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Wanderings and wonderings...

Over the next few weeks I'm going to be doing a bit more volunteer work in Thailand and since I haven't been very good at keeping in touch with a lot of you lately, I thought it was time to have a crack at this blog writing business again...

Diary Entries

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Location: Taiwan, Thailand

Quite possibly too lazy for this blog business, since I've been back in Taipei for almost a week and wrote nothing for the last week in Thailand.

Things went pretty quickly in the end and actually without much time in the classroom.

The idea was to spend the entire week filming classes... by the time we got our hands on a camera it was Wednesday. The camera arrived with three escorts, so when the teacher who actually set it up went off to class I was left with 30 nine year olds, Taa and the two other teachers who had decided to to show up for proceedings. Not really sure why they were there. One of them settled in at Taa's desk and intermitedly chatted with Taa. The other one the class teacher) decided to 'participate,' right in front of the camera, by prompting the kids and then telling them off in Thai whenever they lost a game. It was really annoying; one, because no one could hear what was going on and two, because the point of games in my class aren't 'achieving' and being the best. Especially in Thailand, I've just been trying to get the kids (mostly the boys) motivated and involved in the class.

Then some kind of training exercise started outside and after all this noise and distraction, just when I thought I was going to burst a blood vessel or something, the camera battery went dead!

No filming occurred after this and I really hope the tape never makes it out of Thailand... I don't think it was my finest moment as a teacher.

But my second experience teaching in Thailand has given me a lot. I've come back to Taipei refreshed and motivated and with new ideas. I also have a new appreciation for the rule of law in my own classroom.

So things are pretty good right now, but I admit the reason for feeling so good now is the knowledge that greater things are coming... watch this space :0)

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Location: Nong Khai, Thailand

Started the day with my pasta dish - Taa had reheated it an proudly told me that she had added pork, egg and oil, because Thais always eat pasta with those ingredients. It was like no pasta dish I have ever tasted, but Thais do have a talent for making even unusual combinations taste good. And Taa was so very pleased with herself, I couldn’t take offence at the ‘improvement.’ While consuming said pasta dish, I found out that our plan for the day had changed.
Trip draft number five found us piling into the car, five-strong at 9.30 (trip goer number five was Go-Go, travelling in style in his masculine pink carrier). First we headed towards Udon Thani, where we dropped Go-Go off to unleash his charms on the vet and doggy hairdresser. Then we headed off for an area known for its fabric shops – a big shop of Thai clothing, fabric and silk scarves and some surrounding shops set up like you would find the clothing shops at Vic market in Melbourne (ooh, little pang of homesickness for Australia), or I guess a little bit like the ones at Shi lin in Taiwan. I embarked on an important task – Christmas shopping – and then we headed off to Nong Khai.
Nong Khai is by the Mekong River and one of the crossing points into Laos. The reason we were in Nong Khai was to go to a park, but first things first, lunch. First, because when your guide is Thai, you will never find yourself wandering around a tourist site on an empty stomach and second, because (I have been informed) you can’t come to Nong Khai without coming to the restaurant that we went to for lunch. And it’s true . Not only have I never been to Nong Khai without visiting this restaurant, judging by the size of the establishment and the crowd inside, nobody else has either. Sitting in Thailand, looking over the Mekong into Laos, eating excellent Vietnamese food in good company. Life is wonderful.
Next the Indochina market. I can proudly say that I have completed all of my Christmas shopping and have all the souvenirs I need to take back to Taiwan (someone may have engaged in a little student bribery before she came away).

So now we could turn to the main purpose of our day trip – Wat Kaeo, or the Buddha Park. A park filed with huge Buddhist and Hindu inspired statues. Sawit said he wanted to take me there because I am “a photographer” and he wanted to see what I would make of the park through the camera lens. So Faa and I, each with camera in hand, had a lovely time wandering about taking pictures off all the statues and then feeding the great ugly catfish in the lake. Like the overfed fish they were, they would slide out of the water and pile on top of each other in their gluttony.
Later Faa lent her enraptured assistance to my Christmas present wrapping. It’s really handy to have two extra hands and I guess she hasn’t experienced Christmas present wrapping quite like this. It made me a bit sad that we didn’t have a Christmas tree here to put them under.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Location: Nongbua Lam Phu, Thailand

Every Friday afternoon is set aside for clubs and activities at the school. This is how I found myself teaching four girls (the English club) how to make origami Koalas in a short and very simplified lesson on Australia. I also got them on google images and youtube so they could find out the meaning of words like “wombat,” “platypus,” “Didgeridoo” and “Boomerang.” Unfortunately it wasn’t appropriate to show them “Australia – Where the bloody hell are you?” or the kiwi inspired equivalent “where the bloody hell are you… buried?”
Later on we took a trip to the outdoor market to gather ingredients and Faa and I cooked pasta and pancakes. This is how I found myself flipping a pancake, standing on one leg, shooing away Go-Go the dog, who has developed a favourite pastime devouring my feet and legs with his doggy tongue and sharp puppy teeth. I’ve tried to explain that this is not a socially accepted form of showing love, but he doesn’t believe me. Faa, my other assistant was far more helpful… and especially good at helping me to make mess! She completed three masterpieces – two chocolate pancakes for herself, one shaped like a heart and one chocolate creation for her Dad. Her final judgement was “Arrrrroy!” (Delicious).

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Location: Nongbua Lam Phu, Thailand

One of the teachers was extremely pleased with herself this morning when she came to the daily teachers gathering at morning assembly and dumped a large back of insects on the table to share with everyone. Tung proudly told me they were ‘incest’ and urged me to try. I’m not much into incest, or incects, so I said no thanks. But I’ve been thinking that I have so many insect bites that maybe I should have seized the opportunity to take my revenge on the insect population!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Location: Nongbua Lam Phu, Thailand

Today there was a Chinese style lion festival, which somewhat ironically was altogether more elaborate than the lion festivals I have seen in China and Taiwan. There were two lions, a great long dancing dragon, whose serpent like body was supported by poles, a man dressed up in a mask with a huge fat belly and about twenty male dancers, with faces painted in the same way you would see in Chinese Opera, some with long red or black beards and some Dancing with cobras. The procession was in three stages (Lions, then Dragons, then Dancers). Each stage was accompanied by loud drums and symbols, the drum being rolled a long, it’s player riding on the trolley. I followed the procession through town, snapping away, breathing in the smoke, and watching bystanders shield their ears from the firecrackers. A lot of businesses had left out offerings and where there was a business with an offering table outside, each stage of the procession would enter the shopfront and then set off firecrackers on the ground, or from long string attached to the eaves of the building. There were also red banners high up on the eaves. Three boys would form a tower (smallest on top, of course) to undo the banners as the procession passed through.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Location: Nongbua Lam Phu, Thailand

Spent the last two days teaching grades 4-8 (the grade fives and sevens are a tough crowd) and made a guest appearance in grade three, which the grade threes were very excited about. I taught them a few English songs, which I mainly had to sing a capella, because the songs were on my computer and we couldn’t hear them. Then I read a story and taught them to say ‘Go away big green monster!’

Sunday, 08 November 2009

Location: Nongbua Lam Phu, Thailand

Sunday – the calm in the storm after the English Camp. There was plenty of activity at home, because today is the busiest day for the Sawit Family English School. But my main activity for the day was to be a diligent student, while Faa enriched my Thai vocabulary (before I could only say ‘hello,’ ‘no,’ ‘thankyou,’ ‘beautiful,’ and ‘tasty’) with the ten most important words in language when you are nine years old. So now I know how to say ‘food,’ ‘person,’ ‘dog,’ ‘I like you,’ ‘I love you,’ ‘zoo,’ ‘do’ ‘he,’ ‘she,’ and ‘I will play with you.’ I can remember most of it… Later we had hotpot by the lake while the sun set. One of my favourite memories of Nongbua Lam Phu from last time.

Saturday, 07 November 2009

Location: Nongbua Lam Phu, Thailand

I've spent the last two days at an "English Camp" (Thankfully not the sleeping over at school variety).
The camp was fun and it was interesting to see a different way of introducing English to non native speaking kids, to get some ideas and also to meet other people who are living, working and volunteering in the area and to hear about the things they've been doing.
Have to admit I'm glad it's over. There were six different groups of Children in the camp... this meant teaching the same 45 minute activity six times over. There was a lot of other stuff going on too, to keep the kids up beat and interested. Some of this was team building, song and dance creating stuff that really isn't my cup of tea. Other stuff was better for interacting with the kids in English and I managed to pick up a few game and activity ideas too (coming soon to a classroom near you)! I met some Peace Corp workers at the camp and got to hear about their experiences here, so that was pretty interesting too. So all in all it was an interesting thing to do. Glad tomorrow is Sunday though and I won't have to go near any kind of school!
Oh and interesting student names to date: Project, Graphic, Boss, Eye, Thitporn (remembering that Thai's pronounce "th" as "t") and my personal favourite: Why (I have often looked at students and pondered that question).

Thursday, 05 November 2009

Location: Nongbua Lam Phu, Thailand

Back at school again today. The elusive Director has returned and I saw him for the first time today (he’s mostly MIA) I ended up teaching more than we intended today. This is no surprise – I usually end up teaching more than we plan for me to, or doing impromptu teaching of some kind. Today it was because the director called a meeting during class time. All staff had to attend, so for about 2 hours I was very possibly the only person teaching in the entire school. This meant that most of the student body was unsupervised. While I was teaching the grade nine girls (and the one grade nine boy that bothered to show up) a couple of cheeky boys came to watch at the door, then a couple more… then a couple came in and settled down at the unoccupied tables at the back… it continued like this, so that by the time Taa came back at the end of the lesson there were about 10 students sitting and standing at each of the two classroom doors. Some even had their own chairs!

Wednesday, 04 November 2009

Location: Nongbua Lam Phu, Thailand

I began some proper teaching at the school on Tuesday, introducing the joys of stickyball to Northeastern Thailand :-) I’m not sure if the kids have actually played with a stickyball, because at one point one I saw a couple of the older boys checking out a tentacle that had come off the sticky ball – pulling it off, looking at it, testing how it sticks and sticking it back on again. They seem to really like the games we’ve been playing, even though most of what I’m doing is pretty impromptu. But still, it’s different to the usual “chalk and talk” and I’ve managed to create enough enthusiasm and interest in the English classroom to have received a few visitors. On Tuesday three different teachers came and stood at the door, or stood or sat at the back of the classroom to have a bit of a watch.

Today we went into the school in the morning, but had left again by 9.30, because we had a meeting at another school. We went into school first because Taa had to sign in, but I think the primary purpose of our visit was to see two teachers who’ve been away in Singapore, to have a chat with everyone and for Taa to tell everyone that I have a boyfriend :-)

The meeting is for an English camp this Friday and Saturday for grade 4-6 students at Faa’s school (Faa will be going too). Taa and I are going to lead a group at the camp… basically we’re going to do 45 minutes worth of activities based on a topic that we chose ourselves. We chose ‘body.’ There will be six rotations, so we get to do those 45 min worth of activities 6 times over! The Meeting was scheduled for 10am, but started much later and went until 2pm, including a long lunch (nobody else seemed surprised about this, so I figure it might be the norm for meetings) I spent the lunch chatting to an American Peace Corp worker who has been living nearby (although a bit more remotely, from what I gather) for the past seven months.

Monday, 02 November 2009

Location: Nongbua Lam Phu, Thailand

I’ve arrived in Nongbua Lam Phu on a good day. Today is Roy Kathong. It’s to do with the full moon and seems to be a lantern festival of sorts. There is a lake at the edge of town. Beside the lake is a small temple (with lots of chicken and other animal statues) and a large flat park. Tonight the park was abuzz with food stalls, floats and people selling flower arrangements with incense in the centre. The incense were lit and then each arrangement was put into the lake, where a large pink lotus shaped lantern had been set up. The idea is to make a wish for your future and so some people had put money into their offerings. Some local boys had capitalised on this, leaning over the side of a small floating pier that had been set up for the occasion and fishing out coins from the offerings that had washed ashore. There were also some sky lanterns, but because of the wind, they were being blown about haphazardly.

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Recent Messages

From Dad
Sent some $'s today to your ANZ account.
Mum made ANZAC bickies on the weekend... bit of bad luck you're not here have any!! lol
The Wet has started and the red crabs are on the move... it's starting to warm up as well.
We had a couple of crabs climbing the screen door, but luckily we have had some new security type doors just fitted so they didn't break in !!
We went snorkling at West White Beach (below the Detention Centre) last weekend. Tested the new camera underwater... great shots of Jack and his mate Mat.
Bye for now
Response: Thank you :-)
ANZAC bikkies sound good. It's ok, she can make some more and bring them in February ;-)
Underwater camera sounds cool. I've been having an Awesome time with my camera :-)
From KarenN
Hi Simone - read your interesting classroom stories. Its great you have revived your site we have wondered what you have been up to - Skye snuffles hello (she's got a bad cold).
regards Karen
Response: Hi Karen,
great to hear form you (and the sniffly Skye). I saw some pictures on Shelly's facebook. They've grown so much!
Hope all are well! ooxx
From Julia
Hey Mone,
Sounds like you're having a great time. How's the camp going? When do you get back to Taipei?
Response: Camp was ok. Glad its over though - I'm really tired. I'm back in Taipei at the end of November... got two more weeks here :-)
From Kerry
Aaaah the joys of teaching in Thailand - Do you feel like a celebrity?
Long lunches - sounds familiar(for that part of the world) Meetings called by Director at inconvenient times (likewise familiar) The Falang putting on exhibition teaching (again familiar)
Seems like not much has changed - Gotta love that place!!!
Love you,
Love to all
Response: Well it's a bit more low key this time... and low key is much more my style, as you know. Apart from that a couple of things have changed: Faa is older - but still as naughty as ever.
From Kerry
Oh it all sounds so much fun, and you reminded me of the massage _ I think it is one of the best I have ever had, definately worth going back for!
I have to convince dad that he wants to go to Thailand!!!! I think he would really like it once he got there!
Have a great time.
Response: Lots have people have asked after you and someone asked me today "Why you come alone?" It seems they remember the falang mother-daughter team quite well!
From MaiKe
So the adventure is over and your back in the land of Ozzz :). Enjoy your first days being 'home' again and let's skype soon!
Response: :-) xie xie!
From Jade
Hi kerry and Simone! I hope you had a good flight home. Love Jade :-)
Response: Thanks Jade! Hope to see you soon :-)
From Dad
I've gotta hand it to you Possum, some of your latest photo's are just... gorgeous!

As for the God of Drunkeness, He never seems to get a mention on Songs of Praise?? I'm sure a number of lapsed catholics would'nt mind worshipping at His altar.
Or perhaps they do thats why they are?
Response: father Ted would agree
From Dad
The less said about monkeys the better! I'll explain when you return to the Land of Oz. Monkey is not very PC at the moment, or at least till the summer cricket test is over.
Response: lucky it's the year of the rat then. And lucky we're coming back and ending your solitary confinement soon too. I didn't realise it was so bad you'd begun watching the cricket!
From dad
Now u 2 r finally there, you need to be very careful you don't get ....... wait for it ........ wait ......
"Shanghied !"
Its great to see I haven't lost my touch
Response: so that's why there were no updates from us for so long... we were shanghaied! We should have been a bit more xiao xin!
From MaiKe
Tianqi zenme yang??? I read that China is currently experiencing extremely cold temperatures and that a lot of travellers got stranded...sounds like adventure :).
Response: But strangely some don't believe it, because there have been no pictures ;-) Actually we managed to avoid the 'worser' conditions. I'll have to send you some of the pics my friend took though... they're amazing!
From Dad
Ahoy River Rats!!
So long dad you can't take my place
Ive got my papers, Ive got my pay.
I'll pack my bags and and I'll be on my way, to Yellow River.
Put my books down, the year is done
Fill my glass the time has come
I'm goin off to a place I'll love, Yellow River.
Yellow River, Yellow River is in my mind and in my eyes
Response: sure was, although it's more emerald than green
From Dad
Q. Is sitting on a wall the same as fence sitting?
A. I'm afraid to give you an answer one way or the other on that.
Response: ha ha ha
From Julia
Yes they are at Zoo Doo, we went with asc. They mainly slept while we were there. Miss you too, keep warm :)
Response: Ill try to keep warm, but I can see my breath as I'm sitting here typing, so I dont hold out much hope!
From Julia
I've seen our 'TWO walkin talkin dancin Bengal Tigers' and can report they neither walk nor talk nor dance, instead they fuel the purchase of very badly made stuffed toy souveniers.
Response: lol. Would we expect anywhere else? Where are they? Zoo Doo? If so I won't say anything slanderous that we don't already know!
(p.s. I miss you, ju-ju!)
From Dad
Hot, 100km winds, Very Hot, No rain, Hotter, plants dying, Stinking Hot, Snakes everywhere, Melting Hot, Phewwwwwwww.........
Response: cold, frost, snow capped mountains cold, wind, dust, yaks, freezing, wooly socks and electric blankets. brrrrrrrr...
From MaiKe
Coldness...serves you right haha ;). Can't wait to see the pics...especially those of the gorge trek. have fun! kus
Response: It does, doesn't it? I think the cold is worth it for what we're seeing though! photos are coming... eventually!
From Dad
Why is it that boating activities that equate to ADVENTURE worth paying for = canoe trips down a Vietnamese River, or overnight on a junk in the South China Sea, whilst boating activities to be AVOIDED at all costs = any sailing with dad on the Reckless Duck????????
Please explain.
Response: rubbish. I'd much rather go sailing with you than right essays and legal reports. Unfortunately univeristy isn't free these days!
From Dad
Well.... YOUSE may be going to Tiger Leaping Gorge, but, here in the Greater Metropolis of Hobart (Richmond no less) WE can all now visit not one, but, TWO walkin talkin dancin Bengal Tigers!!!!!!!!!!!
I tell ya Mone, you are not gunna recognise the place.
Has Mum told you about the the Mega Harvey Norman Store @ Cambridge??? I promise to drop by on our way home from the airport in Feb.
Ya reckon some back street naxi women in a shop in Lijiang are bizzare but entertaining, you ain't seen nothin yet!
Response: apparently I won't recognise my father either. He didn't speak like that 13 months ago...
From Nah Mei ^^
Mone Jie! ^^ WOW! I can't believe how wonderful your trip is, it sounds like a fairy tale. And good delivery too! ^^ I miss you so much, but now less because your blog is so GOOD! Hen Bang A! I'm so excited for you, what an amazing opportunity to really learn about a completely different culture and just see so much intriguing stuff! You must take me some day now that you've been! Btw, check facebook because I'm just about to send you a message! Happy Travels beautiful girl, they already sound fantastic! ^^

Hen duo ai,
Ni de Nah Mei ^^
Response: Just read your message... always puts a smile (no a huge grin) on my face to hear from you Nah mei ;-)
Enjoy the last 3rd of your time in Taipei!
From Julia
Great to see you are finally in China. I forget are you staying in China for the remainder now?


P.S. Thanks for the postcards, they arrived on the same day.
Response: We sure are... we're heading north soon to Cheng du, then east via the three gorges to Shnaghai, where we fly out on the 14th. See you soon...ish :-)
From Karen, Skye and Shau
Hi Happy New Year
Seems you are having a great time.
Response: Happy New Year to you! How are you all?
From Dad
So then ... it is finally official eh? Simone is a Dragon!!! Who amongst us would have dared guess.
The great unsaid is "Whats Kerry???" One suspects, like daughter like mother?
Response: Yeah, pretty cool huh. The Hotel owner said this was much better than an ox or a water buffalo, because I won't just spend my life working hard, so I'm willing to go along with it :-) We didn't find out what mum is.
From MaiKe
alvast GELUKKIG NIEUWJAAR....HAPPY NEWYEAR....hope that we meet again in 2008! kus,Mike
Response: Me too :-)
xin nian kuai le... hope you have fun with Dolly Parton (you really have to explain about that...)
From Julia
Hi Girls,
Did you know that it's meant to be 33 in Hobart on Monday? Hope Halong Bay was warmer for you.

Response: How will all Hobartians cope?
It was warmer, fortunately.
Talk soon :-)