The Thailand Diaries: Mr. Parasite and the case of the missing toilet

After three years living in Thailand I decided it was time I wrote my memoirs… this one may be a little too much information for some but if you can’t tell your diary, who can you tell?

My tummy had been doing somersaults since I had woken up but I had put it down to whatever undoubtedly spicy-fried-stuff-with-rice that I had eaten for dinner the night before.  It’s not unusual to feel every single digestive movement within you when you are embracing the local food in Thailand.

Little did I know that there was a particularly pesky parasite harbouring within my body waiting to burst forth – quite literally – and make an appearance.  Only time would reveal this, and my what timing Mr. Parasite had.  I would soon find myself wishing I had listened to my gut’s grumbles with more attention but we all know that hindsight, and a rather memorable toilet (or lack thereof) experience, is a gift we cannot savour until it is already too late.

Perhaps someone reading this will learn something, and my experience will enable another to avoid what was unavoidably my fate.  Read on and take note, dear reader.

As I have already said, I was embracing the local cuisine of Thailand’s deep south, and so I found myself heading over to a little khao geang (literally rice curry) place at breakfast time.  It was owned by a lovely couple who would rise early to prepare an array of dishes to be laid out buffet-style for the customers to peruse and take their pick of.  As is usual in these set ups, the shop was in the front of their house, backing on to the living room which they shared with the patrons.  Unusual by Western standards but very much the norm here in Thailand.  Another rather un-Western thing – customer toilets are few and far between in these types of establishments; this fact would become all too apparent all too quickly.

Grumble.  Groan.  Squelch.  I looked at my breakfast of spicy-fried-stuff-with-rice and was unable to conjure up the slightest inkling of an appetite.  Strangely enough, being able to feel your internal organs in action tends to be quite the appetite killer.

Grumble.  Groan.  GRUMBLE.  GROAN.  Suddenly the urgency with which my insides operated reached a peak with only one message.  TOILET.  NOW.

Mee hongnam mai ka?  Possibly the single most important phrase to learn upon travelling to any foreign land – do you have a toilet?

The husband-wife curry shop duo looked at one another and then at me, in my white school shirt and pencil skirt.  They started to explain that it’s their toilet, it’s no good for customers, especially not farang customers in tight skirts… but I was already up and heading to the back of the house where their gazes lead me.  Tee nee ka?  Here?

I was  in there before they had time to answer but sure enough I found myself in what must be the family bathroom.  A damp concrete square of a room with a concrete floor and only sky where a ceiling would normally take residence.  Good for ventilation I suppose.


I desperately cast my eyes around, looking for the bog, the loo, the porcelain throne… nothing.  There was a small container of water, adorned with wrung out flannels, an old bar of soap and a couple of toothbrushes.  Next to that, a larger bin also full of water with a Winnie the Pooh children’s cereal bowl floating in it.  A quick peek beyond and I found a hole in the ground.  A hole, albeit encircled with a porcelain frame, as if to confirm that yes, this is in fact the toilet.

Full disclosure: I should probably apologise for the misleading title of this post – there was a toilet, just not the type that I am used to.

My pencil skirt was too tight to be hoicked up and so I whipped it off and flung it over my shoulder.  I’ll save you the details of what happened next but let me tell you that Mr. Parasite put me through my paces.  Epic toilet times – a rite of passage when adjusting to a life abroad but something best enjoyed (wrong word) in the privacy of one’s own home.

Something you learn quickly when you are traveling through or living in an Asian country is that there is a distinct lack of toilet tissue, especially in those countires that favour a bidet hose, or bum gun as I like to call it.  In fact, you quickly learn that we have developed a whole load of unnecessary Westernised expectations when it comes to the toilet.  We don’t need toilet seats, automatic flushes or jet powered hand dryers, but at some point we decided that we do.   Had I had the time to think things through before my rush to the toilet I would have grabbed some paper towels from the table.  Again, hindsight.

Unfortunately for me it was a double whammy.  Not only was there no toilet but no bum gun either.

Panic started to set in.  Do I shout for someone to bring me some tissue?  There isn’t even a bin.  Not an option.  There I was, squatting askew a hole in the ground, half dressed with my skirt slung over my shoulder desperately looking for a post-toilet clean up solution.

There’s only so long one can stay in such a position without taking action.  I was time to go truly native, armed with gallons of water, a Winnie the Pooh children’s cereal bowl and…

… my hand.  Oh yes, native indeed.

Thank goodness there was an old bar of soap.

At the time I have to say that wasn’t one of my most pleasant mornings, but at least now I can look back and laugh, and I can face any toilet situation safe in the knowledge that it will never be that traumatic ever again.

I may look back and find this funny, but many people don’t even have a hole in the ground let alone clean water to wash with or even drink.  Check out the gifts you can buy over at Water Aid  to enable people to have access to clean water and village water systems. 

This isn’t a sponsored post, I just want to make up for laughing at what is a daily occurrence for so many people around the globe.

TEFL 101: Skype Interview Success

So you’ve done your research, searched high and low and had some positive responses from your application emails – yay you!

As with any job, you will be expected to go through some sort of interview process before landing yourself a TEFL job.  This interview process will vary greatly from place to place, from vigorous multiple interviews and teaching demonstrations to a more laid back ‘just doing this for a formality’ face to face chat.

Due to the nature of TEFL work taking place across the globe, and that most undertaking a job search are doing so from a different country than their destination of choice, more and more often the go to method for TEFL job interviews is via Skype.

Interviewing via Skype carries its own positive and negative points.  For some, a layer of nervousness is removed by the virtual setting.  For others, the thought of adding the extra potential complications of technology – laptop, webcam, internet – in fact adds another layer of things to worry about.

Time zones

If you are looking at TEFL positions, it is likely that you may be interviewing for a job that is in a different country and therefore different time zone.  Most potential employers will take this into consideration, however it is likely that the interview will need to take place during their office hours, and so you may have to make some compromise.  You may find yourself with an interview in the middle of the night or extremely early in the morning – be prepared for this!  Another point on the topic of time zones – triple check the time difference and confirm the time of your interview in both your local times – you don’t want to end up sat in front of the computer at 9 am your time when the interviewer meant 9 am their time, which isn’t for another seven hours…

What to wear

Just because you are interviewing virtually, it doesn’t mean that you should be any less prepared or should take your interview any less seriously than if it were face to face.  It may seem odd getting dressed up without leaving your front door, but you really should dress just as formally as you would for a regular interview.  Yes, technically you could wear your pajama bottoms and fluffy slipper with a shirt and tie on top, but what if you need to get up to get something, or if the camera slips and your outfit choice is revealed?  Not only will it be ever so slightly embarrassing having your dodgy bedroom attire revealed, but it will also reveal that you don’t consider this interview to be as serious – not the best impression to give to a potential employer.

Location, location, location

You may be more comfortable perched on the end of your bed, but it doesn’t really set the right tone for an interview and you are risking having your potential employer spotting all sorts of things (I’m not even going to go there…) – choose an area of your home that is free from distraction, preferably well lit (near a window for natural light if you can) and that doesn’t suffer from bad internet signal.  If you have pets, shut yourself away from them (a visit from the cat may be cute and funny but could completely throw you if you are feeling a little nervous) and the same goes for people.  I think that most people would prefer to interview alone but if you have an overly inquisitive housemate, politely tell them to get lost and leave you alone!  A sign on the door to warn others away in a busy household will also help you to avoid having anyone burst in unexpectedly.

Double check EVERYTHING

Get yourself set up at least 30 minutes before the pre-arranged interview time.  Make sure that your internet connection is running smoothly and that your computer is ready – Skype installed and updated (the last thing you want is for Skype to start updating when you are expecting an important call in 5 minutes), no task bar full of internet windows and unsaved word documents (this will only slow your computer down and may cause unwanted pop ups or other distractions).  Carry out a few test calls on Skype to make sure that your audio levels are OK, and open up your webcam to check the camera angle and lighting.

Your secret weapon

The beauty of having your interview on Skype is that you can have a variety of things within your sight that can’t be seen by the interviewer.  Do your research on the school and the specific job you are going for  and have some notes to hand – think about the person specification and how you best fit and make yourself a list of things to try and include in your responses when being interviewed.  Try to make your notes using key words rather than full sentences; you want to remind yourself of key points to mention rather than providing yourself with an autocue.

Your computer is all set up, you are in the perfect location free from distractions, at the right time, dressed to impress and with your prepared notes within view – if you have done your research on the job you are interviewing for, all you can do now is be yourself, SELL yourself, and hope for the best.  GOOD LUCK!

Do you have any Skype interview tips that I missed out?  Feel free to leave a comment below – sharing is caring :)

TEFL 101: The Job Hunt

With the entire world at our fingertips on the internet, it is completely possible to search for jobs on the other side of the world without even getting out of bed.  Long gone are the days of lugging piles of CVs from place to place or of scouring the newspapers for jobs that had probably already been filled by the time you got in touch.  Now we are able to have immediate access to the most up to date job opportunities out there – perfect for looking for a TEFL position in any destination of your choosing.

Before exploring any of the options laid out below, make sure you have an up to date and relevant CV, a working Skype account and email address, both of which don’t have inappropriate names (sexymama101 might not be as funny to a prospective employer as it is to your friends) or profile pictures.  You may also be asked for scans of your degree certificate and transcript, your TEFL certificate and potentially a criminal record check.  It helps to have all of these things already attached to a draft email so you are good to go without having to run around looking for a working scanner at the last minute.


Quick, easy and up to date – job sites provide a hassle free way to look for a job.  Here area few websites that I have used myself when looking for a TEFL position; specialises in jobs in Thailand and lets you search by area and salary has jobs from around the world including online work

Dave’s ESL Cafe has country specific job boards for China, Korea and beyond

Be warned – some schools are notorious for posting ads and then never getting back to the applicant, filling the position in person with a friend of a friend – don’t be put off but be aware that you may not be flooded with responses!  Persevere and over-apply – it’s always better to have a choice of job offers than becoming desperate and jumping into a position just because they said yes.

TOP TIP” be aware of and look out for scams asking for the applicant to spend hundreds of dollars in made up administration/application fees, or dodgy looking positions for phony companies.


If you know which destination(s) you are looking at, do a few searches for expat facebook groups in the area.  These groups are not only useful for meeting other expats living in the area but will also be a good place to find local job adverts that you may not find on national websites.

A few good groups for Thailand include Teachers in Thailand, English Teaching Thailand, Thailand Foreign English Teachers Network Group, and more locally Phuket Teachers and Friends (there are similar groups for locations across Thailand.  More international groups include TEFL English Teachers Networking Group and ESL Teachers.  There are countless more groups out there, these just happen to be the ones that I have ended up joining myself.

TOP TIP: Just because you are using an informal platform for your job search, it doesn’t mean that you should treat it any differently to any other enquiry about a position.  Don’t just comment on the post – a well worded private message with a forwarding email to enable you to continue the enquiry outside of facebook is better.

REMEMBER!  Potential employers can and do check out your facebook profile before considering hiring you – so either get those privacy settings on lock down or think hard before posting that picture of you doing shots on the bar on Saturday night.

Agency work

If you find yourself moving to your destination of choice and looking for work, consider working for a teaching agency.  Yes, you should do your research first – ask around, try to speak to people who work for the agency to make sure that they are 100% legit (AKA can get you a visa and pay you a full salary).  Agency work can range from being a substitute teacher to providing maternity cover or doing one off english camps.  Many agencies are linked to a language school and so part-time evening and weekend work can become an option.  It is definitely worth considering even just to make sure you have a bit of income while you look for a more permanent position of your own.

Agency work issue of contention in the TEFL world; many, many people have had their fingers burned by agencies and so tar them all with the same brush.  You will hear tales of non payment, or broken contracts or visa troubles.  I myself was placed with an agency after completing my TEFL Heaven course and I continued to work with them for 18 months with no issues.  If anything, working for an agency meant that I got to void some of the pitfalls of working directly for a school – I was less involved in school politics and I knew that someone had my back if the proverbial hit the fan.  If I had to take a day off sick, all my classes would be covered by the agency.  All of my visa and work permit paperwork was processed by the agency with no problem.  I never had a problem with unpaid tax bills.  Yes, that agency must have been making some money off me but I earned exactly the same amount as my colleagues who were working directly for the school.  Maybe I was just lucky.

TOP TIP: If you are looking at working in the south of Thailand (Hat Yai, Songkhla and around) and don’t mind working for an agency, go say hi to Visions and see if they can help you out.

The old fashioned way

While I don’t recommend rocking up in person at every school in your chosen destination (unless you are prepared to do a lot of aimless wondering around looking for someone who can speak englishand has the time to help you), a little bit of research can go a long way.  Search the internet and find the local schools.  Get an email contact (preferably the HR department) and try your luck with an email including your CV.  Yes, many of those emails will bounce back.  Yes, many of those emails will go unanswered.  But, you may just have some luck.  I actually got my last job doing just this.  I sent out over 20 emails to schools in Phuket and of that 20 I had 3 replies, all of which were the standard we will keep your CV on file.  I didn’t have much hope.  However, 2 of those schools did keep my CV on file and did in fact get in touch when a job position came up.  Having already made the first contact I was already on the minds of the HR department and was told about the job before it had been put on job websites, putting me at an immediate advantage.

TOP TIP: It’s not a good idea to send one blanket email to all 20 schools – they can easily see that your email is completely generic, and this makes it look like you aren’t putting much effort into your job search.  Do a little bit of research and take the time to tailor each email that goes out.  Sure, you can have the same main body but adding in those little details that show you have taken the time to actually think about the school you are contacting will make you stand out from all the other emails they get asking for jobs.  It’s worth a shot!

It’s not what you know…

If you have already relocated and are frantically looking for a job, go and make friends with other teachers NOW.  Not only will they be able to tell you which schools are best to be avoided, the teachers already on the ground will be the first to find out about job positions as soon as they come up and will be able to put in a good word for you.  This is certainly the case in smaller communities where it really can be a matter of knowing the right person that will put your chances ahead of the rest.

Do you have another tried and tested method for finding a job?  Please share in the comments below…

TEFL 101: Frequently Asked Questions


Some people are able to pin point exactly the moment that they decided that they were going to pursue a TEFL adventure abroad, for others it is more of a slow build up than a sudden realisation – however you come around to it, soon enough thoughts of sunshine and new surroundings and cute children and idyllic classrooms begin to fill your mind.  You begin to peruse the internet reading TEFL blog after TEFL blog, looking at this course and that course, this destination and that destination…  with all of the options that are out there it can be a confusing world of TEFL courses and Internships and online courses and 60 hours and 120 hours and Asia and Europe and South America and… Here are some of the questions that I am asked here on the blog and on my facebook page, and I expect this page to grow – I will continue to update with more FAQs as they appear…

Is an online course worth as much?

Put simply (not simply) – yes, and no.  If you are just looking for a piece of paper to land any teaching job (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, especially if you are only looking at a short term TEFL stint) then the online courses are not only cheaper, but can be completed from the comfort of your own home, in your home country.  You could even complete an online TEFL before you have even thought about booking flights or looking for a job. However, if you are looking to actually gain some in-depth learning and experience from your TEFL course, then a classroom based course is much more worth it.  Whether completed in your home country or in your destination of choice, being able to interact with other people and try out different teaching methods and activities is priceless.  Another benefit of taking part in a classroom based TEFL course, especially in your destination country, is that you will develop a network of friends that will provide a great base for future friendships throughout your time working abroad.

Are the TEFL packages offering ‘guaranteed jobs’ too good to be true?

I chose to do my TEFL course with TEFL Heaven – taking part in their 120 hour course in Koh Samui.  This course came complete with accommodation , support from TEFL Heaven before, during and after the course, and a guaranteed job at the end of it. The team at TEFL Heaven have a vast network of schools and agencies across Thailand and it does offer some sort of reassurance that there will be a job offer at the end of your course.  These jobs are mostly your run of the mill, Thai government school in a random town kind of jobs, but this is realistically what you would be looking at as a first time TEFLer anyway.  When I did my TEFL, everyone was placed near at least one other TEFL trainee from their course so no one was left completely alone and in the sticks. For me, it was a case of having the stress of a job search in a foreign land taken out of my hands, and it added a sense of adventure not knowing where we were going to end up.  I was lucky enough to get placed in the south of Thailand (hello beaches!) and although I have moved around a bit, I have always stuck to the south, so for me it really worked out well.

Which country should I pick?

This largely depends on why you are choosing to embark on your TEFL adventure. If you are in it for money, then look at countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Japan or the Middle East, or out in the sticks where it is impossible to spend any of the money you earn.  Countries in Europe also pay well, but this is offset by high costs of living. If you are looking for culture shock, countries outside of the comforts of the Western world check all the boxes, with Asia being a popular destination with TEFL opportunities in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, South Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan… each offering their own unique cultural differences. If you are looking to change the world or do your bit for humanity, then lower paid or possible unpaid positions are available all over the world, from working in the favelas of Brazil to teaching street children in India. You will also need to consider the requirements for each country – some will require a degree or will only accept those with teaching experience under their belt.

Can I get work without a degree?

This completely depends on which country you are looking at and what kind of job you are going for; countries including China, Cambodia, Russia, Mexico and Peru do NOT require a degree.  However, the majority of countries do require a degree; and in fact this will not only be a requirement to gain employment but to secure a work permit and legal visa.  Here in Thailand, plenty of people work without degrees but they are either not working as a teacher (for example, you can work in a language school as an instructor without a degree) or they are working illegally.  With immigration clamping down on every type of visa here in Thailand it is becoming more and more risky to do so.

When is the best time to look for a teaching job in Thailand?

There are many different types of schools in Thailand and so there are multiple academic calendars being followed within the country.

If you are looking for a TEFL teaching position in a Thai government school or Thai private school, their school year runs from May to October and November to March.  Most recruitment takes place during March/April for a May start, but with a high annual turnover of staff and a general lack of organisation, most Thai run schools tend to be looking for someone throughout the year.

International schools in Thailand usually follow the academic calendar of the country that their curriculum is based on, with some minor adjustments.  Most British international schools will run from August/September until June/July and most recruitment will take place during Jan/February as these schools tend to have a more rigorous interview process with multiple stages to get through.

Are you in the midst of making plans for your TEFL adventure?  Feeling lost in an ocean of TEFL confusion?  Ask away in the comments below – I promise I don’t bite!

Yet another accidental animal addition…

Yet another accidental animal addition…


Intruder alert!

Yes, that is a one-eyed cockerel.  He mysteriously appeared in the garden yesterday morning.  I’m guessing from his missing eye and the fact that he walks with a limp that he is an ex-fighter.  I’m going to ask around but I have a feeling he may have been thrown over the garden wall – we are a bit of an animal sanctuary anyway so it makes sense to add a battle worn fighting cock to the mix.  He spent the day following Marjorie around and it wasn’t until after a few hours that he actually made any attempt to have his wicked way with her.  I’m not sure what this means in terms of eggs and chicks and all that, I guess if she gets broody and sits on her eggs then perhaps we will have mini Marjories on the way!

Any ideas for a name for the gent?

chicken and chick-5781

One day child, you shall be free range like me…

In other chicken news… the chicks are well into their teenage stages of development.  Marjorie has had a turn around from her initial dislike of the chicks and now won’t leave them alone!  We actually released the chicks into the garden free range this weekend (maybe the cockerel has a taste for the younger lady and this was the reason for his arrival…) so they are having fun running around and chilling out in the shade of the banana trees.

We also have a group of four jungle fowl that have taken up semi-residence in the back of our garden.  They are like skinny, long necked chickens and I am hoping that they join the ever growing flock that I have.  We are leaving them alone but each day they edge closer and closer to us – the more the merrier I say!  Just need to brush up on my egg recipes…!

That’s all for this backyard jungle update – stay tuned for more riveting news as it comes!