One of the more notable contrasts between Thailand and my day-to-day life in England is that a lot seems to happen within an hour of me getting up here. For example, I imagine that if I was back at home for the summer now I probably would not have awoken for another 9 hours at the time of writing (it’s 9am here, but 3am in Britain), and following that I would have slowly processed through having a shower, making filter coffee and avoiding the Jeremy Kyle marathon ITV2 always has on, if only to give myself the impression that I would have a productive day. By contrast, I woke myself up today at 6.30am after another night of little sleep by throwing a bucket of water over my head (oh, the wonders of the bucket shower), quickly changing into my work clothes and running down to catch the end of Watphachi’s morning ceremony, then running back to the house to change into the new uniform that Bubpha gave me. Returning to the ceremony I started to take some photos of Pilot congratulating the kids on something, which resulted in me gaining a taste of the glamorous world of event photography as Pilot insisted I get several shots of him shaking hands with a whole bunch of the kids.
Eventually this escalated quickly, as it always does, first into a group photo with the teachers…
…which turned into a group photo session and a speech with the whole school.
All of this occurred within an hour, and without coffee. I guess this is what the real, non-student world is like (although i imagine there’s less picture taking.) I walked into my first class today to find only a handful of kids present, all of whom were fixated on the Tom and Jerry cartoons emitting from the classroom’s TVs. Bubpha told me that there was some sort of competition going on and some of the kids were going to be late, so the DVD was clearly being used as a time-filler, but I decided that this was probably a good time to at least try and take some teaching initiative. After discussing it with Bubpha I had her explain Hangman to the class and we got into a few games; although I was expecting that the kids would be confused at first it turns out that they were familiar with it, and I managed to play a few games with them using words we’d been teaching over the last week or so. It was nice to start up an impromptu thing with a class and have it go down well, plus it gave me the impression that as I long as I push for it I think I’m allowed to dictate and bring my own ideas into the classroom (alongside bringing a guitar in and making it up as I go along.)
One of my main roles in classes is to read passages and words aloud from the textbooks that the children have been working from in order to get them to repeat it back to me and improve their pronunciation. Generally this is pretty simple but recently I’ve been hitting a bit of a snag with it when the textbooks themselves contain not-very-clear drawings of food items with no explanation to what they’re supposed to be, meaning that I’m left to guess. This led to mis-identifying what were supposed to be drawings of mangoes and coconuts today, leaving me to both curse the textbook a bit and realise I should probably have better knowledge of fruit types than I do. I’m turning into everything Jamie Oliver fought against. On the plus side though (and kind of proving my ‘Jamie Oliver must hate me’ point) I just about managed to explain to both Bubpha and the kids what a fry-up is, although my explanation extended only to saying it was an english term for breakfast. Not very clear, but I like the idea of kids in the school running round and shouting that they want fry ups all day; now all I need to teach is some Suffolk dialect and it will feel like I never left home.
I’m still feeling the afternoon heat here and sometimes struggle to concentrate in classes because of it, so the afternoon of pronunciation and games of hopscotch has blurred into one a bit. I did end up getting another lesson in Thai, however. This time it was during a writing class for the first years, so I got some opportunities to spell out and repeat some basic words. Again, it’s early days so I haven’t really got a strong hold of it yet, although I do now know that ‘nom’ means ‘milk’. Yet probably the strangest thing about it was being in the position of a student amongst people 15 years younger than I am. It felt a bit like I’d been dropped back so many years at school that everyone finally gave up and decided to put me in my own personal episode of Sesame Street as a last resort. Our long weekend starts after school tomorrow- me and a couple of other ETAs are heading to Kanchanaburi so I may swap to the ‘old-school’ (oh god, why did I just write that) style of documenting things and take a notepad which I’ll type up once I’m back. Of course, I’ve still got one working day until then, and although I should probably sleep early tonight I’m desperate to catch the last World Cup semi-final after making the regrettable choice of sleeping through Brazil vs Germany yesterday. So considering my track record with this, you should probably expect Netherlands vs Argentina to be a boring goalless draw that eventually limps to penalties.
You heard it here first.