29.11.2012 - 23.12.2012
THURSDAY 29th NOVEMBER
Since I came back from the October holiday at the beginning of this month I have been working hard on my Give-a-Dictionary Campaign which was finally launched this morning and you can see it at...
I hope you will get behind my campaign and spread the word around your facebook and Twitter and other friends. It is your and their generosity that will help me raise the funds to make my campaign a success. It doesn’t matter how big or how small your contribution is, every penny is very welcome. There are also some great perks to claim as well. So....just click on the big red ‘Contribute Now’ button on the site and claim your perk today, OK ??
FRIDAY 30th NOVEMBER
After assembly the school held a short ceremony to mark the King’s Birthday which is actually on 5th December but because the school has activities next week it was decided to celebrate it this morning. I took some photos of the ceremony for you which are in my gallery.
SATURDAY/SUJNDAY 1st/2nd DECEMBER
Over the weekend I did my usual chores and went into Kranuan for lunch at the slightly misnamed Pizza House, as they do Thai food also, and did some shopping at Tesco Lotus.
There are now three young ginger cats at the teacher’s house which Jasper brought back with him after his last visit to friends in Kalasin city who wanted him to have them. The cats are all females and sisters and are very playful and friendly and they are already making themselves well at home in their new surroundings. I am trying to take a photo of the three cats together but it is easier said than done!
MONDAY 3rd DECEMBER
At assembly this morning most of the students were dressed in white – loose white shirts and baggy white trousers – an outfit normally used by Thais for meditation sessions at a temple. After assembly, the whole school was driven to a special shrine on the outskirts of Kalasin city this morning to participate in an annual meditation rally. I went there with Mr Jasper in his car since we were planning to return to Sai Moon the same evening though everyone else, students and teachers, spent the night meditating there.
The shrine is in the middle of a large wooded area with plenty of space for parking and everything else. Awnings had been erected under which stalls had been set up serving free food or selling items linked to the event from shawls to lanterns.
It was a hot day and most of the morning was spent waiting around for something to happen though nothing really did until about 5pm. By this time everyone had changed into their all-white outfit and the first of the revered monks had taken his place on an oversize wicker chair placed in the shade under a large tree. The crowd sitting cross-legged on their mats, by now about 1,500 or more strong, turned to face him to listen to his wise words and to pray with him.
To one side of the area a large stage had been erected and after the revered monk had finished the crowd turned to face the stage where a number of monks had taken their places. The revered monk later took his place on the stage sitting on a second large wicker chair and so the night passed with chanting and praying and silent meditation until dawn.
Earlier in the evening Ajarn Tippakorn passed the news to me from the Director to say that my salary might be delayed a month or two. Apparently, the Or Bor Jor (the Education Dept of the Provincial government in Kalasin city) haven’t sent any budget to the school though I have yet to get to the bottom of this story.
TUESDAY 4th DECEMBER
I didn’t spend last night meditating at Kalasin. Jasper and I left about 7pm and we had something to eat in Kham Yai and we slept back at the teacher’s house.
The students returned about 10am this morning and they had the rest of the day free.
WEDNESDAY 5th DECEMBER
There was no school today either since it is the King’s Birthday, or Father’s Day. Wherever you look today there are portraits of the King and events organised to praise him and worship him by way of celebration. Every school, village, organisation, shop etc has a large portrait of him prominently displayed today and newspapers are full of full colour notices taken out by state enterprises and large companies praising the King and wishing him a happy 84th birthday. So you see large advertisements paid for by the likes of the State Railways of Thailand or the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand wishing the King happy birthday and glorifying him.
THURSDAY 6th DECEMBER
No classes today either. The whole school went to the large army base near Nam Phong (almost 50km from Sai Moon) for Scout Camp. The school bus and various teacher’s pick-ups were used to ferry the students to the camp. Once everyone arrived the students were led to the parade ground to join the students from Nong Chom Saeng school (from another village about 7km from Sai Moon) who had just finished their briefing.
Our students, still carrying their bags were formed up and told to sit down and empty their bags and all phones, cigarettes, lighters and other banned items were removed.
After being briefed about the camp and the programme the students went off to their accommodation to dispose of their bags and get settled in. An opening ceremony followed and there are photos of this in my gallery.
After the ceremony was over army staff were assigned to the four groups: two groups of Scouts, one from each school, and two groups of Guides. From that moment on the army staff took over and there was nothing for any of the teachers from the two schools to do.
For the students, the rest of the day was spent with their assigned army staffer doing drills and an assault course. The evening meal was taken by the students just before dusk and afterwards they formed up once again on the parade ground where they were addressed by the camp commandant who told them a bit about his career, about army life, about avoiding trouble and keeping on the straight and narrow and he finished by showing a series of short films about the dangers of drugs and alcohol etc.
I stayed until about 8pm when Jasper took me back to Sai Moon because I am going to Bangkok tomorrow morning.
FRIDAY/SATURDAY/SUNDAY 7/8/9th DECEMBER
I had planned to ride my Scoopyi bike to Kranuan and then take the bus into Khon Kaen and then get a taxi from the bus station to the airport. In the event, Mr Noi very kindly picked me up at the teacher’s house and took me to Nam Phong where I could catch a passing bus on the main road to Khon Kaen. My flight was at 12.45 and 50 minutes later I was at Suvarnabhumi airport Bangkok.
It was a nice change being in Bangkok for the weekend. I stayed in a hotel I have used several times before, the Heritage Bangkok in Silom. It is conveniently located close to Chong Nongsi BTS (Skytrain) station so getting around the city was easy.
During the weekend I went to an area of Bangkok I had never been to before called Ari. I went because I came across a fellow indiegogo fund raiser who runs a baking business from home and is seeking funds to open a retail shop in Ari. Before coming to Bangkok I ordered some muesli and some tasty-sounding lime and mango jam and I had to go to Ari to collect it. I went there on the Skytrain and got off at Ari and found that it is a really nice area with lots of funky and interesting shops, many very nice houses, handsome apartment buildings and tree lined streets. I was told that there are also several top notch restaurants in Ari which often get featured in the New York Times and elsewhere.
MONDAY 10th DECEMBER
Today was another public holiday, this one celebrating Constitution Day and I flew back to Khon Kaen. I had planned to take the bus to Kranuan but the driver of my taxi from the airport to the bus station said he’d drive me all the way to Kranuan for 600 baht. As he was going to charge me 200 baht for going to the bus station I thought an extra 400 baht (about £8) to go to Kranuan (an hour away) was a bargain. When we got to Kranuan the driver told me he’d charge the same fare if I called him to go from Kranuan to Khon Kaen. I might just do that!
TUESDAY 11th DECEMBER
It was confirmed today that Ajarns Tippakorn and Bpui will be moving into the teacher’s house this week, the same house I live in. Mr Narongsak and Mr Kay will both be moving out to the other teacher’s house next door. The idea behind the move is for the two female teachers to save money because they currently live in a rented space which was intended as a small shop when built but never used as such. They will be able to save their 2000 baht rent per month. Also, Ajarn Bpui has just nought a new car under the Government’s first car purchase scheme (to encourage car ownership) which grants you a lower interest rate and allows you to spread the repayments over a longer period. By moving to the teacher’s house she hopes to use the school roads to practice her driving and also save petrol money by not having to commute the 7km each way to Kham Yai any more.
All the M6 students went off to Dongmool school today for the start of two weeks of special training for the upcoming O-Net exams by tutors from NIETS, the organisation that sets the exam. Two days are to be spent on each subject and it will be the turn of English next Monday and Tuesday.
WEDNESDAY 12th DECEMBER
The field between the school and the teacher’s house, which I pass by twice a day, and which had sugar cane planted in mid-November last year is now being harvested again. Workers cut the cane by hand and create bundles which are then loaded onto a truck. These trucks come in all sizes from the huge articulated truck carrying up to 21 tons of cane to small trailers carrying just a few bundles. You can see one of the colourful smaller trucks being loaded in the field this morning in my gallery.
FRIDAY 14th DECEMBER
Good news this morning: another contribution came in towards my Amazing Give-a-Dictionary Campaign bringing the funds up to $350 but still far short of my funding target. If you are reading this and can help please, please, do so. Your contribution will make all the difference. Just go to http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/277194/x/1761061
A couple of friends came up from Bangkok to see me this evening. Jasper took me to Kalasin city to meet them at the bus station and they stayed at a ‘resort’ about 12km from the school.
SATURDAY 15th DECEMBER
This afternoon I took my friends to Castle Howchow which I had heard about before but had never been to. The resort covers a large area and is surrounded by castellated walls and at the entrance there are two large turrets and an imposing gate. Inside, there is a large well appointed reception/bar/restaurant area beyond which is a spectacular pool surrounded by grassy areas and trees to provide shade as well as tables and chairs where one can have a drink or eat or just relax and enjoy the scene. Behind the grassy areas around the pool are some well appointed chalets where people can stay. There is also an orchard and a lake area with chalets. All in all, it was a very enjoyable afternoon.
SUNDAY 16th DECEMBER
The M6 students spent yesterday and today with other M6 students from other schools doing O-Net Chemistry revision.
My friends went back to Bangkok by bus this morning and it was back to normal for me after an enjoyable weekend.
MONDAY 17th DECEMBER
With the whole of the M6 class plus the girls from the M5 class doing O-Net revision at Dong Moon school I was free after 10.30 this morning so I went with Jasper to Sakon Nakhon where he has to report to the Immigration Office every 90 days. This particular office deals with the foreign teachers working in Kalasin province. It was a long drive of about three hours including a section where the road was very rough in the process of being resurfaced and including two sections of zig-zags over some steep hills. Jasper’s visit took about 15 minutes at the immigration office and then we were heading back to Sai Moon again. The road passed through some wild-looking forests but otherwise there was little to keep one’s eyes from closing though we did stop for lunch on the way and we stopped for a coffee and cake on the way back.
TUESDAY 18th DECEMBER
Ajarn Tippakorn, who accompanied the M5 girls to the O-Net revision yesterday, told me this morning that the morning session didn’t go well. First, The NIETS tutor didn’t arrive until 10.15 because he was involved in a motorbike accident on the Thepsada Bridge (which crosses the Lam Pao Dam and there is a photo of it in my gallery) and then the microphone malfunctioned and soon after they started with a replacement mike there was a power cut which meant the session didn’t really get going until after lunch.
At a short teacher’s meeting this morning it was announced that there is going to be a speaking competition, a non-Thai language singing competition and one other competition next week. I have been asked to produce two passages one for M1, M2 and M3, the other for M4, M5 and M6 and to have them ready later today so they can be photocopied and given to the students to practice.
We had another internet outage today for some unknown reason and there was no internet yesterday before I left to go to Sakon Nakhon either. The internet returned this afternoon while I had some M2 students in the office watching me do some artwork on my laptop and almost immediately I got a notification from indigogo.com that a new contribution to my Give-a-Dictionary Campaign had been made.
If you have contributed already and are reading this then I would like to give you huge and heartfelt thank you. The amount raised to date is US$450 which is absolutely fantastic and I am wee bit less worried than I was about reaching my funding target of US$1,900. If you haven’t had the time to contribute yet please feel free to do so when time permits. Every contribution, big or small, will go towards giving each one of my students a good pocket English-Thai/Thai-English dictionary to bolster their English studies and help increase their word power.
THURSDAY 29th DECEMBER
There was a brief teacher’s meeting this morning to decide the budget for the Christmas presents. Oh yes! Every student and every teacher will receive a present. Each will be numbered and the person about to receive one will draw a number from the hat to determine which wrapped present he/she will get. The students have been told not to spend more than 59 baht (about £1.20) on a present. For the teachers, we have to buy one present to go to a student and one (budget 200+ baht) to give to another teacher. I will have to put my thinking cap on to think of two nice unisex presents!
FRIDAY 30th DECEMBER
Two more wonderful contributions came in to the Give-a-Dictionary Campaign last night. One from Nancy Peters in Australia and the other from Ronnie Gordon in Washington DC. Thank you so very much!! Your contributions, together with the previous ones, bring the total up to approximately the halfway mark at US$950. I just hope we can raise the target of $1,900. I have a feeling that the second half is going to be tougher to raise than the first half but I hope I am proved wrong.
At school, today’s classes were devoted to preparations for Monday’s Christmas activity during which there will be reading and singing competitions. The song each class will sing is Jingle Bells – the first and second verse only - and I took M3 and M5 through their paces today. It’s not exactly a serious event but I think there will be a lot of laughs.
The passage I’ve composed for M1, M2 and M3 is only 77 words and the students have met all the words before so I hope they will perform well. For the senior classes, M4, M5 and M6 My passage is 110 words and contains some dialogue which should add some hilarity to the event.
SATURDAY 22nd DECEMBER
I went into Kranuan and had lunch at the Pizza House where I confirmed that Jasper and I will attend the Christmas Buffet Party there on Monday evening. Afterwards, I went to Tesco Lotus seeking inspiration for the two school Christmas presents. After a lot of thought I plumped for a see-through zip bag containing four bags of various nuts: salted red skin peanuts, broad beans with seaweed, salted peanuts and one of roasted broad beans. I think stout zip bag will be very useful for other things. For the teacher’s gift, I bought large tray of Ferrero Rocher because Thais love sharing things so it will be perfect.
For the last couple of days I have been well below par with a background headache and the makings of a cold. A number of students and teachers have had a cough and sore throat recently so I am not really surprised to succumb.
SUNDAY 23rd DECEMBER
I felt much better this morning and almost back to 100% again. I went into Kranuan with Jasper to have lunch and to help him shop for his two presents and I bought some wrapping paper and ribbon for my two.
I think I mentioned that there are now three young marmalade cats in residence at my teacher’s house. They are very sweet and well behaved but one of them craves attention and you get no peace if you let her jump onto your lap or sleep on your bed. I made the mistake of letting one of the cats sleep with me last week but I found she wanted what spare space there was and I was unable to roll over without tossing her off the bed so in the end I got up and turfed her out. The cats are very sisterly towards and will groom each other and when together they practically sleep piled on top of each other as in the photo in my gallery.
I would like to wish all my readers a truly Happy Christmas and if you are reading this before the big day (of course you are!!) then I hope you and your family have a really enjoyable time. I can imagine all your lovely Christmas food the thought of which positively makes me drool!!