I was there for the weekend. It’s just an hour van ride from BPI (Bang Pa In just in case you forgot my acronym) so an easy weekend trip that I’m sure I’ll take a lot. I’ve heard a lot about the city but I had no idea what to expect, other than not to expect anything. I’ve heard it is nothing like the rest of Thailand and that is completely true. It is a major city with an up-to-date (and surprisingly CLEAN) rail system (two actually; BTS aka skytrain and MRT below-ground).
Many farangs know Bangkok for the legendary Khao San Road, the crazy party street you could compare to Bourbon Street in New Orleans (+Laughing Gas and huge fried bugs for 100 baht each). At the very least everyone is just as drunk as on Bourbon. We saw 4 fights (I grabbed a traffic cone from a woman’s outstretched arms right before she hit another woman with it). We stayed in a hostel just five minutes from Khao San which was cool because we really got to experience what it’s all about without hearing the noise from the street all night.
*Something that I do not understand: you can buy a beer in a bar on Khao San for 110-120 baht, on the street for 90-100 baht, or you can just go into one of the many 7-11’s ON KHAO SAN and buy one for 56 baht (which you can walk around with and take anywhere anyway). THINK, PEOPLE.
I woke up Saturday morning to banging drums and loud screams outside my window. I quickly dressed and went outside to investigate and found there was a huge parade going on (I still don’t know why). All my friends were still asleep, but I decided to join in on the fun and danced with some old ladies in the parade.
They decided I needed to be soaked and doused in baby powder, so that’s what they did. It was 10 AM and they were already drinking, so of course I accepted their unknown alcohol given to me out of plastic bags! *Don’t worry Grammy, I was careful!* Eventually my friends woke up and saw this bizarre spectacle of loud music, constantly exploding long strings of firecrackers, and a grand finale dragon fight.
Art Box: Western food, finally! This weekly music, food, and art festival feels like something you’d go to in New York. I had an awesome cheeseburger from a FOOD CART (I miss those). The bun was black and I don’t want to know why, but it tasted delicious nonetheless. The music and art were solid too, but I was focused on the food.
It was really fun exploring for the weekend. Doing touristy stuff is always great (there’s a reason touristy stuff is touristy: because it’s awesome) but just walking around aimlessly is a cool way to get to know an area. I think I walked ten miles a day when I was in Korea; what else was I going to do when Tess was in school? I could walk around Bangkok every weekend and STILL not see all of it. It’s huge! I’d love to stay in a different area next time and experience some other things Bangkok has to offer. It’s such a cool place and each area proves to be unique and exciting in its own way.
NOW TO BEING A TEACHER
Monday: The week started off slow; I had just come back from a great weekend with my friends in Bangkok. I did not feel like teaching six classes on Monday with no break. And I did not feel like teaching math to students who could barely understand me. And of course, the internet and projector did not work in the computer room. I was just feeling really negative about my situation.
I planned on going to the science room to do fun experiments to help my P 3/1 class visualize volume but the room was locked, and no one seemed to know (or care) who might have the key. So instead I started going over some stuff about volume we had already gone over SO MUCH. I would ask questions and a lot of students reacted as if we were learning the information for the first time. At first I got very frustrated by this. I started thinking, really? Have I taught you nothing? Am I a bad teacher? Is there any point in trying to teach you at all? But as I’ve been thinking about it more, I’ve begun to realize that a lot of what we as English teachers teach is not directly absorbed by the students, and that’s OK. I can’t expect 30 8 year-olds who are just beginning to learn English to understand word problems using volume and capacity! I can expect that my constant use of English in their presence, and insisting they use English with me, will help improve their fluency and confidence using the language. And whatever material they do actually learn is an added bonus.
On a less serious note, there was at least a little comic relief Monday; in my second class of the day I sat on some cubbies as my P 1/1 class finished a worksheet and the cubbies broke. All the students laughed and it was funny. Mai pen rai.
Tuesday: Tuesday started off a little better. I had my P 3/1 class but their teacher was nowhere to be found (who knows why?). All they wanted to do was “play game.” I said screw teaching them about volume and gave them the option of dinosaurs or superheroes. They picked superheroes, so we made superhero masks all class. I started drawing cartoons of a man and a hotdog (which I draw all the time) and one girl (Gam) loved it. I told her she could draw cartoons if she wanted to, and she ended up copying mine. I think that’s the proudest I’ve ever been in my entire life.
In P 1/1 math we are learning about volume but at a much more basic level than P 3/1. I started by teaching “full,” “empty,” and “half full.” To portray this in a less-boring way, I found a little pink cup in my office (probably dirty) and filled it with water. I said “full” and showed the class, asking each student to repeat the word “full.” I then drank all the water in the cup (which the kids thought was hilarious) and turned the cup upside down, saying “empty.”
I’ve already been teaching multiplication to my P 2/2 class for a week and I wanted some clever ways to help the students learn. I looked around the internet and found an idea for a “multiplication wheel” on Pinterest and decided to go for it with my class. This idea is so much more difficult than it looks (and it looks pretty difficult!). Trying to explain to 30 7-year olds in a foreign language that they must make 6 lines and 12 circles, and then color in each circle a different color was near impossible. Then trying to get across the idea that this wheel can actually be used to help understand multiplication was actually impossible. Although some students had to start over a few times (realizing we weren’t just drawing Spiderman’s web), by the end of class Friday almost every student finished! We will focus on actually using the multiplication clock next week.
*I have to interject on my own blog to mention that two Thai men just sat down at my table in the coffeehouse where I write this blog post from. We spoke “Thainglish” (if you will) to each other for a few minutes and it turns out they’ve spent time in New York City since they’re in the seafood business! It’s also worth noting that there’s a guy sitting at a table close to me that has one long pinky nail; I don’t know what it is, but I’ve seen countless Thai men with nine average length fingernails and ONE long pinky nail.
Wednesday: I woke up covered in sweat and soon found out we had no electricity (or water because the pump in my house is hooked up to electricity). It turned out the whole town had no electricity. Luckily within a couple hours power came back on. I asked around and apparently that happens quite often, no one is sure why and just like most other problems I’ve encountered in BPI (like the fact that we DON’T HAVE RUNNING WATER AT SCHOOL), no one really cares. I can feel myself getting sick, it couldn’t be from constantly giving high fives to 100 little kids who don’t wash their hands, could it?
I can’t forget about Science Project class! This week I was slightly more prepared than making superhero masks on the spot; I looked up a youtube video of how to make super-cool paper airplanes that fly fast. My whole life I’ve always only been able to make the simple, bogus kinds that barely go anywhere. I found one on YouTube that was not too tough to make and showed my class.
I had never seen my students get quiet and listen so quickly; as soon as I walked in the classroom (paper airplane and paper in hand) they knew exactly what was going on. I demonstrated how to make the airplane step by step and the kids LOVED it (I just feel bad for their Thai teacher who had to deal with them throwing paper airplanes all day).
I started going to the market in BPI where the bus station is located and its a pretty happening place. I have a routine of going there to get a snack: usually som tom (spicy papaya salad) and kanun (jackfruit: the best fruit in the world and an uncanny resemblance to Juicy Fruit gum).
On Wednesday I saw a couple people I know there: a lady who works at one of my regular restaurant spots and a lady who works at Tavorn Park, the coffeehouse I go to every single day and is where I am writing this blog post from right now. The restaurant lady and I began talking (in the little, broken Thai I know, but am working on!) about me being a teacher and what I have been up to. A vendor must have overheard us because she stopped me and smiled, giving me free beef jerky and sticky rice!
She must’ve been excited to hear that I was a teacher and actually living in BPI, not just visiting. I’m not a big dried beef guy but that jerky was amazing; it was so sweet and flavorful. It would be weird to compare the taste to pancakes with syrup but that’s what it tasted like.
Travis was nice enough to give me his remaining Tavorn Park gym membership since he moved to Ayutthaya and I’ve been using it a lot. Going to the gym has become a part of my routine, along with going to the market and the coffeehouse to study Thai, blog, and simply enjoy the A/C and wifi (Lesson planning? I don’t think so). I have never been considered a very strong guy, but at Tavorn I max out the bench press. I guess Thai people don’t lift much?
On my walk back from the gym Wednesday a man waved to me and yelled something. I decided to go over to him and we began talking. It turned out that he lives just a few houses down from me at the Church. I immediately assumed he was trying to recruit me, but even after saying that I’m Jewish he still invited me inside and his whole family was incredible friendly and welcoming. He told me the Church houses a family of Christian Burmese refugees and they have been living in Thailand for two years. As soon as I walked in I was greeted by one of my P 1/1 students, PangPorn! It was so funny and unexpected to walk into the church (which is really just the bottom level of an apartment building) and see her standing there with a glass of water for me, saying “Teacher!” It only got more exciting from there- my roommate, Matt (who also plays the drums), had told me he knew there was a drum set in this church but he had never gone inside to play it. We talked about figuring out some way to play it (great timing, right?). I asked the Burmese people about the drums and if anyone plays them, and they told me to go ahead and play right then! So I fixed up the set and jammed for twenty minutes as they watched and recorded! It was (a little peculiar, but) awesome! They were all so nice to welcome me into their space and told me to come by to jam any time and bring my friends. I will definitely go back there soon.
NOTICE: IF YOU’RE IN THAILAND AND YOU PLAY AN INSTRUMENT, COME STAY AT MY HOUSE IN BANG PA IN AND JAM AT GRACE CHURCH!
Thursday and Friday: Both really easy days at school, only 3 and 2 classes respectively. I won’t waste your time reading about anything I did, besides playing music for my Friday classes. I make a big deal about Friday and the weekend and always play at least one song that we all sing and dance to. Today it was “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa. For whatever reason, all my kids know that song and love it almost as much as “Let It Go.”
No big plans for the weekend besides explore my area a little more. And a going away party Saturday night at our place for Hardus- he got a job in Hat Yai (all are welcome).
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!