Day 156: Into the Pit
Trip Start Nov 11, 2009
273Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Yasalin Manchun (or "My Gaff" as it is now known) - Loei
I had still been generally of the opinion that the students would not be in this week as this seemed to be the way that most schools were working. This idea was very quickly dispelled as there were pupils in uniform pouring into the school gates. In amongst the throng, the new farang teacher stumbled - sweating under the weight of all his gear - up to the door of the English Program staffroom - which was not yet open. Fortunately I only had to wait for about 5 minutes for Ajarn Niu to come along and open up.
I passed her my documentation for the work permit and she told me that I would get my timetable after assembly (just before the first lesson - great!) I met the two Philipino teachers in the EP: Ralph and Fernando and went down to the assembly with them
We wandered back up to the staffroom and I was introduced to the other Cameroonian teacher - Roland, who was also very friendly. I also met an Australian who part-time's here from one of the Universities here in Loei; he was called Kym and I had heard of him before - from Greg, shortly before his 'almost fight' in the visa queue. I couldn't resist dropping his name and Kym was not surprised by the tales of his friend's exploits.
Kym (and Roland) were very instructive about the way that Loei Pit operates and I was very quickly receiving signals that there were many aspects in the organisational arrangements that would be familiar from Thabom (I.e.being left in the dark). In the meantime I had received my Timetable andI was relieved to see that I had only 2 lessons today - both 3rd year classes this afternoon from 2-4. This gave me some more time to firm up a few of the ideas that had been buzzing around my head for the last few days.
First though, I continued to get some info from Kym and Roland; Kym has been living in Thailand since 2001 and has a second child on the way with his local wife; he jokingly described himself as being "here forever" as being paid in Baht will make it prohiitive for him to move anywhere else. He sounded positive - although that particular choice of words didn't sound totally inspiring. I also had to help him out with the 'Bangkok Post' crossword, yep - Kym has that classic Ozzie 'No worries' attitiude off to a tee!
Kym is in his second year at Loei Pit and Roland is in his third so between them they had a wealth of information - unfortunately they also couldn't guarantee that any of it was correct as things can change on an annual, or even weekly basis; Roland chuckled knowingly when Kym piped up, "so yeah, right now we have marginally more idea than you about what's going on."
The day consisted of trying to get some measure of what was required of me (tricky) and decide what I was going to do with the 3rd year this afternoon (not quite as tricky as this was an introductory lesson). I also met a few of the Thai teachers in the EP: apart from Niu there was Kwan - a small lady who I didn't speak to very much; Nik who invited me out for a beer sometime; and Tong, who like Kym, comes part time from Loei University. About 1030 Johnny entered the office in a whirlwind of charisma; I had seen his picture on the staff board, under which was written 'Thai'. He didn't look very Thai and his American accent was a further confusion. He introduced himself and told me he was from LA. I mentioned the picture and he immediately went out to look. He returned laughing and said to Niu, "Why have you got me as Thai instead of American?"
"Well I think it's because you are my cousin so I think you are Thai." she replied grinning. It turns out that Johnny is actually half-Thai (and a quarter Puerto Rican and a quarter White) so I presume this is what she meant (unless they really are cousins which would still be possible I suppose). You still wouldn't know it to look at him and, as I said, he has all the polished charisma that you might expect (if you were stereotyping) from someone who hails from the home of Hollywood.
Johnny is part time these days and discovered he had no lessons today, so he disappeared as quickly as he arrived. Around 1130 I was invited to eat Sukiyagi with the teachers which was very nice (although I understood little of the conversation, unless it was directed at me in English of course)
Moving on (as I am already 3 days behind at the time of writing) my lessons with 3/12 and 3/11 were introductory affairs on the meaning and method behind project work. At present I have no idea what sort of project they want me to encourage so I had to be careful to be generic and make it clear that certain types of project (Genetics, for example) were unlikely to be feasible - unless they just wanted to do a showcase.
3/12 were a much more rowdy class than 3/11 but they still seemed to be good kids generally, I have to bear in mind of course that this is their first lesson with a new teacher - what will they be like when the novelty wears off.
Towards the end of the 3/11 lesson there was a massive storm which lasted for about 30 minutes, the rain continued as I returned to the staff room where we had a 4 o'clock meeting. I was introduced again and there were some details to be sorted out. I will be the homeroom teacher (along with Niu and the Department head) of the first year - so I will also be getting to know them very well. There is also a club which runs on a friday in last lesson and I will be taking the lead in the science club which will be some sort of activity or competition (no further brief)
The meeting was actually quite helpful and at least I could understand what was going on. We also had cake as it was teh birthday of Joe, who is the EP technician. After all this was done (and amid intermittent power) we idly watched some students and teachers assist a woman who had driven her car into an unfesaibly deep runoff trench at the site of the campus road. Roland armchair managed the project as we watched but by the time someone actually persuaded him to go out there and help they had managed to get a ramp in place.
I rang Dave and they were sheltering in the hotel. We agreed to meet at 2000 which gave me plenty of time to get settled in, however it also meant that I probably wouldn't be joining them late as I had a double lesson with the first year tomorrow and was still in need of some recharging after the last 2 days.
I left the office about 1700 and headed over to Yasalin where the caretaker was the only person I could find. Fortunately I was able to get the key to my room and dump my stuff. The electricity wasn't on and I presumed that they had deactivated the room while vacant. I asked the caretaker if I could leave my stuff while I went to the cash machine. She didn't understand but a gentleman from a room opposite came over and asked in halting English (Note: for future reference my subconscious grading system for English seems to go like this: 'Not a word', 'Hardly any', 'Broken', 'Halting', 'Some', 'Pretty good', 'Good', 'Very good', 'Fluent/Excellent' for further reference I classify my Thai as 'Broken') what I needed, I explained to him and he offered to drive me to an ATM.
To cut a long story short I waited in a log queue for 5 minutes before my card was refused (!) but fortunately we had better luck second time (pehw!). The man's name was Hai and he worked at the office of Agriculture. I told him I didn't to put him out but he was happy to help and he said it was a chance to practice his English (he will shortly be leveling up to 'Some', in fairness). We got back to the block and there was still no sign of the Landlady so I went to get changed and head out for a snack before I met Dave and Helen. I also realised that it wasn't just my room that had no lectric - it was the whole block.
I was on my way out when Hai called me over. He was sitting on the (very nice) verandah with a couple of young ladies who he told me were Thai teachers and so we could exchange languages. I sat and chatted to them (Hai mainly) for about 45 minutes during which time Hai got out his Thai flute (which is more like a simple recorder) and treated us to a short set - rounding off with a tune that was played through his nose!
Shortly afterwards I said I had to go and meet my friends - this was a small untruth as it was still a good hour until 2000 but I wanted to pop into an internet joint and try and finish off an entry. On my way I passed two concrete telegraph poles that had been torn down by a huge branch that fell on them during the storm - I hoped that the electric would be back on before I got back.
Despite having an hour to spend in the internet I got barely 15 minutes before the connection went and so could get no appreciable typing done. I headed to the night market 15 minutes early but reasoned that I could probably manage an appetiser. It was noodles for me (they are not the only thing I can order - they are just really nice!) and Dave and Helen arrived as I was finishing. I gave them the post mortem of my first day and they told me about their last two days in CK and visit to Thabom.
After we walked around they could find nothing that they wanted to eat more than noodles so we headd back to the same stand I this time I could watch them eat. We followed this up with a Banana Roti from a stand I had passed at the far end. This was every bit as delicious (and artery clogging) as the one I had in Chiang Rai and Helen agreed, Dave was full.
Next it was back to Muangloei Pub again for a couple of beers until - about 2150 - I decided that I needed to leave them (although I was intrigued to see what Helen thought of Robot Bar). We exchanged warm goodbyes and I made my way off into the night - it was slightly strange to think that this was now my hometown.
Getting home revealed that (thankfully) the lights were back on and the landlady was just getting back so I could also give her my Rent/Deposit. She also gave me some mangoes and I then had to get her to set me up on the finger print entry system that the block has at night (swish huh?)
Slighty less swish was the discovery of a slight blockage in the toilet but I wasn't going to let that trouble me right now - I showered and hit the sack.