Where is Trinidad and Tobago for dummies (with no access to internet)

When people ask me where I’m from my first response is usually a dramatic sigh. “Not this again..” is what I’m almost always thinking. “This” being the endless double-takes, puzzled looks and assumptive questions guessing at where Trinidad and Tobago might be.

So you’ve met someone from the Caribbean, wait, some people don’t even know where that region is, so…let’s go with close to America. That gives a person a little more than “Somewhere on Earth, possibly Africa.” to go on. How else do I direct them geographically if no phone with data or wifi is available?

I use some sort of object like a napkin or a book or failing having any of these, my own palms. I have the person imagine North, Central and South America to the left of what I’m using. I ask them to imagine Central America as having a sort of “C” shape. I then say that the Caribbean, which has a lot of countries, is in the ocean a little further out from that “C” shape and that Trinidad and Tobago can be found all the way down, next to a country in South America called Venezuela.

It’s all well and good if the person speaks English. In the eventuality the person does not, I just say Mars. Why, because…….(I really wanted to write “YOLO” but I’m too dignified for that mess…)

 

 

Or am I?

 

 

YOLO.

Langkawi – Party paradise or just another tourist trap?

Legendary Langkawi

or at least that’s how it’s promoted by giant government sponsored billboards and tour agencies. Let me paint a picture for you. We came to Malaysia originally to look for jobs but seeing that there would be at least a week where all the schools would be closed we started looking around for a place to visit. The southern Perhentian islands or a trip Borneo were way over budget so were we able to narrow down our options to Pangkor island, Penang island and Langkawi island. After some research, we decided to go with Langkawi island as it frequently came up as a place where folks went to party on the beach and have fun dancing and partying which sounded pretty attractive to us.

P60714-173239
After 7 hours on a bus…we still look fabulous!

To get to Langkawi from Kuala Lumpur we decided to take a bus from the TBS (50RM each)and a ferry from Kuala Perlis (18RM each) to see more of the landscape. It was also half the cost of flying. Note that this isn’t always the case, sometimes local airlines Firefly and MalindoAir will have lower prices, even lower than the bus and ferry combo. The bus take between 7 and 8 hours to get from the TBS to Kuala Perlis and there aren’t any toilets on the buses. There will be a stop at one of the rest stations about halfway through your trip, but I would still advise not to drink too much fluids, just to be safe. Some buses have wifi and electrical outlets, but you should ask for those types of buses when buying your tickets.

After we got off the ferry at Kuah jetty in Langkawi we decided to walk to our lodge because of all the taxi drivers that were trying way too hard to get us to go with them – their behavior made us really suspicious hence the decision to walk.

b inn
The Bougainvillea Inn. A lovely, quiet place to stay.

The Bougainvillea Inn is a nice, clean, budget property not too far from the jetty but it is pretty easy to miss the road leading to it at night. Langkawi has street lights, but they are not the best placed nor are the roads the best made for pedestrians. Still, it was a pretty cool experience getting lost (even with our heavy backpacks) and stopping for iced coffee and tea at a local food stall. We stayed there for three nights and were able to visit a few places on that side of the island, plus a nice night market.

IMG-20160818-WA0003
Zooming around the island on a scooter.

To get around Langkawi is not the easiest as there seems to be no public buses and taxis are expensive in Malaysia, but probably more so in Langkawi – I’d only heard this from our landlord at the Bougainvillea Inn, I can’t say for sure as we never took any. We did rent a scooter for 40Rm for the first day then 35Rm for four further days from an agency on the jetty. Later we found out that in the Pantai Cenang area one could rent a scooter for 30Rm. Oh well.

P60715-132920
Goddess of Mercy at the lucky temple in Langkawi

Some of places we were able to visit when we stayed in Kuah included the Lucky Temple, Tanjung Rhu private beach and the night market. We also had dinner one night at the famous Wonderland seafood restaurant. A quick note on the beaches in Langkawi – none of them have clear water! In the Andaman Sea there are very very few places on islands other than the main, easy to access ones, that have clear water! (There is a rumour of one beach near Datai bay that has clear water but we did not have time to visit it).

IMG-20160818-WA0001
Tanjung Rhu Private Beach

All that being said, the Tanjung Rhu private beach is nice and clean with calm waters, great for swimming and kayaking. To get there just take the route to the public beach. Once you see the public beach keep going straight, past the four seasons hotel and after about five minutes you’ll come to a fork in the road and a security booth with a guard booth. Approach the security booth, you will sign an agreement that you’re going to the private beach and not going to litter and cause a ruckus. Then just cotinue along the road and after another few minutes you’ll see the river on your left and the beach a little further up ahead on the right. The beach is open from 9am to 5pm everyday. You may even see monkeys on your way there or on your way back like we did!

After exploring Kuah we headed over to Pantai Cenang for a few nights. We stayed at a family freindly place called Pemandangan Indah Guest House for one night. There’s a nice garden and a fair view of the ocean as well. After we moved on to the Rainbow Lodge and Cafe. I have mixed feelings about this place – the people we met there are great, I was really happy to meet them all. However the room itself was a little bit of a trial for me as we booked the cheaper option of a fan-cooled room, with no hot water and a toilet that did not flush well. The sheets were a cool travel theme but they were old and were rough from having been in washing machines one to many times. The thing that probably got to me the worst was the wall, which was dirty from previous guests having wiped….stuff… (I assumed boogers, yuck) on them. Each room does come with it’s own sitting area outside with chairs and a little table and a hammock – those were big pluses as I love me a hammock ūüôā

Pantai Cenang itself is not a terrible beach. There are a lot of people during the late afternoon so a better time to visit is during the night, after dinner and a few beers or cocktails. Be prepared to spend more for food and water than alochol. Alcohol isn’t taxed on Langkawai so it’s one of the more resonably priced things on the island and on the popular Pantai Cenang.

IMG-20160818-WA0004
Pantai Cenang at sunset


As for the parties on the beach – not so much organized as just you and a group of people you meet at a hostel or bump into at the beach just hanging out and having fun. I would recommend a night swim under a full moon, just go even if you went to the beach without your swimwear! The water is rougher around that time but it’s quite shallow and you can enjoy calmer water if you go a little further in, away from where the waves break. It’s truly romantic to be able to gaze at a full moon as you float on the ocean…better if you got good company ;).

Star Trek III: beyond expectations

The newest installment of the rebooted Star Trek series takes us a few years into the journey of the U.S.S. Enterprise’s five year mission. Everyone seems to be working harmoniously, like clockwork. Chris Pine plays Jim as restless with growing melancholia but, that aside, things couldn’t be¬† better aboard the star-ship.

This movie has a lot more action than the previous two, something that is quite in line with the original series. There are ass-kicking women, an even more emotionally open Spock and some moments of wonderfully delicate acting by both Zoe Saldana as Uhura and Sofia Boutella as Jaylah.

There is a sense that the characters have all grown up a little bit more. Whilst there is still humor from Bones and Scotty, it is not as heavily scripted into the movie as was seen in the first two movies. It was a wise move in my opinion as there was more focus on a quickly advanced, albeit simpler, plot.

It seems that more credit was given to the audience’s intelligence this time and major foreshadowing wasn’t too much in your face as the second movie. Whereas there were clear clues for the observant viewer, like seeing that the pretty planet-sized station of Yorktown would be under attack and that the alien who had her ship stranded was really in league with Krall.

It was still hard to guess the true identity of the villain as his appearance was unlike the aliens casual fans are familiar with and he changed markedly every time he drew energy from his victims. It was a well played plot piece but¬† I felt that despite Idris Elba being, well, Idris Elba, it’s actually quite hard to create a villain as impacting as Kahn and Nero respectively. Krall may have been the scariest of them all in that he really didn’t got , or need to go to, great lengths to show off his crazy, neither to his followers, his enemies, nor us. He didn’t spend as much time as the previous villains on screen brooding about how he was going to kill a lot of people and start a new war, he got the missing piece of his ancient bio weapon and flew out – attack begun.

It was truly a less plot focused movie and the layers showcased in the first and second movies seemed to have been missing from this one but, they were cleverly hidden and a lot of the information was shown rather than explained.

In addition to the more mature tone of the movie, one cannot miss nor forget to acknowledge the untimely death of the actor that played Pavel Andreievich Chekov, Anton Yelchin. It was not stated as such but I choose to interpret the toast and the words spoken by Bones and Jim as a solid tribute to his accomplishment as an actor and a person. It was tasteful and well received.

Well, folks, if you have any comments or would like to start a discussion on why the USS Franklin needed to achieve terminal velocity by falling off a precipice, leave a comment below and I will respond!

Live long and prosper!

Challenges faced by foreign teachers in China

From my experience and observations whilst teaching in China there seem to be two broad category of expat teachers – young, freshly graduated “skylarkers” looking for some extra income, the majority of whom don’t really have a passion for teaching, education nor any intentions of committing to a school and, professional, career-minded teachers who keep on educating themselves and keep current with new, effective methods of teaching. Of course there are those who fall somewhere in between; the individuals who perhaps did not want to teach but were somehow led/advised that it would be a safe path for the short or mid-term until they could find themselves in better, more interesting/higher paying fields of work.

My article deals with a few of the main concerns that are faced by teachers that fall into the second category. Many foreigners that are career teachers go to China with very high expectations from nearly all aspects of management. From the very beginning they are subject to vast amounts of miscommunication with recruiters and schools that are interested in hiring them. They are sold the idea that their worth is less than they think, that teachers on the whole aren’t really highly paid. Whilst the teaching industry is not the most affluent, teachers do deserve respectable salaries for all their merits. Think about it, a lawyer spends years becoming a qualified professional in his/her field. Does a teacher not do the same? A bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree are not cheap. TEFL or CELTA courses are not free. All the time you spend learning your skills should be considered by schools and recruiters when they are thinking of hiring you. Unfortunately, that is less and less the case these days.

Education is a philosophy, not a business. In China, however, everything is business. – Mustafa Yildiz

Instead of acquiring professionals that would not only produce quality work but stay with a school that they felt comfortable in, many institutions hire an image that they think would boost the appeal of their company. White faces, light hair and eyes that aren’t brown. That sounds like racism, you say? It is. The small percentage of schools that don’t have those racist tendencies still have the other vice that’s plaguing would-be-teachers – the Native English Speaker requirement. In reality a lot of schools use this requirement as some sort of code for “Caucasian” as they quote a new government rule that Native English Countries are only a handful or the largest political powers worldwide – America, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Why the hell is anyone really bothering to learn English if only these few countries speak the language then?

As a side note, I’d like to mention that so far, the best English language teachers I’ve met have all been second language speakers. There is no way any native speaker could break down grammar the way those second language speakers did to me. All the stuff I glossed over in Primary school and essentially ignored in high school were studied by these people like one studies to become an astronaut. Thoroughly.

Another point of contention are the ridiculous new heights of oppression that foreign teachers’ contracts are getting to. Not only are teachers are being made to haggle and bargain for salaries that barely match their qualifications and experience but some companies have turned it into a game. I personally had the experience of one school allowing their recruiting company to handle the salary negotiations. I was told via email at nearly midnight (it was truly by chance that I had checked my emails that late that night) that I had passed the interview and I had a maximum of 12 hours to submit a salary expectation/request. The thing is, if my salary request was too high it would be rejected by the school board and I would have one more chance to give them a suitable salary quote. After that I would no longer be a suitable candidate.

Welcome to the Hunger Games: school hiring edition.

What if my salary request was too low or actually a lot lower than what the school thought I could be paid? I am still waiting for a reply to that question.

As for the contracts themselves, there are a lot of deduction policies that I haven’t really seen/experienced anywhere else. Among the more intimidating ones were thing like a company being able to terminate your contract without compensation if you did not attend work and could not contact them for 16 hours. Monetary deductions for punctuality and students’ performances in tests, the list actually does go on.

In addition to this there are even some companies that do not even offer decent holiday packages for their teachers. So on top of harsh contract conditions (which one recruiter even got offended and told us was standard fare in China), a low salary and multiple opportunities for deductions, there is also the really depressing cherry of working during the major holiday periods. Whilst your friends at public and private schools get three weeks off for Spring Festival, you get three days from some training centers. Good job, Chinese management.

I have come to believe that modern Chinese management is all about how much you can control your assets. There is a strong feeling that positive reinforcement is weak and would be ignored outright. Western, open-minded ways of teaching are desired on the surface but not in actuality. I even got the impression from some teachers that the unhappier you are, i.e., the more stressed out about your job, the more you give without asking for anything and generally the less opinion you have, the better you are treated in the long run by management. It’s absolutely not true. The more you are of the aforementioned things, the more you are taken advantage of and flat out disrespected by management.

So, whilst there seems to be a lot of negativity in this article, this is only one side to what teachers may experience working in China. As for myself, I have experienced both sides of the coin and, being the optimist that I am, will be going back, hopefully to experience the good side of working in an environment of learning and positive growth once again.

The importance of Early Years Education

Teaching young learners is, in many countries, regarded as lesser work than teaching high school students. One country that is beginning to see the value of a solid, well thought out Early Years Education curriculum is China.

For generations the immense focus on the last few years of high-school has blotted out the need for a stable, Early Years foundation. Parents, teachers and school administrators are desperate to have their children/students attend good universities either in China or abroad. As a result, education is largely regarded as a chore or not as important until late middle school and high-school when students are pressured to not just memorise words and formulas but suddenly begin expressing their learnt knowledge in internationally accepted ways – in methods they most likely hadn’t experienced prior to that stage.

Which brings me to why education at all levels should be given equal weight, respect and attention. From personal experience, I can say that guiding students at a kindergarten is no less challenging than teaching them at the highschool level. In fact, at times, I felt like the former was indeed a lot more difficult than the latter. I realized that I felt that way, especially in China, because of a lack of understanding and support for Early Education practicioneers.

Why would Kindergarten or the early grades of Primary be as important as the last few years of Secondary school? The answer can be found in many schools across China today. High school students in international schools wishing to go abroad to study have, with the assistance of a skewed system, ignored developing their learning and critical thinking skills. The end result is hundreds of teens being forced to attend extra classes on evenings and weekends, memorising tremendous amounts of work in hopes of memorising the right answers for the upcoming exams, a general feeling of never-ending lethargy and a genuine dislike for school.

It is no secret that if a person loves what he/she does then the chances of success are increased hundredfold. Where better to allow students to start enjoying school than from the very beginning? With the right nurturing from the Kindergarten level students can grow into a way of thinking that is open-minded, inquisitive and critical. With these tools (in addition to so many more that students learn in the formative years of their schooling) children move forward through the system not as prisoneers but as pioneers.

Koh Lanta Animal Welfare – an animal lover’s haven.

1

About a month ago, Mustafa and I visited the island of Koh Lanta, Thailand. While we were there we decided to visit the number one attraction on TripAdvisor – The Koh Lanta Animal Welfare.

What we found was an enchanting place where volunteers from around the world came to take care of sick dogs and cats for a few days or a few weeks at a time. We just spent a few hours there and it was hard for us to leave because the animals were all so friendly and lovable and in need of permanent homes.

Collages11

This lovely shelter is not only a temporary home for lost animals, it is also a sterilization center and the work that the vets and the rest of the staff do there is stupendous.

It really got me to thinking, what about those who have pets and need/want to travel? So far I’ve found a really great service for dogs for those in the UK and the Western European countries called DogBuddy.

12631486.jsonWhilst you go traveling and visiting awesome places like the Koh Lanta Animal Welfare, at least you’ll know that your dog or dogs is/are safe and very well cared for.

That being said, I also encourage you to check out the Koh Lanta Animal Welfare’s Facebook page, read up on their amazing history and the touching stories of their beautiful animals:

https://www.facebook.com/lantaanimalwelfare/

A weekend away – Xi’an Edition! (places to go for expats living in China)

In this series of posts I’ll be sharing some of my travels in China. To start things off I’ll be giving you my experience getting to Xi’an, the hotel I’d selected and visiting some of the attractions there including the fabulous Terracotta Army!

IMG_20151128_133816

1. Nanjing to Xi’an – train or airplane?

easid-7768-media-id-1302

Whilst it is possible to take trains the easiest and fastest way is to fly. The major pro to taking a train is that you get to have an enjoyable night ride where you can socialize and make new friends. Flying is a good option if you want to save on time or if the timing of the train departures clash with your work or personal schedule.

Whereas the Skyscanner app is useful for international flights, domestic carriers all have deals that are available on Ctrip. You can purchase your tickets online or call them directly. You can even visit them in person at their airport branch or at their office in Nanjing.

Flight duration: 2hrs        cost: between 600-800RMB

Train duration: 8hrs        cost: from 608-684RMB

2. Airport to Hotel – shuttle or taxi?

d698f95d577f4aa183a5c6c7

There is an extensive and inexpensive (average 25RMB) shuttle bus system that can take you close to or even to your hotel, depending on where it is and what time your flight arrives. If you happen to miss the last shuttle bus then be prepared to fork out a bit extra to a taxi driver. Always remember to insist on their using the meter, though, or you will be paying way over what you should.

As a side note, the train station is located fairly close to the city center (3km from the Bell Tower Hotel) and all the major attractions, it is possible to catch cheap buses or even walk to where you need to get to if you wanted.

3. Where we stayed: pros and cons.

Bell Tower Hotel02

We stayed at the old but lovely Bell Tower Hotel. The staff were extremely nice, and the location of the hotel is second to none in Xi’an. However, the hotel has been around for a long time and some of the rooms may look slightly run down. The view from the window, in my opinion, made up for the worn state of the room and facilities.¬† We had a direct, unrestricted, view of the beautiful Bell Tower of Xi’an, which is absolutely gorgeous at¬† night.

4. The Drum tower and Muslim food street.

IMG_20151129_125833

I would suggest visiting the Drum tower around eleven am or three pm as there are daily drumming shows put on for the public inside the tower. The entry fee is 35RMB for the Drum tower and if you wish you can purchase the tickets for the Bell Tower there as well. (As much as we admired the Bell Tower from the outside, we didn’t have enough time to visit it).

IMG_20151129_131420

The Muslim food street is right next to the Drum Tower so after visiting the tower many people head down the street in search of good food, souvenirs and the like. My favorite thing for a long while on that street was a spicy breaded and deep fried squid – there’s nothing quite like it on a cold night. Also, coated and fried bananas are really excellent, as well as all the noodle dishes you can lay your hands on – a Chinese friend once told me that noodle dishes from Xi’an are especially delicious, and they are!

3. The Wall and the Beilin Steles Museum.

xi-an-in-one-day-terracotta-warriors-city-wall-day-trip-from-chengdu-in-chengdu-148974

Now, it’s not the Great Wall of China, but it is a pretty nice wall to walk around or go on and have a stroll or a bicycle ride around. Every ancient Chinese city had it’s own wall, Nanjing has the remnants of one and so does Xi’an. Xi’an’s wall is the most intact due to fortifications and rebuilding of certain sections so a bicycle ride around it is a great sightseeing and a light, refreshing workout.

stele-forest

The Steele museum is another one of my favorite attractions in Xi’an – it is a museum comprising ancient stone tablets which scholars used to record important academic and political works, poetry and even art. The stone tablets filled me with a sense of awe at their different sizes, engravings and ages. The surrounding courtyards are quiet, clean and very charming. A really relaxing getaway from the city bustle.

4. The Terracotta Army.

IMG_20151128_132414

This world famous attraction is quite far from the city and it takes about 40mins to an hour to get there by public bus. There will be many tours offered and taxi drivers will be shouting at you left and right but the best and cheapest way is to go to the bus depot and find bus 306, get on and sit down. Sooner or later the driver or the fare collector will come by and sell you the ticket for about 5-7RMB one way. The entrance to the warriors itself is about 90RMB and I would strongly advise not to accept any tour guides that try to convince you to hire them at the gates. Anything they can tell you will already be in your booklet or online…plus a lot of them just try to get their groups to buy things from the stores.

IMG_20151128_122301

There is a sort of standing, all-walls covered, cinema with the history of the Terracotta Army and how they were discovered on loop in one of the buildings, in English and Mandarin with English subtitles. It’s not long and it’s totally worth a visit after walking around and seeing all the cool excavation sites and what’s in them.

When you’re all done you can easily catch another 306 bus back into town, sometimes these buses will not be in the parking lot they dropped you off at by at but the roadside parked facing the direction to head back to the city center.

As a final note, I’d advise that you try to leave the site no later than 3 or 3:30pm as the traffic, by the time you get to the city, will become nightmarish if you leave after those times and you really don’t want to be stuck in traffic after a day of exploration!

If you have any questions at all about getting there, things to buy (or not buy!) or even getting around; I’d be super happy to help out! Post your comments and questions below!

IMG_20151128_212717

Classroom Discipline! (classroom management tips for teachers)

assertivediscipline

There are hundreds if not thousands of articles about achieving and maintaining discipline in the classsroom, however, when I started out as a new teacher, none of the things I read really seemed to help me much in the savage world of the Trinidadian highschool system. Even when I went to China I still struggled, this time not so much with antagonistic, teen angst rebelliousness, just restlessness from younger students.

The thing is, I learned a lot. I learned from each experience and I was able to fine-tune the knowledge I had gained with concrete practice during a TEFL course I did not too long ago.

I want to share my hard-earned lessons with the hope that teachers everywhere can benefit. Teaching is not as easy as some think, but it does not have to be a nightmare either.

dcrn758_hi

1. Be the authority!

If you know you have a soft heart then put on a stern face before you even get to the school. Straighten your shoulders, walk smartly and fake that know-it-all confidence. Do not look frightened, they will try to test you, especially the class bullies, the bored but smart ones, and those afraid that they’re not intelligent enough to keep up with the work. Remember that your classroom is not a democracy – you are responsible not only for their education but their safety and well-being for every period that you have them. That isn’t to say that you can’t be friendly with them, however you must not allow yourself to smile until –

classroom-management

2. You establish the rules first.

Some teachers encourage a class discussion to establish rules. I say the safest way, especially with older students, is to establish your rules first then invite the class to set additional guidelines or rules for the class. Remember to do your rules, clearly, concisely and firmly. Also, do not start the class until you’ve finished the discussion and establishment of all the rules. There are several ways you can introduce rules, but in my experience the clearer you are, the better you are understood. Beat the dead horse, folks.

no-running

3. Good rules vs. Bad rules.

The words you use can sometimes go over students’ heads, especially young ESL¬† learners. Our language has to be clear and impacting.

An example of a good rule is clearly, loudly (not shouting, only projecting) and firmly saying “No running!” possibly accompanied by a picture of someone running that has been crossed out. Furthermore, having a rewards and consequences system in a good way to clearly let students know that there will be punishments for breaking the rules. Just remember to consistently enforce both rewards and punishments every time if you choose to do this.

An example of a poorly laid out rule is saying very sweetly and uncertainly “Be safe…” accompanied by the words printed on a nice background. Kids are more likely to ignore those that do not give them pause, which is why you need to –

aAwesome-teacher-1

4. Be larger than life when teaching.

Capture and maintain their attention by projecting your voice in a way that is not harmful nor energy expending for you. You can say something like “Ok, class! Let’s begin!” or “Attention!” (In Chinese schools a literal call to attention actually works as this is how quite a few Chinese teachers get their attention.) If this is not possible, then practice your very best death-glare to instill silence, then speak at normal volume, forcing them to either stay quiet or miss what you have to say. (Always wait for absolute silence before you begin your class! Do not ever allow a student to speak while you are speaking!)

Alternatively, you could use some rhythmic clapping, a song, tapping your marker sharply on your whiteboard, a whistle or a bell. Frankly, anything startling enough to draw their attention to you will work. An important thing to note is that you need to maintain the level of energy you begin with, or even take it higher sometimes, as the students will copy your example, verbal, non-verbal and even emotional.

However, only half of the energy you project will be reflected or produced by the students and that is why you need to be a superstar in the classroom; I’m not saying that your lesson should be teacher-centered, no. Authority-wise, they should respect you and interest-wise they should be eager to listen to you. Be animated, be fun! And always be prepared to –

640px-Professor-Minerva-McGonagall-professor-mcgonagall-7083850-852-357

5. Reign it in when necessary.

If you keep on maintaining good eye contact through the appropriate times of your lesson, say when you are presenting something new, then that scanning alone should be able to prevent any misbehavior. However, this is not always the case, some students are distracted regardless and sometimes teachers may not always notice trouble brewing until it has erupted. Never fear, even if you don’t nip it in the bud, you are still in control.

Maintain your cool. Depending on your classroom, the age of the students and which part of the world you are teaching in, etc, you will have different options available to you. Always take a minute, if possible, to assess the situation. Think of how you can let the student know that their actions are wrong without resorting to any negative language. Look at the student sternly until eye-contact is achieved. Approach slowly whilst keeping eye-contact and simply put away whatever the student was playing with, or confiscate it. If the misdemeanor was talking in class or something similar you can calmly ask the student to repeat or read the class rules. If you have a rewards and consequence system in place then enforce it neatly and place more focus on how they can gain rewards in the future through good behavior, for example:¬† “Next time you can get a sticker if you follow the rules.”

If you do not have such a system in place and you are met with refusal simply say “Ok, after class, then.” and proceed with your class. At the end of class stand at the door so the student doesn’t escape, have him or her sit down with you and just have a chat with them. Try to understand and not accuse – you have the opportunity to show them compassion. Sometimes trouble makers just want some TLC.

Well, good people, these are a few of the most important (in my experience) classroom management tools that I’ve picked up over the years. Let me know if they are helpful to you and what other techniques you’ve learned through your experiences!

Three unbeatable reasons to “get lost”.

unnamedAny experienced backpacker or explorer will tell you that abandoning The Plan and simply getting into a place and getting lost is spice of traveling. The unique challenges and rewards really help people find themselves, as ironic as that sounds. Here I’ll give you the three most exciting reasons to “get lost”.

1. Adventure

IMG_20160627_145853
Central Festival; finding it was a bittersweet relief after a long journey through exciting backstreets.

You can’t beat finding a road that is fresh and unexplored by too many people, or a discovering a different path that leads to the destination you’re (eventually) getting to. A good example is when Mustafa and I took a “shortcut” to the Central Festival mall here in Chiang Mai and ended up stumbling upon a few interesting places that weren’t on TripAdvisor, like a board games center/shop and a new restaurant with some great guava juice. The magic of the road is that you truly don’t know what to expect.

2.  People.

images
The famous Golconda fort where Mustafa, with no plan nor intention, was invited over for the night by a perfect stranger who saw that Mustafa was a little lost with nowhere to stay. Kindness can be found everywhere.

Granted that no matter where you go you’ll run in to interesting people, there’s no better way to experience the true culture of a place than to just get lost and head into places and communities that aren’t perfectly mapped out on your maps app. Mustafa did this (quite bravely) in India. He’d gotten lost, found Golconda fort and after exploring it, met some lovely people that hosted him for free at their place.

3. Food!

P60620-160835
“Could you add some more peanuts, please?” We’d found this lovely pad thai stall whilst we were searching (and getting quite lost) for our bank branch. It was a tremendously tasty find!

All the greatest, tastiest tales have been about discovered food finds whilst meandering down an unknown quarter of a town or village. We discovered what might be the most amazing pad thai in Chiang Mai on a street we had no intention of going down (we’d only gone down it to look for a bank). Also, lots of deserts and snacks that are indigenous to the local culture we’ve only been able to find through getting lost and happening upon them.

IMG-20160627-WA0000
Bonus pic…The most amazing grilled bananas stuffed with shredded coconut and smothered in coconut milk…..best lost find, ever!!!

 

Five Chiang Mai Food Specialties

This one’s for the foodie in us all.

Chiang Mai Food
Best noodles in Chiang Mai, right here on Rattanakosin road!

In my previous post about the wonderful, sumptuous delights of Thailand I mentioned that I would be doing a part two to focus on the mouthwatering masterpieces of Chiang Mai. Well, the wait is over. Allow me to introduce you to some of the most amazing foods I’ve ever eaten.

1. Khao soi gai

Slow cooked meat in a spicy yet decadent coconut curry. Delicious!!
Slow cooked chicken in a coconut curry noodle soup, topped with crispy fried noodles and lots of green onions. My personal favourite!

This dish is a Nothern Thailand bestseller. Khao Soi is renowned all over Thailand as Chiang Mai’s biggest culinary export. This particular location has, in my opinion, the best Khao Soi in Chiang Mai. The owner has very good English, the ordering system is so easy – you just sit at a table and tick off what you want from the ordering menu, which is in English. Or, why bother when the staff all know the names of the dishes anyway?

2. Noodle soup with chicken

Slow cooked chicken in a tasty, light broth. Served with thin rice noodles. Yummy!!
Slow cooked chicken in a tasty, light broth. Served with thin rice noodles. Yummy!!

Now, I know everyone loves a good chicken noodle soup…. well you ain’t ever tasted anything quite as good as this chicken noodle soup from the same restaurant that serves the best Khao Soi this side of Thailand!

I kid you not, some of the best noodle dishes I’ve tasted in Thailand were right here at this homely little corner restaurant.

3. Pot stewed duck noodles

IMG_20160620_124537
Here we have another winner of slow cooked meats!

This treasure is found right by the famous McCormick hospital in Chiang Mai. The duck is slow cooked and the soup is savory, a little on the sweet side and is a great meal, especially for lunch. You get a large drumstick and two wings plus a heaping portion of noodles and fresh, delicious bean sprouts.

4. Salt-grilled red snapper

Delicious, healthy and leaves you licking your fingers!
Delicious, healthy and leaves you licking your fingers!

Ok. I know I talked about salt-grilled fish before….but I didn’t have this beauty to compare it to!! The fish are sold by an old couple on the sidewalk, grilled fresh every afternoon right outside the Inspire Hotel. It would be a crime to miss out on this fish. Served with fresh greens and a super spicy green sauce, you can’t go wrong.

5. Crispy basil with chicken on rice.

Basil, basil, basil. I just can't get enough!!!
Basil, basil, basil. I just can’t get enough!!!

Served with a clear black pepper and spring onion chicken broth, this amazing rice dish comprises fried crispy basil and minced chicken on rice. By far one of the best dishes I’ve ever had in Thailand. I don’t even have the words to express how much I adore this dish. You’ve just got to try it for yourself!

Cookbooks for your enjoyment:

Pok PokThai Street Food