21.09.2011 - 03.10.2011
WEDNESDAY 21st SEPTEMBER
For some reason the date of Ajarn Took’s departure for China has been brought forward to next week so I will probably have to cover some of her classes this week. She told me today that she is going to an island in the south of China where there is a large university. Meanwhile, I encouraged her to start a blog with parts of it in English because it would be a very useful teaching tool as the students know her and would be keen to follow what she is doing.
Of course, if the school’s website would be the ideal place for Ajarn Took’s blog and photos but nothing has changed on the site since I mentioned that although it is accessible it doesn’t contain anything.
From time to time at school there will be howls of laughter about something strange and that something is often an odd insect that someone has found. Boys will scare girls with it and some of the most macho boys will run away from the insect too. You will have seen (I hope) some of the insect photos I have posted in my gallery.
Today, a strange insect was found just as class was supposed to start. It was a very large stick insect. Not the skinny thing I photographed for you before, this one had a double-pencil-thick squishy stick-coloured body, with an ugly face, feelers, long legs and ‘feet’ that cling to things. I know it was squishy because I picked it up to bring to the office for a photo, the boys didn’t dare to do so. There’s a nice photo in my gallery for you ha ha ha!!
THURSDAY 22nd SPETEMBER
I had to cover for Ajarn Took’s three classes today and for M3’s class this morning she had arranged for some of the students to visit Tesco Lotus to buy ingredients to make various styles of food and cook them. The class was split into four groups, one made a salad, another made kebabs, the third made ‘hamburgers’ ( at least that is what they told me they were, but they were really chickenburgers) and the fourth made toasted sandwiches.
It was funny watching make food they are unfamiliar with. Give them a live chicken and they would make boiled chicken with herbs in a flash but they were not so assured with western food. For the chickenburgers they had purchased some very limp sliced brown bread, a packet of diced chicken and some lettuce, onion and salad dressing. After dipping the chicken pieces into batter they put two on a slice of bread, added onion rings, tomatoes and a lot of lettuce and then had a problem trying to slice the burger into quarters. Then someone hit on the brilliant idea of starting out with bread cut into quarters and then adding the ingredients on top, but the idea wasn’t a success!!
The kebabs were cooked over a small charcoal-fired cauldron with a wire grill on top. Small pieces of meat had been threaded onto a very long wooden skewer along with pieces of green chill, tomatoes and pineapple. The snag here was that not did the meat shrink it was also difficult to ensure it was cooked on all sides and inside too. I tried one and it was ok but the chilli was a bit hot.
The salad looked really good with long grated carrot, red and white cabbage, tomatoes, diced apple and piece of onion all laced with bottle mayonnaise. The boys turned up their noses at the salad but the girls seemed to relish it.
Each group made a presentation plate of their work which I tasted and marked. It was an interesting and fun class, though quite why it was done instead of English class I don’t know. Ajarn Took said this type of class only happens with M3 and I must think of another cuisine for the students to try another time. But I don’t think so. M3 only have two periods of English a week and to sacrifice one period for the dubious benefits of having fun cooking something is odd when the students have their Final English Test next week.
After the cooking class I went into the admin office which has a partially glass wall through which one can see into the Director’s office. It was good to see him slumped in his chair fast asleep as I have done the same thing in ‘my’ office two doors down from his.
This afternoon all the students and teachers assembled in the ‘sala’ to say goodbye to Ajarn Took. Two splendid flower arrangements were brought in and deep red rose stems were distributed to as many students as possible. The Deputy Director spoke first followed by some kind words from the Director. Then the flower arrangements were presented to Ajarn Took and I took a photo of her with the flowers and all the teachers which is in my gallery. Then the students came up to the front to say their goodbyes to her and to present their roses to her. Then, finally, she got the mike to say her goodbyes to everyone. I listened carefully to what she said but I didn’t hear the Thai word for English once which seemed a bit odd to me because if I were in her shoes and about to go away for a year I would be urging the students to give her replacement the utmost support in class and to work hard at their English etc etc.
FRIDAY 23rd SEPTEMBER
For my last teaching period this afternoon I had M3 again and we did an exercise from the textbook about putting verbs in sentences into either the Past Simple or Past Continuous tense. Up till now I have left Ajarn Took to tackle the parts of the textbook modules which require detailed explanations because she can do so in Thai and English whereas I cannot. I thought I was not making much headway when there was a sudden tipping point and the students clicked and got the idea about the two tenses and changing the verb to suit.
SATURDAY 24th SEPTEMBER
I spent all day at the teacher’s house working on my laptop and researching on the internet.
SUNDAY 25th SEPTEMBER
Over the last week I have used Mr Noi’s motorbike like the other teachers use theirs to ride from the teacher’s house to school and back at the end of the afternoon. Today, I decided to go into Nong Kung Si to go to Tesco Lotus and visit the ATM. It took 25 minutes to get there at a modest speed which was fine. The small town is usually bustling gently but today it was very quiet even though many businesses were open as usual. Perhaps everybody was at the weekly market which I have only visited once before and didn’t go to today.
MONDAY 26th SEPTEMBER
I had M1 (12/13 y.o.) for the first period this morning but this class and M2 were kept behind after assembly by Ajarn Cat because one or other of the students has deleted something on one of the computers in the computer room. But she talked and talked for ages and ate into my class time cutting my lesson down to about 35 minutes which was annoying as I wanted to give them some revision before the 3 days of Final Tests start on Wednesday.
I discovered by asking today that the English tests for each of the six classes will be on Wednesday afternoon which is perfect for me because, as the only English teacher here now, I will have to mark all the papers and I was concerned that my planned getaway on Friday might be jeopardised.
The weather appears to be a-changing moving from the rainy season to the cool season though cool just means a little less hot, not cool as you in the UK might think of it. On the other hand, the Thai Met Office is saying that the Northeast will be affected by storm Haitang
TUESDAY 27th SEPTEMBER
I am not sure what I will be doing tomorrow or Thursday as the Director previously said I would not be needed for any invigilating. If I find that I really am not needed for anything then I may request that I depart early for the holidays. I see no point hanging around with nothing to do though I want to make sure they pay me before I leave.
I also need to talk to the Director about pay for October. The Thai teachers will be paid as normal even though, apart from two or three days at the start, they will have the whole of the month off. Foreign teachers are often not paid during holidays so it would not be a surprise if the Director says no, but then he wants to keep my interest in Sai Moon and he wants me to follow him to Kumin if he gets the job there so I think the odds are in my favour he’ll pay my salary.
I must also find out exactly which day the school re-opens as November 1st falls on a Tuesday and it may be that the return date will be Monday October 30th which is probably the more logical start date.
Ajarn Kay invited me to come to his home in Roi Et for his nine year old daughter’s birthday party. I couldn’t think quickly enough of a way to say no, so I reluctantly agreed. We left about 2.45pm and about twenty minutes later, after ascertaining I could drive, swapped seats with me and I drove for the next hour and a half. He has a Proton saloon car made in Malaysia which is very comfortable. It is an automatic and has some oomph in the engine.
On the way, I saw many areas where rivers had overflowed into the surrounding fields with large areas under water and the rice crops ruined.
There were lots of children there when we arrived and some adults and people were sitting on mats on the floor eating crabsticks with wasabi sauce or crisps and drinking beer, at least the men were. Thai food was brought in later but the odd thing about get togethers like this is that no rice is provided. One or two people brought their own ‘phitkhao’, a special woven basket containing sticky rice, but that was it. I was starving and really could have done with some rice to fill me up. Although the youngsters left early Mr Kay and his wife’s sisters kept me up till almost midnight. I took some photos and made a video of the party which is on youtube.com
WEDNESDAY 28th SEPTEMBER
On the way to Roi Et yesterday Mr Kay decided for himself that I would want to teach at a school in his village and stay at his house and use a motorbike to get from there to the school and back every day. This is the second or third time that someone has presumed me into a job without asking, first, if I might be interested or what my future plans are etc etc.
I decided to let things ride until this morning when he took me to see the school in question. He used to teach at this school himself and knows all the staff. He told me to walk around and take a look which I did and I saw nothing to tempt me there. Besides, I have no desire to return to teaching in a primary school!
On the way back to Sai Moon I used my trump card to put the whole idea into touch. I am not in a position to make definite plans beyond November because I won’t know my visa situation until then.
It wasn’t till this morning that Mr Kay remembered that he was needed as an invigilator for the first test period in school this morning. He had to ring Mr Yor to get him to cover things until he arrived so we had to race back as fast as possible to Sai Moon.
Although I got changed into my teaching clothes I thought it very unlikely that I would be needed as an invigilator today or at any time during the three days of the Tests. It’s idiotic really!!
With the Director away in Kalasin attending a workshop I asked the Deputy when the school re-opens after the holiday. She said October 25th and then I told her that the Director had previously told me it was Nov 1st or 2nd and it is on the basis of his answer that I have planned my holiday itinerary. In any case, I have a booked flight back from Bangkok to Khon Kaen on October 31st!!
She also said I ought to come back to school on October 6th because it is Ajarn Walida’s birthday and there will be a party. I suppose that’s ok for Thai teachers here because they all live nearby but I pointed out that on October 6th I will be in Chiang Mai and therefore very costly to return to Sai Moon for the party and then go back to Chiang Mai again.
I really do feel that the Thai Education Ministry should step in to prescribe when State schools open and close. As it stands some students will be lucky to get a few days off during October. This is because those students who won at their sports during the three days of competitive sports in Kalasin city last month have to go to Ubon Ratchathani in mid-October to take part in the regional sports competition and if they win again they will go to Surin to take part in the national finals.
Teachers also need a break. At the moment the Thai teachers at Sai Moon go off on their holiday on October 7th, a week after the students, during which time they will do paperwork – little is computerised! They will return to Sai Moon, as I mentioned, on Oct 25th so they will get eighteen days off at most. There is a teacher’s union in Thailand but it doesn’t appear to do very much.
THURSDAY 29th SEPTEMBER
I spent most of the day marking test papers. So far there’s no Great Leap Forward in terms of the results but I did find evidence of copying. One of the curious things about exams in the schools I have been at is that the teacher/invigilator sits at a desk OUTSIDE the classroom and only very occasionally, if ever, ventures inside the classroom to do any actual invigilating. The result is that students sitting near their friends copy from each other although I have repeatedly told them that if they do so they risk copying the wrong answer as much as copying the right one.
Anyway, I have photographed the M1/M2/M3 test paper and the paper for M4/M5/M6 just so that you can have some fun pitting your wits against the Sai Moon students. ENJOY!!!!
FRIDAY 30th SEPTEMBER
The last Final Tests were held this morning and then the students went home. I finished off marking the test papers and made a chart of all the results which I can use next time round as a comparison as the actual answer papers have to be returned to the ‘academic department’.
I spent the rest of the morning ironing some shirts and packing my bag and having some lunch. Mr Noi has offered to drive me to Namphong this afternoon which is very kind of him but then I did help him out of a hotspot last week when he ran out of money by lending him 1500 baht (about £30). A chunk of his salary comes from the Education Office in Kalasin city and it seems they have a computer glitch so nothing has been paid into Mr Noi’s bank account.
After lunch I had to wait an hour or so for Ajarn Wilaida to return from Nong Kung Si where she withdrew money from the school’s bank account to give to the Director who then gave me September’s salary. He also told me that I wouldn’t get any money for October....boo hoo!!
He also said he feels 80% certain of getting the directorship of the larger school in Kumin and that he should know the result in about a week. He made it clear that he would like me to follow him to Kumin and teach English there. If he gets the job presumably he will start before the new term opens. If so, and assuming the new director at Sai Moon starts promptly, I will have about three weeks to see what he (or just remotely possibly she) is like before having to take the final decision about staying at Sai Moon or going to Kumin.
At Namphong, I caught a bus to Udon Thani where I will stay for 3 nights and then fly to Chiang Mai where I will stay for ten nights before flying south to Bangkok for four nights and will end the holiday by the sea in Pattaya where I will be for my final ten nights. I will be meeting up with friends in each of these places and I expect there will be surprises and new experiences along the way which I will tell you about in my blog. But don’t expect too much because my plan is to eat, and eat some more, rest, enjoy a comfortable bed with proper sheets, luxuriate in a hot shower and generally enjoy civilisation again.
SEPTEMBER 30-OCTOBER 3RD IN UDON THANI
I stayed at the Silver Reef hotel, where I have stayed before, which is located right in the centre of town close to the bus station. I was last here in April and the new extension to the Central Plaza shopping centre has mushroomed upwards and it looks set to be completed late this year or early next year. All the shops on the side of the existing mall which will connect to the new building have closed.
In another part of town, known as UD Town, a vast new IT Centre is being built to complement the hip and futuristic shops and boutiques that are already in business. There’s a large food court there too where I had dinner on two evenings which were very tasty indeed.
On my last full day in Udon torrential rain poured down from about 4pm onwards. I had been in UD Town when the first raindrops fell and I hastened under cover and walked as fast as I could to the covered market which was the nearest point to my hotel that I could reach without getting a soaking. I sat down at an empty table to wait t out but after about an hour it became obvious that no end was in sight so I decided to buy (another!!) umbrella in the market to get me home dry. By the time I stepped out of the covered area to go back to my hotel the rainwater was about 4” deep on the road and there was no alternative but to wade through it in my flip-flops!
By the morning all the rainwater had disappeared and everything was as dry as a bone again. I had a very pleasant lunch at the Bookshop cafe which recently moved to its present site with views of a park with a nice lake. The menu was mostly British/European and ranged from traditional breakfasts to pizza and pasta. I had a jacket potato covered with tuna mayonnaise and sweetcorn and an iced coffee. It was very nice but I think there could have been more mayonnaise as it was a bit on the dry side.
About 5.30pm I got a tuk tuk to take me and my bags to the airport where my flight was at 7.25pm for the one hour trip to Chiang Mai. Everything went very smoothly and I arrived in my Chiang Mai hotel, the one I have stayed in for the last few visits to the city, safe and sound about 9pm.