And what is it about work and productivity that has troubled us and tickled us from the day we were expelled from the garden, doomed get our bread from the sweat of our faces? I am always urging my students to work harder. I believe work, both mental and physical, has a connection with virtue. I love work of a certain kind- don't we all? Mostly I love diving into a small project for myself or for a friend. One of my favorite jobs ever was helping to build my friend Siem's art studio. He had waited for it and deliberated for many hours on its design. That didn't feel like work. Back in the day I would come home from teaching and sheet rock or paint the addition for hours and it was exhausting and energizing simultaneously. There is work that makes one feel human and work that makes one feel like an ant carrying out orders from the pile Ad infinitum.
From the perspective of a teacher- many of my US kids were very busy, often working but almost always for spending on luxuries for themselves, and nearly all of them were academically very lazy, self-satisfied, and disrespectful. My Thai students are very respectful, self-satisfied in a very different way, and on the whole, not particularly motivated. There are some intense exceptions to these characterizations, like Ning and Nat, but there were in the States too, like Hayli and Caitlin (oh Lord, and Buddha, in my next teaching lifetime, please send me some overachieving boys...). I can also say after volunteering with students all over Rockland and in New Orleans, that American kids are certainly up to a hard days work for no pay when asked. Too bad we have to translate it into "good for the college app resume". If I advise a student from Thailand on their college rec someday I will have them put: Responsible for maintenance and rebuilding of my school and village approximately 10 hours a week all year since I was 6. Speaking of industry, I wasn't sure what these villagers were up to when I snapped their photo on Saturday on my bike ride. They had long poles and nets, but I could not ascertain what they were harvesting up in the trees, even though I stopped to try to talk it over.
It wasn't until I went to dinner with Nit and Nok last night and ate my first ant eggs that the secret was revealed. They are a delicacy here and the nests are up in the trees. Once I got over the image in my head of baby ants hatching in my intestines and crawling out my nose while I was sleeping, they were really good. Served in an incredible fish stew, they actually had a little pop of juice- like a mini gusher if you will- when you bit down on them. One thing we really don't have the equivalent of in our schools is the mini farm and industry projects that many schools here regularly support. They not only provide food for the students and staff, and save money on expenditures, they are a terrific means for the students to learn practical skills they very well will use supporting families and even turning to for profitable businesses. This is the recently built mushroom house Mr. Jong and Snooker built with the kids help. It really isn't hard to harvest the mushrooms, I am just grimacing because it takes just the right twist to get the stalks clear so the next batch can cleanly come through. We had these for lunch today! Arroy Mak Mak!
That is Snooker, who drive me in to work and back, and Mr. Jong, general maintenance dude. He is in the photo with me in the temple on my Facebook Profile.
And here are the beautiful mushrooms up close. Do they do this in the States? If not, why not? Seems like a great small business or just a great way to supply your home.
These are a collection of fish raising tanks. They are clotted with baby fish that the kids feed and care for and then we roast for lunch. Really delicious little catfish type critters.
Finally, this is the eucalyptus plantation, started by the last director. As far as I can see, it requires no maintenance at this point. I am not sure when it will provide a harvest. Right now all the rage is for planting rubber trees, since the price has over tripled in the last few years.
I remember reading a book in college way back in the 1980's called Small is Beautiful. I wonder what happened to that concept or if it ever really stood a chance. It is good to work hard, after all, depending on the nature of the work and the outcome of one's labor. I keep coming back to that notion of the manageability of the project and its outcome. A few pigs in the backyard. A few mushrooms in the house. A few words a day. And who knows how the ants feel anyway? I can't speak for the ants either. poor, hard-working little buggers.
My Thai friend who reads this blog informs me that those long poles in the photos are not for ant nests. Those particular poles are for catching frogs. Some kind of hooking motion to get them by the leg. When I think of the sheer amount of misinformation I have spread through the years, it astonishes even me!