No powerpoint? Whatever loys your krathong...
Trip Start Oct 20, 2009
42Trip End Nov 29, 2009
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When I arrived at today's class, the professor who was hosting the session told me to sit at the podium and load my powerpoint. I let her know that I would be leading an interactive discussion and so I would not be using Powerpoint. She was baffled and said "ajan's (professors) always use powerpoint. This is the Thai way." I gently but respectfully conveyed to her that since they have invited me to teach them to approach things differently in terms of conducting research and writing, I hoped she would bear with me as I used a new way of teaching to facilitate teaching a new way of thinking. She was really quite stunned - all professors MUST use Powerpoint and must lecture TO the audience, not engage WITH the audience. But she told me if that's how I want to do it, then it's fine. I was a little shook up at first, I have to admit, because I want to be deferential to the faculty and their culture. But I also know that the Dean and others have encouraged me to be creative and push people to look at things differently while I'm here, so I pressed on, albeit a little nervously.
The faculty attending today's workshop had many of the same questions that faculty in American have regarding getting their work published - i.e. how to pick which journal to target? How do you deal with rejection? etc. But they also struggle with some issues unique to non-native English speakers. For example, several of the faculty said they work so hard to make their English writing sound eloquent and intelligent that sometimes they fail to grasp the required structure of a research paper - i.e
After my class was over, it was around 2pm and I headed back to my office to edit articles. So far, I've edited 2 research abstracts and 1 research newsletter, but I have 10 research articles I'm currently in the process of editing and providing comments. In addition, I'm meeting individually with the doctoral and masters students to give feedback to them on their research proposals. Very busy but I'm loving every minute of this. They have intentionally structured my time here at Khon Kaen University so that I'm doing work similar to a dean of research, mentoring faculty, coaching assistant and associate deans, and strengthening the scholarly productivity of the school of nursing as a whole. I'm surprised at how much I love the work I'm doing - it's extremely energizing and I feel like I'm really making a difference, albeit slowly.
At the end of the day, the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs came to my office to let me know that the van and driver would be taking the two of us to the Loy Krathong Festival
1) All of the parade floats are stunning - decorated with hand-carved crafts, flowers, and bamboo artistry.
2) Each school (called a "Faculty" here) has their students create a float and present a traditional Thai dance performance. The Faculty of Engineering consisted almost entirely of men wearing regular work clothes and wearing paper hats with "ENGINEER" written on them. Their float consisted of a giant pile of speakers blaring music. They didn't dance. In contrast, the Faculty of Medicine appeared to be comprised of an inordinate number of talented float designers and male dancers. To be honest, it was like watching a gay pride parade but with straight Thai medical students, only the Thai medical students were way more flamboyant and were better dancers. The Faculty of Nursing had a fabulous float, beautiful and talented dancers, and a wonderful energetic spirit.
3) Puzzling to me was the fact that there appeared to be a big contingent of goth students in traditional Thai costumes attending the festival
4) At Loy Krathong, you float ("loy") a leaf boat ("krathong") onto the lake, letting go of past feelings of negativity, anger, and ill will. People sometimes put money in the leaf cup before putting it into the water. The Thai police apparently frown on people swimming out into the lake and shaking down the krathongs for change - I saw several people arrested doing this.
5) It's a HUGE festival - thousands of people attend - and it was wall-to-wall people as far as the eye could see.
Overall, it was a really cool event to attend. The Associate Dean brought me to meet some of the university administrators and vice presidents, and I practiced my "wai" and Thai greetings with each one to show my respect. I was happy I thought to dress up a little - I met far more administrators than I had expected, given that it was a nighttime street festival.
The van took me back to my room around 9:30 and I spent the rest of the evening catching up on email. I was so sleepy - I was in bed by 11, listening to the soothing sounds of the gigantic lizard (called a "tookay" gecko) that lives outside my dorm room in the hallway. It's about 12 inches long and scares me half to death when it jumps out of the shadows because it's known for it's vicious, pit-bull like bite and I soooo do not want to get bitten by a tookay. (To get the tookay off you when it bites, it's a nightmare. It can maintain it's grip for an hour or more. To make it let go, you have to submerge it in water. Ouch. But it's nighttime call is said to bring good luck, as long as it issues a string of at least 7 "kays" each time it makes it's "too-too-too-TOO-kay, too-kay, too-kay" sound." It's quite pleasant sounding. But I still don't want that thing to bite me, no matter how pretty it sounds!