A Year in Bangkok – Back to School

5 06 2011

Happy to be at school.

This may seem a strange thing to say, but I’m happy to be back at school. I’ve missed the kids during the long holiday but will doubtless be fed up of them by the end of the semester! The school I work in is seventy one years old this year which may not seem too impressive by European standards (the school I went to in England celebrates its 500th anniversary next year) but it is certainly quite old for Thailand. It is now on its third site and during those seventy one years, has produced several heads of government departments and no less than six prime ministers.

The top of primary - literally!

We had a big celebration for the ‘birthday’ last year with a sit down meal and performances by all the students. The meal was really sumptuous and mainly Chinese as Bang Khae, where the school is, is a largely Chinese area.

Let's get serious.

For starters, we had the unusual mixture of prawn crackers, French fries – I suspect the fries might have been for my benefit – and dim sum. This was followed by a rather nice pork and quail egg soup and then spicy spicy squid. Next came roast duck with sweet plums followed by a prawn and glass noodle salad. Finally, for dessert, we had hot beans in sweet syrup. I felt happily bloated.

Preparing for that meal.

I get lots of love and affection from the students, who showered me with hugs and kisses for the first few days but the other teachers and the local people are all delightfully friendly too.

They start to learn about their culture in kindergarten.

People often offer to share food with me (maybe they feel sorry for me because I’m so skinny) and one day, as I was walking down the street, a local beggar sitting on the pavement having what was probably his only meal of the day offered to share his sausage and rice with me. Occasionally, one of the teachers in the school will prepare a Thai dish for me and shyly present me with it at lunch in the canteen.

We get silly at staff parties.

On the first day of this semester, colleagues produced small gifts for me from their holidays, all of which were edible and sweet and the parents of a new student have just provided me with some very tasty sweet coated peanuts. All of which might explain what happened at the tailor’s shop I go to.

A student 'luk thung' singer.

I needed new school trousers and I always get them from the same guy. He provides me with made to measure black trousers made from good quality natural fabric at a remarkably good price. All of my adult life, I have had a thirty two inch waist but when the tailor checked my measurements, he claimed that my waist was thirty six inches. I said he must have got that wrong so he measured again and showed me: thirty six inches. I suggested his tape measure had shrunk in the rains so he got another one out and came up with the same measurement.

Dancin' in the street? Almost!

It was time to gracefully accept the inevitable so, along with school wear, I ordered some new casual trousers too. Now, less than a month later, they are all feeling rather snug and this morning found me in Tesco Lotus buying some cheap off the rack trousers!

Traditional dance.

There are many things I like about the schools here in Thailand and one of those is the way they keep the culture here alive. Traditional dance for instance is taught in all of the schools I have worked in and there are regular performances. Traditional music is also highly regarded within the school system as are other arts.

Drummer boys.

But my favourite moment of the semester so far has to be walking to a nearby organic shop for some strawberries when somebody grabbed me from behind and hustled me down the next sidestreet. Was I being mugged? Was I about to be raped? Of course not. I hadn’t noticed it, but a truck was advancing along the road using a mini water cannon to water the plants along the roadside, regardless of who happened to be walking along. A thoughtful passer-by had just saved me from a soaking!

Modern version of a traditional dance.



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