Kaw Pan Sa

Kaw Pan Sa falls this weekend. It is a celebration of the arrival of the rainy season. During this festival many people go to the temple and present candles and money to the monks.

Making vegetable stir fry noodles took up most of my time before school today. I’m making friends with the cook (whose house we went to last night) and now she lets me use the school kitchen. This is useful, as I said before our kitchen has no utensils!

DSC00720Teacher Charlie with the candles we all decorated together before school.

All of the staff got together this morning to prepare some decorations and gifts for the monks. My duties were decorating pots with party paper, sticking roses and white flowers into soft, easily moulded green bricks surrounding the candles in the posts and generally chilling out and taking photos for people. It seems to be a really exciting day and everybody is wearing white. One of the teachers here, who is incredibly lovely, was approached by some of the students with a bowl for money. He took out a 1000 Baht note and rubbed it between his hands and wye-d them (a wye is a respectful saltute). They smiled like the little schoolgirls they were, and he changed it for a 20 Baht note. The difference in value is enormous! They were still pleased though.

This second (10:36, what a luxury) I’m sitting in the staff room where I have my own wooden desk and can hear the chatter of children and the school band playing ‘oh when the saints go marching in’ on repeat. The sound of birds, motorcycles and insects also fill the air. I’m currently planning a trip to Chiang Mai with some of the other teaching assistants who I met in Bangkok at the orientation with the British Council and am looking forward to the long weekend.

The noodles I cooked this morning provided a great lunch, but of course, no meal would be complete without pineapple. I sat with the other members of staff on a mat on the floor of the kitchen. It is a very different school environment to what I have seen before and it’s fantastic to have that immediate network of friends; indeed, most of the staff actually live on the school grounds so it is really easy to meet up (or… on the reverse… very difficult not to bump into each other). I also tried a fruit today that I have never seen or heard of before. I’ll try and post a photograph.

DSC00768    Teacher Tim loves Durian                                      DSC00769

Teacher “Friend” is going to Cambodia this long weekend with her family. Teacher Tim and I dropped her off at a nearby bus station, only to realise that all of the buses to Bangkok were full and there wouldn’t be another one for four hours. And… when that one came there was not even a guarantee that she would get a seat. She settled on getting a bus to the nearest town ‘Phitsanulok’ and we dashed back to Wang Sai Phun in order not to miss the celebrations.

We tore past the float, the school band and all of the children to the school. There, we changed into white clothes and dashed back to where the procession was beginning. Unfortunately, as my camera has been stolen, I was unable to take any pictures of a reasonable quality. However, I took a couple on my phone and at some point will be able to get copies from other members of staff (who all seem to possess quite fancy technology). The main events were the traditional Thai dancing and the ceremony in the Buddhist Temple. To get between the two involved a fairly long and sweaty walk. The whole school traipsed between the two places; some of them soaked from perspiration, others from throwing water on themselves or having water fights with their friends. I would have loved to do this, but it did not seem like the right situation for it, what with being the new teacher and all.

The orange robes of the Buddhist monks dominated the temple. I could see very little of the ceremony and understood even less of it. After receiving a sneaky phone call from teacher ‘friend’, teacher Tim and I headed to the bus station to pick her up. Her bus had not arrived, so instead she was going to take a van from the school directly to Bangkok. On the way to pick her up we were stuck in heavy traffic as so many school groups were trying to get to the large temple in Sak Lek. I saw multitudes of student brass bands, young girls and boys heavily made up and costumed as well as the general masses of the school population in their regular uniforms following purposely behind the decorated candles in the trucks. It was 34 degrees Celsius in the shade earlier; this is normal. Somehow people manage.

After school I felt somewhat aimless today, as I had nothing planned for the evening and both of my housemates are away at the moment. I had an entertaining chat with another ETA (English Teaching Assistant) who never fails to amuse, whilst sitting on the window ledge in the kitchen with my feet resting on the wooden slats where our washing up bowl lives. I enjoyed taking in the sounds of the nature before heading inside to procrastinate a little (I still have admin to do for my last job). Singing loudly and badly, lying on the floor getting munched by mosquitoes and dancing around the house to reggae music occupied me for a little while. Thankfully teacher Tim came to the rescue and we went out on her motorcycle to the nearest 7/11 (common corner shop). We ever so briefly, and not seriously, raced another member of staff down the road towards a noodle stand and she insisted that we got some Durian fruit. All I knew about it was that it is huge, spikey and smelly. All of these things were true. I thought it tasted like a huge, warm garlic (and not in a nice way) and politely managed to avoid eating the whole 3kg of it.

A cool breeze fills the space and the sound of animals and motorcycles outside, as well as cockroaches and rats inside, have become homely and sleep inducing. Good night.

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