Bubpha had told me that she wanted me to stay in Phachi this weekend. Considering that this was my last one before finishing teaching I didn’t intend to travel anyway, but her motivations for keeping me here weren’t just for more celebrations.
As it turned out, there has been a point to all of the weird, barely understandable games that we have been playing with Prathom 5 over the last couple of weeks. Bubpha has wanted to film them and put them online for other schools to see for years, and what with me being English and having a fairly decent camera on me, I clearly presented a perfect opportunity. Hence I waited at the school field at 9am like she had told me to do, wearing my casual friday uniform since I had no idea how formally dressed I was supposed to be for this, only for her to not turn up for another hour. The students she would also be using in the videos were waiting as well, so we ended up playing volleyball, a sport that I ended up not being that terrible at. I guess I had a bit of a height advantage.
When she did arrive we set up on the field with the first of the five games we were planning to record. I had apparently been designated the role of cameraman at some point, again something I wasn’t told about, so I filmed for as long as I and my camera could stand the heat for. Since this all took place in the heavy morning sun, this wasn’t very long.
For the next couple of games we moved to the shade which was a blessing, and in the afternoon we filmed in the classroom where Bubpha wanted me to read out the various poems that (barely) double as instructions for each game, which the students would then repeat after me off camera. By this point I was getting really hot and tired, so there are parts in some of the videos where you can clearly see me getting frustrated at having to repeat certain sections again, which is something that I feel quite bad about. But we got through most of what Bubpha wanted to do in the end, until about 4pm when Phachi was hit by a massive storm that cut out all of the power in the school.
I’m sure we’ll have a fun-filled monday finishing off the rest of the videos, but I at least got some clarification in the evening after we had finished when Bubpha told me what her motivations behind the videos were. The games themselves were devised from her work with the previous director of Watphachi School, who died in a car crash two years ago. Judging by the stories Bubpha has told me the two of them seemed to be very close, and although it had been the director’s idea to film the games it clearly never happened, for whatever reason. Bubpha seemed very happy that she had finally been able to film them, so she talked in the evening about how grateful she was that I had helped and about buying me a gift as a thankyou present. I tried explaining to her that she didn’t have to do this, as I felt quite humbled at being involved in something that was clearly meant as a tribute just as much as it was a teaching tool.
In the evening we drove to a house around the corner from Phachi’s strip of shops to meet up with several friends of Pekeng, Bubpha’s son. Supposedly the reason for this gathering was a birthday party for one of the children of the house, but after we got there it became clear that it was more of an excuse for everyone to get together and drink. There was a birthday cake though, which was nice.
I won’t lie to you, a lot of this night is a blur. I sat around with Pekeng and his friends for most of it as they kept handing me glasses of Thai whiskey, and after somebody brought out a karaoke machine my main memory is singing a lot on it. There are videos of this floating around which aren’t too hard to find if you look hard enough, but I’m definitely not going to point you in the direction of them. It will be a lot more fun for you, and less embarrassing for me, if we all just leave it to the imagination.