27: Monkeys, geckos, and pink ladies
You know you're back in LopBuri when you're accosted by a band of baying street monkeys after leaving the mini-van transport from Bangkok. With two weeks in England under my belt, I arrived back in LopBuri refreshed, sweating, and ready for the challenges which undoubtedly lay ahead.
I had been feeling apprehensive about moving back to the place which had already fulfilled my romanticised ideals of EFl teaching, but as soon as I saw the tawdry golden monkey statues, apprehension passed. Arriving back in LopBuri I immediately felt like I was back where I was meant to be. Living in Bangkok is a wonderfully relaxed and laid-back lifestyle but it did not provide me with the sense of easy well being and comfortable belonging inexplicably provided by LopBuri's provincial society. When using the term 'provincial' to describe the people of LopBuri I don't mean to say that they are of limited outlook or lacking in foresight, rather that they remain blissfully untarnished by the material world of contemporary culture.
That said, things are certainly changing here in LopBuri. At the school we now have three native speaking English teachers rather than two, and the new staff room is 'big enough to swing a cat.' The Thai teaching assistants with whom we had become such good friends and work colleagues have been called back to work at their respective King's College branches in Bangkok, which means we now have three new Thai staff sharing the staff room. I have also noticed a change in the students, while walking around the school they run up shouting 'good-afternoon teacher!' Gone are the days when we as 'farang' were seen as being 'different, strange and unapproachable.' I am yet to decide whether this is a good or bad thing, on saying 'hello' for the twelve thousandth time en-route from staff room to class room, I am inclined to believe the latter!
There is also a noticeable change in the dynamic of the LopBuri social scene. Where as in the first four month semester here I bumped into another foreigner English speaker only once, in the first three weeks back here, my weekends have been largely taken up 'putting the world to rights' in LopBuri's newest street-side bar which seems to double as the social centre of the new ex-pat community! The last couple of months have been witness to an upsurge in native speaker teaching positions in LopBuri and now there are around 8-10 teachers who regularly meet over a frothing beer Singha, with ice of course. It's good to have the option of meeting with other native speakers occasionally and LopBuri is large enough it seems to lead separate lives when you don't feel like socialising.
As far as the teaching is concerned, I am very happy to be back in the Jindaratana classroom. My vocal chords found the leap from 10-12 students to 26 again a bit of a shock, and I've had to grade my language back down to a greater simplicity in order to be understood. The unrelenting timetable of 'extra-curricular' activities is back in full swing. Last weekend I visited jet sow noi (seven little sisters) waterfall with a teacher named Joy and her lovely family. Here (unsurprisingly) I embarrassed myself, in attempting to kick water at Joy's daughter, instead I kicked a rock and cut open my big toe. The next ten minutes were taken up by the Thai teachers fussing around applying a plaster and making sure I was ok! I can only imagine what would happen if I did myself a serious injury.
The following Saturday was Khun Jum's (the school owner's) birthday which was celebrated by all 65 teaching staff, 61 of whom are female. Two bus loads of us went to Ayutthia (the former Thai capital city one hour south of LopBuri) all dressed in bright pink (the choice of the birthday girl), when other teachers started to say the bright pink colour suited me was when I started to worry! We visited five wats before taking a dinner cruise down the Choa Phya river, the boat was of course equipped with high volume karaoke! Just when I thought the day couldn't get any more surreal, Sarah and Deborah (the two other native speaking teachers at Jindaratana) proceeded to teach the Thai teachers how to dance the Macarena!! 61 Thai female teachers all clad in pink doing karaoke and the Macarena and the King's College speech left in my hands, just an average weekend in LopBuri life I suppose!
Last week was most notable for an extremely large gecko who had somehow found its way into the staff room. Although Gecko's are generally very helpful and amusing animals (they are friendly and even help repel the cockroach population) this one's colour scheme of bright blue streaked with striking red spots made me a little nervous. My attempt at catching it in a cardboard box failed miserably and it has now spent the last week hiding behind a notice-board.
With regards to the rap-show-gone-wrong incident (from posting-26 Three weddings and a 21st) I have not heard a peep. Sarah on the other hand was called into the principle's office and made to watch the whole thing again on video! The language barrier made any comment on the fiasco impossible which is probably for the best!