Thursday, May 29, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
Vegetable or dessert?
My wife goes to the market and returns home with nice big plumb ears of corn still piping hot. I take my ration and slather them in butter, and sprinkle it liberally with salt and black pepper. The wife takes hers and adds a little sugar, if anything.
Last weekend we made a visit to the big city of Khon Kaen and dropped by Swensen’s Ice Cream Parlor for a treat. I order a hot fudge sundae; the wife orders two scoops of vanilla ice cream with corn sprinkled on top. Just the way the local street vendor presents his.
Yesterday on the way back from the market, she picks up a treat of waffles from a street vendor. I bit into mine and find it loaded with little crunchy tidbits. What is it? A bit of pineapple, mango, perhaps papaya. Nope, wrong again. They are loaded with nice plumb kernels of golden corn.
That said don’t get me started on an Ice Cream Sandwich which here is a hot dog bun with three scoops of ice cream smashed between them. Sprinkled with guess what? Corn.
Oh, don’t forget popcorn that we add salt and butter to for seasoning. Not here, sugar is the preferred condiment.
I guess a lot in life depends on what you are use to and exposed to as a child.
Also, don't forget about ketchup on pizza which is another Thai treat.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
First of all he had a great dislike for one of our Filipino teachers for some reason. This resulted in him assaulting this teacher two times that I am aware of on school property. Once was a somewhat serious shove and the next time was a brutal head butt. On the second occasion he was counseled by the head teacher regarding his actions. However, nothing became of it, in fact I am not ever sure if it was brought to the attention of administration. I believe that he should have been dismissed then and there, but my opinion was disregarded. In hindsight, I guess I should have brought the matter to the attention of administration, but I failed to do so. Guess I was just trying to get along. By the way when asked why he assaulted the other teacher his reply was “I don’t like him”. No rhyme or reason, just I don’t like him. That’s always a good reason to assault someone.
John lived less that 100 meters in an apartment building on a Soi (side street) off Pracha Utit Road. Thus, to catch the school van, which has a set route, he had to walk out to the main street. This was not good enough for John, he was insistent on door to door service. None of the other teachers had this except those living at the origination point. All others would meet at a central collection points along the vans route. This was not good enough for John, as he wanted to be picked up at his apartment. I swear to God, he complained about this almost daily for an entire semester. It got quite old. He complained to the teachers individually, to the head teacher, to administration, to the owner, to anyone who would listen. I am not joking, DAILY, for months.
The school never relented so daily he would walk out to the main street. As the van approached the area where he was to wait, you would see John's head bobbing out from behind a utility pole looking for the van. He kept his body well hidden with only his head taking a peak now and then. In conclusion, I believe he had some sort of fear of standing out on the street.
John was married and had a daughter and he used his married status to maintain his visa status. However, I don’t believe that he any longer had a relationship with the wife other than the mutual care of their daughter. He live alone and he dated. On several occasion he brought his daughter to work with him. The first time we didn’t know who she was and he explained that he was taking care of a friends daughter. It was later revealed that it was his daughter. Why the initial lie? As I said, strange man.
One day, John no longer came to work. No one had any idea why he stopped coming. Finally, weeks later, Mark who was somewhat friendly with John revealed that all the time that John was working with us, he was in the process of obtaining a visa for his daughter for immigration to the United Kingdom. Once, he had that visa he secretly took his daughter and fled back home, supposedly without the consent or knowledge of his daughters mother.
I can’t confirm any of that, but it is possible. Anyway, he is another one, in a list of many, that I was glad to see leave. Mostly I was happy to see them go because they don’t contribute, but in his case, I just didn’t like him.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Mark was barely 20 years of age and had no idea what he was doing in the classroom though he did relate well to the students because of his young age.
I really don’t remember what grade he taught but I think it was grade two between the tenure of Mr. Gordon and Teacher Ben. I may be wrong about that. I do remember that he could eat. When we sat down for lunch you could be assured there would be no left overs. He had no money when he first started so this was his only meal of the day.
I also remember giving him some of my old shirts and neckties to supplement his meager wardrobe as did another employee.
His relationship with his Thai lady friend was over in short order after starting with us. I don’t know the particulars but there were incidents where the police had to be call to their room to settle things down. They would get angry with each other and then lock the other out of their room. Mature thinks like that.
After he received his first pay it was apparent that he was more interested in hitting the bars on the weekends and drinking than figuring out this teaching deal. He always had a hang over on Monday. This progressed to week days.
He also had a trait that I noticed which is apparent with many young men from England that I have met. He bragged about trying to drink as much as possible in as short a time possible with only the goal of getting as drunk as possible. Apparently from all the hangovers, he was good at it.
Soon he was coming to work with his shoes untied, trousers not ironed, his shirt tail hanging out and his necktie in disarray. Work was becoming a chore as it interfered with his drinking. Soon he started missing a day here and there and finally at the end of some month after receiving his pay he just stopped coming to school. He did inform some of his fellow teachers of his where abouts, but they kept mum on this situation, for whatever reason.
I have no idea where he went or what became of him and I really don’t care. He contributed nothing and was with us only for show. He was just one more of the many that pasted through our portals.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Nick did a runner on us though. He drew his paycheck on a Friday, which was the last working day of the month. He was even paid in advance for extra work he had agreed to for the next day, which was Saturday. By alas, he didn’t show up on Saturday or the following Monday. He flew the coop and went back to the UK without any word to management. I do suspect that some of his fellow teacher knew of his departure though.
Several months after he left us, the mother of one of his students contacted our head teacher and wanted to know if the school would rehire Nick should he return to Thailand. She even went to the head teacher’s home and pleaded with him to rehire Nick. They made phone calls to Nick (the mother had his number) asking him to come back. He sure seemed to have formed quite a relationship with this mother who was a professional woman and whose husband was a doctor.These conversations with the head teach went on for some time, but finally it was apparent that Nick was not interested in returning to our school or Thailand at the time and things finally died down. Or if he was interested in returned he wasn't interested in renewing the relationship with the mother as the mother was become rather bold about the whole thing.
The last I heard Nick was working in the maintenance department of a large shopping mall type place in English. I also heard rumors that he turned to Thailand but I cannot confirm that, though some of the other teacher’s may be able to do so.
Friday, May 16, 2008
He was well past middle age and rode a motorcycle to work each day. He lived far down Pracha Utit Road well into the Soi’s in the 100’s. Each morning as we went to work in the van, you could find him having coffee, reading the paper and eating breakfast at a small restaurant on Prach Utit with his motorcycle parked outside. There is now a small branch bank in that location.
I an almost sure he had a United Kingdom Passport, but believe he was originally from The Netherlands. How did that happen? He had lived all over. He had worked on a kibbutz in Israel for room and board, a fast food joint in Miami, Florida and many other places, which don’t come to memory at the time. I do member that if you mentioned any place, that he always had an experience there and from the way he told his stories he did not seem to be making things up. He had also lived in Pattaya for several years.
I also recall that he had been married three times with his first two wives dying of various illnesses.
Why he left us I don’t remember, where he went I don’t know.
I guess I will just have to call him the mystery man for now. Do you remember his name?
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Other than myself, I believe he is the second longest employed native speaking teacher that this particular school has had. (Oops, there is one other that has long time sporadic employment, but this individual is not a teacher.)
When I think of Gordon, I think of a proper English Gentleman for some reason. Mr. Gordon is from London and if I understood correctly was retired from the British Telephone Service. That’s may not the proper name, but something similar to that. Like most of us he was previously married and has adult children, also several grandchildren if I recall correctly.
He came to Thailand as an experienced ESL Teacher, gaining that experience teaching in Turkey. Shortly after his arrival in Thailand he ventured down to the southern part of the country and spent several years teaching there before relocating to the Bangkok area. He had many interesting stories about his time in Turkey and south Thailand. It was also though him that I began to gain an understanding as to how agents and language schools work in Thailand.
Gordon was rarely if ever late for work and he had a heck of a commute daily required two buses and a motorcycle taxi. When construction started on the Rama III road, he had to get up and leave his apartment extra early as traffic often came to a complete stand still at commute time. The already jam packed Rama III, three lane road went down to one lanes. He endured though all of that without a complaint though it was very frustrating.
At work he always went to class with a prepared lesson plan ready to teach. His tests were prepared on time and his records duly recorded. He went up to his classroom ahead of the appointed times, which many teachers find hard to accomplish and started his classes on time. He never took time off for personal business except on the very rare occasion. A true professional teacher.
When Mr. Gordon left Thailand he had plans to remain in the ESL teaching field. His mother was getting up in age and Thailand was so far away. After a home visit it was his intention to seek employment in Spain, Portugal or some other country nearer to the UK so that he could get home without a lot of travel time should he need to do so. For personal reason, which need not be discussed here, that didn’t work out the way it was planned and he remains in London.
Mr. Gordon visited the school not so long ago. It was strange to see him out of his traditional long sleeved shirt and necktie. He had gained a bit of weight from his teaching days; his hair was no longer long and red, but short and white. We had a nice chat and he said he was feeling well and enjoying himself.
Good luck Mr. Gordon and I hope to see you again sometime.
Monday, May 12, 2008
This week he wrote about some of the signs that define when someone has been here for a considerable amount of time. Below are a few, which I particularly liked. I hope you will as well.
You look four ways before crossing a one way street.
You use a whistle while parking your car.
You stop thinking a girl riding on the back of a motorcycle, side-saddle, wearing a mini-skirt, with one toe pointing towards the ground, while putting on make-up, is anything out of the ordinary.
You think white wine goes well with som tam.
You begin to enjoy Thai TV programs.
You can put your bus fare in your ears.
Anyone whose name is Steve you call Sa-teve.
You make the peace sign whenever you have your picture taken.
When a visitor asks how can you stand the noise in Thailand, you answer “What Noise?”
Your mobile phone ring tone is incredibly irritating.
You find that everything you own is counterfeit.
If you don’t understand these you haven’t been here very long, you aren’t very observant or maybe you have never been here. If you don't understand, ask.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
In most of the Private Schools in Thailand in Grades 1 through 6 there is a Thai Classroom Teacher for each grade and they teach all the main core subjects like math, science, Thai Language (reading, writing and grammar), and social studies.
Other teachers then come to the classroom or the students go to other classroom throughout the week for subjects like art, computer, Thai Culture, music, physical education and English.
At this particular school the students who are enrolled in the Special English Program also receive twelve hours of English weekly, as well as two hours each of math, science, and health in the English Language. This makes a busy week for these young learners.
When the Special English Program teachers are in the classroom the Thai Classroom Teacher is suppose to remain in the classroom to assist the foreign teachers. Her number one responsibility is to maintain good order and discipline. But she is also to be up and about doing things like making sure the students have their books open to the right page and that they understand the instructions give by the foreign teachers as the classes are held entirely in English. In general they are to be of assistance as may be needed.
Unfortunately, many do not perform their duties as directed by administration. Rather as soon as the foreign teacher enters the room they have a million places they must go or people they must see. Even if they do remain in the room they are often engaged in their own distractions doing things like checking homework, talking on the phone, eating, painting their nails, looking through Avon type catalogues, day dreaming and even on occasion sleeping. Some just sit and grin and think they are helping. They also have visitor’s drop by to chat from time to time. I have seen it all.
Why do they so blatantly shun their responsibilities? There are various reasons I guess. Some are resentful of having to helping a foreign teacher that makes at a minimum four times their salary. Some are jealous of the benefits that the foreign teachers enjoy such as vacation time (which they do not get), lunch provided daily, no weekend work (they are required to do so once a month) and numerous other benefits. Some or just plain old lazy. There are also no consequences to this behavior as in this particular school the number one Thai Teachers Supervisor (Tim) is anti foreigner and makes no bones about it. She covers for any teachers, which follows her lead.
So don’t get me wrong, they are all not this way. There are very good teachers, good teachers, okay teachers and bad teachers. It just seems to me that the majority that I was associated with over the years fall into the latter category.
Friday, May 9, 2008
On my right is Pia. She and I worked together for over seven years. We really became a good team during that time and she was a tremendous asset to me. She is a strict disciplinarian and the kids in her class don’t get away with anything. You mess us and she is on you like white on rice. Consequently the students in her class sit up straight, pay attention, and obeyed all the classroom rules, much better than would expect for a bunch of 6-7 years old. Pia is married, hails from Ubon Ratchathani and had one child named Kim who is 4.
On my left is Ying. She and I only worked together for one year. She was right out of university at the time and only 21 years of age. Even though it was her first teaching job she was very good. She was up and about in the classroom always being of assistance. She always has a smile on her face, was in a good mood and in general was just fun to be around.
My best of luck to these two outstanding teachers.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Tuesday I had to accomplish two items of business at Thai Immigration. First I had to have my Retirement Visa transferred over to my new passport and secondly I had to complete my 90 day check in with immigration with all foreigners are required to do every 90 days.
Upon arrival in the building you must line up in the information line and inform the clerk what business you have to complete today. They then give you the forms necessary to request that service if you don’t all ready have them. If you have the form and it is completed, they give you a queue number and direction to the appropriate area.
The request for new visa stamps in a new passport is a one-page document but requires 6 attachments, which are: 1. Copy of the picture page of your old passport. 2. Copy of the picture page of your new passport. 3. Copy of the passport page containing your current visa. 4. Copy of the passport page containing your last extension of that visa. 5. Copy of the passport page showing the last date of your arrive in Thailand. 6. Copy of the Departure Card which is stapled in your passport. The applicant must duly sign all these.
Now for the really asinine part. All of the information contained on these documents is the exact same information, which you enter on the application, which could easily be checked by the immigration official against the passports, but no, they must have a copy as they are anal for paper work.
So you have to leave immigration, go across the street, and pay to have copies made. You then go back to immigration, fill in the form and again get in the information line. The forms are then looked over. They then took me to a desk just inside the door where you go for visa non-O and B extension. There a young lady, much to young to be a immigration official took my document, stapled them all together, gave me a number and had me sit down.
From there I waited and waited and waited. My number was 70 but there is no way of telling what number there are servicing, but that would not have matter as I found out later that the number we not given out is subsequent order. After about an hour, I stood up and joined the crown gather around the desk of the lady working on the applications to see why it was taking so long. She would work in about one minute spurts and then be interrupted by a customer or one of the other employees asking her a question. What shiould take a minute or so, took well over six or seven.
When she finally completed the application she placed it on the desk next to hers for final signature, but there was no one at this desk and they were stacked all over. After about 15 more minutes the signing person shows up, she recheck everything the person before he has just check and signs her name. She did one full application and her phone rings, she get up, leaves her desk and goes behind an office divider to complete her phone call. She returns to her desk a full 30 minutes later.
Finally mine is the next one. She picks it up, check the pages the other clerk had dog eared in my old passport and recorded in the new passport. She then signs each of the entries. Then again her phone rings, she answers and leave to take her phone call. In departing she throws my passport in the out box. Without any instructions I picked it up and as it appeared to be signed in all the correct places I put it in my pocket and departed that area.
Upon close review after I got home, I noted that they had entered to wrong date of my last arrival in Thailand even though the copy I provided had the correct date. They didn’t even look at the copy that they just had to have. They looked in the passport for the information and I’ll be damn, they got it wrong.
Next I had to do my 90-day check in which all us foreigners must do. This time I had the form so headed back to the information line to get my number. My number this time was 391 and they were on 330 so I sat down and got ready for a long wait.
There is one problem with this numbering system and that is when they reach 399 they start back over with 300. So what happens is this. They call number 350 but the customer with 310 who has just arrived and thinking they had previously called their number goes to the counter to be waited on. He is ordered back to his seat but it slows the process, and I mean it slows it a lot because about half the people approach the desk before it is their time. Very few take the time to sit back, review the situation and see what is going on. It’s always me first.
Anyway about two hours later, my number is called, the process then took two minutes and I was on my way.
All in all I spend over five hours in Thai Immigration for two things that should have only taken minutes and no more that an hour at the longest.
All in all not a good day at Thai Immigration. Also please be forewarned; never go the day after a public holiday if you have a choice.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
My first stop in the morning was the American Embassy to pick up my new passport. I arrived at just before eight o’clock in the morning and when I stepped out of the taxi, I was greeted with a line that fell out of the entrance door and made it’s way down the sidewalk on Wireless Road. Luckily there was a sign up saying those who had business with American Citizen Services could proceed to the head of the line. This I did, but was still several persons from the head of the line.
The long line was comprised of those non-Americans seeking visas for visiting the United States. Also, the lines were particularly long today, as Monday had been a Thai holiday and the Embassy had been closed.
Upon reaching the head of the line you are required to turn off your mobile phone and deliver it and a pictured ID to the security guard. He returns to you a claim check number so you may reclaim your phone upon departure. You next proceed through a metal detector while being scrutinized by a Thai Policeman and some sort of an American security agent. Once this is completed your are on your own to seek of the office to which you have business.
Once inside you take a number, sit down and wait your turn. Things would go a lot faster, but I observed while waiting many of those entering ignore the number and walk straight to the window for service. This slows down the workers, as they then have to stop what they are doing and ask the person standing at the window to take a number and have a seat. Even after these instructions a full third of them say, “I only have one question”, taking up more time, and again being told to have a seat a wait their turn and then they can ask their one question. My number yesterday was 72 and they were waiting on number 63 upon my arrival.
I was called to the window within 20 minutes and out of there in 22 minutes with my new passport and an apology from the young lady working that I had to wait.
Good job ladies.
Next stop Thai Immigration. Will I be so luck?