A Travellerspoint blog

April 20th - 27th, 2553

sunny 37 °C

Tuesday 20th April

The classes for the 10-12 year olds and the 8-10 year olds went well this morning but I am finding it harder and harder to find simple fun things to do with the youngest class of 7-8 year olds. An hour is a long time to keep them occupied I find and the material I have found on the internet is either far too simple or too hard. This class likes noughts and cross, or XO as they call it, and even here it is getting harder to let them win convincingly.

This afternoon a friend of Glenn’s, Steve, arrived who has promised to provide a series of DVDs and players to trial an English language learning program he has developed at the village school where the Summer Camp is taking place.

If there was a gold medal for talking at the Olympics then I am sure Steve would win it hands down. I have never known anyone talk quite so much and be so full of himself and his program.

I was promised a lift to the post office where I need to post a document back to London. The document cost 12 pounds 45 pence to send it Registered post to me and it took 10 days. The same document will cost 80 baht to send regular post or 845 baht (about 17 pounds) to send EMS, or express post. I decided to send it EMS but I didn’t have enough money to send it then so I went down the road to an ATM to withdraw some cash. By mistake I used the wrong PIN and my card was refused. I tried again and again, but each time the machine said my PIN was invalid even though I felt certain I had used the right one to start off with.

By this time it was past 7pm when the post office closed so there was no alternative but to try again tomorrow.

Thursday 21st April

Kreis, the new arrival, could be more of a hindrance than a help at the school because after the first classes finished at 10am he arranged with Mr Anan to show a film – Narnia, the Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe – to which all the children were invited. He didn’t ask me for my opinion or my approval he just did it which disrupted the lessons I had planned for today. The movie is very long and most of the children had lost interest in it after the first 90 minutes.
Steve came to the school about midday to speak with Mr Anan about his proposal to trial his DVD English learning system. As it is a free offer Mr Anan is keen but he will have to oversee the Thai English teacher’s implementation of the system for it to work properly.

One of the nice things about Mr Anan’s school is that they bring you coffee and a pastry in the morning as well as a bottle of chilled water and a glass. At about 11am someone will bring round a plateful of fresh fruit cut into slices to pass around the children. It varies but on most days it is a choice of apple, water melon or unripe green mango. Interestingly, the children always go for the unripe green mango first which is quite bitter and leaves your mouth feeling dry. But the children love it!!

Guide took me down to the ATM again this afternoon. I tried my PIN and the machine said t was invalid so I tried different combinations of the four digits I knew were correct but to no avail. Afterwards we sent into a branch of another bank and was told that all the ATMs in the district were offline so nobody could withdraw any money PIN or no PIN.

I decided to call Natwest taking into account the 7-hour time difference. Glenn kindly let me use his computer in his house to make the call so I didn’t have to make an expensive mobile phone call to the UK. On the way to Glenn’s house Steve told me that he has lived in Thailand for seven years after getting fed up with the UK. He said he lived a solitary existence because his wife has left him, he doesn’t socialise, he lives for his work and he’s happy watching football on his pc or watching a DVD in the evening and drinking some beers. Thailand seems full of similar sad people and I have met several on this visit.

In the evening Glenn, Steve, Rose, her Aunt Am and I went into Nikhom, an industrial area near to Lamphun where there is some nightlife consisting of bars and restaurants. We went into a pleasant beer garden and had some beers and chatted. It was a nice evening but it was nearly 2am before we got to our beds.

Friday – Sunday 22nd – 25th April

Classes resumed as normal this morning though the lessons were only about halfway through when the students from the youngest and middle classes started clamouring for a game. I usually have a game for them towards the end of class anyway but it is hard to introduce new ones when the youngest group always ask for noughts and crosses and the middle class always asks for Simon Says.

Yesterday Kreis promised to give me a lift into Chiang Mai this afternoon but when he arrived this morning he had Bart on the pillion seat. He claimed not to have forgotten and said that his Boss, Ron, would be visiting the Home this afternoon so my lift was assured.

However, when Kreis and Bart were getting ready to leave for Chiang Mai it became obvious that I would not be getting a lift after all. Luckily, Rose was working nearby and overheard the conversation and, after Kries and Bart had left, offered to drive me to the old Lamphun to Chiang Mai road where I could catch a Songteaw to take me into Chiang Mai. Soon afterwards Rose drove me there and after a short wait I hailed a passing Songtheaw which took me within walking distance of the Tha Phae Gate all for just 20 baht. The Songteaw took about 45 minutes to reach central Chiang Mai and I arrived at my hotel about 4.30.

I checked into the same hotel as before and enjoyed all the comforts as before as well. I was really tired from the late night last night so I had a snooze. I then tried to sort out my Natwest card problem. I went to a central ATM and tried to withdraw some cash but, once again, the machine said my PIN was invalid. I rang Natwest in London and was told that I could resolve the issue at the ATM by choosing the PIN Services option on the menu. I went to the ATM again, a fifteen minute walk away. I tried to do as Natwest suggested but the system wasn’t helpful and I failed. I returned to the internet cafe where I could make international calls and called Natwest again and was told the only thing they could do now was to send out a new PIN to my London address and I agreed. I think the letter will arrived on Monday or Tuesday when my flatmate can open the letter and email me the new PIN.

I then had to find a way to get some cash as I only had about five pounds in my pocket. I returned to my hotel where I spoke to the owner and she kindly agreed to withdraw some money using my credit card. It is not an ideal option as there is a 3% surcharge and the bank in UK may charge a fee too, but this option put some much needed cash into my wallet which is what I needed for the weekend. Later, I had dinner at one of the same nice but inexpensive restaurants I ate in last visit.

My two days in Chiang Mai were mostly spent wandering round the interesting sois I mentioned before. I also visit Central Plaza, a large shopping mall, not far from the international airport. It is a huge place spread over three floors with a multiplex cinema as well as a large food court where I had lunch on Saturday. For dessert I had a Thai favourite, Lod Chong, sticky rice and mango with coconut milk.

If anyone is wondering what I am doing about laundry I have brought some with me on each visit to Chiang Mai to get washed and ironed. There are many shops/individuals offering a laundry service and the price is usually 30 baht a kilo (about 60 pence). You see signs everywhere saying Laundry: wash, iron, dry though I hope none of them do the laundry in that order!!

On Saturday afternoon it rained hard for a short time which cleared the air and refreshed everything nicely. Looking across Chiang Mai from my 3rd floor hotel room I could see the mountains, where Doi Suthep is located, and also see raining falling in other areas. There was a nice sunset behind the mountains which caught them in sharp relief. A photo will be plodded to my gallery very soon.

In passing, if anyone wants to comment on anything I have said in this blog then do feel free to do so. It is always interesting to read your comments and thoughts, positive or negative.

Around 4pm on Sunday afternoon traders begin setting up their stalls along Ratchadamnoen Road and in Tha Phae square. The road is closed to traffic and becomes thronged with shoppers after darkness falls. I walked along the road on my way to meet Guide who had come up from the Home on a motorbike to collect me and take me back there. The walking street market every Sunday is well worth a visit because the goods on sale are way above the average tourist stuff you see everywhere else. All the products have an OTOP rating – OTOP stands for One Tambon One Product (a Tambon is a grouping of villages into a sort of municipality under a kind of mayor, though he is not called as such) - and they are mostly handmade and distinctive.

Guide met me at the Tha Phae Gate and we returned to the Home. Glenn and Rose were away at an ANZAC Memorial gathering in Kanchanaburi near to where the famous episode of the Bridge on the River Kwai took place and where the Japanese POW camps were situated. There is also a large Commonwealth cemetery there.

It rained heavily in the evening for about forty minutes which helped clear the air and dust and refreshed the greenery.

Monday 26th April

Got up this morning in good time, as usual, to be ready for my classes but the children at the Home were late again. It is unfair on the children who normally attend the school who are always on time or early for our children at the Home to be late. Their lateness also shortens the first lesson which is unfair on the teachers who have prepared sixty minutes of tuition.

The classes went well today and Anan gave me a lift back to the Home. After lunch I went down to a local computer store to help Guide collect his pc. We rode there on one of the motorbikes but found the shop was closed when we got there.

Late in the afternoon the children began to make sausages in the Lanna style under Rose’s directions. I have asked a couple of time what defines a Lanna style sausage from a normal sausage but I have yet to receive a definitive answer. The best answer I can offer you is that the difference is in the herbs and spices used.

As with most recipes in Thailand the ingredients had to be finely chopped first and this was all done on the wooden tables in the dining area which is where the children have their meals which are served on large multispace metal plates. Several of the children were helping chop this and that and handling the ingredients and I wondered if they had washed their hands first or not. Somehow I doubted that they had. The tables where the chopping took place are normally brushed down with the same brush that they use to brush the concrete kitchen floor and I doubt that the tables have ever been scrubbed clean.

Once all the ingredients were prepared and cooked they were mixed together and then the length of sausage skin was stuffed by hand. I was later offered a cooked sausage to try but I refused with the excuse that I was already full after my lunch.

The fridges are often disgustingly dirty and hygiene is not a word I have ever heard at the Home so I guess it is not surprising that upset tummies are very common here. It is purely chance that there have not been any cases of severe food poisoning while I have been here.

In the afternoon Nev came to visit with a friend of his who used to manage a number of Thai holidays resorts. They both drove up to the new site and I chatted to them when they returned. Nev mentioned that there are a number of holes in the roof of the boys’ house. The roof is made from palm leaves pinned to a strip of wood which in turn is pinned to a roof support. I mentioned this problem to Rose later and she replied that another layer of palm leaves will be added on top of those that are there. Whether that will be sufficient to exclude the heavy tropical downpours here is debatable but, either way, she didn’t seem very surprised or concerned by my question.

Nev’s friend also pointed out that unless the wood used in the buildings on the new site are treated against termites they will be eaten away in a year or so and all the money spent will be wasted and new money will have to be raised to start all over again. Nev’s friend warned the owner of the same thing at a resort he managed and his advice was ignored. The result was that a lovely new wooden floor was destroyed by the termites inside twelve months. Once termites infest a building there is no way to get rid of them successfully. Termite activity has already begun in the boy’s house so it may already be too late.

In the evening I joined Rose a Thai friend of hers and Guide for a drink and snacks at a restaurant near Saraphi (pronounced Sara-pee with both ‘a’s as in cat) which was very pleasant.

Wednesday 27th April

All this week a minibus has been calling at the Home at 7am to collect the children and take them to school a journey which takes about 10 minutes walking. I’m not exactly sure which local organisation provides the minibus but the negative effect is that the children arrive far too early and they leave when the minibus reappears about 11.30 which is 30 minutes before the last class is due to finish. Quite what the children are expected to do for the best part of two hours before lessons start at 9am I am not sure. It is also very annoying that the last lesson of the morning is cut short unnecessarily.

I had a call from Dragonfly today about my next placement. Ao, the person looking for a suitable secondary school in Nongbua Lamphu for me, rang to say she is having a problem speaking with the director of the schools she is in contact with. He is the person who would decide whether to have a volunteer like me or not at his school. So, to widen the scope a bit and increase the chances of finding somewhere good I have suggested she look for schools in Loei and in Udon Thani. The next school term starts around mid-May and I think it would be better all round if I could start at the same time rather than butt in like Johnny Foreigner after the term begins.

You will have gathered from the above that I have relented and decided to stay here at the Home rather than escaping early. My weekend in Chiang Mai was a welcome break from the Home and if I can get away every weekend then that will make things much better for me.

One of the many nice things about Chiang Mai is that there are laundries on almost every corner. You often see signs outside premises proudly offering WASH, IRON, DRY though I hope they don’t do the laundry in that order!!
The going rate for laundry is usually 30 baht (about 60 pence) a kilo of dirty clothes. You take the dirty clothes in in the morning and they are washed, dried, ironed, neatly folded and ready to be collected by five or six o’clock the same day. What better service can you get than that ?

On the other hand, surfing the internet is far more expensive in Chiang Mai. At the nearest internet cafe to the Home the price is an incredibly low 5 baht (about 10 pence) per hour whereas in CM it is generally 15 baht (about 30 pence) per hour and sometimes more.

I am hoping to take some more photos in Chiang Mai this weekend. If anyone would like to request a photo of something special then just let me know. I will then upload it to my gallery for you and everyone to see.

Posted by talismanic 23:08 Archived in Thailand

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