Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I'm learning slowly. Some things have been easier to learn than others. Some of the bus routes most useful to me, for instance - I've picked up on. With over 500 bus routes, that's not a small feat. I've been called the 'bus queen' already, though I hardly think I know that much. Mostly I'm determined to learn to use the public transit I have access to (the sky train runs parallel to where I need to go); and I've been frustrated by enough taxis and tuk tuks that if I have time I'll sometimes wait an hour for a bus instead of hailing a taxi when traveling alone; despite relatively small savings between the two for shorter trips.

Other aspects of culture and adjusting have been more difficult. For instance, advance notice does not really exist in Thai culture for every day activities. The general time frame for finding out your presence is required somewhere, is to be told ten minutes after it starts, or after it's already over, and this is a recurring theme. After school today I was informed I was starting some private lessons, for example, approximately ten minutes after they should have started. I agreed to start private lessons previously and asked to know a day or two ahead of time when they would begin - knowing to a degree of about 50% that receiving notice probably wouldn't happen, but still hoping. Even when you request notice for things and are told yes, sure we'll tell you - it won't happen very often. Aside from such official things as weddings - time is very fluid, and even then.

School convocations are a similar need-to-know sort of thing. You might or might not have advance warning when there will be a school convocation - and unlike such events in the states where classes are herded to the event by their teacher, watched over during the event, and then escorted back - here the school is pretty much turned loose to attend the event, even for half the school day, or allowed to simply leave school for the day if they wish. Teachers are given the option of whether or not to release their students for a convocation. Though when a classroom of 12 year olds hears the head mistress tell you, "it's up to you whether to have class or let them go and take a look," the sound check of the concert has bass that is vibrating the entire campus, and they see you are the only thing standing between them and 'sanuk,' it's kind of a losing battle to even try to have a class.

I'm glad I didn't do much advance lesson planning before arriving. The bulk of my English class is grammar drills straight from the book - and though I'm trying to work more into it than just going straight through the required book, it's slow going. In computers class, for one of the videos the students did - they parodied my grammar teaching for about ten seconds. I would best describe their impression of my teaching as "Past Perfect Grammar Nazi." Oh well, I'm trying guys - though I laughed out loud when they first showed me the video.
Since they have another section for reading, and another section for speaking, I can't make the class too heavy in either of those areas - but it's also not practical to do it without those aspects at all. Computers class is another story - though the future computer room in our new building, as opposed to the cross the school yard commute to the 'old' building, is looking good so far - now there is flooring AND tables AND the beginnings of electrical and internet connections; and it's a really good sized room - not barely fit all the students and desks in as many classrooms are. Yes, you have to account for the equipment, it still looks promising. I stopped asking when it would be finished over a month ago - we'll just see. Computers curriculum is a story for another day.

I've learned that when a Thai tells you, in English, 'tomorrow,' a more correct English to English translation is: "someday between tomorrow and six months from now." I'm learning to ignore the Thai concept of 'tomorrow' and mentally replace 'tomorrow' with "someday, not today" because otherwise I go crazy. I've also learned of many more stories of visas and work permits - and that my current conundrum is not only very common - it's much, much better than many other situations. I recently met someone whose agency keeps their employees illegal indefinitely. And yes, plenty of teachers have taught illegally in Thailand for years - I'm not messing with that. From the sound of things everyone works illegally for at least three months at some point. Talk about complete culture difference.

I finally have my computer back, so I'm slowly catching up with photos, lessons, and the like. There's only so much you can do in an internet cafe. I've also finally gotten a chance to get out and meet some people outside my apartment building and school. Why so long? See what I said about advance notice in paragraph two. More later.

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