Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dances With Thais

Monday night we went to a really dorky cultural show. It was nice to go out to dinner with the whole group, but the place was really cheesy and really touristy. Nonetheless, the meal was fantastic. My favorite was the Burmese pork curry, yes I have given up vegetarianism for the time being, and the sticky rice. I also tried Thai whiskey, which is really not that tasty. I’ve definitely been drinking a lot of Thai water on accident, either through ice in drinks or carelessness, but my body feels like it has adjusted. No dysentery yet thank goodness.
After the meal, a handful of women came out on the stage with faux nails to do a typical Thai fingernail dance. I’m not sure if it was supposed to be beautiful, but it definitely creepy. These nails would be a great accessory for any Halloween costume.

The fingernail dance was followed by some random dances that did not seem very interesting, but the hand gestures of the women were quite peculiar. Apparently, some mother’s bend their daughters’ hands back if they are dancers to give them these differently shaped hands. There were also performances of fire dancers, children jumping around sticks, and a woman dressed as a peacock. I may have danced on stage as well. Truth be told, it was a little underwhelming. The best part was a notice in the menu: “These women are actual hill tribe people, not city people dressed up as hill tribe people.” After the dances, and some small fireworks, I was ridiculously tired and went to bed.
Tuesday morning we had class again. We started off the class with a Thai immersion lesson. They demonstrated how much more difficult it is to learn a dialogue without the use of gestures. Afterward we talked about how to set a context and topic for a lesson. It is fun to learn about pedagogy and every day I get more excited, and more nervous, to teach English. Class was followed by a ride to a nice restaurant with more expensive meals. By more expensive, I mean I spent 6 dollars on a delicious Thai meal. All of the group is getting to know each other pretty well, and the conversation ended up pretty sober, discussing the sex trade business in Southeast Asia and how Thailand plays in the picture.
The first part of class on Wednesday was fun. I learned the various colors in Thai, thanks to Kong, who is Laotian and can therefore understand Thai. My favorite phrase right now is ‘mai pen rai’ which means whatever or c’est la vie. It is useful in all sorts of awkward situations, and I definitely find myself in tons of awkward situations. The second part was less fun: teaching young students lessons. Although it sounded interesting, it was really frustrating to try to create games and activities that young learners can understand. Whitney, our main teacher, gave us some great tips, but the second half was less than exciting. Another teacher presented a sample lesson plan involving the parts of the body and taught it to us as if we were 6 years old. This would have been fine had the lesson plan reflected the pedagogy we learned earlier. Instead, it was frustrating as it contradicted some of the earlier things we had learned. For example, when teaching you should use a minimum of words when instructing how a game or activity functions. Nonetheless, the teacher’s lesson plan included a game that we, native English speakers, barely understood. In short, it was confusing.
After class we went trooping around the town trying to find a cheap bus to have a weekend in another village, Pai. It looks like we will be heading there tomorrow after class. We got some pizza afterwards, it was nice to try something new, and then headed back to the hotel for some bonding. Our hotel is decent. The entrance makes it look like a nice resort, but our rooms are just standard hotel rooms. Not very big, but the beds are comfortable and our showers have hot water. I’ve definitely been in worst! Some of the guys threw a party on the fourth floor that has a wrap-around balcony, and we met some of the other guests at the hotel. We taught some of the British and Australian students some new games and then called it a night.
I woke up ridiculously early this morning and headed to my favorite place for an omelette. They are only 12 baht, about 40 cents, and are served over rice. Things being so cheap here, however, is a double edged sword. Whereas you won’t buy everything that interests you in the state, I find it hard not to buy any food that catches my eye because it is so cheap. I’m eating a lot, and as a result spending a lot. I would definitely gain a lot of weight if I was here for a year. Then again, the food is definitely a lot healthier than what you find in the United States.
In class today we focused on classroom management. This program is really great in the amount of basic stuff we are learning in so little time. In a week from today we will be practicing teaching English in Thai classrooms. For now, we are busy teaching each other things we already know (like colors and basic phrases).
Lunch was delicious. Spicy chicken salad. And, being the nerd I am, after lunch class was delicious as well: a grammar lesson. It was nice to review basic English grammar from the point of view of a teacher. I hope my students can handle how obsessed I am with grammar....
The rest of the day was further exploration of the city. Andie, Sam, Katie, and Jen walked around the city and saw various temples, which, as always the case here, were bewildering and awesome. We also saw something that looked like a Hindu temple. I tried some sort of raspberry coconut ice cream I have never seen and all of a sudden we got caught in a rainstorm. Rather than let this unexpected weather change ruin our day, we jumped in the pool and took pictures with an underwater camera. Good times.
We actually ordered Mexican food tonight. I had a taco. It was alright. But it kind of felt weird in my stomach. Thai food doesn’t really have much dairy, and all the sour cream and cheese was a little bit surprising. Well, I better go to bed. I have to write a quick essay before class tomorrow, and I would like to wake up early. Night!
ps, I almost forgot. I have a cell phone now, so if you want you can give me a call on Skype or if you have a long distance plan. The number is 0837645351. There might be a country code... Thailand is +66. The best time to call me would be from 6 am - noon Central time. Or from 7 pm - 8:30 pm, before I have class. Hope to hear from you!

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