A Travellerspoint blog

21-29th July: INSPECTIONS--GAMES--TU-KAYS EYE SNAIL--CAREERS

rain

THURSDAY 21ST JULY

I have mentioned the abundance of butterflies here before but I was very lucky to catch two of them mating. The two have different colouring but I assume one must be the male and the other the female though I have no idea which is which, or how you tell their sex anyway!

I also managed to get a photograph of a real lizard as opposed to another gecko. This has a very long tail which must be so awkward when crawling around small spaces.

The much anticipated inspection visit took place this morning. Kalasin province is divided into two zones and each zone has six schools. The six directors from the schools in each zone spend a week every year inspecting the six schools in the other zone. The Sai Moon director, Mr Panakhun is away this week as part of the team inspecting the six schools in the other zone.

There are twenty four standards which each school has to meet and supporting documents of each standard are gathered together in lever-arch files and laid out for the inspecting directors to examine. There are two photos in my gallery showing you the files for my school along with a display of crafts which students have made.

This morning, about 9am, the inspecting directors were welcomed by a short performance by M1, the youngest class, playing the Ankalung. Each instrument was decorated with a peacock feather and, in case of any doubt about which country the school is in, a Thai flag.

The inspecting directors left at 11.30 which gives you some idea of the depth of the scrutiny of all those lever-arch files.

I have been tipped off by Mr Weang, a teacher who doubles as a sort of Admin Officer who does the purchasing for the school, that there is not enough money in the budget to pay me at the end of this month. I am sure that Mr Panakhun, as an honourable man, will sort something out but it made me wonder what I should do if the worst happens and there really is no money left. Should I stay or should I leave ?

If I leave I suppose I would go into holiday mode and I might return to the UK sooner rather than later since holidaying is far more expensive than being in teacher mode!

What would you do if the money stops ? Comments PLEASE!!

FRIDAY 22ND JULY

It rained all night, at times torrentially. I am trying to discover why it is that water sits in the rice paddies but rainwater soaks away elsewhere. I have seen farmers preparing their paddies and they do not use any form of lining to aid water retention so it is a bit of a mystery.

All the lever-arch files and other items were cleared from the room this morning by students who took them to an admin room in the other wing where they will be stored until the next occasion.

Tomorrow a small group of teachers, including me and Ajaan Took, will go to the temple at Kham Yai where we will teach or otherwise occupy students from an Informal School.

This evening Ajaan Wilian invited all the teachers, plus her older sister and her 14 y.o. son, to dinner in Kranuan. We, went to one of the two barbecue restaurants that we always go to. There were twenty people around the table and I happened to sit downwind of the steaming broiler on the table. It always happens that the heat and steam seem to come my way no matter where I sit.

As I’ve mentioned before, at these places you collect plastic plates and fill them with the items you want to eat. You can return and replenish as often as you like but I usually only put the amount on my single plate that I think I can eat. I put the items on the broiler to cook and then eat them. The Thais, on the other hand, collect several plates and pile them high with fish and meat and other things. Food is a big thing here. It occupies a lot of conversation time and they eat prodigious amounts as if each meal could be their last.

The mother of the 14 y.o. (rather overweight like his Mum) boy told me more than once that he was special as he had such an interest in English and I expected some conversation. However, the first thing he said to me was ‘Are you delicious’. Enough said!

SATURDAY 23RD JULY

Today was spent teaching at an English for Communication Day at Huai Mek temple for about 150 students from the local Informal School. An Informal School is for those who have left school who want to catch up on what they missed (or should have done) at regular school or for those who want to do vocational subjects. These schools exist all over Thailand and they are paid for by the government and they are free for students and they are usually far better equipped (with multimedia and air con etc etc) than my school here at Sai Moon.

Before the day started wasn’t sure if it was going to be a good experience or not. I had had only a sketchy briefing and I thought it would be a bit chaotic, Thai style of course!!

In the event everything went well and, I admit, it was good fun for everybody and it was well organised. Having to do some and hoc teaching to a group of 150 mixed age students was a bit daunting as this was thrust on me unexpectedly. Luckily, I was working with Ajaan Took in the morning because it does help having her to translate for me so the students know what I am saying and can then know the context of the teaching point.

I take a little back from what I said about Ajaan Took as she is a born entertainer. Today was not all about teaching English it was also about having fun by singing songs and playing games in between the English practice and she is very good at both skills. I had never come across the two main games before so I mention them here in case any of you are in need of inspiration.

The first game was Birds in the Nest which is ideal with a large group as we had today. The students are formed into two concentric rings. Each ring walks in the opposite direction. The idea is that at any given moment, while the students are circling, a whistle will blow. Any two people hold hands with arms held forward and wide apart thus forming the ‘nest’. When the whistle blows the MC for the game (me standing on a chair so everyone can see me) announces how many students have to get into the nest, ie the ‘birds’ are encircled by the arms of the ‘nest’. I had a mike and I held my arm and indicated with my fingers how many birds were required in the nest. It can be any number up to five. People failing to get into a next are eliminated from the game.

It is good fun as the students frantically search for a nest place and are in competition with each other.

By this time the large group of students had been divided into four sub-groups of about 30 or so each. Each sub-group went to one of four Stations where they did different activities and had more English practice.

The other game I was involved in has to be played along a flat surface. The sub-group was divided into three teams. At the starting point were three plastic bags containing chewy or dry or sweet items to eat as well as small bottles of water and orange juice. Teams had to devour the contents of their bag of food before moving on to the next stage which involved three nominated team members dipping a hand through a slot in a cardboard box filled with paper litter and two small fruit items plus a lime. The person who picks the lime is the one who has to perform the final stage which involves tying a string around a large radish and around his/her waist so that the radish hangs down between the legs. The idea is that the person has to move in such a way to swing the radish on the string between the legs in order to hit the lime on the road and push it forward towards the finishing line. Needless to say, everyone was convulsed with laughter. The winner in each sub-group was given a prize. It was great fun and I took some photos during the day which are in my photo gallery.

In the evening, Ajaan Took took us to dinner at a restaurant on the way to Kranuan. I had been there once before not long after I came to Sai Moon but since then it has been transformed and although it still features eating cabins on stilts on a lake they have been rebuilt as has the kitchen and it is now much smarter and has a more designed appearance. We had the usual range of food to eat as well as something new which was a whole leg of roasted (or perhaps barbecued) pork. Most of the meat had been removed from the bone for convenience and there was lots of crackling though it wasn’t quite the same as back home. I suspect the skin had been rubbed with something before roasting to make it much darker. But it was good!! It came with a small portion of French fries which the other teachers soon snapped up. But the amount of food consumed was so great that there was insufficient room on the table to place all the platters and little bowls of dipping sauce.

SUNDAY 24TH JULY

Nothing much happened today as I stayed at the teacher’s house all day and worked online to try and fill the few remaining gaps in the Gordon family tree for my next book.

I forgot to mention that the other evening I saw a confrontation between a snail and a gecko. The snail’s shell could not have been more than about half an inch across and it slid steadily up the wall towards the gap where the tu-kay gekkos lie in wait for passing insects to eat. There are about eight tu-kay there, two larger ones which I assume are the parents of the smaller, the juvenile and the baby ones that all inhabit the same long gap corner of the ceiling above the verandah.

All eyes were on the snail in the distance, about four feet away, and then, suddenly, one of the adult tu-kays darted forward towards the snail. I thought it was going to scoop it up but it stopped short, about six inches way from the snail, and it seemed to be thinking ‘What on earth is that ???’

Moments later, it did a u-turn and darted back to the safety of the gap and its family. Undeterred, another tu-kay rushed towards the snail which seemed unaware of its impending fate. It’s antennae were extended and it slid slowly but steadily up the wall. This time, the tu-kay decided the snail was edible and it lunged forward and caught it in its mouth before scampering back to the gap to try and eat this strange thing. I just wished I’d had my camera to take a video of this incident for you!!

MONDAY 25TH JULY

Mr Not was busy this morning away from his school so I was unable to go and teach at Kut Don today and as I had no classes at Sai Moon I did some washing and for lunch had some of the remaining cheese and biscuits.

This morning in the washroom I saw a tiny jumping frog the body of which was about half an inch across and it jumped further, in proportion to its body, than I have ever seen a frog jump before. It caught my eye while I was have a pee in the loo bowl which, as you will recall, is not the western kind, but one that you squat over though I was standing at the time of course.

This tiny frog was leaping up to try and get a grip on the tiles. I’d seen yesterday in the same area and was surprised to see it again but this time it was unable to cling get a grip on the tiles and kept falling back and I thought that any moment it is going to jump into the loo bowl and perish so I set about trying to rescue it to take it to more congenial surroundings. The little blighter didn’t appreciate my efforts and kept jumping away and it actually jumped right across the loo bowl as if it knew the danger there.

After a while I did manage to catch it with the help of a plastic bowl and I transferred it to a wet and leafy patch outside. I hope it liked its new home!

Talking of frogs, you may (or may not) be wondering what happened to all the spawn in the concrete water tank in from of the house. The tadpoles grew and by the beginning of June they had legs and were transforming themselves into froglets, It was hard to see much further progress because the water steadily got darker as it was polluted with falling leave and other stuff. There are frogs in there as I have seen one or two but I think they are often lurking just below the surface and out of sight. They can exit the tank through the drain hole the bottom of which is level with the water’s surface.

This afternoon I accompanied Mr Weang when he drove into Kranuan to a computer shop which mainly specialises in the repair of printers and I had the opportunity to look around. I came across a display of loudspeakers for use with a pc or a laptop but what made them more interesting was the fact that they were designed and manufactured by a Thai company in Bangkok called Saag and a pair of nicely designed quality speakers (not the smallest in their range) with good specifications was only 240 baht (about £5.00) which is an amazingly low price.

After the computer shop we visited Tesco Lotus where I succumbed to buying a pack of Muesli which I will have for breakfast over the next week or so which will be a nice change.

By going to Kranuan Mr Weang and I missed a teacher’s meeting at school at which it was announced that on August 3rd some Directors from other schools will visit Sai Moon to check on the environment of my school: the buildings, the toilets, classrooms, the garden and wooded areas etc etc. Responsibility for the different areas were given to the teachers.

TUESDAY 26TH JULY

This morning the teachers with responsibilities for the environmental inspection told their respective classes what was expected and some work began immediately after morning assembly.

I always think that inspections like this are a waste of time since my school will ensure that all the areas to be inspected are nice and clean and looking good thus ensuring a good report. It is much better that inspections are unannounced so that the inspectors see things as they really are which, in turn, will force schools to make sure everything is clean and looking good 365 days a year and not just for inspection day.

I spotted another new butterfly this afternoon. It was white but the outer upper quarter of each wing was bright orange. Unfortunately, it was one of the rare afternoons I did not have my camera to hand in my bag!

WEDNESDAY 27TH JULY

Over the last couple of days the more senior student classes have been making a screen to print on a t-shirt. It is basically a cardboard A4 frame on which they have copied a design and then cut out with a blade the sections of the design to be printed. The disappointing thing is that most of the students have copied the same design saying Long Live the King. While I suppose this is ok in a country that venerates the King as if he were a God I feel it is a missed opportunity for students to be creative and do their own thing.

There was one student who I found had copied the well known image of Che Guavara for his screen but when I asked him about who he was he only knew the name and nothing about who he was or what he did.

There are pictures of the King and Queen in every classroom and office and a giant portrait at the junction on the road that leads to the school and the national anthem gets sung at assembly every morning and it is played on every tv and radio station at 8am and 6pm daily. In addition to which, every evening there is a TV programme devoted to the day’s doings of the royal family. In the same programme, as the King is in hospital, there is a section where people of all ages, all dressed in their finest and those employed by the government (such as police and teachers) dressed in their white uniforms pay homage to a giant portrait of the King. Everyone brings elaborate floral or other objects as gifts. A row at a time comes forward to kneel, place their gift on a table, prostrate themselves in homage, get up and move to the side so that the next row can come forward to do the same thing. Off camera there are people who remove the offerings to make space for the next row. There’s probably a giant warehouse somewhere in Bangkok where all these offerings are devotedly kept.
If not, then there must be a venerable tip somewhere!

On the rare occasions when the subject comes up in a conversation I make a point about how people, in the UK and in those countries where she is Queen, can talk openly and freely about the Queen and her family and the succession and all the other points of interest which are all strictly illegal here. Thais seem to think that being open about the monarchy is somehow disrespectful but this may change after the passing of the current King and Queen.

THURSDAY 28th JULY

There were no classes today as the day was given over to a team from the Labour Office in Kalasin city who came to the school to give careers advice. Even before assembly this morning there was feverish activity getting the ‘sala’ ready including a PA system with large banks of speakers which, unfortunately, didn’t work properly for the welcome from the Director and the introduction from the head of the Labour Office team.

The team arrived about 9am by which time all the students were sitting down in class groups in the floor of the ‘sala’. Cords had been strung between the pillars on which to hand large boards with advice on particular careers.

Different members of the 4-person team took it in turns to talk to the students. The only female in the team happened, whether by chance or design I’m not sure, to be an ex-Sai Moon student. She was also the person who brought some levity into the proceedings in between the serious stuff by getting the students to sing a song, or to clap to a certain well known complex rhythm expressly so she could catch-out some students.

During another break from the talking she got four students from two different classes to go to the front. The task she set was to sing a single note and hold the notes as long as possible. It just so happened that when walking around picking the students at random she picked a boy from M4 (15/16 y.o.) who simply does not want to learn anything and whenever asked a question simply refuses to say anything. When it came to this boy’s turn to sing the note he refused to say or do anything and despite encouragement from her and from the other students he kept silent.

The end was so funny because after the other three students had tried singing and holding the note she asked the rest of the assembled students to applaud and the competitor who got the longest applause would be the winner. The silent student’s classmate, Ap, held the note by far the longest and he received the second longest applause but the rebellious students applauded the silent boy even longer which had everyone laughing their socks off.

In the afternoon session the students had to complete a questionnaire which was designed to place students into broad work categories such as Realistic, Investigative, Social, Conventional, Enterprising and Artistic or RISCEA.

FRIDAY 29th JULY

At assembly this morning the director gave a talk to students in which he announced the death of Princess Bejaratana, a member of the Thai royal family, and ordered that the Thai flag should be hung at half mast and then assembly carried on as normal.

The environmental inspection takes place next week and work continues to beautify the classrooms and outside areas. Today students are busy creating learning corners in their classrooms and large quantities of poster and decorating materials have been purchased for the students to use. Other students are tidying up the rubbish that’s been lying around the school since before I came here.

An ‘I told you so’ moment came this morning when I found two of the teachers looking at and pondering what to do about a collection of old and broken desks and furniture and other metal and wooden rubbish. Two or three months ago, before the swimming pool-sized hole by the school gate was filled with soil, I suggested to the Director that it would be a good dump for all this old junk which could then be covered, as planned, with the soil thus killing two birds with one mango stone (lol!!). But my idea wasn’t taken up and now there is nowhere to get rid of the junk. It is not as if there’s a municipal dump down the road! My guess is that it will be moved out of sight somewhere.

Posted by talismanic 00:37 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

11-20th July: NEW SCHOOL - TESTS - BANGKOK - BEACH - HP7 WOW

semi-overcast

MONDAY 11TH JULY

Mr Not came to collect me at 8am to take me to Kut Don school which was about 20 minutes’ drive away. It’s an older school than Sai Moon and there is not as much outdoor space and it is a mixed school in that it has an Anuban, or nursery class, as well as primary schools Prathum 1 to 6 and secondary classes from M1 to M4. IN all there are about 240 students.

When I arrived the morning assembly was taking place and I was almost immediately asked to come and say a few words to the school using the microphone on hand. After that it was seemingly endless introductions and wai-ing.

I had three classes before lunch and one after which kept me busy. Unlike Sai Moon there are a couple of women who prepare lunch for the students and staff and although it wasn’t particularly interesting at least it was different.

For the first class I usually introduce myself and tell them about the structure of the UK and draw a map on the board. I then ask who is interested in football and there is always someone who says he likes Manchester United or Chelsea etc and I get those students to come and place an X on the map showing where they think Manchester or Chelsea or Liverpool is located. This is always good fun and good interaction. I then tell them about British money, showing them examples that I have of all the banknotes and coins and, having given them the exchange rate, then get them to calculate how much each British note/coin is worth in baht.

If there is time, I also have several large size postcards with multiple pictures of famous London landmarks which I pass around the then tell them something about the photographs. I also tell the students about the Queen, what her name is, why she is II, where she lives in London and how to discover if she is at home. All good fun and while it is fun for the students this lesson helps me to get to know the students before starting real lessons next time.

The only negative aspect of Kut Don is that classrooms still have blackboards rather than whiteboards so I got covered in chalk dust.

TUESDAY 12TH JULY

I had little to do all day, the first day of Mid Term Tests as the Thai teachers did all the invigilating. In the late afternoon I went with the Director to see the grandfather of Mr Noi’s wife in Huai Mek hospital. He seemed very well and should be home again tomorrow. Apparently, he’s been ill for a while and he’s about 72 years old.

Afterwards we went to a barbecue restaurant in Huai Mek which was very enjoyable as the Director and I chatted on all sorts of topics including the school website which he hasn’t visited but was surprised when I told him there was nothing of interest on it and when I reminded him what www stands for.

WEDNESDAY 13TH JULY

A busy morning for a change because I had to mark the Mid Term Test papers for M4, M5 and M6. In the English test there were 31 questions and the highest mark in those three classes was 19, or 62.7%. One student scored 18 and three scored 16, or 52.8%. The rest were lower. A disappointment really especially since I had M5 and M6 last Friday and had gone through the questions they could expect. Twenty of the 31 questions were four sentence scenarios: In the Shop; At the Market etc etc in which the shop assistant says something and you fill the blank in the reply with a choice of four possible answers.

Five of the other eleven questions involved writing in English, eg 20, 103 etc and writing out a time (8.30) in words. The remaining six points came from a short dialogue with blank spaces and a set of seven possible words to select from.

It rained heavily in late afternoon and early evening but, luckily, I avoided getting a soaking.

THURSDAY 14TH JULY

After assembly I had breakfast as usual in the school canteen and then packed my bag. Mr Weang took me to Kranuan about 11.30 and I arrived at the bus station just in time to catch the bus to Khon Kaen bus station where I got a taxi to the airport for my 2.20pm flight to Bangkok. An hour later I arrived in Bangkok where I got a taxi into the city and my hotel.

FRIDAY/SATURDAY/SUNDAY 15/16/17TH JULY

I did very little while I was in Bangkok because my objective was to get back into civilisation and to rest, relax and eat some decent food. The outstanding dinner of the weekend was at Fuji, an inexpensive Japanese restaurant that has branches in the major cities in Thailand. They do a full range of sushi and sashimi as well as noodles, katso and salads; the latter were particularly delicious.

There is no Wagamama in Thailand but I am certain it would go down a storm if one was opened.

I must be one of the few people on the planet who has never seen a complete HP film so I went with a friend to see HP7 and in 3D too. I was really good and the 3D made a huge difference. If you haven’t seen HP7 yet then I heartily recommend it.

I spent much of Sunday afternoon on the beach at Jomtien, near Pattaya. The cloudy weather of the last couple of days changed to bright sunshine and it was a really nice and relaxing experience and about as different from Sai Moon as I could imagine.

During my time in Thailand people have offered me many ad hoc things to eat which have usually turned out to be very sour or simply inedible. So when I was in Bangkok I thought I would turn the tables on my fellow teachers and I bought some cheese at a delicatessen. I bought some imported Swiss Emmental because of its distinctive flavour and some Lancashire cheese because it is one of a range made in Thailand. I would have bought some Cheddar instead but it had sold out. I also bought some small cheese biscuits and a knife because the only knife of any kind around here is a large cleaver.

MONDAY 18TH JULY

I got a taxi to the airport and got my Thai Airways flight to Khon Kaen. Although the flight is only one hour they serve a snack and coffee. It is always something nice and this time it was three different finger sandwiches and a piece of fruit cake which was certainly the nicest I have had in Thailand (no competition there!!) and one of the nicest ever.

At Khon Kaen airport you have to find one of the taxi drivers who are usually hanging around the exit door and, after agreeing a price, he will take you up three flights of steps to the upper car park and his taxi. As always, the drivers try and rip you off but I stood my ground and told him what I was charged to come from the bus station to the airport last Thursday and he caved in.

At the bus station I got the bus to Kranuan and while on it I phoned around to try and get someone to meet me and take me to Sai Moon. Unfortunately, I was unable to raise anyone so when I arrived at Kranuan bus station I had no option but to resign myself to a tuk tuk as there are no taxis in the town. I loaded my bags and was negotiating a price when a girl tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was Mr Al. I agreed I was while asking myself who she could be. She turned out to be Mt Phiman’s daughter who I had met before a few months ago. Her father had just dropped her off so she could get the bus to go to Khon Kaen university but if she had come a few minutes later then I would have been slowly tuk tuk’ing my way to Sai Moon. So I was very lucky to get a lift from Mr Phiman and all was well.

TUESDAY 19TH JULY

There is something distinctly odd about the mentality of some of the teachers here. Last week we had the Mid Term Tests for each of the classes so I would have thought that as all the tests had already been marked that the next period after the Tests (ie this week) would give the students their marks, go through the questions and review their work. So before my classes with M5 and M6 today I asked Ajaan Took for the Test papers but she said they weren’t available because the Deputy wants to review them and there are people from the Provincial education office in Kalasin coming to the school on Thursday and we have to prepare for that.

If I had my way I’d sack her on the spot as she is growing more and more useless by the day and I’d sack a few other teachers too while I was at it! I told her that the students would expect a review of their Test papers and would want to know their marks as happens in schools everywhere else. I said that if I was a student I would want to know my marks asap and I felt sure she would as well.

I made it quite clear that I was unhappy and that the preparations for Thursday should not take precedence no matter how important they might appear to be. Eventually she agreed to get the papers for me and, about halfway through my class, a student brought them to me so all was well in the end. But what if I hadn’t made a fuss and made it happen?

As for Thursday’s visit, there seems to be an air of panic as teachers were busy printing off documents and filling lever-arch files bought specifically for the visit. The people coming will be checking the school budget, looking at building maintenance, checking the working of the school etc. There are four areas of checks they will be making.

This evening I staged a cheese tasting with Ajaans Yor and Kay. Ajaan Kay behaved as though I was offering him a scorpion to eat but I managed to get him to have some Emmental but he didn’t like it because it wasn’t smothered in chillies. Ajaan Yor tried both cheeses and was interested in the cooking properties of cheese but I don’t think he was very impressed. I told them they now know how I feel when I get something strange offered to me to eat and I think they got the point.

But it is really sad that although Isaan people are very nice and smiley etc etc they do live in a kind of bubble rarely leaving Isaan and never travelling outside Thailand and rarely, if ever, having the chance to try any food other than what they are used to. As for the cheese, the less they like it the more there is for me, ha ha!!

WEDNESDAY 20TH JULY

Last week Mr Kay attended a course near Bangkok about drug, smoking and alcohol abuse in school. He came back yesterday and I asked him what he plans to do about the boys smoking by the motorbike shed and elsewhere. He said he would tell the police and that they will talk to the boy’s parents. When this happens I will let you know, but I don’t think I will be telling you of a police visit any time soon!

Posted by talismanic 01:46 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

July 1-9th: 1st FEMALE PM--RICE PLANTING--GRRRRRRH!!--EXAMS

sunny

FRIDAY 1ST JULY

An overcast day with rain showers. I went with Mr Weang to Mr Phiman’s restaurant in the village where we had breakfast which was a nice change and the first time I’d had breakfast there not that there is anything special on the menu for breakfast. The short menu is the same no matter which meal you go there for. While there, Mr Weang persuaded me to buy some tickets for today’s lottery. I don’t suppose I will be lucky, but you never know.

In the evening I went in Mr Weang’s pick-up with Mr Hot and Mr Kay to Kranuan where we had some food then played some enjoyable games of snooker. Afterwards, we visited a couple of karaoke bars. We were the only customers in the first one so we only stayed about one hour; there were other customers in the second bar but it was otherwise a rather soulless place and we left when it closed at 1am and went back to Sai Moon.

Sure enough, I was unlucky in the lottery so I am not a baht millionaire!!

SATURDAY 2ND JULY

Mr Yor normally buys and cooks the food at the house for everyone and because he went away, with M5 student Tik, for a few days yesterday for some religious event near Bangkok there was no breakfast this morning.

During the morning Mr Hot came to the house driving a ’buffalo tractor’ with the trailer loaded with sticks of Man Sapalang, cassava to you and me. He asked me to come and take some photos of the students planting the sticks and fixed a plastic chair at the front of the trailer for me to sit on the short journey to the school’s field. As we arrived one of the trailer tyres hit a bump which ejected me sharply from my seat and I fell off and hit the ground. The female students who were waiting for us laughed hysterically but, luckily, I landed on my feet so no injury done other than embarrassment.

The sticks were unloaded and two of the girl students used machetes to trim and shorten the sticks prior to planting. There are photo of this in my gallery.

While I was there I noticed an abundance of butterflies flying around the weedy field so I walked around carefully to try and capture some on camera as there were some I had not seen before. I also caught sight of an insect with the shape and markings of a ladybird but my photo is out of focus as it would not stay still and I had to keep turning the leaf it was on while trying to hold the camera steady with one hand.
I also noticed a number of plants of the kind whose leaves fold together if touched. I experimented a bit and although folding happened a few times it did not always happen.

Lunch was on a mat at the side of the field which consisted of sticky rice, papaya salad and some pieces of barbecued chicken. All I can say is that I got the runs again later!

SUNDAY 3RD JULY

I didn’t have any breakfast today as nobody showed up with it. I was home alone all day which was nice in a way as I had noticed an area behind the teacher’s house that some butterflies seemed to love and I went there. I walked into the area very gingerly because it is also the area where the scorpions come from.

I noticed a particularly handsome muted yellow/orange coloured butterfly which I had never seen before but it had no intention of being photographed no matter how still I was.

I also saw the ‘blue’ butterfly that I first saw last year on an outing with my host family. It’s larger than other butterflies here with a wingspan of about 6” and it is black but parts of the outside surface of each wing is iridescent and from certain angles it is a shimmering cobalt blue. I am going to try and take a photo for you so wish me luck!!

It was General Election Day today. I had hoped to be able to visit the nearest polling station to see how it looks and to see voting in operation but nobody was around to take me there so I was sad about that.

The polls were only open until 3pm and reports soon came through about long queues of people waiting to vote and some having to wait an hour or two.

I followed the election as best I could on the internet and the promised exit poll at 10pm duly stated that Yingluck’s Pheua Thai Party would win with a majority. Abhisit’s Democrat Party remained hopeful until the bitter end when he conceded defeat and resigned from his party’s leadership.

The way the system works (?) here is that Yingluck won’t officially become PM until she is named by the House of Representatives in a process that might take a month or so.

MONDAY 4TH JULY

The election result was the talk of the school this morning and even Mr Noi in his address to the students at assembly talked about it. Thailand will soon have its first woman Prime Minister which isn’t seen here as anything particularly significant perhaps because the fact that Yingluck is the daughter of the former PM who was ousted by the military in 2006 has overshadowed her achievement.

I went with the Director to have lunch at Mr Phiman’s restaurant in the village which is ok but means having the same dish as always.

Early this evening some of the M3 students came to take care of the ducklings and chickens, they also came with lots of melons and they got a cleaver from the ‘kitchen’ to cut them up and eat passing some slices to me. These melons were straight from the hot fields and the students ate them voraciously but warm watermelon is not recommended.

The other thing is that watermelons are everywhere just now. They are not the huge green oval watermelons you see in UK markets but most are the size of a large grapefruit though some are a bit larger. They are very juicy and sweet but are definitely nicer chilled!

TUESDAY 5TH JULY

I spent most of the day in a room in the school wing where the school internet is accessible because I wanted to download a file from the net. It took ages to download and failed when I tried opening it so my effort was a waste.

Later in the afternoon I watched some students playing Takraw. They too had a number of watermelons which they chopped up and offered around.

Mr Kay asked me to go and stay at his house for the coming weekend and I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to do so for probably only one more weekend.

WEDNESDAY 6TH JULY

The Director gathered the teachers together for one of his rare meetings after assembly and made announcements about the forthcoming Mid Term Tests; how teachers must give 100% all the time and how they may not leave school any time they want to but only during the lunch hour unless on school business. Some teachers were unhappy about the disruption caused by students going to the rice planting ceremony tomorrow.

All the M3 students went to plant rice on Mr Hot’s farm today as part of his practical farming exercise. As most of the students are the sons/daughters of rice farmers I am not sure what there is for them to learn about rice planting.

It is worth mentioning here that many of the more senior students get up at 4am when it is busy on their family’s farm and go out into the fields to work for a couple of hours before coming to school.

Despite the Director’s strictures this morning Mr Noi said that as I had a free afternoon he wanted me to go to Kranuan to play snooker with him. He assured me it would be ok and said that if anyone should ask we were going to go to the computer shop which we did on our way back having played eight games of snooker and we were back in Sai Moon by 6pm.

Mr Noi also said he wanted to take me to see the Khmer ruins near Cambodia this weekend and I thought, Oh Joy, I thought, I don’t have to go to Roi Et with Mr Kay.

THURSDAY 7TH JULY

There were no classes today apart from those for M1 and M2. The rest of the school was bussed to an area a mile or so out of Sai Moon where there are some outbuildings in a wood which are used as rest and eating areas for the people working in the nearby rice fields. In a large open area alongside the fields a large awning had been erected to provide shade for the people

Mr Noi came to apologise to me because, he said, he ‘would have to prepare question papers for the Mid Term Test’ which takes place on the 12/13/14th next week and he would no longer be able to take me on the trip to the Khmer temples. So it seemed I would have to go to Roi Et after all. Oh No!!

But I did think it a little odd how the other teachers seem to have forgotten, or somehow did not know, about the Mid Terms next week. Such tests take place at this time every year and although I knew nothing about them (as usual nobody had thought to tell me) the teachers must surely have known in which case why the sudden rush to compose question papers.

The other thing is that the Test is only going to involve work done this term, in other words the last seven weeks, so the range of questions will be very narrow. Ajaan Took asked me to construct two questions for the written part of the Test, the rest being multiple choice questions. The sad thing is that she proposes to give the same question paper to all the classes from M1 to M6. So, setting my questions, I had to be careful to choose from work that M1 and M2 had done, rather than M5 or M6 which would have made the questions impossible to answer for the younger students.

FRIDAY 8TH JULY

I got woken up about 2.30am last night by Mr Kay coming home. He speaks loudly at the best of times and he said something on the phone then banged his door shut and it took me ages to get back to sleep.

Mr Yor and Tik have been away the last three days at some kind of religious festival in Ayuthaya. I am not sure exactly what is was or why it was so important for him to attend but I asked him to take some photos so maybe things will become evident when I see them.

Mr Yor came back about 5.30am and again loud door banging noises. I have come to realise that the Thai concept of taking care is only superficial: it looks good, it appears good, but they do not go the extra mile to be considerate as well. The same sort of thing has happened in each of the Thai households I have stayed in and even in the nice boutique hotel I usually stay in in Chiang Mai. It simply does not occur to Thais that consideration is often worth far more than niceness.

Just before lunch Mr Kay came to apologise to me saying he would be unable to take care of me this weekend because he has been told to go to a place near Bangkok for something work related and would be away for all of next week. Oh Joy!! No trip to Roi Et!!

However, the most notable thing that happened today was that I blew my top. Not in class this time, but at the Phiman restaurant which was not really a good idea bit it just happened.

It started as soon as we (the other teachers and I) entered Mr Phiman’s restaurant. An M3 student was coming out and Mr Hot went to speak with him. When Mr Hot came back in I asked him if the student had a problem. He said the student had been to buy a new motorbike. I asked why couldn’t the student buy his bike on Saturday when there was no school, to which Mr Hot gave an enigmatic smile as if to say it is ok, no problem.

I had been asking Mr Narongsak about Mr Kay’s trip to a place near Bangkok where he has to submit a paper of some kind about drugs, smoking and alcohol abuse in schools. I asked Mr N., who speaks quite good English, about the prevalence of such abuses in Thai schools but he could not give me an answer or even an opinion. I asked him if Mr Kay has knowledge about these topics, thinking that he (or any other teacher) would know about a fellow teacher’s special expertise, but he said, after going around the question in circles for ages, that he did not know.

They kept on saying Mr Kay has to submit something, but I suspect he may actually be going on a course to learn about these various abuses.

At this point I had had enough, the boil was lanced! I thumped the table with my fist and said I had had enough, that no one bothered to listen to me or took the slightest notice about any suggestions I made or took any notice of the financial help I have offered for certain things in the school. I left and started walking back to school. Mr Kay came running after me and tried to console me. Mr Hot and Mr Phong took their food from my table and went to sit at another. Mr Phiman was shocked, but silent. No doubt my outburst will be the talk of the village for the next decade or two.

I came back and finished my food, such as it was. When I was asked, on arrival at the restaurant, what I would like to eat I said I really wanted something different as I was fed up with eating the same thing day in and day out. They have one or two noodle dishes in a kind of brown soup, and they make omelettes in a frying pan, so I asked if they do fried noodles which I thought would be an easy concept, but no. No can do. Instead Mrs Phiman made me the most disgusting omelette I have had in a long while!! Of course, whenever I eat, everyone always asks me if the food is Sep, meaning delicious. Today I was honest, I replied that occasionally food can be delicious, sometimes it is so-so, and sometimes it is awful but I was not happy about always being asked if it is delicious. But, oh no!! It is not the Thai way to say that food is not delicious.

It is all very well being harmonious and easy, easy and happy, happy and I have no idea how Thais put up with it. And it is true that Thais don’t criticise each other or anything; they may not do so in public but they certainly gossip about everything in private though I doubt that they ever say a negative word about any food.

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrh!!!!

When I got back to school I got a call from Ajaan Took asking what happened and if I was ok. I told her what happened, but I softened what I said about Mr Narongsak. I also told her about the student buying a new bike. She said she would speak to the student on Monday but I cannot imagine anything much happening since being ‘easy, easy’ and ‘happy, happy’ are more important, apparently, than education.

To be honest, the student concerned would not have missed much but that it is not the point. What do you think ? Comments welcome!!

This afternoon a bizarre ritual took place amongst the M6 army cadets. Two M5 students wanted to join their ranks apparently and had to undergo a series of tests which they had to pass before gaining admittance. The phrase ‘initiation ceremony’ sprung to mind and it might have been something like that because Mr Wichai, the taciturn admin officer who is in charge of the cadets stood by and watched while the students supervised the tests which they had devised or possibly had done themselves when seeking admittance in the past.

The two unfortunate students, who were dressed in combats, had to do a lot of things which had no bearing on army life such as soaking themselves in a pond and then rolling themselves in sand, bending forward and turning in circles while keeping a finger on the ground, lying prone on the sandy ground in the baking-hot sun for long periods etc etc. It all seemed reminiscent of scenes out of the old Sean Connery film The Hill about brutal army life.

I was told that many other students had failed the tests and I was not surprised but the two who did the ritual this afternoon passed. All the cadets, male and female, came to the teacher’s house where a meal was cooked and they all ate it though the males sat separately from the females and Mr Wichai addressed the males and spoke not a word to the females.

SATURDAY 9TH JULY

With the other teachers at the teachers house away and Mr Yor away for the day I was home alone most of the day. Mr Yor and I had a late breakfast and I had some of the leftovers for lunch and found myself having the few remaining leftovers for dinner as well.

I really am stuck here without any transport. I don’t mind being alone, it is actually quite nice sometimes, but it can be difficult not having any choice about one’s circumstances. As for walking into the village, yes, I could do that but there is nothing much there when you arrive so I have never walked there.

Two M3 boys (14 y.o.) came to collect all the ducklings and the few chickens that they and some other M3 students had been looking after. One of the boys drove his family’s ‘buffalo tractor’ here for the task and once again I was wondering how many boys of that age would/could do the same at home.

A couple of M1 boys visited me on a bicycle, yes, I do mean one bicycle because youngsters here often go two-up on a push-bike. They came to play a game on my laptop. I started by using my dictionary to tell them that if I let them play I would not be able to work on my laptop and told them they could have 20 minutes playtime.

I read my book while they played and to my amazement they duly stopped playing 20 minutes later but I caved in and let them play for longer. When they left it was raining heavily, but they didn’t seem to mind and cycled off happily.

SUNDAY 10TH JULY

Nothing much happened today. I was at the house all alone for most of it. I tried to upload the video I made of the futsall last week to youtube but the connection was slow and I had to leave it running when I went o bed. Hopefully it will be completed by the morning.

Tomorrow a new chapter opens when I begin teaching at Kut Don school near Huai Mek.

Posted by talismanic 08:10 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

20-30th June: FUTSALL--HORSE--FOOD--ELECTION--BAD NEWS +++++

semi-overcast

Monday 20th June

This morning the students who had free periods were put to work clearing any weeds from the beds in front and to one side of the M1-M3 building, digging the beds, planting small tussocks of coarse grass in neat rows and watering them in. It was slow progress because Thai students like to mess around just as much as any anywhere but eventually the job was done and the green result, if watering is not forgotten, will be good in just a few weeks.

At the end of the afternoon and into the early evening some M4, M5 and M6 students, along with some teachers, formed two Futsall teams and had a training game albeit with a football rather than an actual fusball. Most of the students haven’t been playing the game for very long at all but it was a fun game and I took lots of photos a few of which are in my gallery.

Tuesday 21st June

Once again, the students with free periods spent the morning preparing the beds outside the office building and outside the M4-M6 building for planting. My classes with M5 and M6 were cancelled this morning so the students could help finish the work.

At lunch today I had the chance to chat with the Director and I mention to him that I had seen a horse on the way into Kham Yai. He looked mystified and I quickly realised he had never seen a horse let along touched one so I immediately thought that if this was true of the Director then it is probably also true of most, possible all, the students and other teachers. I later discovered, having talked to various teachers, that despite travelling along this road hundreds of times, no one had spotted the horse and most said they had never seen one before.

So I suggested I suggested to the Director that we try to meet the farmer who has the horse and invite him to bring the horse to the school so that every student can meet touch and feed it and learn something about horses. This sort of thing doesn’t seem to happen in rural Thai schools (I can’t speak for city schools) which is a pity

The school has teams in three sports: Badminton, Volleyball, Sepak Takraw and Futsall and it would like to kit the teams out properly in shirts and shorts for when they take part in competitions. The problem is that the school budget doesn’t stretch that far and most of the students come from poor families with very little money. So it has been proposed that each teacher donates 1000 baht (about £20) to create a fund to pay for the kits. Another option being discussed is trying to find a sponsor which is not easy as the school is in a rural area.

To help with this problem, I agreed to sponsor the purchase of a proper futsall ball for the team which cost me about 750 baht (about £15).

There is a Kalasin-wide school sports competition coming up soon and it is intended to enter our four teams so training has started in earnest starting about 5pm-ish and continuing until dusk or about 6.45pm this being the coolest part of the afternoon.

==Wednesday 22nd June==

A team of technicians came to the school this morning to fit the classrooms with overhead projectors, speaker systems and a desk/console. I hope that the teachers here can adapt to using OHPs because it requires a different technique to a whiteboard and teaching material needs to be prepared in advance.

My school at Muang Baeng, Loei, also had OHPs and speakers but the system wasn’t used because teachers got fed up with the amount of time it took to switch the system on and get it ready and didn’t seem inclined to prepare lessons in advance on their laptops. Sad really.

Another problem is that none of the new textbooks came with the CD that goes with them. I guess whoever ordered them thought they would never be needed as there is no means to play the CDs. Also, they are cheaper without the CD. But, now, with the OHP system being installed, those CDs are exactly what is needed.

I went with Mr Weang and Mr Kay to Non Kung Si (NKS) for lunch but for some reason many of the shops and places where we usually eat were closed. But we did find somewhere to eat and the problem for me is that they never have a menu. They just do two or three simple dishes and people order one of these which is how I came to eat the same dish as I had yesterday for lunch. It really is difficult to find anything that is different or find anywhere where there is a wider choice of offerings.

In the early evening I went out with Mr Kay, Mr Not and Mr Yor to Non Kung Si for dinner. Mr Weang drove us there in his pick-up and they chose to go to a Sukiyaki restaurant....no, not a Japanese restaurant but a Thai restaurant which has portable electric boilers which are placed on the table and you get given a plateful of meat, noodles and vegetables. You have to wait a bit until the stock that is already in the boiler heats up and then you tip the plate of meat/fish etc into the liquid which creates a sort of soup and you fish around with your chopsticks to pick up edible morsels.

Naturally, we had a few Leo beers during dinner and afterwards it was decided (though I think it had actually been decided before we set off for NKS) to go to a karaoke bar. Sharp-eyed readers will recall that I went to such a place on February 1st soon after I got here and nothing much had changed except that the hostesses all claimed to be Thai not Lao. It wasn’t a particularly exciting evening and we left there at midnight to go back to Sai Moon.

==Thursday 23rd June==

The consequence of last night was that I felt really tired this morning and it was a struggle to have to teach M4 for the first period this morning and being unable to have breakfast until afterwards.

I was hoping, along with some fellow teachers, to get the chance to go into Non Kung Si to see Yingluck give a speech this morning but the timetable didn’t permit it unfortunately.

At this point, you are probably wondering who this person is and why I would be interested so it is an opportune moment to update you on the election which takes place on Sunday July 3rd.

There are two main political parties in Thailand: Mr Abhisit, the present PM, and his Democrat Party and the Pheu Thai Party whose leader is Yingluck Shinawatra, the photogenic younger sister of former PM, Thaksin Shinawatra, 61, who was deposed in a military coup in 2006. There are numerous other smaller parties.

The opinion polls have consistently shown the Pheu Thai party in the lead so if they win Thailand will then have its first female PM. Both the main parties, and one of the others, are offering giveaway policies including the continuation of the rice subsidy for farmers. But how these giveaway policies will be funded is unknown.

On voting day, Thai voters, who have to be over the age of 25, will have two votes, one helps to elect the 375 constituency MPs on the first past the post system, and the other vote is for one of the 125 Party List MPs which is done proportionally.

They will have plenty of choice on the voting form since there are many parties and candidates. Of course, those who want Mr Abhisit to remain as PM will simply vote for him, and those who would prefer a change to Miss Yingluck will vote for her, but it is just possible that an outsider might creep in front and snatch the premiership from both the other two.

It has been reported that a meeting has taken place in Brunei between the Thai Army Chief and the Pheu Thai Party and that an agreement has been reached whereby the top army generals ultimately responsible for the shooting of 92 red shirt protestors last year will be protected in return for allowing the Pheu Thai Party to form a government if they win.

Many voters will be travelling to their hometowns to vote because of the rule that in order to vote anywhere you must have been on the electoral register for at least five years.

==Friday 24th June==

I have just realised that I have completely forgotten to tell you the bad news about the car I was buying. Yes, I’m sorry to say it in the past tense because the person in Chiang Mai I was buying the car from has come to realise how much he needs it himself and is now unwilling to sell it. So it is back to square one for me.

The other aspect is that if I do go ahead and buy a car from a garage I will have to get a Thai driving licence which also involves a computerised and an actual driving test and the nearest place I can do this is in Kalasin city, about an hour away. Had I got the Chiang Mai car I could have driven myself there for the 2 or 3 visits the process takes whereas, now, I will have to persuade someone else to take me each time. I will also have to visit the nearest Immigration Office, also in Kalasin, to get a proof of residence document which I need before applying for the licence. So I am not sure whether I will get a car now or not though I am so dependent on others which is a real bore.

==Saturday 25th June==

Mr Noi collected me about 6.15am to go to see some Mor Lam in Maha Sarakham province, at least that is what he promised me we were going to see. We called in at his house to have a coffee and pick up his wife and two daughters and then we set off. We stopped off in M/S city for some breakfast and I assumed that the Mr Lam would be somewhere nearby. But I was wrong. We motored on and on and at one point we stopped by a roadside stall selling watermelons where Mr Noi bought 100 of them for 5 baht (about 10pence) apiece and I wondered what on earth he was going to do with so many of them.

Eventually we arrived at the village where Wat Pha That Na Dun is located – this is the temple where I witnessed a monk’s funeral back in February – and where some of Mr Noi’s relatives live. We went to his sister’s house and he gave her and some neighbours as many watermelons as they could manage. More melons were given to others as we motored through this and the next village.

At about 11am we arrived at another nearby village where a ceremony was taking place in honour of someone who was going to become a monk and was going to have his hair cut off. The locals had clearly been celebrating this event for some time judging by the empty bottles around and the jollity going on. We sat at a table and copious amounts of food appeared but Mr Noi cautioned us not to eat it as it was ‘unclean’ due to all the flies zooming around. He was probably right, though it was the first time I had ever heard him make that comment or seen him refuse food!

Mr Noi took his turn with the scissors cutting some hair off the monk-to-be though I should point out that many males in Thailand become monks, some as young as ten or so. A few do so because they feel they have a vocation and devote their lives to Buddhism. Many others do so as part of a ritual, or in a process of learning, or as part of their own devotion to Buddha and these people become monks for short periods from as little as a week or two to a month or two or three.

We left the party after about an hour and, once again, I assumed we were heading for the Mor Lam, but it was not to be. Earlier, I had mentioned to Mr Noi that I remembered our previous visit at Wat Na Dun and he got it into his head that I wanted to visit Na Dun itself which was some 70km away. It took a lot of repetitive refusals before the penny dropped and he realised I was just chatting, not asking to go there.

We headed off instead to Kosamphi Forest Park alongside the River Chee which passes through Kalasin and Yasothon provinces joining up with another river shortly before entering the Mekong river and eventually flowing out into the ocean after passing through Vietnam.

The attraction of this park is the large number of monkeys that live there. There are three types of monkey but all of them are extraordinarily cheeky. I made the comment that the school already had some cheeky monkeys in M1 but the Thais couldn’t see the connection.

The monkeys scampered around the clambered over our car and many were carrying very young ones on their backs who had to cling on for dear life as its parent ran around and ran up and down trees. They were fun to watch and I took a number of photos for you.

On the way back we stopped off at the Toyota showroom in Kranuan – Mr Noi’s pick-up is a Toyota – and it was interesting seeing their range at close quarters though I’m not a Toyota fan.

We then went to play snooker at the OK Snooker Club in the town and I ended up winning for once. At 6pm we were joined by Mr Noi’s wife and daughters who had been shopping while we played snooker and we went to have some food at a nearby barbecue restaurant. It was here that I ate something bad and almost immediately I had to dash to the loo. In passing, though no pun intended, although I know how to use the water jet in a Thai toilet I have yet to work out how to dry oneself as there is nothing provided whatsoever.

After dinner we went back to Sai Moon and I felt really tired after the recent late nights and the very early start this morning.

==Sunday 26th June==

Felt very tired and down all day but I guess it will pass.

Many voters arranged to vote in advance today (2.6 million such people did so according to official figures), the designated day for such voting, and this was why there was a nationwide ban on the sale of alcohol until midnight on Saturday and Sunday this weekend though there was no problem buying beer on either evening in and around Sai Moon.

==Monday 27th June==

No classes as per normal today. I was very disappointed in Ajaan Took’s indifferent reaction when I mentioned to her that I had flipped through some of M4’s exercise books that had been left on my desk only to find some glaring errors. In my last class we looked at the use of prefixes ‘un, dis, im and in’ and how they are used to makes opposites. There is a section in the textbook which stresses the need to pair words with their opposite and it shows examples and an exercise follows. In their books the students had copied the exercise and answers from the book which is fine but had continued with a further list given by Ajaan Took containing words such as imagine and imaginary and imbecile to illustrate ‘im’ opposites, and unanimity and unanimous to illustrate some ‘un’ opposites, and in accordance with to illustrate an ‘in’ opposite. What was she thinking ????

I felt very tired and down again today but I am sure I will feel better after a good night’s sleep.

Mr P. is away in Bangkok for a week attending a seminar and it is interesting to see how things are even more relaxed than usual at school.

==Tuesday 28th June==

Today I felt much better after having an undisturbed sleep last night.

This afternoon I went into Kranuan with Mr Weang so I could have a haircut. The place he intended to take me to was closed so he took me to another barber further down the same road and I felt lucky that he turned out to be very good indeed. I only had a cut and the price was 60 baht (about £1.20) which is a fraction of the £12 it normally costs me in London!

==Wednesday 29th June==

I am getting more and more annoyed by the interruptions that I experience whenever I talk to any of the other teachers here. Other teachers stroll by and say something which stops the conversation I was having stone dead and the Thai person never says sorry, or excuse me and never turns back to me to continue the conversation. I am beginning to feel as if I am just a piece of foreign awkwardness.

This afternoon I had a typically annoying conversation with Ajaans Took and Cat. The former because she can speak English and the latter because she is the IT teacher and computer expert. I have been thinking about how I can make a difference to Sai Moon and one way, I thought, would be to create and fund a competition to design a website for the school. When I mentioned this Cat said the school already has a website, which was news to me, and she gave me the url http://saimoon.org/2011 and when I saw it had the date included I asked when it was last updated and she said this month. But the school has not had any internet connection this year until I got the Director to enquire about long range wi-fi which only became accessible in early May so I was very doubtful about her answer.

Then I asked if there's an English section on the site...no, she said and I pointed out what the first 'w' of www stands for and how Thai is only spoken in Thailand and how any company or school website needs to be constantly updated so that viewers can feel part of it and can read all the latest news.

But my competition idea was met with a disinterested blank face and the rest of what I said fell on deaf ears I think. My idea was to stimulate creativity as this is not what Thai schoolchildren are used to and I thought it would be a good exercise for them.

As for the school website, the teachers here have so much free time there is really no excuse for not having a good and informative and up to date website. Anyway, take a look at the website and see what you think of it. Comments please!!

In the evening Mr Weang drove Mr Kay, Mr Hot and I to Kranuan for dinner and we decided, while we were there, to play some snooker. For a change I was on good form and won almost all the games but we continued until quite late. After we finished Mr Weang and Mr Kay wanted to eat again so we went back to the same restaurant where they had another full meal. Some people just don’t know when to stop eating!!

==Thursday 30th June==

I had M4 for the first period this morning and after a late night last night it was hard for me to concentrate and make the lesson lively and interesting.

I must decide very soon what I am going to do during the 4-day long weekend that starts after work on Thursday, July 14th because flights are likely to fill up very quickly.

Posted by talismanic 05:55 Archived in Thailand Comments (3)

June 11-18th: 1st horse--2012--chicken--caterpillar--food ++

sunny

==Saturday 11th June==

I was home alone most of the day as Mr Yor and Mr Weang had to go to Somdet to attend a meeting, along with other Kalasin schools, about scouting. Mr Hot cooked breakfast for me but I was unable to have a proper lunch. Luckily, I had some cashew nuts which tided me over and some students who came to tend to the baby ducks gave me a bag of mangosteens.

Mr Hot came over to the house this evening and we went to Kham Yai for some dinner but found some places had shut and others only had parts of their menu available so we got back on the motorbike and went into Kranuan where there is a much wider choice and we had no problem getting some food. We also did some shopping in Tesco Lotus which was a lucky bonus for me.

==Sunday 12th June==

A Thai fried from Muang Phon came up on his motorbike to visit me. It took him over two hours to get to Sai Moon which was quite good going. We had a long chat and had lunch in Kham Yai and afterwards we saw Ban Fai being launched in a remote field. For the first time I saw a large rocket being prepared.

Also for the first time in Thailand I saw a horse in a paddock in Kham Yai. Over the past six months I have had plenty of time to gaze out of the passenger window during various car journeys and I have never seen a horse here before. I am told that there was a time when they were more plentiful but I suppose they would only be kept for leisure purposes nowadays by the better off.

==Monday 13th June==

Had lunch with the Director at Mr Phiman’s restaurant/shop in the village. No classes today so I went back to my room at the house after lunch and set about updating my blog and photo gallery.

It rained heavily in the afternoon and evening and again during the night.

==Tuesday 14th June==

A routine kind of day though I had two classes which was nice. In the evening Mr Not came over – he’s a sports teacher from another school but knows everyone at Sai Moon – and he brought some Leo beer with him which he shared with Mr Kay, Mr Weang and I. Thais love music and singing and very soon a guitar appeared which Mr Not and Mr Kay played singing songs from a songbook.

Mr Weang told me once again how the Director is raising my salary to 20,000 baht per month (about £400) for November and December as part of the campaign to entice me to stay on at Sai Moon next year.

==Wednesday 15th June==

Another of the Director’s school improvement projects got underway today in particular putting a layer of concrete over the very worn half of the school assembly area. When it is finished it will look much better and will be a more useful area. A second project, completed today, was to extend the walking area outside the M4-M6 classroom building and to fill in some holes there.

The Director told me yesterday that he has ordered some grass and some plants from a firm in Bangkok which should arrive soon.

This evening four M3 (14/15 y/o) students came to the house and killed, gutted and boiled a chicken for dinner. Here, the whole of this process is normal and nothing out of the ordinary but I wonder how many 14/15 y.o. western children could do the same ?

As for dinner, it was ok I suppose. I say it like that because not only did we have boiled chicken the night before but the same dish regularly appears at lunchtime and, to be honest, it is not very interesting and I am not fond of trying to find tiny morsels of meat from a hacked off piece of chicken bone with my fingers, unlike the Thais who do this all the time.

==Thursday 16th June==

I didn’t sleep well last night so this morning, the only day when I have a class for the first period and have to postpone having breakfast till afterwards, I felt really tired.

The cement mixer came to deliver its first load this morning which was used to lay a new covering for the old part of the assembly area, create a new path to the area and to extend it about four feet. More loads followed during the day and most of the work was finished by the end of it.

This evening I went to a barbecue restaurant in Kranuan and it must have been a first because almost all the male and female teachers were there. The two groups rarely eat or socialise together for some odd reason.

The problem with these buffet/barbecue places is that they all offer the same raw food which you cook yourself on a charcoal-fired burner on the table, there being one for every four people.

The choice of raw food usually consists of two or three types of pork (plain and marinated), liver, spam, crab sticks, baby squid, tripe, small bacon rashers, strips of buffalo skin, prawns and small bivalve shellfish. The vegetable offering usually consists of strips of raw cabbage, sweetcorn, spring onions and maybe one or two other things. There’s often some plain friend rice and there will be fruit and ice cream to finish with.

If only some of these places tried to be a little bit different but, as I have discovered with food at school and elsewhere, rural Thais don’t like different, they like the same and same again.

Another example of this is the vegetable growing that Mr Hot is overseeing as he is the agriculture teacher. An area in front of the teacher’s house was prepared for planting by some M1 and M2 students using ‘buffalo tractor’ rotovator. Mr Hot told me that the students will be growing water melons. I told him that while w/m are very nice they are grown and sold in the market by many villagers so the students are very familiar with both the growing of them and eating them. So, I suggested, why not also try growing some other varieties of melon which cannot be bought in the local markets and which are just as delicious and, in my opinion, even more so. I also said that growing other varieties would widen the students’ knowledge and experience which, I thought, would be a good thing to be encouraged by any teacher in any subject.

But, no. No matter what I said Mr Hot, who is not a fuddy-duddy old teacher, he’s only 28 or so, he was not interested and could see no benefit from my suggestions. So sad; if only the students knew!!

==Friday 17th June==

You may well be thinking that all the teachers were wearing their new pink jackets this morning. About three weeks ago, thinking that my fellow teachers would follow the Director’s orders, I put on my pink jacket when I dressed only to discover that I was the only one so at the first opportunity I went back to my room to change into something cooler. It seems that the pink-jacket-Friday idea is already history.

This morning one of the students found a giant green caterpillar and I persuaded him to keep hold of it while I went off to get my camera so you can see it too. It’s about three inches long and looks fat and juicy and I joked with the students that as they are all Isaan-born they should eat it as they already eat so many other insects....ohhhh, no, they said, horrified at the thought of it. If you look carefully at the photo you can see two turquoise ‘eyes’ at its front end. I understand that caterpillars like this eventually become the large black butterflies with yellow underwings that I mentioned in my last blog entry.

==Saturday 18th June==

Apart from Mr Yor and a friend who were in residence I was home alone today and was able to do some domestic chores such as washing....fun in Thailand, huh ?

Some students came over this evening and we had some Leo beer and some of them shared a bottle of Thai whisky with sodas or coke. It was an entertaining evening.

==Sunday 19th June==

I had a late brunch about 11.30 this morning with Mr Yor and his friend who is visiting from Maha Sarakham. I spent a lot of the day ironing and doing chores and updating my blog.

I forgot to mention that last Thursday the owner of the cement mixer company in Kham Yai came over to see how the work was progressing and he had a chat with the Director while I was taking photos. I was briefly introduced and we wai’d, but we didn’t speak.

Going into the village with the Director in his car he told me that the company owner wanted me to teach his son and daughter (ages not disclosed) during my free time at weekends. I have got used to being asked to do things like this through a third party and have also come to realise such requests are more wishful thinking than real requests which might result in something happening.

At the barbecue restaurant the same evening Mr Not asked me if I would be interested in teaching English the M3 class at his school at Kut Don, a village about 20-25km away on the other side of Huai Mek. The M3 class is the most senior at his school which also has P1-P6 primary students. I said I would be interested because the advantage here is that any classes would be during school time which would occupy some of the many free periods I have. But I will wait and see if this proposal actually materialises!

Also, last Thursday afternoon the Sai Moon M4 students played Basketball, Fusball (a cut-down version of football) and Sepak Takraw. I took some photos for your entertainment which are in the gallery. Enjoy!!

Posted by talismanic 04:27 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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