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Published: July 14th 2008
View from a Sunday drive around Chiang Mai.
July Update from Chiang Mai
Sawadee Ka, Brian and I thought it might be time for an update. Since we last wrote we haven’t experienced a whole lot of new ‘travels’ but life, nonetheless, has been good to us. I must say I do enjoy teaching. I’m not sure it is what I want to do for the rest of my life but it is certainly suiting the here and now. I remember those awful mornings at previous jobs where you’d walk in to hear about all the new crises that had to be addressed immediately, the stresses, the things that as an employee I cared deeply about but unfortunately as just me, I couldn’t care less about. These mornings I walk into work to be greeted by sweet smiling faces of first graders who only want from me a high-five or to hold their hands and jump up and down with giddy excitement for the new day ahead. It’s fabulous!
Brian and I are starting to make some good friends with teachers at both our schools. The foreign teachers at Sacred Heart are very close since we all share an office. We have a meeting every Friday during
Brian and David
Celebrating the fourth with a worldly style.
last period which this Friday consisted of an official game of Buzz. Our science teacher, Jaime, an American from North Carolina whose been out of the states for several years teaching and exporting goods back to the states, constructed red lit buzzers that we each have at our desk to buzz when we know the answer. I’m on a team with Mathew, a young Canadian musician here with his equally talented girlfriend for a year before they go back to finish their master’s degrees in Canada. We always come in second place to Jamie’s team only because that man retains facts like a camel does water and he is quick with his buzzer. But I have developed a new strategy, I buzz immediately after hearing the key terms of the questions I think I might know. See it may take me longer than others to think of the answer but if I buzz then I can take my time to figure it out. I also hit the buzzer every time I think Mathew will know an answer but just needs a bit more time—it usually works. After our Friday meeting/game we head out to an outdoor café that has huge
Myself enjoying the fourth with Budweiser and Singha!
trees with these beautiful moss vines growing down from the branches. I always feel like I’m in the Little Mermaid sitting among those trees—remember the Kiss the Girl scene? There we continue our game of buzz, with a buzz, well into the evening. The rest of our gang consists of Adam, a 27 year old English computer programmer that left his career for Thailand just this year. Sue, my personal favorite, has an Australian law degree, hilarious husband and two very funny little boys. She came to Thailand with her family last year after a short lived teaching excursion in Vietnam. Then there are Gavin and Gaz, two Englishmen who have made Thailand their home. Gavin is married to a Thai teacher at our school and has a two year old son. Gaz is getting married this year and is oh-so busy with the arrangements. Last but certainly not least, there is Gail, our head teacher. Gail is a Melbornian Aussie who seems to hate Americans but always ends her anti-American slurs with “…but not you, Claire.” She is great and is the glue that holds us all together. She has been out of Australia for I think 10 years
Sacred Heart Gone Wild
At the Arts University outing.
now; starting her life abroad in Africa she has been in Chiang Mai since the start of the E.P. program at Sacred Heart and knows everything and everybody.
We’ve really only just started to get to know Brian’s teachers. The foreign teachers at his school aren’t so close in proximity and therefore their hours together are far and few between. Most of the foreign teachers are like us, 20-somethings out of college and here for a gap year or two of living abroad. There is David, from Atlanta, who just finished school with a writing degree and came to Thailand around the same time as us. Keeley, who has been here three years and is soon to head off to South America. Rob, who actually went to UCSB, same school as I yet we never knew each other. Rob’s done extensive traveling in South America as well as many other parts of the world but plans to take this teaching gig back to South America for a few years. Then there is Paige, who loves to sing and can sing to me anytime with that angel voice of hers and Angie, the only non-American of the lot who deals
The dance presentation for our Students by the University students.
with it quite well. Brian just started a band with David and a Thai teacher, Kwan. I went to lunch with them before their first practice and it was adorable watching Kwan trying to get her mouth to pronounce the Anthony Keedis’ lyric from Danny California, “…gettin’ born in the state of Mississippi.” Some of our words are quite hard for Thais and Mississippi is definitely one of them but she loves Red Hot Chili Peppers and is intent on covering them. Actually, we were at this college club with Brian’s work friends a few weeks ago where the all Thai band was playing cover songs and I was so impressed when they mastered Nirvana’s ‘In Bloom’. I did, however, find the lyrics he sang, “…he’s the one, who likes all our pretty songs, and likes to sing along, …but he knows not what it means…” quite ironic since everyone at that club could sing along to every English pop song without many of them even knowing the language. An even funnier translation anecdote, the other day at school was ‘Anti Drug Day’ and there was a huge sign in the main courtyard of school that read in Thai something
Learning Thai Dancing
Students and Teachers practicing Thai dancing. I was actually quite good at it because my fingers can bend backwards and strangely that is what it is all about.
like ‘have the power to be pure and clean and stay away from dark and evil drugs.’ These words were loosely translated (by the Ministry of Education in Bangkok) at the top of the sign in English as ‘White Power Day!’ …if you didn’t get that translation, ‘white’ is symbolizing ‘pure and clean’. There was not a straight face among the foreign teachers during morning assembly that day…
In other news for our July update, Brian and I did celebrate the 4th of July, only on the 3rd though, at the American Consulate in Chiang Mai. It was tremendous fun. With our 50B admission (less than 2$), we were also given a free Thai Singha beer. No worries, after the free one we went straight onto Budweiser and then had a brief affair with Pete’s Wicked Ale till it quickly sold out (all for around a dollar each). We saw a pie eating contest, bought American flags and gaudy pins, stickers and fake tattoos; we ate hot dogs and huge slices of pizza; we listened to American bandstand music and chatted with the Consulate General, Jimmy. There was also ice cream, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Subway and voting registration taking place
yet it was too much to partake in it all. Again, no worries, we will surely register to vote and submit our absentee ballots and we have previously partaken in those other referred indulgences as well. We sang the ‘Star-spangled Banner’, watched fireworks and even witnessed the Retiring of the Colors. After the embassy kicked us all out, so they could enjoy their three day holiday (surely the reason for celebrating on the 3rd, a Thursday), the American teachers from PRC and myself all went back to David’s to watch Team America.
July also hosted two very fun outings for the students (and their teachers) at Sacred Heart College. The first was at the Chiang Mai University for the Arts where we were treated to Thai cultural performances by the music and dance departments. After that the lower prathom classes, 1-4 and their teachers had our very own lesson in Thai dancing. From there I went with Prathoms 3 & 4 to a local Italian eatery owned one of our students’ parents. Here the girls witnessed and practiced themselves the art of making pizza with a wood-burning oven. The restaurant was particularly interesting because it is staffed entirely by
Yeah, that's ketchup...
This is how to eat pizza in Thailand... so sad.
disabled employees. The owner had Polio as a child and has suffered from disabilities all of his life. In Thailand, the disabled are not ‘mainstreamed’ as they say. They are not sent to school and not taught how to live and work on their own. They are sadly financial burdens on their families. If their disabilities are small, they are pushed through regular schools never addressing the reasons non-average performances. There are many NGOs in Chiang Mai addressing this issue and working towards the rights of disabled and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to work with a restaurant like this for the day. I did learn one other fact during this outing: why pizzas in Thailand generally taste like crap. The Thais love to mess with your head on food. Things you think should be sweet, will taste bitter or sour and things that should be salty, bitter or sour tend to taste sweet. Following this rule, pizzas taste like crap because they are always strangely sweet… However, an Italian owns this pizza place and his pizzas taste as they should so what do the Thai children and teachers do on our outing? They drench their pizzas in ketchup!
Hungry, Hungry Hippos
Feeding the hippos at the Chiang Mai Zoo
The next Friday I had another outing with prathoms 1-3 to the Chiang Mai Zoo. The zoo had been recently remodeled to help bring in more tourism to Chiang Mai, a decision made by the previous prime minister of Thailand who you may have heard of as being removed by a military coup in September 2006. The zoo is great! It is a lot of walking since it is on top of a mountain and scales its way up. They have gorgeous tropical plants and animals from every continent. The highlight was the snake show. Dancers performed with huge 10-15ft snakes wrapped around their bodies and they have this strange affection for putting the snakes’ heads in their mouths and acting like they are playing a musical instrument. One dancer even stuck the snake entirely down his pants… The brilliant part was when the lead charmer brought out a 20ft snake and taunted it on stage, the snake constantly tried to escape but the charmer would grab at him and provoke him to strike. The good part came when another snake was presented on stage and during the pass off the 20ft snake nearly escaped under the stage. The snake
Who puts snakes' heads in their mouths?
was half way under the stage (which just leads into the mountain so he surely would have been freed) when the handlers noticed. They had to stop the act and spend nearly 30 minutes trying to get the snake back out. After watching that poor snake being teased endlessly on stage for entertainment, I must admit I was rooting for his freedom. The charmer prevailed, though and the snake was captured and returned to his tiny wooden crate. The girls enjoyed the show and that was nice. It was definitely a fun day at the zoo.
Well I think that is about all for now. Brian and I have a four day weekend coming up and plan on taking a trip to Pai (Nicki if you are reading, this is the city that I believe was referred to as the Telluride of Thailand). It is a small artsy village high up in the mountains with waterfalls, trekking and white water rafting. We’ll make sure to take plenty of pictures and share with you all soon enough.
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