A Travellerspoint blog

August 2012

Aug 6-20th: MID-TERM RESULTS..MOTHER'S DAY.UDON THANI.LAOS++

semi-overcast

MONDAY 6th AUGUST

I finished off marking the Mid-Term Test papers this morning and gave today’s classes their scores. The highest score for M4, M5 and M6 combined was 90% attained by Wipawan, the school’s elected Bataan (or Student Leader) who is in M6. There were 4 others around 80%, one with 76% and then scores began to drop down to 60%s and 50%s and many below that. The lowest was 10%.

For M1, M2 and M3 two students got 63.3% which was the highest mark. Only four other students got 50% or above. The remaining fifty-five students got below 50% with half that number getting 20% or less, three got 0%. So some good news and some bad and that well worn school report phrase comes to mind: ‘Could do better.’

TUESDAY 7th AUGUST

I did a review of the Test questions for some of the classes today but for some students if they sat the same test again with the same questions, sad to say, but I doubt their score would improve.

WEDNESDAY 8th AUGUST

Rained all day which is something that has not happened for quite a while and was rather depressing really and it made all my clothes feel a bit damp

For the first time this week I had M3 (14-15 y.o.) this morning and reviewed the test questions for them and gave them their scores. One of the questions in the test, which caused problems for many junior students, was about capital letters. There were five short sentences, such as peter likes monday and friday very much and students had to replace letters with capitals as they saw fit but, despite around 5 years of English classes, many couldn’t manage it.

THURSDAY 9th AUGUST

Another rainy day. Luckily the school is on slightly higher ground so there is no chance of any flooding and the village itself is on a very barely noticeable ridge so heavy rain drains away very quickly.

FRIDAY 10th AUGUST

The school’s celebrations for the Queen’s Birthday, or Mother’s Day, took place today and after assembly the students gathered in the sala which had been prepared with chairs and stage decorations last evening.

This year the Director didn’t attend because, I heard, he was collecting his pick-up from the garage back in his home town of Wang Saphung, Loei where it was being repaired. The Deputy Director took his place and led the school in singing the national anthem and then the special Queen’s anthem. The Deputy and many of the teachers were dressed in their official white uniforms and those that didn’t have/hire them wore their standard government uniform that all civil servants across Thailand wear on Mondays.

Some students from M5 performed a very nice dance dressed in their traditional costumes which I videoed and it can be seen on youtube.com at http://youtu.be/CpXKzquu5ckt

About forty mothers also attended and those that the students had nominated to be given motherhood certificates this year came up to the front to be given them by the Deputy after which students gathered around all the mothers. Those students whose mother wasn’t present gathered around their friend’s mother and at a given signal students gave small gifts to their mothers and a few even gave them a hug and I managed to get a couple of photos of this rare event – Thais don’t go in for hugs or much obvious close affection once a baby has grown up and got beyond the baby stage and you very rarely see any kissing or hugging or other signs of affection between adults in public.

Student winners of various awards came up next to receive their certificates and prizes which ranged from three to ten exercise books or packs of pens. Students get awarded points for taking part well in an activity such as cleaning, sweeping up leaves, cleaning toilets etc as well as classroom activities such as ‘drawing’ though I use that word in its loosest sense as what students are instructed to do is to trace and colour pictures from a book. There’s never any creativity or self expression sadly.

The celebrations were over by 11.30 and the mothers went home as did many students. Various teachers told me that there would be sport or classes in the afternoon but in the event there were no classes and only a few students stayed at school to practice the sport they will be playing in an inter-school competition in a couple of weeks.

Around 3pm Mr Jasper drove me to Nam Phong where I caught the bus for Udon Thani where I will stay for three nights.

I had dinner this evening at the night market where there was a large tv screen showing the semi-final boxing match between Thailand and China at the Olympics. Needless to say, whenever the Thai boxer got a punch on target a great cheer went up. When he lost the bout and the Chinese boxer was declared the winner there was a lot of discontent.

SATURDAY/SUNDAY 11/12th AUGUST

As always, it was nice to sleep in a proper bed with crisp white sheets and a soft pillow and to use a real shower with hot and cold water. I didn’t do very much in Udon though one of the things I did do was to explore the big new shopping mall that opened shortly before my last visit three months ago. It is quite easy to lose one’s bearing inside the mall as the layout isn’t symmetrical but it has many interesting shops as well as a handful of the well known shop names one sees elsewhere. The top floor is devoted to eating with many different types of restaurant and there is also a multiscreen cinema, bowling centre and karaoke lounge.

The basement has a large food park with around thirty outlets selling freshly made food. You simple buy a food card with as much credit as you want to spend which is debited at the outlets at which you order food. There is also a large Tops supermarket which has beautiful displays of fresh fruits and a large range of imported food from Europe and elsewhere. It’s a good place to browse and see all the different things on offer and to realise that brands such as Dettol, which is far as I know, is only known for its disinfectant in the UK but here in Thailand the Dettol brand encompasses shower gel, soap and other personal cleaning agents.

I heard that that Thai media feel that the Thai boxer should have won his fight. I didn’t watch the complete match so I can’t comment one way or another but it has definitely caused some ill feeling here in Thailand.

On Sunday I did my usual run into Laos and back. I got a motorcycle taxi to take me to the bus station for a bus to Nong Khai which took an hour to get there. I then got a tuk tuk to the border immigration office on the Thai side of the Friendship Bridge across the Mekong. I went through the immigration checkpoint and got the shuttle bus across the bridge to Laos where I paid the usual 1500 baht (£30) visa fee and entered Laos. Having passed through the checkpoint I did a u-turn and exited Laos and visited the duty free shopping zone where you can buy everything from pirate DVDs to shoes. I had heard about boxes of wine being available, and they are, though they mostly contain red wines. I did find a few boxes of sauvignon blanc which I would have bought until I considered that they contain the equivalent of four bottles of wine and as I would be drinking most of it regretfully decided against buying a box though both red and white wine boxes were only 550 baht (about £11).

I did however buy a large bag of 3-in-1 Lao coffee from its famous Bolevan Plateau coffee growing region for 120 baht (£2.20). After this I caught the shuttle back to the Thai side of the Mekong and passed unhindered into Thailand with another visa stamp in my passport.

MONDAY 13th AUGUST

I spent a chunk of this morning look around the brand new IT Plaza that has opened in Udon Thani. Only the ground floor is open so far with a large number of different outlets selling mainly computer related goods. The newly built Plaza is glossy and spacious and a nice place to browse. Another big IT centre, Tukcom, is due to open in another part of Udon in the coming months. I just wish we had something similar in London but then, I suppose, prices would be sky high. Yes, I know I can buy IT items cheaper online but it is nice to see them in the flesh, handle them and have a place to take them back to if something doesn’t work.

Before I left Sai Moon for the weekend it had been raining a lot so I took my umbrella with me to Udon which had the desired effect as not a drop of rain fell while I was there!

I got the bus back to Nam Phong about 2.30 and for the first time ever the bus sailed past the stop. I knew the stop as approaching and I had got out of my seat to move forward but so many extra passengers had been packed onto the bus that it was impossible to move forward fast enough to get the conductor to stop. The bus did eventually stop about half a mile further on than usual and Mr Jasper, who was waiting for me, had to come and fetch me and we went back to Sai Moon.

When I got back to the teacher’s house I found that Mr Yor had been up to his old tricks again putting up several printed paper notices here and there. Regardless of what they said I was annoyed that he still thinks of the house as his. He built his lean-to garage on to the end of the house without asking anyone else if we minded whereas, in fact, it inconveniences everyone as we now have to walk around his car to reach the washing-up point. He may be nice and smiley and friendly but he is also very selfish and inconsiderate.

He has no more right than I have to plaster the house with notices so I discreetly tore them down and threw them away! If he discussed whatever problem the notices were designed to correct with the other house occupants, including me, he would probably have got the ok to put his notices up. I don’t suppose he will have got the message though!!

This evening we – Mr Jasper and I - tried a new restaurant that opened a month ago near Huai Mek which serves Thai and European food. It is a nice looking place, clean and comfortable and our meals were delicious. I had red curry chicken and rice which is something that you rarely find on a menu in Isan. The prices are good too. My dish was only £1.20.

TUESDAY 14th AUGUST

All twelve Lor Dor (army cadet) students were absent from school today and on enquiry learned that they went to a training camp last Friday and will be away from school for ten days. The mixed group of students come from M4 and M5 classes but mostly from M6. It seems strange to me that this sort of training should take precedence over schoolwork.

The teachers in charge of their respective sports are getting the paperwork done for the 3-day inter-school sports competition starting next week. There’s a surprising amount of paperwork involved – each player in each age group must submit his/her id card, two passport size photos and complete a form with personal info. The teacher collects these and verifies each one, fills out another form and stamps it with the school stamp. I suppose it is done to ensure players play in the right age group and don’t cross over into another one and teams don’t engage ringers to boost a team performance.

I still haven’t managed to watch the Olympics closing ceremony yet even when using the school’s internet. The problem is that when the students are online in the computer room the internet slows down elsewhere in the school. I’ll have to try again later.

At dusk I had drinks with director when he finished his golf target practice on the school’s football field. He mentioned that the school will close on Oct 12th though I am not sure if he meant for teachers or for students too. Teachers usually have to stay on at school after the students go on holidays to do admin work but I need to know what he meant as I must make bookings ahead for my own holiday.

After a few beers we – the Director, Mr Jasper and Mr Sittipong – went to the Thai/European restaurant in Huai Mek which Jasper and I ate at last night. They had spaghetti carbonara while I sampled their Phad Thai which was very tasty.

WEDNESDAY 15th AUGUST

I discovered today that the reason the water was off at the teacher’s house was because Mr Bear, on of the school caretakers, had forgotten to turn the supply tap on.

There was some very heavy localised rain this morning accompanied by thunder and lightning which temporarily flooded everything in sight.

The two newly installed speed humps on the road though the school had to be flattened a bit today after being criticised for being too acute. New square-sided sidebars now project outwards to prevent motorbikes going around the edges to avoid reducing speed which is something I did as well!

The Director repaid his loan direct into my Thai bank account which was welcome and sharply increases my baht balance.

THURSDAY 16th AUGUST

After assembly this morning my camera was borrowed to take photos of all the younger students. This is to provide them with a school id card because some students will be attending courses away from school apparently though why this is thought necessary when every Thai person already has a national id card, including all students.

FRIDAY 17th AUGUST

The photos from the Mars lander ‘Curiosity’ are stunning and I have visited the website where you can pan the camera in any direction across the Martian landscape and there’s the promise of more to come. Amazing!

The water got turned off again late this afternoon though I have no idea why this is happening yet again. The school supposedly has its own water supply thanks to drilling that took place about a year ago a short distance from the teacher’s house.

SATURDAY 18th AUGUST

I had another flat tyre on my front wheel today. Luckily I discovered the problem as I left the teacher’s house but it was too late get it fixed so I will get it done tomorrow.

SUNDAY 19th AUGUST

It was nice and sunny this morning so despite the water being off I scooped just enough out of the shower tank to wash my essentials. The water came back on at 11.30 so I did a second batch of washing to take advantage of the sunshine.
I discovered that the broody hen had hatched half a dozen eggs since I last looked in the coop yesterday afternoon. There are now six squeaking little chicks. Care will have to be taken to protect them from snakes and dogs!

I got the inner tube on my front Scoopyi wheel replaced this morning so I am now mobile again.

MONDAY 20th AUGUST

The Director was away again today so the Thai teachers noticeably relaxed. I don’t think it is because they are scared of him as he is not the scary type and is very friendly. But the teachers need his approval to get promotions and promotions mean a bit more money.

The disciplinarian at the school, if you can call him that, is Mr Noi and he’s a stickler for politeness and polite behaviour. The Sai Moon students are not the most polite in Thai terms – not many Wai teachers and the frequently talk (so I have been told) in an impolite manner. That doesn’t mean using swear words or anything that would be considered rude in the west. It means not using respectful words and disrespectful behaviour.

This morning many students were punished for their cumulative bad and/or disrespectful behaviour and numerous poochai and pooying were given a one-stroke beating by Mr Noi after assembly. I don’t suppose any good behaviour resulting from this will last very long, it never does!

Posted by talismanic 22:51 Archived in Thailand Tagged birds thailand school weekend students isan udon_thani kalasin sai_moon sai_mun -secondary_school secondary_school mattayom saimoon saimun mor_lam ban_fai kranuan Comments (0)

July 23-Aug 5th: BANGKOK TRIP ON/OFF..MID-TERMS..WEEKENDS+++

rain

MONDAY 23rd JULY

The Director, Deputy and Mr Chaiwa are away in Chiang Mai for the week attending a seminar leaving Mr Noi in charge. He came back to school today after being away Thursday and Friday last week when he took the exam to become a school Director. He told me earlier that he hadn’t read the training book but felt confident that his long experience as Deputy under seven different Directors would be good enough for him to pass and that there were twelve candidates taking the test, all from Kalasin province.

He told me that it is not only the result of the test that will count as to whether he is promoted but also the fact that he knows everybody worth knowing in the Edn Admin Office in Kalasin city which is where the decision will be made.

If he is successful he will be posted to a school near Yang Talad which is about 30km from Kalasin city and that he wants me to go there with him as he likes me and my teaching so much. He even told me that my salary will be doubled if I go with him. The way the system works here is that he would spend a year as Director at this other school and then return as Director to Sai Moon.

If this comes to pass then it may well solve my dilemma if my present school Director moves to another school in March as he anticipates. One of the attractions of staying here at Sai Moon is being able to see how students grow up and progress through school. The M1 class that I taught when I first came to Sai Moon is now the M3 class and I would like to see how they and the other students develop over the next three years until they leave M6. If Mr Noi gets his Directorship then I will follow him to the other school. I would only be away from Sai Moon for one year and I needn’t lose touch with the students.

TUESDAY 24th JULY

Another student had a leg bandaged up this morning and he told me he’d had a motorcycle accident when a dog ran across his path.

With the three-day inter-school sports event approaching Sai Moon students are practising hard once school finishes with teams playing Petanque, Volleyball, Futsall and Takraw.

WEDNESDAY25th JULY

Another day, another funeral. This time for Mr Komin’s brother who, it seems, died of some drink-related problem though I am not sure of the details or how old he was. I was to join Mr Weang, Mr Kay and Mr Jasper leaving by car about 6pm but it was more like 8pm when we eventually left after downing a few beers beforehand.
Mr Komin’s brother lived in the village so we didn’t have far to go. If you recall, houses here have open-plan ground floors so by erecting awnings between houses you can create a large space enough for many guests. In one part of this space Mr Komin’s brother lay in his coffin by which family members were grouped to receive visitors and condolences and they could light a joss stick and say a prayer as well.

Tables and chairs had been set up over most of the rest of the space and we sat at an empty table and food soon came as is the tradition in Thai funerals. People came and went and after an hour or so separate groups began forming to play Hi-lo a numbers betting game dependent on the roll of two dice. I thought it was very strange to see people openly gambling illegally like this at a funeral wake. Mr Komin’s brother’s house was on the busy road to Kham Yai and with the extra traffic caused by all the guests and villagers coming to pay their respects a policeman/men may have turned up at any time which made me suppose that they weren’t bothered even if they did show up as nothing would happen.

THURSDAY 26th JULY

The cremation was this morning and some of the M6 girls were despatched to serve food and cold drinks and some teachers went along as well.

Hurricane Vicente over China caused some very high winds in north east Thailand where I am. Luckily, nothing more than winds affected us but other countries fared much worse.

FRIDAY 27th JULY

An incredible 12,000 people died on the roads in Thailand last year, a figure that has remained steady in recent years and the majority of the deaths involve motorcycle accidents. The legal age for riding a motorbike here is fifteen but you see many younger people riding around on bikes everywhere in Thailand and usually with at least one pillion passenger but sometimes two or three!

The trip to the Bangkok Book Fair and the visit to another school which I mentioned in my last post is in the balance. Mr Weang told me that the budget for the trip is 40,000 baht (about £800) but the cost of the local coach to get the teachers to Bangkok is £200 per day and although a minibus is cheaper we would need two. Then there’s the cost of fuel and food and accommodation so it is an almost impossible budget for the trip. In addition to which I’ve heard some teachers are moaning about the lack of relaxation time and that they would like to spend a day in Ayuthaya as well.

SATURDAY & SUNDAY 28/29th JULY

A nice quiet weekend and cooler than most. Next weekend and the following weekend are long weekends. The first because it is the start of Lent and the second because it is the Queen’s Birthday or Mother’s Day. It is difficult to make a plan for the first weekend with the Bangkok trip in the air.

MONDAY 30th JULY

No classes today and for the next few days because this week the Mid-Term Tests take place and I spent all my free time last Friday devising the English tests, one for M1, M2 and M3 and a different test for M4, M5 and M6. I am never asked to help invigilate tests/exams so I watched the whole of the Olympics Opening Ceremony which was very spectacular and far better than I first thought it might be. I also liked the aerial view of the Thames from Big Ben to Docklands and seeing all the familiar sights on either side.

I was unable to watch the BBC coverage because I am not in the UK but as they are relying on input from the Olympic Broadcasting Service I simply went to youtube.com to see the whole of the OBS Opening Ceremony output.

TUESDAY 31st JULY

It poured with rain this morning which didn’t lighten my mood after being disturbed several times during last night. Mr Narongsak, who shares the teacher’s house and who had a motorbike accident 2-3 years ago which affected part of his brain, often does the daftest things. Last night at 11.30pm he banged his door shut and stomped down the wooden stairs got on his motorbike and went into the village. Ten minutes later he was back but what he did in the village is a mystery since no shops of any kind are open and nobody is around. Most people go to bed and get up very early so after about 8pm the village is pretty dead already.

Narongsak doesn’t eat with anyone else he has his food in his room. About 1.30am he stomped downstairs again to wash his dishes and rice cooker. Bang! Door open. Bang!! Door shut. I had enough and got up to give him a piece of my mind, but I don’t suppose for a second he will do anything different. The Director gave him a talking to a few weeks ago chiding him for not taking part in any school activities and not doing anything with or talking to his fellow teachers. But he just smiled as he always does and nothing changed. I don’t know what the school process is for getting rid of a teacher but if this were my school I’d get him transferred asap.

It looks more and more like the trip to Bangkok is off. Nobody talked about it officially yesterday but Ajarn Tuk told me that a number of other teachers don’t want to go and that there’s no time to get ready anyway. As to what I will do over this long weekend I am not sure because I have not planned anything in case the Bangkok trip takes place.

WEDNESDAY 1st AUGUST

Immediately after assembly Ajarn Tippakorn took me and Jasper into Nong Kung Sri to cash our salary cheques at the bank. Talking to her again about this I discovered I was wrong about the balance of the money cashed being for future salaries. In fact, the money for Jasper’s and my salaries has been borrowed from another budget so the balance from last month and again this month will be returned to the other account.

When we had finished at the bank Ajarn Tippakorn’s car wouldn’t restart and it sounded like a dead battery. Luckily, there is a car and tractor spares shot next door to the bank and someone came round to check the battery before pronouncing it dead. We all went to the shop and watched as they prepared a new battery and it was duly installed in the car. But the new battery also seemed dead and wouldn’t start the car. Another larger battery was brought from the shop along with jumper leads but still the engine refused to start. A second larger battery was brought forth and this time the engine roared into life. The replacement battery cost Ajarn Tippakorn 1500 baht, about £30.

Back at school, she turned off her ignition and checked to see if the battery was ok. But once again the battery was dead. This time Jasper and I thought it must be a faulty alternator not charging the battery. But while we were looking at the engine Ajarn Tippakorn noticed the battery’s earth wire had a taped join in it and when the tape was removed we could see how poorly the wires had been spliced together. When the earth wire was reconnected to the battery the car started perfectly so it is likely the battery didn’t need replacing after all.

By now it was almost lunchtime and after having something to eat the students were getting ready to depart for the temple ceremony this afternoon it being the start of the Buddhist Lent period.

The school bus took many of the students to the village outskirts where those with motorbikes had already parked. About a dozen boy students I saw when the students assembled back at the school had disappeared by the time the procession formed though I don’t suppose anything will happen to them. Everyone then walked to the temple, girls on the left, boys on the right and at the head of the procession four boys carried a small platform holding the ceremonial candle.

The procession walked round the temple three times, as is the tradition, before going inside where Sai Moon were joined by students from Ban Hat Sai Moon primary school. The worshipping inside lasted about thirty minutes and then it was time to go home. Some of the students involved in the sports teams returned to school after changing to play their various sports but to all intents and purposes the weekend started here

THURSDAY 2nd-SUNDAY 5th AUGUST

With the uncertainty over the trip to Bangkok it was impossible to make any great plan for this long weekend in any case, next weekend, also a long weekend, I am going to Udon Thani for three nights and will go across to Lao to get another visa stamp in my passport.

I had a quiet and peaceful few days alone in the teacher’s house which was nice. I cleared all my laundry and did some other chores on the first day to get them out of the way. Only one day was nice and sunny, there were showers every now and then on the other days.

I took some more photos including an update on the banana ‘flower’. Ajarn Tippakorn told me that this type of tree produces extra tasty bananas so I am looking forward to trying one. If you look at the latest photo in my gallery you can see the main flower sheath is light brown but at the top is a section which is dark brown and it is under this section that baby bananas are beginning to emerge.

I also took a photo of the amazing flower of one of the palm trees at school. Ajarn Tippakorn told me it was the first she has seen which suggests it flowers rarely.

I happened to catch sight of a larger than usual butterfly with distinctive eyes on its wings but I didn’t have my camera with me. On Sunday morning I spotted it again in the same location near the teacher’s house so I raced upstairs, got my camera, and crept back to the butterfly which, luckily, was still where it was. I have no idea what type of butterfly this is but it has a wingspan of about 4-5”.

At this time of year it is common to see plastic sheets laid out beside the road in front of village houses covered with peanuts drying in the sun. Many people also collect the fronds from a certain tree which when dried on a sheet in the sun can be stitched together to make an effective soft household brush.

I did have a plan to go to Khon Kaen on Sunday but Mr Jasper change his mind so we will go there some other time. By the way, I love to read your comments, so please keep them coming!!

Early evening on Sunday I got a call from Mr Noi seeking help with his laptop. He’s a computer novice and is keen to learn. I went round to his house on my motorbike and he told me he had internet access in the morning then his young daughter used the laptop for a while after which he could not get any internet. I tried to discover what was wrong but failed to re-establish a connection for him. The problem seems to be ether the ISP was down, or there was a fault with the router or the lack of a Network Security Password. He is going to ring his ISP and/or the provider of the wireless router for help in the morning.

Once I had finished he drove me to Kham Yai where we had a very nice dinner and a couple of bottles of beer. He told me that he had not secured his Directorship as he had hoped which brings my future plans back to square one again. When I told him that I feared the departure of the present Sai Moon Director because a new Director might decide, having looked at the accounts, to get rid of me and Jasper and thus save money for something else. But Mr Noi assured me this would not happen as he has considerable sway at the Admin Office in Kalasin city and he is very keen for both of us to stay at Sai Moon.

I also had a visit in my room from a large tuk-kay gecko which I spotted hiding behind a pair of trousers that were hanging by the window. I snatched a photo of him for you which is in my gallery.

Posted by talismanic 01:30 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand banana students butterflies isan kalasin sai_moon sai_mun -secondary_school secondary_school mattayom saimoon saimun mor_lam kranuan Comments (1)

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