21.07.2011 - 29.07.2011
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.