English All Day - Temple Festival finances - National Tests - LCD Projector - Mushroom Project
01.02.2010 - 06.02.2010 33 °C
Monday 1st February
I walked to school this morning and when I passed the temple I noted how all the staging and nearly everything else had already been cleared away. A gang of workers were busy taking down the awnings and the pathways were being swept.
Many children were absent from school today because of the Mor Lam last night. Apparently it is always lthis every year after the Festival.
I was collected from school by Noi, one of the teachers at Nongkaem secondary school about 20 minutes’ drive away on the other side of Meuang Phon. She had invited me to take part in their English All Day day and I was looking forward to it.
I knew that I was also to give a lesson to Mattayom 3 class and as soon as I arrived at the school I went into their classroom to begin my lesson. Lunch was a special one. Normally at the school the teachers would eat together in the same area as the students, but today, perhaps because I was their guest, the teaching staff had lunch on the balcony where I was introduced to the other members of staff and to the school Director. Unusually, beer was also served during lunch.
By the end of lunch, and to my surprise, the students in the English group had been assembled in the shade in and open-sided building. They were sitting cross-legged in rows in class groups. Their ages ranged from about 7 to 17. I thought my involvement would be with smaller groups, but not so. After Noi had made introductions I had a microphone thrust into my hand and had to introduce myself to the students. Actually, that wasn’t such a problem as it may sound because it has happened twice before now and I have wised up to local ways somewhat.
What was more difficult was thinking of things to say to the students off the cuff. There was no black/whiteboard or any other resource to fall back on like there is in the classroom. Luckily, Jarunee had come with me to the school and she too had a microphone and between us we kept the students happy and speaking as much English as possible for the rest of the afternoon.
There was a photo session afterwards and I felt a bit film star-ish with student after student wanting to have his/her photo taken standing alongside me and different groups posing around me.
All in all it was a good day. Noi drove me and Jarunee back but before dropping me off at home we called in at the Bayar restaurant where I have been twice before. We had a few beers and some food and a good chat. It was a nice end to the evening.
In passing, you might be wondering, as I was, how the Temple Festival was financed. It turns out there is a annual community contribution of 1000 Bhat per household (about £20). The event this year cost something around 500,000 baht (about £100,000) according to Songsak as he is head of the Tambon and is therefore privy to the figures etc. Some years the budget can be twice that which is amazing when you think about it as Ban Chad is only a village.
I asked Songsak if Committees for this sort of thing, or any other, existed and the species seems to be an alien concept here. In the case of the Festival, the structure and performances remain the same as the show is intended to celebrate Esarn culture. The Temple grounds might be quite large compared to some but there is still only so much space and only certain locations will fit the huge stages that are erected for the Mor Lam and the Likay Dancing etc.
Tuesday 2nd February
Today saw the start of the Pratum 6 National Tests for Ban Chad school and the other 4 schools in our education area group. Pratum 6 students from the other schools came to my school to sit their tests and some of the other schools provided extra staff as well. Because of this all the classes for the other students had been cancelled so once the exam was underway the school was very quiet. I spent most of the morning on the internet.
About 1.30, after lunch at school, I went with Songsak in his car to the flower shop and I was surprised when I walked in the door of the shop to find Nee, the traffic policeman and his wife and another woman, having lunch and drinking beer. They invited me to have something to eat with them but I said no because I had already had lunch. In any case, the whole point of me going to the shop was to access the faster internet to upload photos to my blog. Although I didn’t have any food I was persuaded to have some well iced Leo beer.
Around 6.45 the shop was closed and Songsak drove me and Nee to the 369 steak restaurant on the edge of town. Nee had won again on the lottery and dinner was going to be on her. Before reaching the restaurant Songsak had said that he wanted to compare their steaks with those he cooks at home. In the event, he didn’t have a steak, but I did. I chose beef, but Ostrich steak was one of the other offerings on the menu. My steak was tastier than Songsak’s because it had some fat marbling and it was cut thinner which made it easier to slice and eat. The steak came with fries, a nice salad and a dinky bread roll and a small rectangle of butter. To be honest, it was nice to have a western dinner, my first since coming to Thailand.
The Songsak’s ordered a large plate of fresh salmon neat slices of which were piled high on top of a salad. They also ordered a couple of spicy Thai dishes. Just after I finished my steak Nee ordered a plate of spaghetti Bolognese for me. I can only imagine that she did this because she thought my steak, fries, salad and roll were not enough for me. I had a few spoonfuls of the rather runny spag bol just to be polite but I didn’t really want any.
Overall it was a very nice evening and Songsak and I shared a large bottle of Heineken between us during dinner and we had a good chat. Towards the end of the evening Songsak announced, in the way that he is apt to do late at night, that I would soon be starting to teach three Pratum 6 students who are the children of friends of Nee’s. He wants me to teach them English Communication for one hour apiece between 9 and 12 on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I would be paid 300 baht (about £6) an hour. It is not as though my weekends now are full of engagements or anything but it would have been nice to be asked before arranging the teaching. The consequence of this new arrangement is that a weekend trip I had been planning to visit a friend in Nong Bua Lamphu will now have to be made during the week and Songsak has, surprisingly, given his blessing to this. But I will make sure I am back in Ban Chad to go to my classes at Hun Yai on Thursday. I am not sure yet whether I will do this trip this weekend or next.
On our way home from the steakhouse we happened to find ourselves following a rescue vehicle which stopped along the busy main road not far from the turn-off to Ban Chad. The rescue crew stopped to help at a motorcycle accident, the third I’ve seen since coming to Ban Chad.
Wednesday 3rd February
No classes again today as more students were doing their National Tests so I spent a good chunk of the morning on the internet. It was also an oppressively hot day today.
Songsak is planning to get an overhead LCD projector for Ban Chad school which he will buy out of his next budget which opens next month. He has done some research to choose which make and model and has settled on an Epson EB-X6 projector which suits all the school’s needs. I also did some research on this projector during an idle moment and discovered to my surprise that it is far cheaper to buy it in the UK than in Thailand. Nearly £200 can be saved for the school if this can be done and then there is the VAT saving on top of that. I am now trying to find a UK company willing to export the projector but it is proving difficult so far.
After lunch I went to Khon Kaen with Songsak and his wife who had to get more flowers for her shop. I took the opportunity to visit Boots as there isn’t one in Meuang Phone. We were back in Ban Chad by 6.45 and had supper.
Thursday 4th February
It rained overnight which freshened the morning up a bit. Disappointingly there were no classes for me at Hun Yai this morning because of Mattayom 3 taking their National Tests. I hope my classes do not lose momentum with a break of two weeks!
I stayed at Ban Chad school all day though there was precious little for me to do except work on the internet and devise some simple grammar tests for next week.
Friday 5th February
Most of the morning at school was taken up with the start of some mushroom growing between the rows of banana trees in the school garden and all the older students assisted in this new project. The first step was to clear the ground of leaves and weeds between the banana trees and lightly dig it so soften the earth.
The next step was to make some brick-like bases out of a fibrous compost. Compost was placed into a wooden mould and frequently watered while it was compressed by hand into an almost solid brick. A row of twelve was made between each banana tree.
Some powdered and some liquid fertiliser was then spread between the bricks and then the mushroom spoors, which had been mixed with more compost in a large bowl, were scattered between them as well. Everything was well watered again.
Plastic sheeting was laid on top and straw was layered on top of the plastic. The idea is that the bricks support the plastic and the wet compost will produce a humid atmosphere in the heat of the day to encourage mushroom growth. Two kinds of mushrooms spoors were used on separate rows of compost bricks and it will be between 4-5 weeks before anything can be harvested. I took a number of photographs which will be in my gallery very soon.
And talking of photos, I must apologise for the delay in getting my Muay Thai videos into the video gallery but I have tried numerous times and for some reason the upload is never completed so I am now planning to place them into my youtube.com video gallery and will give you the link here, in a journal entry, as soon as I have done it.
Back home I did some work in my room and continued after supper. About 9.30 Songsak knocked on my door and said that his cousin Thon was at Khun Geaow and he had invited us both to have a drink with him. Had the extra tutoring still been happening on Saturday and Sunday I would not have gone but I thought why not ? and got changed.
Khun Geaow was busy and the band were playing as always. Thon was there with a former teacher from Hun Yai and he had obviously had quite a few whiskies. He grabbed me as soon as I arrived and began talking at me. It is not too bad at first and I am always mindful of not upsetting him as I like his school, very much. But after a while he got too much and became repetitive and annoying though I tried to keep my thoughts and feelings to myself just like a Thai person would but it was hard work.
Despite Thon, it was quite a pleasant evening though I was still feeling quite tired. We left about 11.30 but Thon wanted us all to go into Meuang Phon to continue the fun and so we drove there. I was doubtful that any nightspot existed in Phon. It turned out that the one and only place was a karaoke lounge and the only customers were a young couple and he was singing out of tune to a video on a huge screen with the lyrics at the bottom for him to follow. I prayed and hoped that Thon would not be interested in staying there and, after about 10 minutes of discussion, we left and went our separate ways home. We got home just before midnight.
Saturday 6th February
Songsak, his wife Nee, and I drove to Phi Mai a large and ancient Khmer site located to the north east of Khorat. It is one of the oldest Khmer sites in Thailand. It took about one hour to get there and on the way it rained heavily for a while and I thought of all the bad luck to pick a rainy day to go to Phi Mai where I was hoping to get some good photos. The rain turned out to be a shower and a few minutes later there was no trace of it on the road.
Phi Mai is set in a park and it has been carefully restored in the sense that some walls have been rebuilt or supported with scaffolding. Debris from fallen corbelled roofs has been taken to storage and not replaced. The site was built in the 9and 10th centuries and was modelled on The Bayon which is part of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. A selection of photos will be in my gallery soon.
When we arrived at the site it was teeming with Thai teenage students but, luckily, although they often posed for photos they did not do so in front of any of the statues or entrances as the Japanese and Korean tourists did to my great annoyance when I visited Angkor Wat two years ago.
After visiting the site we got back into Songsak’s car and it was baking hot. I am sure I could have baked my cake in the car! We drove the short distance to the Museum which contained a lot of artefacts found at Phi Mai and elsewhere and there were very interesting timelines of Esarn (or Isaan as other spell it) development over the centuries.
For lunch Songsak sought out a restaurant that offered the local delicacy. This turned out to be duck which had been roasted and then flattened and then chopped into mouth size pieces bones and all.
I don’t know what it is about bones here but having travelled to a number of SE Asian countries I have observed how they all love to suck or gnaw bones. If the chicken or duck were dismembered in the way we know in the West then that would be ok for me but trying to eat a nicely roasted bird where every mouthful contains bits of bone shrapnel takes me ages and definitely does not make the meal any more enjoyable.
On the way home we saw another accident. This time a van had flipped onto its side though I have no idea why or if there were any injuries etc. We were home by 5pm. Songsak and his wife went to a party this evening and I had supper with Fern and her great grandmother who, I think I mentioned at the start of this blog, lives with us at the house. She’s 69 years old and very fit and is a great help around the house and acts as a security guard during the day.