Some, aka myself, have requested an update on the Tambon Phajuk Zoo, aka my house.
There's no denying it anymore: the first story of our house is a jungle. The rainy season pushes everyone indoors and it's romantic - the animals love to breed and my lovely roommate P'Ya is pregnant. In all seriousness, it is romantic - the plants and trees and flowers and fruit and creatures are tangled and dense, growing over each other, rich with life. As I write, deafening thunder shakes my bureau and rain leaks in through the dark wood hatches we call windows.
I'm concentrating all further keep-the-house/campsite-people-friendly energy on the war upstairs. (Which is connected to the downstairs, most unfortunately.)
This has got to be my favorite - I come home after school last week to find that a smallish snake died on our kitchen table. The ants poured in from everywhere to pick it bare - and I'm almost grateful they did the removal job for me (minus the head and the eyes -- don't you think they'd eat that first?), though I'm afraid to put anything on our kitchen table, compounded by the fact that it's also now caked in pesticides and bleach. Maybe the ants killed the snake, come to think of it...
More Animal Babies!
A gigantic greyish brown spider hides between our water heater and the wall in the bathroom. She's camped out there for about a week now. This is all within the ordinary, except for the fact that she is incredibly pregnant and stores a ginormous white sac of eggs under her abdomen. I think she's shrinking because she's got no time to eat as she guards her eggs.
This is problematic because, according to Gift (my student who lives with me), her sac will hatch tomorrow evening after dark. I ask Gift how she is so positive on the details, and Gift laughs weakly and says "Dao" ("Guess"). But she knows an awful lot about this spider (it won't bite humans, the sac of eggs is growing, the exact hatching time and date), so I'd be a little concerned they've teamed up if not for her incapacitating fear of it. Or maybe immunity is part of the deal.
This means I hope against hope those eggs don't hatch prematurely. I'm going to get a kid to come catch her tomorrow; I'm too full of traumatic stress on spiders right now.
They chill here. Approx. 9 inches long. Don't worry about it. Centipedes are more dangerous.
What's new? Teaming down from the rafters, pressing up from the ground, swarming through the floorboards, living in the furniture, congregating on my bed. Pick a species...there are hundreds. The little small reddish ones are the kings of my bedroom, and there's not an electronic they're not interested in. Oh, and guess what Megan and Eugene - they marched right through the ant chalk barriers. So I'm retreating.
Too many to report, mostly related to the football field and running into things. But one is notable. I think a spider (but let's be honest, coulda been any creature) bit me on Saturday, and instead of the red undefined shape, slightly swollen, on the top of the veins in my right hand getting smaller, it's spreading out, deepening its red color, and shooting more and more pain. As of tonight, the inner part is defining itself in a dark red color and a small hardened bump is appearing.
These classic greyish brown 6 inchers leave trails behind them, making them relatively easy to locate. When the rains come, the slugs come.
When it rains, everything drowns. My house became an island yesterday, immediately drowning any hope of making it to church. Fascinatingly, my house is built on much lower ground than the dirt road that leads you there. Surrounded by trees and underbrush, by all means tucked away in the most natural, picturesque sense, the house is also equipped with a dug out "canal" system that loops around to the back. When the rains hit, which has been every night/morning this week, the ground can't soak up the water fast enough despite the vegetation. Water surrounds us at least 7 meters out at the best exit point to the road. Yesterday came dangerously close to first floor flooding.
Oh, I just figured that I'm not the only one who thinks this water was wild - every Uttaradit village is on special alert for potential landslides, thanks to the torrential rain. Tambon Phajuk is a danger zone. Whaaaaaaat. (A couple months before I came to the 'Dit, the region experienced mad mudslides with many fatalities.) Some of our villages have already flooded this weekend.
Several of the juniors in my bio class - my guinea pig class from last semester - kidnapped me on Saturday. We rode out to Tambon Pat-hai, a village about 25 km from the school. I spent the day visiting their families, exploring their families' farms and gardens, eating fruit, staring at the river - too muddy for swimming due to the rain - and playing Egyptian Ratscrew. Glorious Saturday. They've hearts of gold.
Teaching last week (Mattayom 4/sophomore biology):
Me, in class: "เชื้อเพลิง ซากพืชซากสัตว์: คุณตาย. คุณเสียชีวิตเป็นเวลานานที่ผ่านมา. นิ้วมือของคุณไม่อร่อย. ดังนั้นเห็ดไม่กินมัน. หรือไม่ได้กินหมด. นิ้วของคุณอยู่ภายใต้หินชั้น และ ถ่านหินชนิดร่วน เวลานาน. มันถูกบีบ และจะกลายเป็น เชื้อเพลิงฟอสซิล. ล้อเล่น. นิ้วของคุณไม่ได้เป็นนิ้ว. มันเป็นเชื้อแบคทีเรีย."
Translation - "Fossil fuels: You die. You died a long time ago. Your finger is not delicious. ...So mushrooms don't eat it. Or they don't finish it all. Your finger is under sedimentary rock and peat long time. It is squeezed. It will become fossil fuel. Just kidding. Your finger is not a finger. It is bacteria."
And this is why my Thai is not exactly good enough to be teaching non-renewable energy to hundreds of high school students. And yet, I'm the most qualified science teacher they've got? The students begged the director for me to be their teacher because the other teachers don't come to class. I, in contrast, come and speak enough Thai to tell them their fingers are bacteria. I predict Uttaradit will not solve the renewable energy dilemma.
Today at school
I'm catching up three rascal boys who skipped biology last week (okay, for voluntary military training) this afternoon on dynein, a protein in the cilia and flagella of protists, when Ant, one of the boys, (who I'm sure I've mentioned before in this blog) cocks his head and says, "Teacher, you should eat more protein." The other two first try to help me save face and then agree. When 16-year-old boys become your mother, you know your wrists look skinny.
Ant then asks me why I'm vegetarian (for the millionth time) and I tell him how my mom didn't believe I'd actually stay vegetarian. Ant tells me he tried to be vegetarian once: "Only my mom was right - I ate sweet pig bone soup after only 10 days." It's good to know mommies are mommies all over the world.
Oh, and different soups for different folks...
Water Buffalo Song
For those who know both Larry the Cucumber and how essential a symbol the buffalo is to Thailand, you will understand the sheer glory of playing this song for my Mattayom 1 (7th grade) students. It's been in the back of mind for ages, and I finally made it happen. Not a kid could keep up with the pace (my bad), but translating and singing it in Thai coulda earned me a Thai national medal if the honor was bestowed based on how hilarious kids think you are. My sick Thai version is the best thing I've done since forever. If you get me in person, I will sing it for you.
Also, mostly for Courtney: you know the part of the song where Archie the Asparagus comes out and yells at Larry for assuming that everyone has a water buffalo? And that he'll get angry letters from people asking where their water buffaloes are? Well, at the same point in the song, when a little boy in my class figured out what the heck the song was saying (because I told him...let's be real, this song is way too fast), he cries out, "But I don't have a water buffalo!" (Dewa pom mai mii kwaai!)
Got a haircut. (Major show of bravery, in my opinion, as I was quite afraid to do this in the middle of nowhere.) I tell P'Oong, the hairdresser, that my hair is not beautiful (pom mai soi). She pulls my hair and says, "Chai ka. Oh but your face is beautiful and your eyes are the sea (ta-lay) and your smile is genuine (jingjai) and your body is catwalk." And for the rest of my life, I will fly back to P'Oong to get my hair cut.
Love from my Aunt Nancy
I've spent the last 8 months quite happily tucked away from most things back home. I love the 'Dit as my cocoon, somewhere special I can love, somewhere special I can be loved, somewhere secret and divine. Rural and full of children, the middle of nowhere and the heart of somewhere. The past 2 months, I've sprung from the cocoon to "work" in my entomology lab in Trang - albeit another secret cocoon - and explore a little Communist country to the north. My Aunt Nancy's visit reminded me a bit of the outside world, of the friends back home, of my sisters. How I love it so much here, but I love it so much there as well. That it's not where we live, but how we live, that defines us.
But that is just a thought, and not perhaps the most brilliant thought of all. Because I'm back in the 'Dit, enveloped in the joys of communitarianism, which only the 'Dit exemplifies so well, and I begin to think that a home is a value, that a region is pride itself, that Tambon Phajuk is a little inside of my soul and I'm a little inside of its history.
So this individualism - me in my new 'Dit home, as distinct from everyone who is not here - bounces off this communitarianism - we, as a community, value our neighbors as our family - and perhaps makes me a poor representative of the communitarian spirit. Oh I don't know. I just love the 'Dit so much and treasure a year to be myself, on my own, so not on my own, so not by myself.
Thai Educational Flaws
not much for Yahoo Voices (nor did I know it existed), but a student wrote a letter to my friend Maya, a Fulbright at a northern boarding school - a
prestigious Chulaporn nonetheless. He included this "article" on
the Thai educational system. He asked Maya to
respond to the article as well as add her thoughts on the problems of
the Thai educational system. Some of the article is just a random lady spouting off this or that, but many of the problems listed in the article are true, in my opinion. Maya's student
who wishes so badly to attend university in the US but is afraid he
won't measure up because of how he's been educated does indeed face significant obstacles. But little does he know that US public education often sucks just as much as the Thai system, and at least everyone values respect in Thai schools. Plus, in Thai schools, everyone is constantly racing to give food to one another. Thailand (and the US) does love itself some irrational policies. Here in the 'Dit, our
director purchased 10 flat screen TVs, running us deep into the red. But
we have no paper. Kids sleep in class and not a teacher bats an eye - if they even bother to come. My students have learned English since preschool but can't answer "How are you?"
I'm no stranger to American educational problems. I aim to be the kind of teacher I would've died to have in high school - one who dedicates her time to the students, who doesn't spend it all buddy-buddy with the teachers, one who actually cares what I'm teaching, comes to class, energizes and loves, throws out sweet facts, is tough without being mean...and walking down the hallways, watching some teachers themselves sleeping away on their desks (only pausing from rest when whacking a kid with a stick) while kids play on their phones, you kinda feel like THESE BABIES I LOVE THEM SO MUCH. Then I remember that this is pretty much exactly what my high school was like, except the stick was detention.