the vital stops in the town to get one of my favourite treats and zoo trips.

When I left Thailand for home, Supamas gave me a lovely scarf to take home to my Mother to say thank you for having an Austen. Such a lovely gesture. Definitely the best agency to work with in Thailand.

I made them this painting to say thank you.

Here is their website if you ever decide that you want to teach in Thailand and want to work with a fantastic agency:


This is Chertam. She loves 'My little Pony'. Here is her collection of tiny ponies.

As I sat in the bus that was whisking me away, on the wrong side of the road, to my new hometown I made a list of all the first things that struck me about South Korea.

1. It's so warm and green
2. It's 7:50pm and the sun is only beginning to set now
3. People actually use the seat belts in the bus
4. The toilets at the airport had a button that, when pressed, would wrap the toilet set with fresh plastic... avoidance of bum germs!
5. So far, everything is so clean and orderly
6. Left hand drive! Confusion is sure to reign! 
7. 8pm and it's starting to look a lot like dusk.

Now it is 1:15am and I am only starting to get tired now, thanks to time zones and the 2...3...hour nap that I enjoyed this afternoon. I am sitting in my little veranda space in my flat making use of the free, open WiFi hotspot that both my cellphone and laptop has access to. I am awaiting setup completion of my personal WiFi, but for now, this 'free' connection is serving me pretty well. I can even watch YouTube videos with relative ease. Viva Korea!

The city Suwon, many years ago, was a city completely surrounded by walls. It has burst those confines years and years ago. Here is one of the old entrance gates.

My new hometown is Suwon and is situated about a 1 hour bus ride away from the airport and Seoul. It is actually a satellite city of the capital, and according the Internet, has over 1 million residents.

I went for a little walk and discovered a lovely little park just down the road and to the left of my little house. It's quite charming, with walkways and paths that are covered in this sort of soft stuff, which I imagine is in consideration of runner's joints. There are also plenty of statues and sculptures in this park. Actually, that is something else that I have noticed about Korea in my 2,3,4 days here. Statues and sculptures. Many of them. In parks, on street corners, outside shopping malls and other big businesses.  

Another thing, that is great, about my little city is the bicycle paths and the cyclists! I have seen many cyclists whizzing down the pavements and I can see that they are either cycling for pleasure or commute as they are noticeably missing that shiny Lycra suits the sport cyclists wear. I applaud them! I want to be one of them! Soon I will look for a bike of my own!  

I was picked up by two of my fellow teachers, Korean, Elly and Julie. Elly is the head of the English department. They took me to my flat and showed me the basics of how things worked, i.e, key codes to get in the building and into my flat, rules about shoes in flats, the different garbage bags, how the hot water and gas worked and, lastly, the toilet rules. My little house is very little! It is a 3 'room' house. The 3 rooms include the bathroom and veranda. My bedroom, lounge (there is none), study (there is none) and kitchen are all one room. On the positive side, it is literally round the corner from school and in walking distance from that lovely park I spoke about earlier.

A giant church in my town. On my way in to Suwon from Seoul I passed so many churches where the crucifix was lit up with neon lighting. Interesting.

The next day, I received a visit from the Internet man who failed to connect my WiFi, so he will be back, Elly and another teacher, Mandy, and the school director, who speaks no English and attempted to set up a giant TV at the foot of my bed, balanced on two tables. All in my tiny house! It got quite warm. After a while we, and the TV and one table, all headed back to the school where I met the other Korean teachers with whom I will be working, namely Milly and Carrie. Then we ate some Korean style sushi, it's called Gimbap, and Swiss roll.

Later on I returned to the school and was shown my classroom and was giving a talking to about the basics of behaviour, working hours and what the school is all about. I have been asked to pronounce words like the Americans as the listening tests the students undertake for university are recorded in the American accent. I feel like it's going to take me a while to stop internally, and perhaps externally at times, cringing at the action of Americanising my accent and pronunciation. On a very positive note, the dress code is a lot better than what is was when I taught in Thailand. Jeans. I can wear jeans. I will say no more.

Thereafter, we went out and had a very traditional Korean dinner, compliments of my school director. Shoes were discarded at the door and we sat on flat cushions on the floor around a low table. Instead of water, we drank a kind of wheat grass (possibly) drink, from what I could understand. It was quite horrible. Dinner, however, was not. In the Korean style there were two main meat pans cooking over small gas burners and a variety of small 'side dishes', such as salads(Western and Korean), kimchi, noodles, pickled vegetables, stir fried dishes, crispy flat fish, two kinds of soups and others. When the meat dishes were ready to be eaten, individual pots of sticky rice were brought out and eaten together with the meat and the side dishes. For dessert we were served a small cup of sweet juice, which is made from the Korean apricot. It was a very good dinner, bar two or three components. I enjoyed it thoroughly and my Korean colleagues were very pleased with my response to their cuisine.

Clockwise from top right, Carrie, Mandy, Milly, Elly, me, and Julie.

(Carrieeee, Mandyyyy, Millyyyyy, Ellyyyy, and Julieeeee - I have just noticed that all their names end with the eeeee sound)

Oh, and, two butter knives at Home Plus cost 8000W. 
That is R86 or $7. 
Think about that. 
Appreciate your knives, people. 

Supermarket fish on a string.
A warning sign in the elevator - looks like the man on the right is falling out a window. The elevator has no window

An apology for using photos from my cellphone

Well, Hello Korea!

by on 29.6.15
A s I sat in the bus that was whisking me away, on the wrong side of the road, to my new hometown I made a list of all the fi...