22: The bright lights of Bangkok

I wake up feeling dozy after a fitful night of unrest, the heat’s thick enough to cut, it's just too hot to get any proper sleep. The first thing I see as I go for a shower is the new superhighway being constructed over an absurdly busy road, the little people working on it look like ants and the giant pieces of cement like small Lego bricks.

I leave the apartment and walk down Soi 68 on Sukhumvit Road, picking up my daily breakfast of pork and sticky rice on the way. After skillfully removing the fat from the pork (the fat is equal to approximately 60% of the total content) I walk to the bus stop while eating. The bus is non-air-conditioned and costs the princely sum of 4 Baht, it is however rammed full of people all heading for "On Nut," the furthest South-Easterly station on Bangkok's Sky Train system, the BTS. The driver of the bus' foot must be weighed down with cement; his harsh use of the age old brakes sweeps everyone toward the front of the bus like the crowd at the front of ACDC gig.

After jumping, and I do mean jumping from the bus (the bus never actually comes to a halt, you have to time your exit to perfection) and climbing the stairs I join the throng of people in the queue for a Sky Train ticket. 20 Baht and 10 short minutes later, I am whisked to my destination, Phrom Phong. On the stairs to the sky train, a chewing gum company gives away packets of its latest product, amusing to see everyone impersonating Alex Ferguson and chewing in unison at 8.30 am.

At Phrom Phong, towering glass doors are opened for me by a kind gentleman in a white suit and top-hat, I am in the Emporium shopping plaza, perhaps the most lush shopping centre in Bangkok and home to the Emporium branch of King's college.

I meander along over-polished floors and lazily cast my eye over the window displays for 'Prada,' 'Gucci,' 'Rolex' and 'DKNY' while thinking how far removed this is from my journey to Jindaratana in LopBuri. The express lift swiftly delivers me to floor number nine, its high speed causing nauseating motion sickness. My first lesson begins at 9.00 am, a three hour summer school with junior learners.

The scene as I enter the class-room is of 7 children between the ages of 7 and 11. One is playing on his 'Gameboy Advance,' one is combing her hair in a pocket mirror', two are playing an infra-red game on their mobile phones and the other three are playing 'top trump' cards. In fairness they responded well to my asking them kindly to put their 'toys' away, on the third (and final) time of asking, they did exactly that!

The lesson was good fun, the students are much higher level in Bangkok and their exposure to English happens with greater regularity, they listen to dreary English pop, ride the sky train alongside English speaking business-men, and more often than not have parents for whom English is used in the workplace. It is a nice change in teaching, the emphasis is on grammatical accuracy and creativity in the classroom is demanded. Because the children have been attending language school for years, they get bored easily and know fine well when you’re sauntering through lessons.

In the afternoon I have two ITC’s. That is intensive or ‘one-to-one’ lessons with two very different children. One is the ideal student; the other is the very antithesis. One student will willingly embark upon any task asked of him and approaches everything with a commendable enthusiasm and verve. ‘The other’ as I will refer to him, spends ten minutes pulling doughnuts on a wheeled chair repeating ‘go home, go home, go home’ he does this before I have even said good afternoon! Since this first day I have taught both students for several lessons and, in fact, ‘the other’ has become my favourite of the two!

As I leave Emporium I am surprised (as I am continually) by the heat, by the time I get home I drag my perspiring shell straight into a cold shower. The options for the evening festivities are slightly different to LopBuri, in fact the options are endless, mine’s a bottle of Singa.

Dan

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