Culture Day (Among Other Things)

In my haste to get last week’s blog posted, I forgot to write about my hectic Monday (January 18). I was running late to work because I did not want to get out of bed and on my way down the stairs, I saw my gecko friend Georgie. (I have named all my gecko friends, there is Grant and Gertie who lived in my room and now live on my balcony, I can hear them chirping at night, and there is Georgie, who is super tiny and likes to hide by my hiking boots.) As I neared Georgie on the stairs, I expected him to run away, but he did not because he was dead. I was so upset. I had not seen him in my room for a while and there he was, on the stairs, belly up, dead.

As if that was not bad enough, every 90 days, I have to check into immigration and if I am late, there is a fine of 500-2000 baht. At orientation they stressed you MUST go every 90 days, even when you have your visa extension you still have to go every 90 days. I thought my 90 day check in was Tuesday January 19, turns out it was Sunday January 17 and I missed it. Of course, I panicked. I asked one of my coworkers how to get to the immigration office and she gave me directions. Unfortunately, they were not very clear directions so I got lost on the way to the immigration office and had to take a tuk tuk to actually get there.

When I arrived, they were closed for their lunch break. I had to wait 45 minutes for their lunch break to be over. I filled out the form they needed, and stood in line. When it was finally my turn at the counter, the man took my passport and form, looked at them then asked me if I had photocopies of my passport pages. Naturally I did not so I had to go to another part of the building to get my passport photocopied, then go stand in line again. Again, when it was my turn at the counter, the man took my passport, form, and photocopies. He looked at my form, looked through my passport, gave everything back to me, and told me I did not have to be there. I was very confused, so he had to get another woman to translate for him.

Apparently, when I applied for my visa extension, that counted as my 90-day check in, so my actual check in day is in March. Why did no one inform me of this? I went back to school for my last class of the day. Since I was dealing with immigration I missed my two monster classes, yay. However, when I walked into school I bumped into a bunch of my students from those classes. They launched into rapid Thai, and I think it was something along the lines of “where were you?!” I just smiled at them and told them I would see them next week.

Monday of this week (January 25) was the usual Monday shenanigans. When I woke up it was cloudy and cold. By cold I mean the temperature had dropped from 90 degrees to 60 degrees, which feels cold. I bundled up in my jacket and scarf. One of my neighbors gave me a ride to school on his motorcycle (not a moped but a real actual motorcycle) which was awesome. The best part about being a teacher is having eyes in the back of your head. Even though I am writing on the board and my back is to the class I can still tell when the students bring lizards into class. A boy in one of my monster classes found a dead gecko and was terrorizing the girls with it. I marched over to him and demanded he hand it over. He gave it to me meekly; all the students were impressed that their teacher is not afraid of geckos and will touch a dead one. I tossed it outside. Sometimes I feel like the circus lion tamers with a whip and a chair. You cannot show fear or they will eat you alive.

The students from last week who were supposed to come visit me during lunch to make up their work did not show up. I am very frustrated by the lack of responsibility. It’s the teacher’s job to make sure the students don’t fail, it’s the teacher’s job to chase students down if they don’t turn in assignments, it’s the teacher’s job to make sure every student understands everything even if the students don’t show up to class. I know it is not my place to question their education system but honestly, teach some responsibility. Maybe this is why I was sick and get headaches, all the stress of teaching. I have a new appreciation for teachers, they put up with a lot. Two students from M6 got into a fight; their classmates had to pull them off each other. Fortunately, it was not during my class this happened, but still.

Tuesday I nearly choked on toothpaste as Georgie crawled across my bathroom mirror. I thought he was dead but there he was! Either he had a relative die, or he came back to life. I was very excited to see him again; things were getting a little lonely without my gecko friend. At school I learned Thursday would be culture day and I would be expected to wear a Chinese dress. Several of my coworkers went to a Chinese temple and got Chinese clothes for all of us to wear. We tried them on to make sure they fit and my coordinator told us we look “too sexy” because we show too much leg. It is not my fault there is a slit in the side of the skirt past my knee.

Wednesday my first class decided to not show up (again). I have found that most of my students skip class by sitting in the hallway outside the classroom. Then they are surprised when I catch them skipping. Really kids, you need to learn how to skip class better. Most of the students are preparing for culture day. M6/11 spent most of the day practicing their dance, and several of the other classes are preparing their skits or displays. The English Program hosted a Scrabble tournament. A student asked to play me and he won because of strategically placed words. I showed up to my second class and the students did not show up. I spent the 50 minutes doodling a Chicago winter (snow) on the whiteboard.

Thursday was Language and Culture Day! The “theme” was Mystery of the Golden Monkey for Chinese New Year. (I was born in the year of the monkey, so this is my lucky year!) I got to wear the Chinese dress to school. I put it on in my apartment and walked to school all dressed up because I did not want to get dressed in the school bathroom with all the spiders. On my walk to school I pass a lot of vendors and we always smile at each other. They all told me I looked beautiful. My students said I looked beautiful too. Each language department had a booth and it seemed like there were other carnival type booths as well. The day was full of performances by the students, there were skits, songs, and dances. Some of the skits were hilarious. I am truly amazed by the talent and creativity of these students. Now, if only they can channel that into their English. I saw one of my students who does not like to learn English do back-flips across the stage. One of the skits was the story of the nativity. There was Harry Potter that seemed to be a mash-up of books one, five, and seven. One of my M6 classes performed a Korean fan dance.

My first class on Friday, only four students showed up. I gave them their quiz and the rest of the time they could do whatever they wanted. They told me the 40 other students were all sick. Fifteen minutes before class ended, 10 more students showed up. I was very frustrated with them. As I left the class at the end of the period, I saw three boys sitting in the hallway outside the classroom who should have been in class. They at least had the decency to look guilty that I caught them skipping. Seriously, rule number one of skipping class is not to be near your class or teacher when you skip. It is just common sense. If I taught a class on how to skip class, the students would probably learn more and maybe show up or at least skip the class better.

In my global studies class we are talking about culture. We did a stereotype lesson and I had a list of common stereotypes about Thailand and America. The students who were paying attention got a kick out of them. The last period of the day I was so thoroughly sick of teaching I told my students we would have a hangman tournament, students versus teacher. If I won we would have a lesson and if they won they would get free time. The goal was to get five points; I got a point if they could not guess the word before the man was finished or if they were too noisy. I have never seen the class so well behaved. If someone was getting too noisy, they would police themselves and tell that person to be quiet. We were almost done with the game when another teacher knocked on the door. They said the main office called and they wanted me to go pick up my salary, right now. I asked if they could wait like ten minutes for us to finish up the game or wait until after school. Nope, it had to be right now. I had to put our game on pause so I could get paid. It was frustrating. The students won hangman and they were super excited to have free time. Joke was on them because I did not actually have a lesson planned, the plan was for them to win.

Saturday was spent in Bangkok, in a part of the city I have never been to before. It was more of a backpacker’s area, with lots of foreigners, and places catering to them. I had brunch at an adorable café: peach kiwi pancakes and a mocha. The pancakes were delicious; two pancakes topped with peaches and kiwis, with ice cream and pineapple sauce, on top of a crumble of sorts with whipped cream. Every bite was delicious. The mocha was not as good as the iced mocha I can get from the teashop in Ban Bung but it was still pretty good. I got a two-hour massage after brunch; I did not realize how badly I needed it until I was getting it. All the tension in my neck, shoulders, and feet was released. The woman also massaged my stomach, which is something I have never experienced before, but it was good. Afterwards, I felt sore but satisfied.

Sunday was a lazy day, slept in, and had nothing planned for the day. In the evening I went out to get dinner, decided to leave my phone in the room because I was only going down the street for dinner. As I walked down the street, I realized I locked my keys in my apartment. After dinner, I tried getting back into my apartment. I knocked on my neighbor’s door but she was not home. Without my phone, I could not call my landlady or my neighbor. I went to the internet café next door to my apartment building. It was kind of awkward; I was the only female in the place and a farang. I had no idea what to do so I stood there waiting for help. There was a group of Thai boys who looked to be about five years old playing Grand Theft Auto, they kept whispering to each other and pointing to me. There was a group of Thai guys who looked around my age who were working there and they were having a “you go help her, no you go help her,” mini-argument. Finally, one of them helped me get on to a computer where I was able to contact my neighbor. I went to my neighbor’s apartment and climbed from her balcony to mine. It was dark but I am sure it provided lots of entertainment for anyone who was watching. Farang on the roof. All the while, I was reminding myself that I made the decision to come to Thailand, this is my life, I chose this.


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