07.09.2011 - 19.09.2011
Apologies for the delay in posting this. I don't have an excuse!!
WEDNESDAY 7th SEPTEMBER
Uncertainty reigned this morning because Ajarn Took and some of the other teachers were unsure of class would take pace as normal this morning or not as students were being detailed to help prepare for the Tambon sports festival starting on Friday.
The Deputy Director gathered the teachers together for a meeting after assembly to talk about preparations for the sports events and she also announced that the end of term exam for the students will be on October 3rd, 4th and 5th.
If you came to the school you would never guess that there might be student exams in three weeks’ time. Most of next week will be occupied with the community sports festival and there are sure to be other distractions from the classroom before October 3rd. So I suppose it is just a well there is a No Fail system here so the students can relax and not worry about any exam.
To me, it seem potty the way things are planned and organised here at this school though it happens in most other schools too according to what I have read on the internet. My last school, Muang Baeng, as I mentioned in my last blog entry, have already had their exams and will now close for the whole of October.
But, here, the exams will encroach on the holiday which I think is very unfair. On the other hand, it is not as if families go away on holiday to London or New York or even to the seaside. They never have the money to do those sorts of things. And, anyway, the attitude to school is very different here compared to the west. Here, students are happy to spend their spare time planting vegetables at school or coming in to do other chores such as feeding the chickens.
When I was at school everyone couldn’t wait till the end of term and when the day eventually came we couldn’t get away fast enough and it was with the greatest reluctance that pupils returned at the end of the holidays. That doesn’t happen here. The school is part of the community, and the community spirit is very strong and part of the Thai culture. So I don’t suppose anyone considers the three lost days of October as a hardship or of any consequence.
But I do wish there was some kind of forward plan with all the events that happen without fail every year marked up at the beginning of term. I don’t think the Sasco year-planner people would make a killing here somehow!!
Six representative students and Mr Yor left Sai Moon this morning to attend the three-day Scout Camp at Lam Pao, near Kalasin city, where some 600 scouts will gather on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the introduction of scouting to Thailand.
Later on I saw the Director and took the chance to pin him down about when I can depart on holiday as I need to make hotel and flight bookings etc. He said
I would not be needed for the Final Exam as the Thai teachers will do the invigilating which means I can go after work on Friday September 30th.
I took the opportunity after my single class today to go into Nong Kung Si with Mr Weang so I could go to Tesco Lotus and we had lunch there too....pork belly with crackling, kale leaves and stalks on rice.
Whilst in the town Mr Weang collected a large plasticised banner from a workshop. I took the opportunity to go into the workshop with him to look around. There is a photo of this banner in my gallery and all the printing on it is done on a computer controlled printing machine about 12 feet long and costing some 1m baht (about £20,000). All the design work is finalised on an adjacent computer terminal from a customer’s original using Photoshop. Banners are very cheap and very popular advertising and information media in Thailand and can be seen everywhere.
Preparations by members of the village continued today for the Tambon sports festival which Sai Moon and is hosting from Friday onwards with four sports: Pétanque, Volleyball, Football and Sepak Takraw. The football ground has been mown and marked and dainty red flags placed at each corner.
With Mr Yor away at Lam Pao the teacher’s house seemed quiet this evening and I watched a DVD movie and had a reasonably early night for a change.
THURSDAY 8th SEPTEMBER
Yesterday the Director said he would be taking me to Lam Pao school today to see the scout camp and take photos so I dressed appropriately this morning and took my camera bag but, in the end, we didn’t go.
There was also some confusion this morning as to whether my first period class with M4 would go ahead or not as students were being tasked to assist with the preparations for the sports festival. However, the students did turn up for my class which was good.
I went with the Director for lunch today, the first time for a while as I have been eating the food items I bought for myself at the teacher’s house. The snag with the Director is that he likes to go to lunch about 11am which is far too early for me but it is hard to refuse him and we went to Mr Phiman’s restaurant as usual. I had a fried noodle dish called Luak Sen but neither he nor the Deputy could understand why I didn’t want to order rice as well.
FRIDAY 9th SEPTEMBER
The first day of the Tambon sports festival opened with a procession through the village by groups from the seven different villages took part. The procession ended on my school’s grass sports field at the centre of which is the football pitch. As always, tented awning had been erected here and at the volleyball and takraw courts to provide shade or shelter which was fortunate as it rained on and off for most of the day. In fact, it was the first time since I have been here that it rained all night and almost all day as well.
But Thais not deterred by rain and everything continued as if it were a sunny day. Once all the groups had formed up on the sportsfield facing the VIPs the national anthem was sung, the Thai national flag was raised followed by the tambon flags.
Then a special torch was lit and jointly carried by two senior students who ran to a point in front of the VIPs and lit a fuse that was dangling from an overhead wire. I had seen this and other wire moments earlier and just assumed it was an electric feed or something. But, in fact, it was part of the opening ceremony which was reminiscent, I seem to remember, of the Sydney Olympics. When the burning fuse reached the end it triggered a flaming relay which whizzed along the wire, lit a second relay, which whizzed diagonally across the sportsfield before lighting the final relay which whizzed to and ignited a large urn containing an eternal flame behind the Thai flag and in the process created a cloud of smoke. I caught all this on camera, so do take a look in my gallery.
Just as I sat down for lunch in Mr Weang’s outbuilding the Director came in to say he wanted me to go to Lam Pao with him now. This meant I had to break a promise to video a football match that I made to the mainly M4 and M6 football team which was due to play in the afternoon.
It took about one hour to reach Lam Pao where the scouts were and the closing ceremony was just beginning. I walked over to it and managed to get some interesting photos. Afterwards, I was given one of the special polo shirts for the occasion which, naturally, were pink!! I got back to Sai Moon about 4.30 and the community sports were in full swing.
SATURDAY 10th SEPTEMBER
I spent most of the day wandering round the various sports being played and taking photos of the action and the atmosphere. It is good to see the communities of seven villages come together for a few days like this and it is all good fun.
Today started off a bit overcast but sunny and I was able to do some washing for a change. I was watching one of the sports in the afternoon when I felt some spots of rain and rushed as fast as I could to the teacher’s house to take my washing under cover. It bucketed down just before I got there but it wasn’t too bad.
SUNDAY 11th SPTEMBER
I got up later than usual at 7.30am which was nice. I went down to the sports area in the morning and discovered that the football team, with some of the school’s M4 and M6 players in it, would play their game about 1pm. I went back to the teacher’s house and worked on my laptop and then had lunch before going to watch the game. It p’d with rain in the second half and the pitch turned into a mudbath with some very funny results on the pitch some of which I managed to capture and you can see them in my gallery.
I had been standing just outside one of the awnings to get a clear view of the game for photos but as soon as it started raining I moved under cover. The rain was torrential and, very soon, the water ran into the area covered by the awning and before you could say Sabaidee I was standing in a puddle of muddy water in my flip-flops. The water softened the sandy soil and it became very sticky and my flip-flops became glued to the ground. I still managed to take some good photos from under the awning though.
In the late afternoon Mr Yor went away for the night but didn’t have the gumption to mention it beforehand to me so I would know he would not be preparing any supper this evening. Luckily, two senior students dropped by with a couple of friends from the village and I got them to get something to eat from Kham Yai and we had some beer to drink as well.
MONDAY 12th SEPTEMBER
There was a break in the sports programme today apart from the few men’s volleyball matches in the afternoon.
I spent most of the day doing some research on the net in my room. I went with Mr Weang to Mr Phiman’s restaurant in the village for lunch where I had their version of Phad Thai which was not very nice at all.
Some of the other teachers came into school today though I have no idea what for apart from chatting and gossiping as there were no students and there was nothing formal to do.
In the evening, I had some food with Mr Weang, who was back from visiting his family in Yasothon, in his outhouse and then went back to my ‘hong’ (room) and watched a movie on DVD called The Next Three Days with Russell Crowe which was very good indeed.
TUESDAY 13th SEPTEMBER
The Community sports festival continued today. A lot of people were very excited about teams in the sports they like but, for me, the morning was very boring. In part, this is because all the teams taking part in the festival are known traditionally as Mor Si, Mor Ha or Mor Hok (Mor 4, Mor 5 and Mor 6) which are exactly what school classes throughout Thailand are known as, or M4, M5 and M6, as I have often mentioned in this blog.
The logic behind this escapes me. I tried to ask Ajarn Took, but she gets bored quickly and only gives me the minimum answer possible. But the use of these names have a connection with the temple though she didn’t tell me what it is.
I suspect part of the answer is to do with reducing, or eliminating, village rivalry. You only have to think of mostly western football teams to see what rivalry does.
I have also misled you about the Tambon. My village, Phi Mun (not Sai Moon as I had unwittingly told you before), is also the name of our Tambon in which there are seven other villages. All the participants in the community sports come from Phi Mun Tambon, not just Phi Mun village.
The other reason the morning was boring for me was that I did not know anyone taking part in any of the sports. The highlight of the afternoon was the match between Mor Si and Mor Hok because most of the M4 players are my students and as with their two earlier matches I offered goal scorers 100 baht (about £2) a goal if the team wins as an incentive.
At the end of full time there was no score so there was a nerve-tingling penalty shoot-out with each player taking it in turns until the other team could no longer win. I was taking photos as usual and I really wanted ‘my team’ to win. After four shots apiece it was 2-2 and then the other team scored again. A large crowd had gathered and there was a lot of encouraging noise going on. My team scored the next shot and our goalie saved the following shot to give victory to M4 which means they will be in the Final tomorrow.
This evening I went to Kranuan with Mr Weang to have dinner there and to play a few games of snooker and relax with a Leo. It was a nice finish to the day.
WEDNESDAY 14TH SEPTEMBER
Another wet day morning. It’s no wonder there’s major flooding in many parts of Thailand and the death toll so far is 82 and rising.
Today saw the last of the play-offs and the Finals in each of the sports and age groups. The M4 football Final was in the afternoon by which time the rain had stopped for the time being. It was an exciting game in which M4 quickly scored twice but by half time M6 had equalised 2-2. In the second half it looked as if M4 might lose their grip but they eventually scored again and should have scored twice more because the goal was wide open but they were unable to get the ball into the net. The team were jubilant and very happy to be M4 football champions.
During the football half-times various fun races were held: a sack race, a stilt-walking race and a hula-hoop walking race. All the different communities entered teams and they were funny to watch and I took some photos too.
After the Finals had finished came the presentation of the awards and trophies by various officials including the head of the Tambon, it also started raining again! Although I was the default official photographer and took photos of all the presentations the only one that really interested me was the presentation to M4 and I have included a photo of the team and their trophies in my gallery.
This evening I went with Mr Weang and Mr Kay to Mr Phong’s village sala where his father had organised a celebration of the village team’s win at football. Everyone sat round mats on the floor and there were copious amounts of food and drink to enjoy. I took some photos for you as well.
I sat next door to one of the players who I was told was 30-something but looked far older. He struggled with the few words he had of English and after a long period of silence, towards the end of the evening, he suddenly told me ‘I love you’. Quite what he thought he was saying I’m not sure.
THURSDAY 15th SEPTEMBER
Back to school today after the five days of sport. Most of M4, M5 and M6 didn’t come to school though, to be fair, they probably deserved a break since the absent ones were in the various teams.
I had M4 for the first period and there were only eight students in class so we played a word linking game to start with and with about twenty different words on the whiteboard the students then had to try and make sentences out of each of the words. It was a fun class and got them thinking in English again after the long sports break.
I have found that I can now get access to the school’s wi-fi from my room in the teacher’s house though the wi-fi definitely does not like rain as it withers away in the wet. A good point about the school system is that I can now access all the radio programmes I like on the BBC’s iPlayer whereas I couldn’t do so before using my Air Card.
FRIDAY 16th SEPTEMBER
Most of M6 and M4 and one student from M4 are away for a couple of weeks from today doing army training near Kranuan. I don’t think I have mentioned before but on Scout Days, every Wednesday at my school, about fourteen students from the above classes dress not in scout uniforms like the rest but in army uniform and boots because they chose to be part of the army section and each gained entry to it in previous years by passing an initiation exercise which I have mentioned before back in July and there are photos of it in my gallery. It is these students who are away for two weeks.
Five teachers are also away today at Maha Sarakham university where a professor from Bangkok was holding forth on education.
I went into Kranuan with Mr Noi this afternoon to play a few games of snooker and go to Tesco Lotus and have something to eat as well. As far as his wife is concerned we never played any snooker!
SATURDAY 17th SEPTEMBER
Mr Noi came round at 7am this morning to collect me from the teacher’s house and take me to his friend’s house about halfway towards Kranuan down a side road I have not been down before. We stopped at a dilapidated-looking shop where Mr Noi bought a basketful of live frogs and then we drove round the corner to his friend’s large house where Mr Noi hoped we would have the frogs for breakfast. His friend at the house is a teacher at the primary school in Phimun and had a meeting to go to so couldn’t host breakfast so we had it back at Mr Noi’s house.
Before I left Mr Noi’s house he lent me his motorbike which was kind of him. I thought the rest of the morning and afternoon in my room would be relaxing but I had a constant stream of visitors for one thing or another and it was difficult to get any research done on my laptop.
A few days ago I decided to take up an offer of a free two-week trial from ancestry.com which gives me access to every database on their system so I am keen to scour their archives while I have the chance hence the need for some P & Q on my laptop.
SUNDAY 18th SEPTEMBER
I have mentioned before that I used to like listening to certain programmes on BBC radio but since I started using an Air Card to access the internet I have been unable to make the BBC’s iPlayer work and I have been using a free internet recording service to record programmes and listen to them later.
But there was the problem about downloading MP3 music from sites such as amazon.co.uk which would not allow me any downloads because I am in Thailand because of territorial restrictions on their content.
The way around this is to use a Virtual Proxy Network, or VPN, which hides your computer’s location and tricks sites such as amazon into thinking my laptop is in the UK or the USA and definitely not in Thailand.
I have been hesitating over this because I will be away for all of October and will have access to decent wi-fi and the VPN provider I decided to go with charges $58 per year. But, by chance, I came across a free UK-based VPN provider so now I have decided to go with this one and it works a treat and I can use all the various TV catch-up services which will be useful for me on .the occasions when I am in video-watching mood in the evenings.
MONDAY 19th SEPTEMBER
I prepared the exam paper for M4, M5 and M6 this morning which is harder than you might think as the students have covered little new material since the mid-term exams back in July but I have managed to think of something.
I have mentioned the No Fail policy in Thai state schools and I have mentioned aspects of the education system. Another aspect is the exam system at secondary school level. The exam questions have to be multiple choice with four choices for each question. The student chooses an answer and then puts a cross into an answer grid on a separate piece of paper.
The problem with multiple choice questions is that the student does not have to write anything and does not have to think too much, after all, one of the four choices MUST be the right answer. Multiple choice restricts the type of questions you can ask and they remove most of the need for the student to think.
I learned today that there was a teacher’s meeting at school yesterday afternoon. I wasn’t told about it, not that that matters since it would have been all in Thai and I would not have understood more than a few words anyway. But I learned today that the construction of the new name board at the main gate cost a bit over 60,000 baht (about £1200).
I also learned that the dates for the Final Exams have been brought forward a few days and will now be on September 28th, 29th and 30th which makes far more sense. The school will now close at the end of the day on Friday 30th, the same day I depart, but the teachers will stay on for 3 or 4 days to do admin stuff the next week.
I had a chance meeting with the Director this morning on my way to class. He told me that he is still in the running for the Directorship of Kumin school (where I was a drama judge back in early March this year) and that he hopes to know if he is successful or not in November. He said that he felt it was very hard to develop a small school like Sai Moon because it only has a small budget whereas Kumin not only has a much larger budget (it has about 500 or more students compared to about 120 at Sai Moon) but it would also be easier to pay my salary inferring that he would like me to follow him to Kumin if he gets the job.
I don’t know much about Kumin apart from what I saw and learned during my one-day visit there. But it looks like a well kept school and has two recently opened new buildings. The flower beds are neat and the classrooms clean and well decorated and there is a large meeting hall big enough to seat about 1000 people along with a proper stage. It seems to be a bit more remote than Sai Moon and I am not sure how far way the nearest town is or if there is a Tesco Lotus there or not.
Although I have moaned about this and that at Sai Moon in the past one does get used to things and the way of life here, the teachers and the students. One gets to know the students well and they get to know you too. If it comes to pass that my Director goes to Kumin it will be a tough decision to make: to stay here and hope a new Director would be as good and as friendly and helpful, or to take on a new challenge and start all over with new teachers and new students. What do you advise me to do ?????