Day 37: Another new routine

Trip Start Nov 11, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Police Chief's House - Chiang Khan

Flag of Thailand  , Loei,
Monday, January 11, 2010

The alarm went off at 6am but before either of us could get in the shower the other early riser (a St. John's Student) was in there, I followed on but this had put us behind so Dave was still getting ready when Kae arrived for us about 7. Tomorrow she will be here earlier so we have decided to get up EVEN EARLIER!

Got to school about 730 and the only breakfast we had was a sweet bread roll, very nice but in need of augmentation; I will be using most of my 40B allowance from here on I think.

We actually have no lessons on a Monday but I will be taking some of the lessons later in the week so I got to work putting the lesson plans into a firmed up version. While doing this Kae offered me some of a brown gelationous substance which is called something like 'Cow Pat' (smirk mode overload). In fact it tasted rather like a barbequed coconut blancmange which may sound od but it was very nice. Khru Poopae also handed me a sandwich so I don't know if people noticed that I had gone out to get more bread rolls and were feeding me up but it was very nice of them all the same.

I had another one of those broken conversations with Wasan about various Thai festivals (they are becoming less broken as we each get better at understanding the other's meaning. After this it was time to have lunch and we sat with Gene and talked about the speeches that were also being written for the big day that is coming on Friday... let me explain.

This weekend sees the coming of a number of illustrious visitors to St. Johns: first there is the Bishop of the Diocese who is soon to retire after more than 50 years (whether that is in the church or the post I am not sure) and this will be his last visit to Thabom in an official capacity; second, and perhaps even more eagerly awaited, the general council of the Sisterhood of the Assumption (who are the order who have helped set up and run the school) are coming for two whole days. I gather that this is a particularly big deal as most locations around the world get only one or two council members for maybe an afternoon but because this mission is so remote and has not been visited for 6 years we are apparently getting the full council of (I think) 6. Gene has been writing speeches which Dave and I are helping to firm up and Dave will be tutoring the pupils who are reading them on pronunciation.

After lunch I got back to writing lesson plans until 4th lesson when we went into another of Shel's lessons on describing people. The teachers seem to appreciate our presence for support and Shel in particular always makes use of us. The bell for the end of the lesson went 5 minutes early and was accompanied by an announcement over the speaker system. Shel us as we were packing up that Sister Deanna was going to talk to the school as (among other things) one of the visiting sisters is African and the students need to be primed not to point and stare at someone who's skin is so dark.

We sat at the back of the assembly while Sister Deanna went into considerable detail about the visiting sisters and their various roles, even mentioning their nationalities and the correct way to greet them in their native language. One cannot doubt her sincerity, but neither can one doubt that there was never any way that the students would a) remember all this information even if fully engaged, and b) remain fully engaged for the full hour that this took; indeed, within 20 minutes there were students at the back who were talking and not even bothering to join in when asked to repeat back the greetings. After 40 minutes this had spread to become a majority of the students. Shel kindly sat with myself and Bambi who are not Thai speakers (Dave was not about strangely) to interpret (Shel is Philipino herself, and another of those people who makes me feel bad about my lack of linguistic competence).

After the talk the students spilt up to practice their various roles for Friday's festivities (Dancing, Chanting etc.) and we learned that there were to be no more lessons today. We thought about going to see Father Preecha but reasoned that we would not be leaving until around 345 so there would be time later.

3pm came and the students were still practicing, about half an hour later (we had not gone to see the Father as something was brewing) we were all called into a meeting. First sister Deanna spoke to all of us about the importance of student decorum for the upcoming visit (she spoke in Thai and then English and I noticed - not for the first time - that saying anything in Thai seems to take at least 3 times as long, perhaps she was abbreviating for us though.

After the sister left it was the turn of the Headmaster. He spoke at considerable length and there was no translation but we sat as politely as we could and looked as interested as possible given that we were entirely without comprehension. Once it got to 5pm I couldn't help myself from smiling as he appeared to wrap up, only to launch into something else. At one point I looked across to see sister Sol 'resting her eyes' and I wondered if the teachers who did know what was going on were starting to feel the burn also.

When the meeting finally concluded at 1740 most of the teachers were out and into their cars in a matter of minutes which strongly suggested to me that they hadn't expected such an epic either. We headed for home and were sitting outside with out books about 1820. There were more people for dinner tonight and it was another good spread (like you expect me to say anything else - in Thailand it is ALWAYS a good spread). Dave and I shared some English terms and received a few new Thai ones (most of which I had forgotten the next day).

After dinner (it being gone 7) and in the knowledge that we would have to get up about 530 the following morning, we headed out into Chiang Khan for just long enough to pick up a few vitals (mosquito repellent and shower gel) before heading back to read. Dave was asleep before 9 and I turned in about half past. I awoke several times during the night, but only long enough for the dream projectionist to change the reel.
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