Friday, May 31, 2013

My First Unforgettable Night with my New Motorcycle





I write this from a roadside restaurant somewhere south of Chacheungsao, about 35 kilometers north of Chon Buri.  I’ve eaten dinner and now I am just taking refuge from the rain.  When I pulled into this place on my new motorcycle, I was utterly soaked, having been caught on the road in the kind of rain only the tropics can produce.

See, my plan was to buy the motorcycle, find a place to stay in Chacheungsao (CCS; I don’t know if that’s the official designation for the town but I am not typing out Chacheungsao any more) then head to Chon Buri in the morning… but…

Awww..damn… they’re kicking me out of restaurant right now.  They’re trying to close.  Back out into the rain!!!
____________-

(three hours later)

I now sit comfortably in my palatial room at the SukjaiHotel Chon Buri.  My body has been loosened up by a harrowing two and a half hour motorcycle ride.  It’s been an evening I will surely never forget. 

My teaching day ended at two PM today, but I had all kinds of other tasks like preparing my assembly speech, lesson planning, etc., that needed my attention, so when I bolted out the campus gate at 4 PM, so anxious and excited about leaving town and buying a motorcycle, I had neglected to do a couple basic things.  Namely, plan my trip.  One of the major bus terminals in BKK is half a block from my school, and a van to the town I needed to go to was leaving just minutes after I bought my ticket (which was all of $2).  Off I went!  I even got to ride shotgun up front with the driver!

See, I love travelling.  I don’t mean just the international kind, but just heading out of town to see where my nose takes me.  The Tour d’Joko series on YouTube has tried to portray that spirit in video.  Now, I’ve got an entirely new country in which to continue my travels, and it was great to get that feeling I was doing it again.  I love travelling, but I’m really bad at it.

At any point during the day today, I could have walked over to the office desktop computer, jumped on the internet and searched for a place to stay in CCS. This is what any prudent person would have done, but not me.  I was travelling about 50 miles east of the middle of Bangkok to buy a motorbike from a guy I’d met through an online expat forum in which I participate.  In the back of my head I was thinking this guy was going to welcome me to his town, show me around, be my buddy just because we happened to both be American teachers in Thailand.  Maybe even put me up for the night.

He was gracious enough in our contacts leading up to the purchase.  After a two and a half hour bus-van ride (these things take a while in Thailand), he got on my phone and gave directions to the motorcycle taxi guy.  Turns out he lives in the middle of CCS, which he described as a sleepy town, but is nonetheless a provincial capital and kinda sprawling, as I found out first hand. 

Of course, there were a few idiosynchracies about the bike that weren’t disclosed up front.  For example, after you turn on the ignition, you have to take the key out and put it in your pocket.  It won’t stay in the ignition; it will fall out.  The bike started up easily enough; it had good compression.  It was also a two stroke which means you need to constantly add oil to it and it uses special 95 octane gas, which the seller assured me I could buy at any gas station.  It also means it’s quite fast for the CC’s.  At Bt11K ($370), I wasn’t expecting perfection. A quick test drive (this thing has some PICKUP!) and I was sold. 

Unfortunately, the seller didn’t offer to show me his town.  He had friends of his own in town and we just made a business transaction.  The bike has all it’s paperwork, it’s insurance and taxes are up to date and I was pleased enough with what I got. I didn’t make a new friend, but the world doesn’t revolve around Joko’s whims and needs. 

So I asked about any hotels in town. 

Oh wow… hmmm… He called a buddy, trying to remember where the “Latin Resort” was located,  the only hotel in CCS that he could think of.  He gave me fairly specific directions, but of course, I couldn’t find it.    

I drove in circles, asked locals, found another hotel (which had no vacancies), all the time using up the quarter tank of special gas this bike takes.  Then the rain started pouring down.  Wearing glasses is great to ride a bike with in normal circumstances, it blocks the wind and bugs.  In the rain, however, I’d need little windshield wipers .  So I could barely see, I was running around in circles and running out of gas. 

Aha!  A gas station!

“Is there 95?” I asked in my horrible Thai.

“We have no 95!” the attendant responded.

“95 is where?” I ask, frustrated, but relieved to at least be under cover for a moment.

“A little bit that way at the next gas station,” I’m not exactly sure that is what he said, but I was able to guess the meaning.

I go to the next gas station a little bit that way. 

Repeat dialog above.  No 95 octane gas, but this time I get more detailed directions to the next gas station, which is about a kilometer away.  I head off into the monsoon once again, praying I make it there.

It’s a Shell station.  Hallelujah for big multinational corporations!  They have 95 octane gasohol!  The cute little gas station attendant girl even filled my tank for me.

Feeling fully armed with a full tank of gas, again I go circling CCS.  I pull up to people just on the side of the road and ask, “Hotel?”  At one point, I thought this nice couple was going to show me exactly where a hotel was as they indicated I should follow them on their motorbike.  Instead, they just lead me to the next corner and tried to indicate with hand gestures where I might find hotels. 

I got on the road they told me, and at least I felt a little more comfortable when I saw a sign that said ‘Bangkok: That WaY--->’  If worse came to worse, I knew the way home. 

I spent 45 minutes doing this, but at least I was drying off as the rain had stopped.  The I saw a sign that said: ‘Chon Buri: 38 km’…  Well, that’s just a bit over 20 miles!  Chon Buri is a coastal town.  It’s bigger.  It’s where I was going tomorrow anyways, and there’s bound to be hotels there!  To heck with this ‘sleepy’ town!  Why is it ‘sleepy’ towns offer so few places to sleep? 

Cue thunder and lighting.  The skies opened up again, and now, I’m on a highway between towns with no streetlights, poor road conditions  and trucks and buses barreling up behind me at high speed.  Ack!

Did I forget to mention that the previous owner had just replaced one of the pistons and warned me not to push the bike too hard while the piston was still breaking in?

Then, I found the little restaurant I began this story in.  I pointed to pictures on the menu when ordering dinner and they brought me a tempura feast that would have served three people.  I shared half of it with the mangy street dog whom I bribed with breaded shrimp to be my table companion for a while.

Even after an hour of sitting in this restaurant, the rain still hadn’t stopped.  Back out onto the road, the kilometer signs to Chon Buri comfortably counting down.  At about 25 km, the said I should turn left, so I did.  I found myself approaching a toll booth. Oh.   

I had stumbled on one of Thailand’s toll superhighways.  Was I even allowed to take a motorcycle on one of these?  I wasn’t sure.  I proceeded thinking that they’d stop me at the toll booth if I weren’t allowed.

I was also a little worried about the police.  This journey was taken entirely without a helmet, and they have a helmet law here.  I also forgot to bring my International Drivers Permit with me.

I roll into the toll lane and keep rolling.  It’s not manned at this location at 9:45 PM.  No one is there to stop me as I zip onto the superhighway.  The rain had stopped, and I really could have opened her up to see how fast she could go, but I was thinking about the piston.  Still, now I was making great progress, cruising along at about 90 kph. 

There were no other motorcycles on the road though.  Not even big ones.  Cars and trucks were passing me on the ample 8-lane freeway, but I was at least keeping up with the slowest traffic.  But was I allowed?  Aha!  A rest stop up ahead.  I'll ask there, and find a way off this road if I'm not supposed to be on it. 

It was actually a little town entirely devoted to the superhighway.  And after asking some youths hanging out in front of the 7/11 (by miming motorcycle, pointing to the highway and asking ‘okay?’), I learned that not only was I driving on this major thoroughfare illegally, but there was no way out of this little town except back onto the toll road! I was stuck!

Oh shit. I was going to get busted for sure.  I even took a Bt500 note and folded it up inside the photocopy of my passport I keep in my wallet.  The bribe for when I was going to get  stopped  was already prepared.  I even took all the rest of my money except for another 1000 Baht and hid it in my backpack.  I got paid in cash today for my first two weeks teaching plus another nice chunk as reimbursement for my hotel expenses when my contract was delayed.  Point being, I had about $700 in my wallet; I wasn’t going to let a cop here get a glimpse of that.

Shitting bricks the whole way, I made it the next 25km to the Chon Buri exit (the ONLY exit I’d encountered) without getting pulled over.

I'm safe in Chon Buri now, looking forward to a weekend adventure.

And so that’s the story so far, and it is still only Friday Night.  Well, there is the bit about the hotel room soap, but I think that is better shared on video, and I forgot the cable to get my video from camera to computer, so it’ll have to wait.
  
Tomorrow I hope to meet up with some friends who are coming down from BKK via van-bus in the morning.  There is a beach here in Chon Buri.  Being a major manufacturing town, it’s probably not water one wants to get into, but I look forward to at least seeing the sea again tomorrow.

And I can get where I want to go when I want to without thinking about bus fare because, I am, once again, motorized. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ten Things that have Surprised Me About Bangkok



Here are ten things I’ve found surprising since moving to Bangkok.  Now, I've already heard from some folks on the online ex-pat community forum I participate in here that I am nuts for thinking some of these things, that I'll change when I've been around a bit and I am so showing my greenhorn status with these observations.  

So be it.  Like I said, these are subjective observations that are based on my and mine alone previous expectations.  I'm not saying they're ultimate truths, just some things I've noticed. 
  1. How quickly I’ve acclimated to the heat.  97 degrees, 90% humidity every single day.  It doesn’t bother me except for the inconvenience of anything I’m wearing becoming soaked in sweat if I do much walking or exertion in the hot part of the day.
     
  2.  How used to expats people are in Bangkok.  Like with most of my expectations coming here, I’m comparing my experiences here to those I gained living in Indonesia 20-something years ago.  Back then, even in the relatively cosmopolitan capital of Jakarta, wherever I went, people stared at me.  If I were someplace by myself, people would come up to me and say hello, introduce themselves and want to be my friend, and not for nefarious reasons either. They were simply curious about this person who looked so different than they did.  Out in the provinces it was even more the case. I’d be walking down the street and people in their homes would call out to me (in a friendly way).  I’ve experienced nothing like that from Bangkokians.  Any extra attention one does receive is mostly from Tuk Tuk drivers trying to get you into their taxis, from the ladies hanging out on the steps of the massage parlors or the counterfeit phone vendors at the mall.  In all three of these cases, the attention is driven out of wanting to make me a customer.  

    In Bangkok, there is little to no interest in you as a foreigner for that mere fact alone.  They’re completely accustomed to us.  Even the children rarely stare. People treat you the same as they do the locals, which is both good and bad; it’s certainly surprising to me.

  3. How few vendors sell the foods that are sold in every Thai restaurant in the West.  When you think of Thai food, what’s the first thing you think of?  Pad Thai…It’s the number one thing on every Thai restaurant’s menu back home.  I thought it would be sold on every street corner. It is, in fact, not very common. Now, it may be more prevalent and I just don’t know how to find it, but since it’s cooked on a very distinctive, large round cooking surface, it usually stands out. Maybe you think of satay…that delicious meat on a stick with peanut sauce.  Again, very rare.
  4.  How clean the streets are.  Bangkok has cleaner streets, sidewalks, gutters and parks than any large city in America.  No one litters. There is a very active public works organizations that do things like sweep the sidewalks.  Now, the waterways are another matter, but I am very pleasantly surprised on how very clean this city is.
     
  5.  How quickly I am losing my English.  I got to keep writing to keep my native tongue sharp!  I should say my English is changing. Half the English speakers I talk to speak with one of those funny accents and use different idioms. I’m picking those up, mate.
  6.      How few smokers there are here.  Part of the cleanliness thing, one doesn’t see cigarette butts all over the streets like you do pretty much anywhere else in the world.  The stereotype of Asians is that they’re heavy smokers.  That’s true in Indonesia, and I hear it’s the same in Korea and Japan, but in Thailand, not so much.  It has been portrayed as very lower-class thing to do here.
  7.   I’d say there are twice as many McDonald’s per square mile in BKK than in the big cities I’ve lived in in America.  There are about 5x as many KFC’s and about 20x as many 7/11’s.  Seven Eleven Thailand is so successful that they recently made a bid to acquire Seven Eleven USA.  There are literally 7/11’s on every block and sometimes facing each other on opposite sides of the same street corner.
  8.  How bitter and negative so many of the other ex-pats who live here are.  I’ve been told that Bangkok can make anyone that way in time, and I don’t want to be negative about other people’s negativity, but the attitudes here can really be surprising.  Now, they may just be venting to other ex-pats because with each other we have the chance to talk about the down sides of the living here.  We can say things about and Thailand & Thai people that we might not say with the natives.  That said, you run into people with whom talking to is like talking into a black hole of black irony, complaints and criticism. 

    One might say something like. ‘Wow, it sure was a nice day today,’ and you’d get back, ‘Well, yesterday was shitty, and I’ll bet tomorrow will be even worse!’  In talking about students, I’ll come in full of sunshine and positivity: ‘I had a great class today. The students participated, they were well behaved and I felt like I really taught them today!’  Invariably, I’ll hear something like this in response: “Well, sometimes you’ll get that at the beginning of the semester, once they figure you out, they’ll be out of control.” Okay, I’m not going to let their attitudes effect mine own (and if you’re an expat in Thailand who thinks I will, you’re one of the people I’m talking about).  One of these days, I’m just going to ask one of these neg-pats, “If everything about the people & culture here is so ridiculous and worthy of your scorn, what the hell are you doing here?”
     
  9. That I would be made happy to see a grown man eating rice with a spoon.  Staying on the subject of ex-pats, my fate here since training in Phuket has been linked with that of Will, another American on the same program as I who happened to be placed in the same school as me.  I’m fairly sure Will would admit with little reservation that he hasn’t been the quickest to dive head first into the local customs and ways of doing things.  That’s fine; everyone has their own speed, but my instinct to help has found me telling Will on probably too many occasions ‘try it this way… do it that way’ as we both adjust to this new country.  One example would be how Thais eat.  They eat with a fork and spoon.  The fork is used to shovel rice and fixins on to the spoon, and the spoon goes in the mouth.  Americans eat rice like they do everything else, with a fork, which if you think about it, is a really poor instrument for that predominant food stuff here.  Up until yesterday, Will was still eating his rice with a fork.  Today, he was doing so with the spoon.  It made me feel good to see my training buddy coming around.  First the spoon, next, the bum gun (although I hope I don’t witness that acclimation.
  10.  How sexy the girls are. *sigh*

 ___________________________________________________

Tonight's video is spread out over two nights.  On the first night, I entertained my first visitors here in Bangkok.  I've known JD & Tracy going back some 6 or 7 years now, and we met on MySpace back in it's heyday of 2007-2008. We've never lived in the same town, but have been the kind of online friends that whenever we're in each other's vicinity, we connect.  I believe this is the third city I've recorded JD and I hanging out.  

It was late at night after we'd had dinner.  My plans for taking them on a boat ride were thwarted by the fact that the river boats don't run at night in Bangkok.  We were in the heart of downtown, so I took them to Nana Plaza... The World's Largest Adult Playground where Tracy wonders: "What do they do with their cocks?"... don't worry; I edited the video to make it PG.

The second half of the video is from my birthday night and an open mic compilation.  Enjoy! 





Sunday, May 26, 2013

Part Two of my Condo Tour & Playing Uke at the Park

Not that much to say tonight.  Today was a Sunday at the end of a 3-day weekend.  Spent the middle part of the day out looking for motorcycle dealerships that might have good used bikes at reasonable prices.  It being Sunday, only a couple of the places I found were even open, and even with them not being able to speak English, in my limited Thai and writing prices down in a book (I can say the numbers up to 1000 pretty well, but I forgot the word for 10,000 [it isn't 'ten' followed by 'thousand'] we had communication issues), I was able to surmise they had nothing in the price range I was hoping to get.


I heard through an expat forum I participate in that used bikes are a lot easier to find and a lot cheaper if you head out into provinces.  I guess in Bangkok, people buy new.  So, if by next weekend, I don't find anything that fits my needs and price range, I've been invited to visit Rayong for the weekend and be hosted by a friend I met online.

Sounds fun.  I almost hope I don't find anything this week.

We got a two-for-one in the video department tonight.  First, it is Part Two of the introducing my condo tour.  In this video, I point out some features of the place that were left out of the first one, I have fun with my laser pointer and the dogs who hang out in the parking lot under my balcony and I make my first real meal in my new place.




 Did that video look better to be a better video quality than previous ones?  The internet connection at my new place is fast enough that I am able to upload vids at 'full' resolution as opposed to 'medium'.

Next, I had fun in the afternoon playing ukulele at a local park.  Sorry about the competing background music. I had gotten all settled in at the 'perfect spot' when, I don't know what it was that rolled up and started playing music behind the trees, but since the sun goes down fast in the tropics and I was running out of daylight, I uked forward!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Black Belt in Thai Condo: My New Place

After my rambling narrative about my first day teaching, I felt pleased that several people asked me privately, "How did day two & three go?"  If you read that blog, you might be wondering the same thing.

The rest of my first week went smoothly, or at least, as compared to the first day.  I was still quite sick on the second day, but by the third, my digestive system wasn't causing me direct pain.  As of now, I seemed to have recovered from whatever the bug was.

I still ran into locked doors and rowdy kids.  In non-AC'd classrooms, I was still soaking wet with my own sweat at the end of a lesson, but I am getting used to all those things. It's only been three days, so I don't want to be overconfident, but I do definitely feel after the first week that not only can I do this job, but I think I can be pretty good at it.

See, one thing about being a new teacher that is different from any other new job is that all of us have years and years of experience with teachers... from the student side of the equation. We know the role. We've all been through it from the other side.  Just by counting quickly in my head, I think I've watched over 100 teachers teach in my life just from being a student.  I remember what the good ones did.  I remember what the bad ones did.  I am trying to emulate the former.


What this blog is really about tonight is my new place to live!

 So far in my little over 5 weeks in this country, I've run into some interesting adversity.  Some of it has been through my own negligence (losing my camera), some of it has been bad luck.  In the case of my new residence, I had the good fortune of finding a great place to live.  Perhaps I made that good fortune by being out there looking at places without waiting to be assisted by my placement agency. Not to boast, but I proactively found this place, and I love it.

If you watched the Apartment Hunting video a couple blogs back, you've seen this place already.  It was the one I described as 'perfect', but was lamenting because it was so far away from my school.  Well, after careful consideration and analyzing my finances, I decided to cash in an old 401K account and use that money to make my transition to Thailand a little easier.  Specifically, I'm buying a motorcycle.  This place that was too far away before (it's an hour commute by bus and subway), now, depending on traffic, is 20 to 30 minutes away.  At least, it will be once I buy a motorbike.

Enjoy Part One of my video tour of my new apartment... errr... Tae Kwondo...errr... Thai Condo.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My First Day Teaching


If you read last night's blog, you know that today was my first day teaching at my new school.  How did it go?  

It was a mixture of tragedy and triumph.  Chaos and things going to plan.  Sickness and perseverance. 


First off, last night was rough.  I started to feel a gurgling in my stomach. Something I had eaten that day wasn't sitting right.  It could have been the super-spicy soup I had for lunch.  The meat-on-a-stick I had has a snack at about 4 or the pad thai I got from a street vendor for dinner. 

 I knew I had to wake up at 5:45 AM to be sure to be at school at 7:30.  My clock is adjusted to going to sleep around midnight, and due to how excited I was, I couldn’t sleep.  I tossed and turned.  Worrying about this and that. So when the wake-up call came the next morning, it felt like I had barely slept.  

There was a worse problem though.  My stomach was on fire. I ran to the bathroom and well, I don’t know how to put this delicately, but “explosive” comes to mind.  Maybe “brown river flash-flooding out my butt” (that isn’t so delicate), and again it was accompanied by major, severe stomach pain.  I spent most of my 45 minutes before leaving to catch the bus sitting on the porcelain throne.  

I had never yet taken a bus here at 6:30 in the morning.  Given that it is rush hour 24 hours a day in Bangkok, I wasn’t surprised as the bus inched slowly along down Sukhumvit 71 towards my school.  I made the wise choice of paying the extra Bt4 (17 cents) to get on the air-conditioned bus.  But I had a problem.  The roll I had eaten for breakfast with some club soda was saying it didn’t like being in my stomach and was leaving one way or another.  

I managed to think pleasant thoughts until the bus came to my stop, at which point I jumped off, walked seven steps to some convenient bushes and hurled.  Vomited.  Violently. Then, I dry-heaved.  Fun.  Afterwards, as is the case after puking, I’m sure my eyes were horribly bloodshot red, and I was half a block from my school.  It was 7:30 on the nose.  Mind you, if this hadn’t been my first day, I would turned around right there and called in sick.

I took my time, breathed heavily (getting oxygen to the eyes) and walked in the gate of the school at 7:36.  Damn.  I am my mother’s son.   I hate being late and rarely am. 

I had no idea where to go next.  I thought I might find something clearly marked ‘office’, or my agency people (who were supposed to be there) would be on the lookout for me and tell me where I needed to go.  It turns out I wasn’t going anywhere for a while.  I walked in right as the school band was playing the Thailand National Anthem and the flag was slowly raised.  Everyone stopped in their tracks as this happened, including a bunch of students who were also arriving late.  

Then came the morning prayers.  I certainly could go traipsing off to campus parts unknown while THAT was happening.  Interesting factoid: Buddhists and (some) Christians pray in the same manner, hands out in front of you, palm-to-palm, fingers up and aligned. 

Finally, I wandered over to some likely looking buildings and found what appeared to be the main office.  I politely asked where I might find ***, my agency liaison.  No one knew who *** was or where she could be found.  The secretary told me to wait there and ran off somewhere.  As I was standing there looking befuddled, a nice young Chinese man comes up to me and asks if I might be looking for the foreign language office.  

Yes!  Please, take me there

So, John was the first person I met at my school.  He teaches Chinese language, but spoke English very well too.  

 He was my hero this morning, and he even let me sit at his desk while I waited.  Still no ***, nor had I seen any of the other 4 foreign English teachers.  Most importantly, John showed me where the faculty bathroom was located, a place I visited about a dozen times on my first day.  

Coming out of the bathroom, I saw Jason, one of the other teachers who I had met last week, walking down the hall.  He gave me a nod and stepped through a doorway.  What is this?  I wander over, open the door and there everybody was.  The foreign teachers get their own small office, and best of all (unlike the rest of the foreign language department), it is air-conditioned.  We westerners are so delicate when it comes to handling the heat! 

At this point, it was after 8 AM, I didn’t know when classes started nor if I was teaching a first period.  The schedule got worked out and I found that I wasn’t teaching until 10AM, so there was plenty of time to get the lesson plan copied and reviewed.    
.  
I asked *** what I should do if in the middle of the class, I had to go.  Bad.  I explained my digestive issues.   

Oh! We should take you to the school nurse! 


 The school nurse, of course.  I’d forgotten about those.  When have any of us every worked in an office, store or other big company where they employ a company nurse?  Schools have them.

The school nurse gave me 4 big black pills and a salty tasting solution (electrolytes I think; I was very dehydrated as anything I drank came out the other end in 20 or 30 minutes).  She told me to come back after lunch for another treatment. 

Off to teach my first class!  My first assignment:  6th graders!  These were the Intensive English Program 6th graders who were supposed to know a bit more English than the run-of-the-mill 11 year-old, and I felt fairly prepared as I crossed campus to another building.

More importantly, I felt like a teacher.  I had my materials in my hand and I strolled across campus, trying to look serious and dignified.  This may sound strange, but I felt serious and dignified.  I have been told by several people that in Thailand, teachers are respected more than doctors, lawyers, businessmen, what have you.  Only monks and the Royal Family are held in higher esteem.  Now, I was one of them.  See, in my old job in America, I never felt any pride in the fact that I was an appliance salesman.  I took pride in how I did my job, but my title was not one people go, “oh, he’s an appliance salesman, he deserves respect.”  That is how teachers are viewed in Thailand and now I was one of them.

Then I get to the hallway outside the classroom and find 40 6th grade boys bouncing off the walls, goofing around, being  11 years old .  They settled down a bit when this big, older white man showed up.   We couldn’t get into the classroom because of big padlock on the door (there’s expensive computers and such in the IEP classes).  Hmmm….  Well, it was still a few minutes before we’re supposed to start, and I know I have a Thai co-teacher who will be assisting me this morning.  I’m sure she’ll have the key.  So I start chatting with the boys.  I sort of started the lesson in the hallway. 

At 5 minutes after the scheduled start time, I tell the boys, “Stay here, I’ll go find a key.”  I find my co-teacher standing outside the door of the building.  She didn't have the key.  We decide to move the class to the library.  There won’t be a whiteboard, a key tool in language training,  but at least it has AC.  We get the kids all settled into the library when the librarian informs us that the library is reserved for the hour. We had to leave.  Now where?  To the cafeteria!

My first class as a paid English teacher started 20 minutes late, was in a stifling hot, breezeless open cafeteria.  It was like teaching outside.  Hard enough for a newbie like me to keep classroom control; imagine trying it outside.  I had soaked through my undershirt and shirt by hour’s end and I was feeling sick again.

One thing about 6th graders that I had forgotten;  they come in very different sizes.  Some of them were as big as me, others you’d guess were 7 or 8 years old. 

My next class were  11th graders.  My lesson plan was for a fairly difficult reading assignment about fables and old wives’ tales.  I got the kids somewhat engaged, things were going smoothly up until the point where I was supposed the pass out the reading assignment and I realized I didn’t have it.  The story was missing from my photocopied materials.  Guys, stay here, don’t go crazy, I gotta go get something.  Back to the office, dig out the story, make the copies, run back (in a dignified, teacher-like gait) okay, back on track.

I barely managed to keep down my lunch, long enough for it to make it’s way through my system and out the other end before the lunch hour had even finished.  Back to the nurse; more big black pills; more hydration salts.  So, this is dysentery.

After lunch was my mystery class.  It was 6th graders again, some of whom were special ed kids. See, I mentioned the agency provides lesson plans for the Intensive English half of what I’m doing; but we’re on our own when teaching the general English classes, which was fine.  Time for me to use the models I learned in training, which worked perfectly with this lot.  I taught more English to the kids who weren’t paying extra for it than to  any other class today.

My last class was the 12th grade, Gifted Students group.  Look, I told them right at the start, I’ve been dealing with children all day, and I expect  this group to be able to follow some simple rules.  When I raise my whiteboard pen in the air, I want silence.  When I ask a question of a student, I don’t want his friend blurting out the answer from across the room.  Those were my 2 rules, and they followed them.  I gave them an assignment with about 10 minutes left until the end of class that probably should have taken 15 minutes.  You know what really impressed me?  All of them stayed the extra 5 minutes to complete the assignment; it was important to them.  Good kids.

And I get to do it all again tomorrow.  Teacher Joko has finished his first day teaching.

My stomach is empty; all I managed to choke down this evening was a thing of yogurt.  I’m hungry, but the idea of eating is repulsive to me at the moment.  Dysentery sucks (it’s definitely what I’ve got, I looked it up on Wikipedia), but it would make a great weight-loss program!







  

Wow! It's Lao - Part 7: Luang Prabang to Nong Kiauw

After spending two nights in Luang Prabang, I was eager to get back out onto the road and continue my ride through the beautiful Lao cou...