Friday, November 2, 2012

chasing waterfalls + sport day

After our first “full” week we wanted to relax and see some of the sights around Tha Wang Pha. We knew there were a few waterfalls around the area and thought we’d check one out on Saturday. In the morning Ethan went for a run and ran into one of the deputy directors (assistant principles). He talked to him about going to the waterfall and the deputy (we still don’t know his name) offered to drive us. This was great news since we had no idea how to get there. He told us to he would meet us at 1pm to go to the Sila Phet waterfall.

So we got lunch and waited around until about 12:30. We walked over to the school and wandered around looking for Mr. Deputy. He was nowhere to be found. Hmmmmm? So we found a seat at one of the gazebos in front of the main office and waited. We had no idea where he was or where we were supposed to meet him so we just waited. At about 12:50 a truck pulls up and honks at us. It’s him. And his whole family. Crap! We did not realize this was going to be a family outing. We climb in and his wife (who works in the math department) introduces us to their son, daughter and her mother. They brought a picnic basket, a bunch of snacks and drinks. We’re not sure what we were expecting about this trip, but a family picnic definitely was not part of our expectations. Oh well…

We arrive at the waterfall and, like most tourist places here, there is a small market area where people are selling snacks and drinks. We walked up to the bottom of the waterfall and the deputy sees some friends of his across the river. He points and motions for us to cross. Hmmm… crossing a flowing river that’s about a foot and a half deep with a bunch of stuff in our hands. Should be interesting. We waded through the water slowly and carefully and made it to the other side unscathed. The deputy’s wife (can’t remember her name either) made lunch while their kids swam around in the shallow water. (Ethan- There was a Physics teacher there that was putting some whiskey back and ended up bringing the deputy director and me a number of rounds of "shots in a cup." More on him later.)  It was really quite beautiful despite the random piles of trash lying around. After a while we decided to walk up to the river to see more of the waterfall. It ended up just being more of the river, but it was slanted down so they call that a waterfall. Aside from being slightly creeped out by the jungle surrounds it was a nice walk. When we got as far as we could go we saw a bunch of kids jumping in at a deep part. Naturally, Ethan wanted to join in, so I watched while he jumped in a couple of times.

Jumping in the waterfall!
It started sprinkling after a while, but we figured it wasn’t a big deal so we stayed. The kids on the other hand started packing up and heading out. Should we go too? We didn’t really get why they were leaving. They were already wet from jumping in. By the time we were done contemplating the situation it started pouring. We high tailed it back to the picnic sight and helped the deputy and his wife get all the stuff around and started across the river. The teacher with the whiskey had a few too many drinks and fell over a few times as he was crossing. It was hilarious. He had the picnic basket, but by the time he got to the other side he had less than half of the things in the basket than he started with. Everyone thought it was really funny. Including us. We made it across again without falling over and made for the truck as quickly as we could. By the time we got there the rain had let up and it seemed like our rush to get out was all for nothing. We ended up leaving anyway and went back through the random cloud that was pouring down rain on the way back.  Overall, it was an awkward, but mostly enjoyable couple of hours with the deputy and his family. Now that we know how to get there, I imagine we’ll go back.

We spent the remainder of Saturday doing nothing. We spent all of Sunday doing more of nothing. I wasn’t feeling well, so we literally just spent all day lying around.

Tuesday was Sport Day here at Thawangphapittayakhom School. Sport Day is similar to field day, but with a few extravagant twists. The students have spent the last few weeks preparing for sport day. They even changed the school schedule so the students would have an hour at the end of the day to work on their various sport day projects. There were 6 different teams for sport day (we’re not sure how the kids are split up for the teams because there were students from every grade on each team) and each represented a different color. The teachers are also put on the different teams (not really sure how they decide this) and we were allowed to choose which color we wanted. Ethan was on the orange team and I was on the green team. On Sport Day the teams compete in track and field events as well as choreographed performances. Each team has a set of bleachers, which are decorated in their color and have giant painted surrounds. The surrounds are made of heavy paper and held up by bamboo – kind of like billboards. Every day after school the students have been practicing their performances, painting their surrounds, making props, practicing with their instruments and doing all sorts of random things to prepare for the days festivities.

The morning Sport Day parade!
On sport day, which started at 7:30am, the marching band and each team gather on the main street for the parade that officially starts Sport Day. Each team had a different theme and a bunch of random decorations. Some had floats and some just had a truck with some banners and students on it. Some were playing music and chanting and others just walked. It was a spectacle. We followed the parade on motorbike, which eventually ended up on the soccer field, and followed it back to the school. Once there, the band performed and they raised the various flags (one for Thailand, one for the school and one for the province of Nan – we think). A couple of people got up and spoke to the whole school – we have no idea what was said. As teachers we were allowed to hang out under the pavilion and watch all of the events. Thankfully there were snacks (delicious mini banana muffins) and water. At one point someone brought a couple of fans, which were lifesavers because even in the shade it was unbearably hot.

We watched the morning events and cheered for our teams. A lot of the kids ran without shoes on and some of them would randomly pass out or just stop running. We felt bad for them…it was so hot, but they would get rushed off the track, get a bunch of people to fan them and drink a bunch of water and before you knew it they were back on their feet. Each event was split up by age level so events like the high jump, javelin and discus took almost all day. They handed out medals as events were ending, which was pretty efficient, except there had to be someone to present the medals, which ended up being whichever teacher or staff member was nearby at the time. All four of us had to present medals at least once. We went out to lunch with one of the English teachers Kru Noi. She is one of my favorite teachers here. She’s always joking about things and making fun of us. I almost left my sunglasses at the restaurant and when I got back to the car from retrieving them she said “Oh my God. How old you are today?” She’s hilarious. Anyway, when we got back from lunch the events got much less exciting and the four of us just sat there in a post-lunch stupor for what seemed like forever. At one point I went back to our room and fell asleep for 10 minutes. It was bliss.

Skye-ke handing out the Gold.
During the afternoon events the students who were in the stands would do various chants and sing songs even though they were all playing music extremely loud (Ethan- They are 100% obsessed with Gangnam Style here and each team played it at least 5 times.) The performances were the last event of the day. They were entertaining, except the last few were interrupted by my least favorite event – the teacher relay. I had been dreading this since they told us about it last week. It was an 8 x 50 so we only had to run 50 yards, but just standing out in the sun for 5 seconds causes me to break into the most disturbing sweat attacks ever. I also had no shoes to run in and my plan was to say “Ehhhh sorry can’t run…I don’t have shoes!”, but no one seemed to care. Well Kru Rin said something about it hurting my feet, but then just walked away. Thanks for your help!! This was not going to be pleasant. They rounded us all up and told us what lane to run in and my teammates told me I’d be running 5th, which changed to 6th and back to 5th and then 6th again.

They shot the gun and the first people were off. I was already drenched in sweat from just standing there. The baton got to me and I attempted to run fast, but I really have no idea how fast, or slow, I was going. Fortunately, the guy I was handing off too moved toward me so it was over much faster. In the end, the green team got 2nd (yay!) and I didn’t hurt myself or sustain any serious damage due the intense amount of sweat that was expelling from my body. I got a seriously cheap silver medal for my efforts and a pat on the back from one of my teammates. After that they announced the winners for each age group and for the performances (I think). They were given trophies (all of which had soccer players on top) and giant boxes of cookies and various snacks. (Ethan- the orange team didn't fare too well in the relay as one of our teachers fell over just before she could pass the baton on, but THE ORANGE TEAM DID TAKE HOME THE GRAND PRIZE TROPHY OVERALL! FIRST PLACE! I also participated in the 100 yard dash among teachers, but the "ready, set, go" or whatever it was was in Thai so I got a terrible start and ended up 4th out of 8. Oh well, I have never been accused of being fast.)

All in all, it was a long, hot and entertaining day. While some of it was incredibly boring we would much rather have done that than teach that day.
From L to R: Team Red, Yellow, Orange, Purple, Green, and Pink

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