So, as I was saying, I thought this orientation would be an organized thing where we would all come together, or I guess I would come together with the rest of the group for a couple days of Thai culture enlightenment. Not so much. Apparently the other teachers had finished and been sent off to their schools sometime in the 2 days prior to my arrival. Bummer. I do not know what they experienced, but my grand orientation took roughly 3 hours, which included both a quick breakfast from 7-eleven (there is one on every corner here) and an awesome noodle soup lunch from a street vendor. We basically just went over the documents I would need to get my working VISA and a few key Thai terms to get me by. I was a little disappointed, but that's not to say that my ATI rep, Pak, was at all unaccommodating. She was very pleasant and did her job well, it just didn't meet up to my expectation. Anyways, it wAas probably for the best that we were done by 12:30 because I was suffering from some nasty jet lag and basically slept from 1:30 to 9, when I woke up just long enough to change out of my clothes and then slept through the night until about 5AM. I will just consider the month and a half that I spent in Thailand last year my cultural orientation.
The next day I met with my placement rep, Pat. She was also very sweet, and we chatted easily as she drove me out to the school I would be teaching in in BangYai, about 40 minutes out of Bangkok. She took me first to the school where I had a short meeting with Liza, the English teaching rep at the school. She took all of my documents and handed me the workbooks I would need for my class. I found out that I would be teaching 4-5 classes a day of about 20-25 kindergarten aged students. The school is a private, Catholic (although most students still are practicing Buddhists) school called St. Peter's. ATI really did me a solid on this placement considering my lack of teaching experience. Kindergarten curriculum should be much easier to teach, the students this age are usually more pleasant, and in private schools the students usually have parents that can speak a little bit of English, so their understanding of the language is a little better than the public school counterpart.
After my meeting at the school Pat took me to look at apartments in an area called BangYai Square. There were basically 3 types of rooms, small studios, large studios and 1-bedrooms. There were some larger places too, but only these 3 fit in my price range. The school would cover up to 5000 BT for my apartment, and most studios came in well under that amount. The one-bedrooms, which were significantly larger, and in most cases cleaner and better maintained came in around 6000 BT. Each of the buildings had the rental listings on a bulletin board out front, and Pat diligently called each owner to set up a viewing. After the rigmarorle that is the American rental system I expected the process to days or even longer. But as luck would have it, as we rounded the last of 6 buildings, a woman walked by and told us she had a place for rent on the 3rd floor. It was a 1-bedroom and the rent was 5500 BT including the building maintenance. I was sold pretty much the moment I walked in. Compared to some of the other rooms we had seen the place was spotless, well lit, had nice furniture and wood floors, and had a pretty view of a blooming plumeria tree out back. The only problem was no tv, which I can do without, and no refrigerator, which I also didn't see as a huge problem. Eating out is so cheap here that that is pretty much what everyone does, and if I decide I need one later, I can buy it for $100-150 and the owners would reimburse me for it. Done.
So in a single day and a couple of signatures I had an apartment! I paid roughly $550 total for first, last month and security, most of which I would get reimbursed by my school and the owners at the end of the lease. And just like that I am an official expat, and BangYai is my home base for the next 6 months. The owners allowed me to move in the following day, a week before the first of the month, without asking for prorated rent. They also have a young son that I could tutor to earn a little extra cash on the side. Sweet!
Across the street is a store not unlike Super Walmart, called Big C. I was able to pick up some odds and ends for the apartment and its actually beginning to feel a little bit like home. Here are some pictures...