During my time teaching Grade 4 the little munchkins came out with some comments that made me laugh, although I probably shouldn’t have found the amusing side, being a responsible teacher and all that! After a few months of teaching them and right up until I left, in September, their characters started to emerge. I thought I would share some of the things they came out with. So these are my “Quotes from the Kids” in no particular order:
1. “You’re a nerd”- On seeing me in the library for the first time wearing glasses. Don’t ya know it’s cool to be a nerd?
2. “What’s the point?”- On teaching them grammar “too” and “enough”. Er the point is to learn the grammar for you to use it.
3. “What’s your name?”- One of my favourite students, Film, got great pleasure in asking this question, and shrieked in laughter when I answered- “You know my name, think of another question.”
4. “What’s your favourite food?”- Film’s second question, still laughing at my answer. “Pizza.”
5. “What’s your favourite subject?”- Film’s third question, still laughing at my answer. “Science.” Honestly, kids are weird!
6. “He just said fuck you”- A student getting out of his seat to have his work marked, and said kid looking in horror crying: “No, no teacher I did not!”
7. Cyrus: “Do you know any volcanoes in Italy?”
Me: “Yes, Mount Vesuvius.”
Cyrus: “Yes, that’s right.” – This kid is smart. I spotted him relaxing on the grass, while his class mates were practicing a game for sports day, with one leg on top of the other knee, hands behind his head, with a piece of long grass dangling from his mouth-like something out of Tom Brown’s Schooldays. This kid will go far.
8. “Are you happy?”- Another favourite, Pern, on the way back from a school trip when I was in thinking mode, looking out of the window of the bus.
9. “Free time, yes or no?” Er no, free time is at 3.40pm when you are going home.
10. “Hello, Mrs Gills”- Cyrus again but he pronounced my name as in a gill of whiskey.
11. “Yes, very good”- On helping me with writing Thai, and getting it right.
12. “Dick” followed by “Bottom”- Complete with hand gestures to ensure that I knew where they were on his body.
13. “Teacher, can we say fuck it?”- A general question that comes from a 9 year old. I think not!
I was sorry to leave Bangsaen but I am very excited about starting afresh in my new home in Bangkok.
I am swapping the beautiful little seaside town for the concrete jungle. It’s not all concrete though, there is beauty in Bangkok and I am sure that I will find it- in fact I already know where to look I just have to settle in and then start exploring.
I want to get to know Bangkok better because I only know a very small part- there are parks to discover, new bars and restaurants to hang out at and new places to visit.
I have a ready-made social life in Bangkok- I have a few friends living here already- not that I can enjoy this straight away because, until I get paid from my new job, I have little money to spend, but, on the plus side, my new apartment block has a gym, an exercise room, a large swimming pool and a jogging track- so that will be my entertainment for the time being. I am sure I will still be able to squeeze a couple of nights out though.
What can I say about Bangsaen? I loved the runs along the beach, dodging the monkeys on Khao Sammuk Hill, looking at birds around Bang Phra Reservoir, and tramping through the forests of Khao Kheow. Not forgetting teaching the little munchkins who I came to love.
I loved my weekly drinking sessions with Chris and Na, talking about running, not going to aerobics and anything else that came up. I loved learning about birds from Chris- I now know what a Scarlet-backed Flower-pecker looks and sounds like thanks to him. And for Chris’ constant stream of support and advice for which I am eternally grateful.
It has been great getting to know Bangsaen but that time is over- time for a fresh start in a new location. So it’s bon voyage to Bangsaen- I loved staying with you. And hello to Bangkok- we will get to know each other very soon.
On the last day of teaching the kids I gave them all free time. Before in class they asked me for free time and I always said no- but this particular day I said “it’s my last day of teaching you today, so-you-have-free-time”, slowly enough so they knew exactly what I was saying. The reaction I got was priceless and I got the same reaction three times because I had three separate classes. They cheered, they screamed, they hugged me. It was awesome- and the kids, who seemed to dislike me, because I made them work hard, now appeared to love me. Kids- they are so fickle.
In the first two classes they jumped around, played cards, played hide and seek- basically did whatever 9 and 10 years old do in their free time- and they did it very noisily. I didn’t care though, it was my last day. When it was time to say goodbye a few of them hugged me and said goodbye. I even got a bracelet from one of the girls. But that was nothing compared to my last class- grade 4/4- my favourite class.
When I announced free time, yet again their reaction was priceless but what followed is the reason why these little ones really were my favourites- these were the ones I guess I connected with the most.
They came to me throughout the lesson with various gifts- a phone holder, hand-made cards, bits of paper with “xoxoxo”, key-rings, pens, bits of pens (?), a purse and coins (because I told them it is good luck to put some money into the purse), they drew pictures of me on the board with “I love T. Gill,” they wrote all the students names- “Got, Tat, Kit, Kla, Kit, Kan, Patt, Non, Book, Pooh, Prince, Film, Thames, Pookao, Orm, Bai-Bua, Pai, Beam, Lookwhy, Cartoon, Am, Nu, Kaning, Chompoo, Namo, Nuna, Phing, Prim, Pern, Tonkhaow, Yam- 31 students-we will miss you, we love you.” I returned the sentiment by writing the same on the board.
One of my favourite boys, Film, saw some of the students give me gifts, so he proceeded to hand me the board wiper and say “ for you,” and then an empty packet of mints- “for you,” he giggled. “It’s empty,” I said laughing, much to his delight and he giggled some more.
I had a notebook that I use for learning Thai and during the class the students took it from me and each of them wrote a little farewell message. We took photos and I got lots of hugs and lots of “thank you teacher” and “good luck teacher” and “are you coming back teacher?” They were all so, so sweet. I had to fight the tears back, which was quite unexpected. It was quite hard to leave them as they continued to hug me and say their goodbyes. One girl, Pern- another of my favourites and who I think had taken me to be like a big sister to her- disappeared in the throng of kids- earlier I had noticed her wiping tears away. So I went to get her and gave her a big hug and a kiss and we walked hand in hand to the stairs for a final goodbye.
For someone who is not maternal I couldn’t help but fall for these kids. There were just so sweet and made me laugh every day. I am so happy that I got to share their lives, albeit for a few months, and I hope I helped them along their way even if just a little bit.
When I got home I unpacked all the gifts and opened the phone holder only to find the empty packet of mints from Film. That made me laugh so much. I certainly won’t be forgetting them anytime soon.
Every Friday each teacher has a two hour activity class and I chose to do bird watching. I have a group of nine students, from grades 4 and 5, aged between 9- 11.
On the first day I showed them a power-point presentation of what we were going to do- namely bird watch, take photographs, draw pictures and ultimately make their own power-point presentation at the end of the year of the birds they have seen and learned about.
I don’t know how I ever imagined that these kids were even going to begin to do that. Don’t get me wrong- they turn up with binoculars, cameras and even books that they have bought , but mostly they like it because they get to walk around outside of the classroom.
The lesson lasts from 1.50pm to 3.40pm, so nearly two hours. By the time they have all arrived (20 minutes after the beginning of the lesson) it’s now down to one and a half hours, which is OK because it is invariably hot in the afternoons.
I have been taking them around Burapha University Campus mostly and, always without fail, after around 30 minutes you can guarantee that one of them will say:
“Can we go back to sachool?”
“No”, I reply, “we have another hour.”
So on we go. Every time I see a bird I say:
“Look, a bird!”
One or two of them will reply:
“Beautiful,” because they have actually taken notice of where I am pointing. But the majority of them have no interest whatsoever.
One day we were walking back towards school and the free university bus passed.
“Teacher?” they cried.
And knowing what they were going to ask I replied:
“No we walk!”much to the drivers amusement followed by their little disappointed faces at having to walk back.
Most of the birds we have seen to date are common ones that are everywhere- Eurasian Tree Sparrows, Rock Pigeons, and Common and White-vented Mynas. It is quite amusing because every time we see a Myna I asked them:
“What’s that?” and they all reply together:
I saw a glimpse of an Owl that my friend had spotted in a certain part of the university but, kids being kids, they were just too noisy and scared it away. Trying to spot any birds with 9 and 11 year olds is virtually impossible.
“You have to be quiet” I say to them. At which point they proceed to chase whatever bird I have spotted and, of course, it flies off.
The last couple of weeks I have taken them to the beach. The first time was good because the tide was out so they were on the beach having fun. Not a single bit of bird watching was going on. Instead, they were collecting shells, playing with sticks, and getting their socks and shoes wet. I didn’t mind though -I was still bird watching and spotting birds for their ever present non-replies and responses. I had come to realise that what I set out for them to do was never going to happen. But who cares-they were having fun and learning about stuff and, even though it wasn’t bird related, fun and learning is the most important thing.
The second time the tide was in. One of the kids, Tat, had already told me he didn’t want to go to the beach, he wanted to watch basketball. I told him he had to come as he was my responsibility for the next two lessons. So off we went me and nine kids in tow-actually as they knew where they were going it was me who was in tow, taking photographs while they steamed ahead.
We got to the beach only to find that there was no beach because the tide was in. They looked at me and said:
“What will we do?”
“No problem,” I replied, “let’s walk to the beach up the road.”
For the first 20 minutes or so they were fine with no moaning or groaning. They were running over the rocks, up and down steps trying not to get their feet wet from the incoming water, poking dead jellyfishes and saying hello to puppies.
By the time we had got to the beach Tat had already began to whine, as 9 year olds do when they are bored, and he was on the phone to his mother. He wanted water but he didn’t want to buy it at any of the beach side carts. He told me his mother was going to come and pick him up from there.
“How long will she be?”
Bearing in mind I had another eight kids to get back to school, after 5 minutes I asked:
“Where is your mum?”
He called her again and I spoke to her and told her that I was going back to school and to meet us there.
“Chai, Ka” (yes, ok).
In Thailand certain things you say get lost in translation. I think she thought I said we will meet you at the beach because one minute later she turned up at the beach and Tat and two other boys, Film and Kan, left to get a lift, waving goodbye as they went. I might add they were getting a lift back to school to collect their schoolbags- little monkeys didn’t want to walk back.
I have only got one more week left with these nine kids and I will take them out bird watching one last time. It’s really awesome to see them having fun with not a care in the world. And even though we didn’t do that much bird watching, however hard I tried to get them motivated, at least they know what a Myna bird is!
Some more photos of our bird watching adventures 😉
Around 15 km from Bangsaen, Bang Phra reservoir is a beautiful, natural place to visit. The reservoir itself is large, 40 km or so, and it is surrounded by lush grassland and woodland. There is a picnic area where you can relax by the water, and a pathway that meanders through the woods and around the reservoir. It’s a great place to go bird-watching and see the different species in their natural habitat.
It was so peaceful and quiet. We were the only ones there apart from the odd runner, or cyclist, who had taken advantage of the beautiful landscape for their daily exercise.
As we walked around we passed a viewing tower from which you can sit and watch the resident and visiting birds at different times of the year. In the distance we saw a flock of Asian Open-Billed Storks and Adjutants resting in the tree tops. Different species of birds, but from where we were we couldn’t really appreciate how big these birds actually are. According to www.thaibirding.com on a good day you may well see over 100 species- Bushlark, Prinia, Barred Button Quails, Chinese Francolin, Oriental Darters, Rufous Treepie, Laced Woodpecker to name but a few.
As someone new to bird watching and not really knowing what I am looking for, or where to look for that matter, it is kind off special to be able to see the birds through the binoculars in the first place and then, after consulting my book, to actually name what I have seen. I am getting better, but my friend is constantly asking me “what’s that”? He instantly see birds high up on tree tops, that I, even with binoculars, take several minutes to find, and then invariably too late. But as Chris says, it’s easy for him to tell me the name of the bird, but it’s better that I learn myself and that way I will remember what I have seen.
Bang Phra is a peaceful place and, even if you are not into bird watching, just taking a gentle stroll round the reservoir will sooth your soul and get you out in the fresh air.
Firstly I must apologise for not posting anything for what seems like ages. In fact I just checked and, apart a post written a couple of weeks ago, the one prior to that was back in May. It’s not that I haven’t been writing because I have- a weekly diary of whatever the hell is going on in my head. I think the reason I haven’t posted anything is because I never want to come across as being negative when I am lucky enough to be living in this wonderful country.
So I shall condense what I have been up to and I promise not to be slack again! One Weekend
Having started my new job I was feeling slightly better about everything, but still terribly homesick. I went for a swim and started the Insanity workout. There is a reason it is called Insanity- basically it’s completely insane. It’s all cardio but it gets faster and faster. I couldn’t keep up as I was so immobile and I found it hard to do some of the moves, but I am now two months in and have really improved. I feel fitter and can just about complete it all. I have even started to tag on a little 5 km run afterwards some days. And it’s working- I have lost nearly half a stone.
I also took myself off to Central Plaza in Chonburi as I needed to buy some more clothes for work, which I did, but I also came back with a DVD player and a fan. All the things I had in Surin which I now seem to be re-buying, but I don’t like the AC very much because it gives me a sore throat and I am constantly turning it on and off throughout the night. And I thought the DVD player would be a good investment as it will keep me amused in the evenings, although I have only watched one thing on it so far. Good Day
My life in Bangsaen isn’t very exciting. Apart from the odd trip to Bangkok to see friends my weekends are pretty tame but these days I like tame (although I am always up for a little party). So one Saturday I took myself Big C to do some food shopping and went to the Saturday market to get some fruit and vegetables.
I went to put my laundry in (I told you it wasn’t exciting!) and walked to Beach Road to hire a bicycle for the day, which cost 100 baht (about 2GBP). Once I had done my chores I cycled to Sammuk Hill which is about 2 km away, falling off and grazing my knee on the way. I misjudged the kerb. I would have fallen down a drain if the cover had not been there!
I stopped a few times to take photos and on the way to the top I met a fellow cycler who said hello and told me the views at the top were better for photographs. So I followed him up but had to get off and walk as my bike didn’t have gears. When I got to the top the guy said he had just finished telling the fruit sellers that I was very good for cycling up the steep hill. I turned up pushing the bicycle, huffing and puffing and covered in sweat. This made everyone laugh. I took some photos and had to rescue my bike from the ground because a monkey had leapt on it and it had fallen over- at least I wasn’t on it this time!
I got back around 5pm and, having been out all day doing this and that, I had a shower and walked to the beach so I could take pictures of the sunset. Afterwards I ended up in my usual Saturday night restaurant for dinner and a few deserved wines.
So that day was a good, good day. I felt happy and contented.
Look what the monkey did?
Viewpoint at Sammuk Hill
Onwards and Upwards
The following week I had plans to go to Bangkok but woke up later than planned so I messed about on-line, did my workout, cleaned my room, shopping, and took some photographs on the beach followed by dinner and wines at my usual place but that day I felt so damn deflated again.
Maybe it is because I wasn’t as busy as the week before. I don’t know what’s wrong with me-one day I feel fine and another I feel fed up. Normally I am a positive and happy kind of girl. I live in Thailand for goodness sake and I can do that because I have no ties and I have taken it upon myself to choose to live a different life. But being away this time is taking longer to re-adjust. I think I spent too long at home- but if I hadn’t done that I would probably still be living in Surin. At least I am experiencing something new and meeting new people- and that should be what it’s all about, right?
All this was a few weeks ago and since then I have had a friend here so we have been meeting up and having dinner and beers quite a few times. I have discovered a couple of new places to eat and drink and we have been out to visit the reservoir, which is beautiful. I love living in Bangsaen, it’s such a beautiful little place and I like teaching the kids so everything is looking bright- onwards and upwards as they say.
So on my way to and from work every day I had spotted a new sign along Bangsaen Lang road that invites people in for breakfast- it has a sign out front with a picture of Thai food, pancakes and coffee. So at the weekend having ran out of breakfast stuff in my apartment I thought I would go and check it out and as it is literally next door I didn’t have far to go.
I went in the shop and I said that I wanted breakfast and asked if they have a menu. The owner, who I know now to be called May, said we don’t have a menu yet but we do bacon, egg, toast… I actually didn’t find out what else they have because I decided on egg and toast and coffee.
She didn’t ask me how I wanted my eggs so I was thinking that I may get a raw egg in a bowl with toast to dip in which I have been served before somewhere in Thailand but she did ask me if I wanted one or two to which I replied “one please” and make a gesture to mean that I wanted the egg on the toast. I needn’t have worried though it was a very tasty toasted egg sandwich with really lovely black coffee and a glass of water which they bring to you when you sit down.
The shop itself is small and has beautiful wooden furniture. A little area where they make the coffee and a kitchen out back. There are t-shirts hanging on a rail and a few hats which are for sale. And I noticed some really nice light shades and wondered where she had bought them. There is also free wi-fi and a television.
When I had finished my breakfast I asked her for the bill and she said 50 baht. I was pleasantly surprised. Normally a sandwich and coffee would be over 100 baht. I went back later that day and met May again and told her I was a travel writer and asked whether I could take some pictures. I didn’t know the name of the place when I had gone there earlier and she told me that it was Chutinit Coffee and Art. Art? I wondered, and she showed me the t-shirts and hats that I had noticed earlier- they were decorated with hand paintings all done by May. And the light shades-again beautifully painted by her.
Chutinit Coffee and Art is open Mon-Tues 8.30am-8pm and Thur-Sun 8.30am-8pm and they serve breakfast, lunch, coffee and other drinks. There is also a takeaway service.
I was glad I returned and met May properly. I wouldn’t never have known about the art she does. And a little research done on her Facebook page tells me that you can learn to paint and she offers cooking lessons as well. (Maybe I will have some painting lessons myself).
So if you are in the neighborhood pop in to Chutinit Coffee and Art-the staff will welcome you with open arms plus they do great coffee!
You can find Chutinit Coffee and Art at:
17/2 Bangsaen Lang Road