Day 67ish: CELTA WK2



Skills to work on: productivity, time management, not procrastinating by spending hours on Google images searching for the perfect picture to go with my activity.

Food eaten: ALL


Woke to dulcet tones of Chiang Mai morning chorus (street dog remix). Think dog asylum. Think battle cries. Howling and barking like it’s the end of the world. Plus the pubescent comedy cockerels who can’t carry a full crow yet because their voices keep breaking. There are a few birds in the mix too, but mostly it’s just deranged dogs and cockerels. Disturbing.


Not teaching today and not writing an assignment. Went totes crazy and took 8 mins of personal time to PAINT MY FUCKIN’ TOENAILS, BABY. Took insane pleasure from it. Now looks like I’ve 10 teeny-tiny disco balls stuck to the tops of my toes. Bizarrely satisfying. Keep getting distracted during input sessions. Yes, I’d love to talk to you about voiced alveolar fricatives, Percy, but have you SEEN my toenails?!

8 mins of personal time, though. I’ll regret that later.

(Pancake sightings: zero)


Locked self out of room for 3rd time this morning. Helpfully had left both floor-to-ceiling windows wide open so just stepped in through the netting. No-one saw the hilarity. Was mildly disappointed.

Got assignment back. Passed, astoundingly. Had mid-point tutorial. Didn’t fail. I AM MADE OF RELIEF. Took evening off, sat in pool after dark with The Gang; chatted, watched a storm roll in. Power kept going out. Pretty exciting to be in the pool in darkness watching sheet lightening in the distance. Everyone chilled, happy. It’s that Thriday feeling.

(Still no pancakes)


TOO MUCH CHILL! A day of no structure and all fear. Start to  plan our own lessons FROM SCRATCH for next week. Also move up a level to Pre-Intermediate learners. Tired and full of aches and snot and grump. Ate 2 oranges to boost vitamin C levels. Early night required.


Another day, another after-dark storm. Power out for hours. We sat in the resources room chatting by candlelight, eating snacks and talking about ghost stories but not telling them. The “Drip, drip, drip” story we told as kids was also told by another Brit and a girl from Canada, each version slightly different but the basics all the same. Sheet lightening over the mountains but – weirdly – no rain.

Productivity = 45%

Mosquitovity = 87%


I NEED THOSE 8 MINS OF PERSONAL TIME BACK! Disco nail polish flaking off in dramatic chunks. Toes look like disappointment and shards of shattered hope. Got some good streetfood from the market and ate it, along with everything else in the world and more. May have caused whole-Earth famine. Sorry about that. Discovered that the birds I thought were hiccuping “FUCKIT! FUCKIT!” at night are actually geckos hiccuping “FUCKIT! FUCKIT!” at night. Geckos look so innocent – you’d never think it of them.

Fully expect CELTA WK3 to send me over the edge. Watch this space.



Day 60ish: CELTA WK1

CELTA. WK1. D1 – Beginnings

Slept through yoga. Toothpaste had ants in it. Brushed anyway – I’m not a vegetarian so why worry. Met trainers. Learnt some Arabic. Did CELTA stuff. Knackered by 5pm. Downed 3 cups of coffee and 6 custard pastry balls due to stress of discovering I’m scheduled to teach 45 minute grammar lesson TOMOZ. As if. Had caffeine headache. Back to classroom for practice observation. Wasn’t sure what I was supposed to observe. Made notes on things anyway. Made awkward cultural faux pa at earliest opportunity by writing name on whiteboard in RED PEN. Played board game with students. Felt happy. Ate dinner. Went to room to do homework and planning, dithered until early following morning.


CELTA. WK1. D2 – First Teaching Practice (TP)

First TP is majestic in the scope and absoluteness of its failure.


CELTA. WK1. D3 – Humiliation

Woke up with swollen eyes and no water for the taps, shower or toilet. Considered missing breakfast due to humiliation but Wednesday is Pancake day so forced myself. It reflected all the author’s disappointed hopes and dreams: THERE WERE NO PANCAKES.

First input session today was how to teach the type of lesson I failed at teaching yesterday. Not that it would’ve helped too much through the strange glaze of panic.

TP feedback introduced with the sentence “WE ALL NEED TO THINK OF WAYS TO HELP SARAH”. Lolz. Got good advice from CELTA-mates and a grade sheet that says I managed to scrape a pass for the TP. Hanging on by the skin of my teeth.

Coffee-time cakes were banana muffins. Stole an extra one for my fridge.

TP2 tomorrow.


CELTA. WK1. D4 – Pancakes

Pancake Day finally happens but too stressed to enjoy it. These guys are NOT keeping to the food schedule and it’s fucking with my head.

Did TP2. Better than TP1 but still infinitely dull. Have lost ability to think creatively.

Dinner consisted of meat and inedible veg soup, which is a meal in itself, but also sweet and sour meat with rice. Two-dinner dinner. Win.


CELTA. WK1. D5 – Cabin Fever

Shit-ton of work on horizon but accidentally had fairly relaxed day. Wrote non-self-flagellating self-evaluation before 10am listening to LCD Soundsystem on max to prevent any accidental thinking. Input session on CCQs and phonetic alphabet. Ate weird mystery cake at “patisserie” time. Had second two-dinner dinner. Have put on approximately 74 stone since arriving due to enforced eating schedule. Can’t miss a meal because we’ve already paid for them. Still don’t understand why we sometimes get two dinners for our dinner. NOTHING MAKES SENSE. The water’s back on.

After TP (not mine) we went for BEERS at a pub called “Dog & Bone”, English-style, racist and sexist posters in the toilet for your reading pleasure. Leaving the complex was immense. Realised we’ve been in the same place for an entire week. Cabin fever.

Tomoz AM we’re doing a trip to Fucking Amazing C, then doing assignments and planning until our eyes fall out. Sunday will be more working, hopefully finished in time to take Sunday PM off. TP3 on Monday.

Bleedin’ eck.

Bloody love it. Hate it. Love it.

You stay classy.



First day off. Woke up at 7am. Swam. Went for 20min jog. Hard. Hot. Worked on lesson planning for 2hrs; assessment for rest of day. THE REST OF THE WHOLE ENTIRE DAY. Hours and hours and hours. Lunch at computer in resources room.  Stepped away at 6pm to go to shop for coffee, fizzy drinks and beer. Came back. Kicked group work-sharing/pizza-eating session into action. Pizzas were the size of wagon wheels. Talked through our work listening to Bob Marley – it was like being back in last week with all the terrible dancing at the Reggae bar, except not.

Communal working’s the best way to do it – everyone together, nobody left behind. Work alone on this stuff for too long and you go crazy. Staring at the screen for two hours without doing any ACTUAL work.

Made surprising impassioned speech in support of the CELTA way of teaching: total immersion, no holds barred. Just like our students. Fuckin’ tough though. Learning Old Norse was a doddle in comparison.

Just past midnight. Washed pants in the sink. Tidied room. Damn tired. Brain active again and it’s a nice feeling. Or, at least, it is now. Wait until I fail my assignment – I’ll be spitting fire. Best do a bit more before I sleep. Tomorrow the fun continues. Aim: finish lesson planning in time for Sunday Walking Street market. Wild.


CELTA. WK1. D7 – Only work exists

It’s past midnight. I can legitimately say that I survived CELTA, WK1.

Didn’t make it to Sunday Walking Street, obvs. It was a pipe dream. More hours than you’d ever believe could fit into a single weekend have been spent on assignment 1 and lesson planning and neither are finished. On the plus (or minus) side, the future perfect is now both my favourite and my least favourite of all the tenses.

Today was a hard day. Had anxiety dreams all last night: exciting dream adventures but also exhausting. Spent most of today distracted, unfocused, stressed. Did a small jog and had a float in the pool again this morning.

Back to delicious food but enforced mealtimes tomorrow. Input sessions start again. TP3 tomorrow afternoon. Assessment 1 for Tuesday. TP4 on Wednesday. Pre-work for Assessment 2 needs to be done by Thursday. Literally no idea where the extra hours will come from. Be fine. BRING IT.

EDIT: If I sound grumpy, it’s only because I’m tired. It’s hard but GOOD. The people are ace. And check out the pool:

Sunset over pool

Day 45: Songkran in Chiang Mai

I am in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, and somehow I’m still not dead even though in Bangkok I ate at a rat-infested streetfood place at the train station.

I’m flying solo again. Callie and Hartley left Cat Ba to be swindled in Laos (but also to have many funz). My dear son Keegan left for a 40-hour bus journey to Ho Chi Minh City. Tom and I left for a couple of days in BRILLIANT Hanoi before my flight back to Bangkok and his trip north to Sapa.

I’d planned to stay in BKK for a few days before coming north to Chiang Mai – I was going to chill, upload photos, catch up on life admin and studying. I went to the train station on Tuesday afternoon to pre-book my ticket and discovered that all the trains were full because of Songkran, except for one leaving that night. Booked it. Done. An emergency 14-hour journey in a 4-berth sleeper coach. Utter joy (YOU KNOW HOW I LOVE TRAIN TRAVEL OUT HERE!). The beds were comfortably firm. I woke a few times in the night only to be rocked back to sleep by the movement of the train, the clacking of the tracks. In the morning I had breakfast of glutinous rice soup – like rice pudding only different, salty, peppery, and with “pork” balls floating around, and watched the sun rise over mountains.

Right now I’m staying in a dorm room with 5 others for 100 baht (£2.50) a night, no towels, no hot water, no in-room wifi, no toilet paper, no air-con. It’s everything you need. The hostel has a huge covered balcony area on the second floor with bamboo mats, benches, cushions. I’m there right now, at almost 11am, trying to memorise English verb tenses and thinking about getting some breakfast, and about heading out into the streets to cool down. It’s too hot for life here. People are melting in the streets, leaving nothing behind but fanny packs and globules of person-melt. Like candle wax or glutinous rice soup. Bit gross. People who haven’t melted yet are in the process: features sliding down their faces, dripping off their chins. Everything is sticky. Luckily it’s Songkran, Thai New Year, and the city is engaged in a gigantic water fight that takes over the daylight hours. Everyone has water guns or buckets – often both – and nobody is shy about using them. Families are on the streets outside their houses or shops with water butts and hoses, soaking anyone that comes within range; they travel around the city in trucks sloshing water over everyone they drive past; tourists form gangs outside their favourite bars and wage war  in the sun with the music up loud and the beer flowing. It’s all friendly. Everyone’s grinning, thrilled to bits to have a stranger run up behind them and dump buckets of ice water over their heads. It’s nearing 40 degrees so it’s exactly what you want to cool down. The whole thing’ s crazy-fun, frantic, phallic and an excuse to make masses of goodbad puns and act like a kid for extended periods of time.

At nights people gather on the balcony to dry off and drink, chat, chill. Sometimes people play guitar, uke, sing. And they’re not all the shit, pretentious types either. Makes me want to buy a uke and learn how to play it – if there’s one thing that travelling has taught me it’s that I don’t have enough life skills to bring to the table. You go for food en mass. My favourite places are these ace little street food areas by the main road, a collection of stalls run by different people and each serving different dishes, plastic chairs and tables all set up, mystery water ready to drink if you dare. It’s where the Thais go to eat, and though sometimes you get food different to what you thought you’d ordered, and the hygiene standards are lax as fuck, it’s the best kind of experience. And the food is DELICIOUS and cheap. Last night I had crispy noodle soup – really thick, glutinous broth with huge slices of pork and the crispy noodles that exist in all your best food-related dreams. It cost 30 baht, less than a pound.

I’m bloody loving it out here. Different places and cultures and FOODS and people all the bloody time. The more you travel the more you discover that you want to do. I HAVE to go to Myanmar. I have to see Laos, especially the underground city. I’d love to go back to Vietnam and check out the off-the-beaten-track places and the stuff I missed first time around. I want to go to the Cambodian island that Hartley and Callie worked on because it looks like paradise, and I guess I could cope with seeing some pristine Thai islands as well. And that’s just the places right next door. China is a must now – it sounds like a fucking hard slog but hard is GOOD, right? It pushes your boundaries, tests you. Also Japan, South Korea, Nepal. Indonesia. I want to see (my old school chum) Penny in Malaysia. But I want to go to stranger places, too; places not everybody would go to: what’s in Turkmenistan? Can you go through Central Asia then the middle East and down through the African continent overland? Without facing death, rape or torture? That’d be pretty fuckin’ ace, right?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about travelling and studying and not as much tourism as you’d hope in Chiang Mai. Gotta prioritise, though. Can’t fuck up this course. I did go to a Wat having a celebration, and played out during Songkran, and had some damn good nights out with some good human beings. Tonight we’ll go see some Muy Thai fights and I’ll do a cookery course in the next few days, and me and a girl in my dorm are going to trek it up to a hill temple just outside of town even though I haven’t exercised in a month and a half and I’ll probably die. I met someone who went out with a girl who played roller derby and was thrilled to be able to chat derby for a while to someone who already had an interest. I mostly want to meet another roller girl and see if I can set up a team, or at the very least get some kind of roller skating back in my life. I can’t cope with all this non-skating that’s going on. Never thought I’d miss being forced to do more push-ups than my body can take, but apparently I do. Maybe I’ll take up Muy Thai instead and learn how to become aggressive – grrrrrrrrr! – and add that to my roller derby repertoire when I eventually find some people to play with/for.

I’m rambling. Excuse me. Blame the OBNOXIOUS heat, and the fact that I’m procrastinating. OK. Back to it. A couple of hours of study and then back out into Songkranland for the final day of the celebration. Get in.

NaNoWriMo 2011. And swearwords.

Oh SHIT! Shitty shit McShit. It’s September already. SEPTEMBER! How the hell did that happen? Where has the time gone? Tell you what, trying to become a roller derby superstar sure makes the months roll quickly by (pun intended).

For the uninitiated, September is the month before the month before NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, that wonderful and terrible writery month of self-loathing, melodrama, repetitive strain injury, procrastination and glorious, GLORIOUS writing. September is the pre-planning-month month of planning; October the actual planning and pre-start Complete Collapse Of Faith In Everything You Hoped To Achieve month; November the month of furious writing, frequent breakdowns, and comfort eating. There is a reason why we do it but I’ll be damned if I can remember what it is… I think we writery types must be slightly masochistic.

The target is 50K. Last year I ground to a halt at 16K. I couldn’t be displeased with the result: I’d written SIXTEEN THOUSAND WORDS. Some of those words – heck, meaty chunks of those words – were even pretty good. And I’d been writing again. I’d forgotten how ridiculously satisfying it is when your characters start to flesh out, when you start writing in a voice that is distinctively theirs, when the decisions they make come out of a thought process that is particular to them. When you write characters or a conversation or an entire scene or series of scenes, and it is BELIEVABLE, has the smack of truth to it, is entirely logical and plausible within the context of the world you’ve built around it, there’s this incredible sense of having created. Out of nothing but your imagination you realise these characters, these events; you bring them into the world; you make them real.

Deep. Compelling. Rich. Just another day out at Sasperella’s Story Shack [immediately changing blog name to this]. Pull up a chair. Pour yourself a cuppa. Stay a while.

So far, as usual, I have done no NaNoWriMo planning. I’ve done some very general thinking-about-plots for non-NaNoWriMo ideas but these tend to be meandering, disconnected scene ideas, or long, complicated and overblown plans for the first three scenes of a story. I have a collection of characters, a collection of ideas, but they all seem to be from different stories, which I’d bring together in one ugly patchwork if the different stories didn’t seem to me to require completely different settings and voices… tough times; tough decisions. Focusing is the problem, I think.

What about you, writery people: do your characters naturally fit together? Are your ideas coherent? How do you force your brain to take one thing and run with it rather than dancing from this character to that idea to this vision of the world and then the other, ad infinitum? What tricks do you have? What strategies? What advice?

Good luck fellow WriMo people. See you at the start.

Procrastination #1

I’ve been working overtime to procrastinate my way through the week and, now, the weekend. I woke up the morning after my last post and did a cool 800 words before work — I think it freaked me out.

I *had* written a post all about Why I’m Doing NaNoWriMo and What I Hope To Get Out Of NaNoWriMo and also about poetry. That didn’t really need to be in italics. Anyway, reading it over I decided it was dull so to to save us all a lot of boredom I have edited and and summarized in bullet points:

♥  I WANT TO KILL OFF MY INNER EDITOR [which may be difficult seeing as I couldn’t even leave a simplez blog entry alone]
♥ The plan is to go for QUANTITY and pay no attention to the quality when trying to reach the 50,000 word target. Let it be shit. REVEL in its shitness.
♥ I have been reading Charles Bukowski’s The Last Night of the Earth Poems, like.
♥ I today bought two books as throwbacks to the MA – Myths of the Norsemen and English and Scottish Ballads.

Though I’m really not sure about planning this project I accept that I’m going to need some sense of direction for when it all kicks off – I’ll try and work on that tonight. I’ve got a Word Sprint planned with some other Yorkshire NaNo-ers on the 1st so I need to make sure I’m prepared…