Tag Archives: children

Prachuap day 2 continued.

Om's house seems to be a social hub, and I spend a clue of hours there after visiting monkey temple, city shrine, and the vege restaurant. I meet Petra, a German physiotherapist who is into cycling. Our paths cross several times later when I cycle out to wat ao noi. The conversations are backgrounded by the incessant on-repeat Christmas tunes from next door. Wat ao noi is out beyond the fishing villages and amid the extensive fish breeding pools. The cave temple with the two reclining Buddhas is nothing special, but the climb up through bourgainvillia and cacti is beautiful. The adjacent main temple building is also noteworthy, being made of dark wood and having a surrounding terrace encircled by spectacular entwined naga.

The evening takes shape when JJ invited peter and me to her friend's itaLiam restaurant. It's our Christmas party, replete with snowman deely boppers, and gifts for James, her son, and her friend's daughter. Funny how asian kids are so much more endearing than British ones. The ravioli and tiramisu aren't bad, but vastly overpriced. The conversation is animated and joyful.

Back in the seafront the tide has gone out, revealing a beach. We stop in the tuk-tuk to chat to some friends. And there I teach James some vocab. When I set off home alone along the promenade he runs after me and onto the beach, where I go for a last gasp if air. We high five several times before I go off to bed for a long looked forward to sleep.

Nakhon si Thammarat day 3

Ning and co come and pick me up at 7.45 to take me to the class at the uni. It's raining.

They tell me the students will be so surprised, and excited. The uni is about 8 miles out of the city, at the foot of a mountain (which freshers climb, believing conquering it will enable them to graduate). At the far end of the entrance driveway is a massive seated Buddha.

This is the university of communication studies. I meet the vice dean, who is a northerner and an ex-well-known radio dj. She also shows gratitude for my coming and wishes her students to swell the size of the group to over 50.

We have to remove shoes, both teachers and students. The classroom is quite formal in layout and has a raised wooden stage and a framed portrait of the king at the teacher's end. Students are in uniform, though rather scruffily, of white shirt and black trousers/skirt. They are a rag-tag bunch. Pretty little girls, some with powdered white faces and finely plucked eyebrows. Callow boys with moustaches and open top buttons. Some Muslim girls with head scarves, a rather ballsy loud girl with a top knot, brimming with personality and playing to the teachers and crowd. The teacher uses a microphone, which seems somehow to create a distance between her and the class. She greets them in English and is replied by a clumsy chorus. It's difficult and slow to manage the class into small groups, and I don't think they, or the teacher are used to this more dynamic and interactive pattern. The vision was that the students would ask me questions… I get involved in setting up how this could work. Smaller groups. Time to prepare….

Their English is mostly quite poor. They have trouble constructing questions. In the end most manage to ask me my name. The girls want to know if I'm married. The boys get energised when we talk about football. Their are some odd questions: ” do you think x is a hermaphrodite?” !!! ” what is your motto?” (I have to think, but end up with some cliche that they might understand : life is short, so enjoy it..). Anyway I have a lot of fun chatting to them,but I'm not convinced they learnt very much. At. The end there was a surprise. One of the girls stood up and made a speech she had written, expressing the class's appreciation for my coming. Then 3 girls, one with a ukulele, sandy a song in English..something like ” we hope you enjoyed the show”. This was followed by 3 more girls (never the boys) singing and doing a little dance in thai, led by the flamboyant girl. Later I Learn that in her interview for the uni, she stated that her ambition was to be a star!

After lunch we visit the teacher' s house. Very impressive. Just build, airy, spacious. Contains a shrine. Ning says I should drive her car to trang, rather than her. Well, my first time driving a car in Thailand, first time diving an automatic…not a big deal, but the weather is dreadful. Heavy rain, pools of water on the road. By the time we get to tang the rain is easing, but I'm still unsure of what to do. Go to libong, another island, stay in tang City, go elsewhere….amazingly, although I've only been ther once, I'm able to easily navigate us to the centre and the place where I can get some concert info about the weather and the availability of accommodation and of transfers to the islands. I make up my mind to go back to ko muk. We get some fruit and set off, then down comes the rain. I sense Ning thinks this is a bad idea, though she won't actually say so. She mentions getting a train somewhere. I pull over and check my train timetable. There's a train going north in an hour. I have to make a decision, now or never. We go back to the station and I get a sleeper to hua hin, basically because anywhere else would mean arriving in the middle of the night, or be too close to bkk.

I get an Indian meal to eat on the train, and Ning and I finally say goodbye. She drives back to hat Yai,and I settle into a peaceful ride and a sleep, I hope. However the guy in the next seat strikes up a conversation. He is a flabby, stinky American called mike. Turns out he is a psychology professor at a bkk uni. He. Smells of booze, and eventually he lets on that the clear liquid in his bottle is whisky, and it smells quite surgical. He offers me a nip. It's strong, and I can see now he is a bit pissed. Later he tells me he enjoyed talking with me, thinks I'm a smart guy. It's funny how so many people seem to latch onto me and want to tell me their life story, which he does. It's full of conspiracy, hardship, fighting court cases, being branded a terrorist by his family for expunging anti- American views. He feels in-American, despises the place and the people,and has lived in Cambodia and now thai land for 20 years or so. Something he tells me is quite creepy. It's about the murde of the. British tourists. He says he knows who e killer was, and that this person is high up and connected to the royals. This person is a student at his uni,. Nothing will be proven against him. Conspiracy, cover-up, scapegoating of the burmese workers. Hearsay….

I sleep until 3.30. Get off at hua hin at 4.20.

 

Nakhon si Thammarat day 2

Nearly any rain, at least not until nighttime.

I spent today with Ning, an old student from Regency, and her old school friend and husband who are both university teachers. The deal is I teach a lesson with them tomorrow, and they drive me around the city today and lavish me with lunch, tea and dinner. It's a really nice day and I get to learn and appreciate things I wouldn't be able to do as a solo farang with no thai language. We make merit at the temple, which is considers the most important in southern Thailand. The white stupa allegedly contains yet another of the buddha's teeth. The gilded spire obviously isn't golden as corrosion stains drip on the white plaster work. Unfortunately the walkway around the stupa is closed, but we burn joss sticks (3 for the Buddha; 9 for the God, which we do at the city shrine later) and candles which get snuffed out by the breeze before we have time to kneel and plant them in the ash trough in the boat alter. We have little scraps of gilding, which we transfer to the Buddha effigies. Mine blow away, rather then cling. My merit is hard to. Achieve. Out of the sudden rain, we walk a cloister like passage where there is a large gong. None of us succeed in making it resonate. This is done by caressing 2 raised knobs. One woman coaxes a tremendous ringing tone from it. Wow.

We visit the city museum, which has some rather amusing dioramas, including one of a thai school room with a projected animate school teacher. There is a a big freize on which is written the 60 commandments that school children must learn these days. It's a bit much. Ning comments that the first commandment which is basically “do good things” suffices.

Afterwards we go to the city shrine for more merit making, and then to the remains of the city wall. On the city park nearby old and young, slim and not so slim alike exercise on the open-air communal gym-type equipment, though it feels more like a dangerous kids playground. On the field groups of men are playing a kind of keepy-uppy game involving a hollow rattan ball and bare feet.

A shared meal together is great: when you eat alone you can't possibly order so many dishes. Equally being with Thais, they are able to specify exactly what they want cooked. We have egg and bitter cucumber, a Chinese mushroom soup, broad beans and green beans in a spicy sauce, and a very hot tofu in yellow bean curry paste.

 

 

 

 
 
 

 

 

Final morning at sangkhlaburi…….

I’m not sleeping too well here, maybe the thin walls.

I dreamt about the Lovegrove brothers. Not a nice dream. Mat had inadvertently killed Luke, having administered forced water consumption via hosepipe then stood on his stomach. He dies later, mat unaware of that, from split gut. This has all been brought on by the pow drawings of Japanese torture at the jeath museum.

The sunrise is muted. There are veils of mist across the lake. A teenager is performing for the thai tourists. Climbing the legs of the bridge, beaming and waving, then wavering at the top, counting down neung song saam. The Bangkok tourist women in their bling, big sunglasses, large bright trousers and makeup egging him on. He plunges, resurfaces, swims to the pontoon bridge and collects handfuls of green 20 baht notes.

The schoolboy is carrying 2 bags of small fish with whiskers and river snakes yoked on a pole across his shoulders. I see the same people each day. On the first day he was dressed in a Boy Scout school uniform, the second another kind of uniform of yellow polo shirt and long black tracksuit trousers. Today it’s a red and white check polo with a red cotton longyi. I think, though I could be wrong, different uniforms for different school days. His mother is as usual at the Mon end of the bridge selling bags of eels. 15m away is the other mon eel and fish seller with her wide straw hat, yellow ash face. She always says hello to me. In the evening she usually suckles her baby at the breast there. The man with the gold tooth and camouflage jacket and blue cap is on the pontoon caling out boat rides. He knows me too and laughs when he sees me. He was unsuccessful in getting my fare yesterday, and when I returned from my cut price trip to the drowned temple he was still there waiting for custom.

Today I bought a bag of little fish. Inside is some kind of coloured powder solids also. I walk the pontoon looking for a calm pool of water between the bamboo cross struts into which to release the fish. This is some kind of Buddhist ritual. They do this with little birds in Malaysia and Indonesia. Releasing the creatures, I guess, is away to make merit. I contemplate my little fish before releasing them and wonder if they are in a perpetual cycle of being caught by the mon woman, bagged, sold, released and then caught again. What kind of spiritual release does that bring them?

The odd group of Amber monks wander across the mon bridge with their silver food bowls, as big as tom-toms.

 

People Sangkhlaburi

Children are brushing the verge in front of their school with straw brushes, like a little militarised unit. The Thais seem to be obsessed with brushing up leaves. Maybe it's meditative.

A group of orange clad monks, two white robed shaven headed nuns in tow. They move graciously and with dignity in public presence. When it gets dark I pass them on the second bridge smoking and browsing their phones.

Small boys diving from the flat bridge still in their khaki school shorts. The older ones are plunging from the 30m mon bridge.

In the market a woman with bad teeth chews on a cheroot and tries to sell me some sweets. I buy a bag of black rice from another mon woman, yellow ash daubs on her face.

At dusk a raft boat is towed out into the lake. Full of monks. Maybe going for a few days of peaceful meditation afloat on the water.

Two boys play a kind of cricket. Wickets a kind of tripod of twigs. The ball is a punctured yellow plastic one, the bad a stick. One of them is wearing a Man Utd shirt.

On the flat bridge a small group of Thais are dangling string with balls of bread in one of the gaps between the bamboo struts. Small children look on at their fishing.

In the dark on the bridge a teenager is listening to some western rock music on YouTube.

A policeman on a garishly lit Harley revs up illuminating the banana pancake man. His small daughter is standing on a box fingering the balls of dough.

I see women making handicrafts in doorways, whilst the men swing in hammocks.

Sangkhlaburi

I decide to change my plan and miss my flight to trang. I had too much pleasure being in nature and wanted more. My decision is reinforced when I go and talk to zita on her yoga mat on the lawn at her resort. Also it means I will avoid Fran for a while…I hope.

The mini bus to Sangkhlaburi isn't too painful at all and takes about 3 1/2 hours, the road getting lessons less busy and winding up the mountains and last lakes. In fact I'm the only passenger going to the end of the line. The midday. Sun is hot as I walk down to the lake and try to find a room. The resorts are either full or inappropriate. I get a room at the burmese in , which has bad write-ups, yet is affordable, has a great open restaurant, a chatty thai owner called Mel ( who is divorced form her Austrian husband, and dotes on her 21 year old daughter), and my room has a view of the narrow bridge that goes over to the non settlement. Very happy with this.

Even more happy with the area. The bridge is cool, and the mon village iss friendly and full of characters. I play football in the street with songporn,11, barefoot and his 10 year old brother, one shoe whilst a granny sews in her doorway. Dusk on the bamboo floating bridge. Kids swimming and fishing. Tour long tail boats coming in. Very relaxing.

 

 

 

 

 

Final day in kanchanaburi

Again I fail to get up early. My bed is hard and I'm groggy. A good sleep. I want to avoid the tourist crowd at erawan waterfalls, so having missed an early start, it makes sense to go there late in the day.

In the morning I ride out to a cave temple. You climb a flight of naga flanked steps to the mouth of the cave where the temple proper is. Then follow red arrows painted on the walls until you are on hands and knees crawling through spaces til you come to a vertical metal ladder. You climb about 3 metres through a tiny gap and then you are out on the top of the mountain looking over the river, kanchanaburi and the mountains beyond. This temple is famous for a floating meditating nun, but she's dead, and her replacement only does it when the crowds are there. So I don't see this!

Late morning is spent buying sweet fried things and iced coconut juice, which I snack on by the round pagodas next to the river. A boy of about 11 walks up and down the edge of the embankment and cheerfully says to me dee mai dee mai. He is catching fish using a plastic bag and is very pleased and proud of himself. I offer him a fried banana. He cautiously approaches, wais, then to my surprise he takes the whole bag. I'm too surprised to take bag at least a few,and anyway I think he will appreciate them. Off he goes then back, then off then back again this time beaming. He wants to show me his latest catch. In his bag is a large toad, dark green with a soft white belly, about 12 cm long. He takes it out for me to photograph. I ask him if he will eat it. He shakes his head. I wonder what he will do with it..

 

Final day in kanchanaburi

Again I fail to get up early. My bed is hard and I'm groggy. A good sleep. I want to avoid the tourist crowd at erawan waterfalls, so having missed an early start, it makes sense to go there late in the day.

In the morning I ride out to a cave temple. You climb a flight of naga flanked steps to the mouth of the cave where the temple proper is. Then follow red arrows painted on the walls until you are on hands and knees crawling through spaces til you come to a vertical metal ladder. You climb about 3 metres through a tiny gap and then you are out on the top of the mountain looking over the river, kanchanaburi and the mountains beyond. This temple is famous for a floating meditating nun, but she's dead, and her replacement only does it when the crowds are there. So I don't see this!

 

Late morning is spent buying sweet fried things and iced coconut juice, which I snack on by the round pagodas next to the river. A boy of about 11 walks up and down the edge of the embankment and cheerfully says to me dee mai dee mai. He is catching fish using a plastic bag and is very pleased and proud of himself. I offer him a fried banana. He cautiously approaches, wais, then to my surprise he takes the whole bag. I'm too surprised to take bag at least a few,and anyway I think he will appreciate them. Off he goes then back, then off then back again this time beaming. He wants to show me his latest catch. In his bag is a large toad, dark green with a soft white belly, about 12 cm long. He takes it out for me to photograph. I ask him if he will eat it. He shakes his head. I wonder what he will do with it..

 

 

 

School and sauna

Today I went to peter’s school, which I would never have found had Kaye, 27, a volunteer administrator not taken me there. Amidst the back streets behind the hospital, in a poor Burmese area on the due of town. The school is a concrete building with 3 teaching rooms, a library of very soiled second hand or hand me down books, each room giving onto the next, no doors. To the rear is a long area that serves as a kitchen, and where lined up are small plates of fish in sauce, the students’ lunch. On entering the building I find myself in a class, and also there is a long table which seems to serve as an admin desk. His is where Kaye works. Peters class numbers 16 and the students are an even mix of 17- 21 year olds. The boys mostly wearing longyis. They converse amongst themselves in English. Peter is rather paternal in manner and the students are called in turn to stand and address the class. They seem confident, expressive and imaginative, and are not fazed by my initial presence. Brian is another post 60 year old Ozzie and has a lower level class. He is doing a rather clumsy and pointless exercise in following instructions. A drawing dictation which doesn’t really go anywhere. I place my finished cup of tea on a flappy table chair top and it slides of crashing and smashing on the floor. How embarrassing, but nobody is perturbed. Peters lesson is about creative story writing, involves drama, characterisation etc. he doesn’t frame it very well, and the students that I talked to wre not entirely sure what it entailed. They act these out hen he gives them a similar task for homework. There are no language aims, but the fun element is there and the students seem quite content. I spend some time with Brian’s class and never have I sweated so much in a lesson, my salmon shirt is dark with perspiration.They are invitee ro ask me questions. you would expect them to ask the standard ones like : are you married? whats ypur name? but the first one was from a little boy with short hair, white shirt and purple longyi whi asks me “are you sort or long? ” he is talking about height…! what a strange opening gambit…anyway i explain that or a european im not veryfall. i ask him how tall he is and he replies “5 inches”! i ask him to to stand up. obviously he means 5 feet. interesting how the burmese use feet and inches.I discuss with them where I’m from. Their world geography is unsurprisingly minuscule. They know I’m a native speaker but they are guessing I’m from Spain. They think paris is a country in the uk etc…..

 

After break I talk at length with Kaye and learn about his life here. He is studying psychology at university, but finds it tough going. Critical thinking is a challenge, so too are very new and difficult concepts. He has been here for 7 years as a refugee. Most refugees have I’d cards issued by he Thai authorities and are restricted to the Mae sot area. There are immigration road blocks. In fact I encountered one on the way in. He is able to travel all of Thailand if he wishes. He tells me more about the cage, where he was once locked up, for not having his papers with him. There is no food provided there. He bailed himself out with 6000 baht. Twice a week the detainees are transported by boat back to Burma, and many of them just keep coming back. It’s like a yo yo. I learn from him about the Chinese food aid. This happens once a year. A few years ago it was so hectic that a baby died in the crush. There is also a yearly Muslim aid hand out too. I hear about the occasional antagonisms between local and Burmese workers and sporadic killings off migrant workers and hushed up burials. I tell him about my experiences in Burma and he acknowledges the inequality of the society, the self- interested power borking, the useless and corrupt police.

Brian’s second class is about business and trade. He models a transaction and introduces vocabulary in the context of trading mangoes for chickens. Interesting that when role playing the kids do not have much desire to make profits…..

At lunchtime the classroom is cleared out and 2 tables positioned for the 3 teachers, Kaye and myself. There are 3 simple dishes and rice prepared for the staff by the administrators and a student. We sit and eat,the students mill around the other rooms and eat their fish.

After lunch I circulate with my bags of longans and mangosteens, and sit with a group of boys and chat about English football. They ask my views on Alex ferguson, and why Liverpool and man utd hate each other. I get a a group photo then begin to show them pics of Brighton, not conscious that I’m cutting into their next lesson!

I make a gracious farewell and depart, getting lost on the way. It was nice being in a school where nobody is feeling under pressure to learn, where the mood is so relaxed, where the students are so open and smiley. I’m not sure about the methodology nor the language content. It’s all how I imagined an expat volunteer school to be. But, these students are producing English, are motivated and its a nice environment.

Cycling back I come across the end of Friday prayers at the mosque. Many cultures here, many religions! I’m now going to get out of my sweat soaked clothes, relax, then probably hit the sauna again.

On the way to the sauna I buy another half kilo of longans. The stall holder mimes to me how to eat them…as if I don’t know already! I’m an experienced longan eater now!

There are already 2 guys in the sauna. One has many boils or similar all over his back. The other talks to me through the fog. He is a police officer with Chinese blood. He has two grown up kids,his wife has a banana stall. He asks me if I’m married. I hate that question actually. It’s expected of me robe married at my age….anyway he says see you tomorrow as he leaves. Soon after the big guy who I saw last time arrives. The one who rocked around flapping his arms. He speaks quite good English. He is Karen, has been in Thailand 45 years and doesn’t want to go back.he has a Thai wife and 2 kids. He Gets changed into his coloured sarong again and begins once more the same pacing, flapping routine. Although he has put some money in the box, I don’t think he goes in the sauna.

After 5 or 6 ins and outs from the steam room, I’m done, I take some photos and wander the temple grounds. Back to base, where the mosquitoes are active this evening.