Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Why and the What For - Plus Bonus Material!

This is Poo. She is in primary 1 and she is 6. You don't say her name with the same consonant as the "p" in my name, Peter. Her Thai nick name (they all have one chosen when they are young because their real names are so ornate and long) begins with what is called a bpaa bla which is the Thai consonant for "fish". So her nick name would more accurately be spelled Bpoo. Bpoo, like every one of my students so far, is perfect in every way. I don't mean perfectly well behaved. I mean perfect in the way that something touched by God's grace is perfect. I mean perfect in the way that it almost hurts to look her because she is so herself and so in the breathing second of the now and so unadulterated and so full of open tomorrows. 
And so is Taliu, who looks a little like Bpoo and is the exact build, and with their uniforms it is no wonder I get the two of them mixed up on day two. And when I go through the names, I think in spite of the fabulous name tags they created, I will probably be a long time into November before I will know them all by heart, something I force myself to do on the first day in my classes in the US. Tomorrow I head to my second school where I will meet another group of students k-6 and that will add to the challenge. Trying to wrap my mouth around the actual pronunciation gives me an appreciation for their difficulty with saying "Thursday" and anything that ends in a consonant like "k" or "t".  The bloom is still, of course, on the rose which is why these kindergarteners crowd around my door whenever there is a free moment and say repeatedly, "Hello Teeesha".
And lest you think it is just the girls who are perfect, here is Mark, who cinches his shorts about three quarters of the way up his skinny chest. He really has a beautiful smile, but for the life of me, for all the smiling the Thais do, it is very hard to get them to smile in their photos. It may be an odd cultural quirk, since they were very serious about us not smiling in any of our official photos for work permits and visas. In fact, several volunteers had their photos rejected for that very reason and had to have them retaken. I have three separate groups I meet with at Yong Na Sai: Primary 1-2, of which there are 10 (two were absent this first day), primary 3-4, 19 students, and primary 5-6, 12 students. I also meet with the kindergarten (24) each morning for about 20 minutes. Today I sang The Wheels on the Bus using the hand gestures and using pictures I downloaded from the internet. The other classes are an hour long each and I have no "free periods" except for lunch which is an hour and is simply the best damn food on the planet. Some of it is cooked by other teachers (there are 4) and the rest is by the school cook who does it all with extremely rudimentary equipment. The students then line up to wash their own plates and then they run around, totally unsupervised on the playground. It is how I imagine life was in the US before lawyers and the fear of being sued drove the agenda for every waking moment of life. The kids actually duck as they go by me every time, to lower their heads in respect for my age and my credentials. They Wei me and thank me for every single thing I give them and they were ecstatic to have their blank name tags. I was picked up by Snooker, the gym teacher to go to my first day because Boom, the kindergarten teacher was coming from the other direction.
I am served breakfast on arrival;today it was three fried eggs and rice with soy sauce. For lunch we had pad Thai and another soup with boiled cubes of blood. Sorry for the interruption, but as I was typing this, the most amazing little scenario took place on my door. A giant moth, who was banging against the glass to get inside with such ferocity I thought it might be a bird or bat, was just caught by the gigundo (10-11 inches tip of nose to tip of tail?) lizard who lives in my shower room. We have been running into each other like tenants in an apartment building, me trying to grab his photo for you to see, and here he commits this spectacular hunting kill three feet from my head. I just have to throw it in. Here are the before and after shots I just took:

He and his buddies can make quite a racket during the night, scampering about and doing god knows what-probably drinking beer and womanizing. So he owed me this display. I was a little worried the flash might make him drop his prey, but he seemed pretty proud of it and I think he was a little winded because I could see he was breathing pretty hard. It is getting a little late and I have to do a few more preps before I go to bed so I will just leave you with some of my 1-2's (I get to my 3-4's tomorrow) and you can wonder why you didn't think of coming here first. After all, my day started with watching online my beloved Giants win the World Series with a bench full of relatively underpaid old farts, I spent the day with these beautiful children who adore me; I came home and took a bike ride up the hill to see my friend Ben; I ate fresh, exquisite food, and now I'm listening to Sigur Ros and sharing it all with you, my wonderful friends. And no one I talked to all day has ever heard of the Tea Party or gives a tinker's damn who wins the senate or the house today, or knows who Lindsey Lohan is or whether she is in rehab or if the new Call of Duty video game is coming out soon or ever...Who could ask for anything more?


  1. Great Post! Makes me really consider perspectives!

  2. I have a Mark Greif essay about the Wheels on the Bus that I'll forward to you. Any requests for a care package, besides a door poster-sized glossy of my faculty photo?

  3. Grief's interpretation of WOB is so far off base it isn't even worth mentioning. He is totally stuck in a post post modern viewpoint, which prevents him from seeing that the bus driver's "Move on back!"is not a a critique of schadenfreude but instead a reference to the naturists' beckoning to return to our pre-industrial roots.