10: Monkey business
Two weeks in LopBuri and I now know why Thai people sniggered when I told them where I was moving to. The old town centre is crawling with monkeys. Many people warned me not to carry anything (digital camera, MP3 etc) at arms-length; I didnt really think anything of it. However, four days ago I was walking down the high street minding my own business while carrying a plastic bag containing a bottle of water. Quick as a flash a monkey jumped from the electric wires above my head, ran up behind me and whipped the bag straight out of my hand! I turned round to see the little rascal actually unscrewing the bottle top and drinking from the bottle neck!
There are three different factions of monkeys living in LopBuri with three different hierarchal structures. This makes for lots of fighting over food and territory. The faction that has based itself inside the Phra Prang Sam Yot (pictured below) and the Phra Kan Shrine are known to be friendly towards humans as tourists here can buy provisions for 20 Baht with which to feed the monkeys.
The Phra Prang Sam Yot attracts many tourists in LopBuri (as much for the monkeys as the architecture!) and dates from the fifteenth century. The central pagoda (tower) was renovated into a Buddhist temple of the Mahayana sect by King Narai the Great in the Seventeenth-Century.
The first two weeks at Jindaratana School (pictured below) have been hectic to say the least. Sarah and I (along with our Thai teaching assistants M and Ju) have been busy setting up everything at the school concerning the English programme, from the positioning of whiteboards to the syllabus. All the while trying to get used to LopBuri life, which is very different to that in Bangkok (there are no taxis or tuk tuks!).
So far, I am really enjoying the teaching, much more than I did in Bangkok. I have my own classes here so its fun getting to know the students more and more. It is also really exciting seeing how a traditional Thai school operates and integrating myself into this, both academically and socially. It was enlightening to see the school giving food to the local monks last week. (The school does this on the first Friday of each month). All 800 students of the school and 60 teaching staff joined the monks for prayer before filling the monks baskets with everything from home-made cakes and special Thai delicacies to Mars bars and cans of Pepsi!
I am spending a lot of time through the week at the school but our weekends are left free, which gives us a perfect chance to see more of Thailand! Look out for evidence of this in next week's posting!