A Travellerspoint blog

7-19th Sept: COMMUNITY SPORT--SCOUT CENTENARY--VPN OK ++

rain

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 ?????

Posted by talismanic 06:46 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Aug 29-Sept 6th: MY BIRTHDAY--TEACHING PROBS--NO FAIL POLICY

rain

MONDAY 29th AUGUST

Ajarn Tuk called me at 8am this morning to say she was not coming into school today and could I take her two classes this morning for her. I normally have no classes on a Monday and had planned to do some laundry but it will have to wait till another sunny day now.

The winning team players were congratulated during this morning’s assembly and will be heading for Ubon Ratchathani

My cold is much better now and has moved on to the catarrh stage which is irritating but bearable. But the catarrh did make it difficult in class with M2 this morning trying to get them to pronounce the word ‘cinema’ correctly, and not like ‘cinebao’ when I have a bunged ub doze.

The school name board at the front entrance is being completed at long last. The existing, central, part which up to now had a banner attached with the school name now has a nice facing of decorative bricks. To each side, new wings are being built. Shallow steps are also being built at each side to give access to a new pathway at the base of the central name wall. There is a photo of the work in progress in my gallery.

The new tiled concrete tables and seats have also been completed next to the Pétanque playing area which look smart and will be popular with the students as a gossip area I am sure.

TUESDAY 30th AUGUST

My birthday today but it is school as usual for me. I am going to take my fellow teachers out for a meal and drink but as the Director is away in Bangkok today it won’t be this evening. I will do it when he gets back in a few days and we’ll go to the restaurant between here and Kranuan which has the best menu in the area and is, even more importantly, the only place that does a version of roast pork which I love. Sadly, though there’s no apple sauce to complement it.

It is a bit annoying that the Director is away because I am trying to finalise my plans for October when Thai schools close for a holiday. Some of the Thai teachers may have to stay behind to do paperwork or something and may not get the full four weeks. As a farang who doesn’t speak much let alone read Thai I can’t help with the paperwork so I want the Director’s ok that I can depart after school on Sept 30th.

There’s also a question about when school reopens as October 31st is on a Monday so will it reopen then or will it reopen on the Tuesday. Until these queries can be sorted out I can’t make any firm flight or hotel bookings....grrrrh!!!#1

To return to the paperwork I just mentioned and the Thai teachers having to stay behind, this is what happened when the school closed in mid-March though I fail to understand why any paperwork and admin cannot be done and cleared before the holiday so the Thai teachers can have a decent break.

This evening some senior students came round to the teacher’s house and we had some food and a few drinks to a background of Thai music. It was all good fun.

WEDNESDAY 31st AUGUST

With the prospect of a sunny morning I took the opportunity after assembly to do some washing because otherwise I will have no shirt or socks to wear in the morning. It has been raining so much that this is the first real chance to make a dent in my pile of laundry.

I went into Nong Kung Si before lunch with Mr Weang so that I could go to the post office and Tesco Lotus. We had an early lunch there too which was good even thought it was just slices of pork on top of rice and the small bowl of clear soup that comes with it is also very nice.

You are probably wondering what is happening in class. Most of the time I work from the given textbook covering the various language points section by section but there are problems with the series of books that the school uses. The most obvious problem is that the school does not have the CDs that accompany the book so all the ‘Listen and Say’ sections have to be missed.

Another problem is that often the scenarios must seem so strange and weird to Thais who know little, if anything, about life outside Thailand. For example, the next module in the textbook I have for M4 (16/17 y.o.) is about Adverbs of Frequency asking How Often do you....listen to classical music, go to the theatre, read a newspaper all of which are completely alien to the students.

Another, unrelated, problem with one or two of the younger classes is that they don’t or can’t think. Yesterday the students all stood when I came into the classroom to start the lesson, as is normal, and greeted me with Hello Teacher, see you again next week, at which point they collectively realised they should be welcoming me not saying goodbye! Doh!!

One of the sentences we were working on from the textbook contained the word Saturday so I paused and asked when in the week Saturday is ? No answer. So I wrote the initial letter of the days of the week on the board along with, but separately, the word Saturday. I thought they would latch onto the starting letter and opt for one of the two days listed starting with an S. But, no, even that was too difficult.

THURSDAY 1st SEPTEMBER

Today I had M4 for the first period but I did not have a good start to the class. I was on time and about half a dozen of the students were also. I waited and waited and although all the boys showed up most of the girls were still missing which I thought strange as they are the ones who are usually first in class.

I stood on the balcony, outside the classroom door, surveying the school grounds wondering where there were. I suspected they were in the school canteen stuffing themselves, but I was wrong. Eventually one of the boys told me to take a look in one of the disused classrooms further along the balcony. Sure enough, all the missing girls were in there grooming and prettying themselves or taking the nits out of each other’s hair. I told them in no uncertain terms what I thought though it was probably a good thing they didn’t understand what I said because I was really angry....oops!!

Once everyone was in the classroom I made it plain that if anyone was late next week I would mark them as absent in the class register. That doesn’t sound like much but too many absences will result in one of the teachers speaking to their parents which is something most students want to avoid. Students would also have some points debited from their ‘account’ which they accumulate for doing certain things in school, something else most students would wish to avoid.

This evening, over a couple of beers, said he wanted me to come to his home tomorrow for the weekend. Luckily I was able to defer the invitation because I have not quite shaken off a nasty cold/catarrh I have had over the last few days and I said I didn’t want to pass it on to his wife or young child.

FRIDAY 2nd SEPTEMBER

It looks like there will be three days of sport at school next week disrupting classes yet again. This time the school is hosting the community with sports events including Sepak Takraw, Volleyball and the football pitch has been specially mown for the games.

I also learned that Ajarn Tuk, the Thai English teacher, has been accepted for the free trip to China to learn Chinese. She already speaks quite a lot of the language but she will also be learning about Chinese culture and about the education system there. She leaves on October 9th and will be away for one year. The Director told me he is trying to get a replacement English teacher for one year but that may not be so easy. Meanwhile, I might have to step into her shoes and take over all 17 of the English classes.

Whilst talking with the Director I asked him when the school will close for the October holiday and opened a calendar for him. He seemed a bit vague and said he thinks it will be October 7th but he will know next week. I certainly hope so otherwise the cheaper early bird flights will all disappear and I will end up paying much more for them. Grrrrrrrh #2

SATURDAY 3rd SEPEMBER

I spent a lot of time on the internet trying to resolve a problem with amazon.co.uk which will not allow me to download some mp3 music because of a geographical restriction on the content. One way around this is to use a proxy server which hides your IP (Internet Protocol) address and allows you to appear to be based in, say, the UK, rather than Thailand as I am.

If I go down this route a welcome spin-off is that I will be able to watch programmes or listen to the radio on the BBC iPlayer which restricts its content to UK listeners.

SUNDAY 4th SEPTEMBER

I got cheesed off being woken up yet again by the thoughtless actions of one of the other teachers I share the house with who turned on the tap to top up the water in the tank we take water from to shower. I live immediately above the bath room and can hear very clearly everything that happens in there and the sound of spurting water from the tap hitting the water in the tank at 6am mad me so annoyed that I actually got out of bed, went downstairs, and witched the tap off while at the same time cursing Mr Yor who’d just turned it on.

If he wants to get up at 6am that’s fine but he should take care not to wake everyone else in the process. Unfortunately, despite having talked about this a couple of times before he, like so many Thais I have found, simply cannot learn from a mistake. He gets up at 6am every morning and he opens his door with a bang with no care or thought about anyone else. He also keeps his door closed, so that makes a second bang as he shuts it. My door would make the same noise if I didn’t open it while pulling it towards the hinges to ease the fit. So that’s all he has to do, but he’s got some kind of mental block and can’t bring himself to consider the other two people in the house unless it suits him to do so.

When I get up to take a pee during the night my objective is to be as quiet as a mouse so as not to wake anyone. I have mentioned this to him a few times now but the penny never seems to drop.

I was taken into Khon Kaen today by a senior student from Nong Kom Saeng school comes round to the teacher’s house sometimes. We went to Kranuan on his motorbike and then go the bus to Khon Kaen where we did some shopping.
This didn’t take as long as expected so he suggested seeing a movie at lunchtime and of the four films showing he picked Bangkok Kung Fu and my heart sank as I envisaged what kind of film it would be.

It was actually better than the title suggests because it was an anti child exploitation film exposing in an amusing way the gangs that control the disabled and blind children that you often see playing simple music and begging on the streets in Bangkok. Assuming there was some truth in the movie then gangs are known to kidnap vulnerable children and if they are not already blind of disabled then they inflict suitable injuries on them under the guise of punishments so they can earn money on the streets for the gangs. Needless to say there was a handsome hero in the story who was once one of the blind child victims but has since become possessed of some unearthly powers and, together with a couple of other former victims, give the gangmasters their comeuppance. Luckily, there was almost no kung fu in it at all!
MONDAY 5th SEPTEMBER

Ajarn Took was away again this morning attending a meeting in Khon Kaen but she didn’t call me until 9.30 this morning to tell me and ask if I would take her class for her, but it was ok and I took the class and it went well.

This evening the Director arranged a birthday party for me at a restaurant on the road to Kranuan. It’s a place I have been to before which has had a lot of money spent on it to make it look smart and modern to cater for all kind of customers. He booked the one and only indoor room and most people were there by the time Mr Weang and I arrived in his car. For the very first time, everyone from Sai Moon was there apart from Mr Hot, who was in Udon Thani, and apart from Ajarn Took who has gone home because sister is ill. As well as all the teachers, there was the Head Man of Phi Mun (I had previously called the local village Sai Moon, but in fact the right name is Phi Mun), and his deputy; Mr Mee, who is the gardener and handyman and Jack of all trades at the school; Mr Phiman (the restaurant owner and deputy director of Ban Hat Sai Moon primary school) and his wife; Mr Not, a sports teacher at Ku Don school; Ajarn Cat’s mother and the other Ajarn Took’s daughter. All in all there were 22 people there.

Tons of food had already been laid out on the table and people had started eating when I arrived. I took my place beside my school Director and tucked in. I had mentioned that the dish I liked most from the menu was a sort of roast pork on the bone with a form of crackling and several dishes of this were laid at intervals down the long table along with many other dishes.

The Director had very kindly purchased all the drinks beforehand and brought them to the restaurant: Leo beer, Spy Classic, a bottle of (Thai) Regency brandy and sodas all of which would reduce my bill for the evening by 3-4,000 baht or so. The evening went very well and once people had finished eating two birthday cakes were brought in to the now darkened room with candles flaming and with everyone singing Happy Birthday. I was given a present of a basket of Brand’s elixirs and there is a photo of this in my gallery. As you will see, it is a set of healthy drinks.

After this there were some speeches. The first came from the Phi Mun Head Man and then Mr Phiman and then Dr McKrorn (I’m not sure of his last name), the Director of Nom Kong Saeng school and one of the people who came on the trip to Laos back in February and a golf buddy of my Director, and then Mr Phanakhun, my school director and, finally, I had to take the mike and Mr P. translated for me but he requested beforehand that I use easy words and keep it short and both requests suited me fine.

Then evening continued with karaoke singing from a large TV-style screen on the stage. I had to sing too though it took a bit of searching of the computer index to find a song that I knew with English words.

During the evening I apologised to Ajarn Yor for my outburst yesterday morning and we made up and everything is ok again. I do like him and I will just have to put up with the noise he makes which wakes me up so often.

Later on, I had a call from Ajarn Joy, the Thai English teacher at Muang Baeng School, and she mentioned that her school had just completed the final exams and she asked when my school was doing them. I had to tell her I had no idea as I was unaware of any impending exams.

By the end of the evening only a few people remained as it was past midnight when the two school Directors, who both have the stamina to go on forever, left to go home. It was a really nice evening and it was good to have every available teacher present for once.

TUESDAY 6th SEPTEMBER

Last week for my M4, M5 and M6 classes I thought it would be a good idea to introduce some dictation because listening carefully to words and how they are pronounced can be a great help to students of a foreign language. But there are difficulties for the student too, for example a Thai will pronounce the words liver (which was not in the text) and river (which was in the text) in the same way no matter how much practice you give them. During this morning’s class I tried to explain the misunderstanding they will cause if they mix up these two words but I am not sure how much sunk in.

This evening I joined the Director for dinner at Mr Weang’s place which is really just an outbuilding of the school. A small brick-built building which he uses as an office and where some of the teachers have lunch. After dinner he mentioned he is planning a trip to Laos on the first weekend in October and that he wanted Mr Weang, Mr Kay, Mr Yor and myself to join him. He’s apt to have these ideas and although most do come off, some don’t so I am hoping that this idea falls by the wayside as I have other plans for the October holiday.

Posted by talismanic 04:47 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Aug 21st-28th: 3-DAYS OF PETANQUE, FUTSALL, TAKRAW & MORE!!

rain

SUNDAY 21st AUGUST

The M1 Futsall team had training at school at 6am this morning and will have a second training session at 3pm this afternoon come rain or shine. Coming to school at such an early hour and doing futsall training would be anathema to any UK student but everyone in Isaan gets up between 4-5am anyway so it’s no hardship and Sunday is no day of rest here.

MONDAY 22nd AUGUST

A free day as usual today. It rained first thing and my hopes of washing some more laundry were dashed but it soon brightened up and I was able to do some though there were still grey clouds lurking in the sky. Having done the laundry I set up my laptop in an office in the building which can receive the school wi-fi and tried to catch up on emails etc.

In the afternoon the students involved with the various sports teams continued their practice and I went with Mr Kay and the senior Futsall team to play a practice match against Kut Don school. The other team looked a bit weedy and Sai Moon soon scored a goal but the other team were anything but weedy and soon equalised. A good game followed with Si Moon winning in the end but they will face tougher challenges when they go to Kalasin city on Wednesday.

On the way to Kut Don we stopped off in Non Kung Si where Mr Kay collected the team shirts for teach of the school teams. The shop was more of a workshop where sport and school clothing can be made up to any design desired. I took a photo of the work shop and one of the team receiving the shirts which are in my gallery. About 56 shirts were made which cost about 6700 baht.

TUESDAY 23rd AUGUST

No classes for the school today as it is a sort of rest day before the 3-day inter-school sports competition in Kalasin city starting tomorrow. The pétanque and Sepak Takraw teams practiced as did the junior Futsall team.

I went into Kranuan with Mr Noi for lunch and a visit to Tesco Lotus but his main objective was to go to the bank to pay the monthly instalment on his pick-up car.

WEDNESDAY 24TH AUGUST

An early start this morning for everyone taking part in the 3-day inter-schools sports competition in Kalasin city which starts today. We had to assemble at the school at 7am but it was another 40 minutes or so before we actually set off. I travelled with Mr Kay and the senior futsall team packed the back of his pick-up. I took a photo to show you how it can be done!

Ajarns Weang and Tuk also took some students in the back but the rest of the students travelled on the school bus/truck. Mr Kay was one of the last to leave Sai Moon and we had to go at top speed to get there for 9am.

Certain teachers from the various schools taking part had been given responsibility for organising one of the events. Mr Kay had responsibility for the Sepak Takraw event which included setting up the nets, the provision of the special woven ‘balls’, recording the scores and organising the teams and referees etc.

We managed to arrive just in time and the students set about installing the nets while staff from the Kalasin Administration Office were setting up tented awnings to provide much needed shade during the day.

The five sports being played in the competition were Sepak Takraw, Volleyball, Pétanque, Futsall and Badminton. All the sports apart from volleyball had junior (M1-M3) and senior teams (M4-M6) participating and some schools had more than one team in each age category. The last two sports took place at venues away from the main site which was at Rajamangala University of Technology, Kalasin city which is quite a large facility with tree-lined avenues and manicured ornamental bushes. A number of food and drink stalls had set up and there was a university canteen area a short walk away which is where I went with the senior Futsall team to have something to eat which consisted of some thin slices of rather gristly pork on top of rice with some slices of cucumber.

I busied myself taking photographs of the sports action and tried to capture something of the atmosphere. About 9.45 the Sai Moon school Director arrived and he asked me to join his for breakfast and I said yet thinking we would get something at one of the stalls and it would not take long. What a mistake! He took me to his car and we drove out of the university complex to an eating place down the road which was set amongst some nice trees. What the Director had not told me was that he was meeting up with five other Directors, his golf buddies mostly, and that we would be eating and drinking beer until midday. So this was how I came to miss the action on the first morning.

The rest of the day went well. Though Sai Moon faced some strong opposition some of the teams went through into the next round tomorrow. The only sport not played today was Futsall which begins tomorrow.

After a scorching hot cloudless day the heavens opened about 4.30pm very quickly the volleyballs, takraw and pétanque courts were awash. When it was time to go back to Sai Moon we all got wet rushing through the rain to the car. For me, that was unlucky because I had not been feeling quite 100% the last couple of days and the last thing I wanted was to get wet, sit for an hour in a car with a/c on to get home.

THURSDAY 24th AUGUST

Another early start for Kalasin city and the sports competition. After my uncomfortable journey back from Kalasin yesterday I felt the full force of my cold today and I took some meds I have but I still had to go to Kalasin.

The teams getting through this event will go forward to the regional event which takes place in Ubonratchathani and those that get through there will go forward to the national event in Buriram. Of course, all the Sai Moon teams want to get to Ubon and beyond but realise it is hard for them coming from a small school with a limited number of students good at sport. Furthermore, a few Sai Moon students played in more than one sport, three of the Futsall team also played in the Takraw team.

For me, it was interesting to see how Thais organise an event like this and one of the differences was the lack of an information/results board or tannoy which made it hard to know who had won what and where teams were in the standings. Each of the five teachers with responsibility for the five sports had a bound A4 file containing all the information needed for the event and where the scores were entered. I suppose this is a way of keeping the information together but it is not a way to communicate to the participants what is going on.

I was keen to see the senior Futsall team in action as I had promised them I would make a video of the game. What no one had told me until this morning was that the Futsall today is a knockout event so winning meant everything.
Our match was against Nong Kom Saeng. I won’t bore you with a blow by blow account of the game suffice to say that the other team were better at taking possession, passing and getting shots on goal. Shortly before the final whistle, when we are 3-0, we scored two goals and I really thought we might just equalise. But it was not to be and so Sai Moon were out of the competition.

FRIDAY 26th AUGUST

Back at the teacher’s house we have no water. I suppose this is where the tanks of water come in handy in our washroom, one for sluicing the squat loo and the other for scooping out to take a shower. There will be water to use while the tanks last though. The drilling that took place last week was to find a new water supply though I am not sure what the problem was with the existing supply.

Today was the last day of the sports competition and even those not taking part went to Kalasin to support the teams still in with a chance of going to Ubon. Gradually news came through that one of the badminton teams had won its way to Ubon, which was good news, now it was the turn of the Takraw and Pétanque teams to win their games.

If you have never seen takraw being played some of my photos in the gallery will give you an idea of what it is about. Basically, a woven plastic ‘ball’ is used and the idea is the same as in volleyball except that no hands are used, instead players use their feet, heads, bodies etc and players need excellent eye-feet coordination to play well. One shot often used is a scissor movement using one foot in such a way as to slam the ball downwards making it far harder for the other team to return. The sport is very popular in SE Asia and Thailand are the world champions.

I am not sure how Pétanque came to be so popular in Thailand but it may have been overspill from the French influence in neighbouring Laos. In any event, the sport is played in almost every school in Isaan. Sai Moon had several 3-person teams in this event and they all did well to get through the early rounds but luck can play a part in this game because it is played on a gravel and dirt surface and your boule could land on and be offset by a loose stone. Only two Sai Moon teams made it through to Ubon but that is certainly better than no teams at all!

One of the interesting players to see was the boy who I highlighted a couple of weeks ago when I told you about the Anti-drugs talk and how a boy called to the front had refused to take part in a game. Remember ? Well, this same boy is useless in English class because he never pays attention and refuses to keep his own textbook and more. But the good thing was to see him excel in Pétanque, something he really can do.

It was nearly 8pm when the last Sai Moon team finished playing Pétanque and as many students as possible were crammed onto the school bus/truck. I went back in Ajarn Cat’s car along with two students and Ajarn Yor. I was starving. The food offerings at the stalls during the competition mostly consisted of things like fishballs on sticks which are very iffy and taste of nothing anyway. As Ajarn Yor wanted to go to Tesco Lotus we went to the recently opened store in Kalasin city where I was given 30 minutes to get something to eat as no one else was hungry. In the food zone I went to the first restaurant I came to which offered Italian food. Looking at the menu I opted for Pork Lasagne since I was sure it would be heated from the freezer and I thought it would arrive quickly even so it took just over fifteen minutes for it to come. It was nothing like any lasagne I have ever eaten and most of the traditional ingredients seemed to be missing such as tomatoes, onions, garlic, basil, oregano and parmesan. There was one extremely thin layer of lasagne and something a bit like a béchamel sauce topping but flavourless. The dish didn’t really satisfy my hunger but there was no time to have anything else before continuing the journey back to Sai Moon.

SATURDAY 27th AUGUST

I thought it would be a quiet lazy day but it turned into quite the opposite. First, two M1 students came by wanting to use my laptop to play a game. I said ok as I had some washing and other chores to do for about an hour. Almost as soon as they left a couple of M4 students came to see me asking to see the video I made at Kalasin of the Futsall game. Well, one thing led to another and we watched the video and had a Leo beer with it.

More members of the team arrived later so we had a re-showing of this and other Kalasin videos I made and had some more beer. About 5pm their thoughts turned to food so two of them went off to the village to buy a couple of chickens and Bang, the team goalie who is also a good cook, went off to get all the ingredients for his boiled chicken which was very good and tasty. Soon after we had eaten everyone went home.

SUNDAY 28th AUGUST

The water supply came back fitfully today. It seems there is enough underground pressure to get the water up and into a domed concrete reservoir on stilts some fifty feet high which holds the water supply for the school.

I spent most of the day in between chores organising the photos from Kalasin and from the party last night. In the evening I joined Mr Yor on his motorbike going to Kham Yai where we, and Mr Hot who arrived separately, had some food with Ajarn Bui. It was nothing special, just more of the same that we normally have everyday.

Posted by talismanic 05:29 Archived in Thailand Comments (3)

8-20th Aug: MOTHER'S DAY-SEX-3 DAYS AWAY-IT DEMO-SPORTS+MORE

rain

MONDAY 8TH AUGUST

Assembly was in the ‘sala’ this morning because of the wet weather and after the national anthem and prayer the students who missed the roll call on Saturday were called forward for a ticking off from Mr Noi. There was no punishment as such, though a 30 minute ramble from Mr Noi could be construed as such!

This is the crunch week as far as my ‘salary’ is concerned. It has not arrived so far and I had a word with both Mr Weang and Ajan Took this morning to find out what the situation is. The cheque has been produced, I was told, but it not only needs the signature of three teachers but also Mr Panakhun’s signature too. With people away so much it has been hard to get the signatures apparently but I have been promised the money this week so I will see what happens.

This afternoon the Head of Education came to Sai Moon along with some Directors of other Kalasin schools to carry out their environmental inspection. I took a group photo of everybody before the inspection got underway. They took just over an hour inspecting things but only the displays and documentation etc inside. I didn’t see them wandering round looking at the landscaping, or the newly cleaned toilets or canteen, or the compost area, or anywhere else where so much effort has been exerted. So I was left wondering what exactly was the point of the whole exercise ?

I happened to see some students bending down to get a closer look at something on the ground and I strolled over to see what they had found. It turned out to be a darker lizard than I have seen before but the interesting thing was that it was by its nest which was full of small white eggs of about half an inch in diameter. Luckily, I had my camera and took a photo for you.

TUESDAY 9th AUGUST

Back to normal at school today as far as the timetable goes. I had a scare with my laptop because I had set it up in one of the offices in the only building that can receive the school’s wi-fi signal. While I was upstairs teaching M5 and M6 some student/s came into the room, which has two pcs set up and working, and fiddled with my laptop. I had been using it before the first class and put it into sleep mode before my class started. This meant no one could use it without knowing the password.

After my two classes I returned to my laptop and tried to get it working but I could get nothing up on screen though the task light was blinking showing that the system was working at something. I tried switching it off and I tried rebooting it, but neither worked. Even when I switched off, the task light continued to blink. I assumed a student had repeatedly pressed the ‘on’ button in the hope of getting my laptop to work and had confused the system. I waited a long time for something to happen but nothing did and I began to think my laptop would never work again.

I eventually managed to get it to boot up successfully by holding down the ‘on’ button for more than 10 seconds. This had the effect of totally switching everything off. I waited a few minutes and then switched it on as normal and luckily it powered up and came back to life and I heaved a big sigh of relief!!

WEDNESDAY 10th AUGUST

The problem about my ‘salary’ is getting more complicated. The school has no money in the budget and for some reason the share of my salary has stopped coming from the administrative office in Kalasin city. The Director’s new plan is to shave some money off the budget for a forthcoming trip by M6 to a science exhibition next week, and to shave some money from the budget from the forthcoming 3-day inter-school sports festival in Kalasin where Sai Moon teams will be competing. All of this means I will have to wait till almost the end of this month for July’s salary and what will happen about this month’s salary who knows ??

Preparations continued today for Mother’s Day tomorrow. I find it very odd that so much is left to the last minute at every school I have been to. At the back of the stage large sign stating the name of the school, the event and the date was being painted onto large polystyrene boards. The words were the decoratively cut out with a blade and it took Mr Weang until 1am doing all of this.
THURSDAY 11th AUGUST

Yet another day of no classes this time because it is Mother’s Day when the students pay special respect to their mothers. By 8.45 all the students were in place sitting in the ‘sala’ and most of the mothers had arrived as well.

The students were all in place by about 8.45 and most of the mothers had arrived too. The Director, the Deputy and three other teachers were dressed in their sparkling white No.1 uniforms.

With Mr Noi acting as MC, the Director opened the ceremony with the usual dressing of the altar, lighting of the candles and prayers and then the M1 Ankalung players, who were formed up in a semi circle near the front of the stage, nervously played the National Anthem. They were fine in practice, but this morning the music faded once or twice. Then four girl students in their fine costumes performed a traditional dance

Then twelve mothers were called forward to receive a special certificate of their motherliness from the school Director. The twelve, two mothers representing each of the six classes, were chosen and voted for by each class.

The assembled students then went individually or in groups to their mothers. Not everyone’s mother was there so class groups squatted in from of the mothers representing each class to pay them their respects.
The students with mothers present had a mini bouquet to pin onto her chest and I saw one or two give their mother a hug which is something you never normally see in public.

The school band then took to the stage in a brave attempt to amuse or perhaps impress the audience. It was a good try especially as they had only been rehearsing for a few days but, in reality, it was pretty dire partly due to the lack of rehearsal and partly because of the inadequate amplifiers and dire sound system. The singers couldn’t remember their words and so had the lyrics on pieces of paper on the floor in front of them so they sang with their heads face down which is never a good omen.

It was all over by about 10.45 and I spent the rest of the morning taking photos and packing my things for the weekend. Mr Weang gave me a lift into Kranuan to the bus station and I got a bus to Nam Phong, which is on the main highway between Bangkok and Nong Khai. I only had to wait a few minutes and then I saw two buses approaching. One was a regular single deck coach, the other was a fast double decker, the kind used for long distance journeys. I hesitated because I could see both were pretty full but a nearby stallholder encouraged me to go to the larger bus so I walked over with my luggage. The driver’s assistant opened the door at the front for me and waved me in. Normally, there are steps up to the level of the lower passenger deck but this time there were none and I thought I’d made a mistake by going in by the wrong door. But no mistake, I was being offered a front seat next to the driver who sits at a lower level than the passengers behind him. So I had a front row seat all the way to Udon and I was able to see the control panel from where all the facilities can be switched on or off.

In case you might be interested, keys are required to access five different controls one of which, and something I had not realised before, turned on a wi-fi system throughout the bus. I have never used my laptop in a bus mainly because there is limited space and it would be an upheaval unpacking and repacking it. On the bus coming back I saw one person using an iPad and another a small laptop.

I went to Udon mainly so I could do some shopping there and I spent the night at the Silver Reef hotel where I have stayed before. It was so nice to sleep in a nice soft bed with clean white sheets and to have a proper hot or cold shower and to go out for something good to eat.

FRIDAY 12th AUGUST

Mother’s Day. If I am able to I sometimes get the Bangkok Post on a Friday because it comes with a nice magazine called Guru which is always fun to read. In today’s paper there were many large spaces taken up by companies offering loyal good wishes to the Queen alongside a photograph of her.

Around town (and there is one in front of Sai Moon school as well) large portraits of Her Majesty have been erected often with a small Buddhist style altar for flowers and candles etc.

This morning before breakfast I switched on the tv in my hotel room and every Thai channel was showing devotions to the Queen and all of them seemed to have the same rather stilted format.

Later in the morning I called my friendly tuk tuk driver and he came to my hotel to take me to the immigration office by the Friendship Bridge. He refused payment and said he would wait for me and take me back to my hotel on my re-entry into Thailand.

I passed through immigration, caught the shuttle bus into Laos where I completed the two entry forms, paid 1500 baht (about £30) and then turned round to exit Laos, catch the shuttle bus to re-enter Thailand at immigration where I got a new three-month stamp on my visa. As promised, my tuk tuk was waiting for me. It took just 50 minutes from when I left my tuk tuk to when I returned to the tuk tuk visa mission completed.

It was a nice afternoon so I walked downstream along the road at the side of the Mekong river. It was hot and sticky, but the views were nice and after about a mile I came to the Tree House, a modern glass structure that looked very new, with a subtitle which offered ‘coffee and bread’. It seemed an odd combination so I went inside. It could have been a smart cafe in London or Sydney or some other city with a board above the counter offering all styles of coffee, smoothies and cold teas. There was a chiller display cabinet by the counter which had a range of cakes/desserts in small rectangular aluminium containers such as banoffee pie, cherry cheesecake and about half a dozen others. I had the banoffee pie and an iced coffee and they were both delicious. The coffee was served in what could well have been a vase or the kind of glass container used as a wine carafe.

SATURDAY 13th AUGUST

I had a browse around the Indo-China Market this morning which is full of stuff that most people seem not to want but it is interesting to look at it all the same.

In the afternoon I went to the large Tesco Lotus in Nong Khai where I bought some vintage Cheddar cheese and some Philly which will keep me going for lunch at Sai Moon for the next week. I wanted to get some carrots too, but, strangely, they had none. Also, Tesco Lotus still has the old system for fruit and veg whereby you choose what you want and an assistant will weigh and price it for you. The girls at the checkout will refuse fruit and veg if it is not priced up already. I forgot about this and had to leave some apples behind!

On my way back to the hotel in the late afternoon I spotted a shop which had a dozens of large brightly coloured reels of cotton on the pavement outside. I assume they were being dried in the sun and I took an interesting photo which is in my gallery.

SUNDAY 14th AUGUST

As usual, I had a late breakfast at the hotel and then I spent some time on the internet before packing my things and then checking out. I had lunch at a Belgian/German restaurant, where I have eaten dinner on previous visits to Nong Khai, and it was very nice and filling.

I rang my friendly tuk tuk driver and he came to take me to the bus station where I had to wait about 80 minutes for the next bus to Khon Kaen. The bus left at 2.20 with every seat occupied and an fifteen people or so sitting on small stools placed for them in the aisle. Very soon the bus was like a sauna, hot and sticky and I couldn’t help wondering what would happen if there was an accident. The other problem was that I had picked a seat six rows back from the front and I would somehow have to clamber over the person sitting next to me and them force my way along the aisle with my three bags to get to the exit at the front.

The conductor called me for Namphong rather early and as anticipated I had a real struggle to get my bags together and squeeze by all the other passengers in the aisle. I then had to stand and wait at the front of the bus until we reached Nam Phong where I planned to get the bus to Kranuan.

I was very glad to see some other people at the bus stop because I knew the last bus was in the late afternoon and it was already 5.30pm. After waiting a while I was very glad to see Cola (an M6 Sai Moon student) appear round the corner coming to catch the same bus on his return from Khon Kaen. Only then was I certain that a bus was coming and I would be ok. At Kranuan bus station I was given a lift by Cola’s family back to Sai Moon.

MONDAY 15th AUGUST

No classes today as usual. I think the teaching at Kut Don School has withered. I have heard no more about it and I do not expect to be going there again. It’s not that they do not like me, it’s just that there seems to be a perceived problem between Kut Don and my school Director.

TUESDAY 16th AUGUST

No classes again today! Why ? Because this morning there was to be a presentation by ICT Computer Co. Ltd Bangkok.

The school was ready at 9am but the company phone ahead and said they would be arriving at 9.30 so a movie was shown called Guardians of the Legend of the Guardians featuring animated owls.

It was a very poor presentation. It was confusing and mixed up with the first half hour devoted to logging in which apparently has to be done two or three times before actually accessing anything useful. A lot of the presentation should have been reserved for teachers and it bored the pants off the students.

The software the company provides contains a huge number of different resources and programs most of which are in Thai. But the quality of some of them is poor. In one, the teacher has a whiteboard marker in his hand and proceeded to draw a box on the whiteboard only it would not work and he had to find another pen. But the ink from this pen was so faint it was hard to know what he was drawing. In my opinion, this sort of thing should have been noticed and rerecorded before showing it to clients. In another demo, the teacher’s voice came to a stop mid-sentence and he just stood there looking helpless.

In a snippet from an English lesson, the teacher was singing a song about how certain words are modifiers. The teacher sang and the lyrics on-screen said ‘Every word is modifier, modifier, modifier’. At no point in the lyric was the article used before modifier. In my opinion, this shows the lack of professionalism by the company making this software. Things like this need proofing and checking and checking again and again for errors. After all, schools pay a lot for the software and they get rubbish like this.

Yet another demo, was about Pastillage. Yes, really, I’m not making this up!! A chef made neat coloured balls as part of a lecture about Cake Decorating. Ok, cake decorating has its place. To me, it suggests that someone thought the subject was a good idea to include amongst the plethora of other topics contained in the software without taking into consideration that Thais do not use ovens and you do not find them in the average Thai household! No oven = no cake. No cake = nothing to decorate! I felt like putting my hand up to make this point but decided to keep my trap shut. Oh, in case you thought the demo team would ask the assembled students/teachers for any questions, forget it. I have never ever witnessed anyone asking any audience for questions. When I ask my classes for questions I always get a blank stare as if I am crazy! Am I ? Sane answers only please!!!!

The presentation continued without a break until 11.30 when the other Ajaan Took spoke to the students and had the cheek to upbraid them for not paying attention and talking during the presentation which is exactly what she and the other teachers do when, say, the Director addresses the school or on other occasions when the school are assembled and guests or VIPs address the students. The teachers even chat amongst themselves when the prayers are recited by the students every morning. If the teachers don’t behave as they say the students should behave then why are the teachers here so surprised that the students do not pay attention ?

This sort of thing makes me feel like cracking the whip myself when something is so blatantly obvious, but then I do not have a whip to crack so must attempt to keep my mouth shut though I may well mention it to the Director next time we are driving somewhere.

The afternoon was going to be devoted to sport as most afternoons are right now since there is a big inter-school sports event coming up and the teams need training. However, plans change. This afternoon a 4-person team of nurses came to the school arranged by the Huai Mek administration office to give the students a health check.

The session opened with some sex education for the boys about how to put on a condom. The nurse showed some boxes of condoms, and some tubes of lubricating cream and then proceeded to place a condom over one of the boxes containing one of the tubes. Needless to say, there were lots of giggles but there was also a long queue later for the free condoms. Only the youngest M1 (12/13 y.o.) students didn’t line up to get a free box though some of them got them by other means.

Class by class the students were weighed and had their height measured with the results written in pen on each student’s forearm. They then went over to one of two other nurses who asked each student various questions from a checklist and wrote the answers in the appropriate box. She got each student to raise his head so she could check for any swelling of the neck glands and she looked into each student’s eyes. Some students received cream to rub on swollen glands, others received packets of vitamins. There are some photos of the whole session in my gallery.

WEDNESDAY 17th AUGUST

It was back to a normal routine today except that during assembly it was reiterated how this week and next the school must emphasise sport in the afternoons. So it wasn’t much of a surprise when students were tasked to weed the newly planted grass areas after lunch for about an hour.

This afternoon, on my way back to school from the teacher’s house with my cameras, I spotted a lone black butterfly with bright blue markings which I had never seen before. It darted from flower to flower settling only momentarily to collect the pollen but I managed to get some ok-ish photos a couple of which are in my gallery for you.

At 4pm I went off with Mr Kay and the Sai Moon Futsall team to play a friendly match against Non Kung Saeng school about 20 minutes’ drive away. Most of our players are from M4 (14/15 y.o.) whereas the other team were mostly from M6 (17/18 y.o.) and this was given by Mr Kay as the reason why we got beaten. I didn’t not think that was so much of a problem rather it was the first time we had played against another team and we have yet to really gel as a team and play like one. I am thinking of offering our team, say, 250 or 500 baht per goal scored as an incentive when it comes to the competition itself.

THURSDAY 18th AUGUST

Shortly before I left Sai Moon with Mr Kay yesterday a drilling rig arrived at school a smaller version of the kind they use on building sites to drill the holes for foundation piles. A team of six, operators and labourers, accompanied the rig and some of them cooked food and slept in tents on the site so I can only suppose the rig has come from some distance away.

When I had a look at the rig this morning the drill had quickly struck water suggesting that the water table is not very deep in this area which is good since the purpose of the rig is to find a new water supply for the school.
FRIDAY 19th AUGUST

The rig finished its work today. As the drill bit went down into the ground blue plastic tubing was inserted, section by section, until a secure water supply was reached. The tube now protrudes from the ground and a stopcock has been attached.

The sports team continued their training this afternoon in preparation for the 3-day sports tournament featuring schools from around Kalasin. As we, and I suppose other schools as well, have only been training the teams seriously for a week or so it is difficult to guess how well we will do. The students are certainly keen enough so I hope we do well at one sport at least or more if possible.

I realised today that there is just under six weeks to go before the school closes for the October holidays and I started to think about what I will do and where I will go. I am looking forward to it very much.

SATURDAY 20th AUGUST

Teams playing the five sports for which the school has entries in the inter-school competition in Kalasin next week are ramping up their training. This afternoon there was a friendly beach volleyball match against Kut Don school. Part of the open grass area where the football pitch is has been ploughed up and the reddish sandy soil ideal for the sport. The Sai Moon players did well this afternoon but competition next week will be a lot tougher I think.

None of the sports teams have team shirts to play in as yet. The school has no money and no one has taken up my suggestions about sponsorship. Thais really do have some sort of complex about advice or help from foreigners. They’ll nod their head and say what a great idea and then do absolutely nothing about it. At school they think because I have an ATM card and a nice camera and nice laptop that I must be rich. Well, I suppose in comparison to many of the students and a few of the teachers I am, or in Thai terms I am but in UK terms I am most definitely not rich. I am occasionally asked how much things cost in the UK and I always use Tesco as a comparison because Tesco Lotus operates here which I think might help them relate to the information more easily but in the reverse of what I expect it just reinforces their thinking that I am very rich to be able to afford such high UK prices.

The result is that the five team managers, other teachers in fact, and the teacher in overall charge of sport at Sai Moon are looking to me to wave a magic wand and provide the money to get the team shirts. We are not talking about a huge amount of money here, about £200 in all.

Posted by talismanic 06:36 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Aug 1st-7th: GIANT STICK--POSTERS 'N PROVERBS--DRUGS--MORE..

rain

MONDAY 1st AUGUST

Just as I was leaving the teacher’s house this morning I spotted a very large stick insect perched on one of the stools by the outdoor table where we have meals. Its long thin body was about six inches long and laying its fore and hind legs flat would add another 6” which gives you an idea of its size. I hastily took a photo for you!!

I learned this morning from the internet that the non-stop rain we have been having is due to Storm Nok-Ten which has already devastated parts of Luzon in the Philippines and has swept across parts of southern China on its way here and a number of people have died from mudslides and the like. In Thailand in the north and north east it has mainly caused flooding in some areas and one person has died so far. Around Sai Moon, the rice paddies are full and elsewhere the rainwater just drains away. I don’t know how deep the water table is but the ground seems to have an inexhaustible capacity to absorb the rains.

I am not sure what is happening about Kut Don. I wasn’t collected this morning so I remained at Sai Moon. Mr Not, who arranged for me to teach at Kut Don, has some kind of unfriendliness with my school Director though I have no idea what that is all about. The upshot is that Mr Not believes that Mr Panakhum doesn’t want me to teach at Kut Don. I see no reason why not as I have no classes at Sai Moon on Mondays and I usually fill my time on my laptop. I will speak with Mr P. at the next opportunity.

For only the second time since I have been here morning assembly had to be indoors in the ‘sala’ and I was told that in deference to the death last week of Princess Bejaratana all government employees in Thailand (teachers, police, civil servants etc) have to wear black or white or a combination tomorrow. Non-government employees can do so too and no doubt most will given the God-like status of the royal family here.

The students continued decorating their classrooms today in readiness for the inspection this week. New posters have been fixed to the walls, the glass covering the portraits of the King and Queen and the Buddhist flag which hang over the whiteboards have been cleaned and look shiny and new. What the classrooms really need is for all the old bits of sticky tape dotting the walls to be scraped off and the walls given a lick of paint before putting up all the new posters and paper flower decorations. See the photo in the gallery to see what I mean!

I only hope all this effort, and the effort to finish planting the shrubs and flowers, and the effort to create a new herb garden etc etc, will not be wasted. If, when it is all finished and the inspection is history, the decorations and planting are left to deteriorate (as I suspect they will) then it will be a great shame but typical. For all their piousness about the environment I don’t think ordinary Thai people care very much given that domestic rubbish is thrown everywhere, given that non-degradable plastic bags are strewn all over the place, given that you rarely find a bin (even in Bangkok) to put your rubbish into, plus so many other similar givens. Or it may be that people have become so used to the state of things that they are indifferent. I am not sure which it is.

Mr Hot and some students have spent a lot of time and effort creating a compost making enclosure. They used some large concrete rings which had been removed from elsewhere, stacked one on top of another and thus formed six barrel-sized containers in which they put leaf and other material which will eventually turn into a form of compost. They have fenced the area, created a gateway and have even built a bench by the entrance for visitors to rest. See the photos in the gallery.

TUESDAY 2nd AUGUST

I omitted to mention that a week ago some of the senior students have been taking it in turns to read out the proverb of the day to the assembled students. The proverbs, if that is what they are, have been painted on to rectangular pieces of wood in English with the Thai translation underneath. Ajaan Took told me that the students themselves have chosen the proverbs from a book but they seem to have chosen some rather obscure ones such as ‘Every coin has two sides’ and ‘Four eyes are better than one’. I have been trying to see the proverb book but I have not managed to do so as yet.

One student had a lucky escape from embarrassment because I happened to catch sight of a proverb board stored under the teacher’s desk when I took her M6 class. While the students were occupied with a task I took out the board to see which proverb it had on it. It said: ‘Time and tide wait for on man’. Yes, that’s right, ‘on’. I told her about the mistake and she was very thankful.

And what will happen to these proverb boards you might ask ? Well, they will be nailed to the trees at school for students to gaze at or gaze past every day. The depressing thing is that this is exactly what every other school in Thailand does and when you go to any school you are guaranteed to see these neglected and fading boards hanging everywhere at crazy angles abandoned and long forgotten.

This morning, at a teacher’s meeting after assembly, we were informed that the inspection tomorrow has been postponed until next week because some of the inspecting directors have to go to Laos. I can’t think of any reason why school directors go to Laos apart from the underlying reason why my Director and the others went to Laos back in February which was to see their ‘gigs’ (girlfriends on the side).

The Director’s away inspecting other schools so the Deputy is in charge and at the meeting she reminded the teachers of their duties regarding the clean-up. My duty, she said, is to go round taking photos which suits me just fine!

The Deputy also announced that there is going to be an anti-drugs, and alcohol and smoking awareness talk for the students next Friday.

The postponement means that there’s more time to clean up and prepare for the inspection so students set-to cleaning windows, brushing cobwebs off ceilings, putting up more signs and cleaning out long disused ablution areas and toilets. I don’t imagine for a second that the cleanliness will be maintained and that the whole exercise will have to be repeated next year.

The weekend after next, which is a three-day break, I am going to Udon Thani for one night and then Nong Khai for two nights and I will cross the Friendship Bridge into Laos in order to get another stamp on my passport to give me another 90 days in Thailand.

The rain stopped this morning though it looked very threatening. There have been reports of floods in Nong Khai and Udon Thani and other eastern and northern provinces.

WEDNESDAY 3rd AUGUST

It rained overnight and into this morning so we had assembly in the ‘sala’ again. Most of the cleaning up has been done now though some classroom decorations haven’t been completed yet so more work was done on them this morning but otherwise the school teaching schedule was back to normal.

THURSDAY 4th AUGUST

This morning I went into Khon Kaen partly because after the first period with M4 I had a free day and nothing else to do and partly because it was an opportunity to see at first-hand how the Thai system works when applying for a passport.

One of the M6 students applied for the passport and it was interesting to see the difference with the UK system. First of all, the nearest place to make an application is a government office in Khon Kaen which, in this case, was 50 miles away from my school. There is only one office in Khon Kaen where applications can be made and I anticipated a long queue, but there wasn’t one.

The office was a long not very wide rectangular one with a lady at a desk by the door handing out application forms and a call number, answering questions and measuring people’s height if they do not already know it.

The questions on the application form consist of eight lines only: name, address, id card number, phone number, the id card numbers of both parents and their names and phone numbers and that is about it.

The form is then taken next door when your number is called by the automatic queuing system. Someone at another desk checks the application and the back-up documents including the relevant id cards and the Home Book.

Every Thai family has a ‘Ta Bien Bahn’ or House Registration Book which gives an official proof of residency and is used when applying for a job or anything official or transferring anything.

Once the paperwork has been checked a passport will be issued which has to be collected from the office in due course though I am not sure how long it will take as yet because the student did not have his parent’s id cards to hand so will have to apply again another day.

The cost of a passport is considerably less than in the UK at only 1200 baht (about £24). Filling out the application form and checking the documents took about 30 minutes in all, so very quick really.

FRIDAY 5th AUGUST

While I was away from school yesterday chairs were arranged in rows in the ‘sala’, the stage front was dressed with colourful cloth, and the loudspeaker stacks were put in place. All of this was for a presentation this morning by Huai Mek’s finest policemen about drug, alcohol and smoking abuse. All the students had been issued with bright pink t-shirts linked to the presentation. The teachers were each given a fetching pink polo shirt. Both had the anti drugs message on the back.

After assembly students registered for the presentation and then took their seats. As always with these kind of events there was a jester to warm up the audience with jokes, a song or two and some clapping routines. In this case it was a policeman and he kept going for about thirty minutes and laughed at his own jokes far more than the students did who had probably heard them all before. Everyone was present from the school and there were about twenty worthies from Huai Mek and the village who sat in VIP seats at the side.

About 9.15am the chief of police arrived and, as always, there was the lighting of the candles on the altar then someone recited a script from the lectern whilst everyone stood and then handed the mike over to the uniformed police presenter who made a lengthy speech.

About ten thirty the event actually started with the uniformed policeman talking about facebook and the evils of the internet. There were no visuals during the morning at all and if I had been a student and able to understand what was being said I feel sure I would have fallen asleep very quickly.

One of the things that is rather good at the sort of events is that they bring refreshments with them to dispense to the VIPs staff and teachers. First off was a nice cup of coffee with a packaged slice of cake with the end of the plastic packet already cut off for easy access. Later, there was a cold fruit drink. Water was on hand too and fans were placed around the ‘sala’ to keep everyone cool.

On this occasion, lunch was provided for all the students and staff as well though by the time I got there supplies were running very low and some students had yet to be fed so I had my lunch upstairs with the Director and the worthies from Huai Mek and some of the police.

As usual, I got asked the same questions that everyone asks and several people pointed out the Som Tam, or Papaya Pok Pok as it is known locally, and pointed to a plate of chicken wings saying ‘chicken’ as if I was from outer space and had never seen or heard of the food before.

After lunch one of the policemen warmed up the students again with some jokes and played a game with them in order to select at random three girls and three boys to come to the front.

For the game, at a command the students had to clap a short sequence and, depending what it was, they had to end either with their hands together as if in prayer or across their chest. Most got it right each time, but a few unlucky pooying and poochai ended up with their hands in the wrong position and had to go to the front and stand facing the audience where they had to repeat a Thai tongue twister to escape and sit down or keep doing it till he/she got it right. Of course, all this was done with endless laughter and good spirits. I was convulsed myself as it was all very visual and I took a few photos for you as well.

Then two monks arrived one of whom talked for most of the second session about the dangers of drugs such as Amphetamines and Yabaa, a Thai drug which is smoked rather like cannabis. A screen had been set up by this time and he showed some short films and a series of clips and stopping them and starting them with narrations in between. Perhaps the thinking is that as monks are held in such high respect by everyone the students would take more heed of the message than if it was given by a policeman given that the police do not generally have anything like the same respect as the holy men.

SATURDAY 6th AUGUST

All the students came back into school this morning for part two of the anti drugs/drink and smoking talk. The head of the Tambon (district) spoke for the first hour or so and then someone from Huai Mek police station and someone from Huai Mek hospital took over. There were no visual images today, no gruesome photos of someone dying from an overdose, or lurid photos of the effect of smoking on your lungs, or of some drunk lying senseless in the gutter as there would surely be for such a talk in the UK or any western country.

At first glance there seemed to be a full student attendance but looking around more carefully even I could see there were certain people missing so there were probably more absent than that.

I didn’t spend all morning at the talk mainly because I had no idea it was being stretched into a two-day affair. I did wonder why so many students were coming into school and assumed there must be some work project and wandered down to take some photos. I wasn’t dressed appropriately (t-shirt and shorts in case you are wondering!!) so I didn’t stay very long. I did some clothes washing and other domestic chores and got changed into trousers and the pink anti-drugs polo shirt I was given yesterday but didn’t wear and went back about 11.30 to be in time for lunch.

Two six foot tables had been laid for the staff lunch while the students had to queue up for their lunch and eat where they could. It must have been a quiet policing day in the area because about a dozen casually dressed (plainclothes ??) of Huai Mek’s finest police all in their pink polo shirts also ate at the table. So obviously there were no drug dealers or other criminals to catch today.

In between visits to the talk I went to the purified water outlet, to refill a couple of plastic bottles that I keep in my room, when I spotted a giant butterfly or more likely a moth. It had mottled brown colouring but what caught my eye were the large wings which, when fully opened, must be about 8-9” from tip to tip. It manoeuvred itself into the gap under the water machine and up into a dark space inside the metal cabinet. I had my camera both times I went to the talk but not when I went to get the water. Grrrrrrhhh!!

The day ended for the students about 4pm – compared to a 3.30 end to a normal weekday - by which time they must have been in a daze after being talked at for so long. There was a bit of audience participation but not a lot.

The Director and four teachers left Sai Moon by car late this afternoon for Bangkok where they will attend an exhibition of displays by all 77 provinces in Thailand of their educational achievements, their crafts and culture though I am not sure what this self-promotion is expected to achieve. They will come back tomorrow tired and dishevelled I expect because they will not be staying overnight in an hotel but in the car to save expense. Good luck to them I say!

From about 5pm I was alone at the house because Mr Yor was at the book fair in Bangkok, Mr Kay was at home in Roi Et and Mr Narongsak went to spend a night in Khon Kaen. I cooked up a fried supper using some leftover mushrooms, onion, carrot and rice which was very nice.

SUNDAY 7th AUGUST

One of the M1 students knocked on my door at 7am this morning hoping to be able to play a game on my laptop. Yes, 7am and I was still in bed hoping to sleep a bit more. Anyway, I told him to come in and he played some internet games while I snoozed on. I figured it would be less hassle to let him in than saying no and having him pester me.

I didn’t do very much today other than relax and do some chores. An M6 students came round in the afternoon and asked if I would like to go with him on his motorbike to Non Kung Si market. As I had never been to this market before I jumped at the chance.

It is a larger market than the Saturday evening one at Kham Yai but is similarly split 50/50 between food and non-food stalls. I bought some sliced spring rolls with a dipping sauce and some vegetables for dinner.

We also went to Tesco Lotus in the town itself where I got some more food and a carton of fresh orange juice. This is the third such carton I have bought recently and I have offered glasses of juice to Mr Yor and other teachers and a couple of students but they all refuse to drink it. Likewise the two bags of apples I’ve bought. They say yes when I ask if they would like one but they never eat it.

It was the same last week when I went with M6 student, Cola, to Tesco Lotus in Kranuan to buy food for dinner. I insisted on having some vegetables to accompany the squid and pork. Nothing strange, just some baby pak choi, some carrots and some mushrooms. Six Thai people and I ate the meal but I noticed the Thais carefully avoided the carrot chunks in the otherwise very tasty dish.

Talking of squid, whenever I have had squid in the UK, usually at a Thai restaurant, it is always tough and chewy and not so nice and in supermarkets I have only seen the tubular pieces of squid which I assume to be from tentacles.

At any Tesco Lotus here you will see a mountain of squid on offer. One pile will be small whole squid, another pile will be thick white strips of squid flesh which cooks very quickly and are delicious to eat and not tough or chewy in any way. The dish we had had pork and squid mixed together and it was lovely.

In passing, Tesco here will even cook your fish for you if you want and for free too!! Tomorrow sees the much-anticipated environmental inspection. I wonder what will happen ?

PS:== Thank you for all your comments so far. I read them all and they were very welcome so keep ‘em coming!!==

Posted by talismanic 07:25 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

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