There was a time in my life when I was a College Advisor for DC CAP at Dunbar High School and I absolutely loved it; it was one of my favorite jobs. So when I was offered a position as a Universities Counsellor at a British school, I thought cool, I can do this and it should not be that much different. However soon as I started the job I realized someone should have warned me 🤣🤣 about all the differences…the systems, the terminology, the office set up, the students, I just was unprepared for all of it 😭😭😭.
The people were what I call surface nice, polite in that they always spoke but not overly friendly in that they didn’t try to get to know you personally. I was the only black woman but there was an African man who also worked there and while he was surface nice and always said hello, again he was not interested in trying to get to know me. Fortunately I really liked the cohort of staff I came in with and my counseling department colleagues and found them to be supportive so it softened the blow. Bangkok was definitely a much, much, much easier place to live than Addis despite the oppressive heat, the torrential rains and flooding, the stray dogs everywhere and the stares and requests for pictures. So overall I was happy.
What I absolutely loved about living in Bangkok 🤗🤗
taxis are cheap
public transportation is clean, air conditioned and easy to navigate so I could easily avoid the horrible traffic
cheap massages, pedicures and manicures everywhere and I found the perfect spa across the street from the school where I got massages twice a month
access to a great healthcare system with concierge service and access to English speaking doctors even acupuncture was covered
huge malls, movie theaters, grocery stores with imported foods, a nice variety of restaurants, bars and nightlife and good vegetarian options
the beautiful scenery of rooftop bars and restaurants
The cohort of teachers I came in with were mostly young and mostly British but I liked them as people. I enjoyed hanging out with them and we lived in a hotel with a front desk, a pool, a gym, a spa…I’m so fancy 😂😂
7-11 is a staple and is located on every corner where you can pay bills, top up your phone credit, buy alcohol and snacks
the food…omg I’m sure I ate too much because I never cooked and I could get food delivered to my apartment and school from any food place or restaurant including McDonalds lol. Let’s just say I regain the pounds I lost in Addis.
I ate coconut and mango Ice cream weekly and drank coconut water almost every day I was so happy to have access to my favorite things 🤗🤗
I had more opportunities to hang out with Lucie – she came to Bangkok and I spent Christmas in Samui with her family and got some much loved beach time and great fish 😍🤗
There are so many different experiences in Thailand…beaches, countryside, downtown, temples, river taxis. There were also so many cheap travel options unlike in Addis so I could travel to neighboring countries for around two hundred dollars and I could be at the beach or the country side in a couple of hours for weekend trips
Working at Patana I quickly realized a couple of things…😭😂😣😐
1. I didn’t want to work in a huge school with 2200 students, there’s no way to get to know people outside of your department, or the principal especially although he will eventually write you a recommendation because you deal directly with your head of department and maybe the AP. I missed the camaraderie I shared with people at ICS, I felt more connection with them. Everyone is required to teach a course because none of them are trained as counselors so I taught a careers elective to year 11 (grade 10) and it was cool even though I didn’t necessarily enjoy it. The British system doesn’t
value view counseling in the same way and so the pastoral care or social emotional issues are handled by the Heads of Year and this information does not always get shared. The pace was insane because of the number of students and it did not let up the entire year (they hired an additional counsellor after I left which says a lot). The observation and evaluation process for counsellors was the same as teachers initially but I was able to get some of this changed.
2. I don’t want to only be a College Counsellor, I enjoy the social emotional interaction with students and really missed this part of my job. Over the years I have connected with my students and made a difference in their lives and that’s what I am most proud of professionally. The students while nice and polite, were distant like the staff and I found this hard to deal with because I was accustomed to bonding with my students. I want to be in a school where that is celebrated.
3. To ask about office space before accepting a job, I was never told about the office space until I was speaking to the other American counsellor several months after I accepted the job. The shared office space OMG…what I thought would be a minor challenge turned out to be really, really difficult for me as an introvert. Desks facing each other, listening to other’s conversations, having people talk to each other across the room or try to whisper, the need to leave the room every time I needed to have a private meeting with a student or parent. It was an inefficient system and I struggled with it. Sometimes I went to work in the conference room so I could have some quiet time to write recommendations or I needed some quiet time to think. I can share with one person but 3 was a stretch.
Another challenge for me at Patana is that I was the only black woman in the entire school and my neighborhood and it was difficult for so many reasons 😛 😛. At work, there were some instances of insensitivity which sometimes led to me avoiding the cafeteria at lunch especially in the weeks after the Presidential election. Sigh. Initially people in my neighborhood would stare at me or children would run away when I walked down the street. My picture was taken all the time whenever I went out. Most Thai people are respectful and would ask for a picture and only a couple of people touched my skin. However after a while I was tired of the picture requests or the constant staring or the moving from the seat next to me if I sat too close. In chinatown I had to tell a couple of people not to touch me or my hair. However, I made a sista friend who worked at another school and this offered a much needed reprieve from the stress of being the only one all the time.
The year was stressful due to the pace of work and for this reason it seemed to fly by. Overall it was a good experience despite a couple of snafus with parents and the AP that are not worth the details. As I write this post I realize that the year is somewhat of a blur professionally and maybe it’s because it was so busy, nothing significant happened at work or because I have blocked it out. It’s funny what you remember and what slips your mind.
Personally I have so many good memories of my teacher cohort we even went on a couple of weekend beach trips 🤗😚
in Thailand I explored Chang Mai, Phuket, Krabi, Koh Samet, and Koh Samui with Lucie
rode the trains, and trolleys up to Victoria Peak and took a dangling cable car up to Lantau island to see Big Buddha in Hong Kong – scary
spent New Years in Johannesburg, met some really cool people and got my hair done in Maboneng
saw Victoria Falls finally and took a dinner cruise on the Zambezi river in Zimbabwe
stayed in Bali at a wonderful resort on the beach, saw the rice fields and ate some great food but never found the Jamaican spot
was defeated by the heat of Siem Reap, Cambodia to the point where I didn’t finish the tour of the Angkor Wat temples despite purchasing the all day pass
visited several temples, rode the river boat and got to see the Kuang Si waterfalls in Luang Prabang, Laos
braved the local market, went to the Vietnam museum and walked around the streets of Ho Chi Ming City, Vietnam with no fear
rode the trains to explore Chinatown, and saw an amazing light show at the Marina in Singapore
got a tattoo and enjoyed a lovely beach weekend in Krabi
A difficult decision😣😣
Despite having all this fun in Thailand and the surrounding countries, I chose to leave Patana after one year essentially breaking my contract which can be problematic in the international field. My decision stemmed from something that happened that summer before I started the job. My Gran in Barbados was experiencing memory issues and over the next 6 months it just got worst. So I made the difficult decision to quit my job hoping I would be able to find a job in the Caribbean so I could spend more time with her before she lost her memory entirely. While I really enjoyed living in Thailand and the access it gave me to so many things, it just made sense to be closer. One of the challenges of living internationally is missing out on important family events like graduations, weddings, sometimes funerals and I was unwilling to take this chance with my Gran. When I gave my notice, everyone was surprised but supportive and I again started to look for a job…bummer😂😂.
Unfortunately the job search process was a bit more challenging this time around. The school year came to an end in June and I didn’t have a job because all the high school counseling jobs were in the Middle East or Asia. I was still hopeful that I would find a job so I applied to jobs in Panama, Cayman Islands and Costa Rica but it was not meant to be. The summer came to an end and I was essentially unemployed😭😭.
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