Four’s A Party (Week 4)

Monday started as an average day. Wake up, no bugs, walk to school, morning assembly, and breakfast from the cafeteria, and then off to class. M1 is not the best class to start a Monday. They were not in school mode, I finally just had them write sentences that contained verbs, adjectives, and nouns, and label each. The students surprised me. There is a group of boys that during the other lessons were playing games on their phones, not really paying attention. But today they were all over the grammar, volunteering to go up to the board, asking questions about the assignment, and making sure they were doing it right. The girls who are usually all over the games and speaking just shut down during the grammar, they were not happy and did not want to do the assignment. In a way it makes sense, it was clear where each of the students’ strengths are.

I graded M3’s social studies test during my break. At first, I was happy that the students were getting 9/10 and 10/10, but then I started to experience de ja vu. I was able to pile the tests into three piles of identical tests. The first test I gave these students they all failed, the second time around they all copied. I suppose we are going to have to take the test for a third time. I asked some of my fellow CIEE teachers what they do about copying and they suggested making two different copies of the test. That is sounding like a good idea right now. I am so peeved about this. I understand that copying is not viewed as a bad thing but this was a test and an open note test. They all took notes and the answers were all in the notes, there should be no reason for the copying.  I suppose when I thought they were looking at their notes they were actually looking at each other’s tests.

For lunch, I went to the rice shop behind the noodle shop. I ran into the teacher who told me about the rice shop. He is a Japanese teacher at the school and you can tell he is a language teacher. He helped me review what to say to order my own food then had me order my own food in Thai. I had pork-fried rice for lunch. It was okay. I miss the lime that usually comes with fried rice; the lime makes all the difference. We also ate complimentary guava which the Thai’s call farang (same word as foreigner, just different tones). Guavas taste kind of like apples. After lunch, we went around to the other teachers and he had me greet them in Thai. I was feeling so shy, but he was a demanding teacher. He had to remind me to wai a couple of times.

The monster classes were monstrous. I was trying to teach them different ways to express likes and dislikes. The first class was not interested. We tried doing an activity that ended up with the boys pushing each other around. What is it about fifteen year old boys and touching each other’s’ butts? I tried getting them to ask a partner what they like and dislike but they just talked to each other in Thai. I had wanted to ask them their likes and dislikes individually but I forgot my class list so I had them write it out instead. They were actually somewhat quiet for that. It is almost like when it is class time and I am trying to talk, they try to talk over me; but when I let them work on an assignment they feel little need to talk loud.

In the second monster class there is one boy who likes to agitate the other boys and is always causing a ruckus. Today he seemed to take a liking to the lesson, and was actually using the other forms of like and dislike. When I was trying to explain an activity, he calls out “I love teacher Susan.” It caught me completely off guard and I lost my train of thought. The students started giggling and pointing to their cheeks saying “teacher, red, red.” Yes students, I am probably blushing. Do Thai’s blush? Or is that a racially insensitive question? He was also really into writing out his likes and dislikes. There was a group of girls who kept trying to ask me questions about Thailand and America. I understood about half of them but I was really proud of them for trying to use their English. Halfway through class the power went out for a few minutes. It is amazing how hot it gets when the fans are not circulating air around the classroom. Fortunately, it came back on.

I have late class after school on Mondays. Late class is when the students are taking so many classes that they have to stay after school for class to fit all their classes in. When I arrived at Henry’s restaurant for dinner, he had already cleaned everything up for the evening. I was on my own for dinner. The first day I arrived my coordinator had mentioned that there was a night market on Mondays and Thursdays around where the food cart market is. I decided to go check it out and if there was not anything there at least I could eat at the food carts there. There was a night market. I was so happy, really truly happy.

Half of the market was food, everything looked and smelled so good, the other half was clothing. There was cooked food and also raw foods. The place was packed with locals. This is my new Monday dinner spot. I spent most of my time wandering, all the food was reasonably priced and what I ate was delicious. For dinner I had chicken on a stick and potatoes. Next week I am going to try more Thai food. I bought donuts for breakfast on Tuesday, and next week I am going to stop by the cake tent for a slice of cake. The cake tent was doing roaring business, they must be good.

My father always tells me to figure out where the locals eat because they know where the best food is. He is big on mingling with locals because you can learn a lot from them and you can get an authentic experience. The locals eat at the food carts. I eat at the food carts because the food is delicious. Street food is a hidden gem; it is the equivalent of the little mom and pop hole in the wall restaurants in America. I discovered a few of those while in college; on the outside, the building looked scary, sometimes the insides looked scary too, but the food was so worth it. Street food is the same way. With street food you need to use your smarts so you do not end up getting sick. See where the locals go, the locals will know what is good and what is bad. Use your best judgement; is the food being cooked or has it been sitting out in the open for a while. The vendors who look bored or are playing on their phones probably do not get much business. Try new foods and have fun with it! Street food is cheap and delicious; it is one of the things I miss when I am back in America.

 

Tuesday was exciting because I had donuts for breakfast! For Thai donuts they were pretty good. Definitely not like donuts at home but still good. They did not seem to have a lot of substance, they were pretty airy and the frosting was fluffy like whipped cream. I am thinking this is because they do not have a lot of real dairy products here. I was still hungry after three donuts so I went to the cafeteria for a second breakfast. The woman who I usually get breakfast from talked me into getting a different kind of meat, I was not impressed. It was not bad but it was not good enough to have again. Morning assembly was held on the football (soccer) field since there was some sort of competition going on in the area where we usually have morning assembly.

There are lots of back-to-back classes on Tuesday, which leaves me tired and cranky by the end of the day. I only have a fifty minute lunch period and I was not very hungry during lunch today because of two breakfasts. I went across the street for some Thai iced coffee. It was so good! The coffee was made like the iced tea, half a can of condensed milk mixed in with the coffee and cream poured over the top. It took a lot of self-control not to down the whole thing in one gulp. I ran out of Nuun today; which are these tablets you put into water and they have vitamins, electrolytes, and caffeine. I have been drinking them every day so I have not needed coffee for my caffeine intake. Since I ran out today, coffee was a must.

I made four different versions of the same test for my M3 class today. The students could tell I was not happy with them, they were all silent during the test and afterwards they all spoke quietly to each other. Many of the students got good grades on the test; even the ones who did not get a high score still got a better score than when they were copying. I was quite pleased with them. Now we can actually move on to other things. I found a website that is full of population lesson plans and I think I am going to use some of their ideas in my own lesson plans. There are all sorts of simulations and role-plays that look like a lot of fun. We will see if the students enjoy it or participate.

There was a gecko in my apartment, waiting for me to get back from school. I frightened it off and lost sight of it. When I went to shower I found it again. It was not happy to be trapped in the bathroom with me; it hid under my towel and was not happy when I disturbed its hiding spot. I would rather share my apartment with geckos than bugs. Geckos mean fewer bugs. In my English for communication class I had the students write five sentences about their likes and five sentences about what they dislike. One girl wrote about how much she hates cockroaches. I could sympathize.

 

With only two classes on Wednesday it is a fairly boring day. I spent most of it grading like and dislike sentences. There were over 1000 sentences. My brain was mush by the end of it and there are still more papers to come. In one of my classes a bunch of the girls had fake cockroaches; fortunately I realized they were fake before I completely lost it. They all wrote about how they do not like cockroaches, ironically. Do not worry; I do not like them either.

I went and got an iced tea after lunch (they are so good, I could not help myself). I saw another foreigner coming out of the post office. I was so excited! She caught my eye and came over to chat a bit. She lives in Banbung with her Thai husband; originally, she is from Poland. One thing I like about my town is that it is a small town (I am guessing about the size of Kenosha, maybe 100,000 people). Even though it is a small town, there are still people who can speak English. Maybe that is a Thailand thing. In China, I lived in a big city but there were few foreigner and few people who could speak English. It seems to me that in Thailand there are more people who speak English. Maybe the two countries treat English differently. In China they seem to view it as a foreign language, something you learn with no real life application except for the few people who do need to use it. Whereas in Thailand they view it as a second language; something you should know because you can use it.

Henry’s wife decided that I need to start getting used to eating spicy food. She sprinkled a tiny bit of spice in my food. It was spicy, not too bad, a manageable spicy, but it was still spicy. I can only eat baby spice and she gave me baby spice. Maybe by the time I get done in Thailand I can eat Thai spicy food (which is unbelievably spicy). Then again, I thought that when I went to China and I did not learn to eat really spicy foods. When I got back to my apartment I frightened the gecko. It was chilling out next to my shoes and when I walked in it got scared and ran into a water bottle. Literally, the gecko ran into a water bottle. Like a person waking into a tree the poor gecko rant into one of my water bottles. Then it found a safe place to hide from scary me.

 

Thursday’s classes were relatively good. Though, I was confronted with the questions, how long do you wait for a class to arrive? Ten minutes? Fifteen minutes? Twenty? The whole period? How many students have to show up before it is unacceptable to cancel class? Is it acceptable if 10 out of 50 students show up? Or should you have class if there is even one student? I waited twenty minutes for one of my monster classes to show up and then only ten students showed up. It was a quick lesson. The next monster class I waited for fifteen minutes and all 50 of them showed up. When is it “not worth teaching”? Or is it always “worth teaching”?

I lectured my M1 class because I was trying to explain a game and they were going crazy. Kids jumping off desks crazy. I made all of them sit down and told them we cannot play games if they do not listen and participate. They straightened up a bit after that. I made scrambled sentences and they loved it. A scrambled sentence is when you take a sentence, cut it apart, and the students have to put it back together. They absolutely loved it; I am noticing they like puzzles and solving puzzles.

I went to the post office during my break at school. I wanted to send a postcard to see how expensive it is and how long it will take to get to America. No one at the post office spoke English and I did not take a translator with me. Cross your fingers it gets where it needs to go. I think they knew where it was going. The postcard got a stamp so it is going somewhere.

After work I had fried rice at Henry’s restaurant. His wife is worried I do not eat enough and I had a small mountain of fried rice. There was so much I could not finish it. It was not as good as the one I had in Bangkok but it was still good. I really like the lime that sometimes comes with fried rice. The lime definitely makes all the difference. I decided to be adventurous and go back to the market area to see if there was a night market again. There was! This one was not as food oriented as the last one, there was a lot more clothing at this one, but there were still food vendors. I found a vendor selling raw seafood. He had fish, squids, shrimp, crabs, some sort of clam or muscle, and a bucket full of live turtles. I wanted a turtle but I had a feeling they were more like turtles for eating rather than turtles for pets. Knowing me I had to get food, there was no way I was going to pass up food carts and not get food. I got a giant brownie for breakfast on Friday from one of the vendors.

I finally got Wi-Fi in my apartment. It is nice not to make a hotspot on my phone to try and connect to internet. Though, it was nice to be able to go back to my apartment and disconnect from the world, read, or write, or make lesson plans. This way it will be easier for me to Skype with family and make travel plans. I am making plans to go to Pattaya this weekend. I tried making a hostel reservation but my credit card was declined, twice. Apparently, credit card issues are a common theme in world traveling as well. When I was in China, they froze my credit card because I was making many airline ticket purchases, which was flagged as suspicious. They also froze it when I was in China because I was in China and I made some purchases on Amazon, which is an American company, so they froze it again. It is a rite of passage. And there are ants in my bathroom again.

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