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.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mish Mash

Besides adoring the saying "mish mash", there are a few events that need updating. First of all, to date this blog has had over 10,300 page views, which, though I know is not Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber territory, I find humbling and inspiring. So thank you known and unknown readers (I wish it were more two way since I spend much of my time on a very simple communication plane (What is today? Today is Monday.)). I occasionally get some very nice e-mails and responses on facebook, and they mean much to me. Next, I wrote about Bot's accident and here are two photos to go with that:

Bot received 6 stitches but they saved the tip of his finger. In this photo he is just back from having the dressing changed at the hospital. That is his buddy Nu, who is whipjack smart, and Bim behind, who speaks and reads not a word of English despite my paltry efforts. She can sing three lines from a pop song that goes: Loving you too much, so much, very much. And below is Bpeng and on the right and his friend Peng, Bpeng being the one I mentioned I was fairly sure was going to grow up to be a lady boy.
Apparently I am not alone in this assessment, since when I was facing the impossibility of trying to tease out the differences in their two names and asked if we couldn't try out something else, the class suggested "Tootsie".  When I asked why, they explained because in that American comedy from the 80's Dustin Hoffman  dressed and acted as a woman. I adore Bpeng;he too does not own a smidgeon of English. If I were the superstar teacher imagined in the minds of educational theoreticists I would "differentiate" each of my lesson plans to meet the individual needs of each and every learner, each and every day. Instead I am trying to organize a Friday split schedule determined not by grade level or age, but by reading competency. I know- what a lazy son of a biscuit! If it was grouped by adorability they would all be in one big lecture hall...
Over at NongYaSai, everything is coming up concrete. Three weeks ago in Australia I read  Bangkok Post report that the ministry of education wanted to close down an enormous number of small rural schools to save on money - this will sound very familiar to my Maine friends- but then someone remembered that elections were coming up and that means pull out all the stops- free root beer for everyone! Suddenly we have a number of "bricks and mortar" projects blooming at both schools. At NYS they are paving a large percentage of the grounds with concrete, including the circular driveway and the area on the playground the children gather to salute the flag. Not that it seems money particularly well spent, but people love to see tangible "things" whether it is in Afghanistan where Greg Mortonsen's money has apparently overbuilt now understaffed schools, or in the USA where the pipe dream in my area is called "Many Flags" wherein a utopian gathering of high school, community college and technical schools to the tune of 65 million dollars will result in newly motivated learners and effective teaching practice. Not that I am against such efforts per se. I like that new laptop smell as much as the next guy, but research doesn't support such spending's impact. It does boost the economy here, since all that concrete is mixed and laid down by a big crew.
 This is only about one fourth of the original pile of bags of cement.
 This is a view to the main road which is also undergoing much work in widening. Below is the crew bringing a load of mixed concrete up to pour into a corner which is out of sight. It is very interesting to watch the interaction and flow of this crew, laboring at a very tough job in 100 degree heat, since I have spent some time doing similar types of jobs in the USA. Theirs' is a quieter and more integrated effort. I had a hard time discerning who was in charge and how decisions were made. When they were trying to get this up the step onto the finished concrete it was all I could do to resist going out to help. There was the issue of my school clothing, plus I just didn't know  how to cross that line. They got it up without me, naturally. These guys are tough as hell. Like their labor counterparts everywhere, cigarettes were a big part of the workday...
As I said, Isaan seems to be one big building project, even more so than the other areas of Thailand I visited. Cliches like "bustling" come to mind as buildings spring up daily on my commute. Not all of them are public works projects either, though the bridge to Lao, the army hospital, the solar power field, and the school improvement ones stand out (Thai Samakee is getting awnings put over all the first floor windows- a project I had considered trying to raise money for myself since it was one of those that will markedly improve the standard of livability by reducing the heat.) The locals do not seem to share my astonishment at the rapid growth. They look at me as if I were a little loopy when I mention it. Yet clearly Thailand is an economy on the move. I frequently imagine it be somehow similar to the USA just after the troops returned from WWII, Levittowns burgeoning, prosperity beckoning, and daily life radically being redefined in one generation. Here is a photo I took in October in NKP on our first visit to the city. I took it because I was interested in the funky scaffolding, the hand mixing of cement, and the human power required for lack of a crane.
Here is the same building taken this morning.
Not that remarkable in comparison with China or some other economies, but for some reason it hits me palpably. Perhaps because there is so little other seasonal change building projects are my way of sensing the rapid passage of my short time here. Or maybe perspective is the key, the newness of it all makes any changes seem remarkable to an outsider. When we got together the other day, some of our original group, all our conversations were already pointed towards the far horizon- bookings home, back to graduate school or parent's houses come September. It is a pinpoint of light at the end of a tunnel I for one do not want to see. I look out on the changing rice fields with a heavy heart knowing I will not be here to see the fall harvest. Still, it is lovely to witness the cycle and the greening. We had a steady swath of rain for days and nights, torrents. One day I had to drive the moped back from NongYaSai in a downpour since Kru Goa had no raincoat and I did. I still got drenched. I know Maine has had a very rainy spring as well and my poor driveway became a Grand Canyon lookalike. Here in flat Isaan, the water simply pools up.

If you look into the center background you will see some farmers hand planting a field. Some fields are simply seeded by scattering and others using this method- not sure why which is which. Hopefully I will have a chance to help with the hand planting and I can get some better photos.

The most rewarding sights are the patches and varieties of green carpets emerging.
This reminded me of a William Bronk poem I used to love called Green as a Verity. I looked for it on the internet to include it here, but I could not find it. Plenty of news about the dysfunctional woman who killed her child, but no William Bronk poem- Sigh. If you can find it send it in email or put it in the comments section won't you? Thanks again. And one last thing before I go to watch more French Open illegally online. Speaking of superstition and fortune telling, I had my palm read by an adorable young Thai woman the other day. She told me earnestly that I was going to live a long life, but that I was never going to be rich. I have a feeling she was just going by the fact that I already look like I am older than dirt and clearly dirt poor!


  1. Another ration of time well spent. Nice imagery and I like the pictures, too.

    I think part of the improvement in the economy comes from the rising price of rice. I understand the recent harvest was quite a windfall for many in this area.

    I realize your commimitment is up in a few months, that doesn't mean you have to leave.

    I feel pretty confident your thinking about that.

    PS: I love that rain. Sorta makes me feel like I'm back in a cave 10,000 years ago.


    Do you see the light on those green trees?
    Green is real in an intensity of green.

    Deciduousness is nothing, as evergreen
    is nothing either. These are not the point.

    Certain situations lack all green,
    or it is there in all variety.

    But this is not the point. Exactly not.
    Who denies it; we are not told

    anything we can believe in, and we live
    in a hardly credible world? What is not

    hidden from us? Our reasonings confuse
    us and obscure what little we think to see of the world.

    It is that kind of a place; but even so,
    some things cannot stay hidden, are obvious.

    We stumble on them and wonder how or why
    we missed it before, that, for intance, green

    is a verity, not to be reckoned without
    in its absence even, in places where it is not,

    and there are such places and such times.
    The idea of green. That there are verities.