Age is but a number

Written: 18/11/2008

So, I have now been a Grade 1 teacher, officially for 3 weeks, I have had moments when I have screamed at my kids OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand my voice has broken or gone hoarse from doing too much of it.  I’ve had aching and swollen-feet, I’ve had moments when I’ve thought I’d never want to see the children again and I’ve had days that they have melted my stone-cold heart.  Somehow I knew this would happen, as it always seems to happen when I teach, but I have fallen in love with the ‘bad’ ones again.  The naughtiest kids in my class are the ones I have a soft spot for, the ones I think are hilarious and the ones that I have become overly protective of, especially if they’re being disciplined by another teacher.  Thankfully, they feel the same way about me!  Little Bini (pronounced Bee-nee), a Korean who I have the best time in extra English together…once he’s  procrastinated over his work for 20 minutes and finally does it, that is.  Toto, a Thai child who loves to chat, bounce, examine his ruler, cut up his pencil crayons, cut up his rubber then chat to his friends – anything but work!  On Monday, in extra English, I was so sick of saying his name – I have to say it at least seven times before he hears me that I went up to him and instead of literally pulling his feet out from his bottom to get him to sit facing the right way in order to do his work for the fiftieth time that day I just tickled him.  I tickled and tickled and tickled until he was squealing with laughter.  Five minutes later when I noticed he wasn’t working again (a real record those five minutes of working were!) I said “Toto, Toto, Toto, To – to, TOTO!” and when I finally got his attention I lifted my hand and wriggled my fingers to gesture the tickle, he shrieked with laughter and immediately got to his work with a fit of giggles…SO precious!!

Dongki is an incredibly enthusiastic participant, when he’s interested.  The other day when I could not get the last few stragglers to finish their work, when I had given them ample time to do it in, I told them the rest of us were going to play a game and they couldn’t play until they had finished.  We played a very basic version of charades, a game which they have become addicted to.  I think their favourite part is simply that I let them choose who can guess what they are instead of me and the power of that just makes them absolutely high on life!  When Dongki shouted out the answer and I suddenly realised he hadn’t finished his work and shouldn’t be playing, I told him this and he retreated into what I’ve come to refer to as his ‘pot’.  In a situation like this, he reminds me of an oversized witch’s pot, boiling and brooding and looking at me with absolute hatred through his eyes, which he somehow manages to roll into just about the back of his head but still manages to glare at me through these slits, while cursing under his breath.  Of course, you can imagine how well this goes down with me…luckily he seems to be doing it less and less – whether that is a result of my reaction to the pot or because he is finally getting on with his work and participating in all the games, I cannot tell you.
Weekend before last, Ella and I went to Kamala, a beach north of Patong where Izzy, the American girl who is teaching P3 with Izzy, is living.  Her flat mate had gone away for a few days and she invited us over for Friday night.  We went out to dinner in Patong and then went pub – hopping so we could try seeing as many lady-boys as possible.  Patong is an incredibly expensive area as far as Thailand goes and everyone is considered a foreigner which means you get charged at least three times what they would charge a Thai person. It also means that you will be flooded with offers to go diving, for a massage etc.  It is incredibly beautiful (in a super touristy kind of way) with the streetlights casting a golden glow on quaint restaurants with either obscure or affectionate names (or both!) It’s just a really expensive and I hate being ripped off because in my little mind, I consider myself nearly a local.  We went into a Rock club/bar thing which had this hugely oversized gorilla statue roaring over the stage and some Asian guy was the live entertainment.  He was singing Neverland by Metallica.  The local beers were over-priced so we said we wouldn’t have anything but this enraged the Thai waitress to such a degree that she threw us out.  So it was only briefly enjoyed…!

We then moved on to a nearby bar where we pointed to a 60 Baht beer and got charged 80 Baht for it.  The headstrong Izzy argued with that Thai waitress and got us thrown out of that bar, and so it was that we landed up spending the rest of the night at a Mexican bar and had great fun with a group of people freshly out of school and touring Asia before they began studying.  A Thai guy, whose name was Shirt, told me he had a shop in Patong.  I asked him what he sold and tried my best to hide my giggles when he casually replied…. “Shirts”.  We had great fun!  My favourite part of that evening was probably when a 19 year old Mexican was chatting Izzy up and had earlier told us his age but by now couldn’t remember that due to overdoing the Tequila (in true Mexican style) Izzy is a little older than us but she had told him she was 25.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo now that this boy had forgotten that Izzy knew his age, he says to her, “How old do you think I am?”  , whilst putting on his oldest looking drunken face.  Izzy laughed and said he’d already told her and that he was 19. “Ahhh…” he said, “…for you, 23…” I nearly collapsed in heaps of laugher.  Luckily he was too drunk to suffer from a bruised ego and just continued trying to make a ‘special age deal’ just for Izzy.

Saturday we spent on Kamala beach, it was really pretty but we got rained out.  If it wasn’t so far away, I swear I’d move there, it’s exquisite.  She is walking distance from the beach and you walk through this little park of pine trees with cows freely grazing to get there.  It’s a good 40 – 45 minute ride to school on a dangerous road, Izzy’s been here for a shorter time than I have and she’s already had two accidents.  Speaking of which, she had another today, though not on her bike, on the stairs…silly girl fell quiet literally, head over heels down a flight of stairs shortly after telling another child not to run on the stairs.  She had us in hysterics at lunch time telling us about it.

Last Wednesday was Loi Krathong day, so the kids came in traditional Thai dress and we were told we had to too.  The children came to school in everything ranging from sarongs to soldier outfits, saris to what looked to me like overalls.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy Thai teacher made the most incredibly intricate and stunning ‘Krathongs’ with my colourfully-dressed class – this is a floatation device and has flowers and folded banana leaves in exquisite patterns around a candle and/or incense.  They then send these Krothongs off on the river with the incense and candle lit and this is
believed to cleanse your sins by the River Gods.  I was intrigued to see the little kindergarten children floating their krathongs in little paddling pools outside their classroom and had a quiet giggle to myself when one little boy was so fascinated with the smells, colours and candles that he lent on the inflatable paddling pool to get a better look and didn’t bat an eyelid when the entire pool began to overflow under his weight…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This last weekend, Ella and I explored a beach very close to Karon (where we went two weekends ago) It’s a tiny secluded little beach that looks almost like a private beach belonging to the nearby hotel. It is called Kata Noi and I have fallen in love with this place.  I have decided that I would like to move to this quaint little area that seems relatively unharmed by tourists, at some point during my stay here in Phuket.

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