Have I been here too long?
Trip Start May 06, 2010
101Trip End Apr 14, 2011
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I was told I was "very sexy" walking into school the other day. Kiss of death in Thailand. Sexy= inappropriate. And since I was wearing my tailor-made Wednesday shirt, I’m going to assume I was showing too much knee and put that skirt out of commission. I’ve worn it before without comments, but once is enough I think.
Walking to school the other day, I saw a monk stop to accept food from a woman and then pray with her
I’m in love with the exercise park here in Chonburi. I try to go every day. Since the weather’s cooling off in this winter season, it’s a lot easier to motivate myself to get outside and do something. The only downside is some of the random Thai guys that want to come practice their English with me while I’m panting and sweating. I think I need some new shoes to work out in so my legs aren’t always killing me, but as I’ll explain later, that’s probably not going to happen.
As far as school goes, there have been a lot of changes in the way the classes are set up this semester. One of the changes is that they want us to focus on reading with the kids. I was frustrated because the class sets of reading materials are all very basic, even for students learning a new language
My students finally have a new Thai teacher, Teacher Yuphin (you-peen). She is very friendly, but tends to hover which makes me a little uncomfortable. On her first day, I told the kids to stand up. They know that if I tell them to stand up before the end of class, it’s to play a game of some sort. I don’t have to say anything else, only, “stand up,” and they know a game will follow. Well, Teacher Yuphin clearly didn’t know this. When the kids stood up, she started yelling at them. The kids explained in Thai and she said, “Oh, game,” and smiled at me. She then went on to play “Simon Says” along with the kids.
She’s really nice and I’m glad we have a permanent teacher again, but I wish she would get the kids in line a little more; that’s what they really need. She did come in this morning though and put them to work straightening up the classroom and making them recite the times tables. Hopefully she’s done her friendly introduction and is now ready to be the disciplinarian we all need her to be
One thing that has become a saving grace (and believe me, no one is more surprised than I am that I’m saying this) is Sports Day. First off, they now have us doing a brief aerobic routine at Friday morning assembly. This makes assembly bareable one day a week. We do a boxing style warm-up to music. When I say “we”, I mean the entire school-kindergarten through sixth grades and all the teachers out in front of the Buddha dancing around to Pitbull’s I know you want me. It’s pretty fantastic.
The other reason Sports Day is now tolerable, maybe even fun, is that Teacher Yuphin and I don’t force the kids to all play a certain game, but let them play what they want so it’s more like recess. This takes the stress off of us to always have a planned activity, and makes the kids a lot happier because they can do what they want. Some still complain that they don’t know what to do, but we seem to find something for everyone. I’ve started joining in games with the kids. Poom likes to grab me by the hand and say, “Teacher, football,” and then drag me over to his soccer game. I will play for an obligatory few minutes (the kids don’t believe me or care when I say I’m no good at soccer) before I find another kid who wants in on the game and can take my place
Last week though, I played a Thai game that is like Monkey in the Middle meets Tag. I’ll give the kids credit for explaining these games to me in English. I usually understand what I’m supposed to do. In this particular game, everyone but the monkey stands inside a circle. The monkey says, “I want a leaf from that tree” or something, and everyone has to leave the circle, get the “gift”, and get back to the circle with it before getting tagged by the monkey. The monkey always forgot to say what he or she wanted in English, but there was always someone who’d remember me and say, “Teacher, flower from that tree!” before running off. One time, Tei was the last one with me in the circle and he turned to me and said, “Uh, uhhhh, Teacher….what panda eats!” Then he grabbed my hand and we ran to a bamboo tree to get a leaf. It was adorable. Don’t get me wrong, I still hate wearing my Sports Day uniform, but I am beginning to enjoy the actual event.
Saturday classes continue to be an adventure. I told Teacher Prem I would work until December, but in December I want a break. She’s still trying to change that, but I’m holding strong. The first day of class, I showed up to find out that I’m teaching P6. I was a little disappointed because I love my P5 kids and thought I’d have them again, but not too worried. Then I was told that there were only enough 6th graders to have 2 classes of them. They can’t have 3 teachers (usually the kids have three teachers for the three periods, one for math, science, and English-the teachers rotate from class to class teaching their designated subject) for only 2 groups, so I would have to teach math and English to one group and then English again to the other. I found this out at 8:30 on Saturday morning. Class starts at 8:45. I don’t mind teaching math if I’m prepared for it, but that was ridiculous. The science teacher was in the same boat as me, and he turned to me and said, “We do this for only 300 baht an hour.” I was glad someone else felt as exasperated as I did.
Last Friday night, I went out in Bang Saen with Allie (a new teacher from OEG) and two of the girls I knew from my orientation group. We had a lot of fun catching up and dancing, but the best part of the night was how excited we all were to hear “Happy Birthday” playing in the club. The band played a rocked out version of it and we all went crazy. It’s a sign you’ve been in Thailand too long when you get that excited to hear a live band playing anything in English, including Happy Birthday for no reason.
Speaking of being in Thailand too long, I have. Sarah and I were shopping on Friday night before having a low-key night in her part of Chonburi. We were looking for shoes to wear out the next night in Bangkok. We kept picking up shoes and saying to each other, “Have I been here too long? Are these actually cute?” We can no longer decide if the funky Asian styles are legimately cute or if we’ve just become too accustomed to seeing them everywhere. Don’t judge me on my clothes when I come home.
On Saturday, I went into Bangkok with Sarah and met up with a bunch of people to go out. When Sarah and I first got to town, we went shopping at Central World. It’s been rebuilt since the May riots and is gorgeous. If I had any money, I would shop there all the time.
While we were shopping, still for shoes, we realized our giant feet are not loved in this country. We finally got smart and started asking about sizes before even looking at shoes. We started the day by finding shoes we loved and then realizing they don’t make them big enough to cram our massive feet into, which was a big disappointment. So we learned and asked before falling in love with any shoes. Here’s how that worked out:
“Excuse me, do you have big sizes? Bigger than 40?”
“Yes, we have big size. We have 40.”
“No, do you have bigger than 40? Like 42?”
“No, don’t have,” accompanied by a look of pure disgust.
“Ok, I’ll get my giant American feet out of your store. Sorry to have offended you.”
Needless to say, I am still without new shoes. Hopefully the ones I brought with me can make it another 6 months.
The weekend was good. I got some Mexican food for dinner on Saturday. It probably wasn’t even that good, but it was amazing to me because it was the first time I’d had guacamole and quesadillas in 6 months, and if you know me at all, you know how shocking that is. I also got to hang out with Tara again and see how she’s adjusting to her new life in Bangkok. I’m exhausted at school today from all the fun of the weekend, but I also feel recharged from the fun with good friends.
So that’s what’s going on in Thailand. Sorry to have been away for so long, and if you made it through my rambling novel, reward yourself (with something I can’t have that you’re taking for granted like chai tea or chocolate and peanut butter). I promise to write more frequently and less lengthy in the future.