Monday, June 13, 2016

Part time part time job

As a teacher, and now also doing the IP job at school, I have previously been lazy to take on too much extra teaching. Extra teaching is like private tutoring, conversation, etc., that people outside of school might arrange with you once or twice a week, one or two hours at a sitting.  That's where the money is here if you can get a "regular" group of students or individuals and you are willing to give up a lot of your free evening time or weekends.

The rates for private classes range from 300-1000 baht per hour with cut rates for teaching groups. One-on-one sessions for just English conversation tends to go for about 500 baht per hour. If I teach two students at the same time, it's 300 per head or 600 for the two. Much cheaper for students to study in twos.
Randomly ran into my old students at the supermarket a week back. They grow so quickly!
I have not taught much in the past because everything was pretty comfortable financially for us. I turned down lots of teaching opportunities the first 7 years I was here, but two years ago (?) I started teaching two students from school (sisters, Cotton and Carrott, pictured above) at their home once or twice a week. It was nice because I knew them, they lived close to school and their schedules matched up well with mine. That extra income would pay for my races; registration, new shoes every few months, etc.

Since last year though, I stopped teaching them and taught off and on once or twice a week for kids who were about to go to study abroad and they just wanted a crash course over the summer. I figured since we were trying to adjust our lifestyle to fit better with our new debt (apartment) that I could also start teaching a little more.

I actually got several students referred to me and actually met with them once and had plans to meet twice a week until August when they begin their first year of university. The problem has been just getting both girls to agree on a place to meet, so the emailing back and forth got a little annoying and I just stopped even contacting them. Plus a good chunk of the fee was eaten up with me traveling to where we would eventually decide to meet at. Basically, it wasn't a comfortable arrangement, and if you're going to be spending two hours with someone, constantly talking, trying to give has to be comfortable.

I may still meet with these kids, but it is unlikely.

At the Lumpini Songkran Marathon, I walked/ran with a fellow club member and we got to talking. He works for one of the local race timing companies. (I'll not name names at this point). I mentioned to him, while we were walking, that if a position ever came open for a volunteer or anything that I'd be interested in seeing how the whole thing works.
I thought he'd forgotten when not a month later, last week basically, he invited me and several other club members to his office late after they had finished their work, for an introduction and demonstration of their timing equipment.
Basic antenna setup. We wired four antennas up and ran them to the receiver. The runners will run over it and it will read their timing chip located on their bib.
I was excited and went and learned a lot about the two (three actually) systems that they use. We got some hands on in the hall ways of his office building, setting up the timing pads, etc. After it was all over (went very late) they said that we could actually go to a race on Sunday to observe it in real life.
You can see the main antenna far right under start clock and backup antenna (green shirt standing on it) in this picture. The setup changes based on the space available at the venue, radio signal interference, etc.
I jumped at the opportunity and went to a half marathon in Bangkok on Sunday. I was just supposed to observe but I tried to wiggle my way in and get more hands on and to be more helpful in the whole process. I helped set up the timing pads (antennas) and adjust some of the settings on the timing boxes.
Main and Backup working side-by-side. We had a spare on site as well, just in case.
The timing boxes are a little confusing with all of the menus that you have to go through and the different settings that you would use under certain situations. Changing the settings for each wave of runners that starts their specific distance race, changing the settings and even antenna position after all runners have left the start (so the start would change to the finish in an out and back course).
Such a small box but there are so many things that can go wrong in the middle of a race! On my first observation I had to fix a shoddy cable and also constantly try to get more air flow to the box as it was over heating.
It was fun, I learned a lot and the two guys and one girl I was working with at the start/finish were very helpful, tried to tell me as much about the system as possible and answered all of my questions that I had about some of their other duties which included Sales, marketing/PR, coordinating, etc.
The timing boxes went from flat on the ground to propped up on some pieces of wood we found to resting on empty plastic water bottles...anything to keep it from getting too hot and shutting down
There are basically three positions there at the company; Coordinator, Timer and Temp.  The coordinator is responsible for setting up the timing pads at the start/finish and checkpoints on the race route. Also responsible for making sure all of the equipment is setup properly, functioning properly and properly backed up in case of power outage, rain, overheating, etc.

The timer is mainly responsible for following all of the data entering the system when runners cross over the timing pads, looking for strange readings, making sure the equipment isn't overheating, keeping in touch with the check points, etc. There are so many overlapping responsibilities (it seems from one observation race) between team members, so that's good.

The temps are manning checkpoints, and doing a lot of the grunt work. The sales lady and I were tasked with doing manual backup. Manual backup is writing the race number (bib number) and time of each runner that passes the finish line or checkpoint. This is done just in case the system fails, or if a runner's chip fails, if there is a disputed time, accusation of cheating, disqualification for not passing a checkpoint or something like that. If we can look at the chip data and compare it to the manual backup, it would help to prove that somebody either was or probably wasn't at a certain point at a certain time.

Manual backup is very hard! In the beginning, the fastest runners are coming to the finish line alone and ten minutes apart. As the average runners start to finish then writing all of their info as they cross is very hard. Not to mention there are always several categories of runners. This race had 21km runners, 10km  runners and 6km runners all finishing about the same time.

I was lucky that they asked me to just record the 21km runners. The other girl did the 10km runners. You get dizzy trying to sort through the runners coming towards you, their bodies not staying still while you are trying to make out their bib numbers arms flailing, shirts covering half of their number, some have taken off their shirts and there just is no number!! Not easy to say the least.

I will go to three more observations, each one having more and more responsibilities, and familiarize myself with the equipment (and menus!!) and try to get an idea for the types of problems that can arise before during and after races. Once I get through the next three observations, they will either make me a coordinator or if I'm not up to snuff, they will give me another 2 or 3 observation sessions.

It is a part time thing as hiring a coordinator (foreign) costs the company too much as they are only allowed to have a certain percentage of non-Thai staff. As such, there are few salaried full time foreigners working there, instead, they make them part time.

If I get on as a part time coordinator (several months down the road) it will basically take the place of the extra teaching that is totally available to me but I am hesitant to go into full tilt. The timing job is running related, keeps me close to the running community and could lead to a full time gig in three or four years if someone leaves and if I'm good enough at it by then ;)

I'm not super stressing about money, money, money, but if all i have to do is sacrifice is two Sundays a month to time a few races, it'll be like teaching 8 hours of private classes monthly. A bonus is that the timing company will reimburse my travel. Yay ;)

I think I'll pursue this "part time part time" job on weekends and see if I like it and see if it works in my schedule with my full time job ;) Then again, this may be too much for me and I may really need more time to myself (on the weekends) to cope with the stress of my full time job, hahahaha. In that case, I'll either cut down to one race a month or just not pursue the job. It's all up to me and I like it that way. Well, Pae of course has equal input ;)

I'll certainly keep the blog updated as to how I get on!!

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