Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category

So just over a week ago I went down to Nakhon Sawan with Kelly, Shaleas and Kru Rin to help out at an English camp for the day.

It was fun, nothing too much to report, but I wanted to take the opportunity to discuss the ridiculous nicknames Thai children have.
When Thai kids are babies, their parents name them, and then also give them a nickname that they go by except in more formal situations. Some of the names are nothing to look twice at, but some are priceless. In their quest to be more American, a lot of Thai kids are given English words as nicknames. I don’t mean English nic

knames, like Tom, Nick, Ali, etc. I mean just completely random words, including ‘Milk,’ ‘Beer’ and ‘Tutor.’ Pictured here are ‘Bank,’ ‘Nut’ and ‘Beer.’
At English camp I think I found my favourite name so far. God. I met a child named God. I’m not sure if he had any divine tendencies, but I started to doubt it after watching the way he fumbled through ‘Head, shoulders knees and toes.’
At camp, the kids were also split into groups, with names from Disney characters and things like that. Except one group. The Playboy group. Referring
back to the picture of the three boys, you’ll see that Bank and Beer were both members of this group.

The teachers insist that it’s okay, because they don’t know that Playboy is a company that promotes sex and naked women. Maybe that’s true, but it is still disturbing to hear a group of eight year olds singing ‘I like Playboy, you like Playboy, I like Playboy, let’s all be friends!’
The day after camp, Kru Rin’s friend showed us around the city, which was nice. I bought a kick-ass jacket at the night market. It’s amazing. It’s made of plastic, but that’s a
small detail and if you could see it you would all be jealous. Or you should be at least. I’m sure it will feature in a photo some time in the future. For now you’ll just have to imagine it.
The Friday after we
came back from camp, our school had their Exhibition day which was a day of good food cooked by the students, singing, dancing, a
nd all around good times. I even got some students to make a custom cloth bag for me with my name in Thai letters painted on it which I love.
Since then, it’s just been school as usual, although I have to admit that the pangs of homesickness are starting to kick in a bit. It’s definitely going to be hard to be away from home over Christmas, but thanks to all of you that have sent Christmas cards and/or care packages so far, including the lovely e-card I received from Blair, and the card from Liz! 🙂 Thanks as well to Johanna, Kara, Jackie and Naomi who between them are supporting the Thai postal system’s finances. 🙂 I know some more of you have sent packages and I can’t wait to receive them.
This Thursday we’ll be singing some carols and playing lots of Christmas games with the kids, so I’ll let you know how it goes! Miss you tons, have a great Christmas/Hanukkah and Happy New Year!

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Apparently my internet connection got up on the right side of bed this morning and has briefly allowed me the ability to upload photos, so here are a few!
Juliette’s visit to Tha Wang Pha:

Out on the rice fields before sunset
Hanging out at the apartment (that’s my room behind us)
Shaleas and Devon outside the apartment

Sports Day:

One of the medal ceremonies I was able to preside over.

My adopted colour for the day – blue, or sii fah if you speak Thai

The seniors on the purple stage dancing and trying to keep the first years motivated

During the parade, each colour was led by a student dressed in traditional Thai costume. I chose this student to post on my blog but as beautiful as she is, she is actually a he. Love those ladyboys.

The purple dancers in the parade

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It is so nice to be reminded that some people are in fact reading this blog and that they even get worried when I don’t post. Last night I received a phone call from my lovely friend Naomi in London, calling to say hi and to make sure everything was okay due to the lack of blog updates. Now that is friendship. To my other readers…I love you all, and I’m sure you love me too…but maybe I would feel more secure about that love if I saw some more comments on my blog posts. That’s all it takes people. Oh yea, and a care package. Am I being too needy here?

So to calm Naomi’s and any other concerned friend/relative out there’s nerves, here is my new blog post to show that I haven’t in fact been taken into the jungle to be used in a non-existent cannibalistic ritual.
There is a lot to catch up on, which means I will probably skip over some of the more insignificant events of the past couple of weeks. Like Sports Day. Was made out to be a huge deal – is more like moderately organised chaos. The students were split into colours and in each colour about 50 students competed in sports like running, high jump and javelin toss. The rest of the student body either skipped school, hung out doing nothing, or were one of the lucky (unlucky?) few to be sat on the bleachers all day waving pom-poms and cheering. The excitement for me was contained to dancing around on the stages in front of the bleachers, and getting to run in the teacher’s relay. Remember on sports day at school (if you had a sports day…this may be lost on a lot of my American readers) the teachers had a race, the sole purpose of which was to give the students something to laugh at? Well welcome to the other side of the coin. But since teachers apparently cannot run even half a lap around a track, I barely had time to speed up in my leg before I had to hand my baton over. My team came in second but I still maintain that Kelly’s team had an unfair victory because they had one less person. Cheaters. But I’m not bitter.
The rest of the weekend was relatively calm in Tha Wang Pha. Juliette came to visit from Chang Rai to escape the city and come hang out in the countryside for a day. The two of us ventured out on my bike for an unintentionally romantic sunset before going out to dinner with the group followed by the usual evening ritual of entertaining ourselves outside our apartment building.
This past weekend was significantly more eventful, but probably deserves it’s own post, so sit back, maybe go get some food, or go to work depending on what time you are reading this. Maybe by the time you come back I will have some new posts about my adventures.

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The school competition last weekend was a lot of fun. I yet again went through a little bit of shock when I saw other white people walking around! The other schools that came to compete brought their own foreign English teachers so we made some new contacts which is nice.

The highlight of my day was no doubt the drama section which Shaleas was judging. Three schools including ours competed. We performed Peter Pan (one of my best students was Wendy, I was so proud!) and the other schools performed Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella. It was absolutely rolling-on-the-floor hilarious. The scripts were clearly written by their Thai English teachers, who sometimes get the grammar just a little bit wrong. That along with Thai people’s inability to pronounce certain English sounds resulted in the weirdest versions of my favourite childhood stories ever. Including Peter Pan asking Wendy “you come ON me” instead of “come with me (to Neverland).” Oh goodness.
That weekend, Kelly, Shaleas and I also went to one of the two nice restaurants in this village that we have discovered which also happens to be a karaoke place. The great thing about singing karaoke in Thailand is that a) everybody does it, so there’s no escaping, b) they are all really bad singers so there’s no intimidation, and c) if you’re singing English songs, which clearly we were, it doesn’t really matter anyway because they have no idea what you’re saying.
So I did what I consider an expert rendition of ‘My Heart Will Go On,’ Kelly chose ‘I Just Called to Say I Love You’ and the three of us did a great version of ‘Wonderwall’ among many other songs. When we got back to the school at about 10pm we discovered a bunch of teachers having their own karaoke party in the gym, so we briefly joined them as well. They really really love karaoke here.
Last night was Loy Kratong festival which was amazing. It’s a beautiful festival centred around the river, I recommend you read more about it, but I don’t want to bore you all here. There’s a short paragraph about it here
During lunch period the students set off huge balloons made out of tissue paper into the air by filling them with hot air. Then we decided to cancel our afternoon classes and our coordinators took us to the salon instead to get our hair and makeup done and get us dressed in traditional Thai costume. They didn’t have any makeup pale enough for my British skin, so I looked a little bit like I’d been fake tanning, but other than that it was pretty awesome.
Then we inadvertently ended up leading the entire parade! Kelly and I were grabbing a quick bite to eat at the market and saw the parade starting, so we went up to take photos. The two women in front were carrying a big photo each, one of the king and one of the queen. They came up to us, took our bags/food and handed us the photos! So I walked the 1.5 – 2 mile stretch from the fresh market to the festival grounds by the river leading a parade holding the queen in my hands! It was great fun, and a huge honour to get to do all of that; I loved it.
At the festival we hung out, watched some ADORABLE Thai children dancing, and watched part of a beauty contest for ‘Miss Loy Kratong’ before heading home and collapsing into bed.
I sent post cards today! I’m working through my address book alphabetically, so if you’re last name starts between A – K and I have your address, you will hopefully get a postcard before I get back to England… I don’t have a lot of your addresses yet, so send them along and I’ll write to you too!
Finally, the wonderful Nims Laban gets a shout out for being the first person to make use of that mailing address I posted. She sent me THREE wonderful care packages so far including some glossy mags and yummy chocolate! Thanks Nims! You should all follow her example.
I am TRYING to upload photos but my internet connection can’t really handle it, so I’m sorry for the lack of picture evidence, I swear I’m doing my best!

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Last Thursday involved another day of unsuccessfully trying to get a bike for me and Kelly, but it’s not interesting enough to talk about here, so let’s skip right on to when Kelly and I finally made it to Chang Mai!

Our short little trip included:
20 minutes riding in the back of a stranger’s pickup truck
6 hours on a bus
10 minutes on the back of a motorbike
6 hours on the sloooweeessrr traiinnn evvveerrr
= 12 1/2 hours of traveling
Maybe now you understand exactly how remote Tha Wang Pha actually is.
We arrived in Chang Mai unharmed but tired and ready to party with Lisa, Nate, Juliet and Jen.
This was the first time I had seen white people except Kelly and Shaleas since we left Bangkok. I kept pointing out all the ‘foreigners’ as if I’m not one myself, but it’s easy to forget around here.
It was also the first time I ate something that didn’t involve rice OR noodles!! The great thing about Chang Mai being a tourist city is all the international food that’s around. Like really really good pizza for instance.
On Saturday we went up to an amazing temple on a mountain called Doy Suthep. You walk up a huge big set of stairs to get to the top, and it is totally worth the work out. I highly recommend it. We got white threads tied around our wrists by a holy man (not actually a monk because monks aren’t allowed to touch women; the monk was tying the men’s strings). The string symbolizes good health and long life.
That night we got to see Muay Thai boxing! It was amazing. There was one European (French) fighting among all the Thai boxers, so I met him before his fight, which he then won in an awesome knockout. We ended up celebrating with him and his friends (who all teach English at the university in Chang Mai) for the rest of the night, first at a pretty cool bar/club frequented by both Thais and farangs (Westerners) called Warm Up, and then the Van Bar, which is literally a van, like an old VW bus, that is a bar in the middle of a car park. At Warm Up I also managed to find a guy from Glasgow (my entire family is from Glasgow for those who don’t realise). So Glaswegians are literally everywhere, as usual.
Monday = the real world, and a reminder of why I’m actually here
So for the last four days I’ve been teaching at Thawangphapittayakhom school (it’s a lot easier to say than it looks at first).
In Thai culture, children are more or less allowed to do what they want with little to no discipline, which apparently also applies to school. So the first day was really overwhelming because the kids just talk and laugh and mess around in class, but after four days I have adjusted. I have first years (12/13 year olds) and fourth years (15/16 year olds). As long as you have fun with them, and get them to learn while they’re messing around, it works. As a result we play a whole lot of games, but hey if they’re screaming and laughing in English then I’ve done something right.
This is also the first time a lot of them have ever seen a white person, and definitely the first white teacher they’ve ever had, so we get a lot of attention. I am the whitest out of me, Shaleas and Kelly and I also have the lightest colour hair, so a lot of the students seem to talk about me and whistle at me a lot more. When we walk down the halls, a lot of the students yell “teacher, you are beautiful!’ at us. I’ve even been specifically requested to go visit the sixth years next week (who Kelly teaches) because they’ve asked to see me by name. At lunch my fan club of first years often come and just stands outside the English department door and stare at me. Yesterday they asked for my autograph.
The levels of English are totally different. I have first years who can speak better than some of my fourth years, and some fourth years who seem to know more vocabulary than me. One of my best students just came to see me in the office to practice his speech for the school competition on Saturday. It’s a 10 minutes speech about the environment, which is one of four he has memorized. It makes lesson planning pretty tough, but it’s all a process.
and finally……..<>…
WE HAVE MOTORBIKES! We FINALLY managed to get a hold of a couple of bikes, plus another teacher who lives in our apartment block said we can use his old one when we need it.
And yes – we have also FINALLY MOVED! So we are in our “apartments” which are just one room each with a bathroom but they’re pretty nice, it’s all brand new furniture, sheets, microwave, electric kettle, plates/bowls/cutlery and everything. They clearly went to a big effort to get us what they could so it’s really nice. I think me and the girls are just happy to finally be able to actually unpack our bags!!!
That’s the news from the last week. I’ll be sure to let you know how the school competition goes on Saturday (we are judges by the way).
I miss you all terribly! GO OBAMA!!!!
Thai lesson #4:
Motorbike = motorsi
At least some words are easy….

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