Before I met Nee, I had seen very little of the world. I traveled to most of the 50 American states, driven to Canada a few times and also took a week long trip to London. Since meeting Nee, I have visited Thailand the day of the tsunami, later when there was a coup and another time when protesters shut down the airport for a few weeks. In other words, there has never been a dull moment for me whenever I have been to Thailand and this year was no exception.
I went to Myanmar and Laos to get a visa, taken buses from one end of the country to the other, and even flown across it a few times. My friends in Bangkok took me to beaches and fed me endless supplies of fresh and delicious seafood. I can get completely lost in picking a crab apart piece by piece. My Chiang Mai friends introduced me to songtaews, motorcycles and tuk tuks. Her family took me to see hill tribes and eat some of the most amazing foods ever. And then came Fang.
In Fang, I have had dinner with a hill tribe family being fed fish and black chicken they raised, drinking tea from their farms. A minister climbed his tree to give me a bag full of avocados that are far superior to anything I have eaten before. In my travels around Thailand, I got to see strange fruits like dragon fruit and champoo and in Fang I got to pick them fresh from their trees. I made friends with Thai teachers and an 89 year old man who is retired from the RAF from World War II. He has shared with me his stories of adventures in Japan after the bombing and living in Pakistan as the English were being told to leave. I get to work with people who have become my best friends who have nurtured me through my growing pains as a teacher.
What has really changed me, though, are the students. Each morning, I arrive to be greeted around the campus to, "good morning, Teacher Roy," and even an occasional, "I love you, Teacher Roy." I have played basketball and attempted to kick a takra ball and been fed freshly cooked Chinese food by five very enthusiastic high school girls. Even on my worst days, when a class nearly brings me to tears of frustration, the next class will have me singing a song with them, letting me forget my past trouble. One of my favorite examples was a class I tried very hard to get them to read a chapter from Charlotte's Web.
I was having the class read the chapter aloud to give them practice in reading and to be able to hear themselves speak English. In most of my classes, I was able to sail through each chapter, explaining words and idioms as we went along. For some reason, though, on this day, this particular class would not cooperate. Each time I started to read, a group would start giggling and talking. I became frustrated and a bit angry and stopped the reading. They could see I was upset but didn't know what to do.
The next time I went, I was armed with a lesson I had gotten online on classroom management. I told them, "When I say Class, you say Yes." If I say Class Class, they respond with Yes Yes. When we got to three Yesses, I finally had their attention. I then went on to give them specific classroom rules which they repeated to me. Finally I said that my goal for the day was to reach page 25. If we could, I would show them some Mr. Bean. I drew a happy face and a sad face on the wall. Above them I wrote, "Mr. Bean" and "No Mr. Bean." Whenever I was able to get through a paragraph, I put a mark under the happy face. When I was interrupted by noise, a mark went under the sad face. When the sad face began to get more points, I pointed to the group of noisy students and told the class that they were preventing them from seeing Mr. Bean. The class got very quiet and then were able to finish the story. They also got to watch Mr. Bean.
That left me feeling better but exhausted. As I have this class twice a week, I saw them the next day. We did some different exercises and then one of then said loudly, "Now!" They sang Happy Birthday to me and I was a bit stunned. I got some cookies and ice cream and felt great. That never happened to me when I was an auditor.