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19-28th June: Rambutans, Guava, Gooseberries, Ginger ++

sunny 32 °C

Saturday 19th June

The boys came round this morning to play games on my laptop. They told me that we would be going swimming at 10am but in the event we departed at 11am. We, all my host family and I, had lunch at a noodle restaurant in Wang Saphung before going to two temples. The first also had a sort of museum cum shrine dedicated to a venerated monk who died not long ago. The shrine was in the centre of the room and around the sides were ghoulish glass cases containing all the monk’s possessions such as a portable radio, specs, back scratchers, books etc etc.

There was a pond surrounding the building which contained numerous catfish which jostled furiously for the food pellets which the boys and I threw into the water for them. The second shrine was in a sort of meeting hall though I am not sure what the hall was used for. There were only a few objects on display but one of them was a foetus in a glass bottle which I thought a bit odd.

On the way there I spotted a couple of spots from where I could take a nice unobstructed photograph of the countryside and we stopped on the way back for this. The three photos are now in my gallery.

We then headed to the Wang Resort in Wang Saphung where we spent the rest of the afternoon. I had fun in their shaded swimming pool playing tag with the boys. We were joined later by Ajarn Orapin and her son, Dream.

We left the pool about 5.30 to visit a rambutan farm. I had never knowingly seen rambutans growing before so I was keen to see the trees and take some photos for the gallery. The trees grow to around 16 feet and produce large quantities of the fruit. The picking season is over now but there were still some harder to reach fruit which Mr Rhe and the boys cut down with secateurs fixed to long bamboo poles.

On the way back home we stopped at Ban Pattana market which is the nearest market to MBV school and bought some food. I had a brief walk through part of the market and took some photos of a Longon fruit stall and a butcher’s stall. Both photos are in my gallery.

At home I played pétanque with Saf until dinner and then he and I went back to my house. He loves playing games on my laptop while I read my book.

Sunday 20th June

I had a free morning for a change. The boys played games on my laptop while I did some washing and tidying up. Ajarn Orapin came round to collect me to take me to lunch at her house where I met some of her sisters as well as Dream, her 11 year old son. There was a Thai gooseberry tree and a guava tree in the garden photos of which are now in my gallery.

During the afternoon Mr Kom called at the house and I was persuaded to give him some English lessons. He is studying the use of herbs and we had a chat about that. I don’t mind some extra English classes but I shall be careful not to give up all my limited free time by which I mean time I actually have to myself. On the way back we called in at her 80 year old mother’s house where I took a photo of her ginger plants.

I got back home about 4.45 where I was able to upload all my recent photos to my laptop and bring my blog up to date.

Monday 21st June

I felt tired this morning. My classes went ok this morning apart from 6/2-3 who had problems answering simple questions from a given short story. As I was about to leave for home I was ambushed by the office manageress who gave me a bottle of Thai fruit wine. I thought she was giving it to me but then she said follow me, so I did. She took me to the school shop which is partly hidden away almost under some stairs. I hadn’t been in there before. It soon became clear that this was part of a conspiracy because other teachers arrived as well as some beer and some food.

The fruit wine was quite nice, and potent too. The object of the exercise was to quiz me about my marital status and to discover what kind of Thai woman I would like. Needless to say, one or two of those present felt they should be in the running for my attentions. They don’t know it yet, but they are all going to be disappointed.

Tuesday 22nd June

The Doc Marten’s shoes I ordered last week for the Principal arrived this morning and at the suggestion of my fellow Ajarns they will be given to him on his birthday on June 26th.

One of my classes began to fail this morning. The students just sat there like voiceless dummies and did not respond to the easy game I was starting the lesson with. Luckily, they perked up later and the class ended cheerfully enough though it was hard work getting there.

I had my first lesson with Kom this evening. Before he arrived Saf came to my house seeking help with his English homework which I gave him. Luckily Kom arrived late so the homework filled a gap.

When Kom arrived he gave me about six plastic bags of food as a gift as I am not charging him for the lessons. I haven’t mentioned before that in markets and along shopping streets in any town you will find food stalls selling home-cooked dishes. When you buy a portion it is given to you in a plastic bag. Almost anything in the way of food and drink comes to you in this way, from drinks to green curry so you often see people carrying small plastic bags or see the bags dangling from a hook that is provided for the purpose on motorbikes here.

I thanked Kom for the gift but knew that I couldn’t eat everything he had bought not least because I was due to go to my host family’s house after the class to have dinner so I took the bags with me when I went to dinner and gave them to the family.

After dinner I had to help Saf finish his homework and help Bet with his. By the time I got to bed it was about 10pm and I felt very tired.

Wednesday 23rd June

As England are playing their last Round One game this evening in the World Cup I thought I would wear the shirt that I was given by one of the older children at the Home near Lamphun. I had already told the Principal of my plan and he didn’t seem to mind. In any case, he’s is a keen follower of the World Cup results and I am only planning to wear it on the days when England plays.

When I walked onto the square where the assembly takes place very many faces turned as a whispered word went round that the falang is wearing his England shirt. As a bit of fun I have been encouraging my students to support England as Thailand is not in the World Cup. I just hope the team get through the first round.

All the teachers had a meeting this afternoon to finalise plans for Friday’s special events. As I’m not directly involved I went home early and did some laundry and updated this blog. It was nice to have some time to myself for a change. In any case, I felt really tired but resisted the temptation to have a snooze.

The boys came round to play a game on my laptop about 6pm so I read my book until it was time for the three of us to go to the old house for dinner. After dinner I had to help Saf with his homework. He gets quite a lot. Tonight he had four pages of questions from an A4 size textbook which included two sets of questions on using the present continuous tense which surprised me as he barely seems to know what a tense is!

I could have watched the football match at the nearby house of one of my fellow teachers but decided I’d rather go to bed on this occasion as I felt so tired.

Thursday 24th June

I wore my new orange Phi ta khon shirt this morning, the one that the Principal gave me and it drew many admiring glances.

The daily teacher’s meeting after assembly each morning was all about the final preparations for tomorrow’s special event. I am not sure what it is all in aid of as yet but will doubtless know more tomorrow.

Luckily, England won their first round game last night and everyone was talking about it this morning. At lunch today the Director said he wants me to have a TV at home so I can watch the World Cup matches in comfort.

Ajarn Joy told me today that the school was planning to ask me to move to Ajarn Orapin’s house. This was because there was a misunderstanding before I arrived about how long I would be at MBV school. At first, they thought I would only be here one month and two teachers came forward offering to act as host family for me: Ajarn Benjamat and Ajarn Orapin. It was then thought that it might be seen to be improper for me to stay with Ajarn Orapin because she is twice divorced and has an 11 year old son.

This is how I came to stay with Ajarn Benjamat and her husband, Rhe, and their two boys. Now that I am coming to the end of my first month the school thinks it would be fair if I go to stay with Ajarn Orapin. But, talking to Ajarn Joy this morning, I tried my hardest to squash this idea using the excuse that it would be a great upheaval for me and less convenient. I now live next to the school and can easily walk home whereas Ajarn Orapin lives about 10 minutes away by car. Ajarn Orapin is very nice and friendly but she hardly ever stops talking and her friendliness is OTT as far as I’m concerned.

Friday 25th June

There were no classes today though all the students were in school for the Sunthon Phu festival which commemorates the celebrated Thai poet of that name who lived from 1789-1856. The events, which were all being judged by a panel of teachers, were well underway by 8.30 am and started with a series of dance performances by groups of students in various costumes. The next part consisted of three poetry recitations. Next came the singing competition in which even the Principal took part. I was asked if I would like to sing a song to the assembled students but I strongly advised against the idea.

After lunch there was a costume competition, a comedy section, the announcement of the judges verdicts and the prize giving, and, finally, the school band, Butterfly, performed to loud applause and, towards the end, wild dancing. I took a number of photos which are all in my gallery and the videos of the band are on youtube. It was a really fun day and the students evidently enjoyed watching it and taking part even though it was very hot today.

***Update: I have now uploaded three short video clips of Butterfly's performance to youtube.com if you would like to check them out. The links are:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7X3x0FaYqVU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QS7HU8HoRI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T43VbXkeT5s

After school I went with Ajarn Ben and her husband to a nearby market where she bought food for dinner. I took a number of food photos which are also in my gallery.

On our way back we spotted some Ban Fai, bamboo rockets, being fired skywards and I succeeded in catching two rockets rising upwards with their attendant vapour trails. Up and up they went and on reaching the top of their trajectory turned earthwards again. They are amazing to watch even from a distance but I did wonder where they come down.

This evening Fern, the family’s 16 year old daughter arrived from Nongbua Lamphu, where she goes to school and lives with her grandparents, for the weekend, It was good to meet her after hearing so much about her.

In the house the TV was fully installed and ready to watch and Rhe connected the supplied cable to an aerial on the roof which produced a really good picture.

The family ate dinner at the table in the new house which made a nice change for me by not having to sit on the floor and eat one-handed. Fern has a bit more English than her mother but her parents want me to give her some lessons/practice on Saturday and Sunday morning which, despite not being asked first, I am happy to do.

Saturday 26th June

Fern brought breakfast over to the new house for me this morning which I had while the boys played games on my laptop in my room upstairs. I gave her the first lesson this morning. Luckily she had a textbook from her school which I could as the basis for a lesson. Unfortunately, it was published in America which means Americanisms such as sidewalk, trash can, mail carrier and more but I will just have to endure it. I won’t have enough time with her to begin to point out the correct English words.

After her lesson finished Saf came to me with his illustrated reading book about a family of squirrels who live in a forest. He asked me to help him with his reading which I did. He’s a very bright boy but, as one of my own school reports probably said, he needs application.

Ajarn Orapin came round to collect me for the trip to Chiang Khan about 11am. She had her 11 year old son, Dream, with her and she drives a large pick-up truck which is one of the most uncomfortable vehicles I have ever been in with little leg room. We then collected her friend Ruung who had her six year old niece with her. Ruung is an English teacher at another school.

It took about 90 minutes to reach Chiang Khan and I was unable to stay awake for the whole journey. Chiang Khan is at the northern extremity of Loei province on the southern side of the Mekong River. The centre of the town is charming and bordering on pretty – two words I have never previously used to describe any village, town or city in Thailand – with houses in a mixture of Thai, Leo and modern styles. Those with a view of the river command the highest prices apparently. The fact that there is a border crossing nearby has helped to make it the busy town it is.

We had lunch at a restaurant on the river bank. The water is very low at this time of year but there are some very nice views as the photos in my gallery show.

The menu, which was in Thai but with English translations, must rank as an all-time classis in its class because the English version of the various dishes makes the mind boggle. Do look at the two photos and zoom in to read the print, you will have a laugh for sure!!

Ajarn Orapin and Ruung ordered far too much food (see the photo) but then most Thais I have ever been with do the same thing. All the dishes were really nice but there always comes a point when one cannot possibly eat any more. Soon after we arrived at the restaurant about twenty bikers descended on the place. They were all Harley Davidson bike owners as was obvious from their t-shirts and they looked like they had just come off a movie set which is, in fact, what they really had just done. They were dressed like gang members for some kind of action movie. They left about ten minutes after us and overtook us on the road complete with a police escort.

On the way back I wanted to buy some wrapping paper for the box containing the pair of Doc Marten’s shoes I bought for the Director’s birthday tomorrow. It was very difficult to find paper that was not Valentine’s Day related, not covered with red hearts or children’s cartoon characters. I failed to find anything suitable in Loei and finally found something in Wang Saphung which had images of roses on it.

Ajarn Orapin is very nice but she seems determined to ingratiate herself with me by buying me things. After lunch, for example, at the nearby tourist stalls, she kept asking me what I wanted her to buy for me. I told her I didn’t need anything and maybe she could buy her son Dream something instead. But, not a bit of it, she insisted on buying me yet another shirt. She also bought me, unasked, three bags of dried fruits and some bottles of green tea. I wish she wouldn’t spend her money on me like this. I really do!!

Sunday 27th June

I gave another English lesson to Fern this morning and towards the end Saf joined in and we continued with a joint reading lesson.

Rhe took us all to lunch at the local garage which doubles as a restaurant. Three tables were already occupied, one of them with students from school one of whom was wearing a shirt embroidered with a large Union Jack. After lunch Rhe dropped me and the two boys off at the village internet cafe while the rest of the family went home so Fern could pack and get ready to go to Wang Saphung

Our hour at the internet cafe whizzed by and we were soon turfed outside. We waited outside a short time as Rhe was coming to collect us but then decided to start walking back home. We got about half a mile when Rhe appeared in the car and the whole family and I went into Wang Saphung. We dropped Fern off at the bus stop where the family said their goodbyes and Saf stayed there with her to keep her company while waiting for the bus to Nongbua Lamphu.

We then drove to a local supermarket for some groceries and afterwards returned to the bus station to collect Saf. Back home, I did some ironing and then about 6.20 Ajarn Joy came to collect me in her car to take me to the Director’s party. Her brother was with her too. He is a lawyer in Bangkok.

It took about 30 minutes to drive to the Director’s house. There were about thirty people, mostly teachers from the school, at the party and there was lots of food and some drinks too though not on the scale I have seen at parties elsewhere. Various people brought presents for the Director and they were all placed on a table near the house. Everyone was seated at tables in the garden. Loudspeakers and a screen had been set up as well as a sound mixing desk from where songs could be chosen for the inevitable karaoke. I was persuaded to sing two songs - Country Roads and Lonesome Tonight - and others sang very well during the evening. Various people said nice things about the Director and he replied in kind. Both the Director and his wife came to talk to me which was nice as did many other people. There are a couple of photos of the evening in my gallery.

During the party England played their crucial second round match against Germany and I accepted a 200 baht bet on the match from another teacher. We left the party before the match was over and though I knew England were down 1- 0, I had hopes of a typical England recovery. I watched the last ten minutes of the match on the TV that the Director arranged to be installed at home and was disappointed like millions of others at their 4 – 1 defeat. I also lost my bet!

I had hoped that an England win, and with England cruising through to the Final, that I might use their success as a boost for English teaching, and knowledge about England, at my school here.

Monday 28th June

As usual I had five classes today with the last period free and by that time I felt that I really needed a rest. All my classes went well but it is quite tiring especially in the heat.

Posted by talismanic 02:45 Archived in Thailand

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Are your potential [& apparently doomed to failure!] Thai brides wanting to marry you & live in London, or are they expecting you to stay in Thailand?
I was dissappointed when England losts the soccer as Find my Past was offering free access to all their records [including the 1911 Census] when England payed....I did get the Bechers though. Of course I was sad Australia bowed out even sooner....

by amontilado

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