I have heard that in Thailand there are only two seasons; hot and hotter…
This morning, as with every morning, we had school assembly outside on the concrete beneath the flagpole. As it’s the rainy season the sky is usually quite overcast, but today the sun was beating strongly down on us and I felt like running off to hide in the shade of the school building. One of the teachers talks for about 20 minutes straight and I got the feeling that the students (and other teachers alike) were not particularly interested or listening. Myself included, but I currently have the excuse of not understanding the language.
I had no classes timetabled until 10.30am, but the students didn’t turn up. I’m not sure why, they didn’t turn up yesterday either. It was quite frustrating as I was so ready to teach, but alas, I happily accepted the alternative and engrossed myself in a book.
Lunch today was the best I have had in weeks. There were mixed vegetables (beans, carrots, cauliflower and other greens) in a thin, tasty soup. I also had some melon and pineapple left over from previous days that I shared out with the other staff. It was nice to feel full and satisfied again.
Classes after lunch were amazingly tiring. I have textbooks to work through with the students but often find that they sit down to do work and don’t understand either what they are being asked to do or how to go about answering. It can be quite frustrating. I try to explain things as best as I can through drawings, actions, using examples and translating with a Thai-English dictionary, but it can be difficult as I’m on my own so there is nobody who can translate between the two languages. The classroom, naturally, divides itself into two; the hard working girls who sit at the front and tend to be super keen and willing to try anything, and the naughty/ lazy/ less motivated boys who sit at the back and tend… if not regularly prompted and reminded to go off task and write nothing at all. If I go over to them they pretend to be writing and cover their jotters so I can’t see. I know in school that some of the teachers said ‘it’s for your good and not mine’ and it’s so true. By not doing the work they are losing out, but they are also hindering the productivity of the class as a whole and it seems really unfair.
Sometimes when the students are being a bit silly I just think mai bpen rai (never mind), it’s your loss. But other times, especially at the end of the day on a Friday, I get really annoyed and have to prevent myself from ripping up their jotters, shouting or sending them home. None of these things will solve the problem, and I know that by losing my temper I would be resigning from my position of authority. I’ll just say that I was very glad when the school day was over.
My bicycle has given me a new kind of freedom. It allows me to go where I want and when I want (with a degree of confinement, but still). So, when I was invited to dinner again at the house of two of the other members of staff from the school I thought it best to cycle. This way I would be able to go, enjoy the atmosphere and the company for a bit and then head back in my own time, rather than relying on another teacher with a motorcycle who might not necessarily want to leave.
It was a pleasant ride there, the last bit of it involved cycling down a red dirt track with wooden houses on the left and luscious rice paddies on the right as the sun slowly sank in the cloudy sky. Most of the faces were familiar and I knew the drill. There were snacks and drinks all round while the head of the house prepared meat on a small barbecue that was transferred to the table and cut at regular intervals. I sustained myself on pumpkin seeds, crisps, monkey nuts and Spy (an alcoholic drink that it seems acceptable for ladies to drink in polite company). The atmosphere was greatly enhanced by the presence of a guitar. To my surprise I was able to tune it by ear before the real guitarist took over; two of the male teachers played upbeat melodies together singing, too. I felt, in a very small way, like I was back in Mauritius as music is such a big part of the culture there. It is here too, but it tends to be recordings rather than live. It was much appreciated.
As it was just about to get dark I jumped on my bike and cycled as fast as I could down the dirt track, the side roads and onto the dual carriageway that cuts through the middle of Wang Sai Phun. As I was speeding along side the main road out from nowhere appeared a large, noisy dog. He ran straight for me, barking loudly and wildly causing me to swerve onto the middle section of the road and keep peddling until I couldn’t see him anymore. My heart was racing, and my legs were pumping… the whole way home I dreaded the street dogs incase they wanted to play the same mean trick on me. Fortunately they didn’t and I was able to make it home with no trouble. Phew, the weekend is here!