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Monday, September 26, 2011

Suphan Bucket List

The clock is ticking on my time in Suphan, after 12 months, suddenly the end is upon me way too fast - 6 days! I've finished teaching, so what lies ahead this week is proctoring the kids Thai exams and getting grades in while simultaneously packing up my apartment and trying to make sure I see all of my favorite people and visit all of my favorite spots in the last week. I actually have pretty much every meal mapped out over the next six days to ensure that I get to enjoy all of my favorite dishes one last time. It is going to be so, so hard to say good-bye to Suphan - I've really grown to love my little home amidst the rice paddies. In order to make the most of my last week here, I've written up my own little bucket list of things to do in Suphan before I leave... I've got until Saturday and I've already checked off a couple of things, so I'm off to a good start.

  • Visit Banya's coffee shop at least once a day.  This shouldn't be too hard since I already do this every day, Banya makes the most delicious Thai iced coffee, her shop has the only couches I've seen in Suphan (jing jing) and she's a good friend who is so fun to hang out with. 
  • Eat as much Som Tom from Dton's, Pad Thai from Pad Thai Lady, Bamee noodles from the noodle shop, and banana shakes from "BSL" (Banana Shake Lady) as is humanly possible. 
  • Take at least one long walk through town every night. Nell and I started doing this a couple of months in and it's one of my favorite ways to experience Suphan. People are driving past yelling "hello" or "I love you!" and there are certain groups of people that see us every night and flash us the biggest smiles and say "welcome to Thailand!"... every single time we walk past them. 
  • See a Suphan Football Club game. I managed to do this last night, and it was such a great time. I loved cheering on Suphan and my fellow fans were super amazed to see me reppin' my Suphan FC Jersey, one man said to me "I love you because you love Suphanburi." Love you back, dude. 

  • Hang out with Game, Spicey, Ex, Sek, Pipe, Aobb, Tong, etc.  (These would be the names of a few of my Thai friends, 555). There are two nightlife spots in Suphan that I've really enjoyed lately, lots of great live music (perfect for my budding career as a Thai music groupie), good people-watching, and it's a great chance for me to pick up some Thai slang and learn random bits of Thai culture that I normally wouldn't know - like it's not okay to get your hair cut on Wednesdays.  Why? "Ancient tradition." This seems to be the answer for most of these little cultural quirks, that explanation works for me.
  • Soak up every last second with my students. Even though they will be in and out all week for Thai exams, I plan on pretty much stalking them to see them as much as possible before I peace out. 
  • Enjoy everything. I really don't want to get too caught up in the idea of counting down and leaving and saying good-bye. I want to live it up, have fun, and be happy and thankful for all of the wonderful people, places and things that make Suphan so wonderful. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Why the Students of Sa-nguan Ying EP are Awesome.

Next week I will say some of my most difficult good-byes, to the lovely students of the EP at Sa-nguan Ying where I've had the privilege of working this past year. These students are creative, smart, hilarious, kind, loving, cute and cool. I have loved being their teacher. Sure there have been moments when I wanted to throw up my hands and walk out of the classroom because I was frustrated, but they were so few and far between. Teaching is a tough gig, I worked really hard this past year pumping out lesson plans, creating new games, researching topics, grading papers and tests, but it has also been immensely rewarding. I owe so much of my amazing Thailand experience to the EP students that I've been lucky enough to teach. They are simply the best, better than all the rest. Here are a few reasons why the students are so awesome:

  • The M.3 (9th grade) students wrote a 6+ page extended essay or research paper in their second language... and they were excellent essays! They mastered the thesis, introduction, research and even citations. I'm pretty sure I would have laughed at my 9th grade French teacher if she asked me to pull that off, sorry Miss Molnar, but no chance! 
  • They work hard. The students in EP, as in most schools in Thailand, study all day and all night. They go to school, then they take extra classes after school, and on the weekends they go to more extra classes in Bangkok. They work so, so hard, and yet they still manage to keep smiles on their faces. 
  • They love each other. So often I've remarked that the students in Thailand seem to be far nicer than their counterparts in America. They treat each other with respect, even if they make fun of each other, I've never seen mean intent behind their jokes. It's really nice to see young people interact in a healthy way. 
  • They are cool kids. Every day I leave my classrooms with another funny story to share in the teacher's office. They have introduced me to some amazing Thai tunes and superstars. They have helped me learn some cool Thai slang words to broaden my vocabulary. They have their own style and swagger even though they all wear the same thing and must sport the exact same haircut just below their ears - they rock it. So much of my Thailand experience has been shaped by these students and inside these classrooms and I will miss these cool kids every day... with faces like this, how could I not?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Building My Ark.

This week marked my 11 month anniversary of living in Thailand, and now that I've been here almost a full year, I'm starting to notice some cyclical things in my Thai life. Some fruits that were around when I first arrived in October are making their way back onto the fruit carts, rainy season is in full swing which means my hair is in full frizz, and the river is back to bursting at the seams - just like it was during my first few weeks in the Soup.
Around town, everyone seems to be gearing up for a major flood: shops and restaurants have spent the past week building flood walls out of cement to keep the water at bay, a truck has been driving around belting out announcements that may or may not be important but I don't understand enough of what's going on, and we've heard stories about crocodiles swimming around outside of school - no thanks! I might have to head to 7-11 to stock up on some flood supplies in case all of the local food options go under. We're definitely short on information, and this week Nell and I took what is likely our last long walk around Suphan because the river walk where we usually go had started to flood and is no longer walkable.

 Many towns and provinces in Thailand right now are finding themselves underwater, and all signs seem to be pointing to Suphan as the next target, but it's odd not being able to read a newspaper or watch the news and find out what's really going on. Some schools around us have moved their holidays and closed for the next 3 weeks - I'm definitely hoping that won't happen here as it's the final weeks I have to hang out with my students and friends here in Suphan - I don't really want to be swimming around town to find them to say good bye! I guess I'll just have to rely on my friends with boats to help me out if we end up in water, and I did see a few market stalls selling floaties and life jackets so I'll have to prepare as much as I can! The latest word on the street is that they will be "opening the gates" on the 15th so that's when we can expect the flood... what exactly that means for me, I'm not sure yet... I guess I'll find out tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

We're With the Band.

Dreams really do come true. Last week I posted about my plans to stalk and finally see my favorite Thai band, 25 Hours, and this weekend everything came together perfectly and I not only got to see the band I got to meet them after the show!

I had planned on heading down to the beach town of Cha-am on Saturday with a few friends to catch 25 Hours perform as part of the Reggae on the Rock Music Festival, but when I found out they were playing a solo show in Ayutthaya, the next town over, I could hardly say no to the chance to see them do their thing.  Nell and Clare and I (we're becoming total Thai music groupies!) headed to Ayutthaya after school on Friday and made our way to the pub where they would be playing.  We wanted to get there early to figure out the ticket situation, since Google Translate was not helping us figure out if we needed tickets or if they were for sale. After the tuk-tuk drive that included a few wrong turns, we found our way to the empty pub and the staff told us to come back at 10 so we could purchase tickets for 150 Baht - $5! A total steal.

We dropped our stuff off at a hostel and grabbed dinner before making our way back to the pub, we ended up being the first people there, and the only farang in attendance for the evening. After a rocking opener that of course featured Thailand's favorite English song, Zombie by The Cranberries, we found ourselves living the dream as "front row farang" attracting the attention of the fellow concertgoers and the band themselves as we pretended to sing along to the Thai songs.

Once the show ended we weren't quite ready to end our night, but we spotted the band hanging out by the back entrance so we made our way over to them and asked for some photos and started chatting. They told us how happy they were to see farang who knew their music and they were happy to practice their English with us. We ended up hanging out with them for quite awhile and not only do they make amazing music, they are all really cool guys and really interesting people. We discussed our favorite types of music and they told us the meaning behind all of our favorite songs, they even sampled a bit of their new single that's coming out next week. I still can't stop smiling thinking about our encounter and I've been listening to their music on repeat. Here's their latest single, check it out. It's good, I promise:

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