Learning Curve – The Beginning

Remember that advert…”Those who can…teach!” (but in my case, Those who think they can….try! haha) And, here I am! ‘Teacher Miss Readdy, reporting for duty!’

My first week has just been IN-credible! I have been lost for words this week (well, not during lessons of course hah) but I will do my best to describe just how utterly amazing and inspiring this School really is!

On my way to School!

So I arrive at the bus station to book my ticket to Buriram. A lift had already been arranged for me at the other end so I really only had to worry about the getting there, fab!

The crazy taxi man dropped me off around 10am at Nonchon Air Bus Station. When I say crazy, he was actually really nice! He kept saying ‘You clever girl, I like you!’ With the taxi mans broken English and my badly pronounced Thai, we managed to somehow keep a conversation going. Of course, my Thai is limited to Hello, yes, no, thank you, delicious (random word to know!) and the first line of the Chang song (Elephant song). After much giggling and singing the taxi man a very bad rendition of the chang song, he drops me at the bus station AND gives me a discount just for trying to sing the song ha, bless him! Ken always did tell me if you sing this song it will get you discounts…tried and tested, it does so go learn it before you come to Thailand!

So I’ve bought some snackage thinking I’m getting on the 11am bus however, at the ticket counter, I’m informed the next bus is full so I have to wait 5hrs for the next one!! Oh great! Not much point me going back to Bangkok and they do have free wifi at the station so…tick tock, tick tock…I’m waiting, waiting and waiting! Finally, I get a nudge from one of the staff..turns out I was actually waiting at the wrong gate too but luckily as I’d been hanging about for half the day, I wasn’t exactly unnoticed lol. I bet the staff in the departure lounge were thinking ‘My god, she’s rather early!’ haha, oh well.

The 3pm bus was packed plus, I was the only foreigner headed to Buriram…ok, this could be a good thing though..Remember Sisaket? I felt like a local celeb over there haha. Everyone on the coach seemed really nice though..after the initial stares and acknowledgement that there was a Westerner on the bus, we exchanged a smile and a wai. Getting comfortable, the lady next to me whipped her shoes off and ‘whoosh’, my nostrils were overwhelmed with an awful musky and moist feety smell! It was as though her poor feet had been crammed in her shoes all day long and it was almost 35 degrees out so you can imagine how bad it was! ‘Oh great’ I was thinking, I’m going to have to put up with this for 5 straight hours! On a hot, sticky and packed bus, the aircon was very much welcomed however, the coldness of the air seemed to amplify the stench and the vents would waft the offensive feety odour all around the bus! I know everyone could smell it haha, I was just selfishly hoping they didn’t think it was me!

Ok, with my nose adjusted, I managed to doze off listening to the drones of my ipod but then I got woken up to a prodding elbow! The smelly footed lady diverted my eyes to the hostess (not sure of the proper word but she was the air hostess of the road!) “Excuse me miss..would you like some food?”. “Yes please, thanks!” Reaching out for the white carton, I remember thinking I wasn’t all that hungry but thought it best to take whatever was inside as I wasn’t sure if I’d be having dinner upon arrival at the school. Inside was a portion of sticky rice with a side serving of chicken. We were also given a small packet of snacks (like crisps) and a bottle of water. The snack was some kind of crispy prawn crackers. I saved mine for later but the lady next to me tucked right in. Urgh! The snacks smell just as bad as her feet..great, so now there’s a fishy addition to the already floating cheesy aroma in the air!

Moving on, I remember staring out the window and taking note of all the emotions whizzing round…scared, nervous, anxious, home-sick, liberated, free, independent, happy, tearful. I’m so proud of myself but yet I was worrying about what was expected of me etc..what was this school going to be like? How were we going to get over the language barrier? I distract myself with a book and then once again, fall asleep.

“Miss…Miss…” Another prodding elbow was this time disturbing my unconscious body…”Huh…what?!” Rubbing my eyes and slowly coming to, I see the hostess leaning over to let me know we’re at Nang Rong Hospital. (my pre-arranged pick up point). “Here is your stop Miss.” “Ah thank you for waking me and letting me know!” Still not quite with it, I gather my things and hop off the bus to be greeted by a short and skinny girl with long black hair. “You must be Helen?” She asked. (I was thinking, who’s asking hah!) “Yes that’s me! You must be Beau?” I replied. “Nice to meet you. Let me help you with your bags, my car’s just here” Beau was lovely and seemed happy to see me. “Have you had dinner? I haven’t eatern so we can drive into town for some food if you like?” I was feeling peckish so agreed we should go and get some dinner. So with the invisible man loaded into the back of her car, off to town we went!

Some like it HOT!!

A short drive brought us to the town centre. Even though the town was covered in a blanket of darkness, I could tell it was similar to Sisaket, bonus! Small, dusty (and bumpy) roads, people buzzing about on knackered looking motorbikes, shacks and stalls selling various fruits, meats, sauces and bottles of water. Oh and I see a 7 Eleven! They are like the local handy stores (a newsagent back home!). We park up and walk over to what looked like the town square. In the centre were various food stalls selling, chicken, pork, beef, noodles…. We both fancied noodles so walked over and put our orders in. Beau ordered mine for me…”Oh, not too spicey please!” I pleaded! Hmm..well, I found out the North East of Thailand love their spicy food! The spicier the better. I had a dish called ‘Tom Yum?’ and my word, even with the spice ‘dulled’ down it was still too hot for me! Hah! I scooped up as many noodles as I could in my chopsticks and ‘BAM’ My tastebuds were on fire! I was coughing and spluttering all over the place and then came the hiccups lol! My eyes were watering and all I could do was take big gulps of water to try ease the burning sensation. Beau was laughing her head off and even a few of the locals joined in haha! “My god…that’s too hot for you?!”  It was quite funny looking back. After our meal, Beau suggested we went to 7 Eleven for some icecream 🙂

Welcome to my Crib!

Within minutes we were driving through the gates of the school, it looked huge! Beau stopped to sign me in and then drove me to the guest house. We pull up to a nice looking house that almost looked ‘american’ to me! The house was set back from the school but still within the school grounds. It looked like such a big house. Outside there was a stone bench and to the left side I could see a set of tables and chairs. Attached to the right side of the house was a huge white fence but through the gaps, the cars headlights lit up another set of tables and chairs…so lets call that the ‘garden’. And at the top of the house, I could see a small balcony which overlooked the schools playing field opposite. “Here is your house!” Beau said, excitedly jingling the keys in front of my face! “You have this all to yourself so you can pick which bedroom you’d like!” Beau unlocked the door and showed me around. We entered via the side door not the front door. The first room was like an inside porch or utility room if you like. There was a sink to the right along with cupboards and cutlery and a hot water boiler thingie in which you can make hot tea / coffee with and there was also a pile of ‘odds and sods’ such as chairs and gym mats all piled up in one corner. I noticed there was some kind of animal or insect poo on the floor and lots of it hah…I found out later in the week what that belonged to…There was another door inside this porch which was the actual main front door to the house. In the house I can see a nice big lounge with a TV (YESSsss) and 2 other doors. One door led to a bathroom and the other was a bedroom with 2 mattresses on the floor. Upstairs there are another 2 rooms. One room was padlocked and the other one unlocked. Slowly pushing the unlocked door ajar, I immediately know I want this room..there is a static aircon unit, wardrobe and mirror haha! It’s a pretty big room too, there are 3 single mattresses on the floor so you can imagine the space 🙂 Sorted, that’s my room picked out! “I will send my students along in the morning to deliver some breakfast for you but I will tell them not to disturb you. June will meet you when you’re up to discuss the week ahead.” Beau then left me alone for the rest of the night to get settled in. Wow, so I get brekkie delivered to the door in the morning! Woo hoo!

So I’m unloading my stuff and already filling up the bathroom with my shampoo’s and face washes etc..just when I thought I was the only resident I looked up and WOAH!!! There is a huge brown, hairy spider clinging to the wall right in front of me! How did I not notice that before!? He was staring at me as though he was trying to let me know that was ‘his’ very own spot! Marvelling at my hairy and unwanted resident, I reached for my camera and took a few shots of him.

Ahh it feels so big here and it’s lonely. The silence reminds me this is all very real and I am here all by myself..Ok, so lets watch a bit of telly! Switching it on, I’m flicking through all the channels to discover each and every channel is in Thai…great! Ah, how about a movie channel…nope! Hmm..lets find a music channel..Yep, all the same, oh but hang on, there was the odd chart tune that I recognised. Hey, it’s not so bad, it’s breaking the silence and giving me some sense of comfort at least. One observation though, some of the Asian music videos are rather depressing! The love songs seem to be about boy meets girl, girl runs off with another man and the man kills himself! Happy, happy! With Thai music blaring out, I decide to update my journal but that was soon interrupted with a call from Ken checking up to see that I was ok and settling in alright.

Later on and a few more pages of the journal jotted, tired heavy eyes force me to put the pen down for one night so I head up the stairs for bed. I actually slept with the light on in my bedroom that night haha…what a wuss! Night light going on the shopping list me thinks! 😉

Sunday 9th June – Meeting June!

Wow, so this morning were x 2 canisters of food out on the front table just as Beau promised. Each container offered something different to try. There was a mixture of rice, omlette, green veg, mushrooms and something else that I wasn’t too sure of…it was somekind of pungent soup so I left that one hah! June then called me to arrange a time for her to pop over so we could finally meet and chat about the week ahead.

Showered and presentable, June came to the house at 11am. I could hear the buzz of a motorbike approaching and I knew it was her. Peering out the window, I could see 2 ladies parking up and walking over to the front door! A small shot of adrenalin whooshed round as June reached out her clenched fist to knock on the door….

“Hi June. I’m Helen, nice to finally meet you!” Extending my hand to June, I greet her with a big smile and usher them both inside. June introduces herself as the Head of the English Department and the other lady is another one of the English teachers –  her name (which I still can’t say) sounds like ‘Tomb’! After a few minutes, the nerves disappear and we were already discussing Monday morning! Both June and Tomb are lovely! Such chilled out people. They seemed very excited I was there to help and they explain how they (and the children) are looking forward to working with me!

“First things first, I’d like to introduce you in the morning Helen. You will meet the other teachers and of course, the English department where you will be based” June’s already got the week mapped out. Studying my face, June then asks “How long are you going to stay with us?” “Well, I’d like to stay for a month and then who knows…” I didn’t know if I was even going to last a month at this point right?! “Ok great. We’d like you to stay as long as possible. The longer the better it will be for the children you see” She replied. “Of course, I understand”. June then went on to explain, “The childrens English here is really poor so we’re just so excited that we have an English person here to try help. We can teach them english of course, but it’s your mother tongue”. I was talking to myself in my head now…’they’re English is really poor?!….So what have these teachers been doing haha? They’re certainly not going about getting any schooling awards talking like this lol’. I realise now that June meant because of the childrens backgrounds, they’ve either not had the chance for any schooling so some of them are basically starting from scratch or they are having to really push and encourage the older ones to want to continue expanding their existing english vocab. Now I’m typing this having been here a week, I realise how god dam hard these teachers work!

June explains the school has been set up by sponsors and is run by the Thai Government. The school is specifically for orphaned children and / or children from extremely poor families who just simply can’t afford to send their little ones to school. This place offers orphans a home and poor children the opportunity to learn, grow and better their futures. I just love it! The place sounds absolutely amazing and I’m feeling excited to be a part of it.

June and Tomb then walk me around the school to get me used to my new surroundings. Wow, this place is huge! All the children live in their separate dorms naturally girls with girls and boys with boys! They have everything they need here. A big school playing field, a music room, many classrooms and departments, a huge school hall / games room, a basketball court, canteen, an on-site school tuck shop and the use of the computers in the teachers offices. Oh and they even have their own animals (well, we’re not talking pets though!) They keep boars and chickens for tasty school dinners! Plus, all of the food that is left over from the meals is collected and all dumped into one huge bin and then fed to the pigs! One way of recycling I guess…feed the pigs up then eat them! Circle of life hey!

I’d already started to meet some of the children on the way round. There was lots of pointing, whispering and giggling but they were all so shy! Once the ‘walk round’ was over with I then had the opportunity to check my emails etc and then head back to the house. The day seemed to whizz by! “Good night Helen. See you at 8am for the Introductions in the morning” June and Tomb then left me to my own devices for the night. Introductions hey? I hope they don’t mean I have to do some kind of speech? So back at the house, before my tired eyes urged me to hay hit, I jotted something down incase……and oh boy was I glad I did!

Let me introduce myself!!

My alarm rudely interrupts my sweet slumber at 6.30am! Unzipping the sleeping bag and flopping out of bed in my usual sleep drunken state, I head downstairs to get ready for my first day at school! At 7am a new canister is delivered ‘Ooo brekkie!’ Fried eggs, sticky rice and spicy minced pork!

I see my hairy resident is still in the bathroom but avoiding him, I shower and get ready. I keep imagining this massive spider’s going to jump on me whilst I’m in the shower (I think there’s a scene just like this in arachnophobia haha!)  Right, ready to head to school for 8am, I lock up and leave my house. It’s only a 2 minute walk and already I can see children everywhere. They are either walking into school like me, some are skipping or playing ‘clapping’ games, some of the little boys are kicking a football around and others are running to line up for the morning outdoor assembly. “Hello!” shout some of the children. I can tell others want to speak to me but as soon as I say ‘Hi’ they’ve hidden behind their friends haha! So cute.

As I get closer to the front of the school, I can see the teachers all sitting at the benches in the shade. “Helen, come join us” shouted June. I was briefly introduced to some of the teachers but most of all, I was ushered to meet the Principal of the school. An attractive older lady with short bobbed hair. “Hello Helen. It’s great to have you here at our school, we are so very lucky!” Wow! I’m thinking, I’m the one who’s actually lucky to be here! The Principal explained they have an assembly every morning but today, the children have prepared a welcome speech for me! But then came the bit I feared the night before….”We would then like you to introduce yourself to the children”  WHAT!! My eyes felt like they’d suddenly doubled in size and I’m sure my face had ‘fear factor’ written all over it !! All I could do was let out a slight stuttered croak which was fast interrupted by the Thai anthem. Sitting back at the benches with the other teachers, I just froze! I could feel the adrenalin already mixing up a nasty potion in my belly ready to intravenously deliver an unwanted shot of pure fear into my system…oh and the trigger word of course being ‘Helen’! Just like in the movies, everything felt like it had slowed down…the sounds around be began to disappear…I’m sure the teachers were still talking to me but all I could hear were my own thoughts..’Oh good god. What am I going to say?’ ‘What if I get stage fright and just freeze up there?’ Ok, snapping out of it, I reached a sweaty palm into my trouser pocket for my sort of prepared emergency speech. The children started clapping and a girl who can’t have been much older than 14 walked up to the front…”We would like to welcome you Helen to our school. Thank you for coming here to see us. We hope you enjoy your stay here” After a pause and a giggle, the girl then passed the microphone back to the Principal and ran back to her line…it was so cute! Uh oh…I think the shot of super potent adrenalin has just been loaded…just as though an injection had been drawn up and ready to administer the unwanted chemicals. “Now everyone, I would like you to meet Helen, our English volunteer…” Oh noooo…the trigger word has been unleashed and now the super potent adrenalin shot has been released into my system…’WHOOSH’ round it goes! My trembling hand takes the microphone and I’m walking up to the front of the huge crowd of children…700 little brown faces are all staring up at me waiting for me to say something! The awful feedback noise delays the first ‘Hello’ but it soon clears…Clutching my crumpled emergency speech I glance down and then that’s it…the potent shot of adrenalin has kicked in and taken over and it’s helping me to deliver my intro! “Hello everyone!” I hear a few muffled hello’s back and then I said it again…”I can’t hear you, we can do better than that….HELLO!” What was I doing? Was I some kind of wannabee kids entertainer now too haha? Well, whatever was happening, it was working and I was loving this out of body experience haha! “My name is Helen and I’m here to help you all learn English” I then rambled on about how much I wanted to help everyone and that the kids (and teachers) were very welcome to ask me anything they wanted. They were to see me as their ‘english friend’! After my speech, everyone clapped and I then rejoined the teachers at the benches. “Thank you Helen. Now we’d like you to introduce yourself to the teachers” The Principal was prompting me and pointing towards the other teachers..Um..wasn’t that enough for everyone haha? Now this one I did stumble with. I just blurted out something similar and kept it short and sweet hah! Well, it seemed to be ok for them anyways. They then kept saying how beautiful I was haha…blushing, I just said thank you..but actually, I think it was just my skin and my nose they loved lol. I may have already mentioned but they love white skin here, it is a sign of wealth. So finally, my white casper legs can come out and be proudly shown to the world haha!

Lesson #1

The bell goes and it’s 8.30am…”Helen, are you ready?” Beau asked me to follow her to the first english lesson! Oh my goodness! This is it. I had prepared a few pictures and words about the UK and some info about myself so I was as ready as I could be I guess. My mind (and heart) was racing though..’how many are there in the class?’ ‘How much English do they know?’ ‘Will they understand me?’ Beau looked at me and said “Just speak slowly and you will be fine” Umm ok…she definitely does know I haven’t taught before right??!

It was like the walk of doom (as I call it) on the way to the lesson. I was greeted by children along the way all saying “Hello” and then finally, we reach the classroom. The class was full of boys around 14yrs old..25 of them! Gulp! Ok, c’mon you can do this! How hard can it be?

The classroom looks ‘old school’ haha! wooden tables, chairs and desks and a blackboard. I get my folder out along with all the pictures I’d printed off in preparation. While I’m doing this, Beau is introducing me to the class and explaining that I will be teaching them about England today! The whole class then gets up and chants “Good morning Teacher. How are you?” So of course I chanted back, “I’m fine thank you how are you?” “I am good thank you Miss” Beau then looks at me and tells me to order them to sit down! “Great, you may now be seated!”  A silence then fell across the room and Beau’s looking at me as if to say ‘take it away Helen!’ Omg! Here goes….

“Good morning everyone. My name is Helen and I come from England” I could hear a few whispers in the back row “Oh, En ga Land” I then showed them pictures such as Big Ben, the red telephone boxes and the red London buses…a typical English house (as they are so different to here of course), a picture of our Queen, Buckingham Palace…oh and then I showed them the families pets! Toto, Piper, Biggles and my old Ratties! They loved it! To finish the lesson, I got them all singing a song taught to me by my friend Lucy from the Hill Tribes tour…’Wherever I go..People always ask me…Where are you from?’ etc.. I had them all on their feet in no time and shouting the song back to me as loud as they could! It was so much fun haha…I loved it! I actually got goosebumps thinking…’how on earth did I get here?’ 🙂 Phew, at the end of the lesson the children all thanked me and then scooted off to their next lessons. Wow, what a rush! I really enjoyed that. Then it was back to the office for a quick break before the next lesson.

I went on to teach another 2 lessons. One was a similar sized group with boys of the same ages but the last lesson was a group of girls again, they must have been around 13-14yrs old. Both lessons went as smoothly as the first. I had them laughing and singing along with me. One girl at the end of the lesson gave me a note that said I love you! Aww! I felt so touched, it was so cute! I felt like blubbing a little actually…these kids are adorable, how could anyone have hurt them in the past?!

Enter my new friend…Pinto!

At lunch time, I was taken to the staff room and shown the food and what was in each container. I also then met the Thai volunteer lady who again has a name I can’t pronounce so I will call her Pinto. Pinto has perfect english so we spend most of the lunch time chatting away. She is a teacher by profession and used to teach in Bangkok. Pinto got fed up with the hustle and bustle of Bangkok and heard about this school, she thought it would be a great opportunity to come and do some good whilst getting away from the big smoke. Pinto is undecided but she may volunteer for a whole year, she feels a month isn’t long enough for these students as she has come to realise how bad their english (or lack of) is! It is then agreed that I can assist Pinto this week with her classes and I can’t wait as she’s going to show me how she teaches!

With my new schedule agreed with Pinto, she asked me to prepare the subjects; ‘The London Underground’ and ‘Careers and the associated Adjectives’. So I did lots more printing off and decided to talk about how to catch a train, the types of tickets (whether it was a pay and go or an Oyster card) and I printed off photos of the inside of the London Underground, Waterloo station, the different tube lines etc.. And for the careers I printed off the various jobs we can train in e.g. Dentist, Policeman, Teacher, Reporter etc and then of course, I made notes on the qualities which you need to be a Teacher etc…Great stuff…I’m now prepared for tomorrow’s day of teaching with Pinto and I’m really looking forward to it.

It’s a ‘lock out’ !!

Early evening, a lovely teacher called ‘Anne’ took me to the night market incase I needed any supplies. I jumped at the chance as it was an opportunity to get to know another teacher and make my ‘bonds’ if you see what I mean. The night market was a small place displaying a handful of stalls selling all kinds of foods from meat to fruit and veg, and clothing to hats and flip flops. I bought a few things for the bathroom oh and a slice of pizza! Yes, I actually found a stall selling pizza’s woo hoo! Anne was so nice, she said if I needed anything at all, I was to take her number and just give her a call no matter how small the ask! I have been made to feel so very welcomed by everyone, I love it!

Anne dropped me back at the house and then drove off. I walk over to the house, undo the padlock and oh….hang on…the door still won’t open!? Oh nooo! I’ve only gone and blimmin pushed the button in on the inside of the door haven’t I!! So I have double locked the door and I don’t have the key, I only have a key to the padlock. Great, so I’m locked out. I didn’t want to call Anne back or anyone else for that matter…I didn’t want to look like an incapable idiot on my first day now did I!

Right, security is only a walk away. So, I walked on over to the security hut on the gates. I see 3 men all sitting inside, drinking and watching a small TV. “Hello. Excuse me…but I’ve done something really silly..I’ve locked myself out!” I was greeting by a few blank faces so I could tell I needed to do some kind of sign language to explain it hah! Eventually they understood and all 3 followed me to the house. I was of course really nervous! It was dark and I had 3 men following me back to the house…I was hoping that they understood for sure that I was locked out and only needed someone to let me in!!

The guys were twiddling with the door handle, wiggling it about, trying to prod and poke things in the lock but nothing was working. Eventually, one of the security guards decided to climb up to the balcony and forced the upstairs door open!! It opened with the first shoulder barge! The security guard then walked downstairs and opened the door from the inside. Phew! Whilst I was relieved to be inside, I was now rather shocked at how easy it was for someone to break in!!

Locking each and every bolt and padlock I could find on every door and window, I finally settled down! Oh nooo!! I see the tea / coffee boiler thingie has leaked all over the floor…but that’s not the only drama…the water’s stopped running so I can’t even have a shower before going to bed. So with nothing more to do, I sulked off to bed.

Tuesday 11th  – Teaching me, teaching them!

As before, I’m up early and see a new canister of food waiting for me on the front porch. Hmm still no running water so I’m filling the sink with bottled water and washing with that. I hope it’s running later, I’m starting to smell like a baboon already in this heat hah! Almost ready, I go to the bathroom to brush my teeth to find the ants clearly needed to brush theirs more than me…my toothbrush was absolutely covered with them! There’s no way I’m putting that in my mouth so it’s a blob of toothpaste on the finger jobbie!

Today I taught the younger kiddies (10-12yrs old) about the London Underground. It’s not that easy teaching them about the many different lines, even with Pinto’s translating…but it’s just nice to see their faces staring at the pictures in awe! Many of them haven’t even been to Bangkok Station so you can imagine the curiosity in their little faces bless em! I finished the lesson with a song – ‘If you’re happy and you know it’ and they loved it! Pinto was a star today! I am loving being a ‘team’ with her as she is so passionate and enthusiastic towards the children plus, she is teaching me how to teach them, it’s fab!

Lunchtime whizzed round and I was pretty hungry so I was looking forward to seeing what would be on the palette for today. Ooo looks like Tuna in some kind of red sauce? Big scoops of that then please along with some other veg..on the plate it all goes. Sitting down for lunch, I start tucking in. I’ve taken a big spoonful of this tuna concoction when suddenly I realise the red sauce is actually some kind of chilli sauce!! Woah…I feel like a fire breathing dragon! With the amount of heat kicking out of this dish, I probably could hiccup a few fireballs out! Yup, I was hiccuping for England hah! A few glasses of water later and my mouth started to cool down. Good job too as I had another class to head off to with Pinto..

I did the same as the day before which was my introduction to the class, where I’m from and a bit about England, who our Queen is etc…At the end of the class, I got a note from 2 little girls which read ‘We love you Helen’ !! Aww…It was so very touching! They even gave me a big squeeze and kiss on the cheek hah! Cute or what.

In my free time, I started preparing for the next classes (for the rest of the week) one being grade 8 (13-16yrs old). The topic was ‘Greetings and Introductions’ so I wanted them to know the difference between formal and informal greetings – how we meet existing friends, new friends and how we meet and greet people such as Managers, Directors (our peers in other words). I also started to get prep for the younger class, grade 4 (9-10yrs old). Their topic was ‘My Body’. Well, I had an idea to print off the silhouette of the human body along with words such as fingers, head, arms, legs etc…I wanted them to stick the appropriate words onto the body. Then perhaps if there was time, I would show them how to make a paper doll chain. And of course, the song as the end would have to be ‘Heads, shoulders, knees and toes…’ I was looking forward to that hah!

Later on after school had finished for the day, I went and sat in the computer room for my usual internettings! One of the lady boys came and sat with me and we ended up watching You Tube together. I named him Lekmans (following suit to my nickname of Hellmans you see!), a very sweet 17yr old boy who was orphaned at a young age. Well, I say orphaned.. his older sister took him in but has now shipped him off here. He is just lacking ‘love’ just like most if not all of the children are here. I found out he likes magic and fantasy programmes including the British hit ‘Merlin’.  Lekmans even asked me ‘Are unicorns real?’ Oh my goodness! Of course I had to tell him they don’t but with the look on his face, I felt as though I’d just told a 5yr old that Santa didn’t exist haha! Anyways, we watched a few clips from Merlin and then I introduced him to ‘Dynamo’ an english magician. He was amazed by the tricks he could do, he loved it!

Wednesday the school was to prepare for ‘Teachers Day’ which was an event happening on Thursday so there may not actually be any lessons on at all Wednesday. Teachers Day is a day in which the children can show their appreciation for the teachers. They will prepare flowers and drawings to present to their teachers as gifts. The flowers have to be picked and arranged very carefully as each flower will have a different meaning. I forget now all of the meanings however, I know that the grass meant something like..’sticking with the children through thick and thin no matter what’ – which is true of grass..it’s always there no matter the weather right? So you get the idea! I could see so many beautiful arrangements being passed about already so was looking forward to Thursday!

So all in all, a good day! Later in my house, I’m getting ready for bed and notice so many red bumps appearing…yep, mozzie bites! Oh great! Even with the sprays and creams on, they still manage to get to the parts you’ve missed! Darn things! So I slunk off up to bed trying my hardest not to itch and scratch!

Wednesday 12th  – The day before

Yep, you guessed it…today was a quiet day! I did manage to teach english in the morning though to a class of 18yr olds. I was so nervous to teach a bunch of 18yr olds…I was thinking they wouldn’t be that interested but also that my material might be too ‘babyish’ or something but actually, it went pretty well! They were particularly interesting in hearing about english weather! Well, of course, I’d already printed off photos of snow and frozen lakes oh and of course, snowmen! One boy said he wanted to go to England just to throw snowballs at his friends haha awww! It’s funny just how much we can take for granted isn’t it? They were a great group and in fact, very inquisitive too! They were keen to know all about England and where I lived so it felt more like an ‘off the cuff’ kind of lesson and I really enjoyed that.

After the lesson, it was back to the office. I could see (and smell!) the most beautiful flower arrangements being passed back and forth, adjusted, added to… wow, some of them had even been shaped to look like beautiful birds it was incredible. The children were darted about the school preparing their presentations too. Some were under trees reading to their fellow students practicing to be ‘word perfect’. I found out there were to be marked on their arrangements as well as their speeches so it was no wonder that some of them looked a bit fraught haha!

My ‘shift’ was over with by 2.30pm and actually I didn’t feel to well so I sloped off to my house and rested up for a few hours. I then popped back to the computer rooms about 5pm where I saw Lekmans watching more You Tube videos of ‘Dynamo’ hah, it was very sweet! We then watched a few magna cartoons together before Lekmans went off to his dorm for bed…for Lekmans had big day ahead of him tomorrow!

Thursday 13th – Teachers Day has arrived!

I was almost late today! I had to rush to leave the house but just made it on time for 8am. I find out there are no lessons for the first half of the day for Teachers Day is upon us! After the mornings assembly we all move into the hall for ‘the show’. The teachers are all seated at the front on the stage and the children are all sat on the floor of the hall. It was amazing…of course it made no difference to me that it was all in Thai but it was rather beautiful! The children sang songs and then a selected group of students would slowly walk up to the front and onto the stage to hand the teachers their arranged flowers. After this, 2 groups of students put on 2 traditional Thai dances, it was amazing! Then new students of the school were given yellow bracelets as gifts and were ‘blessed’ by the teachers as a welcome. I felt so touched to be able to witness this occasion…it seems it’s only a once a year event so to be able to see this on my first week was really lucky!

Once the show was over, everyone moved outside. In the scorching heat, the children were to then present to their teachers how much they meant to them and to explain the meanings of their flower arrangements and why they picked them. Aww they all looked so nervous and were probably more nervous with me taking a ton of photos of them too haha! I had a great chance to mingle with the students too. They kept pointing at my skin and then to their own as if to say ‘why are you different?’ haha and the little girls would play with my hair and ask me if my hair colour is real (hehe) and the boys would be catching dragon flies or lizards to come and show me which of course being a bug lover, was so cool! 🙂 Such adorable little people! I really am beside myself as to how anyone could not want them and want to just inflict nothing but pain upon them…so so sad. But then I have to snap myself out of all this ‘bad’ as they are now in such a wonderful place with so much more opportunity at their feet. They are surrounded by such amazingly passionate people now who only want the best for them. Some of the children even gave me some cuttings of these gorgeous flowers – it felt like a kind of welcome gift of my own if you like!

Lunch time was interesting.. in the canteen today, we had options of rice and veg and these funny ‘glass noodles’ that actually tasted like tobacco!! Well, I just couldn’t eat them so they ordered the kitchen to make me an omlette haha! I felt like I was being a diva or something which of course I wasn’t, they offered to which was so kind of them! 🙂

After lunch, Pinto and I were off to teach 13-16yr olds, again, the subject is the London Underground and careers and the qualities you need. Before we started the lesson, 3 of the girls said they had a gift for us. They started to walk slowly to the front of the class singing us a song (in Thai of course). I had no idea what they were singing but Pinto started crying! “What are they saying?” I whispered. “They are saying that we are the sandpaper and we are rubbing them smooth so they are better” Omg, that is so sweet! They then gave us a rose each awww…I proudly had this on show in my house along with my other cuttings from the morning! In the afternoon, Pinto briefed me on Friday’s lesson plan…again it was ‘Introductions and greetings.’

Later on in the evening, I popped back to the computer rooms where as usual, I found Lekmans! He was looking up some of his favourite songs on You Tube with english lyrics! Clever kid hey! So I helped him to read and understand them.

Another lock out!!!

It’s getting late so I decide to call it a night and head back to the house. I get to the door, unlock the padlock, turn the handle and the doors stuck fast! Oh nooo!! ‘Helen, you idiot!’ I thought to myself…you’ve only gone and locked yourself out AGAIN! The worst part was that I didn’t even remember doing it! I was devastated that I could do it twice haha! I was totally embarrassed but I knew I had to go back to security for their help again. At the security hut, I could sense they were thinking ‘You stupid girl! Didn’t you learn from last time?!’ hah..and with a few rolled eyes, 2 of them walked me back to the house. The one that climbed my balcony last time really stank of booze! I was thinking, oh great! While I really wanted him to climb my balcony like before to let me in…I didn’t want to be responsible should anything happen to him either! But after much umming and urring, the drunk security man decided that was the only way in and with a very wobbly (and baited breath on my part!) climb, he made it back up and back in!! Phew! I hope they keep this to themselves, I don’t want to be a laughing stock haha! So, 5 minutes later, I’m getting ready for bed and suddenly I hear “Helen…Hello, are you in there? Helen, are you ok?” Well, I was um, on the ‘throne’ so I couldn’t exactly jump up and let them in…eventually I went to the door..it was Pinto! “Helen, one of the security guards came to let me know you couldn’t get in? I see you’re ok now though!” Omg, great, so secrets out haha!! Oh, the guard that stayed behind must have gone off to get Pinto to let her know?

Red faced, I was finally left alone to hay hit (and hopefully forget about tonights shenanigans!) 🙂

Friday 14th – Bugging me! 

Wow this week has gone quick! I get up and go downstairs to see a new canister of food waiting for me..I also see some left over food from the day before! I can see the reason they didn’t take want to take it though…it was absolutely covered in ants, thousands of them hah! The ants are strong little buggers though I tell ya! They were carrying a huge piece of chilli up the wall haha, it was so funny. I have actually seen them carrying a small cockroach up the wall too, that was pretty impressive! It’s like a mass operation…I can imagine them saying to each other..’to me, to you, to me…It’s ok, I’ll take a leg, you take the antenna’ ! hah! I have such a strange imagination I know haha. Keeps me sane believe it or not. Anyways…where was I? Oh yes…so I’m making a cup of coffee (Oh and if I hadn’t mentioned, this was now my 3rd new hot water boiler thingie but thankfully this one was working and not leaking hah!) At the sink, something bolted..what was that!? I grabbed my torch and peered behind the unit…oh my word! There were 5 huge geckos, a whole family of them AND I can see 4 eggs wow! I hope I get to see them fresh out haha..I should record my very own David Attenborough programme hey, right from my very porch 🙂

After all the excitement, I spray on my usual cologne of Deet, smooth on a bit of lip balm, grab my bag and I’m readdy to rock! That’s about as glamorous as it gets right now! My first lesson was not until 10.10am so I spent the morning preparing. Todays topic was ‘Intro’s and greetings’.

It was so cute to see the lil kids writing in their books what I had put on the board! I used cartoons to help them put the words to the pictures which I’m guessing would help keep it in their memories. At the end, we sung another song but this time I taught them ‘If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands’. For some reason, the last lesson was cancelled so I decided to head for the computer room to catch up on my usual internettings! 🙂

I caught up with June who wanted to talk about Lekmans with me. “I’ve seen you talking with Lek. He’s only been here 2mths. I wanted to ask you how you find his english?” Inquisitively, June poised her head and narrowed her eyes at me waiting to hear what I’d say. “Oh I find his english is pretty good, he’s a bright kid from what I know of him already. He listens well and picks up words quickly” I replied enthusiastically because I wanted him to have the recognition he deserved. “He’s an orphan you know. When he first arrived, he was bullied by the other boys so as well as having a rough start in life, he’s had a tough start here too. He’s so keen to learn english. I asked him what we could do at the school to help him learn and Lek’s reply was to have an english teacher that had time for him” Well, I don’t think he was a complete orphan as I knew he had a sister…without knowing all the details though I didn’t ask any further questions. Anyway, overall, I can already spot the super keen kids and the one’s who are just to ‘shy to try’ at the moment!

Skipping on a bit…I visit the schools shop for a few supplies. They don’t have what I want but the kind lady in the shop said she’d take me to the supermarket on her motorbike after school as she too needed a ‘few things’. So at 6pm, she pulls up outside my house and picks me up as promised. I only needed a few bits so thinking this won’t take long…well, I felt as though I was shopping in Tesco’s with my Mum!! I grabbed what I needed (literally, shampoo, toothpaste, all the small things)..This lady fills a trolley load! I was thinking ‘Has she forgotten how we got here haha?’ How the heck are we going to get this all on the bike?’ My curiosity had to be answered so I just asked her outright…”Um…how are we going to get all of this back to the school?!” Giggling behind a cupped hand, I pointed with the other one to the mountainous trolley load! “Oh it’s ok…I very strong!” She replies. Well, that just made me burst out laughing, oh god! This is going to be an interesting ride back lol. But then I remembered something, back in Nam or Cambodia, you see people with their whole families on these things…heck I’ve even seen crates of pigs, chickens…oh and even a dog in the foot well of a bike!

We come out the supermarket and it’s dark already..it also looks like it’s rained a little too. I’m dreading it as we push the trolley over to the bike. I think my mind was logically trying to play ‘tetris’ with all the bags as the bike appeared in view. Well…I don’t know how she did it but she did! I wish I’d photographed it…there were bags balanced on both handle bars, there were bags crammed down by her feet, on her lap, on my lap, just everywhere.

The ride back was hilarious! As it had just rained, there were these huge flying bugs all over the place. I got a serious bout of the giggles too. If only my friends and fam could see me now..a bike loaded to the brim with bags PLUS, huge flying bugs hitting us in the face! Great, my forehead probably looks like the front of a car bonnet right now, gross! I must have swallowed a few insect parts too from all the laughing…yup, straight in the gob they go YUK! It was just like that scene from ‘Dumb and dumber’ (if you know the one I’m talking about hahaha!) Uh oh, rain brings the frogs and toads out right….”Look out!!” I screamed….too late….SQUISH! Poor toad! “There’s another one!!” Trying to point at the toad but being stacked up with shopping bags I didn’t dare to move…SQUELCH! Oops…again, too late!

I was relieved to finally be back at the house. I had purposely left the porch light on as I knew it would be dark by the time I got back. While this seemed like a good idea at the time, it also attracted hundreds of those flying bugs and in turn, there were hundreds of ants all marching in their army lines – they were munching on the dead (now not so flying) bugs on the floor! It must have looked quite funny to any on-lookers for I was swatting at the air and waving my arms about vigorously at these giant winged flies and stomping my feet to stop the ants crawling up my legs (which they frequently do once you’re stood still!). Finally, I had some dinner and put my shopping away and quickly made a stop at the computer rooms to check my emails etc and as usual, Lek was in there so again we caught up on some video and music clips.

Sing us a song! 

The weekend was finally upon us. Right, lye in is the first thing on my list haha! I also caught up with my Mum, Dad and Nana’s on Skype which was fab! I’d been missing them all so much so it was lovely to ‘see’ them and have a catch up. We had quite the audience too…so many of the children came over to see what I was doing..I think they were amazed that they could see themselves (and someone else) waving back haha awww.

Sunday was fun! The ladyboy (Joe) and 2 other teachers (Duan and Wan) took me to a karaoke bar and club, ‘Lucky’. It was such a good night. I sung a few songs and then we all danced the night away downstairs in the club. I was the only foreigner in there so yes, it was just like being back in Sisaket hah! The barman came over and gave us 2 large free bottles of Leo beer “I just want you to have good time!” Awesome, we’re coming here again if that’s going to be a regular occurrence 😀

On Monday evening I was invited to watch the schools Singing Content in Buriram town. All the schools in the area had entered so we were going to compete. It seemed like an hours drive to reach town but when we were there, the buzz of the atmosphere hit us as soon as we’d opened the car doors! I could almost feel our 2 little singing stars trembling as we walked over to the main stage. It was an outdoor event and boy was there a good turnout! I could see children everywhere, along with their friends, families, teachers etc.. Once settled and ‘signed in’ we sat in wait for the ‘call’.  The students were all given a number which was pinned to their chests so when your number was called, it was show time as they say! Sitting in wait, the teachers pulled out 2 huge bags full of crickets..dead ones of course but they were sitting there chomping on them as though they were tucking into a bag of sweet popcorn!! Gross! Of course I point blank refused when I was offered to ‘try’ some..no thanks. It was quite funny actually, their hands were covered with ‘cricket bits’ Mmm, finger licking good hey!

The children were amazing, they all sounded like angels, just so talented. Finally our students were called…we made as much fuss of them as we could because we were technically their friends and family. I was wolf whistling as loud as I could haha! They both did us proud and we even walked away with 6th place which out of the 20 odd kiddies that entered, was not bad going hey!

It must have been around 10pm by the time the event finished. We were all pretty tired and hungry so first stop..noodle bar then homeward bound. Sitting in the back with our stars, I soon felt a heavy press against my shoulder….aww bless, the little boy was falling into a sleepy slumber, so I let him be. With both of them now asleep in the back with me, all the excitement, all the nerves had clearly taken it’s toll. Staring out of the window and bobbing along to the rhythm of the road, I soon became lost in my thoughts…yes, I may be a stranger to these 2 but with the little boy sleeping on my shoulder, it just goes to show that all of us crave affection, we all need that loving feeling hey! And then I thought of my family and how lucky I really am for I couldn’t imagine a life without a family like some of these poor kiddies. When I finally got back to my empty house at 11.30pm, it was then me that wanted a cuddle hah!

New lessons to be learnt….

So it’s the been the end of a week and the dawning of a new one and what will this week bring I wonder? I’m sure I will find out. Not only am I trying to teach these young adults a thing or 2, I think actually I am learning just as much from them!

This weeks lesson agendas will be ‘The Body’ and ‘English Food’ so fun topics to cover. Food wise, I will show them the good old English fry up, fish and chippies wrapped up in newspaper oh and even the silly named food such as Bangers and Mash and Bubble and Squeak hah! And for the body, I have a paper dolls chain to make with them and also another activity which will mean having one of them volunteer at the front of the class for me…I will then ask their classmates to stick the appropriate word to their fellow students body 🙂 That should help ‘stick’ in their minds…maybe? Then of course, the ‘Heads, shoulders, knees and toes song’

So it’s been a jam packed week of singing, teaching and bug dodging (and eating!)….here’s to another fun and jam packed week ahead and one which I am very much looking forward to so until then…go do your homework haha 😉 xx

 

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