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Oct 28th-10th Dec: School reopens..new passport..protests++

sunny 26 °C

Monday 28th October – Saturday 30th November

My school duly opened on Monday 28th October but not many students turned up probably because all other schools nearby opened a week later. In any event, nothing much happened and there were no classes.

The old school Director, although he has now moved to his new school elsewhere in the province, is still nominally ours too and he comes to Sai Moon one or more days a week to sign documents and do anything else that need his attention. You might be wondering why the new female school Director didn’t appear on the first day of term to make her mark. Apparently, the paperwork authorising her to leave her old school and assume her new post at Sai Moon does not have her correct name so her transfer will be delayed a few weeks/months while her correct name is inserted. At this point I imagine you are, as I was when I first heard about this, absolutely amazed at this example of Thai efficiency. It is like the old question about how many people it takes to change a light bulb – how long does it actually take to delete and then retype a document containing her correct name ?

The “academic department” sounds great but is in fact one female teacher who decreed at the start of term that students must remain at school an extra hour in the afternoon to participate in activities. She stressed that these would not be extra classes but would be fun and easy games decided and organised by the three foreign teachers – me, Jasper and Chwin.

I could not see the point of keeping the students at school just to play silly games but the three of us did our duty and reluctantly organised games for the students who had been divided into three mixed class groups for the purpose. I had all of M5 and about six students from M3.

The first afternoon I had my group playing Bingo, the second afternoon they played Word Bingo and on the third a balloon bursting game suggested by the younger M3 students. While all this was happening the Thai teachers went home or played cards or surfed the net; but they didn’t help at all although they were supposed to.

The third afternoon was a Friday and I told the others that from Monday I would not be doing it any more and that if Ajarn Tuk (the Academic Dept) wanted games she could do it herself along with the Thai teachers. This coincided with the need to train up about 10 students due to take part in a provincial schools competition event on November 29th. The English language-related events were Crossword, Dictionary Opening, Spelling Bee, Speech Giving and Singing a song in English. The extra hour at school had to be used for this extra training so neither I, Jasper or Chwin could organise games. As usual, Ajarn Tuks idea had not been thought through and is probably now a dead duck.

The competitions took place at Jum Jang School about an hour and a half away by car but still in Kalasin province. Several other Sai Moon teachers had students competing in their own subject area so almost fifty students took part overall. None of our students came 1st but one came second in the Crossword event and two came 4th in the Speech Giving and Dictionary Opening events. It is hard for a small school like Sai Moon to compete against fee-paying Buakhao School with over 3000 students to select competitors from.
Since coming back from Myanmar Jasper and I, with the help of a couple of students, have painted the Hong Nam (shower room and loos) and it now looks very welcoming, smart and clean with Bluebell blue walls and a white ceiling and there is a photo in the gallery for you to inspect.

My next project is to decorate the communal area on the ground floor, the stairway to the first floor and the landing area outside my and the other three teachers rooms. This project has been at the back of my mind for a while but has been put into action now because a couple of students are seeking work to earn a bit of money and are eager to help. The walls are going to be a sort of orangey peach colour, the ceiling off-white along with two dies of the four building support pillars. I will post photos in the gallery when it is finished.

One of the three cats disappeared for a few days which was worrying by thankfully she reappeared and all seemed to be well. The kitten and the red collared cat are now friends and touch noses ad sometimes lick each other. The cat that went missing has a blue collar and she is still unfriendly towards the kitten but will hopefully make friends eventually.

As soon as I came back from Myanmar I applied for a new passport as I only had one free page left. The British Embassy in Bangkok no longer deals with such mundane matters so one now has to apply to the Consulate in Hong Kong. The application form is downloadable and so too is the credit card authorisation form both of which are straightforward enough to complete. The photograph requirements are very exact and rejection is threatened if the instructions are not followed. It took just under four weeks for the new passport to sent back via DHL to me which is pretty good really.

You will have probably seen TV coverage of the protests in Bangkok and there has been widespread coverage here though one would have to toggle the channels to get a full picture of what is happening in the capital. This is because of the lack of any form of balance and blatant bias – the state owned channels resolutely put forward the government viewpoint; the Democrats (the opposition party) have their own national TV channel so they out forward their side; the army also own TV channels – they have decided not to intervene this time remembering the disaster that followed when they did so in 2010 and more than 90 people died. The independent channels are all commercial and they bow to the dictates of their advertising paymasters and do not broadcast anything which may harm their revenue.

Both sides took a break to pay respect to the King in his birthday on 5th December but the rallies and protests will continue after that and it is difficult to predict how things will turn out. One of the key aims of the protesters, now that the Amnesty Bill has been shelved, is to rid the government and ministries of traces of the Thaksin regime and this is why PM Yinglucks resignation is being sought since she is the younger sister of Thaksin Shinawatra and he controls her like a puppeteer (and the Red Shirts) from his self-imposed exile in Dubai.

The leader of the protests, Suthep Thaungsabun, has called for the formation of a Peoples Government if and when Yingluck steps down. Naturally, the government are resisting this idea saying it is not feasible on constitutional grounds but others insist it can be done and have cited what Iceland did recently following their banking crisis as an example.

As you have probably heard by now, Parliament has now been dissolved and elections will take place on February 2nd though this is not what the protesters want since Yingluck could well be re-elected as the Peu Thai Party, her party, have nominated her as No.1 candidate.

The rice cutting season is mostly over and people have been laying their rice grains out in the sun to dry on large blue plastic sheets. Any flat open space is used for this and a local farmer even commandeers the schools basketball court for his. It is the sugar cane cutting season now and the roads are full of big lorries lumbering along with their vast loads of cut cane and at night flames leap from burning fields as farmers burn the undergrowth in the cane fields.

A couple of weeks ago I had a problem with my laptop which refused to boot up. I tried everything I could think of to induce it to open, but it refused to do so. I do have a boot disc but I left it behind in London so I took my laptop to the one and only computer shop in Kranuan to see if they had a suitable boot disc. They did not and said that the only solution was to reinstall the operating system which I was reluctant to do since I remember the way all my photo were bundled together in a single giant folder the last time the OS was reinstalled about a year ago in Chiang Mai. In any case, the shop said, they would be unable to reinstall Windows Vista and I would have to update to Windows 7 or 8.

I then came to the conclusion, now that my laptop is 4 years old, I would have to buy a new one and I would have to accept the problems that an operating system reinstall would cause.

After some prompting the shop then suggested removing the hard drive from my laptop and placing it in a kind of rectangular shoe, about the size of two cigarette packets. Inside the box, the drive connects up with terminals and I would be able to connect the box to any computer using a USB cable and access it like any other USB memory device. It was a great idea and it has turned out to be an excellent solution; I just wish that I had been told of such an option last year in Chiang Mai.

At this point I must apologise for the lack of apostrophes in this blog update – or did not you notice ??? The new hard drive in my laptop now has Windows 7 Ultimate installed and I have been busy adjusting the settings so programs are in English, not Thai. One thing I have been unable to adjust so far is the apostrophe and ”at” key so I am without those two symbols for now.

I heard this morning (6th Dec) that the new Director is now coming on the 12th when the school will host ten of the other 11 School Directors who will welcome her and have lunch here too. Now the date has been settled, school cleaning up has begun again in earnest at the expense of some classes.

A controversy is brewing regarding my salary. Up till now, 7000 baht, of my 10,000 baht per month salary, has come from the school budget with the balance coming from the Or Bor Jor (provincial education authority) in Kalasin city. They now say that they do not have the budget for this this term so they are dropping my salary accordingly. I have told Ajarn Tippakorn, the Thai English teacher who has been the conduit for this discussion at school, that this is totally unacceptable and that if they value having a Native English Speaker teaching at Sai Moon the budget must be found from somewhere.

In my opinion, the Or Bor Jor is an incompetent organisation which should not be in charge of its twelve provincial schools since forward planning in non-existent and they spend money on all sorts of irrelevant things such as the competitions mentioned above which also included two large stages for live band entertainment. They also issue edicts to the 12 schools a day or two before expecting the teachers/students to scrap classes and take part in some ceremony or some stupid activity.

If I knew who to contact at the Or Bor Jor I would contact them myself, but I do not and it appears that none of the Sai Moon teachers is prepared to put his/her head above the parapet to fight my corner. Criticism and complaining are not really the done thing consequently not much ever changes and nobody learns by mistakes.

The weather just now is cool and it can be quite cold in the late evening and early morning and students come to school in jackets. The sun warms things up for a couple of hours either side of midday which is welcome.

There has been a four day holiday from school because on Monday 9th December five teachers were on the last day of a 3-day seminar about English Education in Schools and Tuesday 10th December was a public holiday because it was Constitution Day.

Posted by talismanic 05:05 Archived in Thailand

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I was struck by the two cases of efficiency this time. The first one relating to the new school director and the second one covering the acquisition of your new passport! 'Chalk' and 'cheese' spring to mind! And I hope the Or Bor Jor come to their senses. It's all so awful, inefficient, lethargic and thoroughly uncaring that one can hardly believe any of it.
Love from a grey, slightly damp Wokingham! Annie xx

by Ann_Farr

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