Among the many love notes and warm greetings I received from my students the first week back, this one was my favorite. It is a direct translation of my Thai nickname, Bai Khao. It was a wonderful first week of teaching after two months of vacation; I had almost forgotten what it felt like to be a teacher in the village schools but falling back into a routine felt natural. However, I was exhausted by the end of each day and found myself crashing by 9:00pm on Wednesday–a record early bedtime for me! I do feel somewhat more prepared to teach English after a semester of experience and I am looking forward to making adjustments to my teaching style to better fit the needs of my classes.
Other than teaching, I’m keeping busy practicing yoga in the morning and getting back into aerobic dance in the evenings. I have some lesson planning to do before tomorrow so please excuse the short post. I’ve uploaded some favorite pictures from my backpacking trip so hopefully you’ll have time to take a look. Oh yes, and in good Thai fashion, I already have my first shortened work week of the semester since there’s a national holiday on Friday–Cheers!
I spent my Saturday meeting families of the high school students in my village. Although I am not teaching at the high school, I was invited by the principal to accompany Steph. I was more than happy to attend, since meeting people in the community and practicing my Thai are both good options on a free Saturday. About 45 minutes into the first meeting, however, I began to think otherwise. I’ve realized that I quickly get distracted and/or daydream in situations where speakers present in all Thai, for the obvious reasons. By this point I had taken out my camera to document the large gathering of families, the assortment of sandals discarded at the edge of the tile floor, and the beautiful skirts the elder women were wearing. As I was fooling around with camera angles to take “artistic” pictures of my feet, I realized a hush had fallen over the crowd and as I looked up, I saw the principal staring right at me and Steph! Apparently he had just called us up to the front to introduce ourselves and here I am perched over my feet with a camera. Whoops. I quickly recovered by correctly introducing myself in the only full sentences I know how to say, the ones I have been repeating since arriving about a month ago. I did mess up on my nickname but I now know how to say it with the correct tones and vowel sounds. I also found out today what I was actually saying: instead of “Rice Leaf” I was calling myself “White Leaf.” Not an entirely inaccurate description of myself, I admit, but generally a nonsensical one for the people of Thailand.
Despite the rocky start, the day was actually very insightful and I am happy for the experience. All of the meetings (there were four total) were held at various local Buddhist temples, or wats, in the village. I saw one of my students at a meeting and it was nice to meet her mom. I saw her mother by herself before the meeting and thought she looked just like this student, so I was pleased to find out later she actually was her daughter. It was also fun chatting with the high school students at the meetings because several have very good English. They were curious about my parents’ names, how old my siblings were, and what I studied at the university. The highlight of the day was random, though. Towards the end of the last meeting Steph and I were sitting with two high school teachers who saw one of our tampons and asked what it was. Women in Thailand, or at least in the northeast, don’t seem to use them. We actually have not found tampons sold anywhere, which is really peculiar to us. Anyways, they were curious, so Steph gave them one to look at. So here we are in the middle of a temple having a hands-on feminine hygiene discussion! In the end they seemed pretty resistant to the idea of it all….
Well tomorrow is Sunday, which means sleeping in (at least until 7:00am, if the rooster permits it), laundry, and lots of lesson planning. Oh yes, and checking the Badgers vs. Wolverines score when I wake up. On Wisconsin!
Since our American names are very difficult for most Thais to pronounce, my friends and I have each been given a Thai nickname to make introductions easier. So now we are the ones tripping over our own names! The Thai language is tonal; there are several different meanings associated with one word, depending on the tone you give it. Each of our Thai names also has a meaning, such as lotus, coconut, sugar, etc. My name in Thai is “Bai-kao” (pronounced bye-cow) which means rice leaf. I am told it has a very significant meaning in Thai culture but have yet to understand what that is, exactly. Yesterday we had our debut on Thai cable television and one of my friends used an incorrect tone and accidentally introduced herself as an insect rather than a doll! I guess all we can do is keep practicing. On that note, back to class!