07.06.2013 - 14.07.2013
FIRST OF ALL, I APOLOGISE FOR THE DELAY IN POSTING THIS EDITION OF MY BLOG WHICH I KNOW YOU HAVE ALL BEEN POISED ON THE EDGE OF YOUR SEAT WAITING TO READ. I HOPE IT’S OF INTEREST AND THAT YOU ENJOY IT.
FRIDAY 7th JUNE
The Director walked around the teacher’s houses this morning along with two workmen and finalised what work is to be done. I am not entirely sure what is planned but the wooden frame for a new entrance was put in place this afternoon and a delivery of sand, gravel and bags of cement arrived as well.
Behind and around the teacher’s house I have to move to is a lot of rubbish – things which have been thrown out over the years and just left to rot. Unfortunately, there’s no proper rubbish disposal in the countryside and there are no such things as skips or the equivalent of Council dumps where you can take things to be disposed of. The consequence is that there is rubbish everywhere and as people generally buy prepared food or drinks in plastic bags they are everywhere too. It is scandalous really that in the 21st century this country has yet to get to grips with water supplies, electricity for everyone, sewage systems and much more besides.
I forgot to mention that when I left school about 4.15pm yesterday afternoon I discovered that there was a teachers meeting taking place. Neither Jasper nor I had been informed and I didn’t go in. I spoke with Ajarn Tippakorn about the meeting today and she told me that the teachers were requesting budgets for projects they have devised for this year. The news made me angry because despite being at the school for two and half years no one thought to inform me of the meeting or to suggest thinking about projects of my own. I told Tippakorn that either we, Jasper and I, are part of the team or we are not and if I am not them it is time for me to leave.
Of course Tippakorn didn’t respond. The Thai way of responding to criticism is to say Mai Pen Rai (never mind) and talking about something else. So I plan to speak to the Director next time I see him.
In any case, the episode set me thinking about my future here. The Director wants me to move with him to his next school elsewhere in Kalasin province but I am not sure I really want to begin again from zero with another bunch of teachers and probably around 500 students’ names to try and remember.
What with that incident and the imminent move to the other teacher’s house I am thinking again of returning to the London though I would rather not go back for winter. In the new house there will be five people sharing one bathroom/toilet and other facilities; not something I relish!!
This evening I was invited to have a beer at a house in the village. This doesn’t happen very often so I agreed and, anyway, it is good to see local living arrangements. During the course of the evening I could hear the live music from a wedding taking place elsewhere in the village. The thing about these weddings is that lots of villagers are invited and on arrival all the tables are laid with glasses and bottles of soda. The first thing that happens is that bottles of whisky and buckets of ice are given to each table to get things started so well before the end of the evening – in this case almost midnight - everyone is very happy indeed.
SATURDAY 8th JUNE
I began clearing out my new room and blocking the rat holes in the skirting board and getting rid of the millions of mosquitoes and piles of gecko droppings. There was a lot to do and it was very hot but the wooden floor is actually in a better condition that my existing room. The door to the room has obviously been broken into many times in the past not only is the wood around the jamb split but the whole door seems very fragile. I will have to see if it can be replaced.
Another two M3 students had a motorbike accident this afternoon. I am not sure what happened but they skidded and fell over with the result that the surface of the rider’s leg was shredded below the knee and the passenger’s left thigh was skinned as well. So they will be off school next week. Riding around on my Scoopyi I see a lot of crazy motorbike riders and am always careful near them as they often do unexpected things.
SUNDAY 9th JUNE
With Jasper’s help I set-to today to paint my new room in the other teacher’s house. The paint was bought yesterday by Jasper on his way back from Kalasin and the cost will be reimbursed by the school. I’ve opted for the same pale blue (Blue Chiffon on the tin) as I painted my existing room back in January but will have midnight blue on the wooden frames around the door and windows.
Apart from a break for lunch in Huai Mek, because I’d promised Jasper a pizza, we painted all day and it is very hot and sweaty work but the room was transformed.
Four builders worked all day as well. They built 4ft high breezeblock enclosing walls between the pillars at the front of each house and around the door frame they erected on Friday. They told Jasper that they are waiting for instructions regarding the bathrooms but it does seem odd to enclose the verandah when there is a lot of internal bathroom work to be done which will generate a great deal of rubbish.
The Director came round to see the work in progress this afternoon and I took the opportunity to speak with him as I think the building work has been poorly thought out. For example, there is only one kitchen, with the one and only fridge, and now they can only be accessed through the new front door of what will be the female teacher’s house. Also, no thought has been given to the three cats. How they are going to be fed and looked after I am not sure. Also, there is nowhere for me to shave in the other teacher’s house.
On the positive side, he agreed to get an electric shower installed in my teacher’s house-to-be if I agreed to pay for it. They are not very expensive here and I felt this was a chance not to be missed, so I agreed.
I feel what should have happened is that the Director should have consulted the people who have to live in the teacher’s houses before going ahead with the work. But the hierarchical system here precludes ideas like that.
As for Mr Narongsak, he has to move his room as well and his new room needs a lot of work doing to it to make it habitable but, so far, he hasn’t lifted a finger even though he has been given an ultimatum by the Director and has been urged to ready the room by the other teachers. He just laughs in their face and walks away so it will be interesting to see what happens in the coming week.
MONDAY 10th JUNE
The Director had one of his regular short meetings with the teachers alongside assembly this morning. One topic bemoaned the fact that Sai Moon has three English teachers yet a number of students can’t remember what to say when asked how they are, or what to say in response to Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening. The thing is that they have no chance of speaking English outside the classroom and there’s no reason to speak to their friends or parents in English when they can speak Thai. Many students can manage greetings and easy conversations so I can only assume the Director has been picking the ‘wrong’ students to chat to.
The Director wants us, the three English teachers, to do something about the English situation but it is hard to think of effective measures given the circumstances here but I did have the idea of substituting the vocabulary each morning with a greetings or other useful phrase which we will start tomorrow.
Someone arrived at the teacher’s houses today to measure up the windows for the fitting of proper insect screens.
TUESDAY 11th JUNE
Finished touching up the paintwork my room and in many ways the result is better than my effort in the old room. It has the same colour scheme except the borders in dark blue.
I went into Kranuan this afternoon to try and buy a shower unit but could only find very low powered ones which I have been advised to ignore if I want to have hot showers.
WEDNESDAY 12th JUNE
There were normal classes for first two periods this morning and then students spent the rest of the day preparing their ‘pans’ for Wai Kru Day tomorrow.
This afternoon some M5 students helped move the furniture and other large items from my room to my new room in the other teacher’s house.
Mr Narongsak is causing a great deal of uncertainty by refusing to acknowledge that he has got to move as well. So far, he hasn’t lifted a finger to move nor has he done anything to the room he has to move into. Mr Noi thinks that there may have to be a forced eviction so it will be interesting to see what happens next.
The workmen are still doing things to the toilet rooms in both teacher’s houses and in both cases they’ve removed the walls forming the water tank from which one scooped water to flush the toilets. They have also removed the walls forming the shower water tanks, so no shower today or tomorrow therefore Jasper and I have decided to stay at Kranuan Thani resort tonight and tomorrow where chalets with an en suite bathroom, tv and aircon are 350 per night each (about £7) and we can eat there also.
THURSDAY 13th JUNE
The annual Wai Kru ceremony took place this morning at school during which students show their respect for the teachers. The ‘pans’ every class had made were presented and each individual student offered a flower wrapped in a banana leaf to the teacher they found themselves opposite when they kneeled onto the stage. There are some photos for you in my gallery.
In the afternoon there was a parents meeting when they could meet the Thai teachers and talk, for example, about the grades of their son/daughter. Before this the culmination of my Give-A-Dictionary Campaign took place. A table piled high with the chosen dictionary had been set up at the front of the stage and in front of the parents. When everything was ready the Director gave a speech during which he thanked everyone who so kindly donated money to the campaign. Unfortunately, there was a glitch just then with the PA system which decided to screech intermittently thus ruining the video being taken of his speech. I then gave a dictionary to each student and to every teacher and there are some photos in the gallery of the students receiving their dictionaries.
Later on Jasper and I went off to Global Village, a large warehouse selling household goods, to buy an electric shower. Although I had done some internet research it wasn’t easy to decide which one of the many on offer to buy.
There were some brands I had never heard of and many weren’t powerful enough so that eliminated many units. I eventually bought a Panasonic 6kw model which only had two ‘buttons’ unlike the digital versions which have so many bells and whistles.
The hong nams at the teacher’s house are still not finished so Jasper and I spent a second night at Kranuan Thani resort.
FRIDAY 14th JUNE
It is amazing how quickly some things can be done it Thailand. The latest example is the man making the insect screens. He runs his one-man business from Kranuan and only measured up the windows (3 per room x8 rooms and every window was a slightly different size) last week and today he was fitting them. They have hinged and dovetailed aluminium frames, very fine aluminium screens and two small locking devices each – altogether a great piece of work!
I spent my first night in my new room which looks exactly the same as the old one since the furniture etc is all in the same place and the walls are the same light blue colour. It remains to be seen what living there will be like.
SATURDAY 15th JUNE
I went into Kranuan to visit Tesco Lotus, have lunch, and to try and buy a shelf but such things are unobtainable in the town so I will buy a ready to fit shelf when I go to Udon Thani in a couple of weeks.
I spent a lot of time cleaning the shower/toilet room tiles and two basins. They were all in a dreadful state and had been neglected for years but I will have to buy some bleach and a cleaning agent.
The workmen finished caging in my new teacher’s house; quite why the Director thought it was a good idea I do not know since the only exit is now through the front door and one has to walk round to the side of the buildings to access the water tap for washing up and laundry.
SUNDAY 16th JUNE
I went to Kranuan with Jasper to get the phone number of the electrician and to buy bleach, cleaner and the necessary buckets for the two toilets, new scoops and brushes as well a very large plastic bowl in which to wash laundry. Although not expensive by any means, the money is coming from my pocket!
In Kham Yai we found a good hardware shop with a really knowledgeable and helpful owner and we were able to buy a new bathroom mirror and shelf unit as well as a length of blue plastic drainage pipe and fittings for a sink that Jasper has found which we can install in the new open area at the front of the house.
Much of this afternoon was spent cleaning the bathroom tiles. The whole bathroom has now been transformed from the disgusting mess it was in before into something quite nice thanks to the new floor tiling, lashings of Mr Muscle cleaning liquid and bleach on the wall tiles and two basins and of course unlimited elbow grease.
MONDAY 17th JUNE
An example of how even doing simple vocabulary can have an unintended consequence. Today, and last week, we have had a written question and an answer on the vocabulary board which is used during assembly each morning. This morning’s question, for example, was ‘Where are you going ?’ The main answer phrase was ‘I am going to...’ with three suggested answers one of which was ...see Ajarn... It turned out that the word ‘see’ sounds very like a Lao word meaning ‘make love with’ which goes a long way to explaining why the students laughed when the answer was read out.
I heard from Mr Noi today that someone from Kham Yai (about 7km from Sai Moon) had won the lottery jackpot of 12 million baht (about £240,000) which is not a lot when compared to the UK or other lotteries but it is a lot of money here
So the win has caused a lot of envious chatter amongst the teachers.
As for the new Chinese teacher, no one at school is sure if a male or female teacher is coming but all bets are that it will be a female. The Deputy Director is in a tizz trying to source a bed, bed covers, a tv and furniture for her room with no money to buy anything. It seems dotty that the Education Authority in Kalasin wanted twelve schools in the province, including Sai Moon, to have an ethnic Chinese language teacher so I fail to understand why they did not consider the financial consequences of their decision.
There are ethnic Chinese teachers teaching the language at many schools around Thailand as a result of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Chinese and Thai governments which includes the stipulation that accommodation must be provided free and include a tv, air conditioning, furniture, bed, fridge etc.
As for ‘her’ arrival date, news came through today that she has to attend a three-day seminar when she arrives at Maha Sarakham, a town in the province of the same name about 70km away, whose university is hosting the Chinese teacher programme for the north east; this means she will now arrive on June 23rd.
Ajarn Tippakorn brought her final pick-up truck’s worth of furniture and belongings to the teacher’s house this evening along with her fridge which meant the existing fridge could be moved to my new teacher’s house.
The only remaining reason to visit the other teacher’s house is now the fresh water cooler. There is no fresh water of any kind at my new teacher’s house so I may have to resort to buying-in bottled water.
TUESDAY 18th JUNE
Ajarns Tippakorn and Bpui spent their first night at the other teacher’s house last tonight so I hope it was ok for them.
I just hope the other teacher’s house does not become the centre of card playing which is something that most of the Thai teachers, including the Deputy Director, like doing even though the Director repeatedly bans gambling at school.
WEDNESDAY 19th JUNE
Ajarn Tippakorn took the morning off today in order to accompany her 23 y.o. younger sister to an exam venue where she will take the controversial exam to become an assistant teacher. I say controversial because a few months ago a probe was launched into the 500 or so candidates out of some 10,000 who, it was claimed, got unusually high marks in the exam which had been taken by candidates across Thailand. It was subsequently discovered that answers had been leaked and that some candidates got others to take the exam on their behalf. You can imagine the scandal that ensued but, being as this is Thailand, no heads have rolled as yet.
As for Ajarn Tippakorn and her younger sister, I am not sure why she needed to have her hand held when she has her own car and could have gone to the venue in Udon Thani by herself.
THURSDAY 20th JUNE
This morning there was a blitz on haircuts and almost all the boys had their hair cut roughly by one of the Thai teachers and then tidied up by one of the M6 boys who, I noticed, had a high degree of barbering skill which made me think that his father might be a barber.
Last week workers from the Or Bor Dor (local Council) fumigated all areas around the school, teacher’s houses and around the village to help eradicate the abundant mosquitoes. More than 45 people have died from Dengue Fever so far this year and, according to official figures, 570 people are becoming sick with the disease every day. People are being warned not to take ibuprofen or paracetamol or other fever related pills as they thin the blood which is not a good idea for a Dengue sufferer since the other name for the disease is Haemorrhagic Fever.
The mosquitoes that cause Dengue Fever bite during the day and, like other mosquitoes, they breed in stagnant water which abounds in Thailand.
FRIDAY 21st JUNE
I mentioned that I was searching for a qualified electrician to install the shower unit and luckily I was given two contacts. The first was working on a job in Udon Thani but the second one was free and he and a mate came just after school today. They set to work immediately in a very professional way and they obviously knew what they were doing. It took about two hours to install the unit and the earthing pole and to wire everything up.
The only part they were unable to do was connected the unit to the water supply tap so Jasper and I drove to Kham Yai to buy a suitable piece of flexible pipe but the shop was closed, so no shower yet.
SATURDAY 22nd JUNE
Jasper spent the day in Kalasin so I gave him the money to buy the shower hose on his return this evening. It rained almost all day so I stayed at Sai Moon doing research and other things on my laptop.
Jasper returned to Sai Moon this evening with the necessary tubing to connect the new shower unit to the water supply but it was still impossible to have a shower because the fuse blew every time it was switched on.
SUNDAY 23rd JUNE
Another rainy day so I was unable to do any laundry but I will be ok for another couple of days. Jasper and I drove into Kranuan for lunch and the weekly visit to Tesco Lotus. At the Pizza House the owner told us she had finally sold the restaurant for 200,000 baht (about £4,000) which includes all fixtures, fittings and kitchen equipment. It has been bought by a Norwegian man for his Thai wife and this was the first day with the new owner in charge. The Thai/European menu is the same and the new owner was said to be good with Thai food though less sure with pizzas. It will be interesting to see how she fares.
On the way back to school Jasper’s car had a flat tyre so we hobbled along to the nearest garage in Kham Yai where the wheel was taken off and a temporary repair done but we were stuck there for a couple of hours. His front and rear wheel hubs are a different size and the garage only had one tyre of his type and after struggling for a long time to fit it onto the hub it was then found that the tyre grated against the shock absorbers and couldn’t be used. Jasper was forced to leave the car at the garage and we called two students to come and pick us up and take us back to Sai Moon.
The fuses we bought in Kranuan were fitted this evening and I had the first hot shower which was really really nice.
The new Chinese teacher arrived today. She’s from Guangxi province and her name is Chwin.
MONDAY 24th JUNE
Jasper and I went to the bank at Non Kung Sri this morning during our free time and we had a lovely cooling ice cream from Tesco Lotus next door to the bank. We continued on to Kham Yai to check progress on Jasper’s car but discovered that no suitable tyre had been found at other nearby garages so he will just have to wait a bit longer.
TUESDAY 25th JUNE
I went to Non Kung Sri in Mr Kay’s car and Mr Noi came too. This morning Jasper asked for an advance on his salary from the Director but he said he didn’t have the money to give him. The Director came to see me and explained that he did not have the 7,000 to advance Jasper for his trip to Bangkok to extend his passport so could I give it to him and the Director will deduct the money from Jasper’s salary and return it to me at the end of the month.
On the way to Non Kung Sri Mr Noi and Mr Kay had a heated argument – the first time I have witnessed such an intense argument between a senior and a more junior teacher – about money. It was in Thai of course but Mr Noi told me after we got back that Mr Kay had borrowed 20,000 baht from him but Mr Kay thought he had borrowed only 10,500. Mr Noi prevailed being the more senior but he told me he also had some kind of proof.
WEDNESDAY 26th JUNE
Today is Sunthon Phu’s Birthday, he being Thailand’s national poet (26 June 1786–1855) so there were no classes today. After rehearsals over the last few days all the older female students went off to perform a dance at Somdet school (almost one hour away by car) as part of their activity for the day.
Poetry readings in the morning followed an hour-long recitation of his life. After this various classes performed sketches which amused the students until lunchtime. After that, there was an anti drugs talk but for some reason the people from outside doing it didn’t show up so there was a series of quizzes which had hastily been put together about Sunthon Phu. Six pairs of students were seated on the stage to take each quiz and the pairs were deliberately mismatched to add to the fun for those watching and small prizes – mostly school exercise books!
Ajarn Tippakorn made an announcement to the assembled students about a forthcoming trip to China for two students and one teacher. She said that flights accommodation and food would be paid for but students would have to find not more than 5,000 baht each (about £100) to buy a passport (assuming they don’t have one) visa and pocket money. Later, I asked Ajarn Tppakorn for more details and she said that the financial status of the students would be taken into account when deciding which two students will go.
Jasper phoned this afternoon to say that the friend who had told him a passport extension would only take 24hrs was wrong and that, instead, the process takes four weeks and that he has to collect his passport in person from the Philippines embassy in Bangkok. To my mind this is very backward as even Thai Consulates use the EMS postal system which is the Thai equivalent of Registered Post.
When the time comes for me to renew my passport I will have to send all the documents to Hong Kong either using the aforementioned EMS post or a carrier like Fedex. You might ask: why HK ? The answer is that everything’s outsourced these days.
THURSDAY 27th JUNE
Everything was back to normal today except that with Jasper away in Bangkok extending his passport I had to cover his classes.
There was a teacher’s party this evening at Hong Tae restaurant in Huai Mek – this is a place that serves Thai and Western food which I have been to with the Director and with Jasper a few times. The party was to celebrate Ajarn Bpui’s birthday, Mr Kay and Mr Weang’s completion of their Masters degrees and a welcome to Chwin, the new Chinese teacher. I took some photos for you which are in my gallery.
On the way back I heard that another student had a motorcycle accident and that he was taken to Kalasin hospital. This time it was M3’s Passakorn (16 y.o.). The scandal is that student the insurance scheme has been allowed to wither. Ajarn Tippakorn took care of it last academic year and she told me it was now Mr Yor’s responsibility but he told me this evening that wasn’t so.
FRIDAY 28th JUNE
After assembly this morning I spoke with Ajarn Tippakorn about the trip to China for two students and told her that if family finances are taken into consideration that would mean only those students whose families can afford it would be able to go which I thought was unfair so as it is only two students and the amount required is fixed – 5,000 baht - I have offered to sponsor one or both students should he/she be from families that cannot afford to pay for the trip.
After school this afternoon Mr Jasper and I visited Passakorn who is now back at home with a bandaged left foot and knee and a deep flesh would on his left forearm. His mother told us the hospital charged 10,000 baht which included the medicine which would have been recouped had the insurance scheme been operating. I am determined to get to the bottom of this on Monday as it is a disgrace to be the only school in Sai Moon without an insurance scheme.
Saturday 29th June
The village Futsal knockout competition began today and the Sai Moon team, mostly comprising Sai Moon students, won their first match 8-0. All the other teams came from nearby villages.
SUNDAY 30th JUNE
This afternoon Jasper and I went to see the final stages of the Futsall competition. Despite having been told that the Sai Moon team’s first match would be at 3pm, when we arrived we discovered the team had already played and lost and were thus knocked out.
One of the M6 players in the team, Arthit, has been challenging me to a game of snooker for many weeks now but either our free time hasn’t matched up or we forgot. He asked me again this afternoon and with no Futsall game to watch I agreed so with Jasper driving his car Arthit, Phonsakorn and I went off to Kranuan. Disappointingly, the usual snooker place was closed and another out of town one seems to have been demolished. Luckily there was one other place hidden away in a side soi in Kranuan with two full size tables and we had a number of fun games.
MONDAY 1st JULY
Scouting was first introduced to Thailand on this day in 1911 by King Rama VI, also known as the Father of Thai Scouting, who was educated in England, graduated at Oxford University and attended Sandhurst RMA. Thai schools across Thailand hold parades today in this King’s honour but as our Director is away for two days Sai Moon’s event will take place on Wednesday instead.
I had a significant victory today. After lunch I managed to speak to Mr Kay on his own and I asked him to confirm that he is now responsible for the student insurance scheme, and he agreed he is. I then told him of my visit to Passakor’s house last Friday following his motorcycle accident and how his mother told me and Jasper that the hospital in Kalasin had charged her 10,000 baht. He replied that there is compulsory (but limited) insurance included within the registration price of every new motorbike. That may be so, I said, but what if Passakorn’s bike wasn’t new or wasn’t registered ? I then said that the term started on May 14th and that today is now July 1st. I didn’t need to say any more!!
As I had a free afternoon I joined Mr Noi and Jasper on a trip to Kalasin city where Mr Noi visited his teenage daughter who lives with his ex-wife and we drove round to his family home where we met his parents and grandmother and had an early dinner.
Although the word ‘dinner’ makes it sound grand or formal it was neither. His mother runs a food stall at the front of their home so it wasn’t unlike any other food outlet around Kalasin and elsewhere. We had individual baskets of sticky rice and there were several dishes. With sticky rice, you break of a bit and roll it into a ball in your hand then either pop it into your mouth or dab it in one of the dishes before eating it.
Mr Noi is very nice but he irritated me today when he nagged me to use the spoon to eat one of the dishes instead of dipping my sticky rice ball into it. That would be fine if he hadn’t been doing both himself.
I heard some good from Mr Noi – Mr Kay has spoken with the students about the insurance scheme so I am hoping it gets off the ground asap and before there is another motorcycle accident.
TUESDAY 2nd JULY
A large chunk of today was spent queuing at the Krung Thai Bank branch in Non Kung Sri in order for me and Jasper to cash our salary cheques. On the way Jasper called into buy some LPG gas for his car. His car is dual fuel – LPG and petrol – and at that precise moment his petrol reserve finished and when the LPG top-up had finished he was unable to start his car as it only does so on petrol, not LPG. The LPG station staff and I tried to give him a push start but failed so one of the staff went off on her motorbike to get a friend to come and give him a jump start. About 10 minutes later the friend arrived but he didn’t have the right tools to undo the battery terminals in order to attach a rather ropey cable for the jump start. After much effort the cable was attached and the jump start worked and we were on our way to the bank. We arrived there about 9.30am this morning and found that there were 60 people ahead of us judging by the numbered queuing system so we decided to return later after our classes.
The second time, we arrived there about 12.15 and once again the banking hall was packed with customers so we got a queue ticket and went for lunch. By the time we got back there were still about 20 people in front of us who took ages to be dealt with by the cashiers. Many of the other customers were teachers from nearby schools seeking to have the 5% interest they get one their savings to be calculated for them. It took more than an hour for our queue numbers to be called! Anyway, we were able to cash our salary cheques and Jasper repaid the 7,000 baht he borrowed for his recent trip to Bangkok to extend his passport.
Soon after we got back to school there was a rehearsal for the scout parade tomorrow. One of the main pieces of scout marching music was very poor and one could even hear a commentary in the background. It turned out that the recording was taken off youtube.com from another scout parade a couple of years ago. I spoke with Mr Yor (Head Scout at school) about this and he agreed but said it was the best he could find after scouring the internet. I would have thought that with some forward planning this fact could have been discovered earlier and other large schools contacted to borrow or copy their suitable scout marching music CDs but, hey, this is Thailand and everything happens at the last minute.
While all the students were gathered Ajarn Tippakorn took the opportunity to have a draw between the six students, who came to her to say they would like the chance to go to China for a week, to decide which two will take the trip. Both students, one boy, one girl, said their parents can afford the 5,000 baht cost of the trip (passport, visa and pocket money – everything else is free) so my sponsorship offer is not needed.
I felt sad and curious that (apparently) only six students came to Ajarn Tippakorn to say they were interested in going to China so I will ask a couple of students to check that my sponsorship offer was explained to everyone properly.
Yesterday and today all the students received new blue school polo shirts and new backpacks.
WEDNESDAY 3rd JULY
After assembly today there was the Scout Parade which had been postponed from Monday when the Director was away. It was very hot this morning and the students sweltered while listening to the two speeches, one by the Deputy Director and the other by the Director himself.
THURSDAY 4th JULY
The highlight today, or rather this evening, was accidental. Jasper and I went to Kham Yai to have dinner but the place we chose was closed so we went to Lom Mai restaurant. We have eaten there often but this evening for the very first time a local band – two guitars and a drummer - was playing. It turned out that he lead singer was a teacher and the other two were his students from a Huai Mek school. As the evening progressed the music got better and more lively. Jasper and I stayed for a few drinks after eating and the live band made for a pleasant evening.
FRIDAY 5th JULY
After my last class this afternoon I got a lift from Jasper to Nam Phong, about 50km away, from where I caught the bus to Udon Thani where I stayed tonight and Saturday.
SATURDAY AND SUNDAY 6th/7th JULY
It was nice to be back in a city again and staying at the same hotel as on previous visits though the joy of having a proper shower is now somewhat blunted as I have one at the teacher’s house now.
There was a hilarious notice pasted onto the wall of my hotel by the reception desk. I thought you might like a laugh too so I took a pic for you.
On Saturday morning was unable to find a motorcycle taxi and assumed there had been a police clampdown or something and they had been banished. I found out later this wasn’t the case it was just that they were all out on hire. I took a tuk tuk instead which took a while because of the traffic. The bus left abot 10 minutes after I arrived at the bus station and took an hour to get to Nong Khai. I then had the usual hassle of getting a fair fare from the tuk tuk to the Friendship Bridge into Laos. Drivers always want to charge over the odds thinking I am just another visiting farang who has never been here before but I always negotiate a reduced fare.
The entry visa into Laos for a UK citizen is 1500 baht (about £30) and having got the visa in my passport I go through the barriers into Laos then do a u-turn and pass out again and catch the bus back to the other side of the bridge. Once again one has to negotiate a fare but walking just 100 meters takes one across a junction where tuk tuk fare and less than half the rate of the other drivers.
The rest of the trip to Udon went uneventfully and after lunch pn Sunday I caught the bus back to Nam Phong. This time I made doubly sure the conductor knew where I wanted to get off – last time the driver sailed past my stop for another half mile. I waited and waited for Jasper to arrive but he had yet another puncture and was about 90 minutes later than arranged.
On the way back, as we approached Kham Yai, we saw a large banfai rocket rise into the sky. It spiralled as it rose but instead of reaching a great height it turned back towards the ground, it’s propellant still firing strongly. We found out later that evening that three people died in the explosion that followed when it hit the ground and many were injured. The next day I saw an internet news item which said that this rocket was built for and supposed to be fired at Roi Et, about two hours away by car, but the organisers there refused permission for it to be fired because the tail fin wasn’t centralised. The owner brought it to the Kham Yai event where it was given the ok but with fatal results.
MONDAY 8th JULY
At the end of next month there will be three days of sports competitions so today all the students who will make up the various teams began their fitness and sport training after school.
TUESDAY 9th JULY
There was an unfortunate coincidence today when three Thai teachers – Mr Noi, Mr Kay and Mr Yor – all beat students at different times of the day for various reasons. It so happens that some of the naughtier boys got beaten on all three occasions and one student told me he notched up 10 strokes in all.
Beating is supposed to be illegal and in the last year or so there have been scandals after videos of teachers beating students in the classroom have been posted on youtube. I have also met students who moved schools because of a dislike of being beaten.
If one or more of Sai Moon’s students were to get angry about being beaten, and if their parents also felt aggrieved and reported it to the police, then there would be a real stink of a problem.
WEDNESDAY 10th JULY
M6, the senior class who have been going to Somdet all this week, decided they do not want to go any more and today and tomorrow they were supposed to be doing English. At assembly this morning the Director had one of his ad hoc meetings and he said he would leave it to the school’s academic department – in other words, Ajarn Tuk – to decide. She chirped up saying that she felt Ajarns Tippakorn, Jasper and I could take M6 instead but that the students were familiar with our methods and the benefit of going to Somdet was input from ‘civilised’ Bangkok teachers.
I was originally told that Somdet was about exam taking techniques which is a topic that we - Ajarn Tippakorn, Jasper and I – rarely touch upon until nearer exam time.
There were no classes this morning because a number of students from different classes went to a school Kham Yai to attend a health talk. The remaining students got a health talk from Mr Kay at Sai Moon.
A dental team was supposed to come to school after lunch but for some reason didn’t show up so it was classes as normal this afternoon with the teeth inspections postponed to Friday.
FRIDAY 12th JULY
The dental team came after lunch today and quickly checked every student telling students if they had a problem or not and where necessary recommending treatment at a dentist.
I had the chance this evening to chat to some M6 students and I asked them if they would have liked to go on the week long trip to China and they all said yes. It then became clear that none of them had heard of my offer via Ajarn Tippakorn to pay the 5,000 baht (about £100) cost of the trip. I was angry and sad to hear this because my intention was to level the playing field such that any student wanting to go to China could do so even if their family could not afford it.
SATURDAY 13th JULY
I hurt my back this morning bending down to rinse some clothes in a big plastic bowl. It isn’t serious and will pass in a few days I am sure.
Jasper and I went into Kranuan with two students, Phonsakorn and Teng to play snooker. Last time Thailand won, but this time I was determined to do better and eventually England, with some help from Jasper (Philippines) won 4-2. It wasn’t serious, just good fun.
SUNDAY 14th JULY
I woke up this morning with the runs and had to stay close to the loo or else! By lunchtime, and after taking some Immodium, I felt much better so Jasper and I took Phonsakorn and Teng to lunch at the Pizza house in Kranuan as they had never had pizza before. We each ordered a different pizza so we could share and have some variety. Unfortunately, the pizza bases were a little on the undercooked side but were otherwise ok. The two students thought they were ok too but were very under spiced for them.