Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sir Addendum, and Linguistic (Ringuistic?) Issues

So I had another visitor. This time I was chilling out in my apartment (which we've ascertained is, of course, 23 square meters not 23 square feet. My bad) when I heard this rustling noise. Not something to pay much attention to as I did have the AC on and I have loose plastic bags in my room from 7-11 runs and the like...but this one was a little bit more insistent. So I go to investigate and bam! Across the floor runs a cockroach literally larger than my thumb. And I'm no slouch in the thumb size if you know what I mean. *suggestive eyebrow raise*

I have no idea what that meant. Anyway. This thing was of significant size and normally would have been cause for great alarm and unmanly activities. But, given I had been previously visited by Sir I was a little bit more zen and tried the same strategy: I opened the front door. No love. So I opened the /balcony/ door. Poof, out goes the cockroach, exploring away. I close the door and think we're done.

Then I hear a scurrying against the outside: The cockroach is trying to get back in. At this point Mom and Nathan are both telling me I have a new pet. And I have a history of anthropomorphizing (giving human characteristics to) creatures and things already, so at this point I'm involved in a mental tug of war. The rational half of me is saying that Carly, as Mom christened him after we discussed why calling him Cocky wouldn't work so well, wants food and shelter and a place to lay a thousand glistening eggs to overrun this feeble world of man.

But the part of me that has an almost girlish love for cute things (which I am shamed to admit and yet fairly obvious about) is saying he wants in and love and company. To which the other half of my brain is laughing its butt off and calling me a pansy. I resolved to wait until morning: If Carly had waited outside like a faithful hound then it was time to find a cage and figure out what cockroaches eat. If not, it was not meant to be.

Needless to say Carly was gone in the morning, flown off to adventure and newfound wisdom no doubt, and I'm sure there is a children's book in this somewhere if I can manage to rhyme cockroach. Yes I said flown, because this thing had huge freaking wings too. Yeah. Maybe Carly will fly back some day and we can be reunited...or more probably Carly is just an insect on a crazy bender who wanted a dark place to dislodge man from his throne through superior breeding and exo-skeletal technology.

As for the questions regarding L/R and how the students handle Mr. Parker and whether or not a nickname has been given to me, answers shall here come (I feel so biblical). Yes, many students have problems with Ls and Rs, the reverse of the stereotypical Japanese problem of turning ls into rs: They turn rs into ls, as I said. But in Thailand it is customary to refer to someone as Mr. not Mr. , so no one has a problem with Mr. Matthew. As to a nickname no, I do not have a nick name here (except for the people who call me Matt).

The Thai nickname is traditionally not even tangentially related to the real name. I do not have their real names written down but needless to say Ping Ping (one of my P3 students) does not have a birth certificate with that name. Nor do my other students Almond, Mint or Best. According to the school principal it is sometimes the parents who pick a nickname or sometimes the students, and a student may switch nicknames as they get older and pick one for themselves. This is a blessing to us poor farang (pronounced falang), or foreigners, who would stumble over some of the names.

For example, using streetnames. I live on Sukhumvit 101/1, Soi 18. Soi 18's name is Wachirathamasatit. Try saying that five times fast. The airport I flew in to is Suvarnabhumi airport, which is pronounced properly as Soo-wah-nah-poom. So students having nicknames helps make our lives easier so we don't call poor Soowahnahpoom Suevarnaboomey instead.

As for some language as requested by Baroness Rosalind: Never let it be said I do not heed my Baroness' wishes. Also if you could not mention to either Baroness Mary whom I lived under from May or the Baroness of the Far West that I still call Rosalind my Baroness, I'd appreciate it ;) Not that I'm worried about my mom telling Baroness Mary anything, although Mom is only two degrees seperated from her through mutual friends.

And obviously these are all my phonetical renderings as Thai does have its' own script.

Hello is sah-wat-dii-kop for a male and kaa for a female. More often rendered as sa-wat-dii. Thai ends differently depending on whether or not you are male or female (and are being polite). Kop (or kup, pronounced halfway between cop and cup most of the time, pick one and it'll be fine) is for males, and kha (pronounced like a bird's caw) for a female.

Thank you is kahp-koon (kup/kha).

Sabai means feeling good.

Sanuk is an interesting one (pronounced sah-nook). It means having fun but can also be used to indicate more of a mindset or general feeling than a specific instance. Something can be sanuk but a job should be sanuk, or at least have some, as well; so it can be specific or general.

Mak means extra, lots, more of or very. So sanuk mak means very fun; you can pile on maks, but it is generally only done in fun as it is not actually grammatically correct.

So there you have it. More info on the bugs of my life, and seriously Thailand must do a brisk business in nightmare fuel inducing insects, and some language things.



Friday, January 23, 2009

Holiday Greetings/And I Called him Sir...

So I've been sleeping with the balcony doors open because...well, I live in Bangkok now and it is hotter than the devil's colon from time to time (and we aren't even in the hot season yet). This has some downsides, of course. I was hanging out on the internet (since some things never change) yesterday when literally the largest wasp I have ever seen flew in to the room and landed on the wall. At which point he officially owned the room, since anyone here who knows me can tell you that I am terrified of wasps and bees. I would use the phrase 'scream like a little girl', but I know too many women who would magically slap me through the internet, so we'll settle for 'generally acted unmanly'. As in I waited in the hallway until his Highness the Insect flew out.

Yeah, so not sleeping with the doors open any more. Fun times.

As for the Holiday greetings part: Yes, it is once again party time here in Bangkok. It really does seem to me that the Thai people will really just take any excuse to party and run with it, which is fairly awesome. A happy Chinese New Year to all of you and a hearty nanny nanny boo boo since I get a four day weekend for it.

Here we have the entirety of my school (I did tell you it was small) lined up for the flag ceremony today, wearing red. Red is a color of prosperity and is worn on Chinese New Year; it is also the color of the anti-anti-Thaksin protestors and why I don't wear my red shirt out much. (The Yellow shirts took the airport, the red shirts tried to beat them up. Yay). Every day we all line up in the morning to raise the Thai flag, sing the National Anthem (which I just stand quietly and respectfully for rather than trying to butcher the words), and then have a child read in either English or Chinese. And then the exercising.

This is Ryan leading the exercise. Due to the Thai linguistic difficulty with the letter R he gets the second best name is school: Mr. Lion. The first best goes to a man who's official nickname is Mr. Hercules, of whom I will get a picture later. So yes, we do some exercising and stretching and generally get our funk on before we go to learn. It's...different, but interesting.

The students in the foreground are 'my' students. I teach English to all of the kids grades 1-3, but I'm the homeroom teacher for grade 3 and those are my 3 kids.

Meet (from left to right) Ploy, Freddie and Ping-Ping. Freddie is his real name, Ploy and Ping-Ping are nicknames since everyone here who is native has a nick name to spare us foreigners from embarassing ourselves on their real names. They do not always look that pissed off, as this was kind of a 'surprise *click*' photo opportunity.

Fridays are assembly days, when various classes put on various performances about various things. Today's was, of course, about the Chinese New Year and featured all of the classes speaking in Chinese and doing other things. Here is grades 1-3 dancing to Chinese pop music:

So yeah, we have fun. Happy Chinese New Year! (And click on the pictures for a larger more high resolution version than the thumbnails!)


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New Definitions of Cold/The First Days

My students are very cold, as they are quick to tell me while they pull on jackets during the morning outside time before school starts. They rub their arms and look forward to the led stretching to warm them up before we head inside. And they are not amused by my smiles at the sight of all of them in jackets, or when I tell them that it has been snowing in parts of the U.S.A. I could wear shorts.

The day starts at 7:30 AM with a quick trip to the office to sign in, which is made lengthier by the fact that I have to remove my shoes and put on flip flops to do it. Thirty minutes of students running around and then flag time, during which everyone else sings the Thai national anthem and I stand quietly and respectfully. Then some teacher led stretching, and its time for the 8 AM class that started twenty minutes ago. Thai time.

I have second graders from 8 until 9 every day, and then 1st graders from 9 until 10. Snack time is 10 until 10:30 and includes some recess. Every day but Wednesday and Friday I have 10:30 until 12:00 off, and 12:00 is lunch. Wednesday I have 1st grade computer class from 10:30 - 11:00. After lunch I have my three third graders, one of whom has been absent both days so far, from 12:30 until 1:30. Thursdays I then have a 2/3 Computer class for an hour. Homework club, where they come for extra learning (i.e. free tutoring) from 2:30 until 3:30.

Fridays are different, where I have first graders for the first hour, a combined 2/3 class for the next hour, then some computers with the first graders, then lunch and assembly...and then off until homework club.

Tuesdays and Thursdays I will be staying late after school to tutor, for extra pay, the school owner's two sons in creative writing; this extra work will net me either 2000 or 2500 baht per month (she proposed 2000, I'll be coming back with 2500 tomorrow) and free dinner twice a week at the school (worth maybe 400 baht per month). So all told about 2500 or 3000 extra baht (75-80 dollars maybe) for eight extra hours of work per month. Not too bad at all.

I live in an apartment building down two buildings across the street from the school, so my total commute from door to door is three minutes if the elevator starts at the bottom and I don't walk quickly; needless to say I haven't been late. My apartment is 23 square feet on the sixth floor and has a dresser, a closet, a desk, and a bed, plus the bathroom. No hot water, although I have someone coming out Sunday to install a hot water heater I bought. The showers have certainly woken me up in the morning, I will say.

The school is interesting, as it is tri-lingual. Students learn English, Chinese and Thai, but can only speak English in the hallways (not that it is always very strictly enforced). The students range from native (2 half-Thai half-English kids) and functionally fluent (a Thai girl and an Indian girl) to barely able to speak at all. And I was wrong, there are more than 12 in the whole school, that is just Grades 1 - 3. And the difference between the grades is huge; my P3 class runs like I was in any school in the States, minus that after me they learn Chinese. My P1 class is very definitely still learning.

The salary is currently 30,000 baht per month, but according to the Principal we can re-negotiate salary after my 3 month probationary period which will end in April. The school goes September to June, a US schedule as opposed to the Thai schedule of May to March, and is run largely by western educated 7th Day Adventists. There is a picture of Jesus on the Principal's wall, but given this is a Thai school the King's picture is bigger.

I'm supposed to give a lot of homework but I've taken it easy the first two nights given it is after break; lots of reading to do over the long weekend, however, and a lot of writing to do as well. Thai parents apparently fall in to the category of not believing it is a good school unless there is a lot of English being spoken and a lot of homework being given.

Sorry for not posting earlier, just a bit hectic adjusting to the new world I find myself in. I was struck, as I got dressed yesterday, by the arrogance of what I've done (some of you might say 'Finally!'). To come to a foreign country and presume that simply by dint of an English degree and a dream of teaching I can manage...well, I probably should have started having these doubts before I came, no?

But as the Rabbi at my cousin Parker's Bar Mitzvah said (and I will mangle this horrible): "If you dream it, then it's real." And here I am, for better or for worse a teacher.



Monday, January 12, 2009

Blogspot problems, and introduction

I don't know why but for some reason the blog keeps cutting out my mission accomplished post when I load up the page, which is fine for the people who know I got it but not fine if they missed the update. So if you missed it: Have job teaching grades 1-3. Click on '2009' on the left hand (currently) side to see the post. Stupid blogspot, but you get what you pay for.

As for something on the commentary: I have two Spikes in my life, and I think its time they meet. My step-dad goes by Spike, and a dear friend of mine goes by Spike as well (that being Mistress Leonora). Everybody who doesn't know one or the other, meet Spike my Step-dad and Spike the Laurel ;)

I hate blogspot sometimes.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Mission Accomplished! (Heh)

As odd as it is to say it, it is the truth: I'm an Elementary School Teacher. I'll be teaching English to students grades 1, 2 and 3 at Glory International School in the Bangna community of Bangkok. Glory is a small International school run by 7th Day Adventists, and has been open for 9 months (we're approaching the end of the first school year since the Thai school year runs through March/April). My maximum class size? 6. We have 6 1st graders, 4 2nd graders and 2 3rd graders.

I'm really excited by the opportunity to work in a small class environment and really have an impact on my student's lives. The people running the school seem genuinely interested in making the school the best possible and not just making money. The starting salary is a little less than I would have liked, and I probably could have played hard ball to get more starting, but its hard to try to take advantage of a school I'm really looking forward to being a part of (that also only has 12 people). Salary is also going to be renegotiated at the end of my 3 month probationary period. So we'll see where that goes.

Along with that I also apartment! And more importantly my apartment is not just within walking distance from the school, it is right across the street (literally). My commute is all of thirty seconds, door to door. And the cost is less than I had budgeted at about 4320 baht per month including water, internet and building maintenance but not including electricity (which is 7 baht per unit). And for those keeping track that comes to roughly 128 dollars per month at an exchange rate of 34 baht to the dollar, plus 21 cents per unit of electricity. And its right across the street from work.

The long awaited picture post will come later, I promise, but the news so far is good. Sweet!


Tuesday, January 06, 2009


I have a job interview in an hour and a half with Glory Internation School on Sukhumvit. Squee!

More to follow after.


Saturday, January 03, 2009

Uses of Time

What really gets me about the time difference is how much time you spend sleeping but don't even realize it. I'm fifteen hours ahead of Colorado so when I'm pondering bed at 11 PM it is 9 AM for most of you. And when I wake up at 7 then most of you are coming off of work or at home, having put in a full day's work.

It has really made me think about the budgeting of my time and how much of it I waste. One of my resolutions for the new year, thus, is to budget my time a little bit more effectively. Not lounge around and sleep until noon on the weekends; this won't be hard to stop during the week as I'm going to be working at 7:45 AM (as soon as I find a job). I want to make the most of my time, not just waste it away.

So we'll see how long that lasts, I did get up at 8 this morning to come down to the net cafe and hang out, so a good start. Pictures and trip commentary to follow.
Definitions of Big

A hectic few days to say the least. I'm sitting here in a net cafe in Bangkok writing this; my computer (and hence Blogspot) say it is 7:41 AM but for me its 9:41 PM, which is quite a change. We didn't have a Monday night, and I try not to think about the mechanics of that on my overall lifespan. Not that there are not other things to think about on that account, but more on that later.

This is not a picture post as I left the camera cord in my hotel room, so I'm just going to give a brief run down. Tuesday night we landed in Hong Kong and spent several amazing hours there wandering in the night and the next morning. Then Wednesday we flew in to Bangkok, checked in to the hotel and went wandering until we went to the New Years celebration.

Denver isn't small in the run of American cities; it isn't NY or LA but it isn't bad. But landing in Hong Kong I realized I needed a new definition of city size, because both Hong Kong and Bangkok are huge. I had known they were large going in, but I didn't realize how large they were or what that means. To get to work in Denver I would drive ten minutes on one street; going to Metro for my last semester I could do it in two streets.

To get to work Nathan used to have to take a bus, a canal boat and a sky train. The city just never ends (Bangkok at least). Even Hong Kong, which has a definite edge at the ocean, still seems to be more crammed with stuff than should be humanly possible.

Bangkok is so far pretty fascinating, and I'll have pictures of our tours of the temples and various other places in a following post or two, but what strikes me is how commercial it is. This is a great city if its 1 AM and you want something to eat, you can just go out on the street and find a food vendor real easy. Orange Juice, fresh squeezed and everything, for 20 baht (about 60 cents). Food ranging from the downright normal (fried meat on a stick is universal) to the downright horrifying (fried squid is not).

We went to about five malls in the first two hours after we checked in, and the smallest of them blew the top four malls in Colorado away no problem. The smallest was still like two Cherry Creek Shopping Centers on top of a Park Meadows Mall. And the largest, Central World? It makes the Mall of America look like it was designed by quiet people with no ambition. It has two Skyscrapers attached to it, and like 10 floors on the levels not in a skyscraper. I will never look at a mall the same way again. Sheesh.

And of course that night we were one decision away from likely death; there may be an alternate universe out there where I am dead, as a matter of fact. Which would make this blog /really/ boring. We went to Central World where there were four simultaneous concerts, streets closed off and filled with people, and a generally good time was had by all.

Across the city there was a nightclub fire that killed 60 people in a situation similar to the White Stripes fire a couple of years back; there was only one exit, some pyrotechnics from the band malfunctioned and 60 people died. That was our Plan B to go to, if Central World turned out to be lame.

So yeah, I'm trying not to think about that one too much.

Anyway, pictures in the not too distant future, and some exciting stories of beautiful temples.

Excelsior, and all that,

Matt Parker
Saito Takauji