“My name is Al Gore, and my nickname is ‘fame’.”
In England, nicknames mostly form only amongst friendship groups, and they’re generally based on something stupid that a friend once did and are destined to be reminded about forever. In Thailand, they seem to have a much bigger role, as all the kids and teachers in Watphachi school address themselves by both their full name and their given nickname, although these never seem to be based on shorter versions of what their actual name is, which is what I first thought would be the case (and would have made everything a lot more simple.) I found this all out first-hand today when Bubpha got each of her classes to introduce themselves to me today, in my first step towards remembering who is who.
Of course, remembering people’s names in England is difficult enough most of the time, so when you see several different classes of 20 or so children in a day, and every child in each is trying to get their interestingly-pronounced name to you across a noisy classroom, it becomes very difficult to commit a lot of them to memory. After each class had gone through their names Bubpha had me go round and name the children that I could remember, and I only succeeded at identifying the ones who had said something that sounded like a word or name i was already familiar with. The quote at the beginning of this post comes from a boy who infact is not called Al Gore, nor is his nickname ‘fame’, but it sure sounded like he had said those things so it enabled me to make an accurate judgement of what his name actually was when I walked round to him. Similarly, there were two kids sitting at the front of my morning class whose nicknames happened to sound similar to ‘Day’ and ‘Night’, so I remembered them too. It’s possible that my brain was just making stuff up to try and find a link between them, but hey, it worked out in the end.
There’s apparently no English Camp this week due to exams that are taking place, so I found out this morning that I would be singing and playing guitar for the kindergarten classes every afternoon instead. It’s an exciting prospect, but when I was planning what to play during one of my free periods I realised that I’m not really sure what songs would appeal to a bunch of Thai 5 year olds, other than the ABC song that I had been requested to play by Bubpha. Eventually I landed on Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (which has the exact same melody as the ABC song, a fact that blew my mind when I first realised it at the age of 10), as well as the Happy Birthday song, but when it came to popular English songs I became stuck as to what would be known in Thailand. The Beatles seemed like a safe choice, especially the lyrically simple chorus of Yellow Submarine, but I drew a blank after that. So when it came time to play I was slightly prepared, but as always, not enough.
The kids responded well to ABCs as I expected but nobody seemed to recognise Twinkle Twinkle, though they were clapping along anyway so they were clearly entertained enough. It became more problematic moving on to other things, as I forgot the chords of Happy Birthday, and after going through Yellow Submarine we all sat in awkward silence as I tried to think of something else. And that was when I broke the unwritten golden rule of guitar playing.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 20 years, Wonderwall is a song by British band Oasis that has become so famously overplayed at open mics, karaoke nights and by that one guy who always brings a guitar to a party that everyone has forgotten if it was even a good song to begin with and can’t stand it with a passion. Had I busted it out at an open mic in Reading like I did in Thailand this afternoon I probably would have received a letter from my university vice chancellor the next day politely but firmly asking me to leave, so I felt a tiny bit ashamed of myself for playing a slowed down, lyric emphasised version in front of a Thai Kindergarten class. But this was really was a last resort, and fortunately Wonderwall apparently never made it to Thailand (or if it has the teachers in the class were very forgiving of me playing it), so the only reaction I had was a bit of clapping along and some perplexed faces, and it brought me through to the end of the lesson without much complaint. I’ll be surprised if anyone requests it again though.
I think the Kindergarten teachers want me to play more music based games this week, and after seeing some Facebook posts of ETAs asking about similar lesson plans i have some better ideas for what I can do tomorrow and how I can also relate it to teaching kids English (I’m told Heads, Shoulders Knees and Toes is a popular choice.) Either way though, it was quite nice to be in a position where I was completely dictating a class without any teacher input (albeit not for a full hour), as it’s something that I’ve been wanting to do but hadn’t really got the opportunity to until now. Plus I’m now one step closer to educating these kids in the music of Guided By Voices, so really this is a win-win situation for everybody.