Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Routinous Root

I wake up around 6:30 a.m. to the sound of chickens screeching, a lizard singing, some birds fighting and scratching their claws against my tin roof, some kids yelling, someone on a microphone talking about something (it is still a mystery to me why in the world the community “okayed” this at 6:30 a.m.) and the fan in my room spinning, spreading joy in the form of air to my burning body.  I still find it hard to get out of bed and I am almost a grown man (not sure if I will ever grow up).  My dad used to try to wake me up for school when I was little but the first time I yelled at him, in my sleep mind you, he decided enough was enough and proceeded to put a 1970s version of a house alarm right next to my bed and crank it as loud as it could go….lets just say that was the last time I decided to sleep in for a good 3 or 4 months, then sleep became too valuable again.
I found some flour, some baking powder and if I put that together with the Thai regulars; egg, salt, starch and sugar, I got myself some delicious pancakes.  To top it off, the other day I found some powered sugar, still no butter, but the taste of these pancakes is to die for.  Generally for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the menu would consist of rice with some kind of curry, maybe some crickets (if I am lucky…seriously those critters are the closest thing around to potato chips) and a fried egg.  After breakfast I brush my teeth with a bottle of water, that is if I remembered to boil some the night before, otherwise I go dry which is a real bummer because then I have to swallow toothpaste for the next 15 minutes until I can get to the convenient store on my bike. I ride my bike close to 3 miles to the school where the kids are all lined up, the teachers are telling them what I assume are some important announcements but instead of listening they take the time to warn each other that the “farang” is coming and then to say “hello”; of course the younger ones say it more like “HELLLL-LO”.  I am trying to find a way to let them know that hello is not something we generally use more than once in a day, most of the time when we first see someone.  Try telling that to 300 students that just love being able to use such a wonderful greeting word.
The morning is filled with trying to understand people talking to me and them trying to understand me talking to them.  After someone says a sentence the reaction on both parties is usually something like “uh-huh” or “ooohhh” or “uh” or “huh?” all of which are a version and most likely stem from the origin word: “I don’t know what the heck you are talking about but I will pretend so that I look like I do”, which is not a word but a phrase…phrases are sentences that are a little shorter….I like using phrases with things and stuff…”things and stuff” is a phrase I use often…..
After the morning has passed and lesson planning has been finished, and materials are created and ready to use, it is time for lunch.  I never know what to expect at lunch time, I say this not only because of the food but also because I never know what situations will arise and how I will respond.  I usually say something in Thai that is a bad word because my tones are bad and they start laughing hysterically.  The worst thing about this is they never tell me what the joke is so I am left totally in the dark wondering what on this green, blue, brown, light brown, light green, light blue, a kind of light shade of red, earth (this according to MOST printed world maps) they are talking about.  After lunch is finished and my belly is full with I don’t know what…really I never know what...I mean sometimes I do, so I cannot technically say “never” but this is another phrase I think we use often so it is kind of sarcastic and it over exaggerates the truth but generally people know that when I say never I mean sometimes which is a weird concept to teach in an English class filled with Thai students or just in an everyday situation with a Thai teacher wanting to know why I said “never” when I meant “sometimes”…this might be the same as when Thai people say “ow leei” which means “I want it now” but really they do not want it at all…cultural exchange…….beautifully frustrating.
…….back to after lunch and my belly is full….It is time to hit up the classroom for a little bit of English co-teaching magic.  The kids are great, they are fun if the teachers are fun.  It takes up a lot of energy and these first few classes are a big adjustment period for all parties involved.  I know the students are not used to me and they are definitely not used to someone acting inappropriate in class “mai riap roy”, but the fact of the matter is, if I want to make the classroom fun it has to be relaxed and enjoyable and I think that is coming along just fine.  I am beginning to finally think like an English teacher and many things pop up in my head on the fly.  I think it frustrates my Thai teachers because sometimes I deviate from the plan because I am so excited about the next activity.  I know, I know, it is a sad state of affairs when you start to get excited about learning activities but I suppose I am a teacher and I think like I teacher…but I refuse to wear cardigans…EVER…only soon to be doctors in med school can wear those…okay, okay just Belcher…and maybe a married Becton (inside jokes and things).

            After teaching is over it is time to go home but recently I discovered that one of my schools has the best sand volleyball duo in the nation.  I asked to play and play I did.  I played until the self-proclaimed “big coach” (who is in a wheelchair now but used to be on the national Thai volleyball team) asked me to be the assistant coach.  He handed me a Thai national team shirt, a whistle and told me that I would be attending all of the matches in order to help coach.  What a great gig!  I could not believe it but I struck gold.  I now lounge in a beautiful country teaching my native language to Thai people young and old, have great times learning about and trying to find things to improve in my community, go to the beach on occasion and coach sand volleyball (frat!).  Now if I could just get some cheese dip I would be golden.
            Now for the big wrap-up, I am doing great here in Yas-O…I am getting to know people in and outside the community as my language skills are picking up a little bit.  I never understood that someone could listen to a language for comprehension and still not be able to speak it fluently but after some time in Thailand I realize that this is actually possible.  I can understand more than I can speak which is, I hope, something that will help me eventually speak better.  I still get the opportunity to go fishing, I still hang out with the host family and feed the pigs sometimes and I hope to start planting my garden soon.  The rain is coming and this seems to be the perfect time to plant, I mean the Thai folks are doin’ it so it has to be good right? 
            Life is still good, I miss family and friends and most definitely some food but all in all life is good.  I will be headed to another province for Pre-Service Training Reconnect which will be a good break with time to speak with all of the other volunteers.  The three day weekend before Reconnect I will be getting in some beach time! After the beach and Reconnect I will be hosting a English/Life Skills camp for the kids ages 10-13 in my community about Drug Awareness, Nutrition, Self-Esteem, HIV Awareness and Environment.  I hope to update with some pictures of all events.  In the meantime, it is dinnertime and that means I will be eating rice.  While I do that, you can look at some of these randomly amusing (at least to me) pictures.

Much Love,