A Travellerspoint blog

January 2013

Jan 1st-11th 2013: SCHOOL..CHILDREN'S DAY..OFF TO BKK & UK



I would like to wish you all a very happy, fruitful, prosperous and healthy 2013, the Year of the Snake. I hope all your dreams come true!!

The beginning of another year though this one is probably my last in Thailand unless an amazing offer appears which I cannot refuse. It is not that I don’t like it here. The sense of freedom here and the weather are just two of the wonderful things that the country has to offer. It is true that the cost of living can be cheaper here than back in the UK providing one doesn’t feel the urge to live a fully westernised lifestyle. It is also considerably cheaper living in the countryside compared to living in, say, Bangkok or Chiang Mai. But even with a salary of about £200 per month it is hard to survive and I find myself having to draw upon my UK funds more and more often. So I begin this year with a strong sense that this one is my last in the Land of Smiles.


The first working day of the new year though at assembly this morning there were only twenty-five students present. This is no reflection on the students because today was always going to be optional for them. I don’t think school will really begin properly again until tomorrow.

The students went home at lunchtime and I spent the unexpected free time selecting and uploading the photos for the last blog entry.

About ten o’clock this evening Mr Yor returned from his long weekend at home in Ayuthaya and within a couple of minutes he’d set fire to the small pile of rubbish that had accumulated over the break most of which was plastic bags. I was very angry about this because the stinking carcinogenic smoke drifts into my room, and probably Mr Norongsak’s too, which is intensely annoying. Mr Yor’s room doesn’t get filled with smoke because it is forward of the fire and the other side of the building.

As soon as I discovered the fire I decided to extinguish it using a large plastic bowl to douse it with water and prevent it smouldering on. I can understand the need to dispose of the rubbish and, in the absence of any rubbish collection service, the need to burn it but I believe it should, first, be collected in a wheelie-type bin (there are several in school already) then wheeled well away from the living accommodation to be burned. To achieve this I would probably have to purchase a wheelie bin for the teacher’s house.


A usual complement of students at assembly this morning and everything was back to normal again. Ajarn Tippakorn to Jasper and I that the three of us are going to have to select one or two students to take part in the annual Kalasin schools competition in which events range from flower arranging to traditional dancing. The competitions we will take part in are Speech Making in English and Chinese; Spelling Bee, Crosswords, Dictionary Word Finding and Singing.

I will be responsible for the English speech and dictionary opening. The topic for the former is the King’s Self Sufficiency Economy – this is fortunate because I had to train a student for a speech on the same topic when I was at my last school in Loei and I still have the speech on file.

The dictionary opening event is a new one for me but I have noticed in the classroom that Thai students have great difficulty finding words in an English-Thai dictionary even when they have the English word written on the whiteboard or in their exercise book. So this competition might not be so easy for the competitors as it might seem at first and the dictionary used has to be the New Model Dictionary edition authored by So Sethaputhra. The school office has a rather ragged copy so I will try and buy a new one at the weekend.

Mr Yor went round the offices this morning bearing New Year gifts for everyone – a handsome hexagonal box of Mangosteen tea bags – which was a nice thought. He came into my office and gave me one as well and I took the opportunity to talk to him about the carcinogenic rubbish burning last night and he apologised and I told him I will be getting a wheelie-type bin for the rubbish and he agreed to burn it well away from the teacher’s houses in future. So all’s well in the end. Mr Yor’s a nice person but as with other Thais, and as Thais themselves admit, they rarely think how their actions will impinge on other people.


I now have almost everything arranged for my trip back to London. I leave school a week tomorrow and I will stay in Bangkok for five nights before catching the midnight flight back to London (on January 18th) where I hope to get a new 12 month visa. I say ‘hope’ because I have heard that the type of visa I have had every year so far is no longer being issued in which case the best visa I can hope for is one valid for three months which I would have to renew every ninety days.

A few days ago the Director found 3 small puppies heartlessly abandoned by the road near the school and decided to rescue them. He then asked Mr Yor to take care of them and a large open pen has been constructed for them until such time as they can be let out on their own. I have no idea what type of dog they are and they verge on the ugly side though one has a nice smooth grey-ish coat of fur. They have yet to be introduced to the kittens so I hope they will be able to be friends.


Jasper and I went into Kranuan to have lunch but our regular place was closed so we went elsewhere though it was not as nice. We also sought out an electrical shop to try and buy a new transformer for a modem. The transformer is about the same size as a phone charging device and the shop didn’t have a replacement but it did offer to repair it so we left it there.

We also tried to buy the New Model Dictionary for the Dictionary Competition. I had the school’s old copy with me but the only dedicated bookshop in Kranuan is a branch of Se-Ed Books inside Tesco Lotus which had plenty of dictionaries but not the right one. On the outskirts of Kranuan there is an education store which stocks everything a Thai school might need including textbooks but, it too, didn’t stock the right dictionary. I came to the conclusion that the student I have to train for the competition will have to make-do with the old tatty copy.


This morning Jasper and I went to Global Village, a vast home furnishing warehouse on the outskirts of Kalasin city. Our objective was to get a wheelie bin for the teacher’s house rubbish which can then easily be taken well away from the house to be burned.

As it was our first ever visit to the store we walked around to see what they had. In the tools department it was a bit like stepping back in time to see proper wooden lathes and a whole variety of specialised tools which are hard to come by in the UK. We paused to look at electric shower units and I may well buy one next month as I can get it installed for free and I don’t have to worry about paying any electricity bills!

The wheelie bin, not the largest size but the next one down, was 1,400 baht (about £30) with a lid and wheels and it is a nice shade of dark green to distinguish it from the yellow school bins.


A full complement of students at school today and everything was back to normal with all the festivities beginning to seem a very long time ago.


Here’s a little factoid for you about sugar cane: by the time sugar cane is ready to cut all the outer leaves have died so the gaps between the canes gets filled with these dead leaves which are still attached to the base of the cane stem. At this time of year flames can be seen leaping around the sugar cane fields at night as farmers burn off the dead leaves to clean the stems before delivery to the sugar factories which pay a premium to farmers for doing this.


Disaster struck this afternoon when I discovered that the taxi business card I’d put into my pocket at lunchtime had vanished. Most likely it was pulled out of my pocket when taking out one of the pens I use in class. I checked the few places I’d been after lunch but couldn’t find it. Normally, something like this might easily be found in the classroom but the students were given cleaning tasks late this afternoon and the classroom in question had already been cleaned and the students hadn’t found anything when sweeping up.

This means my carefully thought out plan to get to Khon Kaen on Saturday is out of the window and I will have to ask Jasper to take me there instead.


The students spent today cleaning up around the school and making props and decorations for tomorrow’s big event. Different classes were assigned different tasks so the necessary work was done under the supervision of teachers. One of the characteristics of Thai people, and Thai youngsters in general, is that when students are set tasks like this no one moans. Everything is fun so the students set about their assignments laughing and joking and joshing each other.


National Children’s Day is actually tomorrow but Sai Moon celebrated it today with the emphasis on fun for everybody. Some older kindergarden students and students from nearly primary schools were invited and many came along with their mothers, and some with fathers too.

There was the usual opening ceremony and speeches by the VIP from the Education Dept in Kalasin city and Mr Supan, the head of the next door Or Bor Dor (local Council office). There then followed ‘dancing’ performances by each of the guest schools which were hilarious. The older primary school students from Phi Mun village (who potentially will be coming to my school next academic year starting May 1st) did an interesting dance routine with some natural dancers and you can see how youngsters in Thailand start their show careers young.

My school put on two shows, the first a drumming and dancing show by the youngest students from M1 (12/13 y.o.) and the second, the finale, by two M5 students who performed a wonderful cock fight dance.

In addition to performances on stage there was a giant bouncy castle, a train ride and various games for the younger ones plus, most importantly, lots of food. And every so often during the morning staff went round handing out ‘kanum’ (in this case packet food of biscuits or crisps or Lactasoy etc) which was very popular.

I have placed three videos on youtube.com and here are the links:

1. the Sai Moon Cock Fight http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3f0PkF7qSkQ

2. the Sai Moon Dance with Drums http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsniJ-l8llM

3. the Phimun Dancers http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8dElHO9MgM

I hope you visit and enjoy the short videos. Tomorrow I fly to Bangkok and will stay there a few days before flying to London. I hope everything goes ok.

Posted by talismanic 07:31 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)




A new student joined M1 today. He’s very quiet now but I feel sure that in a couple of weeks he will shake off his reserve and be as rowdy as the rest of the class.

Towards the end of my last blog entry I mentioned that I have not been feeling very well with all the makings of a bad cold or flu simmering and I felt very under par today.

This evening Jasper and I went into Kranuan to honour a promise we made a couple of weeks ago to the owner of the Pizza House that we would attend the Christmas buffet dinner tonight. In the event, it was better than I expected. Surprisingly, there are many Scandinavians living in or near to the town and they formed the bulk of the guests. The owner also has a new Norwegain boyfriend so the buffet consisted of Scandinavian favourites which were very nice. At only 200 baht person with drinks extra it was a good evening though I wish I hadn’t felt so rotten.

I went to bed as soon as I got back to the teacher’s house but it was probably the coldest night so far and even I felt cold!


Christmas Day....well, not really. With a nod to the festive occasion four teachers, as well as the Director, donned pointy Christmas caps and all the teachers lined up in front of the students at assembly to sing Jingle Bells with Jasper accompanying us on guitar. It was a cracking performance though the students seemed reluctant to get into the spirit and appeared bemused by the talent show.

Lessons continued as normal this morning and then lunch was held in the Buddha Room for the teachers and the students from M4 after which they drew numbers from a hat to determine which Christmas present they would receive. The person who had bought the present, nicely gift wrapped of course, came forward to give it to the recipient. Each student did this and in this way everyone got a present.

The last period this afternoon was the start of the competitions starting with the singing competition. One singer from each senior class had been chosen and the first two performed well on stage singing the song karaoke style as the words were displayed on a laptop which also produced the music. Just as the second singer was near the end of her song there was a power cut! That was the end of that so it was decided to begin the reading competition with M6 because M6 will be returning to Dongmool school tomorrow to continue their O-Net preparedness sessions. As with the singing competition, one student from each of the senior classes has been selected to read the passage that I composed.

The M6 reader was a female student called Wipawan who is also the school’s head student and who almost always gets the highest marks in any English test. Her reading was good but she forgot my advice to modulate her voice and to use pauses to increase effect. Whether she wins depends on the other two readers tomorrow.


There were classes as normal this morning and then it was M3’s turn to have lunch together in their classroom sitting cross-legged on the floor at sort of coffee tables. After lunch a number was drawn from the hat by each student which determined which present of the many stacked on the table he/she would receive. It’s always good fun and I took some photos for you.

The singing and reading competitions resumed for last period of the afternoon and this time there was no power cut! The singers and readers did well though everything had to be squeezed into the 50 minutes period for some reason which I thought was unnecessary.

After school Jasper and I went into Kranuan to try to build up our student and teacher presents. The student present upgrade was no problem but it was the teacher’s present that was so difficult. There are no decent shops in Kranuan which compounds the difficulty. I had thought a large tray of Ferro Rocher would be ok but the present must now be 500+ baht and the tray was much less. I would have got a nice 2013 diary but such things aren’t available in the town. Most of my other ideas aren’t available either which makes it very difficult to choose presents.

I asked Ajarn Tuk about what presents teachers buy for other teachers and she said things like water heaters, or the thin eiderdown-like blankets they use here, or the triangular cushions. Those items are ok but I am sure every teacher already has one, probably several. In the end, I bought a nifty and smart looking dual-colour pen which in addition has a spotlight torch and red pointing beam. It’s a bit of fun anyway!


I got woken very early this morning when someone at the Or Bor Dor (the council offices next door, and on the other side of some trees, to the teacher’s house) started playing some loud music. The music itself was actually rather nice but I could have done with a bit more sleep.

My cold, or whatever it was/is, hasn’t been killed yet. My sore throat keeps returning and the glands below my jaw are a little swollen.

Grave doubts remain about the suitability of my teacher’s present. I don’t think it is enough. I was also asked if I would buy three more student presents of about 60 baht each to make up the number required. Luckily, there are no classes today as the students are preparing things for the big event tomorrow so
I went into Kranuan with Jasper this morning and found three more student presents and I found a fruit hamper which together with the other two items will be ok as my teacher’s gift.


I felt ok today which was fortunate. I got to school about 7.50 am as usual and was accosted by Ajarn Tippakorn who has the responsibility for organising today’s present giving activity. She told me that she had not had time to write an opening speech for the Director so would I write one for her as she had so many other things to get ready before for the 9.30 start. I have often sat through opening speeches at various activities but as they have all been in Thai I have no idea what was said so after checking that the speech was for the Director to read I set about my task which had to include a welcome for the VIP guest, Mr Supan, the Director of the next door Or Bor Dor (local Council office) though it was uncertain if he was coming or not. She also told me that the main body of the speech had to be about the meaning of Christmas.

To speed the thinking and creative process I turned to Wikipedia which has a long page all about Christmas which helped enormously though I had to shorted the story somewhat retaining just the essential points. For a bit of levity I added a short last paragraph about the Mistletoe tradition.

About an hour later the opening ceremony began with the Director being handed the folder with a typed copy of my script to read. His English is quite good as he used to be an English teacher but he admits to having forgotten many words so my speech was a bit of an unintentional test with words like ‘celebration’ in it.

Mr Supan arrived just as the Director got going. When the Director finished he handed the folder to him and telling him that it was his opening speech. Mr Supan did a double take when he realised t was in English but made a very brave job of reading it all and was unfazed by the line which included his full name welcoming him to Sai Moon school.

The whole event took place in the Sala which had been decked out with balloons and a Sai Moon Christmas tree, in reality the top of a local tree, had pride of place next to the stage. Along one side of the hall table were burdened and to end with gifts for the students. Another table creaked under the weight of ‘kanum’ (biscuits, crisps and the like) to give to students about to receive certificates for winning either the speaking, painting, singing or other competition. At the far end of the hall, stalls had been set up from which each class served a different type of food.

Every present was given a number. The presents that the teachers had bought for students were also given a number and marked with the teacher’s name. Students were called up in small groups to draw numbers and to receive their present. The student drawing the number would formally give the present to the recipient who would then draw the next number and present the next gift and so on. In between the groups being called up there were skits or dancing on the stage.

One of the activities was a very funny obstacle course with a difference. Six students lined out and took up the athletics ‘get ready’ stance and when the whistle blew they had to blow a pile of flour off a one baht coin and pick it up with their teeth, then eat two bananas, then two triangular sandwiches, then drink a bottle of Coca Cola and finish by blowing up a balloon to burst it. It was hilarious and I took a video of the fun for you which is now on youtube.com at http://youtu.be/Q1cglPi9s94

Jasper and I had also been tasked with producing a skit for the morning and I chose to sing the chorus of the Skye Boat Song during which the students had to participate. Every time I sang a word beginning with ‘b’ the students had to either stand up or sit down. If you know the song there are plenty of B’s to create a lot of fun.

The morning finished for the students about 1pm and they went home carrying all their gifts. The teachers and staff (Mr Bear and his wife and Mr Happy, the two security guards, handymen, gardeners and Jack of all trades) then went to a karaoke restaurant about 12km away to sing songs, eat copious amounts of food and drink lots. Around 3 o’clock it was time for the present giving. Each teacher had bought a gift for another teacher. As you do not know who is going to receive your present it makes it very difficult to know what to buy and our presents had to cost upwards of 500 baht.

I struggled to think of what to buy and ended up buying three separate items, as I mentioned before. In the draw my present went to Mr Kumin but it was impossible to tell from his expressionless face whether he liked it or not. My present, from Mr Bear who is an Isaan traditionalist, was a large mat, the kind locals use to sit on at home (or anywhere) to eat food.

Other teachers had brought presents such as baskets of Brands (or similar) or bedding which I would have thought they all had more than enough of already. When school reopens I am going to suggest that next year, a couple of weeks before present giving day, a draw is made to determine which teacher one has to give a present to. That way you don’t have to buy a unisex present and you can buy something that you feel sure the recipient would actually like. I don’t suppose my idea will be taken up because it has probably always been done the other way, but I will try anyway. Any thoughts ?????

I left with Jasper about 4.30 as he had arranged to go to Chumpae and he took me back to the school. Before Mr Yor departed for his home in Ayuthaya he showed the flower produced by one of the Nerene bulbs I gave him a year ago. I had long wondered what had happened to the bulbs and had even thought he’d forgotten to plant them as he never mentioned doing so. So it was a very nice surprise to see the leafy plant in full bloom and I took a photo for you. Like it ?


Once Mr Narongsak left the teacher’s house around 1pm I was alone at last which is not as awful as it sounds. The house is surrounded by trees and fields and it can be very nice here when it is not muggy or rainy, in other words, right now.

I spent most of the day around the house either doing things on my notebook or simply relaxing. In the evening I went to Lom Mai restaurant in Kham Yai which has prepared for NYE already with balloons decorating the eating area and the giant screen monitor taking pride of place where guests can see it easily.

On my way to Kham Yai the oversize full moon was at eye level on the horizon which is a sight I have always wanted to capture on camera when in London but have never had it with me at the right time.


When I went to Kham Yai yesterday evening I quite forgot to call in at Tesco Lotus to get more food for the three cats at the house. So I went to Kham Yai first thing this morning and when I got back the cats were very pleased to see me! Riding back to Sai Moon on my Scoopyi I noticed how much clearer the atmosphere was today. I could see the hills near Nam Phong and details on them very clearly which you can’t normally.

In Thailand one must always expect the unexpected such as this morning on my way to Kham Yai when I came across a long procession walking along the other side of the road complete with marching drums and flags. I have no idea what it was all about but it may have had something to do with a Kam Yai school guessing by the number of youngsters taking part and the large number of older females, probably mothers, taking part. By the time I was on the return journey the procession had disappeared down a side road.

Two local young friends came round this morning to help plan the party for tomorrow night. They are going to buy the food for me and one of them will do the cooking. A couple of other students will come by tomorrow to help blow up balloons to decorate the covered front area of the house where the party will be held.

I went into Kranuan for lunch and to shop at Tesco Lotus which was busier than I have ever seen it before. There were tables laden with new year gift boxes such as a dozen Naval oranges for 250 baht (about £5) which I suppose was something of a bargain since single ones were priced at 49 baht, about £1 each. There were boxes of mandarins as well. This is a reflection on the fact that a very large percentage of Thais have Chinese ancestry.


It was very cold again last night and the morning watery sun didn’t do anything to raise the temperature. Have been taking care of the three ginger cats we have at the house though I refuse to let any of them sleep on my bed any more since they are so demanding of space and attention and I don’t want to be waking up all night.

This evening I hosted a New Year’s Eve Party for some students at my teacher’s house with some drinks and plenty of food, fireworks, music and fun. We saw in the new year with big bangs (see photo) and a large countdown clock on my laptop and everyone enjoyed themselves well into the wee small hours.

So, here we are, at the end of another year. It has been ok for me though there have been a number of disasters or annoying times for one reason or another. I am looking forward to next year with hope especially concerning my Give-a-Dictionary Campaign which has so far raised $1025 which is absolutely great and I can’t thank all of the contributors enough. But you know how it is, I need about the same amount again to reach my target. There is only one month to go so if you can help with a contribution, or if you can help spread the word around all your friends on facebook (or anywhere) and ask them to spread the word about my campaign too then that would be hugely helpful!!

If you have been, thank you for reading thus far. I hope you have enjoyed my trials and tribulations at Sai Moon and elsewhere and I hope I will see you here next year and please don't forget to add your comments, the more the merrier. A HAPPY HEALTHY AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!!!

Posted by talismanic 06:34 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

(Entries 1 - 2 of 2) Page [1]