In November 2017 Mimie Acuna, Lee Francis and I visited Gordon Oldham in Hong Kong. Gordon, Senior Partner in a law firm is an Englishman, who has spent 38 years living in the Far East. He is also owner of Phuket, Balinese and Japanese, romantic get-away Pavilions Hotels. He is ball of friendly energy, with interests as diverse as education and jewelry . He asked, “Why are you here?” and I replied, “To see you!” and we all laughed He wasn’t happy with the level of English of his Thai staff and wanted a new approach. As well as teaching English through Drama to school children, we also taught English to hospitality staff, bank staff and the police. Gordon took us on board at his Phuket Resort, see Website, see Facebook Page.
Mimie and I invited Anver Regalado, a teacher and now our internet consultant, to prepare 41 daily lessons for each of basic, intermediate, advanced and business level courses, a massive task! In April 2018 we presented ourselves at the idyllic setting of the resort, ready to start our six month contract. We had eight groups to teach: engineering, food and beverage, front office, housekeeping, human resource, kitchen, landscape, garden and spa. There were about a hundred staff to teach and much to plan and organize; but Mimie and Anver are great entertainers and knowing how much Thais like ‘sanuk’, fun we made sure that everybody enjoyed themselves. We made many good friends
It was a challenge. Some of the gardeners could speak no English at all, yet they were mixed in with others who had a good practical, basic knowledge. The most proficient tended to be the masseuses from the Spa and the receptionists. We also had to cope with unexpected absences through sick leave, holidays, resignations and replacements. We had to think on our feet, learning a lot from these challenges and so redesigned the courses as we went along.
For the annual staff party we produced a ten minute Romeo and Juliet. The staff actors loved dressing up and wielding plastic swords in their balletic duels. As in most amateur productions there were crises: actors missing rehearsals and bursting into laughter at tragic moments; but on the night it all came together and it greatly improved the participants’ English. They had gained acting skill from the many skits they had improvised about their interactions with the guests.
At the end of the six months we had the awards ceremony for their progress in listening and writing from their pretest, to their midterm to their final test; and for their videos of debates and presentations of their work. And so we had a great farewell party with delicious Thai food .
Gordon and the hotel management invited us back this year, but because we had to prioritize teaching children, sadly we were unable to accept. Hopefully we shall be able to continue in future; as we have an ambition to enable the hospitality industry to sponsor scholarships for poor and talented children.