Hot! In the last week it hasn’t rained here at all. Although it is the rainy season the powerful sun has dominated the skies and we are feeling the consequences. It has got to the point that only two showers a day is pushing it, to the point that all fans seem to do is create a regular warm breeze inside. Alas, we keep going, keep teaching, eating and sleeping, hoping for the sweet relief of rain and cool air; it will come.
I have been at Anubanwangsaipoon for three weeks today and as time goes on I feel myself improving as a teacher, but more importantly I am seeing the students come out of their shells, or receding back slightly (in the case of the loud, obnoxious ones). I have activities planned in advance of every lesson and am now managing to have enough different things to do to suit the wide range of keenness levels and ability of the kids. Grade 5/1, to my utter amazement and pride, walked in at 1.30pm and obediently returned to the positions I had placed them in yesterday without being prompted in any way. I was very impressed by them and the set up was conducive to a peaceful and productive lesson.
There is a set routine that takes place at the beginning of each class. One of the students is assigned to call out ‘please stand up’. Everyone therefore stands up and says in unison ‘Good morning teacher’. The teacher proceeds to say ‘Good morning students. How are you?’ They ALL say ‘I am fine thank you, and you?’ the emphasis on the ‘you’, it is always very amusingly intonated, being inflected at the end. The teacher tends to say ‘I am also fine thank you. Please sit down’, and only then can the class begin. I like to mix this up a bit to make sure the students actually know what they are saying, also occasionally saying ‘excuse me’ if they don’t speak clearly to the point that they end up shouting so loud they lose their voices- it keeps them interested and is hilarious to witness! Sometimes I say ‘I’m very good’ or ‘Not very well’ and explain why. This always surprises them. Today though, I made a slightly embarrassing mistake. When it was time for the students to stand up I looked out across the sea of them and saw one head that remained A LOT lower than the rest of them and gestured wildly for this rogue to stand up… On hearing ripples of laughter and spotting the face of this child I realised that it was Panumad, who is naturally a good foot or so shorter than everyone else in the class. Whoops. He didn’t mind and it caused a bit of hilarity, but in a very controlled and friendly way.
The theft of my handbag on the second day in Bangkok has had relatively long term effects. They are being resolved one by one. Apparently I can’t make an insurance claim until I get back to Scotland, I have a new handbag (that my director brought back from China for me), a replacement wallet etc, but the main worry was getting a new passport and visa. The process is slow, but is moving along now. For some reason British Passports cannot be processed in Thailand. This meant that my application for a new one had to get sent to Hong Kong and back to Bangkok. My passport, which contains a picture of me looking like a drowned rat after getting utterly lost and soaked in the tropical rain on the way to the photo shop in the dark, awaits me in Bangkok. Next Monday is (another) public holiday, this time to celebrate the Queen’s birthday, and more generally mothers’ day. As a consequence the passport office is closed. I’m currently trying to organise a trip to the passport office (that is only open between 8am-11am) so will mean spending at least one night in Bangkok and missing at least one day of school. Teacher Tim offered to come with me but I don’t think it would be fair on the children to lose 2/3 of the English teachers at once. The visa application will be the next step, and getting it re-stamped by customs, how exciting.
Post Offices are probably one of my favourite kinds of public buildings. I like writing letters, addressing envelopes, putting the stamps on and slipping them into the post box not to be opened again until it reaches the person on the other side, they might be round the corner, or on the other side of the world. A quick cycle (after re-claiming the bike I’ve been using from beneath one of the other teacher’s houses) to the post office was most welcome. It felt good to cut through the heat and feel the breeze on my skin. On the way back to school my eyes fell upon a striking scene. When winding slowly through the back streets I saw a traditional raised wooden house. In the open kitchen area an elderly woman sat cross legged peeling vegetables, her face illuminated by years of experience, clad only in a long skirt. It looked very natural and the orientalist within me appreciated the scene.
A concrete square was set on some grass by the side of the school on the first day I arrived. Gradually bamboo walls were put up around it, then an iron gate… and now an open-air swimming pool (like a large bowl) had been placed inside. From what I have gathered I am the only one who is excited about this, in fact I think I am excited enough for all of the staff. Bounding up to the director’s office to ask for the key was thrilling, until it transpired that he didn’t have it. I was told that another teacher had it and to come back later. Dutifully I returned exactly two hours later to discover that this chap wouldn’t be in until tomorrow. The water looked irresistible so I precautiously climbed over the iron gate and dipped my arm in. The sun had heated the first couple of inches at the top, but beneath that were the cool, tempting depths. I can’t have been very surreptitious as when I turned round to go back three boys adorned the gate and about ten others of various heights, shapes and sizes looked at me quizzically. Later on I asked the director if I could just climb over and go for a swim but he was not keen and justified this by explaining that there was no chlorine in the pool so I had to wait. I’ll update on the progress of this avenue tomorrow!
The art room was, as with last night, was the place to ‘work’ overtime. More teachers joined us; there were six of us in total. Spending the evening in the company of them makes them feel closer to being friends than colleagues, especially as I don’t encounter any of them during my classes as we all teach on our own. The director joined us too and there was some talk of all of us going to the ‘Crocodile Bar/Club (?)’ in Phichit to go dancing. However, Teacher Tim told me that if we did this she would sit and watch, as she doesn’t like dancing. I’m not sure about it. Maybe tomorrow…
When I got home I had some contact with the UK, with my mother. When we spoke on Skype I had to turn off the fan because it was too loud, the result being a very hot and sweaty Charlie. Despite having a “shower” beforehand I had to follow up with another one afterwards. I’m just glad that in my net mosquitoes, and moths actually, proved not to be problematic. For the first time in a while I was able to listen to music directly in my ears when I went to be, finally I got round to replacing my (very) broken headphones and it feels like magic having such a clear sound.
If you have any music recommendations for me please comment, I’m quite keen on trying out some new things!