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.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Where Do The Children Play III

When it is raining out, or just too damn hot, the students will settle in playing sit down games. A popular one at both schools is this variation on jacks. It involves small colored plastic pieces that are linked together in random groups of two or three. You take all of them, toss them up, and then catch at least one on the back of your hand. Then you put that in your hand and toss it up and gather the fallen pieces a few at a time without dropping any. It is a great little speed/coordination/decision making game, to which my clumsy fat old hands are poorly attenuated. Still, I like playing and they get a big kick when I do. 
Out on the tiles at Thai Samakee they played a lot of versions of this rock game, which also involved a form of rock, paper, scissors.

The best thing about this game is that it is free, the game parts are easily replaceable and it cleans up quickly too. No, truly the best part of this game is that it is human and physical, embraces actual rather than manufactured possibility, and feeds the soul rather than crushing it.

In class I often use games and the students go wild for them- hangman, bingo, the slap game. They especially love when I time something and count down 5,4,3,2,1 and cross my arms and make a giant buzzer sound EEEEENNNNN!!! I have taught them the slap hand game and bloody knuckles and they are popular as well.

Once I was on the computer and the students gathered around and talked me into opening the games file on the desktop. Within two minutes the entire class was crammed around my desk, watching Ning and I play some advanced version of Frogger- a raccoon trying to move through a series of crossing dangers to ultimately jump in a ring. Fancy graphics and noise. Their response was intense and visceral, their laughter bordering on screaming. Two of us playing, twelve watching. It immediately crossed my mind that this could be a powerful reward to offer them. Yet I know where that path ends and I shut it off. Yes, here it comes- the luddite speech. Well dammit it is NOT as good as playing against Boi with rocks or tossing little chips in the air with Bpoo. If they could witness the binary code behind that stupid racoon and those stupid bonus bags of money he picks up, perhaps they would realize that all digital games are rigged. They don't embrace the present; they only eat up more nickles of electricity, and drop more pennies into some corporation's till.  Unfortunately, next door to me is the wonder of wonders, courtesy of an American donation, The Computer Room, where the machines are used for exactly that purpose- distracting the kids, freeing up the adults from the responsibility of teaching, and promoting the idea of 'progress'. I recall the broom maker who came to Thai Samakee in the fall, the wizardry of his skills. The hell with Harry Potter movies and CGI- this old guy could MAKE a magic broom and show someone else how. He could actually empower and entertain.
Alas. I know things are not going my way. I am reading a book by Thich Nhat Hanh and I am trying to get over being anxious or pissed off about all of it. Still, when my Thai teachers go to a seminar for the new fabulous program to be implemented in Thai schools-  e-books for every student!!!!, I get out my maps and start searching for the next remaining refuge of sanity. Call me paranoid- but I know all the old games will get swallowed up in the tidal wave of corporate exploitation. After all, when was the last time you saw an American child playing jacks?

Here is a link to a short video of the rock game.

Rock Game Thai Samakee


  1. One of the presents I brought over the the village Abbot was a nicely packaged game called Pickup Sticks. According to the packaging it is a very old American Indian game. (or game of The People, if you prefer.)

    Anyway, the Abbot enjoys it very much and many young villagers regularly ask him to bring it out to the tiled floor.

    I am strongly anti-computer game. I took a vow when I first saw Pong. Never played Asteroids or Pac-Man.

    I make a rare exception with a game Ming Ming calls dinosaur; although lately I turn the computer over to her and go lie down.

    She also enjoys messing around with Window's Paint, which I find encouraging.

  2. Peter, my thanks for the last year.
    (Incidentally, it was Duke Ellington - although Shickele garners obscurity points.)

  3. Dang it! I knew that was Ellington and when I was less brain dead I would have caught myself!