I spent most of Friday waiting for a boat.
Throughout my time here Bubpha has constantly told me how a trip around Ayutthaya’s river is one of the best things to do in the city, so it made sense that this would be where my official Watphachi School leaving party would take place. As exciting as this prospect was, having to spend all of Friday waiting for it to happen made my lessons feel like a bit of a slog.
Still, I had some nice surprises thrown at me throughout the day, which is basically another way of saying that I was given a lot of presents. One of the kindergarten teachers who couldn’t make the boat party handed me a bag with a photo album and a postbox-shaped money tin inside after school, a really nice gift especially considering I haven’t had much interaction with her whilst working.
At the end of my Prathom 6 lesson I was also approached by Fern, the student with a really obvious crush on me, who gave me a small transparent Christmas tree statue with flashing lights inside (of course it was going to be Christmas related). She also asked me what my favourite type of flower was, which is a bit like asking me what my favourite brand of table is since I’m so indifferent to them, but I told her the first name that came into my head. This ended up being red roses, so I really hope they’re easy to find in Thailand and that I haven’t accidentally sent her on a huge trek to find some.
As we drove to the boat in the evening Bubpha told me that it was so big that we could have invited the entirety of the school along. When we arrived I saw that she had been exaggerating a bit, but it was still pretty magnificent. As I boarded I was ushered past the huge table of Thai food and onto the upper deck, where we had a long photo session against the backdrop of the riverside temples before the boat set off. There certainly would have been room to take my favourite Watphachi students on board, although I guess that would’ve been a bit mean to the rest of them.
I sat down at the table surrounded by both the entirety of the school’s staff and plates upon plates of food. Pujon and Bubpha had asked me earlier this week what I wanted to eat on the boat, and since fried fish and noodles were the first things that came to my head (I really need to stop making all of my decisions this way) I had these handed to me first, but it was soon followed by different soups and open coconut shells. Since I have constantly told the kids at Watphachi School that pizza was my favourite food, the school had supplied me with a couple of boxes as well. They’d really gone all out with this!
I didn’t really get many opportunities to sit down and eat for long though, as the teachers kept pulling me up to take photos of the Ayutthaya views as we moved along. Really, I’m pretty impressed that I didn’t get indigestion from all the times Pilot brought me up to the front of the boat mid-food mouthful, but there were some really fantastic sights including floating markets and huge cathedral churches, which looked even more stunning as the sun began to set. It made many of the temples look like fairground attractions.
When everyone wasn’t being distracted by the views or food we had a karaoke system to entertain us. Whilst it started with Bubpha and the IT teacher singing Thai songs I quickly found out that it had a limited selection of English stuff as well, so I ended up murdering some ‘classics’. I think more alcohol would have helped.
During a family holiday to France I was 10, I have a clear memory of taking my bike and riding away from our holiday village to the outskirts of a field on more than one occasion, where I would just stop and stare into the distance for a while. Looking back on it I think it confirms that I was a pretty weird child, but it was such a nice moment that it stuck with me, and ever since then I think I’ve always strived to find peaceful, solitary moments like that again.
I was reminded of that moment on the boat, where I stepped away from the group for a while to look over the front as the sun set on the Ayutthaya river. Despite the noise behind me it felt so calm, relaxing, and kind of perfect. For a while I lost myself, aware of the company but also completely alone. It was a weird, beautiful feeling, and I think it sums up how I felt about the whole night.
This has definitely been one of my favourite evenings in Thailand, but I think it reminded me of everything that I’m going to miss here when I leave. All of the teachers here, even the ones who I’ve had little to do with during school hours, have constantly gone out of their way to make me feel at home, and as a result through them all I feel a real sense of community. I don’t like thinking about how I’ve got less than a week of that community left.