Festivities of Week 5

After an exciting weekend, going to school is not what I want to do on Mondays. With M1 we watched Schoolhouse Rock, the noun, adjective, and verb ones. I had them make lists of the nouns, adjectives, and verbs they saw in the films. It was kind of a blow off lesson, I did not feel like teaching, and they did not want to learn. Having them first thing on Monday is rough, they have just come off the weekend and they do not want to learn or be in school. However, they seemed to enjoy Schoolhouse Rock, or at least they pretended to enjoy it just so we would watch movies instead of doing anything else.

When I first arrived at my school, my coordinator gave me a blue whiteboard marker. There were also two more red markers in my desk. I love these markers. They are refillable and I love it. I always hated it when markers would run low and you could not write anything then you had to throw it away. You can refill these! There are little jars of ink and a little dropper, which you use to drop ink into the base of the pen and voilà a completely new marker without being a new marker. I want to know why this is not a thing in America. Probably because it is whiteboard marker ink, so it reeks like whiteboard markers. And if you spill it, it goes everywhere.

My monster classes were especially monstrous this week. I kid you not; there were students in my class who I had never seen before. They just decided not to show up the previous four weeks. One of the boys decided to enter the classroom by climbing through the window. In China, I had students climbing out the windows and in Thailand, I have students climbing in the windows. Quite the opposites. There was one girl who I had never seen before came up to the front of the class and started mimicking me pointing at the board trying to get the class to speak English. I was so done with the classes that I could not wait for class to end. I dismissed the students and stomped back to the office. Only to realize, I got the times wrong and I let class out ten minutes early. Oops.

When I passed back their homework one girl almost started crying because I gave her a zero on the assignment for copying. She insisted that she did not copy, yet her paper was the same as two others. I tried telling her that others copied off her but her English was not good enough for her to understand that. Me being the softie that I am, I let her redo the assignment. Maybe next time she will think twice before letting her friends copy her work. Since I let one person redo their homework, I let the rest of the students who copied redo their homework too. Though I am pretty sure one boy just took his friend’s homework, ripped the name off it and showed it to me as his own. However, I have no way of proving it, but it was awfully suspicious looking.

It is market Monday! Of course I had to go to the night market now that I know it is there. I had these delicious kabobs with pork, pineapple, tomatoes, and a spicy pepper. I left the spicy pepper on the stick but it gave everything else a nice kick. Then I got veggie wraps for lunch that looked kind of like sushi but with veggies instead of seafood. It was a sticky wrap on the outside, and the inside had lettuce, cabbage, cucumbers, and a dab of dried fish. It came with super spicy sauce too. As I said last week, I stopped by the cake tent. I got chocolate cake with white frosting. It was better than Portillo’s chocolate cake, it tasted like HoHo or DingDong. Next week I want to try the cotton candy.

Tuesday morning I was running late to school. I saw my coordinator on her way to school; she stopped her motorbike and gave me a ride to school. I am getting used to riding sidesaddle on the back of a motorcycle. Though my coordinator’s motorbike is smaller than  the ones I have ridden and when we turned my feet scraped the pavement. Thank goodness for good shoes. When I got off the motorbike at school I tripped over the curb. It seems that tripping and motorcycles go hand in hand for me.

As I was walking to get breakfast, I ran into a bunch of girls. They said “teacher, so beautiful!” Getting called beautiful will never get old. Then they asked, “Teacher, baby?” No, I do not have babies. “Teacher, husband?” No, I do not have a husband either. “Teacher, you my idol. I love you!” Aw, that is sweet. I have never seen these students before and I just told them I have no kids and I am unmarried and they think I am their idol. They want to be like me, that is cute. They also compared their skin tones to my skin. I looked pasty white compared to them, and I was thinking I was starting to tan a bit.

I accidentally went to the wrong class, it was so not my day. I had all my materials ready to go, walked down the hall to class, saw another teacher in the classroom, turned around, and walked right back down the hallway to recheck my schedule. Yeah, right class, wrong time. I also had to explain what board games were to M6 (12th grade). Their project was to make a board game and they did not know what a board game was. It is difficult to explain board games. I used an example, I made one up and we played it on the whiteboard as a class. I think they had fun, and I am excited to see what they come up with for their games.

In another one of my classes, we played telephone. It turned into one of the most violent games of telephone I have ever seen. When the sentence gets to the last person, I have the last person write the sentence on the board. Well, one team would try to block the last person of the other team. So the writer would have to push their way through until someone decides to grab the writer. So then the writer has to beat the person who is holding them. Then the writer’s team joins in on beating back the other team, until it turns into kind of a class brawl. We had to stop the game a few times because it was getting way too violent. I just cannot catch a break.

For M3, I gave them the choice last week of games and activities or tests and lectures. They chose games and activities. The participation in the activity was awful, and then they did not want to answer the follow up questions. Since they did not want to participate I had them write out the answers to the questions. The boys decided they all wanted to sit on each other’s laps all class period. I kept having to tell them to get off each other. “Sit in your own chair, not on each other.” Teenage boys are sometimes worse than the Chinese six year olds.

Wednesday was a holiday. Happy Loy Krathong! The name means “to float a basket” the Thai people make floating “krathongs” out of banana tree, leaves, and flowers; they put candles and incense in them. Then they float them on the water (a river or pond) to thank the water spirits for a good harvest or it sometimes symbolizes letting go of the year’s anger. You are also supposed to make a wish as you send off your krathong.  The holiday falls on the full moon of the 12th month of the Thai calendar, which is usually in November. In Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai releases floating lanterns into the sky. Every teacher I saw today told me about the festival.

Morning ceremony was short. For those who wanted to stay there was a special ceremony with flower wreaths, it seemed like a religious ceremony of some sort. My usual breakfast woman was not there so another woman helped me. I got breakfast in a bag. It was quite the experience, trying to eat breakfast out of a bag.

My first class of the day I showed up but there were no students yet. I waited, and waited, and waited. I watched ants crawl across the wall. It was kind of interesting, watching them all follow the same path. I was glad they were not in my room. There were some students sitting on the benches outside the building, I thought they looked like my students who were supposed to be in my class. The students got up and kind of snuck away. I waited some more. Ten minutes before class was over, four boys showed up. I gave them their homework back. One boy got up and shouted something to some students sitting outside the building. I went out and looked at who he was shouting at. Many of the students who were supposed to be in my class were sitting outside the building, just outside the visual range of the classroom. I left. I was quite upset with them. Apparently they all just decided to skip class. It is one thing if everyone skips class. It is another thing if I was waiting for them for forty minutes, and they were all just sitting outside the building.

Lunch was great fun. I bumped into my usual lunch buddy and his friend who is a computer technology teacher. They told me about the festival today and both offered to help me. They laughed at my inability to eat spicy foods and my aversion to driving motorcycles. The computer technology teacher gave me a ride back to school on his motorbike. I am becoming quite the adventurer; I would never get on a motorcycle in America. Though, I do not know why motorcycles in Thailand are any different. They are probably more dangerous in Thailand just because of the way everyone drives so crazy. I might want a motorcycle or moped when I get home.

I spent the rest of the day writing midterm exams. Writing multiple-choice questions is hard, a lot harder than you would think. I do not want the tests to be too difficult but I want them to be a little challenging, and the classes have such a huge range. Being a teacher is tough. I went to one of my huge classes and had another very intense game of telephone. The classroom is full of low coffee table like tables, the students sit on the floor and work on the low tables. There are only two aisles where the two teams were standing, so the writers had to leap over the tables in order to get to the front. I was sure someone was going to get hurt. One of the writers wrote very quickly and his handwriting was atrocious, the other writer complained when I gave that team a point. He said, “Teacher, not beautiful!” then pointed to his, “beautiful!” I know the handwriting was awful, but I could still read it (kind of).

I told some of my coworkers I would go with them to the Loy Krathong festival. Then it started raining, absolutely down pouring. I was so upset that we might miss the festival due to the rain. But the rain cleared up and cooled things off a bit so it was a good thing. We went to the festival. For the festival, part of the main road was closed off, there was a stage with live music, all kind of street vendors selling food and clothing, and vendors selling “krathongs.” First we went to the pond where the vendors were selling the krathongs. We watched people float their krathongs, it was beautiful. I went and bought my own krathong, the woman lit my incense and candle for me. I made a wish and floated it on the pond. It was one of those things words cannot describe.

After floating my krathong, we went and got food. I really wanted ice cream so we got ice cream. Mine was a purple, pink, and blue ice cream with gummy chunks in it; it tasted like cotton candy. Then we passed a bug stand. One of my coworkers mentioned how she always wanted to try the bugs but was never brave enough to. I told her I wanted to try the grasshoppers, so we tried them. I got a bag of grasshoppers and she got a bag of crickets. The vendor took the grasshoppers, heated them up, poured oil on them, and then salted them. They tasted just like potato chips, except the grasshopper’s feet kept getting stuck to my cheeks. It was quite the adventure. My coworker let me try some of her crickets, they were also tasty. I think I liked the crickets better than the grasshoppers because they did not have such long legs. We saw some of our students and my coworker told them she would give them 100% in her class if they ate a cricket or grasshopper; they all declined. It was quite a fantastic evening.

Thursday was back to the daily grind. No festivals or anything exciting. I went to my first class, only to see a bunch of students I had never seen before. I know some students have been skipping class but I swear that was not my class. There was a teacher in the classroom, she tried to explain the morning classes were in the afternoon and the afternoon classes were in the morning. I went back to my office and asked my coordinator what was going on. The classes were switched today and no one told me. So I had M1 in the morning, but their advisor was in there with them. By the time I got into the classroom there were 15 minutes left in class.

I completely forgot about my second class. By the time I looked at my schedule and realized I was late, it was 20 minutes into class. I quickly rushed to my class only to find that eight out of fifty students showed up. We reviewed and I let them have free time. My next class (the morning class that was now in the afternoon) had three of fifty students, and those three showed up thirty minutes late. One of the students said their classmates were studying. She also said she could understand me when I talk but she cannot always reply. It was a bum day for attendance.

During lunch I sat with the computer technology teacher. I learned a lot about communication since his English is not the best. It is important to understand the question before answering, otherwise you confuse the questioner and then it confuses you. Maybe that is why I get blank stares from my students when I ask them questions. I spent Thanksgiving by myself. I splurged on dinner though, I went to the bakery for desert. It was my first time at the bakery, it was not really a bakery they just had a few baked goods and a lot of other odds and ends. One of the women there spoke really good English. I got some chocolate balls, I asked for five and she gave me six, “one for free,” as she said. For dinner I had chicken legs with rice, watermelon, and the chocolate balls. I am thankful for people who speak English and I am thankful to be in a wonderful country with wonderful people.

(Note: As I was doing laundry on Thanksgiving I saw a cockroach in the laundry room, and I did not scream, or cry, or freak out in any way. I just quickly walked away.)

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