23.05.2010 - 30.05.2010
Sunday 23rd May
I still have no confirmation about my move to Loei next week. The bus takes about 10 hours or so and the ticket will need to be booked in advance if I am to get a VIP bus which offers more legroom and air con. I am supposed to start at my new school on June 1st so ideally I would like to arrive a couple of days earlier to give me time to settle in with my Thai host family about whom I know nothing so far.
I returned to the nice restaurant I found a couple of weeks ago for lunch and it was very nice along with an iced coffee. The owner told me she had just seen the Thai news on tv and that the curfew has been extended in Chiang Mai for at least two more days. This might suit the authorities but it certainly doesn’t suit the many small businesses here that open late and are feeling the pinch.
I had a nice quiet restful day. Because of the curfew the Sunday Walking Street market was severely curtailed but there were still many stalls opening during the afternoon.
I got a songteaw back to a point on the old Chiang Mai to Lamphun road where Guide can pick me up. Unfortunately the side panels of this particular songteaw were so low I had to bend double to see out and work out where to get off. I became convinced I had passed the pick-up point and got off at the next collection of houses and shops and phoned Guide to tell him what had happened. I got someone in one of the shops to speak with him to tell him how to find me. By chance I had got out of the songteaw less than one kilometre from the actual pick up point – if I had stayed on it I would have seen the right place and got out. Grrrh!!
By the way, the deep-fried banana slices dusted with pimento I mentioned in my last posting are called fucktong in Thai. I just thought you might like to know that!
When I got back to the Home Rose told me joyfully that she was now single again. I asked her what had happened and she told me that Glenn had loaded the Home’s car with his stuff and had gone off to stay in Chiang Mai where he had been spotted by one of the older boys who was also in the city. Apparently, he has done this a few times before for up to a week and then returned to his house near the Home. Whether he will come back this time remains to be seen.
Soon after I went to bed there was a power cut which meant no water, no air con, nothing. The result was a rather hot and sticky night and I kept waking up.
Monday 24th May
Around 8am the electricity came back on again just in time for me to have a shower and shave etc.
I was caught by surprise an hour later when Mr Khiew arrived unexpectedly. He was supposed to collect me at 10am so I had to hurriedly dress and pack my things and get in the van to go to school.
My classes went well until I took Prathum 5, a primary school class. The regular teacher was away because her father-in-law died last Friday. The problem was that the topic she wanted me to cover was linked to a CD which the students had not heard so the questions in the book were meaningless. I tried to improvise but it was too difficult for the students so I decided to switch the topic to introducing someone to someone else which could easily involve the students in role play which they like.
I had an hour to spare after class so I checked my emails but there were no further details from Dragonfly about my next placement.
After school Mr Narong took me and Mrs Napapan and another teacher to our fellow teacher’s house about 30 minutes’ drive away for the first part of the funeral of her father-in-law. He was 83 and a noticeboard with dozens of family photos had been set up near the entrance. The coffin was mounted on a lofty base surrounded by a highly decorative shrine-like structure. I took a photo which is in my gallery.
About a dozen teachers along with the Principal sat down to eat after saying a prayer and lighting and planting an incense stick in a bowl of sand. Various bowls of food appeared as well as some beer and soft drinks. It was all very informal and chatty. I was introduced to the host’s son who is a pharmacist on the island of Koh Samui and we had an interesting chat.
Tuesday 25th May
My day at Wat Kheelek went very fast and no sooner than I had been collected from the Home and taken to school it was time to go back to the Home again.
In the evening MrAnan, the Principal of the Summer Camp school, came to pick me up and we drove to Classic Ice, a restaurant and karaoke bar, where we met with Mr Wattana, the leader of the 4,500-strong teachers in the Lamphun area, as well as another school Principal from a different school. We sang dreadfully, had some drinks and some food and altogether it was ok though I hope this is the last karaoke session I am taken to!
One of the standing Thai jokes is that every married man has one or more girlfriends. These friends are usually the hostesses in a restaurant or karaoke suite who take your food and drink orders, constantly refill your glasses and sometimes sit with you or even sing for you. Thais are always joshing each other about their favourite girls.
After we left Classic Ice, without the other school Principal, we went to another bar/restaurant in Lamphun which, thankfully, did not have any karaoke but, instead, had a four piece band playing Thai folk/pop and a young crowd were enjoying themselves there. I reluctantly had some more beer while the other two had whisky but I was dying to get back to the Home to go to bed because I was teaching the first class tomorrow morning. I eventually got back the Home about 1.15am and fell into bed though I didn’t sleep very well.
Wednesday 26th May
I didn’t feel too bad this morning considering my lack of sleep. My morning classes went well and after each of them Ajarn Napapan took group photos with all the students which will shortly appear in my gallery.
In the evening I was invited to dinner with Mr Narong, Ajarn Natalie and Ajarn Napapan and one of the teachers from the Summer Camp school. The restaurant was in a nice setting next to a lake and it was a night before the full moon so it was very bright.
Thursday 27th May
My last day at Wat Kheelek. At the morning assembly in front of the school before classes I had to address the school and Ajarn Napapan translated my little speech into Thai for me as we both had microphones.
I was given the task of leading the school at the temple (Wat Kheelek) ceremony across the road in place of the school Principal though he attended too. I was given a thick set of stems with about ten large lotus buds on them. Everyone had to walk around the viharn three times hands held together in prayer before them each holding special flowers in a conical paper holder. A boy of about 10 attached himself to me by the name of Key Cut (whatever was his mother thinking when she gave him his nickname??) and he guided me around the viharn.
Inside the viharn Key Cut detached himself to sit with the students and I sat/knelt at the front of the assembled students. I had to split the stems between the vases on the ‘altar’, light the incense sticks and candles. I also followed the rest of the ‘service’ which lasted about one hour after which Key Cut reattached himself to me and we walked across the busy road together and the short distance back to the school where he gave me the ring he had been wearing. I am not sure what he was thinking but he was very sweet.
As usual there was a nice lunch with fresh mangoes, rambutan and lychees all of which were delicious.
After all my classes today, and some that I didn’t have, I was showered with gifts from the students and I received many garlands of jasmine buds, khanom (the Thai word for snacks), mini golden roses, and cartons of school milk. The elected President of the students gave me a large neatly wrapped box which he wanted me to open later rather than in front of the class. When I eventually opened it it contained square transparent paperweight with a winter scene inside and snow fell when it was shaken. It was a very nice thought and so kind.
After school the Principal and most of the teachers gave me a farewell party with lots of Leo beer and food which was also great fun and very nice of them. I took some photos too. Afterwards, one of the teachers wanted to take me to another party at his home for his wife’s birthday. There was more food, sukiyaki style this time, and more beer and we were joined by John, the boring American I had met before at Big C.
Mr Khiew took me back to the Home but not before a tour of Lamphun by night. It was a nice thought but I couldn’t see very much in the dark.
Saturday 29th May
At breakfast I had a call from Mr Anan who wanted me to join him, his wife and son for lunch at Thapu, or at least that’s what I thought he said. He repeated the name a couple of times and I guessed it must be some well known monument or building though I had never heard of it. I asked the waitress, expecting a simple answer, but she had no idea though her English is fairly good. Someone at the next table overheard my question and said she had heard of the place about could not remember where it was. I then asked the hotel owner who speaks very good English and she didn’t know the place either so I asked her to speak to Mr Anan on my phone and it turned out he meant Carrefour!!
I just had to get a haircut this morning so I would look ok when I arrive in Wang Sapung. I didn’t know where to go and asked someone who directed me to a barber shop which turned out to be really good.
I met Mr Anan at midday at the Black Canyon cafe in Carrefour, a twenty minute tuk tuk ride from my hotel. The ride itself was scary with the driver zig-zagging between the traffic and squeezing through the narrowest of gaps. We had a very nice lunch and it was nice to meet Nit, his son, who is a computer engineer in Bangkok though his father wants him to go to England to work and improve his English.
During lunch Ajarn Wilaywon from Wat Kheelek school called me. She mentioned yesterday that she would like to meet me again this afternoon and, with Mr Anan’s help, she was given directions to meet us at Carrefour.
The Anan’s are first time grandparents, their daughter had a baby girl only a week or so ago and they wanted me to join them in a visit to the private Lanna hospital. I went in their car and Ajarn Wilaywon followed in hers. She is very nice but totally scatty and very funny when she is in full flow in the classroom. She is the one I mentioned before with the tortured English accent. Needless to say she didn’t arrive at the hospital but, heck, that’s what mobile phone are for, so no problem.
Mr Anan’s daughter was in bed and the baby in a small cot alongside. The baby looked like every other baby I’ve seen so that just about says it all. I did take a photo, so you can see for yourself!!
When Ajarn Wilaywon arrived at the hospital we went down to meet her and, after saying my goodbye, I left with her. She has clearly fallen for my charm and good looks...**smile**...and she asked me where I would like to go. I suggested going to eat somewhere, but we had both had lunch. We finally settled on my hotel where I bought her a nice cold smoothie while I had iced coffee. She stayed for about one hour and then drove back home. It was nice to see her, but in no way am I interested in her beyond a simple friendship.
I was supposed to meet Glenn from the Home in the early evening but when he discovered that the chosen bar was not serving alcohol he called me to tell me and the meeting was called off which took the pressure off my time schedule a bit.
Although no alcohol was supposed to be on sale I was easily able to persuade the owner of the restaurant where I have been eating lately to let me have a large bottle of Leo which was very nice. She told me, again, how very worried she was by the lack of customers.
I had also agreed to meet another friend later who would also take me to the bus station but he rang to call it off too for the same reason as Glenn. When the time came I got a tuk tuk to take me to the bus station and I took a short video of part of the journey which I will place on youtube soon for you to see.
I went to the right bus stop but was told my ticket was for the next door bus and, luckily, an American-Japanese man helped me lift my case into the storage locker on the side of the bus. Inside the bus I couldn’t work out how to find my booked numbered seat as they didn’t have any numbers on them. When I booked the ticket I had to write my name in a square on a diagram of the bus seating and I sat where I thought I should be. When the hostess came round she told me I was in the wrong seat and had to move pointing out the right seat for me. I settled in and waited for the bus to depart. Five minutes later the hostess reappeared saying once more that I was in the wrong seat and I had to move. This time the “correct” was at the back under the air conditioning outlets. The American-Japanese man had to move as well which made me suspect that the hostesses motives. None of the other Thai passengers had to move so I wondered how they had found their correct seat.
The bus departed at 8.30pm, 30 minutes later than scheduled. It took an hour to travel to Lamphun and collect a couple of passengers there and I began to wonder if the journey would take longer than expected. I had hoped to read my book butt the overhead lights only worked when the interior night lights were on. I managed a few pages before they were switched off for good.