December 5th is the King’s Birthday. It is also Father’s Day in Thailand because he is so important. We had the day off and the day before there was a special assembly full of dances, singing, speeches, etc.
Here are some pictures from that day:
This is one of the students I teach on Sundays. He is 9 years old and very smart. He told me we can go to Japan together because there is a Disney Land there.
After almost 2 months as a teacher, I now know that they are not, in fact, strange beings with no social lives outside of school. They do not live in closets and hibernate during non-school hours. We have lives. And in Thailand, its a great life. The phrase “working for the weekend” does not necessarily apply in these circumstances. Yes we work so we can take advantage of what Thailand has to offer, but the week days do not feel like work. The kids are great, the teachers are great. Basically it doesn’t feel like work.
Last weekend I decided to meet up with some friends in Bangkok again, but just a few of us girls, to relax and have a good social time. We did some shopping, walked around, and enjoyed the city. Saturday night Katie (a fellow teacher who works near Suphanburi) and I bought “Wolfpack” bracelets for the four of us girls. Indeed it was a wolfpack weekend. As much of a cliché as it sounds like, I even heard “One Night in Bangkok” playing from hookah bar/café.
This past Wednesday was Loi Krathong, the festival of lights. It is an annual celebration on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the Thai lunar calendar (this year, November 28th) that takes place all over Thailand. Loi means “to float” and krathong is the name for the offerings that are made. The krathongs are usually hand made from banana leaves and can become quite fancy. Mine was fairly simple:
The tradition is to send them off in the river as an offering to the river spirits and to the Goddess of Water (Phra Mae Khongkha).
During the release of your krathong, you are getting rid of the negativity from the past year.
In the same idea, lanterns are also released into the air. You make also make a wish for the upcoming year.
We have been told that if couples go to this festival together then they will break up that upcoming year, but if someone is single and asks a love interest as a date to Loi Krathong then they will end up together.
Today I finally tried the well known Thai food of mango and sticky rice. I was not let down at all. It is one of the best deserts that I have ever tasted. For some reason I had no idea that there was a cart right near where we are (temporarily) living! This is going to be dangerous.
A variety of different things happened this past week:
The first was that i had to evaluate my M6 students on last week’s lesson (asking for and giving directions). They knew this was going to happen, that it was only worth 5 points, and also that they could not fail. Yes, the Thai education system does not allow students to fail. I was forced to give every student a 3.5 or more (3 is failing) even if they did not deserve it. This was a bit frustrating because some students didn’t even know what to do even though they had a week to prepare. Other students were so concerned with how they did that they asked me what grade they got after the evaluation was over (thankfully they were students that received 5s).
The second is about “Gangnam Style”. This Korean Pop song has taken over the world, and this entire country is OBSESSED with it. Beyond what you can imagine. It’s not like the states where people have a funny infatuation with it. Almost every day we hear our students ask us to dance to it. At the end of my last M1 class this week the students asked me to dance to it. I said I would if they joined me. Just as they agreed the bell went off so I decided to “Gangnam Style” my way out of the classroom, leaving the class in a hysterical laughing fit. Here is the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bZkp7q19f0
The third thing was realizing how the Thai mail system works. Basically we can’t expect anything. Jessie received a package about a week late. I ended up receiving an awesome birthday present (a Tune Squad jersey) from my friend Cameron about 10 days earlier than expected (although it did take a while to arrive). I asked my coordinator how I can go about sending letters, etc. back to the states and she said to just ask her. So we will see how things go in terms of the mail system in the future.
On Sundays, we have started to work at a place called “English@Home,” which is for kids to learn English in their free time. It is small and has 2 classrooms. We are teaching a group of primary level kids for an hour or so. The amount of students can vary: there is supposed to be 12 kids, but only 5 showed up this week. Learning their nicknames is always fun (one was named “foremost”…where do they come up with these??) They are all very excited about the lessons and participate with enthusiasm.
The last event from this week is the most exciting. We decided to (finally!) get Thai massages. They were 2 hours and cost 300 baht each ($10)….$10 dollars for a 2 hour massage: is this real life?! It was like an intense athletic stretching session combined with a regular massage. You keep your clothes on (in my case, gym shorts and a tee shirt) and also have a light blanket over you. At the end they brought us a delicious Thai tea which was perfect after getting all the knots worked out. You definitely can’t feel any more limber than after a Thai Massage, and that is a fact…
After a very full week of teaching, there was just one thing on our minds: finding pina coladas. This is a difficult thing to imagine here due to the lack of any type of alcohol besides beer and whiskey. Jessie, Caprice, and I decided to venture to the beach (because who wouldn’t want to go) to find some drinks and relax.
We wound up swimming in the ocean, which was about bath temperature (unreal) and then banana boating which was so cheap compared to the states (100 baht or about $3.33 each). We eventually found a place that had a variety of drinks, free beach chairs, an assorted menu, and great staff. We are pretty sure that we will be frequent flyers there.
The sunset was beautiful, although a few Thai people asked to take pictures of us. Not WITH, just OF us. Caprice firmly told them that “we don’t do that in America” because they did seem to be a bit on the creepier side.
Besides that, all in all a good day. And the pina coladas were found and drank.
A few days ago, on Friday, I was in a pretty bad mood. There is no reason for me to elaborate on that but it led into homesickness and missing family and friends. What I do want to share are the 2 things that made me feel better…
Thursdays are my most packed days. I have one M1 class and 3 M6 classes. And then English club. I prefer teaching M1 because I do well with younger kids, so I always stress thinking about 3 M6 classes all in one day. However, I learned that this is something I need to get over, and today went much better than expected. I had fun in all of my classes and most of my M6 students surprised me by how much they understood so fast.
After class on Thursdays we have English club. Students are separated by age group but there are only a few kids who join English club from each level. Teaching M1, I got many more than I expected (around 30!…compared to 5 in another group). This made me nervous since I hadn’t prepared, but that hour ended up going great. I popped in “NOW 43” (yes, NOW CDs still exist, and yes, they are still perfect for middle schoolers). As Carly Rae Jepsen, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, and One Direction sang in the background, we played hangman and other word games.
I don’t know how this started but somehow I ended up teaching the kids what a high five is. After giving me quizzical looks, and then figuring out the concept, they got very excited about this American tradition. I thought that at the end of English club they would completely forget about it but as they were filing out of the classroom I got a high five from almost every student (with one of the kids starting the trend). One student who didn’t give me a high five then proceeded to air five me from down the hall…
I would call that a successful lesson.
PS his name is Beer. High Five for Beer.