Diego Ambrosio Becomes a Professional in Thailand

Diego AmbrosioDiego Ambrosio has made a new life for himself as a professional in Thailand. He is living his dreams abroad. As he looks ahead to further relocation, this time internal rather than external, we caught up with one of our most personable members. We wanted to know the latest Diego-related developments of fall 2021. How is teaching abroad in Thailand and what’s happening?

You’re taking a new mandatory teaching course. What is it called?”

It is a Diploma in Teaching (a post-baccalaureate degree) for a non-education graduate who wishes to become a professional teacher and pursue a career in teaching. This diploma is required by the TCT (Teachers Council of Thailand), which is responsible for setting professional standards; issuing and withdrawal of licenses; overseeing maintenance of professional standards and ethics; and development of the profession of teachers and educational administrators.

There are various institutes scattered throughout Thailand and abroad that offer the full package of courses required to obtain this diploma. However, it is necessary to be careful and choose among only those institutes accredited by the TCT. This is so you don’t waste time or money when trying to become a professional in Thailand.

Why are you having to take this course to become a teaching professional in Thailand?”

Let’s say no one forces you to do it. It would not be necessary for example for those foreign teachers who intend to work in Thailand for a maximum of four or five years. On the contrary, those who intend to pursue a long career in teaching in Thailand will have to possess it.

When a foreigner decides to start a career in Thailand as a teacher, a temporary teaching permit is what that school will apply for, on a teacher’s behalf, as soon as they begin working there. It’s a waiver for the requirements of the standard teaching license. It is granted for two years and allows the school time to get the teacher to meet the requirements of the TCT to obtain a permanent teaching license from them.

The temporary teaching permit can be renewed a maximum of three times (a total of six years). After that, the school will not be able to grant the job position, unless you meet the requirements for a permanent teaching license. This is why I am studying for this diploma now. I have already completed my first five years as a teacher.

Diego as a professional in Thailand.

When will you finish the diploma?”

Let’s start by saying that all the courses are online. They offer synchronous courses (courses that have additional interactive lessons with the teacher) and asynchronous courses (courses that offer only theoretical modules necessary to pass the related exams).

There are two semesters that make up the entire academic year. The first semester started in August and will end towards the end of December. Then the second semester should start in January and end between April and May.

Diego as a professional in Thailand.

What qualification will you end up with?”

The official qualification released will be a “Diploma in Teacher Education (DTE) 30 Units BSEd based” where “BSEd” stands for Bachelor of Education.

How easy is it to renew your passport in Thailand?”

I thought living abroad would make everything more complicated, including renewing a passport. I will have to change my mind since so far it seems that everything is going smoothly. In fact, my passport is about to expire. About a week ago, I went to the Italian consulate in the province where I live (Phuket). I made an appointment with the consul before going, of course. I brought with me what the consul requested, which is two passport-sized photos (5×5), a copy of the passport, and 4,800 baht (which correspond more or less to 130 Euros). Finally, I was issued a temporary receipt and I should receive the new passport within 20 days maximum.

What changes are you finding in teaching in Thailand this academic year?”

This can be labeled as one of the most debated issues over the past two years. Teachers, like other categories of workers, have been forced to change the entire teaching plan. Teaching methodologies have had to adapt to online teaching. The most pressing question remains: how to hide the obvious inconsistency of an online lesson compared to a face-to-face one? The student’s entire learning mechanism is feeble and dissimilar. Online participation drops dramatically, as does attention and attendance at the lessons themselves. Not to mention the assessments, which do not provide the real performance and level of the student at all, as they are mostly copying answers from the internet.

Fortunately, there seems to be some good news on the horizon. In fact, in November we returned to regular face-to-face teaching, after almost four months of ineffective online teaching. As a teaching professional in Thailand, I really cannot wait.

Diego learning to be a professional in Thailand.

How challenging is it for you to reestablish classroom relationships with students?”

I must be sincere. Perhaps it is due to my extroverted and patient personality and/or my diplomatic disposition in trying to make everyone feel good and happy. I am able to build a relationship of cordiality and serenity starting on the first day. Students are relaxed during my lessons and I always allow time for some funny jokes or recreational activities. Everything needs its time and slowly everything is being restored according to the inevitable adjustments and reorganization.

Diego and his M3 students

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. How did you meet your fiance?”

Back in September 2017, I came to the island of Phuket with my father. It was the beginning of an adventure full of many dreams and expectations. After a few months, I started using Facebook. I joined a group where you could share information and ask for advice or support. Among the various posts, I noticed a girl who was looking for a teacher or, in any case, an expert able to provide some private English lessons. Interested in the idea of ​​being able to start earning something, I offered myself available at a cost of 300 baht per hour. Unfortunately, the girl told me that she had already found someone and it all seemed to end there.

But something moved me to ask her another question and from there we started a long conversation that ended with our first date at the Starbucks where she once worked.

Diego and his wife posing together in front of a traditional umbrella.

How We Met

That morning I was particularly tense. I had no idea what it was like to relate to a girl from a culture so distant from mine. I was afraid she might feel some form of embarrassment. In reality, it was a splendid morning, and her old colleagues even offered us breakfast, sensing that something was rising in the air.

Meeting after meeting, we came to realize that we were meant for each other. It was a very slow path but full of good outcomes. Her name is Jang and today we live happily together with my father in a small villa, in a residential area full of parks and tranquility.

Well, yes, a few months ago I started yearning for the idea of ​​being able to fulfill a desire that, since I was young, I believed to be impossible to achieve. The kind of personality I have has always generally made me focus more on friendship rather than love. But as they say, everything is possible in life and apparently in a little over a year it will also be my moment… 🙂 

Diego and his wife in front of the ocean.

Where is your final destination after the wedding?”

Regarding the wedding, we will first obtain the certificate from the town hall. Later we will return to Italy for a month and a half during which I will introduce my wife to all my family and the beautiful territory where I was born. Once back in Thailand, we will prepare all our stuff and get ready to leave the beloved island of Phuket (our homeland for more than four years). We’re moving to the province of Sakon Nakhon on the northeastern border of Thailand (the birthplace of my future wife). It will be a long journey of about 22 hours that we will complete in about two days with (surely) two super-loaded cars. Finally, once we have reached Sakon Nakhon, we will also follow the Buddhist ceremony to celebrate our wedding.

What are your future plans once you’ve tied the knot?”

Our future plans are surrounded by a series of great changes and evolutions that await us. Once we get to Sakon Nakhon, we will renovate Jang’s mother’s house and we will use the remaining land to build the foundations of our new home. In the long term, this will also save us a lot of money that is currently being paid for our rental in Phuket.

The first few months will be a bit tough because I will have to find a new school from which to start teaching again. I will most likely be starting on a lower salary than what I had achieved in Phuket. But this doesn’t discourage me. On the contrary, it fills me with adrenaline and enthusiasm. I can’t wait to start this new adventure! 

I’ll keep you posted with further updates in my next article, stay tuned. 🙂

Clearly these are exciting times for Diego. We are ecstatic to hear about his forthcoming nuptials. Diego and Jang look like such a happy couple. We wish them well in their new home.

by Dreams Abroad

Cooking Italian Cuisine While Living in Thailand

Diego Ambrosio
Diego Ambrosio

Thirty-something Diego Ambrosio was born in Catanzaro, Italy, located in the southern part of the country. He is passionate about wild nature, cooking (especially Italian cuisine), singing, and playing different musical instruments like guitar, piano, and bass. Diego considers himself an extrovert and talkative person, but he also likes to listen to people.

While now living in Phuket, Thailand with his father and partner, Diego cooks on a regular basis. He enjoys mixing the local fresh ingredients and produce with his Italian recipes. In addition, he learned to create new fusion recipes that he enjoys just as much as his native dishes. Read on to find out more about his favorite southern Italian cuisine and his homemade Thai-Italian fusion.

What is your favorite Italian cuisine?

This is probably one of the hardest questions you can ask an Italian since they would immediately begin thinking of multiple answers. Why? Because there are so many favorite Italian dishes! If I really had to choose a dish by type, I think my first answer would be tortellini with cream, peas, and ham. The second would have to be parmigiana di melanzane with fried potatoes and peppers on the side. Finally, for dessert, tiramisu… all, obviously, homemade.

What is your Italian hometown’s signature dish?

‘NdujaAs in most countries, Italy has a rich list of excellent regional products. Many of these are even exported abroad, as they are delicious and appreciated by various European and non-European countries. Without a doubt, the best product from my region, Calabria, is ‘nduja. ‘Nduja is a particularly spicy, spreadable pork sausage typically made with pig parts such as the shoulder and belly. Producers combine the pork with tripe, roasted peppers, and a mixture of spices. ‘Nduja originates from the small southern Calabrese town of Spilinga. Italians mainly serve it with slices of bread or with ripe cheese. My hometown, Catanzaro, also has its signature dish. It’s called Morzeddhu alla Catanzarisi. This is prepared with tripe and beef offal, tomato paste, chilli pepper, salt, a bay leaf, and oregano.

Traditional Morzeddhu

Morzeddhu, a Calabrian staple

Morzeddhu must be eaten while hot, perhaps with a further splash of spicy sauce. It also must be eaten in the pitta, a typical Catanzaro bread shaped like a flattened donut and with little or no crumb inside.

According to legend, Morzello, or Morzeddhu in the local dialect, was born from that mother of invention, necessity. An impoverished widow was forced to accept odd jobs to support her hungry children. On Christmas Eve, her boss asked her to clean a slaughterhouse and dispose of the waste in the nearby river, Fiumarella.

Worried about what she would serve her hungry children for Christmas dinner, she saved the meat, cleaned it, and prepared a meat soup. And thus, Morzello was born.

What is the most famous Thai dish in Phuket, Thailand?

Without a doubt, Pad Thai is one of the country’s most iconic dishes and is easy to find all over Phuket. There are two main types of Pad Thai, Pad Thai Gai and Pad Thai Goong. Gai includes chicken and Goong, shrimp. Pad Thai is a stir-fried dish typically made with rice noodles, chicken or shrimp, tofu, scrambled egg, bean sprouts, and other vegetables. The ingredients are sautéed together in a wok, which creates rapid heat distribution. Once finished, chefs serve Pad Thai with peanuts, sugar, chili peppers, and a lime wedge on the side.

And just for the record… Pad Thai is my second favorite Thai dish. I prefer Pad See Ew which is similar but has a sweeter sauce.

Pad See Ew Goong

What types of Italian cuisine do you cook in Thailand?

When I arrived in Phuket, I thought it would have been impossible to reproduce typical Italian recipes at home for various reasons. The first challenge was surmounting the impossibility of finding all the authentic Italian ingredients. Next, we had to overcome the lack of an oven in the house. Ovens are critical for cooking different Italian dishes such as the famous Lasagne al Forno or pizza. Over time, we have fortunately managed to get almost everything we need to taste a bit of home. In fact, after a whole first year of researching, we managed to find a house that had a professional oven inside.

Homemade bread, a frequent Italian cuisine at Diego's house

Now, we can cook any type of Italian dish. In fact, we have become so accustomed to making Italian food at home that we’ve eaten out very few times. Both my father and I are able to prepare any type of Italian recipe — first courses, main courses, side dishes, and delicious desserts — that enrich our daily meals all the time. Finally, we also make our own homemade bread.

Where do you source Italian ingredients from?

Fortunately, it is not difficult to find Italian products in Thailand. There are various shopping centers and supermarkets like Makro and Villa Market, offering imported products. However, you have to be very careful when selecting your products. Everyone can easily find products of apparent Italian origin, but some of these  are actually not from Italy at all.

For example, an Italian knows very well that if he has to buy pasta, he can trust brands such as De Cecco, La Molisana, and Agnesi. All of these brands are available in Thailand, so we can avoid other little-known brands of dubious origin. The same goes for Italian mozzarella. Clearly the prices for authentic Italian products are higher than in Italy. For example, Italian fresh and aged cold cuts and cheeses cost at least 40% more. However, for some products (such as pasta), I can find similar prices to Italy.

If you were to pick a favorite Italian cuisine to make for us that you make on a regular basis, what would it be?

I practice making real Italian pizza for my loved ones frequently. Every two weeks, typically on a Saturday evening, we will get together and eat Italian pizza. My father is a great teacher, but I will obviously be his heir sooner or later and am determined to perfect it.

The preparation process has almost centennial origins, handed down from generation to generation. It has been perfected even more over time by generations of Italians.

The "Mother Yeast" Diego uses for Italian Cuisine
The Mother Yeast

The extraordinary thing is that my father created the so-called “mother yeast.” It is a natural yeast capable of regenerating itself eternally. It certainly has significantly improved the quality of the pizza. Additionally, you can vary the outcome by using different types of flour. Each flour has a specific protein intake capable of creating a unique gluten shield of its kind.

Spread the dough in round and rectangular trays. Follow that with a long process of rest, maturation, and fermentation for about three days in the fridge. At the end of this period, the pizzas are removed from the fridge, covered with a cloth, and left to rise for several hours. Finally, we move on to stuffing and baking. The oven must be at a maximum temperature of around 250 or 300 degrees Celsius. First, bake the pizzas on the bottom rack without ingredients in order to cook the bottom of the pizza. Then, add the ingredients. Put the pizza back into the oven. This time, put it on the top shelf to finish cooking.

Do you have to substitute the ingredients for the dish you are making with Thai ones? If so, what are the differences in ingredients that you see in Thailand vs Italy?

We managed to obtain all the Italian products we needed to make the pizza without having to resort to any Thai substitute. However, we have added a dose of creativity by trying to prepare some pizzas with typically Thai ingredients. For example, we made Tom Yam Goong Pizza. It is an Italian-made pizza with Thai seafood and Thai chili peppers.

While we were able to find all of the ingredients necessary to make the pizza, I can say that the Thai culinary culture is very rich in strong and contrasting flavors. Many of these flavors would seem absurd to mix together if cooking traditional Italian cuisines. This is because Thai food is actually based on a balance between different flavors, including spicy, sour, sweet, salty, and bitter.  Sometimes, chefs combine these flavors together. For example, the famous Thai dish Som Tam is both intensely savory and insanely sour — in short, the flavors of southeast Asia mixed on a plate. Every Som Tam dish normally contains garlic, chili, fish sauce, lime juice, and dried shrimp. All these flavors fit with the direction that Som Tam should “taste sweet, sour, hot, and salty.”

Do you get creative and make Thai-Italian dishes with both themes or cultures in the dishes?

My culinary passions obviously led me to the preparation of typical Thai dishes. My Thai girlfriend likes to say that one of the Thai dishes that I like to prepare, the famous Khao Pad Goong, “comes out better than the original.”

After studying and reproducing the original version of the dish, I dedicated myself to experimenting and mixing the two cultures. I managed to propose a unique and delicious Italian-Thai version of Khao Pad Goong.

I added some anchovies, dried tomatoes, sweet pepper, celery, and Italian parsley to the traditional recipe. Furthermore, I also replaced the classic rice oil with extra virgin olive oil instead. The result tastes fabulous and the multitude of flavors generated in the mouth tastes literally sublime.

What is your favorite Thai ingredient to mix with Italian food?

I think that soy sauce is a very interesting ingredient I discovered in Thailand. Chefs in Italy rarely use soy sauce in Italian cuisines. This type of sauce goes fabulously with fish dishes such as salmon. It also tastes wonderful when added to typical Italian salads with a Romaine lettuce base.

Diego is an extrovert and very sociable person but enjoys eating Italian cuisine while living in Thailand. He prefers making pizza for his family and friends. However, when he is not baking homemade pies, he recommends trying these three pizzerias in this order:

1) Pizzeria Da Moreno in Patong (probably the best ever, since it follows the authentic Neapolitan recipe)

2) Pizzeria Agli Amici in Chalong.

3) Trattoria Pizzeria Cosa Nostra in Chalong.

In his next article, Diego will share more about Italian cuisine. Be sure to stop by and check it out. To discover what other recipes Dreams Abroad members are learning about, read about Edgar’s experience making traditional paella!