The last couple of weeks I’ve been pretty busy with the school.
Friday the 8th was Children’s Day, which is a pretty big deal in Thailand. The classes were cancelled, but everyone came to school for festivities. Each class had been working on a dance routine with their students, and I had a great time watching them all. The craziest part about the dances to me were the sexual nature of them all… A lot of the dancing included a LOT of hip thrusting from little boys. The boys from kindergarten put on a performance in long socks, underwear, and a tank top. Although it was hilarious, it was pretty ridiculous at the same time. One of the Thai teachers made a little KG boy stand up in front of the school (the little boy in the tight blue briefs on the left) and made him shake his butt while everyone cheered. I think the kiddo was a little scarred, to say the least. He’s one of my shyest students.
Lunch was the highlight of my Children’s Day experience. The cafeteria was covered in food stalls (setup by the kids’ parents) and everything was free. I chowed down on papaya
salad, chicken and rice, fried banana pancakes, everything. I’ve been in Thailand for 4 and 1/2 months now, and I’m not even close to being sick of the food yet. There is so much variety here that it’s impossible to get bored of.
The day before Children’s Day, I was made aware that we were, in fact, going to be taking 11 kids on an overnight trip to the city of Trang. It had all been up in the air, and we weren’t really sure of the details. All we knew was that we were going with the Thai teachers, students, principle, and owner of the English company on a 3 and 1/2 hour bus ride to show a school how great our kids are at speaking English. I was told to be at the school at 8:00am on Saturday, and that was it.
When I got to the school on Saturday, there were a few students with their parents, a few teachers, and no buses. After about 45 minutes, one of the buses (minivans) showed up, and they piled some of us in and sent us on our way. The kids didn’t really seem sad to leave their parents (THANK GOD), as they were pretty excited to be going on a trip. Myself and 2 other English teachers still had no idea what kind of accommodation we’d be staying in, if we were responsible for the kids, or what type of English performance they were going to be putting on. I don’t think the kids’ parents really knew, either. It was all super confusing.
We ended up getting to stay in a super nice hotel. The Thai teachers took care of the kids, and the English staff each got their own hotel room. There was even a buffet breakfast!
At about 6pm that night, we were finally informed about why we were in Trang. Apparently the owner of the English company and the principal of our school decided to go in on a joint venture to open their own private school. The school was but a concept, as they haven’t even built a pillar of it yet. They plan to open in May of this year, and so they decided to host an elaborate show for prospective parents.
I hate to say it, but it was a huge song and dance, and we were definitely being used as puppets.
They rented out the ballroom of the fancy hotel, and had setup pictures of what the school will look like, concepts of a giant garden where the kids can learn to grow their own food, sample lesson plans and craft ideas (that were taken from our school), as well as learning stations for the kids (new potential students) to play at. The whole ordeal must have cost a fortune. They paid for all of that plus the accommodation for 20 of us from Phuket. Our students were there to put on a play of “The Ugly Duckling” that my co-teacher/supervisor Bronwyn had taught them. Apparently the Thai staff had been working with the kids on their English without or knowledge. It was kind of a ridiculous experience.
Here’s the problem I had with all of this:
Yes, our students are incredibly advanced with their English. I get super proud of them when they get to be the example for the company’s potential. Since before I started working at this school, they’ve been doing renovations. For the last 3 months, I’ve lost my voice countless times trying to yell over the construction to teach, and have had quite the battle with keeping my kids’ focus through it all. Just recently, they’ve started working on something outside of our room that causes a film of sawdust to form over the classroom while we’re trying to learn. The kids’ playground was boarded up because of the construction. The walk from my office to their classroom is (by American standards) incredibly hazardous, because there are pieces of sheet metal strewn about the sidewalks. Construction is moving at a snail’s pace, and the English company is telling us, “it’s all we can afford right now, the budget is really tight.”
Their new school is projected to be finished by May??
They spent all of this money on an elaborate production of a new private school, and they denied our request for HAND SOAP IN THE BATHROOMS. Have I mentioned before that there isn’t soap at our school? Not in the teachers bathroom, not in the kids bathroom. I started buying soap for myself because, let’s face it, being at school without soap is disgusting. Apparently this new school is being funded out of the English company’s owner’s own pocket. I’ve been told that the resources for the new school are separate from our school’s resources. Same company though… tough to say.
Ahh, well I have to apologize that this post has turned into a winded rant. I guess I’m just starting to realize that although traveling is a wonderful way to see new insights, it’s also incredibly challenging. I am a pretty outspoken person, and I usually don’t have a problem stirring the pot when things are blatantly unfair. Being an outsider has forced me into a position where I really don’t have a leg to stand on in terms of questioning authority. It’s a good learning experience for me, I guess.
It’s been a long couple of weeks. I promise the next post won’t be such a drag!
Here’s a fun fact to leave you with: In Thai, “porn” means “blessing.” It’s not uncommon to see English/Thai posters that say, “Porn for the King!” I’ll try to snap a picture next time I see it!!