26: Three weddings and a 21st
The brief interlude in my diary posting is attributed to a two week holiday. I have used up all of my alotted 10-day paid holidays in one fell-swoop, and where did I go? Ho Chi Minh city trail blazing? The Angkor Wats? The Golden Triangle on which Myanmar, Laos and Thailand spectacularly converge? Wrong, wrong, and wrong again; I went to Cumbria, North England.
On signing up for a year in Thailand, I was obliged first to make a promise, return home for a couple of weeks in May to attend four inescapable celebrations. One was my girlfriend's eldest (oldest?) brother's wedding, the others included my Mum and Dad's AND my Auntie and Uncle's silver wedding anniversaries, and also a cousin's 21st. Two weeks of 'drink and be merry,' two weeks of visiting the family over tea and scones, two weeks of nippy but customarily comfortable Cumbrian weather.
The contrast couldn't have been sharper from Bangkok's muggy smog to Cumbria's fresh idyllic greenery. It was great to see everyone at home again and I really enjoyed the two week break. During the holiday I was (constantly) made to face up to the question which has been creeping ever closer in the back of my conscious thoughts, "when your contract finishes and you come back to England, then what will you do?" My answers varied, the most honest being "I don't really know yet" and the most interesting being "I'm going to start my own company and monopolise the market selling Thai whisky to the Scotch." Two drawbacks, Scottish whisky drinkers are already rather spoilt for choice, and Thai whisky tastes like paint stripper mixed with methanol.
This is however a serious question which the potential EFL teacher must give due consideration. When accepting a position in a far off land teaching a subject for which you have had only 5 weeks training, the last thing on your mind is "what will I do when I finish?" That said, I am now at the stage when it is becoming an issue and, for the moment, the question seems as rhetorically unanswerable as "what is the meaning of life?" Four months still seems long enough to continue to delude myself that "something will come up" though the likeliness of that happening is diminishing daily.
Jindaratana school is re-opening after their two month summer break which means that, on my return from England, I will be back in LopBuri once more. It's up and leave again, I feel like I have moved house more often than a nomadic snail recently. I have enjoyed slipping back into the Bangkok lifestyle where everything and anything is available (as long as you are prepared to battle through the worst traffic and smog I have ever seen). The teaching has been challenging and fun, I have especially enjoyed teaching adults and high level students while improving my grammatical comprehension. We have even had some celebrity students at King's College including Prime Minister Taksin's daughter!
LopBuri is where I have felt most at ease while working and living in Thailand. A small, very friendly, traditional Thai community provides the experience which I was looking for when applying for TEFL positions. However, now it's time to go back there for my final four months, I am a little apprehensive; can I survive without the Westernized material comforts (such as English speaking friends) provided in the Thai capital?
Another reason why going back to Jindaratana will cause me a little anxiety is, until now, a story untold. Last time I was in LopBuri, you will remember (if you followed earlier postings) that I was attempting a short play of 'The Three Little Pigs.' The play was fine and went down quite well with the 300 or so parents present who seemed impressed, the problems began with the rap "Huff Puff houses" which followed. With a dance routine specially prepared and the rap pre-recorded, I felt reasonably confident. The star of the show, a primary six student approached the stage looking like a hulking 50 Cent, I was waiting expectantly for the opening lyrics "Huff Puff houses are made of straw/They end up flat on the forest floor/Huff puff houses are made of sticks/If the wolf comes by you're in a fix" when instead, a shocking Linkin Park song came over the speakers at FULL VOLUME! As the parents collectively reached for their ears in a state of shock, the terrible truth dawned on me. The 'star' thought himself 'too cool' for our sad little rap and had exchanged it for a song of his own, meanwhile he was break dancing on stage with the other students looking on bewildered.
I have to say as soon as my anger passed I found the whole thing very amusing and had to salute the student's somewhat asinine bravery. Afterwards, the Thai head of department uttered the words which confirmed that it was a complete failure, "never-mind, next time it will be ok!" It remains to be seen whether the incident is mentioned again or conveniently forgotten!
Finally, though as a Man U fan it pains me, I must give a mention of congratulations to Liverpool football club who last week lifted the coveted Champions League trophy. As I looked on from a packed out Chinese restaurant in Liverpool (the only place we could get in which had a T.V screen) the cheering was deafening as the penalty shoot-out brought home the victory. The wild scenes of celebratory dancing and singing on the streets of Liverpool afterwards were unforgettable.