Thursday, February 28, 2008

Abraham

In my earlier blog I stated that Kiwi Roy was the first real teacher to grace our presence. That was not correct. We had several others that had all the credentials; they just didn’t act like teachers or didn't know how to teach. Abraham is another of those.

Abraham as the time of his hire in 1999 was about 55 and had been in Thailand a really long time. He was originally from NYC, could speak Thai, had a Thai wife, drove a car and came to us from a job at a university. His most notable physical feature was his balding head, though he had managed to grow our some of the fringe in the back. This he tied into a small ponytail. It looked ridiculous.

He was hired as the Head Teacher and his responsibility was to coordinate the activities of all the foreign teachers. He was dismissed before the first month of school had been completed and he never coordinated anything except his nap times.

His downfall started when the owners walked past the Teachers Lounge and found Abraham apparently sleeping with his head down on his desk. As any student, teacher, or visitor walking past had a clear view of this area it was not considered acceptable for the head foreign teacher to be sleeping at his desk and I agree. The director explained this to Abraham and informed him that he really shouldn’t be sleeping during the workday.

At this point Abraham informed the director that he had recently had open-heart surgery and required several periods of rest during the day. The director because furious, as Abraham had not informed him of this medical condition prior to being hired. After things calmed down, the director then informed Abraham to please not sleep in the teacher’s room in full view of those passing by. He was directed to find a secluded place in the school and rest there for a few minutes if it was needed.

Note: Abraham had in fact had open heart surgery, but he also had a second job working nights and when he wasn’t working nights he spend considerable time visiting adult entertainment venues. Thus, he was often sleep deprived.

This request was disregarded and Abraham continued to sleep at his desk. On many occasions the director, his wife and other family members of the director would confront Abraham and ask that he not sleep at his desk. Each time, Abraham would augur with them that he was not sleeping and dismissed their attempts to get him to stop or move out of sight.

The last time I saw him, he was standing in front of the director’s desk screaming obscenities at the director’s wife. When my next class was over, he was gone and I was being asked to temporarily act as head teacher, but still teach my 25 classes per week.

I recently heard, but could not confirm it, that Abraham was no longer working having gone off the deep end so to speak. He had lost his family, was living is a slum area of Bangkok and relying on handouts from his friends to exist.

Kiwi Roy



Teacher Roy was not one of the teachers in the initial group hired in 1999 but I wanted to move him up the list, as he was the first real teacher to grace our staff.


Roy was a retired Head Master from New Zealand. Not sure but he was probably in his mid 50's, tall and lankly like Ichabod Crane. He often needed a haircut, loved hot spicy Thai food and was truly a nice guy. His retirement plan was to travel throughout Asia while teaching. His goal was to work in each country for a year or two and then move on. Thailand was his first stop in this plan and he arrived here with wife Sharon and youngest daughter Megan in tow.


Roy taught grade six and served as our Head Teacher for a while during one of the all to frequent absences of our beloved “foreign teacher coordinator” back to the U.S. Roy’s teaching style was straightforward and disruptions did not ruffle his feathers. He told his students daily that he was there to teach whether you listen is up to you. If you are not interested in learning English just move to the back of the classroom and keep you mouth shut. Soon all his students go the message and took part in his lessons.


While I can in a joking way find quirks in most people, there were few with Roy. About the strangest thing that he did was to go out on paydays and buy all his groceries for the entire month and referred to his evening meal as tea. I remember that his shopping list always included one big bottle of beer for each day of the month. Also if I recall correctly he at times needed two taxies to return all his purchases to his condo.


Roy was with us, if memory serves me correctly, for just about a year. He began having some medical problems, went for an examination where it was discovered that he had colon cancer. Within weeks after that, he and his family moved back to New Zealand so that he could take advantage of his governments medical benefits and fight the cancer. Sadly he lost that fight and passed away not long after that.


Just before he left I asked him what was one thing about going home was he most looking forward to. His reply “drinking cool clean water right from the tap”. That’s just about as basic a need as a man should have.


Roy was a good man and is still talked about in the Teachers Lounge.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bill the Cook


The second teacher that departed the school in the time that I was there was Bill from Canada. He was in his early twenties and was with us from the first of the school year which began in May 1999 until about August or so.

Bill had no teaching experience and his formal education was in the form of completing a cooking school. His prior work experience was as a cook on an oilrig where he worked something like 7 days on and then 7 days off.

Bill like many westerners came to Thailand on a short vacation and then didn’t want to leave so he sought employment teaching English. This was quite easy for Native English Speakers to do at the time. There was a huge demand for teachers and the government requirements were very relaxed. This has tightened up a good deal, but work can still be found by the under qualified.

Bill even had a little support here. He had a brother also living here who was self employed as a free lance travel writer and doing well for himself. At least as reported by Bill. The brother had a nice apartment and initially Bill visited there often. However, I believe he soon wore out that welcome as he began spending more nights in the teachers quarters that were provided to us.

Bill taught third grade and did well. He prepared his lessons, presented them well; the kids liked him and he did what was expected. Bill’s down fall was his need to visit the adult entertainment establishments on a very frequent basis, like almost nightly.

When you develop this habit, your money just doesn’t last long and at our school as in all of Thailand; payday is just once a month. At first Bill started asking for his pay at mid month and the director give in and paid him. Then Bill started asked for his pay each Friday. This went on for about a month and the director gave in each time. Then one Friday the director wasn’t at school and Bill wanted to be paid. Bill then took it upon himself to visit the director’s home and seek his pay

I don’t know what happened during this visit, but Bill showed up back at the teachers quarters ranting and raving using very colorful words to describe the director, the school and Thailand. He went to his room, packed his gear and was never seen again.
I guess he didn’t get paid and had other options. I also recall that he still owes me something like 800 baht.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Strange Teacher I



The first strange teacher that I became acquainted with during my teaching career was named John T. He was in his late 20, came from the state of New York and claimed to have a Masters Degree in Art from some NYC University. However, he never produced this degree. Said that his university would not release it as he had student fees, which were unpaid.

John was really full of himself and had an ego as wide as the Chao Phraya River. This was his second time in Thailand as an English Teacher and he knew all about it or so he professed. His other work experience as he claimed, was as a graphic artist for a computer game company. I must admit, that his artistic talents were very good so this was possible.

As the school provides housing for its teachers we all lived together. On the ground floor was a large living area with cable TV, a dining area, two toilets, a cooking area and laundry facilities. The upper two floors were bedrooms for the individual teachers.

My first confrontation with John came about after he went into the living area, disconnected the TV intended for all the teachers and took it to his room. He even did this while one of our mild manner, non-confrontational teachers as actually sitting there watching a program. Being the cool level headed person that I am (not) I went into orbit when I returned and was informed what he had done. Using my most colorful language which I mastered in my 24 years of naval service, I marched up to John’s room and we had a discussion. Shortly thereafter the TV was returned to its proper location.

Once a month on payday, John would venture to the adult entertainment area of Bangkok and procure the services of a companion. I refer to them as rentals. He would then spend the rest of the month talking of this conquest to anyone who would listen. He also had the habit of drawing their picture, over and over again, in a large sketchpad that he maintained. The rest of the time John mostly just stayed in his room. On weekdays he stayed in his room playing videos games and having KFC delivered. Weekends were special. He would enter his room on Friday evening and not exit until Monday morning. Outside his door on Monday morning you could find beer bottles, and stacks of pizza boxes. When asked what he did while secluded in his room his reply was “Eat pizza, drink beer, watch porno and masturbate”. Needless to say we didn’t want to hear more.

Johns time with us only lasted about three months. Seems as if he followed one of his grade 6 students into the girl’s toilet. This was reported by the student and he was dismissed. He was then off to another teaching job in Thailand.

Teaching abilities on a scale of 10: 6

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hot Water



Most homes in Thailand only have one tap for water, as hot water heaters are rare. In fact I have never seen hot running water anywhere in Thailand other than in the better hotels. Showers are taken, dishes and clothes washed all for the most part in cold water. This is possible as the temperature throughout the country averages about 80 degrees year round.

Having no hot water heaters also results in quite a savings in energy. Why have something using energy all day long when you really don’t need it.

But for us faint of heart that require hot showers there is the device as show above for us. There is hot water on demand and it’s continuous as long as your water pressure is not too high. If you have high pressure the water passes though the heating element to fast to become hot. I have just recently become aware of this little bit of knowledge. The cure is just to turn the water down. No problem.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Distractions



I’m finding this blogging thing much harder that I had originally anticipated. Hats off to my favorite bloggers who inspired me to try this, Chicken Fat (Eddie Hunter) and Dilbert (Scott Adams). These guys come up with something new daily and often several things in a single day. That takes a lot of fore though, and concentration with probably no major distractions. Distractions real or imagined even minor ones, I feel are my weakness.

Every day there seems to be something going on which seems to require my undivided attention. The drapes were not pleated correctly in the wife’s opinion so had to be taken down, ironed and rehung. Little things like that are very time consuming and take me away from blogging. There are millions of them when moving ino a new home.

For instance, just yesterday, we had our new washing machine delivered. Because our home has no laundry room, or a place to conveniently place a washing machine we elected to do what most of out friends and neighbors do. We put it outside.

To accomplish this we had to complete several tasks. First an electrical source had to be provided, a water source obtained and drainage taken care of. This was all taken care of by the four-man team of installers within a few hour. I know they did all the work, but I had to supervise and that takes time drawing me away from my blogging duties and responsibilities. There were photo's of all the activities, but my posting skills are still not up to speed.

Then there was the instruction manuel that came with the washer, which had to be in translated into English. After, much though regarding this matter, I finally just gave up. But the consideration I gave this matter took considerable time. In the long run I guess I was just being silly. I’m not going to be washing any clothes or using the maching. My job is simple. JUST PAY FOR IT.

These distractions just go on and on. You may say I'm looking for distractions and there may be some truth to that while getting into this retirment thing with both feet. However, I assure any possible reader that I will get my head in the game soon.

Did you know that most washing machings sold throughout the world don't have that big old agitator thing in the center like we do in the U. S.? Why is that?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Thai Private Schools






For the past nine years until my recent retirement I worked as an English Teacher at a private school in Bangkok. In many ways this was a very rewarding job, in others it was very frustrating.

In the course of my blogging attempts, it is my plan to write about this job from time to time. Particularly, I will be writing about the many Native Speaking English Teachers, (36 that I can recall) which have passed through this school during my tenure as well as the numerous Filipino Teachers working there. Additionally, I will not mention the school by name as libel laws here don’t favor a farang. Just making someone lose face can be considered a crime.

However, so that you can understand the type of place in which I worked I will provide a little background on this particular school, which I believe is typical of the privately run schools in Thailand. This can be verified by any reader who question this by just reviewing the forum postings on www.ajarn.com and reading some of the threads found there.

Entrepreneurs looking for profits establish privately owned schools in Thailand. This particular school started out as a kindergarten in the owners home, he expanded it to a grade 1-6 school at a location several blocks away and then he build a third school which is also grades 1-6. I am not sure of the exact number but there are well over a 1,000 students at these three schools. They are all duly licensed and approved by the Thai Ministry of Education.

From what I understand, the Thai government lacks resourses to open all the schools it needs, so makes grants to businessmen willing to invest. The businessman then has to bare all the expenses associated with building and running the school. However, the pay back is that he charges as much tuition as he can, and cuts expenese to rock bottom.

At his point, education is no longer the primary concern, rather profit is the controlling factor. Believe me there are no poor priviate school owener. Thus, smoke and mirrors come into play. The fa├žade is all-important. My next post will explore some of the common controls used to maintain this cash cow.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hemorrhoids



Standard Bum Washer


I know this may be just too much information, but I have been afflicted with these little buggers my entire adult life. I have itched, scratched, daubed myself with all sorts of salves and even endured the surgery of having the things removed, but alas they returned.


But they are no longer a problem since I moved to Thailand. Yes they are still down there, but they never itch, never get inflamed and never, ever except when I am on a trip back to the west give me any problems.


The cure in my opinion: No toilet paper usage. Never use the stuff except as a napkin to wipe the crumbs from my chin or pat myself dry.


I don’t know why, or how this cultural difference in toilet use developed but a large majority of people in Thailand just don’t use the stuff as the only means to clean their posterior. After, each visit to relieve yourself you simply use the device shown in the photograph and wash yourself. No smearing of …….., well never mind, but you know what I’m speaking about. Even rural farmer's homes have a basin of water and a bowl handy for washing up. Hopefully, photo's to follow in a later post.


However, the number one use of toilet tissue is as a napkin presented in a dispenser as show below. They can be found on almost all dining tables at home or local fine dining establishments.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The First Ding

This morning Mee was up bright and early and wanted to make the 10 mile or so trip to her village to visit with her family. I no longer like to make these trips to the village and get out of it any time that I can. There is just absolutely nothing for me to do except read and today I wanted to read in the comfort of my home, under my own fan, in my own living room. Was just not in the mood today to smell cow manure and be feasted on by mosquitoes.




The narrow lane leading to the village.


So the decision was made that she would take the truck out alone for the first time today. As she is a new driver, she takes her time, follows all the rules and if any thing is over cautious. I suspected there would be no problems as she only had to travel on non congested city streets and then a rural two-lane road with normally light traffic until the turnoff to her family’s home.


Note how close the cow pens are to the house.


Our only major area a concern was when she reached the lane, which goes to her village. This is a one-lane deal with a one-meter drop off much of the way on both sides to rice fields below. There is no room to pass should you meet another vehicle. If another is met, someone has to back up and that is an area where her driving skills could use a bit more practice. Therefore, we agreed that she would take a good long look before taking off down the lane to ensure another vehicle was not headed her way. This turned out to be no problem and she traveled this constricted area with ease.



The actual ding.


The problem arose when she attempted to pull into mother’s yard. She didn’t swing out far enough and dinged the right side rear fender. You can barely see the ding, in fact there’s not even a dent in the sheet metal, just a gouge in the paint. However, she is earth shattered. Her first new truck, her first time our alone, her first ding. All I can do in comfort her, help her get her confidence back and ensure her there will probably be more to come. God Bless Her.


Publishers Note: Still trying to figure this photo posting business. It's all new to me. For any possible readers please bear with me.























Thursday, February 14, 2008

Security Bars



All my neighbors have them. Everyone said we had to have them. So we got them.


Then I had questions as they were being installed which I had not though of before hand. Mainly how do you now clean the glass in the window? Secondly, how do you exit via a window should a critical situation arise?


When I posed these questions to my wife and the men who were erecting these all but immovable cages over my windows I could tell from the looks on their faces as I spoke that they though I was out of my rabbit ass mind. No one had ever asked such questions and only a silly farang would consider such things. Well, excuse me, it was just a passing though.
Anyway as no answer was forthcoming I reasoned things out for myself based on common local logic using my nine years of residency in Thailand.


First you have to realize that there is no middle class in Thailand for the most part, especially in the rural areas. There are only rich people and poor people.


Poor people have no concerns for such things such as the cleaning of window. In fact many rural homes don’t even have glass windows only shutters that board up the windows in the evening or during inclement weather. Heck, the majority of rural homes aren’t even painted.

The rich have their maids clean the window so have little concern as to how difficult it can be or how long it will take. With a daily wage of about $3.80 they must keep the help busy you know.


As far as the safety issued of being locked behind steel bars one only has to look at the number if infants seen daily being held by their parents as they weave in and out of traffic on their motorcycles to see the nations concern for public safety. It only becomes an issue then there is a tragedy and then is soon there after forgotten until the next occurrence. Using the words of a former local columnist “enough said about that”.


Buy the way, I have designed security bars with hinges and an inside-locking device for future use. In the mean time I’ll sleep next to the door and not wash my windows as often as I once did. Or maybe, just maybe, I can pull the Tom Sawyer white washing trick on my sister-in-law and make her think that it’s fun to wash windows.


Wheels at Last



In a few more months, I will have lived in Thailand for nine years. In all that time I have not been behind the wheel of a vehicle other than just to look over someone elses newly purchased car or truck. The reason I have not driven is because I have been deathly afraid to drive over here. Heck they drive on the wrong side of the road, the left side, the sterring wheel is on the wrong side of the car, the right side, and the biggest reason of all the locals drive like maniacs.


But here I am now in Ban Phai without the Bangkok convencies of taxies, buses, skytrain, subway or in the worst case situation a motorcycle taxi. Thus transportation became a necessity rather than a luxury.


In preparation for this move and really not ever wanting to drive again I sent my wife to driving school about two years ago. She passed the course and obtained her drivers licenses. However, in that she dosen't really have that much experience, it was our plan for her to take the course again just before me moved so that she would have a little more experience and gain confidence. Well, that plan went astray when I retired about two months early and we moved earlier that originally planned.


To make a long story short, we moved, bought the new truck shown above and now my wife is also fearful of driving. So guess what or rather who is now the family driver? You got it, yours truly.


To my surprise the left hand road thing, and right hand steering wheel thing has not been as problematic as I though it would be. After taking it out once I was comfortable with that aspect of driving. The only real problems was that each time I signaled for a turn, I turned on the windshield wippers as that little device is on the left side of the sterring wheel and the turn signals are on the right, just the opposit of what I am use to.


The thing that I will never get use to but will have to bear down and endure is watching out for possibly the worlds worst drivers. Remaining in ones lane is unheard of, they drift in and out and no one seems to care, the car beside them just drifts over also (most of the time). Then there are the motorcycles, thousands of motorcycles who obey no traffic rules. They dart in and out of traffic, cut you off and in general scare one to death. On top of that, people step of curbs without looking, you meets carts on busy highways going the wrong way, cows wander about and in general no one is careful. Therefore, there is no such a thing is a leisurely drive as you must be at the top of your game each time you pull out of the driveway.


I'll manage though until such time as Mee (my wife) feels comfortable behild the wheel. Then I can moved to the shot gun seat and put on my blindfold.