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Tag Archives: Teaching English

Lop Buri: My new home

I’ve mentioned it a few times briefly, but it’s time to devote an entry to the city that I’m going to call home for the next year.

Muang (City) Lop Buri:

The sun setting over the road into old town.

Lop Buri is about 2 hours North of Bangkok, just North of Ayutthaya, and is home to most of Thailand’s military bases and operations. (My mom will be happy to hear that this is probably the safest place to be in all of Thailand.)

A family of monkeys in old town.

My guidebook mentions little more about Lop Buri than what’s concentrated in the old town; ancient ruins and monkeys. As far as traveling  goes, it suggests making it a day trip and catching the night train out of here. Precisely what enticed me to accept the job offer here and live in a truly Thai town that is barely touched by tourism.

I keep calling it a town, but really it’s quite large. There is everything here that you could ever need, it’s just a matter of finding it. There are 3 large department stores, a night market for every night of the week, countless food stalls (including the night food stall street not far from us – literally an entire street packed with food stalls cooking anything you could ever want for under 40 baht.), as well as numerous restaurants and a handful of pubs.

A traffic circle, complete with the King’s picture

I’ve met farang (foreigners) from as many as 5 different schools in town, but outside of the foreign teachers, it’s rare to see a foreign face. (When we’re out walking in a group, it’s not uncommon for Thai people to seem astounded by the sheer number of us “whoa! 6!”)

My first impression of Lopburi wasn’t the most positive. Coming from the tiny little town of Ban Phe, I was worried that I wouldn’t like the bigger city atmosphere, or the fact that it feels ridiculously hotter here than anywhere else in Thailand, or the fact that I will have to get a motorbike or scooter to navigate my way through town comfortably.

However, after almost a month and learning how to ride a scooter, I’m quite happy with the laid back pace and while I still have a lot of exploring to do, I’ve learned the basics and can get around the city without too much confusion. Also, what I thought would be a bigger city atmosphere is actually non-existent, the people here are so laid back and by nightfall the city almost comes to a halt. I have yet to actually experience anything negative about this quiet city, and am quite happy settling into a routine and can’t wait to start teaching.

The School:

Banjongrat main entrance

Banjongrat School has two locations; the main elementary (Prathom) school as well as the kindergarten. The kindergarten is about a 15 minute walk from my apartment,

The mini jungle outside our school

(literally a 1 minute ride on the bike) although I’ll only be there once a week. The grounds of both schools are beautifully manicured, complete with updated playgrounds and miniature jungles with waterfalls and paths and signs explaining what the plant types are (I assume, although the signs are all in Thai).

Despite working directly at the school on a regular basis, all the foreign teachers are hired by an outside company, Fun Language, that has a main office in Bangkok, but the Lopburi and new school in Ratchaburi are franchises run by Westerners. This is another reason that I decided to come to work for Fun Language; the organized and friendly manner of the directors all helped to immediately make me feel comfortable in my decision.

There are 4 classrooms at the Prathom school and 3 at the Kindergarten, all are large, clean and air conditioned. Every day I’ll be working with a different Thai Teacher (TT) who acts as an interpreter when needed, mediates between me and the parents, organizes resources needed for every class and helps with classroom management. All of the TT’s are incredibly knowledgeable, fun and friendly. I look forward to developing friendships with them as well as the other foreign teachers and students.

The lessons are meant to be as interactive as possible, with no desks for students to zone out at and numerous games and songs to make learning English fun (not to mention teaching it!)

My Apartment:

We’ve dubbed it the mansion, because it’s literally called Saiva Mansion. (In Thai: Say-wa mansion) All the foreign teachers at our school, plus a handful of others,  live here and instead of saying “see you at home,” it’s, “see you at the mansion.”

My room with my funky (polyester) sheets. I’ve since upgraded to cotton..

It’s a basic blue room with a bed, wardrobe, tv, fridge, air con and bathroom with hot water. It also has the typical Thai style hard-as-rock mattress.  But it’s relatively comfortable, clean, and has wifi (sometimes). I would prefer a share house with some of the other teachers, and if we can find a nice, furnished house in the next few months, we’ll likely move in together. I think we all desperately want a place to hang out that’s not on someone’s bed, and a place to cook a communal western meal. One of the teachers who was here last year, but left to manage the school in Ratchaburi, used to have barbeques at his house on the weekends. That would be beautiful, but for now, it’s nice to have my own space while being relatively close to all the other teachers.

So far it’s been great and now that school is officially starting on Monday I can start what I came here to do: Teach. I can’t wait to get started!

C.E.S.H.E School in Siem Reap, Cambodia

After sorting out rooms and dropping off our bags, we headed out for our initial wander of the area we stayed in Siem Reap in search of dinner. On our way to popular Pub Street, we were stopped by a Spanish guy holding flyers. My initial response was to ignore him and his donation jar, but I’m glad we didn’t because it turned out that he was offering us a chance to visit the school where he volunteers.

The board out front

In August 2010 Cambodian English Teacher, Rure Rady, established the Cambodian English School of Higher Education (C.E.S.H.E) to provide free English classes and materials for students in the eight surrounding villages. Currently they have 270 students between the ages of 4 and 27 enrolled, 4 part-time Cambodian teachers and more recently a handful of travelers volunteering their time and English-speaking or book-keeping abilities.

At the time of our visit, which was only the second ever of a group of foreigners, there were two tuk-tuks full of people headed out to the school 7km outside of Siem Reap town. When we got to the school, the driver of one of the tuk-tuks turns around and introduces himself as the founder of the school. Our first lesson about the school; they receive no government funding and rely solely on donations and Mr. Rady’s income driving a tuk-tuk.

Rure Rady, founder and director, in front of the school

The children there were truly adorable, and while they had Cambodian teachers they were really anxious to learn English from a native-speaker. Something I’ve learned recently is that it really is best to learn a language from a native speaker, they understand the nuances of the language and it’s easier to model the proper pronunciation off them, picking up their accent at the same time. I’m still amused by this, but it makes perfect sense; they’re mimicking the way you say it. I still won’t forget Sam’s practice teaching classes where he had the kids mimicking his Australian accent.

What Rady Rure and his team of volunteers is doing is truly remarkable, offering free classes for village children who desperately want to learn English in a country where tourism is one of their largest source of income. We were given a chance to sit in on one of the highest levels and helped a row of children reading, pronouncing and understanding the meaning of the words.

How happy do I look?

The dedication these kids show, some attending three different schools in a day, well into the evening, just so that they can get a well-rounded education. For some of the students, however, this is the only education they receive, the only reprieve from their family farm. The school also acts a recreation centre, where village kids can come to stay out of trouble, play baseball with the volunteers, or simply hula hoop themselves into oblivion. They were all really happy to see us, and even happier to have their picture taken with foreigners. One picture turned into 100 as the kids were showing off their kung-fu, making funny poses for the camera and hugging us close as we posed for giant group pictures.

What they’re working on now:

Since they’re expanding quicker than their current space allows, they’re raising money for bricks to build another classroom 6×8 metres in size. They currently have 3 classrooms, meaning that the students can only attend 1 and a half hour lessons throughout the day. They have one toilet, a library with three computers and an open space for a playground.

One brick costs $1 and when I was there, they only needed $952. I’m happy to say that most of my Riel went into their donation box, and I truly hope that you, my loyal readers, can also see the value in this.

The entire cost of the project is broken down as follows:

2 tonnes of cement = $190
200 bricks = $200
2 cubic metres of sand = $80
3 buckets of paint = $90
10 8 metre long steel posts = $80
15 boxes of tiles = $90
12 sheets of metal roofing tile = $72
Paying labourers for 10 days = $150

They have more people willing to help than they can accommodate for; charging their volunteer teachers for only the basic room and board also makes it an appealing volun-tourism option. If I have a break from school and time, I would love to go back and help them build the classroom, or teach the kids English, or anything really that would be of any help. It broke my heart when almost every student hesitantly asked “see you tomorrow?”

How to reach them:

I know that I have friends, family and readers who care about causes that are real, who care about the well-being of children and who are passionate about bettering the lives of those less fortunate. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish the causes worth donating to, and even then there is the question of whether or not the money will actually do the desired action. I can promise you that this is something well worth helping. As you can see, they don’t need much, and they’re trying as hard as possible to be completely transparent by outlining where all the money goes. (Even by taking pictures of the receipts of purchases made and uploading them to Facebook!)

Of course, the need doesn’t stop there. Since the classes and materials they provide are all free to the students who may not otherwise be able to afford to attend classes, they are in constant need of money to purchase books, writing utensils and simply to provide electricity for those later evening classes when they can’t work by the light of the sun.

If you want to see for yourself, their facebook page is here: Ceshe Cambodia
The C.E.S.H.A website , AND another: Teaching English in Siem Reap

Rure can be reached by e-mail here:

Money can be deposited directly into the school’s account, named Rady Rure at ACLEDA Bank Plc. # 3475-01-051075-15, Bic Code: ACLBKHPPXXX

Or sent through Western Union to Rady Rure, Thnol Chak Village, Kiensange Commune, Sotnikum district, Siem Reap Provice

Or, if you have an account, sent through PayPal, all you need is his e-mail,

Make sure that you drop Rure an email to let him know about your donation so that they can put your name on the donors’ wall.