01.01.2013 - 11.01.2013
TUESDAY 1st JANUARY 2013
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.
WEDNESDAY 2nd JANUARY
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.
THURSDAY 3rd JANUARY
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.
FRIDAY 4th JANUARY
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.
SATURDAY 5th JANUARY
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.
SUNDAY 6th JANUARY
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.
MONDAY 7th JANUARY
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.
TUESDAY 8th JANUARY
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.
WEDNESDAY 9th JANUARY
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.
THURSDAY 10th JANUARY
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.
FRIDAY 11th JANUARY
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.