28.11.2011 - 12.12.2011 15 °C
MONDAY 28th NOVEMBER
The Director gave me the ok to leave school for Christmas on December 22nd so I got busy booking flights etc.
TUESDAY 29th NOVEMBER
If you remember, earlier this year I posted some photo of students filling in two of the pits which had been used to raise catfish. One pit was left and it was this pit that was also ‘opened’ when we had the rubber plantation ceremony last week. Mr Noi had bought some ‘padook’ (catfish) of varying ages to stock the pit which was still lined with the black plastic sheeting from last time and some aquatic plants were added for the fish.
The snag was that when ceremony was about to start it was discovered that the water had seeped away and there were a couple of small puddles at the bottom where the fish were struggling to survive. Despite many people peering into the rectangular pit, which is only about 4 feet deep, nothing was done for the next 24hrs. I thought the obvious thing to do would have been to save the fish and laid down a new plastic sheet, refilled it with water and plants and replaced the fish. But, this is Thailand, and even though the fish were small they were removed and taken home by the students and eaten since when the pit has remained untouched.
WEDNESDAY 30th NOVEMBER
The late morning classes were disturbed by moving desks in readiness for Father’s Day and in the afternoon there were rehearsals so no classes.
THURSDAY 1st DECEMBER
All the teachers had to wear their pink jackets today because students from different local schools came to Sai Moon for what to me seemed rather a mixed day of events. Everyone gathered in the ‘sala’ where plastic blue chairs had been laid out, the stage decorated and an appropriate banner hung (see photo) as a backdrop. There was the usual opening ceremony with the Director lighting the candles on the ‘altar’ and praying followed by a welcome speech.
Next came the first dancing set by Sai Moon students which I have placed on youtube if you’d like to see the performance. Just enter alistairinthailand into the search window and all my videos will appear. Just look for the video titled ‘M3 students dancing’.
After the presentation of certificates to some students and teachers
Next came an anti drugs talk from a senior policeman from Huai Mek during which he asked one of the two female Kalasin dancers to join him on stage and she told the audience about how she was once caught by the police for carrying ten yabaa pills. The effectiveness of her example was deflated when she said that nothing happened to her, she was just given a warning. Surely, the police could have brought a real drug taker along who had served time in prison to warn the students off drugs ?
Lunch followed upstairs with the Director and other teachers in M1’s classroom which had been converted into a dining room.
After lunch various students attached wishes for tomorrow to a golden leafed wishing tree which had been set up by the sala. Then there was the final dancing set this time by some students of traditional dance at Kalasin university. This video is also on youtube. Afterwards they gave a dance workshop to all the female students while the boys got an impromptu Ankalung lesson from Mr Yor.
It was all over by 1pm and the students cleared up and went home.
FRIDAY 2nd DECEMBER
Most of the teachers wore their civil service uniforms today and the senior ones wore their white ceremonial jackets. As I have neither of these outfits I wore a shirt and tie for today’s ceremony to mark the King’s Birthday aka Father’s Day.
The ceremony opened like yesterday which was followed by singing the national anthem and the national song for the King. Both of these I video’d and are now on youtube.
The music for the national anthem played on the sound system was not the version that the students rehearsed on Wednesday. It was a jauntier version which took most by surprise so the singing wasn’t as lusty as expected.
Some Sai Moon M3 students the performed a different dance routine from yesterday and this was followed by the presentation by the Director of certificates to a number of nominated fathers who were joined in front of the stage by their sons. Group photos were taken after this and I have posted some of these for you to see.
The Director made a speech which was followed by him and all the teachers and students signing books in support of Sai Moon School’s official birthday wishes for the King.
More tags were attached to the wishing tree which had been moved to the front of the stage; teachers and students wrote best wishes on golden tags which were attached to the tree. See photo.
The man whose second motorbike I am using surprised me when the stage was being re-set for today’s ceremony when he told me he did not like the King. He told me in a semi-whisper because saying something like this is akin to treason here and a criminal offence. In fact an American, who by coincidence has the surname Gordon, but is definitely not a relation, was jailed the other day for two and a half years for saying something quite tame against the monarchy. Mr – told me that, amongst other things, he blames H.M. for the deaths of all the red shirt protesters last year in Bangkok.
The whole ceremony was over by midday. A short time before this, the Director told me he was going to Wang Saphung and asked me if I would like to go with him to visit my host family at Muang Bang. I thought it was a good idea but had to rush back to the teacher’s house to pack some things right away as the Director wanted to leave asap.
We stopped off twice on the way. The first stop was near Kham Yai (about 7km from Sai Moon) at a ‘resort’ (basically, a collection of small chalet huts which operates like a hotel but with the facilities a hotel would have) where we met up with Dr Moncur (PhD) who is the director of Nong Saeng school near Sai Moon.
We then went in convoy to Dancoon Golf Course just outside Khon Kaen where they each played a full round of golf with their ‘favourite’ female caddies. I opted to walk round the first nine holes with the Director taking short videos of each shot to help him analyse where he is going wrong. It seemed to take ages to walk round and it was a hot afternoon too. I was glad to retire to the golf clubhouse at the halfway point.
Back on the road, we had dinner at a village not far from Muang Bang where the Director met a teacher friend he knew who then paid for the food. We arrived at Meuang Bang about 8pm and got a nice welcome from everyone. We chatted for while and then I had a (cold) shower and then went to bed.
SATURDAY 3rd DECEMBER
I spent this morning messing around with the two boys, playing football, watching the shop and reading my book. Lunch was ordered and delivered from a local restaurant and a bit later we drove to the bus stop on the main road to collect Fern off her bus from Nongbua Lamphu where she goes to school and stays with her grandparents.
Later on we went to the local market where I took some photos of some of the delicacies on offer. In the evening we went to a variety show in Wang Saphung
which featured a mix of acts, some very good, but the show lacked razz-a-matazz and the stage lighting pointed directly at the audience.
Seating was on plastic chairs in a field and, oddly, the audience didn’t really respond to any act and if there was applause at the end of one it was only muted. When all the acts came on stage to wai goodbye the audience left while they were coming on and their was no applause. Even while the last acts were performing workers were dismantling the fence behind the stage and within a few minutes of leaving all the chairs had been stacked and everything was being packed up.
SUNDAY 4th DECEMBER
Played football again this morning with the boys and then had breakfast with the family which consisted of a stew of mushrooms, flower stalks and chicken. Not bad, but the flower stalks made it a bit sour. I also tried to play takraw with Safe but the impact of the hollow plastic ‘ball’ was harder than I thought on the feet. I spent most of the afternoon reading my book while the boys’ parents went to Tesco Lotus about 3pm and left Safe and Best in charge of the shop.
MONDAY 5th DECEMBER
There was a national holiday today for the King’s birthday and the Director came to pick me up about 11am for the journey back to Sai Moon. In every village and town we passed through people were out and about and in most large markets had been set up selling everything you can think of.
We drove back a slightly different way via the Ubonrat dam the waters of which were far higher than normal. The nice thing about this route is that the road runs beside some rocky hills and then winds upwards and then turns into a cutting through the rocks. Descending the other side gives you a nice view over the almost flat tree-dotted countryside.
We arrived back at Sai Moon about 4.30 and I set about unpacking and getting things sorted out for the week ahead. This evening I went into Kranuan with a student for dinner at a buffet barbecue restaurant which was nice. The official ceremony in the King’s presence to mark his birthday, which took place in the gilded throne room of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, was being rebroadcast and shown on a giant screen. There were many uniformed dignitaries (almost every walk of life in Thailand has an official uniform for special occasions) in the seats and in front of them, in the middle of the hall, was a large golden royal monument of some kind.
But this broadcast was quite unlike any equivalent in the UK firstly because the cameras were positioned behind the dignitaries so the viewer only saw their backs. Secondly, because all the action of the ceremony took place on the other side of the monument so neither those attending nor the camera could see what was happening. The result was a static view of the hall with nothing of any real interest to see for the duration of the whole ceremony.
Once the rebroadcast was over there were live relays from different cities around Thailand but in each case the ceremony was much the same. Vast flag-waving crowds gathered in each location to show their respect and love for the King in front of an enormous framed photograph of him resplendent in his golden robes which had been set up above a stage on which there was an array of regalia. The dignitaries came forward one by one to place an icon on a table. In Kranuan a smaller but similar ceremony took place with a firework display at the end.
On a different topic, I went to Tesco Lotus the other day and when I found my favourite Jazz apples from New Zealand were out of stock I looked at the others on offer and decided to try the nice looking Ariane apples, a variety I had never heard of before. I have to say they are very nice indeed and can recommend them to you 100%. The French seem to have cornered about 50% of the market for apples in Thailand (China seems to have the other half) and their apples even have stickers proclaiming Le Crunch. The Ariane apples must be French too, who else would give apples such a name ?
Several of you have asked me if Mr Noi paid me back the 5,500 baht he owed me and I can happily report that he did. I know all about the danger of lending money to friends but he is one person I had no doubt about his promise to repay me.
TUESDAY 6th DECEMBER
It was quite hard to get back into teaching mode this morning and to cap it all M1’s (12/13 y.o.) behaviour in class is worse than ever and it is getting harder to control them. The textbook doesn’t help at all and I am considering ditching it, or at least ditching the very westernised themes and replacing them with topics closer to their lives.
WEDNESDAY 7th DECEMBER
Nothing of note took place during this routine day....sorry about that!
THURSDAY 8th DECEMBER
My weekday motorcycle ride into school was very wobbly this morning and then I discovered I had a flat front tyre. It cost 120 baht (about £2.50) for a new inner tube and fitting which was very cheap and quick.
I went into Kranuan to a barbecue restaurant with the Director, Deputy Director, Mr Weang, Mr Kay, Mr Yor and Mr Jasper this evening which was nice.
FRIDAY 9th DECEMBER
The Director was away today and by this afternoon the Deputy and some other teachers had already disappeared for the long weekend.
You will recall that I have been given responsibility for training a couple of students to take part in a public speaking competition, part of a day of other competitive events. The snag is that the days are passing and I don’t know what the first, mandatory, speaking topic is. If my students get through round one, then they will have to speak on one of four other topics which will be drawn out of a hat. This means they will have a lot of memorising to do!
SATURDAY 10th DECEMBER
I did my weekly laundry in the morning and the settled down to some internet research. I motorbiked into Kranuan to shop a Tesco Lotus this afternoon which was a nice break. You might be surprised to know that there were some Christmas decorations for sale as well as some nicely package items such as Chinese Plums. Most of these are New Year gifts because there are three NY's here: Western, Thai and Chinese!!
The weather is getting colder and as darkness fell today it was distinctly chilly. There was a total lunar eclipse this evening which I watched and took some photos for you in the unlikely event that you missed it. Such photos are not easy to take without a tripod!!
SUNDAY 11th DECEMBER
Late this afternoon I went into Nong Kung Sri market to get something for dinner today and tomorrow. It was cold on the back of a motorbike going there. I have never been in Thailand before at this time of year and didn’t realise just how cold it can be at night. I had to borrow a jacket to keep warm this evening and I went to bed in a t-shirt and wore some ad hoc bed socks which worked a treat.
MONDAY 12th DECEMBER
Another public holiday today, this one to commemorate the inauguration of the Constitution in 1932. I spent much of the day eagerly searching the newly inaugurated online British Newspaper Archive where I discovered more interesting nuggets of family history.