So my 21st birthday (19+2 in 7 Wokingham Road slang) marks two of the dumbest decisions I’ve probably made in Thailand so far.
Both were related to leaving my bag in my schoolhouse accommodation in the evening. The headteacher had organised a birthday dinner for me with all of the school staff- I had prior knowledge of it, but when Bubpha told me we were leaving to go to the ‘food shop’ i assumed this meant we were going to the shop for supplies quickly, when infact she meant going to the restaurant. This meant that I left my bag, which contained my camera, during what was a really nice and photo-opportunistic evening.
This also meant that it suddenly occurred to me halfway through the night that I had left my bag, with pretty much all my valuables in it, alone in accommodation on a currently empty schoolground protected only by a flimsy lock (we replaced it on the way back). So I spent a lot of time fearing that I’d return to find it stolen and it would be game over for everything other than trying to get a new camera/laptop/life. Obviously I’m currently writing this so that didn’t happen, although it’s spurred me on to not make the same mistake again.
Despite all that, the meal itself was great- when I first got there I was quite tired after the day teaching so I was a bit overwhelmed when beer, coke and VERY spicy food were filled and refilled in front of me. I ate it all (or as much as I could stomach) before my birthday cake was brought out. I actually did manage to take a photo of this on my phone, however i currently have no way of uploading it due to not being able to get wifi on it and bluetooth not working at all (remember back in 2007 when everyone thought bluetooth was the amazing communication of the future? How foolish we all were.)
I do, however, have a photo of the remains of it, which will probably be my junk food binge for this evening. Hopefully I’ll be able to get the original photo up soon, and although I had no camera Bubpha and the Headmaster took a lot of photos of the night, and hopefully they’ll be able to send them to me as well.
Anyway, I should probably jump back to the beginning of the day and my first day of teaching at Watphachi School. I woke at Bubpha’s house again (the cockerels didn’t wake me up this time, but they sure made their existence known once i was), and was driven to the school grounds before meeting the headteacher properly after we briefly met yesterday (I don’t know how to spell his name as I haven’t seen it written down yet, so I would rather not try). He took me round to each class so the children could introduce themselves and sing happy birthday to me, which was very nice of them. He also gave me my first present of the day- a necklace with a coin commemorating the King of Thailand attached to it, which I am currently wearing. My second and only other present was a watermelon lollipop from one of the teachers that is currently sitting on my desk, and looks mighty tasty.
I got my first experience teaching a class too, which involved both helping Bubpha with pronunciation and reading to the children from their workbooks, whilst also correcting them on their own speech. Despite some initial points where I felt like I had no idea what to say next it really wasn’t as overly daunting as I thought it might be, although I think Bubpha wants me to prepare some games this week so that might be quite challenging to think up. What was challenging, however, was the heat- I’ve crashed for a few hours in the mid-afternoon humidity pretty much every day since I got here, so having to stay awake between teaching became a slight battle with myself.
In the afternoon I made a speech at the first day of the sessions that consist of a good proportion of my timetable, known as English Camp. English Camp involves children from Watphachi and two other schools getting together to learn songs and games as part of a new English language initiative, and my speech- into a microphone and in front 100 or so kids as well as their teachers and other officials- explained how excited the schools were that this project was going ahead and how it should be beneficial to the children’s futures. Luckily I didn’t have to write the speech myself, but as the resident english person (not my official name but I like the ring to it so I may adopt it) I was given the role of speaking an english translation. Since it wasn’t correctly translated 100%, this involved me having to note and change the grammatical errors whilst I was speaking, which I’m pretty sure I managed to do correctly despite the occasional stutter.
The Camp activities themselves were a mix of simple songs with dance moves to illustrate them. I didn’t get to sing today but was brought in to demonstrate some of these dance moves in front of the kids. If there are any photos of me doing this, I’m going to make sure they never come to light.
Now the meal this evening is over I’m spending my first night at the schoolhouse, which will be my home for the next 10 or so weeks. I just spent half an hour organising and cleaning everything and I now feel pretty ungrateful for thinking that this accommodation wasn’t very good when I first saw it; I have a great deal of space and loads of facilities around me, and overall I love the fact that I have an area to myself. I’ll probably even be able to keep this in a better condition than my uni room! The outside of the schoolhouse looks quite nice too, and I aim to get a picture of it once the monsoon rain has stopped drenching everything in sight.
I suppose it’s kind of weird ending my 21st birthday by myself in the grounds of a school in Thailand, and had you told me this time last year that’s what would happen I would have looked at you like you’d just strangled a cat. But looking back on it, it’s been a day of friendliness, learning, good food, housekeeping and mild paranoia, which is probably as good as anything that I could have done at home.