06.08.2012 - 20.08.2012
MONDAY 6th AUGUST
I finished off marking the Mid-Term Test papers this morning and gave today’s classes their scores. The highest score for M4, M5 and M6 combined was 90% attained by Wipawan, the school’s elected Bataan (or Student Leader) who is in M6. There were 4 others around 80%, one with 76% and then scores began to drop down to 60%s and 50%s and many below that. The lowest was 10%.
For M1, M2 and M3 two students got 63.3% which was the highest mark. Only four other students got 50% or above. The remaining fifty-five students got below 50% with half that number getting 20% or less, three got 0%. So some good news and some bad and that well worn school report phrase comes to mind: ‘Could do better.’
TUESDAY 7th AUGUST
I did a review of the Test questions for some of the classes today but for some students if they sat the same test again with the same questions, sad to say, but I doubt their score would improve.
WEDNESDAY 8th AUGUST
Rained all day which is something that has not happened for quite a while and was rather depressing really and it made all my clothes feel a bit damp
For the first time this week I had M3 (14-15 y.o.) this morning and reviewed the test questions for them and gave them their scores. One of the questions in the test, which caused problems for many junior students, was about capital letters. There were five short sentences, such as peter likes monday and friday very much and students had to replace letters with capitals as they saw fit but, despite around 5 years of English classes, many couldn’t manage it.
THURSDAY 9th AUGUST
Another rainy day. Luckily the school is on slightly higher ground so there is no chance of any flooding and the village itself is on a very barely noticeable ridge so heavy rain drains away very quickly.
FRIDAY 10th AUGUST
The school’s celebrations for the Queen’s Birthday, or Mother’s Day, took place today and after assembly the students gathered in the sala which had been prepared with chairs and stage decorations last evening.
This year the Director didn’t attend because, I heard, he was collecting his pick-up from the garage back in his home town of Wang Saphung, Loei where it was being repaired. The Deputy Director took his place and led the school in singing the national anthem and then the special Queen’s anthem. The Deputy and many of the teachers were dressed in their official white uniforms and those that didn’t have/hire them wore their standard government uniform that all civil servants across Thailand wear on Mondays.
Some students from M5 performed a very nice dance dressed in their traditional costumes which I videoed and it can be seen on youtube.com at http://youtu.be/CpXKzquu5ckt
About forty mothers also attended and those that the students had nominated to be given motherhood certificates this year came up to the front to be given them by the Deputy after which students gathered around all the mothers. Those students whose mother wasn’t present gathered around their friend’s mother and at a given signal students gave small gifts to their mothers and a few even gave them a hug and I managed to get a couple of photos of this rare event – Thais don’t go in for hugs or much obvious close affection once a baby has grown up and got beyond the baby stage and you very rarely see any kissing or hugging or other signs of affection between adults in public.
Student winners of various awards came up next to receive their certificates and prizes which ranged from three to ten exercise books or packs of pens. Students get awarded points for taking part well in an activity such as cleaning, sweeping up leaves, cleaning toilets etc as well as classroom activities such as ‘drawing’ though I use that word in its loosest sense as what students are instructed to do is to trace and colour pictures from a book. There’s never any creativity or self expression sadly.
The celebrations were over by 11.30 and the mothers went home as did many students. Various teachers told me that there would be sport or classes in the afternoon but in the event there were no classes and only a few students stayed at school to practice the sport they will be playing in an inter-school competition in a couple of weeks.
Around 3pm Mr Jasper drove me to Nam Phong where I caught the bus for Udon Thani where I will stay for three nights.
I had dinner this evening at the night market where there was a large tv screen showing the semi-final boxing match between Thailand and China at the Olympics. Needless to say, whenever the Thai boxer got a punch on target a great cheer went up. When he lost the bout and the Chinese boxer was declared the winner there was a lot of discontent.
SATURDAY/SUNDAY 11/12th AUGUST
As always, it was nice to sleep in a proper bed with crisp white sheets and a soft pillow and to use a real shower with hot and cold water. I didn’t do very much in Udon though one of the things I did do was to explore the big new shopping mall that opened shortly before my last visit three months ago. It is quite easy to lose one’s bearing inside the mall as the layout isn’t symmetrical but it has many interesting shops as well as a handful of the well known shop names one sees elsewhere. The top floor is devoted to eating with many different types of restaurant and there is also a multiscreen cinema, bowling centre and karaoke lounge.
The basement has a large food park with around thirty outlets selling freshly made food. You simple buy a food card with as much credit as you want to spend which is debited at the outlets at which you order food. There is also a large Tops supermarket which has beautiful displays of fresh fruits and a large range of imported food from Europe and elsewhere. It’s a good place to browse and see all the different things on offer and to realise that brands such as Dettol, which is far as I know, is only known for its disinfectant in the UK but here in Thailand the Dettol brand encompasses shower gel, soap and other personal cleaning agents.
I heard that that Thai media feel that the Thai boxer should have won his fight. I didn’t watch the complete match so I can’t comment one way or another but it has definitely caused some ill feeling here in Thailand.
On Sunday I did my usual run into Laos and back. I got a motorcycle taxi to take me to the bus station for a bus to Nong Khai which took an hour to get there. I then got a tuk tuk to the border immigration office on the Thai side of the Friendship Bridge across the Mekong. I went through the immigration checkpoint and got the shuttle bus across the bridge to Laos where I paid the usual 1500 baht (£30) visa fee and entered Laos. Having passed through the checkpoint I did a u-turn and exited Laos and visited the duty free shopping zone where you can buy everything from pirate DVDs to shoes. I had heard about boxes of wine being available, and they are, though they mostly contain red wines. I did find a few boxes of sauvignon blanc which I would have bought until I considered that they contain the equivalent of four bottles of wine and as I would be drinking most of it regretfully decided against buying a box though both red and white wine boxes were only 550 baht (about £11).
I did however buy a large bag of 3-in-1 Lao coffee from its famous Bolevan Plateau coffee growing region for 120 baht (£2.20). After this I caught the shuttle back to the Thai side of the Mekong and passed unhindered into Thailand with another visa stamp in my passport.
MONDAY 13th AUGUST
I spent a chunk of this morning look around the brand new IT Plaza that has opened in Udon Thani. Only the ground floor is open so far with a large number of different outlets selling mainly computer related goods. The newly built Plaza is glossy and spacious and a nice place to browse. Another big IT centre, Tukcom, is due to open in another part of Udon in the coming months. I just wish we had something similar in London but then, I suppose, prices would be sky high. Yes, I know I can buy IT items cheaper online but it is nice to see them in the flesh, handle them and have a place to take them back to if something doesn’t work.
Before I left Sai Moon for the weekend it had been raining a lot so I took my umbrella with me to Udon which had the desired effect as not a drop of rain fell while I was there!
I got the bus back to Nam Phong about 2.30 and for the first time ever the bus sailed past the stop. I knew the stop as approaching and I had got out of my seat to move forward but so many extra passengers had been packed onto the bus that it was impossible to move forward fast enough to get the conductor to stop. The bus did eventually stop about half a mile further on than usual and Mr Jasper, who was waiting for me, had to come and fetch me and we went back to Sai Moon.
When I got back to the teacher’s house I found that Mr Yor had been up to his old tricks again putting up several printed paper notices here and there. Regardless of what they said I was annoyed that he still thinks of the house as his. He built his lean-to garage on to the end of the house without asking anyone else if we minded whereas, in fact, it inconveniences everyone as we now have to walk around his car to reach the washing-up point. He may be nice and smiley and friendly but he is also very selfish and inconsiderate.
He has no more right than I have to plaster the house with notices so I discreetly tore them down and threw them away! If he discussed whatever problem the notices were designed to correct with the other house occupants, including me, he would probably have got the ok to put his notices up. I don’t suppose he will have got the message though!!
This evening we – Mr Jasper and I - tried a new restaurant that opened a month ago near Huai Mek which serves Thai and European food. It is a nice looking place, clean and comfortable and our meals were delicious. I had red curry chicken and rice which is something that you rarely find on a menu in Isan. The prices are good too. My dish was only £1.20.
TUESDAY 14th AUGUST
All twelve Lor Dor (army cadet) students were absent from school today and on enquiry learned that they went to a training camp last Friday and will be away from school for ten days. The mixed group of students come from M4 and M5 classes but mostly from M6. It seems strange to me that this sort of training should take precedence over schoolwork.
The teachers in charge of their respective sports are getting the paperwork done for the 3-day inter-school sports competition starting next week. There’s a surprising amount of paperwork involved – each player in each age group must submit his/her id card, two passport size photos and complete a form with personal info. The teacher collects these and verifies each one, fills out another form and stamps it with the school stamp. I suppose it is done to ensure players play in the right age group and don’t cross over into another one and teams don’t engage ringers to boost a team performance.
I still haven’t managed to watch the Olympics closing ceremony yet even when using the school’s internet. The problem is that when the students are online in the computer room the internet slows down elsewhere in the school. I’ll have to try again later.
At dusk I had drinks with director when he finished his golf target practice on the school’s football field. He mentioned that the school will close on Oct 12th though I am not sure if he meant for teachers or for students too. Teachers usually have to stay on at school after the students go on holidays to do admin work but I need to know what he meant as I must make bookings ahead for my own holiday.
After a few beers we – the Director, Mr Jasper and Mr Sittipong – went to the Thai/European restaurant in Huai Mek which Jasper and I ate at last night. They had spaghetti carbonara while I sampled their Phad Thai which was very tasty.
WEDNESDAY 15th AUGUST
I discovered today that the reason the water was off at the teacher’s house was because Mr Bear, on of the school caretakers, had forgotten to turn the supply tap on.
There was some very heavy localised rain this morning accompanied by thunder and lightning which temporarily flooded everything in sight.
The two newly installed speed humps on the road though the school had to be flattened a bit today after being criticised for being too acute. New square-sided sidebars now project outwards to prevent motorbikes going around the edges to avoid reducing speed which is something I did as well!
The Director repaid his loan direct into my Thai bank account which was welcome and sharply increases my baht balance.
THURSDAY 16th AUGUST
After assembly this morning my camera was borrowed to take photos of all the younger students. This is to provide them with a school id card because some students will be attending courses away from school apparently though why this is thought necessary when every Thai person already has a national id card, including all students.
FRIDAY 17th AUGUST
The photos from the Mars lander ‘Curiosity’ are stunning and I have visited the website where you can pan the camera in any direction across the Martian landscape and there’s the promise of more to come. Amazing!
The water got turned off again late this afternoon though I have no idea why this is happening yet again. The school supposedly has its own water supply thanks to drilling that took place about a year ago a short distance from the teacher’s house.
SATURDAY 18th AUGUST
I had another flat tyre on my front wheel today. Luckily I discovered the problem as I left the teacher’s house but it was too late get it fixed so I will get it done tomorrow.
SUNDAY 19th AUGUST
It was nice and sunny this morning so despite the water being off I scooped just enough out of the shower tank to wash my essentials. The water came back on at 11.30 so I did a second batch of washing to take advantage of the sunshine.
I discovered that the broody hen had hatched half a dozen eggs since I last looked in the coop yesterday afternoon. There are now six squeaking little chicks. Care will have to be taken to protect them from snakes and dogs!
I got the inner tube on my front Scoopyi wheel replaced this morning so I am now mobile again.
MONDAY 20th AUGUST
The Director was away again today so the Thai teachers noticeably relaxed. I don’t think it is because they are scared of him as he is not the scary type and is very friendly. But the teachers need his approval to get promotions and promotions mean a bit more money.
The disciplinarian at the school, if you can call him that, is Mr Noi and he’s a stickler for politeness and polite behaviour. The Sai Moon students are not the most polite in Thai terms – not many Wai teachers and the frequently talk (so I have been told) in an impolite manner. That doesn’t mean using swear words or anything that would be considered rude in the west. It means not using respectful words and disrespectful behaviour.
This morning many students were punished for their cumulative bad and/or disrespectful behaviour and numerous poochai and pooying were given a one-stroke beating by Mr Noi after assembly. I don’t suppose any good behaviour resulting from this will last very long, it never does!