Friday, October 26, 2012

Farang ride motorbike (and first week of teaching)

It's Friday!! Hallelujah! It's been an.... interesting week.

We got the motorbike back on Monday and spent quite a bit of time practicing our motorbiking skills (ok...Ethan was driving the whole time so I didn't practice, but whatever) and riding about town. The motorbike makes a world of difference here because it's just too hot to walk or pedal bike. Anyway, we also started teaching on Monday!!
The entrance to the school complete with roundabout (freshly painted, but usually has a bunch of red arrows to show you which side to stay on), Buddha on the left, and a student on a motorbike getting to school on a Saturday. The students here love being at school before and after school and apparently on the weekends too...
We were told last week that we would have to introduce ourselves at the morning assembly. So we were kind of prepared for that, but it was still humiliating getting up in front of the entire student body as well as the staff and speaking a language that many of them don't understand. But it was over quickly, so we got over it. We spent the following hour or so in a meeting with the teachers we'd be working with, Kru Rin and some other English teachers. We went over our schedules and (Ethan and I) met our Thai co-teachers. We learned quite quickly that there English was not so good and that we were going to need to hear their names several more times to remember them.

Since we missed the first two periods on Monday I only had two periods to go to and Ethan only had one. It was a nice way to ease into teaching subjects in English. I teach 3 different levels of math and Ethan teaches biology, chemistry, and general science. The Thai school system works a bit differently than (I would say) most American schools. The secondary level is grades 7-12 - they call them matyoms 1-6. Within each grade there are different levels as well, which are designated by a letter a-h (a being the highest and h the lowest). So I teach matyom 4a, b and c as well as matyom 5a and h and matyom 1a and b. Each class does not meet every day, so it's a little confusing, but they gave us very helpful charts so we know what class we have and when it is. Ethan teaches a variety of grades and levels too. Some of the levels (as far as I can tell) are about the same as far as the behavior and skill level of the students, but there are some that are markedly different in skill level.

Another Buddha on the school grounds and one of the four academic buildings.
Each teacher expects us to help them teach math or science in English in a different way. One of my co-teachers has only had me explain some words and concepts in English, while one of them is having me create and teach the entire lesson (very daunting at first, but it went well...I think). Ethan is working with one teacher who barely speaks English and hands the class over to Ethan half way through (Ethan- without notice and with the words, "you teach now.") So it's a huge adjustment from what we are used to, but we are slowly figuring out how to make our way through each day. The hardest thing is knowing if the students understand what you're teaching. We try to talk slow, enunciate and use words they understand, but when you say "Do you understand?" Some say yes and some just stare at you like "What did she say?". (Is this real life?)

Tuesday was a holiday (Ethan- The holiday was for King Rama V, who is known as one of the greatest kings of Thailand and a king of kings. He really did a lot of amazing things and sounds very intelligent. One example is how he looked at America abolishing slavery and went about it slightly different to prevent a civil war. Look him up. He's also the king depicted in the movie, "The King and I."), so we tooled around on the motorbike most of the day and hung out. There isn't too much to do here in Tha Wang Pha, and Nan was just too far for a Tuesday. We took the bike out of town and when we felt like we were getting into no man's land we turned around. It was a nice break from the same things we see everyday. The mountains are incredible and it was all we could do to not just take off for them. :] We love mountains (except when we have to ride pedal bikes over them).

Taken from the English building looking at the Math building. The tile is new (you can see workers in the background on a Saturday) and they are doing a lot of other work on the school grounds to prepare for the princess to come to our school next month.
Wednesday and Thursday were pretty uneventful except for the wild goose chase to find somewhere to exchange the last of our US dollars. In order to get our work permits here the school has to send in a bunch of paper work as well as our passports, diplomas, transcripts and extra photos. So I asked if they wanted our actual passports or if we could make copies because we needed at least one of our passports to exchange money. Kru Rin was sure that we'd need to give her our passports and send them in and who knows how long it would take to get them back. So we asked if we could go when we were both free to exchange money. No problem. The head of the math department said she'd take us so we hopped in her car, but when we got to the bank they told her that none of the banks in Tha Wang Pha exchange money. Well that's highly inconvenient. But then another lady told her that the bank in Pua (the town north of us) exchanged money. So we got in the car and 10 minutes later we were in Pua - its actually bigger than Tha Wang Pha and we decided we needed to come back sometime to check it out - where they exchanged our money. By the time we got back Rin was in a meeting so we decided to wait until the next day to give her our documents. We gave them to her today and as I walked away she said "Do you want your passports?" I replied,"Don't you need to send them?""Oh no! We just make copy!!" - Things like this happen every day here. We are still getting used to the Thai phrase "mai pen rai" which means "its ok. no worries."Which brings me to another mai pen rai situation...

Picture from the Muay Thai ring with the football field in the background. The entire school gathers at the football field at the start of each day for the morning assembly. They listen to the King's anthem and the national anthem as the flag is being raised.
 When we got back to our apartment today Kristin, who's apt is right next to ours, noticed that her water wasn't working. There had been a construction crew here putting in some new bathrooms so we assumed they shut the water off and forgot to turn it back on because no one's water was working. So we went down to check it out, but couldn't figure out how to turn it back on. That same construction crew was now working at the school, so Kristin and Caitlin went to attempt to explain the situation. They seemed to know that the water was off, but didn't tell them when it would be back on. So Caitlin called Rin and told her to which she replied "Yes. No water anywhere! We have some though if you want to take a bath." (which means a bucket and a sponge). So apparently all of Tha Wang Pha has no running water and no one's in a panic about it or freaking out. Another situation in which all we really can say is "mai pen rai."

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