Words and Photographs by Chloe Pereira
Stepping on to the plane, the realisation of what I was about to do made my stomach drop. To look at my face, assumptions of funerals or other bad news would spring to mind. Yet, I was travelling to the beautiful island of Thailand.
The reason behind this was either the prospect of a twelve-hour flight or, more likely, that I was about to spend three weeks in another continent, with a group of people I had never laid eyes on. I wanted to get off the plane and run home, but at that moment the kind man beside me said, “It’s alright love, I’ll teach you some Thai if you want?” So I sat down, took a deep breath and learnt how to say, ‘sawadika’, which is ‘hello’ in Thai. I thank my lucky stars for that man as he eased my nerves and in turn, I had the best three weeks of my life.
The purpose of my journey was to teach English to the children of Thailand with the charity, PoD. I taught in numerous schools throughout Koh Phangan and Surat Thani and different age groups. One similarity was their thirst for knowledge. All the children threw themselves into our planned activities – trying hard to grasp the English language and making every day count while we were with them. This eagerness drove me to work hard; to run around in the stifling humidity (to forget about the Thai buckets I should not have drank the night before) and to really give everything I could. The sheer amount of gratitude received at the end of each summer camp was overwhelming.
The teachers and children put on performances – usually a local dance – and certificates and gifts were given to us in thanks for our hard work, which had been nothing but pleasurable. Then came the swarm of children with pens and paper, asking for our names and email addresses. So far I have received a couple of Facebook requests from the older children – I suppose social media really is taking over the world.
During my three weeks, I stayed in different types of accommodation. In Koh Phangan, I was in an amazing hotel on the beach. The hours I spent in the infinity pool, swimming as if straight into the sea, or sitting on the rope swing looking out, were some of my most serene moments. I was living in luxury and could not be happier, but it was time to move.
Travelling on the back of the jeep, I was excited to go to my next luxurious hotel. However, what we arrived at was a ‘tropical resort’ – a term given to sweeten the disappointment we all felt –surrounded by nothing but trees and insects. There was no WiFi or English food, but there was alcohol and a tree swing, which provided hours of entertainment. At first, this drove me crazy but once I took a step back, I learnt to embrace it. After all, I had not come to Thailand to sit on Facebook and watch TV in a foreign language. I soon discovered the calming effect that comes with looking at nothing but trees and lakes. I embraced the scenery so much my Nanna would have been proud. Also, it was here that Thai food finally touched my uncultured, fussy taste-buds. This prepared me for the final place I stayed at, the home of a Thai family.
I greeted them with trepidation. I removed my shoes before entering, covered my knees and shoulders and ensured I said ‘sawadika’ to every member of the household. This anxiety did not last long as I discovered my Thai mum – my adopted name for Patcharee – who was the loveliest woman. Equipped with her Thai to English dictionary, she showed me around the house and introduced me to her family. I was made to feel welcome in many ways – having an array of sensational dishes cooked for me, braiding my hair, playing games with the children and having a party thrown for our last night – which consisted of a lot of food, laughter and Gangnam Style.
It is extremely difficult to try to fit my experiences of Thailand into one article but this would not be complete without mentioning numerous visits and activities that occurred outside of the schooling programme. When you hear of Thailand, you think one of three things: Full Moon Party, food or Ladyboys. Whilst I missed the Full Moon Party, I did make it to the Half Moon and Black Moon parties. The former was surreal due to it being in a jungle with waterfalls on one side and a DJ in a tree on the other. The latter was on a beach, as is expected, but the fire-eaters, performers on stilts and sheer madness that surrounded these parties was a surprise. They were unlike anything I have ever witnessed and are so much more than I could begin to describe.
The purpose of my journey was to teach English to the children of Thailand with the charity, PoD. I wanted to impart my wisdom and, whilst I hopefully achieved this, I feel that they imparted a lot more wisdom to me. I came back cultured, wiser and with a love for seaweed and spicy noodles. My advice – if you go to Thailand, go to the Full Moon Party, but spend your hangover at the local food market, where you can get prawn or chicken skewers for the same price as a Freddo, or climbing the steps of a temple to witness the truly astonishing views that Thailand has to offer.
Chloe is in her 3rd year studying English and Education Studies at MMU. She wants to travel the world – sightseeing, drinking and reading along the way. Follow her on Twitter @ChloeeMayy