I’ve already shared lots of dancing photos from the King’s birthday two weeks ago but I wanted to post a series of snapshots depicting my transformation from village English teacher to Thai performer. Enjoy!
Tag Archives: birthday
Each day I am growing more accustomed to the unexpected. Last minute schedule changes, unannounced visitors, and random tasks assigned at seemingly inappropriate times are all status quo here in Thailand. While it was surprising (and at times frustrating) at first, I am becoming more comfortable with this aspect of Thai culture and usually find myself responding “sure, why not” to the aforementioned circumstances.
Today for instance, was yet another day of unexpected events. I woke up early to practice yoga and make coffee before a skype date and I ran out the door just after 8:00am (late as usual…some things never change). I waited about 10 minutes for Pi Tuk (my fellow English teacher) who was also late. She finally pulled up in her husband’s truck (the battery in her car died, explaining the tardiness) and before I could climb in she handed me three plastic bags of student uniforms for me to run to the tailor down the road for embroidering. I repeated the phrase she told me over and over in my head as I walked them up to the shopkeeper so I didn’t mess up the order (it would be horrible to have to edit all the embroidery…).
After dropping off the clothing I jumped into the truck and we were on our way-or so I thought. When we took a right turn away from the school instead of a left, Pi Tuk explained that she needed to get her hair dried. I glanced at her damp hair, considered inquiring about my 9:00am class, but changed my mind and said “oh, okay.” She pulled up to a barber’s shop and we chatted briefly with a woman outside. Pi Tuk said something about rice noodles-perhaps the woman we were speaking with was making them? Then we sat down inside the barber’s shop (which smelled like wet dog) and Pi Tuk started plucking gray hairs from her head since the stylist wasn’t there yet. I know this because she actually showed them to me before throwing them out the window. By this time it was approaching 8:30 so we went back to the truck and started driving away, just as the stylist was arriving. Pi Tuk was about to park the truck again when I mentioned I needed to print some materials before my class, and we departed for school.
Two minutes into the ride Pi Tuk told me matter-of-factly that all my classes would be shifted to the morning (taking away my prep-time) since she had to go into Nakhon Phanom right after lunch to fix her car. “Oh, okay” was my response, but my thoughts were “Half-day on a Friday? Yes!” then “No prep time? Yikes!” Once I got to school, though, things were fine. I was able to print the materials I needed for all three classes and had great lessons. The highlight of the day was teaching the students how to play bingo and watching their faces light up when they got to shout it out loud.
This afternoon I met Steph for dress rehearsal at the high school. That’s right, dress rehearsal. We are performing a traditional Thai dance tomorrow evening for Father’s Day, or the King’s Birthday. My dancing partner (the one I stand behind and use as a guide in all my moves) was absent so I had to struggle through the steps by memory. It took a while to get used to the dress and jewelry we have to wear; we are going to be decked out in gold-chained belts, choker necklaces and arm cuffs, not to mention tiaras! My outfit is super-tight too since most Thais are tiny so I hope I don’t pass out tomorrow!
After practice as we pulled up to our house on bikes, I heard Steph exclaim “Is that our dinner?” and sure enough, there was dinner, hanging from a nail off the front of our house. Without a second thought I grabbed it, unlocked the door, and we sat down to a meal that was only interrupted twice by the neighbor’s dog Cha-Daam, eager to see us after a long day. Like I said, just another day.
My first birthday abroad was fun and very eventful. I spent the morning learning about Thai pronouns and critical thinking in the classroom-riveting, right? Things picked up at noon when we headed into town for lunch and ate delicious spring rolls with peanut sauce. Then the volunteer group went to a village called Renu Nakhon for a Pud Thai traditional dance performance. During introductions, the audience even sang me “Happy Birthday” after my friends forced me to disclose my special day! Here is a picture of the opening performance:
After the trained dancers performed, we were invited to try on the traditional garb and join in. It was pretty funny because we had no preparation but we were still well-received. The audience was amused by our efforts; unfortunately they took lots of pictures and video to capture this special moment. Here’s a shot of the WorldTeach volunteers with some of the school teachers, after the performance. We are holding sticky rice containers, which were presented to us as gifts. If you look closely, you can also see the white string tied onto our wrists, which were given to us in a ceremony earlier in the day to give us protection and happiness during our time as volunteer teachers in Thailand.
It was a very special experience for us and we were grateful to be so warmly accepted by everyone. Today we tried on another type of traditional dancing outfit, which we will wear on November 2 for a fish festival and actually get to keep! Back at the orientation site, I was (semi) surprised with an actual birthday cake, candles and gifts! Our Thai host mother, Maeo, made me a pretty floral arrangement I will be taking to my new house when I move, and the volunteers gave me a yoga mat, which I am really excited about! I’ve been leading yoga classes for a small number of people every few days and am looking forward to practicing with a mat again. Even though I’m so far from home, it was a very happy birthday with my new friends here.
I was also able to talk to lots of family and friends yesterday, which also made the day special. Thanks everyone for thinking of me and keeping in touch!