08.05.2013 - 06.06.2013 27 °C
WEDNESDAY 13th MAY
The day I left Pattaya I noticed a large advertising hoarding outside a building which, amongst other things, offered A Dairy Room Available for Rent instead of Daily, and it made me wonder....!!
When I got back to school yesterday evening and opened my room it was very hot and stuffy but otherwise fairly clean thanks to the new window netting I installed before the holidays which has effectively stopped all insects from entering.
The new M1 (12 y.o.) students have been enrolling this week and this morning three more arrived and it was decided to occupy their morning with some introductory English lessons which Jasper and I shared. I expect it was because they had first day shyness but it was hard getting any of the three to respond to anything!!
Good news about my Give-a-Dictionary Campaign. Things have been on hold during the holidays but Ajarn Tippakorn and I had a meeting this morning when she told me that she thought the New Modern Thai-English/English-Thai dictionary would be better in the long run as it is also the official dictionary used by the Education Authorities for competitions and the like. So for this reason I agreed to change the order and the publisher will now deliver the new dictionaries to school very shortly.
It was very hot today; far hotter than other places I have been around Thailand. When I got back to the teacher’s house it was good to see that my young Jacaranda tree has grown more and looks much sturdier and healthier. I spoke with Mr Yor about possible planting sites and we have one in mind.
I also gave Mr Yor the Dahlia bulbs and Orchid plantlet which he seemed very pleased with. I hope the Dahlia’s can cope with Isaan’s hot and sometimes wet weather though.
THURSDAY 9th MAY
The change around of the offices continued today. The two middle offices in the main building have been knocked into one all the old junk and ancient paperwork was chucked out this morning. Part of this room will become the new library and, tomorrow, all the tables and chairs from the existing library will be transferred. The books and shelves will be transferred by students on Tuesday.
The existing library is to become the English Department consisting of me, Ajarn Tippakorn and Mr Jasper. I hope this will work out ok but as the room is located at the end of the balcony where the M1, M2 and M3 classrooms are I can well imagine students wandering in and out between classes and disturbing us.
Shifting furniture and sweeping away the debris was arduous in the very hot weather and there were long gaps in the activity with nothing to do. Luckily, the school wi-fi problem which affected my laptop for a couple of months before the holidays seems to have cured itself. After eliminating other possibilities the fault was something to do with the wi-fi settings. I used wi-fi in all the hotels and guesthouses I stayed in with no problems at all and I am glad the problem has vanished as my Air Card (dongle) cannot get a good signal in the office for some reason.
The school officially opens on Tuesday because Monday is a public holiday but I am planning to spent the long weekend at the Teacher’s House.
FRIDAY 10th MAY
There was little to do this morning...or rather what was planned to do was put off by the Thai teachers so the students can help move the books and shelves etc from the old library to the new one when they return to school.
It is still not clear whether the Chinese teacher coming to Sai Moon is male or female. If female, the Thais will not allow her to stay at the Teacher’s House as all the other occupants are male in which case Ajarn Tippakorn will move as well. If male, then there will be no problem. Apparently, the Chinese Government demands that the room of any Chinese teacher on secondment, in Thailand or elsewhere in SE Asia, must have an air conditioner, a TV, a fridge and must be redecorated. If only I had known that before I came to Sai Moon!!
SATURDAY 11th MAY
I went into Kranuan intending to have lunch at the Pizza House but it was closed and after getting some supplies at Tesco Lotus I returned to school and had lunch there.
It rained heavily this evening – one of the first big rains for a long time – which will make the farmers happy.
Many frogs around the Teacher’s House started honking this evening. I suppose they are looking for a mate. In any event spawn has appeared in the old concrete water tank outside the house though unless the rainwater level is kept up artificially the spawn will soon dry out.
SUNDAY 12th MAY
I mentioned before about the problem I had with my computer in London and how everything was supposedly backed up. Well, not everything was backed up and today I discovered I had lost another document so I spent much of today researching online to reconstruct the original document.
One of the nice things about travelling around is that I have access to decent wi-fi at all the various hotels. Here at Sai Moon the internet via my Air Card (dongle) is slower than ever and recreating that document is taking forever.
MONDAY 13th MAY
Today was a public holiday so there was no school. All weekend the internet on my Air Card has been very slow. At most the signal strength was two bars but more often only one bar or no bar at all so any web work was painfully slow and often websites would not open at all.
I discovered today that I have been bitten by something on the left jaw bone and I now have a large and moderately painful and very hard swelling there. Luckily I have some ointment for bites and stings which I applied.
It is still very hot and sticky. More often than not there is no breeze at all and any exertion whatever produces gallons of sweat. The water cooling/purifying machines dotted around the school are very popular just now.
TUESDAY 14th MAY
Schools across Thailand finally opened today, including Sai Moon. The new M1 students were at assembly and this year there are seven boys and two girls.
Every teacher was given the new timetable and I have the same number of classes as last term though some at different times or on different days. But there was little teaching today because students were tasked with moving furniture – bookcases, cupboards, tables, shelves etc – from their old to new office locations.
Last week I mentioned that the school internet problems had been resolved and when I opened my laptop this morning everything was fine which was a great relief.
WEDNESDAY 15th MAY
There was a big effort this morning to finish moving all the shelves and books to the new library room. But, finally, the job was finished which leaves the equally mammoth task of sorting out all the books and re-shelving them.
Good news this lunchtime when five large boxes arrived containing the pocket dictionaries which will be distributed to every student though there is some discussion about whether students keep the same dictionary throughout their school life or if they hand them back at the end of each term as they do with regular textbooks. The latter method has the advantage of making sure each student still has his/her dictionary at the end of each term.
THURSDAY 16th MAY
The weather is really oppressive just now and it is impossible not to forget about it. By assembly, at 8am, the sun is already at 10 o’clock in the sky, there’s no wind, and it’s already hot and sticky and the nice clean shirt I put on each morning feels too much to wear. The rainy season is coming and already there are deafening thunder storms most evenings and sometimes heavy rain too.
The rain often cools things down but then the same rain brings out all the different insects and scorpions and other nasty things too. And my room is like a sauna in the late afternoon, evening and overnight. I have considered getting an air conditioner but as there’s no glass in any of the windows in the teacher’s house, only shutters, it is not a very practical idea.
FRIDAY 17th MAY
The Director called me to his office this morning to repay the 5,000 he borrowed from me a few months ago and he also paid me the balance of my last salary before I left for the summer holidays which made me happy. I must now check the school’s ledger for my salary entries from November last to the end of January because I am sure there is at least one similar balance due.
SATURDAY 18th MAY
Back to the old weekend routine today doing my laundry in the morning and going to Kranuan for lunch.
There is a water shortage in Kham Yai though I am not sure of it is caused by the drought or not or if the problem is an older one. Ajarn Tippakorn, who lives in Khan Yai, for example, brings ten plastic jerrycans to school every day to fill with water and the restaurant where I often eat has to buy in water on a daily basis. Today, in Kranuan, I heard that there’s been a similar water shortage for the last couple of months.
In Kham Yai’s case a new water pipe is being laid to draw water from a near by river but I am not sure what will happen for Kranuan. I suspect they will have to wait for the rainy season to start in earnest for their normal sources to fill up. Either way it must be a real bind not to have water on tap for so long.
Sunday 19th May
I spent the day at the Teacher’s House and doing some chores but it occurred to me that I may have given the impression in my last blog posting, and in similar holiday postings, that the hotels I stay in must be expensive because they look so nice. In fact, hotels in Thailand are generally very cheap in comparison to London and Sydney and other western cities.
The most expensive hotel I stayed in last year and so far this year was the guest house in Pai which was 1000 baht a night including breakfast. I booked online using Agoda and I chose the last room available at 800 baht per night but my laptop hung just as I clicked the ‘Book Now’ button and I didn’t know if my booking had succeeded or not. I soon realised the booking hadn’t gone through and tried again only to find that there were now no rooms left at the 800 baht rate and I was thus forced to book at the higher 1000 baht per night rate, about £22 at the current rate of exchange. Most of the hotels I stay in are 750-850 baht per night range including breakfast (£16.60-£19).
MONDAY 20th MAY
Immediately after lunch today the head of Huai Mek Municipality (or Municipility as they spell it!!) visited the school, part of an annual tour he makes, and he addressed the students as did the Deputy Police Chief who said he couldn’t remember the names of any of the Thai teaches at Sai moon but he could only remember my name which made everyone laugh. Two senior nurses from Huai Mek hospital also spoke at length about health issues. When all the speakers had finished it was announced that students must immediately undergo a drug test for methamphetamines which was organised by the two nurses and members of the police drug squad. This time only four students were positive and they will have to attend a rehabilitation clinic.
TUESDAY 21st MAY
The last period on Tuesdays is for students to take part in their chosen club. When the clubs and associated teachers were announced last week no one wanted to join my English Club and some of the other clubs fell short of members as well. So the system was relaunched yesterday and three of the new M4 students turned up for the club in the old library. As it happened they were all fairly good at English and obviously had a good grasp of all the basics which was very refreshing.
Invitations in pale pink envelopes were handed out to teachers this week for this evening’s wedding of Mr Supan’s nineteen year old son to a girl from Kham Yai. Mr Supan is the head of the Or Bor Dor (local Council) which is almost next door to the school. Neither Jasper nor I received an invitation but I reckoned this was because no one knew our full names or how to spell them correctly.
The system here is that you are expected to put money into the envelope and return it on arrival at the wedding and the money goes towards the cost of all the food and drink etc.
I joined several other teachers going to the wedding in the village. Close family members and VIPs were seated in the forecourt of Mr Supan’s house where a stage with lighting had also been set up. Lesser mortals, like us, were seated under an awning which had been erected on some open ground next to the house.
WEDNESDAY 22nd MAY
My ten Thong Laang (Coral Tree var. Erythrina Poeppigiana) seeds arrived from Germany this morning without any problems. I hope at least half will germinate and, in time, grow into strong trees and will flower copiously. An example of such a tree is in my gallery which was taken at my school in Ban Chad.
The peace of the last few nights has been disturbed by continuous honking as it is frog spawning season. It is a strange sound and not very melodious but the number of different honks made me wonder what the frogs do during the dry season.
THURSDAY 23rd MAY
Mr Yor got up very early this morning as did a couple of students who stayed at the Teacher’s House overnight to get ready for an early morning departure for a Scout Camp at Udon Thani. Nine students will represent Sai Moon at a celebratory Jamboree involving hundreds of scouts from around the region. Last year the camp got washed out by the rain, I hope the same thing doesn’t happen this year.
So what with all the comings and goings and banging around at the Teacher’s House I was woken up very early too and felt washed out all day. There were no classes after lunch today as all the students went off to the temple to make merit.
FRIDAY 24th MAY
No school today as it is Vesakh Bucha Day, the day of the full moon when Buddha was born, got enlightenment and died. There are certain days when the Thai government issues decrees to ban the sale of alcohol and one was issued for today. Other such days include the day before elections. Anybody with any sense would simply buy any alcohol they wanted to drink the day before. In any case, these bans never extend deep into the countryside where alcohol sales are unaffected by any daft ban.
I went into Kranuan for lunch and to go to Tesco Lotus. On the way I stopped off at JJ Mart, a minimart shop run by a farang. He has a proper oven and said it would be ok for me to use it to bake a cake next weekend so I am looking forward to that.
On my way back I found myself riding into some heavy rain but I was soon riding out of the localised shower. Luckily, it didn’t rain at school otherwise my washing would have got soaked again.
Mr Narongsak left late this afternoon to go home for the weekend and I have the Teacher’s House all to myself, what bliss!!
SATURDAY 25th MAY
This afternoon saw the annual procession around the village featuring a squad of female traditional dancers, some floats and a truck stacked with loud speakers to provide the music. It was a disappointing procession and much smaller than last year or the year before when it took around an hour for the procession to pass by any given point.
I enquired why the procession was so short and was told there was little money to pay for it this year. While people give their time for free the costumes, the Ban Fai and the speaker truck all have to be paid for. I feel it is time to rethink the procession to give it some new life or it will die from lack of interest.
I caught sight of a snake this afternoon. It was heading slowly towards the side of the teacher’s house when it stopped and gave me a hard look. I was just about to ask it to hang on while I get my camera when it darted into a stack of wood and disappeared down a hole on the other side.
SUNDAY 26th MAY
During the course of today I glanced round the corner of the teacher’s house just in case the snake was coming or going from its hole in the ground. Late this afternoon I was lucky to spot the snake taking stock of the area. Only the head and upper part of its body were visible and I dashed upstairs to get my camera. It was still there when I got back but the problem was it was almost 6pm and feeding time for the cats and the one dog (of 4) I am responsible for and they insisted on following me and walking around getting in the way. The last thing I wanted was for one of the dogs to spot the snake and frighten it away.
I got some cat and dog food to lure the animals away from the danger area and went back to take photos. Luckily, the snake had emerged a bit more and I got a great photo which is in my gallery. It is 3-4 feet long and has very distinct markings and it is called a Copperheaded Racer or Coelognathus radiates.
For the last couple of days the newest of the dogs, Neu Neu, has been off her food. I didn’t think it was a problem because Mr Bear, the schools handyman and Jack of All Trades, often gives the other dogs leftovers. But, more worryingly, I felt she was lethargic and lacking her usual bounce.
MONDAY 27th MAY
The final part of the annual village ‘carnival’ took place this afternoon and like last year students went home at lunchtime so that they could see the Ban Fai and enjoy the Mor Lam Sing.
This evening, just before turning in, I saw Neu Neu (the most recently acquired dog) lying on the open ground in front of the Teacher’s House and went to stroke her. She recognised me and wagged her tail a bit but she didn’t move and didn’t respond when I put her food bowl near enough for her to smell the food. I feared the worst.
TUESDAY 28th MAY
This morning I expected to see Neu Neu where I left her last night but she wasn’t there. I walked around the outside of the house but saw no sign of her.
When I came back to the house for lunch Mr Yor moved his car and we found that she had crawled underneath it to die. It was very sad to see her lying there lifeless when she was such a energetic and friendly dog. She was the type that when she wagged her tail the rear half of her body wagged as well.
Neu Neu is the fourth Teacher’s House dog to die probably from poisoning. In her case, I dismiss the idea of someone outside the school feeding her something poisoned. Rather, I feel that there is some poisonous rubbish around. After all, there are fields on two sides of the house and farmers here use all kinds of stuff on their crops and it wouldn’t surprise me if surplus fertiliser or weedkiller, or whatever, was chucked away in the undergrowth along with any surplus food since farmers often come with their families to do what work is necessary and eat by the fields as well.
One of the three ginger cats is in danger too I feel because she is a nomad and wanders around hunting at night. Today a student found her outside the first floor classrooms and I tool her back to the house where she tucked into some food. But by feeding time this evening she had disappeared again. She has vanished for 2-3 days before and always come back, so I hope she returns this time.
Jasper is like a 35 year old puppy willing to do anything or follow you anywhere. He got a phone call from a cousin of his who lives in the Philippines saying she has come to Bangkok for three days and wants to see him. She claimed that the only time she could see was tomorrow as she is busy. She inconsiderately wanted Jasper to take time off from school at short notice and get the bus to Bangkok tonight and return tomorrow night. Why is it that some people never take other people into consideration ? Needless to say really, but Jasper readily complied.
WEDNESDAY 29th MAY
With Jasper away today and both Ajarn Tippakorn and I having conflicting classes we had to accommodate Jasper’s classes by doubling up. So I had M2 and M5 as one big class this afternoon and it was hard to think of an English topic that would both older and younger students so we ended up doing a quiz about climate change.
We were unable to use the M1, M2 and M3 classrooms today since the Sala was being used for a seminar organised by the Or Bor Dor located next door to the school. I am not sure what their topic was but about fifty villagers attended.
This afternoon I noticed an intermittent nasty smell around my desk. It smelled like something rotting but I knew there was no food of my own around and wondered if a student had left something lying around but a search revealed nothing. A while later I realised the smell was coming from my computer bag and when I looked inside there was a small gecko rotting between the folds in the bag at the bottom. It had obviously entered the bag during the night and got trapped when I went to school this morning. It was a nasty lingering smell that took a lot of cleaning to eradicate.
THURSDAY 30th MAY
All this week the older students have been going, class by class, to the local hospital to give blood. They do a suitability test first and if the test is ok then blood is taken. Out of the M6, most senior class, only five students were deemed acceptable!
The humidity eased off today which was a blessing though it was still very hot at night and, once again, I didn’t get a really decent sleep.
FRIDAY 31st MAY
I felt groggy all day today thanks to the lack of sleep last night and it was a struggle to get through my classes and make them interesting for the students.
One of the interesting things about the new students this term is how many of them have beautiful heart-lifting smiles. I am thinking about gathering some of them together and getting Jasper or someone to goof behind me with the camera to make them smile spontaneously so that you can share their smiles too.
SATURDAY 1ST JUNE
Wow!! This year is almost half over and although some days have dragged time has generally zipped by very fast indeed.
SUNDAY 2nd JUNE
The highlight today was baking my first cake in Thailand. I am storing all the dry ingredients in a large sealable plastic box and I took this to my friend Dave’s minimart on the way to Kranuan where he has a properly fitted out kitchen including an oven as well as some items I didn’t have such as a mixing bowl, wooden spoon for stirring and scales.
Everything went well except that I forgot to include the chopped glace orange and lemon rind with the raisins to create the mixed fruit demanded by the recipe.
The recipe for the Tea Bread, which is the same one I used in London back in January which I brought back to Thailand, gives a baking time of 1½ hours but Dave warned me that his electric fan oven baking time might be less so I deducted 30 minutes and after looking at the cake through the oven window reinstated fifteen minutes. The result was just right I judged.
I took my box of ingredients and the newly baked cake back to the teacher’s house and left it to cool down in the cake tin. I was very surprised when the non-stick loaf tin did just that and the cake came out in once piece without sticking at all.
MONDAY 3rd JUNE
I placed half the cake into a plastic box to take to school and when I cut the cake it looked nice and moist and, I hoped, very tasty. I offered all the teachers some of the cake after assembly and they all said they liked it very much. I had some with a coffee and I thought it was good as well but I will tweak it a bit, and not forget the citrus fruit, next time!
TUESDAY 4th JUNE
At midday I went into Non Kung Sri with the Director to cash my salary cheque at the bank and we had lunch there as well. Otherwise, it was just another routine day.
WEDNESDAY 5th JUNE
I forgot to mention that Jasper and I had to leave the water heater behind when we moved from our old office in the main admin building. We are now in the old library which has moved to the main building. So that we could have a morning and afternoon coffee I bought a new water heater as well as some plastic storage jars for the coffee – we now have three types – creamer and demerara sugar. The water heater is on all day and keeps the water hot but not boiling so freshly made coffee is available for us and for visitors too.
THURSDAY 6th JUNE
I was very surprised this morning when I was preparing the food for the cats when the third cat, Shorty (because she has a very short tail) turned up after disappearing more than a week ago. It was good to see the three sisters reunited.
Although it is still not known whether the Chinese teacher arriving from China will be a male or female the Director has decided that the new arrival will most likely be female. As a result he has directed that I and Mr Narongsak must move from our present rooms and move into the other teacher’s house and that Ajarns Tippakorn and Bpui (both female by the way!) must move to the teacher’s house next to the room allocated for the Chinese teacher. In Thai culture, unmarried females cannot live with males, hence the changes. Mr Yor is the lucky one as he will stay where he is in his room which is opposite my existing room.
After decorating the room and making it as near insect proof as possible I am not keen to move but I will have to, I will have no choice. That being so, I decided to use the leverage I presently have to force improvements in the teacher’s house I will move to. At present, the bathroom/toilet is in a truly disgusting state and I have requested that my new room be decorated and window netting moved. The Director has agreed to make improvements so I will wait and see what happens. I have taken a photo of the bathroom as it is now which is in my gallery.
I took the remaining quarter of my cake to the cake shop in the village to allow the owner to taste it. After saying she liked it she said that if she made Tea Bread (my cake) she would reduce the fruit content in order to make a profit. However, I think she is making a false assumption as she has never made a cake like mine, has not seen the recipe nor has she costed it properly. My cake only cost about £3 to make and a fruit cake with little fruit in it isn’t going to be very nice or moist at all. Everyone Thai who has had a slice of my cake has enjoyed it and asked for more. This type of cake has a good shelf life whereas the coffee sponge-type cake she wants to make has to be sold/eaten asap. Any comments ????