Right now I’m jamming to some throwback Miley Cyrus songs. I know, I know… I’ve just been on a kick of listening to oldies of my youth lately. There’s nothing like getting pumped for a long run than listening to some Backstreet Boys or Spice Girls. Having my own room has been nice… there’s no one here to make fun of all of the dance parties I have. Ha!
Last Saturday I got up early to go with my friend to her school’s parent day. In the States I had been told a lot about how important it is to include families in the school so that all of the people who are most invested in the children’s learning can be on the same page (among several other reasons), therefore, I was pretty curious about the role of families in Thai schools. From what I’d heard before coming here, it’s uncommon to ask parents and guardians to help students with reading, writing, or other coursework. Thai teachers are really respected and treated as professionals. Asking for parent support would suggest that maybe they weren’t doing their job at school. Also, many parents live in Bangkok so that they can work and send money home to their families. Grandparents care for the kids and don’t necessarily have the energy to have the same kind of helicopter parenting style with which we are familiar. However, for the school’s parent day, all of the families came to watch the student choir and band perform, listen to the director (principal) speak, and then go to the rooms to hear from the teachers. I was glad that they were included in the school in this way. Oh yeah, they also got to hear a spontaneous speech given by their new English teacher and her two American friends… good thing I had to give a speech at my school already so I had something I could say!
Afterwards us Southern Belles went to Kiriwong Village for some delicious kanome jean (noodles and special sauce) and sight seeing. Kiriwong Village is famous for having the cleanest air in all of Thailand. The water and mountains there were stunning! Something funny that happened was when my friend told a Thai woman that her baby was cute… the woman promptly shoved the baby in her arms and started taking pictures. Thus began Let’s Take Photos with the Foreigners, Part 2. I’m telling you, I really feel like a celebrity when I’m here! Family, please be prepared to take pictures of me all the time and tell me how beautiful I am when I get back… you know, to ease the culture shock.😉
I was a bit bummed when I couldn’t sleep in on Sunday either, but it was because I got to go to a huge morning market with my Thai mom and dad, so at least there was a good reason for it. I know I’ve already talked about how impressed I am with their markets, but guys, there were so many different goods sold there! I was especially impressed with the seafood. There were freshly caught fish of all sizes and variety (many still alive and trying to breath, which I felt a bit badly about), skates (I think they were this at least… it’s a fish species similar to a stingray), frogs, and turtles (to be eaten or taken as pets, I’m not sure). The meat section was strange to me because all of the meat was just sitting out. It’s definitely not similar to the packaged and refrigerated stuff you get at a grocery store, although I’m sure that it is fresher and more natural. The whole market scene is really great because although it’s not certified or anything, I’m sure quite a bit of it is natural and it supports local Thai people. It’s similar to farmer’s markets, but there’s more variety, I think it’s generally cheaper than shopping at the grocery store, and they have markets going on all of the time and not just one day per week.
After going there, I got to go back to my parents’ house to learn how to make some Thai dishes. We made veggies, fried pork, and a Thai style omelet. What I discovered was that to season (both the veggies and omelet) you just add a bit of soy sauce and sugar. Then it’s cooked in rice bran oil. I was told “a little” oil, but it my opinion it was a lot. The results were definitely delicious though! I had been wanting to learn how they cooked veggies here. I had tried before without knowing and ended up just using soy sauce… it was edible, but not very tasty.
On Monday we celebrated Loi Krathong, a big festival in Thai culture. It was difficult to pin down exactly what the meaning and purpose of the festival was, but wikipedia confirmed what I had been told in broken English that, “Loi Krathong takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar.” Therefore it’s kind of like a moon festival, but then krathongs are floated down waterways to thank the river spirits. Krathongs are small basket type things that you put small change in, a bit of your hair, and a few nail clippings. They all have some incense and a candle in them that you light and then put in the water to float away. As you do so you make a prayer/wish. The base of my krathong was made from a coconut and the decorative part was made out of dyed corn husks. The students at my school glued together ice cream cones. In this regard they are somewhat biodegradable and not too harmful to the environment. However, not every aspect of them were and not all krathongs were made with this concern in mind. Nonetheless, it was pretty cool to get to take part in. This year it was a pretty relaxed event because of the mourning period, but I’ve been told that usual it’s a much more festive experience with dancing and music. Maybe I’ll stick around long enough next year to see it in all of its glory.
This week I also began teaching prepositions (in front of, behind, next to, etc.) with my third and fourth grade classes. Supposedly this was review for them and I was just reinforcing what they’d been taught by their Thai teachers only this time with an emphasis on speaking. It didn’t exactly go as well as I thought it would though. At times trying to get them to speak was like pulling teeth. I’ve found that the kids are used to mainly repeating everything that’s being said, without any concern as to the meaning behind the words. For example, if I say, “girls, please say, ‘where is the dad?'” they will say, “girls, please say….” I feel like I was able to modify my lessons each time to make them a little better, but it’s tricky because it has been difficult to anticipate where the students will have challenges. I need to find ways to get them to think more about word meaning. It’s like teaching little parrots!
Well anyways, I hope you’re all doing well. I know that winter is quickly approaching for many of you, so keep warm and drink a peppermint mocha for me!
Your friendly parrot trainer,