Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What the heck have I been up to?

The school year has been winding down here, and this is the last week for students, just wrapping up testing and doing celebration stuff now, my 4-6 graders will be taking a trip to the beach near Bangkok next week (though I shan't be going, as I will be busy greeting my family at the airport! Whoop!), and everything school is pretty much over until mid-May.

I have had a conversation with the folks at the Aw-Baw-Daw and explained my conflicting feelings and reached a resolution. That is, the Nayoke (head honcho) had twisted my desire to teach an English class once a week to interested adults in the community once a week into my coming to the Aw-Baw-Daw to teach the staff there three times a week. At first this was OK, but as time went on, I grew frustrated as it became apparent the staff had no real interest in practicing English, and though I enjoyed hanging out with them, my three afternoons a week there were preventing my participation in other activities, and the farang in me made it difficult for me to not do what I had agreed to do. Anyways, I pretty much laid this all out, trying hard to emphasize that I wasn't angry about this, but that it was a situation for me, and ended up with a happy arrangement to come hang out when I'm free, but not to sweat the teaching stuff and the schedule.
Then I went to the sports day with the Aw-Baw-Daw staff and about 50 people from all over the tambon (as well as the other 7 tambons) and had a blast playing relay games and winning more medals than some countries got in the olympics (I'm assuming there were some that got zero, right?).

I have found an outlet for my Dance Dance Revolution prowess in the local aerobic dance group (a group of mostly mee-baans [housewives, though I'm sure most of them do work outside the house, too]). This is similar to the aerobic Issan dance group I stumbled across a while back, but it's even closer to my house, and involves loud techno remixes of techno songs (only in Thailand, eh?) instead of traditional-er music. And they meet every evening. So I'd like to make a more regular appearance there.

I also found out that one of my matayom 1 students (that's equivalent to 7th grade, I was told she is 15 years old) is getting married (well, she actually got married the other day), which threw me for a loop. I got laughed at by some other teachers for being surprised, and at first I thought this meant that they weren't surprised and were totally cool with it, but it just occured to me that laughing at an uncomfortable situation is a very Thai thing to do, so perhaps it's more like that instead of Eli being the silly farang.
Anyhow, the rumor was that her husband is a 24 year old soldier (her being 15 sits slightly better with me than my original thinking that she was 13, though I'm not exactly sure of her [or his] age). When I first mentioned this to some of you folks in the states, it was questioned if this was an arranged marriage (because why else would a kid get married?!), but I'm 99% sure this wasn't the case. I haven't heard anything about arranged marriages here, though men do pay a dowry to the family of the girl. What I do know is that this particular girl had numerous boyfriends (my counterpart was pointing out all the broken-hearted boys at school) and it is my (completely unfounded) assumption that she managed to get pregnant (I couldn't come up with a tactful way to inquire about this), and that marriage was the best way to save face.

So, "Wow."

My frustration with my counterpart at the matayom school kinda peaked, as I realized that this year at that school has essentially been a complete waste of my time, and I have vowed to myself to do things differently.
I have heard other volunteers express complaints about their counterparts expecting the volunteer to do all of the teaching on their own and frequently leaving the room while the volunteer teaches, effectively eliminating the sustainability aspect of the arrangement. I have experienced the opposite, with her expressing no desire for me to teach and more or less ignoring or twisting my advice and suggestions into something very nearly worthless. I feel like there is a lot of greng-jai between us, and maybe this is not really the way she wants things to be, but we have established such a routine of me doing nothing that I really feel bound by it. My decision for next year is that, in my most face-saving way, I am simply going to tell her that I will teach 2 days each week I am there and perpare for those lessons independently, and supply her with copies of my planning. Any additional time I am there, I would like to work with other teachers in the school and prove to them that I am not the incompetent, worthless lump that I feel they perceive me to be.

Hoo. That's a bit of a rant, ain't it? I'm serious about teachers thinking I'm incompetent, though. I think that they think I cannot speak a lick of Thai and hardly attempt to communicate with me, either addressing me with the most basic questions and statements ("It's hot, isn't it?" "Are you hungry?") or not even attempting to speak to a non-native speaker and going along in Thai that I have no hope of following, addressing my counterpart to translate to me instead. And the shock another teacher expressed when she saw me practicing reading and writing Thai and her confusion when I asked how to spell a word (she started trying to explain what it meant, then instead of telling me how to spell it, she wrote it down for me to copy). I dunno. Maybe it's not so much that they have a low opinion of me, but that I have a low opinion of my role at that school and I'm imposing that low opinion on other people. Next year WILL be better.

This weekend I will travel to my friend's site in Issan to celebrate with him as he becomes a monk for a little while (something that all young Thai men do and many volunteers decide to do). I am planning on doing this myself, as well, in October. This will be my first "bpuat pra" (monking) since training, and my first one for a volunteer ever, so I'm looking forward to it.

Anyhow, I'm at school right now (I played some game with kids already and there's no teaching happening today), and I think someone else is waiting for the computer, so I'm gonna wrap this up.

Hey family! C'mon already! Though I'm sorry that the timing is corresponding with the air being really bad (I hope it rains in the next week! Though it hasn't really rained for months now), and it's too bad you're leaving before Song Kran, but it's all good, na? I'm really looking forward to seeing you!


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