32: Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink!
The last couple of weeks have seen a few dramatic changes in the King's College of English teaching department at Jindaratana school. One of our Thai teaching assistants has returned to Bangkok leaving a hole ably plugged by M my teaching assistant from last semester. The rift between the Thai teaching assistants has been as obvious as it has been annoying for the past month or so. Lying, gossip and personality clashes have been high frequency occurrences of late, when you combine this with the Thai cultural necessity of forever 'saving face,' the results are laughable, in retrospect at least.
I came in on Monday morning and was surprised to be ushered into the Principle's office. The Principle is a great character at Jindaratana, her English is very limited but she usually manages a morning conversation of some sort. She loves karaoke and turns up to all parties with a mobile karaoke unit, complete with microphones, last I heard she had bought a THIRD microphone, she felt she wasn't getting enough singing time with only two! After entering the office I was presented to what looked like a space age computer and told to press my thumb down on an infra-red pad. The following morning, I was told to repeat the procedure, this time my thumb was greeted with a friendly 'pass' (in Thai) and 'Mr. Daniel Hinkley' written on-screen. School security is obviously of concern in Thailand - last week a mental patient was arrested in Bangkok after breaking into an all girl's school where she started randomly stabbing students - though Jindaratana having a hi-tech infra-red thumb print reader seems a little excessive when sometimes the school doesn't even have a drop of drinkable water! I suppose it could be explained by finding out where the funds for different aspects of school maintenance comes from. No more signing in for your friend if they're running a little late!
Wednesday and Thursday seemed to be a culmination of the rainy season, it rained for two days and one night solid. Just as I was thinking of popping down to Seven Eleven for some noodles, I'm sure I saw the Ark drifting past the window, the two animals dancing on the front of the boat with Noah? Monkeys of course. When I arrived at school on Monday morning, I had to battle against a wave of children all laughing and saying 'I go home' and heading in the wrong direction. Before I had chance to correct them "I'm going home" I was told that the school was Nam Tuem - flooded! While the floods hadn't actually made it onto school grounds, the school governors were worried that more rain would come; Friday was of course one of the clearest and sunniest days I can remember! Some students spent all day in school as their parents were unable to collect them, their jobs for the day included colouring, making flashcards, filing, I did consider for a moment asking them to mark their own work but decided that might be going a bit far!
It's (already!) been a year since I arrived in Thailand, and my contract finishes in two days, I have 'um'd' and ah'd' about what to do for the last few months without reaching any adequate solutions. In the end, my decision has been made easy, I'm still enjoying every minute out here, it's sunny, cheap to live and everyday is different; on top of this we're only half way through the academic year and to leave now would feel like a job half done. So I've extended my contract for a further six months. It's easy to qualify this decision with logic - it'll be easier to find a good job returning in March/April rather than September - but the truth is it just wouldn't feel right leaving now, completing the academic year will provide some closure more fitting to the whole experience.