My Weapon and my Friend: Bringing Words to Life. Inaugural English Poetry Competition, Thailand 2014.

It’s 1983. In a school playground in East London a teacher gives a crying boy two tools to change his life forever. First, a pen: “This is your weapon”. Next, a blank notebook: “This is your new best friend”. Though young Charlie had been expecting something quite different, he noted his teacher’s advice, “Write down how you feel about school”. The white pages gradually filled with vengeance, in what he called ‘The Book of Torture’, plans for what he would do to any bully who touched him again. So, when someone grabbed him in the playground and pulled his school tie around his neck tighter and tighter, he knew he needed to do something, to say something. “If you ever touch me again I’m going to crush you like giants crush mountains”. The bully was so surprised that he left Charlie alone, and that is when he realised if he kept writing and reflecting no one would bother him again. He has written a poem every day since this day, so over 11,000 in total, and the notebooks in their thousands, fill his childhood home.

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Poetry can give children confidence, a voice, and power. The microphone can let them say things they’re too afraid to whisper. UK Performance Poet, Charlie Dark, sees poetry as a useful form of self-expression, like “a silent movie on a snow white paper screen”. He advocates empowering young people with language and ultimately bringing words to life, which is exactly what the 20 finalists of the Inaugural English Poetry Competition did. Charlie and the finalists first met during a workshop. With only one day before the final, the students were given the theme for their poems: themselves. The short time period between being given the theme, and the actual final encouraged the young people to think on their feet and the result was a mixture of nerves, inspiration and raw emotion. The confidence, pride, positivity of the students and their belief in the possibility for change and improvement struck a chord with the adults in the audience. The cheeky smiles and enthusiasm proved to be infectious, and the Director of English, Brian Stott, was even caught on camera pretending to be a DJ.

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The levels of English were impressive and one of the students, Gun, introduced her poem as follows: “It is written in the snow with the footprint of a sparrow, listen to it before it melts.” Transience is beauty, and though this afternoon will soon be a thing of the past it has made its mark on a number of exceptional young people, and members of the audience. Especially the winners, the top prize being a UK Study visit for one week, along with a set of books and vouchers.Through a dramatic reading of one of his poems Charlie Dark engaged and enlivened the audience, and succeeded in drawing a crowd from passers-by. Taking it line by line; animatedly acting out each part, the audience copied him bit by bit. It was a rare occasion when the crowd was as energetic as the performer: the positive energy was obvious. It must have been quite a sight from stage for him seeing the 20 finalists, special guests, visitors and friends pretending to be DJs, holding their pens (weapons) up to the sky, break-dancing and mock aggressively crossing their arms. It brought poetry to life.

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The students’ individuality became clear when they walked up onto the stage in turn to perform their poems about themselves. Some strode confidently, others paced timidly, many forgetting their lines mid-way through, but recovering, taking a deep breath, a nervous giggle, and re-gaining confidence. One boy did a little dance and rubbed his head as if he was massaging his brain so it would work again, another dug out scraps of ripped paper from her pockets and incorporated it into her performance so well that she was awarded the prize for ‘The Best Improvement’. After each performance Charlie provided feedback and the pride in the young people’s faces was overwhelming. He inspired them, but this inspiration was not limited to the young performers. Charlie’s performance and their words combined to produce an atmosphere of hope.

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“I just want to be seen like a book on a broken shelf.”

“I sometimes fall down, but I never give up like the flow of streams… I believe in myself.”

“I dream I can swim across the Pacific Ocean in 1 minute… I dream I can be everything I want to be.”

“I am like a grain of sand in the sea, so little, but strong if you bring it together into a bigger stone. From a grain of sand to something better…like a butterfly I will fly.”

“I am a big shark that can swim in a dangerous and beautiful sea… I can swoop up into the sky and grab my dreams.”

All I need now is my weapon and my friend…and perhaps you do too…

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Advice for English Teaching Assistants (Part 2): British Council, Voices Blog.

As I’m back in Bangkok working for the British Council Teaching Assistant Thailand Scheme (TET) 2014 it seemed appropriate to do a part 2 to compliemnt my part 1 ‘Essential Tips for English Language Assistants in Thailand’.

Here it is:

http://blog.britishcouncil.org/2014/07/09/essential-tips-for-english-language-assistants-in-thailand-part-2/

I also had this published on the British Council Teaching Blog for Asia:

http://blog.britishcouncil.org/teachingenglishasia/2014/07/14/life-as-an-english-teaching-assistant-in-thailand-2/

 

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Farewell Wangsaipoon: Theft, Thanks and The Trip Back to Bangkok

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Goodbye Teacher Charlie

Typing whilst in a fast moving, jolting minibus is probably not the best idea I have ever had. However, I’m going to be on the road for a few hours so I might as well utilise them wisely. English teachers surround me and we are all en route to Bangkok to the Ambassador Hotel for our farewell conference/ meeting with all of the other English Teaching Assistants, many of their mentors, the British Council and the Thai Ministry for Education. I’m very pleased that we are having some kind of a climax of our trip where we can see each other again and exchange stories and experiences face to face, as well as having the chance to nip to the incredible day markets and night markets in the capital itself to pick up a few things to take back to what is sunny England today (26 degrees Celsius I hear… the verdict for Sunday isn’t so promising, but I mustn’t complain).

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A ladder. Shortest to Tallest.
Teacher Joy, Teacher Frenelly, Teacher Charlie

Goodbye Teacher Joy, I say as I drop her off at 7/Eleven on my bicycle. Well, actually Teacher Oh’s bicycle, but during my stay I have had full use of it. She knows that I’m going to write about it on my blog and suggests what the line will be, “As usual, I dropped Joy off at the main road.” What a sweetie. Teacher Joy, I know you will be reading this, thank you for being a wonderful housemate for all the time that you have actually been at home and not off gallivanting in Myanmar, Cambodia or Laos.

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My name is Teacher Charlie

As I went up to the counter to pay for my breakfast I felt the blood rushing (at least slightly faster than usual) to my head. I was almost penniless. This came as a shock to me as I had been paid half a month’s wages just two days ago and my biggest purchases were cha yen (Thai iced tea- 40p), two sliced mangoes (30p) and a loaf of bread (40p), so not the most extravagant shopping trips. I moved away from the counter and walked to the side of the 7/Eleven, which is always blissfully air-conditioned (occasionally a stand alone reason for visiting the shop), and thought through the last day and what could have happened. After school yesterday when I had been sitting with two of my rather lovely students chatting away some of the older girls who I don’t know hijacked our little ‘picnic of words’ to get a picture with me. They were quite cold in their mannerisms and very quickly shifted off on their motorcycles. At this point my bag had been in the basket of my (or Teacher Oh’s) bike just a meter or two away, but out of sight. I imagine that one of their friends took the money while they distracted me with the photo taking. This was a fairly unsettling realisation to have just an hour before my last day of school, that I had been robbed by students… not just an unknown, faceless character on a bike (like in Bangkok). Although I can see a little poetry in being robbed on my second day in Thailand and on my second last day I was a little miffed. However, after interrogating some of the students and having a policeman into the school the director agreed to reimburse me the amount of money which had been stolen… a huge relief I’m sure you’ll agree.

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Thank goodness I don’t mind public speaking.

‘Chan pasa Thai dai…’. ‘Chan poot thai dai’… then, finally ‘Chan poot pasa thai dai lek noi’, I managed to spit the words out. During assembly this morning I had to give a speech to the whole school, what has become a fairly rare occurrence, but this time it was marking the end of my time here (or should I say there, as I get further and further away from the school and closer to Bangkok?). I have no issue standing in front of hundreds of people speaking; in fact I rather enjoy it. That said it is much easier when expressing myself in English. I was lucky enough to have Teacher Tim to translate for me so the students could actually understand the sentiment of what I had to say. Teacher Frenelly took a few shots and managed to capture some (at least slightly) entertaining gesticulations of mine as I spoke to the students.

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The School

As my first class of the day, Grade 5/2, filed into my classroom I was suddenly aware that this was my last day as Teacher Charlie (or even Teacher Chaba) of the English Department at Anubanwangsaipoon, Wangsaipoon Sub district, Phichit, Thailand! I also realised that I know all of their names, their faces, and to a reasonable degree their capabilities and most importantly to me their characters. Although they gel together as a group they are all such individuals and I sometimes enjoy just sitting at the front of the classroom looking over them from my ‘teacher platform’, observing how they operate, how they interact with each other. I’m definitely going to miss being around such curious, cheeky, funny and affectionate young’uns. They sprung to their feet and chanted with their usual enthusiasm and volume:

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Students: “Good Morning Teeechaa Chaahhlleee.”

Teacher Charlie: “Good morning students. How are you?” (Chirpily)

Students: “I am fine thank you, and you???” (With an endearing inflection at the end of the sentence)

Teacher Charlie: “I am very well thank you. As you know, today is my last day… so, what do you want to do?”

Students: “Play game!!! We love games!!!”

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Lovely Wee Class

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What a Wee Sweetie.

As such we all bounded across the school grounds to the activity hall to play a few last games of ‘What’s the time Mr. Wolf’ and Simon Says. At one point Teacher Tim came over to discuss the ‘stealing’ incident and told me that they were interrogating the older kids and a policeman had been called in. While we were talking my class who were assembled behind me in the formation for Mr. Wolf rearranged themselves into a sitting circle, picked a ‘chooser’ and started playing Duck, Duck, Goose without any kind of directions being given to them. I was very proud of them.

Initially the plan had been for Teacher Tim to drive Teacher Frenelly and I to Phitsanulok at about 5pm (before dark) and sit in her brother’s house until about 12pm in time to get the bus at 12.30am, which would result in us pulling into Bangkok at 5.30am (or later knowing Thai buses) with no-where to sleep. I’ll be honest; this didn’t sound appealing so I tried to engineer the situation to be more pleasant. After convincing my mentor to phone a friend of mine’s mentor it was agreed that we would leave at 1pm and meet them in Phichit Town and transfer into their minibus and spend the night in Bangkok. What a relief, in one way, but I needed to pack!

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The Time has Come

I dashed around frantically trying to pack my life into a small bag, and after an hour or so of hot running around and listening to Kate Nash (or all people) to calm myself down my room was ready. It looked bare, especially as Teacher Frenelly had stripped the bed first thing in order to wash the bed clothes soon enough for them to dry by night time. When I leave I get the feeling that a lot of things will change. The English Department will go from having three teachers, to two; Teacher Frenelly will move into the house under Teacher Tim; Teacher Kan will move into our house; it even sounded like Teacher Joy may not stay on the school grounds of Anubanwangsaipoon anymore. In some ways I’m glad that the packing (and even the leaving) was such as rush as it meant that I had less time to process it, believe it and get upset about it.

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My Last Class.

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Some of my Boys.

My afternoon classes were not to have a teacher, when they thought they would. Thankfully I had time to head up to my classroom for one last time and say goodbye to one group of students who were incredibly sweet and at the last minute cut me up little white hearts writing their names and little messages on them, the girls coming up one by one to the front of the class and sticking little love heart stickers on my dress looking up at me admiringly and even nostalgically for they knew that I wouldn’t be standing there tomorrow. Even the boys, who seem to make a special effort to annoy me, walked up meekly to hug me. I found myself standing in the corridor surrounded by my favourite little people hugging me from all directions; it was rather lovely actually.

And suddenly it was time to go. I felt like a celebrity when I rolled down the tinted electric window and waved out of the open space to my students as they ran along beside the car. And suddenly we had pulled out of the school grounds, out of Wangsaipoon and were driving down the open road en route to Bangkok. I don’t remember the journey taking such a short time before, but we were in the capital in time for dinner. After checking into a hotel that wasn’t too far from Khao San Road we found somewhere, after a bit of searching, where they served some vegetarian dishes. Typically I managed to eat a chili during the meal and become flustered, all to the entertainment of my teachers/friends and even the minibus driver.

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Khao San Road

I have never got a taxi for such a short distance in my life. We were confronted with about 6 hellish lanes of traffic that seemed impossible to cross and Dr. Suwat matter of factly hailed a taxi to literally take us to the other side of the road! It cost very little and just meant that we went down the road and turned at a roundabout when so that we were on the right side of the road, but I was thoroughly entertained. The scene was quite magical with fairy lights lining all of the trees and brightening the skyline. We lounged in a park just before a large and beautiful Temple that was closed for the night and in Thai style took a couple of pictures, and the others took a couple of selfies. In the distance, behind the court building, I could see a storm brewing with flashes of lighting illuminating dark clouds with white and purple forks, sheets of lightning (or faalep) filling the sky.

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Pancakes (cheese… and then cinnamon) ensued and then a trip to a really amazing jazz bar filled the rest of the evening. The jazz flowed so naturally and I found myself in a very cool (I can’t use another adjective) jazz bar, which was fairly small and filled with jazzy Thais. By the window the band were installed; a double bassist, a keyboardist, a guitarist, a singer and a saxophonist who casually joined in part way through and they performed wonderful, very soulful and spontaneous songs with such energy and passion. It was a pleasure to share a room with them.

That’s enough for now, but all I can say is I had an amazing ‘second’ last day in Thailand and I am so grateful to everyone at Anubanwangsaipoon for their hospitality, encouragement, humour and… food!

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My First Day Back at Anubanwangsaipoon in… a while! ( I haven’t had classes here for 11 days.)

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Some of the Girls from Grade 4.

Today was my first day of teaching at Anubanwangsaipoon since last Thursday. Somehow without actually taking any holiday I haven’t taught a class here for 11 days, which seems rather ludicrous really. At least I can reconcile it by remembering that I was at Sukothai Technical College all of last week doing something or another either in the staffroom or helping teach classes with some of the other teachers.

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Lunch Time Antics.

I had classes four classes today so four hours of solo teaching, except my 2.30-3.30pm class began at 2.55pm when the students finally turned up. For the first time ever I tried playing buzz with them and to begin with it was rather infuriating as they all got everything wrong and couldn’t get past two… but when they understood it was actually really fun.

I forgot to mention that in Phitsanulok I had purchased two black contact lenses and this morning felt rather in the mood to try them out. After breaking the lid of the first one rendering it un-openable I moved onto the second and proceeded to put it in. I was sure that this would be a surprise for my students and rather fancied seeing looks of shock as they walked into the room and realise my eyes were different colours.

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Never Again.

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Some of the little laddies.

Lunch was delicious: vegetable fried rice (and lots of it). I was pleased to be back amongst the teachers and especially so when they started taking the mick out of me for my uniform, admittedly playfully, suggesting that my shirt made me look like a grandmother. I feel accepted when they talk to me, even when they say things like this!

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The Lunch Time Crew.

One thing that struck me as peculiar at school today was the haircuts that many of the high school boys were supporting. It consisted of fairly thick black hair with large shave marks round the sides. Hair regulation seems to be quite a big thing here and I imagine that one of the teachers, to make the point that their haircuts were unacceptable, just grabbed a pair of electric hair clippers (more like a sheerer) and whacked rather uneven and unattractive hunks out… a clear encouragement for them to get the rest shaved off too. I managed to get a couple of vague pictures, but the boys were a bit embarrassed and not proud of their new hairstyles.

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The New Haircuts… I must say the heaped piles of black hair in front of the school were a little disconcerting.

In the afternoon Nick arrived and we had leftovers from lunch before heading to the staffroom to start preparing for English camp tomorrow. We came up with a power point presentation with various nursery rhymes, games such as ‘What’s the Time Mr. Wolf?’ and ‘Stick in the Mud’ as well as ‘Body Part to the Floor’. The activities are going to take place in the large hall outside, rather than in my classroom so much preparation is required, there will literally be hundreds of students.

Teacher Tim had invited us along with some of the other teachers out for dinner in Phichit which I was definitely keen on. However, by not realizing that there was no signal in the staffroom we missed out on that opportunity. A dragon fruit, some French toast and some peanut biscuits had to do the job. At around 11.30pm it transpired that doing the English Camp tomorrow is too soon, despite our initial agreement, so it will have to wait until Wednesday. I rather hope it goes well.

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This took a surprisingly long time.

Excuse the short entry, I thought I’d try it out but not sure it works for me… please comment with your opinions. I personally think this may be a little stark and misses out a lot of the humour and little details of the day that make it special.

Finishing Touches, Farewells and Fine Food (‘Street Food’ Without the Street)

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Tanawan, Chaba, Jook and her Little Boy.

“Hello, Charot… Sorry! Have I woken you up?” I hear Tanawan say down the phone. At this point I realise that I have absolutely no idea what time it is. She explains that it is 11am and my dress is ready, the dressmaker wants me to come and try it on to make sure that it fits ok. I can’t believe it; I haven’t slept in that late in over 2 months. Within 30 minutes of opening my eyes I am standing in the bathroom trying on my dress. It is enormous and hangs like a sack… this is very disappointing. I had even had dress related dreams, except in my dream my grandmother had made me a beautiful floor length dress that fitted perfectly, the only problem with it was the Christmas patterns. I figured that I might as well ask if the tailor could take it in, that is what a fitting is for after all, so she took my measurements again saying I had lost weight (5 inches) since last time… 3 days ago. Maybe it was just difficult to measure over a baggy T-shirt. She zoomed off on her motorcycle to return within an hour or two.

Thai people seem to be very big on food culture. Tanawan took Nick and I for lunch, Khing didn’t come with us as he had been to the hospital with a fever last night and was lying like a patient in the living room of their house. We had Chinese noodles with herbs; there were 5 small noodle nests that were multi-coloured like pasta (orange, white, green, yellow and even blue!). We were also treated to a plate of scrumptious (Tanawan’s word, not mine) Pad Thai which was slightly browned from having been in the hot pan for a little too long, my favourite. We also had some ridiculously sweet, bright green guava juice… I must say I’m rather looking forward to a Rubicon when I go back to London.

We were sent off for another hour or two until the dress had been taken in. For the first time I had a go driving a geared motorcycle and if I don’t mind saying so myself it went rather well. The school grounds of Sukothai Technical College provided me with a safe and protected arena to practice and generally just gallivant around, at points getting up to 4th gear. I was pleased to be able to get the engine to start after one attempt of pushing down the lever (excuse my severe lack of technical terms). The thought of whizzing round London on a scooter/ moped is rather tempting, I’m just not how sure how pleasant it would be considering the predominance of precipitation.

The Chan family was no-where to be seen so we dropped in on Jook and her family who directed us back to the Chan residence. As we arrived there for the second time the family pick-up pulled in. I tried on my dress and to my shock and horror I could hardly squeeze in this time, in fact as I tried to pull it on I was sweating profusely (a combination of embarrassment and the heat). Tanawan and Jook had to assist me with the zip but when I managed to squeeze it on properly it fitted like a dream and I felt wonderful. That said Mr. Chan told me that I must lose a kg and have a helper at the ready when I want to wear it out. After taking a few pictures it was time to say goodbye, in a very maintained and dignified way. I was just relieved that I didn’t get too upset. In comparison to leaving Mauritius after 1 year and being able to speak the language properly it wasn’t too bad, phew. We can keep in touch also; I have Tanawan’s business card!

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Tuk Tuks.

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The View from the Bus Window.

The bus from Sukothai to Phitsanulok was reasonably uneventful, except from when a soldier dismounted, proceeded to urinate about a meter away from the door, hopped back on a couple of minutes later and sat down next to me. It took about 30 minutes longer than usual, I’m sure he had something to do with it, he inspired others to also get the bus to stop so they could go to the bathroom. En route I texted Doi (who I met at the entrepreneurial event at Sukothai Historical Park) to see if he wanted to meet up one last time before I head back to the UK. By 5.25pm I had no response and I was 2 minutes away from the bus station frantically zipping up my bag in order to jump off and sprint onto the last Wangsaipoon bus, which leaves at 5.30pm. Literally as we were pulling into the bus station he said he was free so instead of dashing across to get the other bus I strolled casually across to the motorcycle taxi area and got a lift to the train station whilst eating a packet of crips at the same time and preparing my money as shops, markets, people and multitudes of vehicles passed us in my periphery vision.

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Phitsanulok Town Centre.

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Aerobics by the River.

Helen, another ETA, seemed unreachable. It was frustrating being so near her house but not being able to contact her. As I walked across the bridge by her house I glimpsed something rather entertaining; a large group of Thai people dressed up in sports gear doing an outdoor aerobics session led by a woman with a microphone on a stage. Out of the blue Helen called me up and I managed to convince her to come and have dinner with Doi and I. We first stopped off to pick up rotis from the ‘best place in town’ as Helen had never tried any, and then onto a restaurant for dinner. The rotis are large, sweet and filling and I had planned for that to be my meal. Eating it inside the restaurant proved to be no issue so it quickly became ‘street food’ without the street. Helen and Doi had steak, egg, sausages and bacon with chips for dinner… this place specializes in western food apparently. In addition to my roti I had a portion of chips with ketchup and mayonnaise- my first chips since I’ve arrived, and my last (though they were lovely).

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Sorry Doi!

During a quick nip to the Phitsanulok night market that sits on the river bank we bumped into Ricky, another ETA, who looked absolutely stunned to see us and after saying a few things about his project continued on his way; we will see him again on Friday at the meal in Bangkok. I was particularly taken with a key ring stand where one can get them personalized and got a few made for some of the teachers at Anubanwangsaipoon. Almost all of the stalls at the market sell clothes, shoes, accessories, make-up or food, barring one that had knuckle-dusters (which are apparently illegal to use here), machetes and replica guns, so it was not the best place to get gifts to take home. I think we’ll wait until Bangkok for that.

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The River

After Doi gave me a lift home (the last bus left hours ago) I accidentally woke up teacher Frenelly and went in; the extreme heat, the mosquitos, the lizards and the nature sounds, amazed me. After sitting for a while sweating profusely I remembered that there is such a thing as a fan and that it is unwise not to use it! This is useful to note for the future, tomorrow perhaps. I am so used to my bed that I don’t notice anymore that it is so hard that I used to think it felt like wood. How grateful I am that I find it fairly easy to get used to things, especially the ants (that were crawling over my mattress, not too many, but still…)

Professional in Pink, Motorcycles and Running Water: Day 4 at Sukothai Technical College.

If you have ever tried riding a motorcycle wearing a skirt with very little give you will know that it results in well…indecency. For this reason, Mrs. Chan (who I now know… after weeks…as Tanawan) lent me a pair of ¾ lycras and even a ¾ length dress to cover my poor derriere for modesty’s sake again, though it was appropriately adorned with patterns of chaba (hibiscus) flowers. What a palaver.

Professional in PInk. Teacher Chaba, Mr. Chan and Teacher Falong (Mr. Nick)

Professional in PInk.
Teacher Chaba, Mr. Chan and Teacher Falong (Mr. Nick)

This morning was spent in the staffroom of Sukothai Technical College eating, being amused by the matching work uniforms of all of the staff (bright pink, floral shirts- one of the maths teachers was kind enough to lend me one so I didn’t stand out too much), practicing Thai, letter writing and of course munching leftovers. Notice: no teaching. Most of the English teachers have disappeared off the face of the planet… well, at least Sukothai… today. Dr. Suwat is at a meeting in Phitsanulok, Mr. Chan is in Chiang Mai, and Lek is busy with family things the list continues.

Getting started...

Getting started…

At around 1pm we were whisked off to the Chan residence with Mr. Chan, who doesn’t smile in photos in order that he doesn’t look too handsome. He has lent Nick (who has a full and valid driving license) a motorcycle… freedom. This means not having to rely on lifts to go anywhere/ everywhere and being able to explore much more independently. First stop was the post office where I encountered a member of staff who seemed much more interested in the film that was playing behind me than weighing my letters to send off the UK. In fact, when I requested stamps (as opposed to a specially generated exact weight sticker) he looked genuinely appalled.

The Temple beside Sukothai Historical Park.

The Temple beside Sukothai Historical Park.

Next stop was… yet again Sukothai Historical Park (at least the 4th time now), but we didn’t actually go into the park. There is a temple nearby the entrance, which is surrounded by a lake. The locals looked on amused as we sat in direct, scorching sunlight with our freshly sliced, juicy, watermelon. I really appreciate living in the tropics, if only briefly, for the dramatic skies, palm trees and amazing nature. Today was no exception; the catfish in the lake were hungry, but not tricked up to the surface by small stones and the beautiful sky reflected the surroundings above them like a sheet. On the island is one large temple, a couple of smaller ones, a small shrine containing Buddha’s footprint (which is rather large) and a mid sized open sided building made out of wood, bamboo and thatched leaves, which offered some protection from the hot, mid afternoon sun.

The View from the Sheltered Hut.

The View from the Sheltered Hut.

Closed!

Closed!

Going to the public pool in Sukothai near the bus station has become a bit of an afternoon fix. Many of the houses surrounding the college have had no running water for almost 2 weeks, so a dip in a refreshingly cool pool and a shower afterwards are welcomed with open arms. On arrival we were met by a large ‘closed’ sign, which enticed us into speak to the owner who said it wouldn’t be open again until tomorrow morning because it was being cleaned. The water was still and lovely, tempting, but it was not the time unfortunately. Ice tea, however, provided a distraction. Though the ice tea place that we had initially been planning to go to was closed it led us into the jaws, rather the entrance of Sukothai Buddha Park which is situated right beside the river. It is very impressive with lots of beautiful flowers, a couple of small temples and an enormous, rather unusual one which provides shelter for a number of large, golden statues of Buddha in various positions; sitting, standing, lying and (being Sukothai) walking.

Sukothai Buddha Park

Sukothai Buddha Park

A small ice tea joint provided us with a refreshing drink, a little wooden bench that became a prime spot to watch the world go by. Pick up trucks filled with novices in their orange gowns, songtaos (minibuses with no windows) ferrying large numbers of children back from a long day at school, a large farang man on a Harley Davidson who looked rather out of place, children walking by holding the finger of an older relative, cars with blacked out windows concealing mysteries within. As the blanket of night slowly descended we headed home.

Tropical Nature.

Tropical Nature.

“Do you hear that?” punctuated by whoops from downstairs indicated a dramatic change of some sort. I listened intently and heard the faint trickle of running water. The possibilities. Showers, washing dishes… cooking, all sorts. This was to be the first meal I had cooked all week; partly because of the generosity of the other teachers but also because cooking with dirty pots and pans (and no water) can prove to be rather un-delightful. Even spreading butter with a knife that hasn’t been touched in a while can result in an ant filled piece of bread. After a quick jaunt on the motorcycle to Big C (a nearby supermarket) dinner preparations were well underway. Fresh egg noodles with pumpkin, broccoli, carrot, peanuts and onions as well as black pepper and soy sauce seasoning. It was rather satisfying to have a home cooked meal, in truth I rather enjoy the taste of my own cooking, there is some comfort in knowing that I have chosen everything that goes into it. Aroy Mak Mak (very tasty indeed).

The End Result... Amazing.

The End Result… Amazing.