Another year, another review (2 year review). Once a year I’m reviewing my life, work and everything related that happened to me in the Land Of Smile. As always the review will be divided into Living, Traveling and Teaching/Working.
Since I am nice (yes, really. sometimes) and realize that most people come here for the travel part, let’s start with that one. What have I done this past year, where have I been? To be quite frank, I didn’t see to many completely new places – that doesn’t mean I didn’t have new experiences though. But let’s just start place by place :)
Probably one of my most travelled places here in Thailand. The ‘Rose of the North’ is always worth a trip. It’s different, it’s more relaxed, laid back – not in a lazy but good way. Nice cafes, shops, hang out spots, mountains, etc. Simply a great place to spend time. This year I went there alone as well as with my little sister who visited me for the first time ever here in Thailand. Chiang Mai was, after meeting in Bangkok, our first common travel destination and it turned out to be a good choice. Besides walking (and walking!) we met a former student of mine who took us to the mountains and spend some time at the local markets (besides from walking around). Good time.
Time to hit the beach! I’ve been to Koh Tao before so I knew that it’s a cool place to stay and to hang out. I went with a friend this time and while our accommodation wasn’t that great (we even decided to switch accommodation during our stay) we had some cool (and near death) experiences there while biking around the sand roads of Koh Tao on the hunt for the best beach & seaside place of the island. We found some beautiful view points and amazing bays on Koh Tao that were worth every ounce of sweat that we lost on the way. Check out the Koh Tao archive for more information on that :-)
Hard to believe but it was the first time EVER for me to go to Koh Samui. I kinda avoid those ‘big’ touristy places as good as I can but my sister, just like many other tourists, heard about Samui before and wanted to go there. So we went :) And it was an interesting experience. We somehow hit the lottery with our place to stay. Directly at the beach, quiet, great service, nice people. Perfect! Furthermore we did some pretty funny motorcycle tours around the island. The most ‘famous’ beach spots haven’t been that amazing but with our home base being pretty cool we could cope with that quite well. Overall I probably wouldn’t go back to Samui soon but it was nice to have finally been there.
Ever since I moved to Bangkok I stopped hanging out at my former favorite tourist spots but been at so many different places. It’s incredible. I won’t probably even been able to find half of them again. Nevertheless I do make a decent guide by now and even lots of Thai friends and colleagues rely on my ‘farang tours’ once in a while which is quite funny to watch. The foreigner guiding Thais around the city :-) After having troubles with Bangkok after our initial meeting I learned to like this city and the more I know it, the more we grow as a couple. Bangkok can suck but it can also rock so much. You just need to get to know it.
After leaving Udon Thani for Bangkok I usually come back there every 3 months or so. To meet friends, former colleagues and former students. It’s so much nicer now that I don’t live there anymore – so it’s easier to focus on the nice things when I’m back for a few days. Hanging out at Phu Foi Lom, checking out new spots around Nong Prajak Park etc.
Travel highlights: Traveling by Motorcycle on Koh Tao. Not only on the roads but everywhere else. The ride from Koh Samui harbour to our accommodation in a self-made motorcycle side-car. Koh Samui Bang Por Beach. Koh Tao, All bays.
Enough traveling now. Let’s head over to the more serious parts of the past year. Working & Living. First up: Work.
As mentioned in the last review I changed my job and went on to become a lecturer at a huge private University. I’m still in that position but that’s not the only thing I do here now. I also hold another role that puts me in charge of the online strategy for international programs. Quite challenging, heaps of work, little sleep. I do like both roles of course – especially the potential that lies within them. Otherwise I wouldn’t do it. However it’s sometimes quite frustrating to fight Thai windmills. Seems to be even harder than in Spain.
From the teaching side I still love being in the classroom. Heck I even got a tattoo that says ‘Ajarn’ (the Thai word for ‘teacher/lecturer’) in the languages of all my students (15 different languages). What I don’t like though, and that remains even after 3 years, is the organization around the ‘unimportance’ of education in general. If a student doesn’t do his/her assignments I’m supposed to give them another chance, and another chance and….another one. Things like wearing your uniform the right way are more important than academic achievements and biased grading and organizational structures can be found almost everywhere. I wrote about those ‘educational walls’ over there at nomadteacher.org. Feel free to check that out.
I don’t want to finish the teaching paragraphs without mentioning my awesome students. They are the biggest reason for me to stay here. Even though I’m complaining a lot about work (shows that I care about it btw) I’m super happy with all the encounters I have here. I feel very lucky and grateful to meet so many different and interesting persons and hope that I can help them at least somehow during their way through University. The good memories definitely overweigh the bad ones and some student assignments, conversations, ideas are astounding. I still love it.
When it comes to ‘Online Marketing / Online Strategy’ it’s so incredibly hard to explain things and coherences. A very common approach these days is “Oh, I saw that on website XYZ, hence I copy all of it and try it just like that” – no matter if that website is in a completely different business area, has a different backlink structure or whatever…we just copy everything :-/
Besides that it’s super difficult to explain long term goals and that you can’t just jump from 0 to 100 within a year or so. Or that you have to think about online strategy from the very beginning of a venture and not just at the end like ‘oh, ha, there’s this internet thingy…let’s do this’.
I always mention to my friends and family that I am NOT living in a developing country here – in terms of online business however, it definitely is. More about online stuff on my ‘main website’ www.sayfun.me.
So where am I right now? Teaching wise I think I’m improving a lot – while trying many different things. I try to have classes quite interactive with lots of freedom, gamification principles and focus on student initiatives & understanding. Online Strategy wise I’m diving deeper into the eLearning sector (MOOCs and much much more) while still focusing on SEO and Social Media activities. Furthermore I’m about to have my first article published in a science magazine and am about to kick things off for an official research in the online business and eLearning area. Looks like I won’t sleep much until the 4 year review.
Finally, the part that family and friends are waiting for, living.
There’s not to much to say though so I keep it short and simple with the ‘most important’ experiences. One of the improvements in my private life: I moved to a ‘real’ apartment. Not a, sorry, crappy student apartment anymore. Now it’s nicer and bigger. And further away from Uni. Hence I’m trying to find a good deal on a motorbike to avoid the taxi expenses every day.
Another personal highlight the past year: I had the chance to speak at a HUGE conference in Germany about ‘Online in South East Asia’. It was an absolute great experience to speak in front of so many professionals and I had lots of fun and hope to repeat it again soon. Thank you re:publica for that chance and I’m looking forward to coming and meeting everyone again. Great to see that so many people are interested in the topic. I was super nervous when it came closer to my presentation since I wasn’t quite sure if it would be to basic. Luckily almost nobody left during my talk which shows that I, at least somehow, found the right mix of advanced information and basic explanations. Overall a great experience :) See the talk here: Culture Clash | Online in South East Asia.
Talking at this conference wasn’t the only thing I did back ‘home’ of course. Feel free to read more about my return home after three years in the related article: Disappointing return home after 3 years abroad. Besides that I also had the experience of a lifetime – in a bad way – with Qatar Airways. Incredible what the ‘best airline in the world’ did with me. Check the ‘Qatar Airways Disaster‘.
What else happened on a personal level? Hm. As mentioned above, I got a tattoo. Yeah yeah. Tattoo in Thailand. I know what you’re thinking :P But it’s not a drunken tattoo or some stupid on the spot decision. I thought about that for ages and finally decided to do it. It says ‘Ajarn’ (the Thai word for ‘teacher/lecturer’) in the languages of my students (15 different languages so far). To answer the most common question: Yes it hurt. Not that much in the beginning but after around 60-70 minutes it started to hurt quite a bit. It took almost 3 hours until completion. Now, 6 months later, I’m still happy with that. Everything fine!
When it comes to social interaction I’m still puzzled how biased many people here are and how HUGE stereotypes against ‘Farang’ (white people) quite often are. Of course we all have stereotypes but usually I do give everybody I meet, no matter what background, I fair chance to disappoint me. Here in Thailand you always have to fight a lot of prejudices until you get accepted. No matter if at work , with random people or in personal relationships. Moreover it’s still incredibly frustrating that in a country where people consider themselves as ‘friendly and polite’ everything is about the money (money, money) and about how to cheat on each other and gain an advantage. That, however, might also be related to my skin color.
Talking about relations brings me to the ‘friends’ part. I’ve been disappointed quite a few times again and I started to kick those ‘friends’ out of my life. It’s never easy but to quote George W. Bush: ‘Fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again’ – you know what I mean while I’m taking down my black sunglasses.
However I also found a few really good friends for what I’m very thankful. They helped me a lot with lots of different things and situations. You know who you are. Thank you!
So, what else is worth mentioning? ;p
Of course I know what you’re waiting for but there’s not much more to say than last time. I’m still not married and I’m quite sure this won’t change as long as I’m here (see ‘Thai girls and relationships‘ post earlier). I did meet some nice or interesting people (ha, good how I keep it neutral, right?!) but it never actually worked out. Of course there’s also a story about a broken heart but that might be another post here next time I’m drunk or so ;-)
Ah, another funny anecdote that comes to mind right now. I have to do a ‘health check’ every year to get my work permit renewed. I went to the doctor to get checked and they took a blood sample. When I returned to collect the results the nurse who handed them to me smiled and congratulated me ‘Yay, no STDs. Very good’. Hm. Totally not awkward but thank you ;-)
Well the upcoming year is hopefully more about travel again. I really want to see Singapore, Hong Kong and, like really really really, Myanmar. I’m also trying to learn some Burmese (hopefully soon). Furthermore I really want to succeed in doing this Online Strategy thing at work – even though I have to fight quite a bit for that. I still hope it will be worth it. Teaching wise I would like to improve further and implement more ‘modern’ methodologies in class. I’m working hard on that already and hope to get the approval and acceptance soon. When it comes to the personal level I stopped having hopes or wishes. Que sera sera.
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