Tuesday, August 11, 2009

H1N1... Who Knows?

The swine flu that may have ravaged my body has taken over my computer. I am not sure if such a cross species takeover is possible, but as I am now forced to use another computer to type my words, I am happy to know that I am still alive even if my computer did not suffer such a happy fate. But I am getting ahead of myself, and I must start from where I left off.
The afternoon session of class on Monday was interesting, well for me. We talked about determiners, and parts of speech and types of words. Silly grammar things that don’t matter when speaking, but do matter when trying to learn a new language. I forgot my English grammar book, which annoys me, so hopefully I won’t lead my students astray! Monday night was calm, with good food I’m sure and good company. We have been swimming a lot, and just walking around town. Enjoying street food, and restaurant food. Mostly Thai food but some Western food along the way. It is a nice lifestyle.
Tuesday we learned a new model for teaching: receptive learning. Reading (passive) is matched with writing (active) and listening (passive) is matched with speaking (active) in this model. This model can be used with stronger language learners whereas the basic and young learners model focus more on pictures to teach. I find all of this pedagogy fascinating, and the grammar lesson afterward was great too. Phonology has always interested me way too much, and makes me play with my mouth as I pronounce voiced bi-labio fricatives and unvoiced dental stops. Too much fun. After class life was pretty calm; I’m just trying to get through “On the Road”. I can’t identify with Sal Paradise or Dean Moriatry at all, which really is not good when reading a novel.
I drank way too much coffee on Wednesday morning. I was bouncing all over class, which was not that fun. I started having jitters, and annoying my bestie, Andie, who is from Georgia and sweet as candy. After class, I crashed, and all of a sudden I was sore, and tired, and not happy. I was feeling feverish, and decided to just rest for the rest of the day. Grammar session was really not fun on Wednesday, and I was happy to finally sleep. That night I woke and my fever must have broke. I was drenched in cold sweat, and my blankets were soaking. But I was freezing. I’m not sure if this is H1N1 or what, but it is flu season here, and a lot of Thais are getting swine flu.
I luckily felt better on Thursday, which was our last peer teaching. We followed a receptive teaching method, and my partner was Jim. Jim is a 43-year-old ex-marine originally born in Turkey but an American through and through. He is a pretty cool guy. However, at the moment I was really excited to start teaching lessons by myself. It worked out well in the end, but I was only able to do the audio part of the lesson and the warmer, which might make me unprepared for having to use this model in the classroom next week.
After peer teaching we were assigned our topics: I had superheroes. It took me four or five hours to draw the pictures of my 9 superheroes and then 9 pictures of their attributes. Lesson learned? Don’t actually make beautiful pictures!! I was feverish, not enjoying life, and just wanted to go to bed. At around nine o’clock I finally had the chance to sleep. My roommate, Andy, was nice and had brought me broth to eat. Another peer also dropped off food for me to eat. It was really cute. At ten, Shirley, the Latina from New York used some sort of chant to get me to sleep. It was esoteric by nature, and something to do with my chakras. I’m not sure if it worked, but it was nice to hear her say ‘se fa se fa se fa’ over and over again.
Friday morning was the first actual lesson. I took an ibuprofen to stave off the fever and headed off for the day. It was a little stressful, teaching students a lesson that I didn’t feel was that necessary. How many people need to know how to say that Catwoman has claws? The buses brought us thirty minutes outside of the city to this random school. The kids were so cute, but a little intimidating. I was second to teach, and was sweating like crazy. A little bit from nerves, but mostly from the heat of the classroom. My puzzle flew all around from the fans, but turning off these fans just made the classroom muggier. The kids seemed to have fun even if I didn’t feel the lesson was that relevant.
The drugs wore off pretty much when I got back to the hotel. I was dizzy again, slightly feverish. I had to write a lesson plan for Monday, but then was able to lie down in bed. The group had plans for a celebratory night after our first real lesson. I came out with them as a voyeur for about an hour to the Pirate’s Cove, but then really had to go to bed. I did have a nice macaroni and cheese for dinner, but that wasn’t that cool. Shirley did another esoteric type of healing. She put limes covered with salt over my eyes to suck out the fever. It might have worked…
On Saturday, I was finally feeling more like myself. In the early part of the day, we flagged down one of the converted pick-up trucks or song tao (which literally means two rows) and headed to Doi Suthep. This mountain is the home of a majestic temple that has one of the best views of Chiang Mai. After a windy ride, a breathless hike, and a tourist fee for the temple, we enjoyed this thrilling Buddhist architecture.
Katy, looking Thai.

Kong, who is Buddhist and amazing, bought some incense and candles and walked around the inner section three times, asking for merit. The rest of us took countless pictures and I had a delicious cookies and cream ice cream. Kong also introduced me to sticky rice cooked in bamboo with nuts, that was savory, sweet, and otherworldly. The others bought a huge noodle, rice, and sticky mixture on a stick that appeared to be a giant sausage. Man, this food is to die for.
That night, feeling like myself again, I joined the group for a night on the town. We first went to a boxing match. Well, it is kind of boxing, kind of karate. It is called Muay Thai, and although I was worried that it would be too violent for me, there wasn’t any flying teeth or blood so it was just culturally interesting. Unfortunately, it was also on the seedier side of town, and there were obvious prostitutes hanging around. There were also a number of vendors selling flowers, bracelets, hats, and the like, and they could be quite persistent. Jim ended up buying me a bracelet, which was awesome, and will be a nice reminder of the night. After Muay Thai we went dancing at a place called Spicy. Apparently, the places start getting crazy here around two, but by then we were pretty tired and wanted to go to bed. Oh, the life of a teacher.
The next morning was a quiet and calm day. Hours were spent in the morning putting together my lesson for the next day. Luckily, we have grouped together, and the four of us working on the “At the Hospital” topic made copies for one another. Hopefully such a system will work in Korea. The rest of the day was spent lounging until the walking street market, which takes place on Sunday near our hotel. You can find anything there besides DVDs apparently. My goal was to buy a copy of Bruno, but instead I spent an hour waving through such an insane amount of pedestrians that I barely had to move my feet to keep moving. Blind people would stand in the middle of the streets, palms bared, begging for the money that I can unfortunately not really spare at the moment. Street musicians filled our ears with harmonic structures unfamiliar to my Western ear. It was glorious, but overwhelming. I bought my little sister a b-day present, 19!, but probably won’t send it for a while. The amount of things I wanted to buy was huge, but luckily I have some sense of restraint, and ended up quickly walking to the other side of town to the night market where I bought a copy of Bruno and half the class relaxed and laughed to this hugely inappropriate comedy.
Monday morning I woke up early, ready to teach my second lesson to actual language learners- staff members at our hotel. After the usual, an omelet from perhaps my favorite vendor in Thailand, I was eager to teach some of the hotel staff a lesson titled “At the Hospital”. My favorite four line dialogue in my lesson was: “A: What’s the matter? B: My body hurts. A: Why? B: I fell down the stairs.” The last line was accompanied with a poorly drawn person tumbling from a gigantic staircase. Pretty classy. I was lucky enough to go last, and being able to witness my peers’ attempts at the ‘basic model’ first gave me insights into the best way to teach adult learners. Of course, it had its flaws, but luckily one of the students had enough language skill to ask questions. She even asked me what the difference between ‘chest’ and ‘breast’ was, which was awfully fun to pantomime. I was also able to give them some significant phrases with particular issues they had at the hotel.
After class we were assigned our topic for Tuesday, and I drew music. This was our first lesson where we were able to print out our pictures instead of draw everything by hand. Nonetheless, we had to color these pictures, which ended up taking an enormous amount of time. My friend Katie unfortunately lost her wallet yesterday, which is such a huge mess in a foreign country. Luckily, her family was able to cancel her credit cards and figure out how to get her money. She is such a sweetheart, so hopefully it all works out. After a quick dip in the pool, I went out for some sort of vegetarian eggplant dish with rice and some fried pork and lamb dumplings. It was all delicious (aloi) and nothing is hurting my stomach. Then again, that may be because I am now eating PB&J for at least one meal a day… I thought it would be a nice way to stretch a buck, but it ended up costing around the same price as nine meals. So it will have to be nine meals for me! The day ended with Jack Kerouac (finally finished) and some wandering around the city. It really is a beautiful town.

Today was a somewhat frustrating day. My lesson for today, geared toward eleven and twelve year old children, focused on music. Instead of going the easy route and teaching my children instruments, I ended up trying to teach about musical genres. That may have been a mistake. Although my students recognized names such as Beyonce and Kanye West, explaining the differences between country twangs and hip-hop beats was not that easy. Although I could explain rap on the fly, I didn’t really want to go into a Taylor Swift ballad in front of my classroom. In the words of Alanis Morissette, however, you live and you learn. Confronted with a class that couldn’t understand my lesson, I had a huge desire to be in South Korea, with a class that I would know, and with firm lessons leading their learning. Pedagogy is difficult in a vacuum, and most of our lessons in Thailand have proven to be without prior context. Hopefully I will be singing a different song in a couple of weeks, with eager learners and set lessons.
Of course, the most difficult part ended up being the death of my computer. I was just sitting there, typing, and all of a sudden it decided to say I had too much spyware. And this was right after I had finished typing about what happened on Sunday. Which means I have had to write a lot. With all this labor, I hope that you were able to get through this mouthful. But as I always say, according to my step-dad, c’est la vie, whatever. It will work out!

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