The Adventure Chronicle


Getting back into the grind of school after what was essentially two weeks off it tough. Not only is it hard to pump yourself up for class, but the students have gotten used to no real expectations and are not happy to be herded into work.

This week also emphasizes all the tiny idiosyncrasies of Thai school that are so difficult to live with. There is a complete lack of information on anything, so something like the date of midterms is extremely difficult to figure out. Once you do find it and schedule your classes accordingly, you find out it’s a week later and now you’re left with no plan at all. Similarly, midterm week is a bad time to get ground down by Thai formality. Most of school here in Thailand is form and formality. My students spend the bulk of a period making sure that each line they make on a paper is completely straight, ruler tested. If I am not collecting a paper for grading and make no instructions on how to head it, bedlam is let loose! “TEACHER! TEACHER! Name? Class? Sideways? Vertical?” This is obviously a creation of the teachers and they seem to still have it ingrained in their own tendencies. Though I followed the template given to me, nearly perfectly, and though I made the test in front of 6 teachers, I was informed upon completion that I would need to make the test 2 parts: a question sheet and an answer sheet.

To be honest, this is all made more ridiculous by the fact that I am administering a midterm examination at all, considering my oldest student is 8 years old. Most of my babysitting… er, class time is spent singing the alphabet song or trying to teach the art of patty cake (see Scott Beatie’s truths about Thais for further information on the glaring lack of rhythm).

And this, so far as I can tell, is the Catch 22 of ESL teaching. Yes, it opens doors never imagined and stations you on the launch pad for adventure (we were just invited and are setting up a trip to Nagaland [yes, that’s a real place]), but in the meantime, you are stuck making minimum wage, living on a budget, counting down the days until your next trip in a job that makes security guarding look cerebral (I’ve done both). This truth of life is made all the most difficult by watching something like “The Long Way Round”- Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor’s trip from London to NY. There guys suck at adventuring, hell, they suck at traveling. They suck at talking into the camera and even though they have the best gear in the world, they suck at riding the bikes. Their trip is easy, producers facilitate travel in and out of countries, fixers make accessible fantastic sights, and the communities pull out all the stops to impress- and though Ewen keeps saying “I’m really in the trip now,” it’s unconvincing; and, frankly it’s disheartening. What a waste of opportunity turned sinful gluttony after a 7 class Tuesday. It’s hard to post on this site- it’s deeply personal and we have no experience or quality control help. Each update is potential embarrassment, yet 3 months in it already looks better than this fully funded TV show and yet we are watching them…

And of course, there isn’t even a 56k internet connection here, so in the last 12 hours of sitting in an internet cafe uploading episodes, we failed to complete one upload.

Ah the frustration of living in an upside down world; working an upside down job; and pooping in a plumbing-less hole. Just think of Koh Tao… think of Koh Tao…

Or, Nagaland? March is only 2 ticks away!


One response

  1. Tony Z, the elder

    Half way around the world, empathy abounds as the snows keeps piling on grounds, hallowed or no. “As the icy fang and churlish chiding of the winter’s wind, which, when it bites and blows upon my body, even till I shrink with cold, I smile.” Higher education’s latest fixation on assessment echoes Thai frustrations with management and midterms and minutia. Although Our Lady’s students won’t be here for another two weeks, this is the time for new year’s resolutions to meet more, planning to prepare plans for preparations for later meetings. One old Slovenian American repeats the words taught to him by his son, “Koh Tao, Koh Tao, Koh Tao, Koh Tao, boy, it’s kohled aotside,” then he smiles.

    January 5, 2010 at 10:22 am

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