Wednesday, November 24, 2004

5th grade field trip

taher and i had an idea one day: that we would take the entire 5th grade class to the National Museum. you know, open their minds, expose them to some culture, make it into a writing project, things of that nature.

so after some planning and some changes of plans, it was settled that today would be the day. notes were sent home, small fees were collected, vans were organized. and i, along with taher and one other teacher, set off for the National Museum with 48 rowdy 10-year-olds.

it was a fun day, but tiring. the kids were sick of the museum after two hours, although i could have stayed much longer- the museum was great. very extensive. the kids were hot, thirsty, bored, excited, confused, dazzled, interested, uninterested. all in all, i'm glad we gave them this experience. but it began to dawn on me, halfway through it all, that i was in charge of a field trip. me. it wasn't that long ago that i was going on field trips. now i was the teacher.

as i've said many times before regarding this whole teaching venture, it was quite a shock to be on the other side. i remember being on a field trip and waiting in a wavering line of children, fidgeting, wondering what the hold up was. asking questions and having them go unanswered. being thirsty. etc. but now, as the teacher, i saw the other side of all of it. i realized the hold up was usually a head count that was going slowly because of the fidgeting. i realized that many of the questions were going unanswered because it's impossible to hear any single voice when 23 are piping up at once. i realized that everyone was thirsty because there were only three water fountains in the entire complex and transporting 48 kids to one of them was almost impossible to do quickly.

it was educational for everyone involved :)

oh, and on an unrelated note, as we drove along the highway on the way to the museum, i noticed a billboard claiming that Sting would be in town in january for a concert. the last concert i went to, actually, was Sting. in cairo, at the pyramids. it was a huge concert- and now he's here! it's like our own old pop star following us around on all of our abroad-adventures :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

that's what i mean by "point and shrug"

on friday night, taher and i were returning from dinner when, on the street, i saw a huge elephant. its rear end was inches from our window. it wasn't a circus elephant or anything- just a big grey elephant with its nose in the shop and its rear in the street.

we don't live in a village. bangkok is as urban as it gets.

except with elephants.

Monday, November 15, 2004


This weekend, to celebrate Eid, taher and i went to Ayuthaya. we figured we couldn't spend eid the ideal way- with our family and friends- so we'd celebrate in a very unique way and make this an eid to remember... so we trooped off to the former capital of thailand to see some ruins ;)

ayuthaya is only an hour and a half by bus from bangkok. upon reaching there, we checked into a very cosy, very peaceful little hotel with a large garden. very "let's have tea on the terrace" sort of place. then we hired a tuk-tuk driver (i took a picture of a tuk-tuk which i'll be sending out soon in another album), who drove us around to several of the main ruins of palaces and temples.

these ruins were amazing. immense buddha statues, majestic old wats... everything was huge and sweeping. i had no trouble imagining ayuthaya in its heyday, in the mid-1700's, as the mighty capital of thailand. i felt the history of the place, even at some of the more crumbling ruins- everything was just very grand, very large. none of the teachers i've asked have been to ayuthaya, which taher and i have trouble understanding- not only is it very nearby, but it seems to exude a sense of history. every ruin we visited had such... presence.

we visited wat phra si sanphet, which was a sort of campus of crumbling brick buildings- but the main attraction here were these three massive chedi, or large, bell-shaped structures that rise up into the sky and, when lit up at night, are just begging to be photographed.

we also went to wat mongkhon bophit, which boasts this huge, towering bronze buddha. it reminded me, to some extent, of the lincoln memorial in D.C.- the way the visitors approached its feet and stood looking up at the buddha's face... it was larger-than-life in much the same way.

next was wat phra mahathat, another area with a lot of crumbling brick- but what was very interesting here was an ancient tree, which had a stone buddha's head in it. the roots had grown around the head, making it seem like a tree with a face. it was very old and very mysterious, since the head had once had a body that, for some inexplicable reasons, had simply disappeared.

my favorite, though, was wat yai chai mongkon. This wat, of course, had a huge buddha statue and some ruins and even a massive, white buddha lying on its side- but the best part was, within the courtyard, hundreds of buddha statues in a line encircling the courtyard. each was draped with a saffron cloth over its shoulder and chest, and the image these made, buddha after buddha, all in a line, was breathtaking. each one had a different face; different features, different expressions. the detail was amazing. some were in the attitude of dispelling fear; others preaching; and still others subduing mara.

i loved this trip to ayuthaya- i saw so much that inspired me just by its very enormity and presence. and above all i loved that among all of this stone and brick, orchids. everywhere, orchids. a bright splash of color among the gray.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

i really don't know what's going on (and that's the way i like it)

sometimes - daily, actually - things happen here that just seem to make no sense. now, i'm sure they really do make sense to someone, and that in the grand scheme of things in bangkok, they fit right in, but to me, as i walk by with taher, they seem very, very strange and i can do little more than point and shrug.

yesterday, for example, on the edge of campus, there was a fire. a very large fire. it was noisy and smelly and smoky, and it was taking place in the middle of a woody area. was this a deliberate fire? was it meant to clear the area? was it an accident? was this an emergency? i don't know. from our balcony, we could see the smoke billowing very high into the air. but nobody seemed concerned. there was a group of schoolchildren- they had come over from the neighboring school to use our track for practice- and they were walking literally ten feet from the fire, ignoring it completely. it went on into the night, this fire. what to do? point and shrug.

the list of anecdotes could go on and on, but my point in posting today isn't to relate them all. it just struck me yesterday how accustomed we have gotten to the unaccustomed. this is what i love about living abroad- everything is a surprise and i can't really expect anything. until we have actually experienced something here, we have no idea how it'll turn out. in short, it's all refreshingly foreign.

tomorrow we are off to Ayuthaya for a couple of days. i'm sure when we return i'll have a lot to blog about. i just hope the heat doesn't kill us- it's been terribly hot lately. stifling. the rainy season seems to be officially over, and we're left with 100 degree temperatures in the middle of november. a fellow teacher told me that every year, the cold winds from china cool things off considerably for about 20 days. that period of 20 days could start anytime. so now i spend a lot of time hoping today's the day it begins :) i just emailed a friend and said that i would be happy to arrange some sort of trade- give chicago one day of this beach-friendly heat in exchange for a little snow to soothe this land-on-fire...