This year the Chinese New Year, or the celebration for the new lunar year, took place during the second and third weeks in February. At first I thought that the only perk was an extra-long five day break from teaching at Nantawan (being a Thai/English/Chinese school stood to lose about a third of its staff during the festivities since the tradition is to spend time with family). As it drew closer I began to feel like it also was a burden. The director informed the teachers that our dress code was going to change during the most important day, stating that we all needed to go out and buy traditional red Chinese outfits. Now during the rest of the year this wouldn't be a huge demand, but the weeks preceding the festival saw rising prices on everything red or remotely Chinese. We then were informed that our classes would be disrupted for extra rehearsals and assemblies, after being told that we needed to administer a variety of tests just days before. Even with the irritating details, though, the excitement during the week before our break was evident in both students and teachers.
Thursday was designated as the day to wear the Chinese outfits. On Monday I received a strange text message reminding me to wear red for the rest of the week. I didn't recognize the return name and number, so I disregarded the message, only to show up to work the next day and find myself amongst a see of red-clothed teachers. Evidentially one of the Thai teachers had sent the message and changed her signature as a joke.
Luckily though, she had an extra shirt and I was able to join in on the festivities. Our kindergarten students were dressed head-to-toe in Chinese outfits and spent the entire day bussing from the houses and businesses of the students' parents singing Chinese carols and collecting red envelopes. Yet another tradition is for adults to give children small red envelopes with a bit of money inside...Kind of like a perveerbial Halloween.
The primary students attended an assembly followed by arts-and-crafts were they made decorations. The students then lined up and received envelopes from parents and friends... sometimes the teachers were given an envelope from one of their students.
Mike and I decided to head down to Rayong during the Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday that we were free. We checked into the hotel that Mike had discovered the previous week and proceeded to ride a motorbike around the city. On Monday morning we met with the head foreign teacher of Assumption College, Noel, and discussed the possibility of our involvement in their summer program. We had already been offered the job, but were taken on a tour of the campus and informed of what our duties would be so that we could make an informed decision. The school, which teaches ages 3-18, ended up being much better than I expected. Not only were the grounds beautiful, but the employment package was also beyond any other school I am familiar with. Before we left Assumption, both Mike and I had accepted the summer school positions, which could possibly lead to a year-long contract. We were thrilled.
Rayong proved to be the perfect get-away from Bang Phli. We found some excellent restaurants in the city as well as seafood shacks along the beach, and were able to visit with old friends. During a ride from Ban Phe Mike showed my a beautiful jungle road he discovered, lined with pineapple plantations and rubber trees. We spent an afternoon riding around and looking at houses for rent and found that Rayong is much bigger than we originally thought.
On Tuesday night we ran into a bit of trouble, as the bike tire of the motorbike was punctured and started to go flat. I suggested that we call Ji, our Thai-friend in Ban Phe, so that she could talk to the mechanic. She told him that the bike was hers and that she only wanted to the cheapest thing done to fix it. One hundred baht later we had a new oriutaowitutube in the slkfjasfioru. Things in Rayong just felt much easier and happier. I am looking forward to moving there at the beginning of March...
All in all the Chinese New Year was pretty fun. Hope you enjoyed the pictures :)