Sunday, March 4, 2012

Don't Worry, Be Happy

I spent the week worrying about how I will survive here on a teacher's salary and other such nonsense.  Thailand, by American standards, is very inexpensive.  However, when you start earning a Thai wage, everything else is put into a different perspective.  Getting my brain to stop thinking of 50 baht as only $1.50 US, and thinking it is 10 baht too much to spend on a lunch.  Ideally, I would prefer to get work out here in my old career and teaching on the side and in retirement.  Added to that, we have had so much smoke in the air from all the agricultural burning, I then started worrying about my overall health.  Fortunately, we were saved by Nee's brother this weekend. 
He drove up from Bangkok Friday to take us on a tour of our new home.  Since we don't have a car or motorcycle, we have been dependent on the songtaews for transportation, which is less flexible than I prefer.  He picked us up Saturday morning and drove us up to see some of the hilltribes above Mae Rim.  The road was pretty steep for his pickup with four of us in it, but we made it.  Our trip reminded me of the Hobbit.  We would get together, go on a long journey, have a bit of adventure and then stop for coffee.  We stopped a number of times.  Usually such travel would have me feeling impatient to do more.  This weekend, what we did was plenty.

The hilltribes are the native Thais.  They speak a different dialect, dress in traditional clothes, and now they grow strawberries.  They used to grow opium until the king came along and convinced them that opium wasn't doing the country, let alone the world, much good.  We stopped at a farm to pick, now that our group had grown to six.  The sun was hot, but we managed to pick enough to fill two quart containers.  The treat was that I had never eaten such sweet berries.  I have picked many strawberries and eaten far more.  None compare to these. 

We were also looking at some lots to possibly build a home on.  We went to the town of Maejo, the home of an agricultural college that reminded me of my alma mater in California.  The lot we saw had two large mango trees on it, big enough for two houses, and next to a lovely home owned by an Irishman.  I spoke with him and admired his yard, which was beautifully manicured and shady.  I started to see myself in my garden growing strawberries and eating my own mangos.  After we had lunch and iced coffee.

Today we drove up to Doi Sutep, a mountain outside town with a number of very ornate temples.  Though it was a bit of a tourist trap, I enjoyed the colors, the smell of incense and the site of the natives dancing and playing music.  I took a picture of the temples, a number of Buddha statues, and the, of course, went to have coffee.

My weekend trip helped end my week of school.  We were learning more grammar and practicing to teach younger children in class. Someone teaching English as a second language could be working with adults, teenagers, primary school students or even what my British teacher refers to as "kindies." Surprisingly, a few teaching methods are the same for anyone. Games are a way to get a student's mind focused away from their world and in to the teacher's. Walking into a room of active children takes determination on the teacher's part to gain their attention and get them working on the subject at hand. Our assignment was to come up with a game that would get the class' attention while also teaching a bit of vocabulary. The age group we were to be teaching is the kindies.

The actual students were the teachers in training, such as myself, and most of us struggled through. A few already have education degrees, and they don't really need to be in the class, but they wanted some extra credit. When working with young children, the rule is, "the less said, the better." I wanted to teach them animal names, such as dog and cat. I made a game of showing them a picture, telling the name, and then giving them the animal sound. However, I added a bit of a challenge to my "kindies" by using the sounds used for animals here. Dogs don't say, "arf, arf," but rather "hong hong." Ducks say, "gap gap," pigs say, "oot, oot" and so on. I got a room full of adults to sing, "Old MacDonald" making such sounds and it was great fun. I wished I had my guitar and was tempted to buy a ukulele beforehand, though I didn't.

Thoughts of animal sounds went through my mind as I stood by a reservoir near the lot we looked at.  I stood on the dam, watching fish jump to catch bugs.  I pictured myself in the future riding up on my motorcycle, fishing pole strapped to my back, food on board, sitting next to the cool waters watching my line bob in the water.  I wondered what sound the Thais think fish make.  And then I went to get another iced coffee. 


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  2. It seems to be quite a different world. Have you met American expats yet in the town you are relocating to? I enjoy reading your stories. I'd also love to chat online with you. Hopefully when I see you on FB.

    1. There are many expats here and I have met some. I haven't spent a lot of time with them yet as I am still getting myself situated.
      I would enjoy chatting some time, too.

  3. Sounds fun..."the adventures of roy florey"... :-)

    1. Sounds like a good title for a future episode.