Monthly Archives: December 2014

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas…

I Skyped back home to my parents last week, and was at first a little confused when they told me they were just sat by the log fire, relaxing with some sherry, after finishing decorating the Christmas tree.

Although it’s gotten noticeably colder here, its’ still 17 °C; a lot warmer the Christmases I’ve experienced so far in the UK. That, along with it being a predominantly Buddhist country, I had almost forgotten all about it being “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.

Another little nudge and reminder, was a meeting that was called between all the English teachers of the school; to announce that we shall be celebrating the festive season, next Wednesday, with a school show, where each year group must perform something for the rest of the teachers and students.

So this week has certainly helped to make things feel a little more festive. My kids have teamed up with the class next door, to perform a rendition of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” It’s so lovely to hear them shouting and screaming the words, whether or not they’re actually the right ones, and their little faces light up with glee. Obviously you get the kids that aren’t really too keen on singing, like you do everywhere, however, I find the vast majority of the Kindergarten children absolutely LOVE screaming songs at the top of their lungs whilst dancing along at their own tempo.

We will keep practising this every afternoon until the show on Christmas Eve, so hopefully I shall be able to get a nice video of them on the stage.

Back in the classroom, the topic this week is “Magnets”. The children are really enjoying this, as it’s science, which of course allows the students to become more involved, and be mind blown by lots of cool experiments.

I started off introducing magnets to them by giving examples of ones we may find around the house or classroom.   We then wrote a table of objects, and then proceeded to test these items to see if they would be attracted to a magnet.

I then went on to explain the north and south poles of the magnet, and how these can either attract or repel. The kids tried this themselves, loving being able to feel the push and pull of the magnetic force.

We then went on to play a game of fishing. I tied some string to a blunt pencil, and on the other end, tied a small hoop magnet. I then printed out lots of paper fish, and on each fish, placed a small paperclip. The children then got into teams, where they had to race, one student at a time, in a relay fashion, and each catch a fish. The first team to catch all their fish were the winners. The children loved this, and it was a nice little treat, at the end of a topic.

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As the week draws to a close, and magnets have been discussed in as much depth as possible with 5 year olds, it is time to start the Christmas festivities.

I’d been to the educational supply store earlier in the week, where I’d picked up some tinsel and things, to make the classroom look a little more festive.

We’d also previously made some elf masks, with paper glasses and hats, which the children loved, and looked incredibly cute in.

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We began today by going over “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” again. We are getting closer to not having “you’d better watch out” as EVERY LINE.

Even though being of a different religion, the children are more than familiar with the Christmas songs, and images of the big man in red, Rudolph, and the decorations that surround the holiday.

So therefore I thought it’d be a nice idea for the children to make their own stockings. I drew a rough template of a Christmas stocking, which I drew around on red craft paper, and cut out one for each of the children.

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I then asked them to draw a nice picture on their stocking, of anything that reminded them of Christmas. I got lovely results back, with the children drawing pictures of reindeers, snowmen, and writing sweet messages on them to parents. I then gave them all some cotton wool balls, with which they made a white trim at the top of the stocking. These were then hung on their personal cupboards at the back of the classroom.

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The children returned from their snack, and I had the second part of their Christmas crafts ready to go.

I’d been to the local shopping centre earlier in the week, and bought enough candy canes for them to have two each. I then gave each child one pipe cleaner, two goggley eyes, and one red ball.

Wrapping the pipe cleaner around the candy canes, which were turned away from each other, this bound them together, so that they looked like antlers. They then put a little PVA glue on each of the eyes and the nose, and then stuck these to the pipe cleaner to make a face.

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And ta-da: just like that the children had their own little Rudolphs to hang on their stockings. This was so simple, but the kids absolutely loved it, and couldn’t contain their excitement. Luckily I managed to grab a few quick snaps just before the pipe cleaners were hectically cast aside and the candy canes devoured like there was no tomorrow.

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All I can say is with that much sugar, I can only apologise to their parents, for how energetic those kids will at bedtime. Sorry.

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Trip to the zoo \ new experiences as not to become ostrich-cized

Last week I was in school, carrying on, business as usual with my Kindergarten class.

In the middle of teaching, another lady from the Kindergarten department politely knocked on my door, and asked me to sign a piece of paper, all in Thai.  This was nothing out of the ordinary, however I later released that I’d just agreed to being held partly responsible for helping to take all the kids to the zoo, and if any were lost or harmed, I’d be in a lot of trouble.

So the next day, in I came to school in my trousers, and best mind frame, to help take several mini bus loads of 5 year olds to Chiang Rai Zoo.

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Only my 5 year olds come with this much swag.

So all the kids were lined up with military precision, bar the odd finger up nose and kicking each other in between the legs; and I was assigned 17 little people, who speak no English, and told not to lose them, and to meet at “The Zoo”.

Onto a mini bus we climbed, whilst the driver lowered the television so we could all view some child friendly cartoons, as I’m sure you would imagine.  However; no.  Instead he decided to play a series of incredibly sexualised music videos, full of scantily clad girls, making very awkward suggestive dance moves, whilst all the five year olds on the bus sang along to every word perfectly.

After a 15 minute journey of both disbelief and actual travelling, we arrived at “The Zoo”.  We all offloaded from our separate mini buses and made our way to the front entrance, where there was a big sign in Thai, which one can only assume said something along the lines of “Welcome to the Zoo’.  Or perhaps no one even really knows.

We continued to get the children into some kind of order, with the head of Kindergarten bringing with her a microphone, attached to a mini amp, held in her handbag.  I thought that was a great touch (!)  Again, the children got orders screamed and shouted at them, which saw them stomp their feet in unison and scream things back in Thai.  I looked on in bemusement, trying to help with whatever I could, which generally speaking is trying to get them to stop eating whatever they find up each other’s noses.

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The chaos of organising Kindergarten

Thailand wouldn’t be Thailand without around a half an hour interval for photo taking, with an array of different poses, from the one finger in the air (bringing back thoughts of The Fugees singing “Killing Me Softly” from the 90’s) to a very enthusiastic thumbs up from all involved.

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After this, one of the staff from “The Zoo” took the microphone and handbag amp, and took us over to an open shed, where lots of cages lay.  From these cages, he proceeded to pull a series of reptiles.  Showing these to the children, they were all amazed, some a little scared, however it was good fun and a few of us enjoyed holding them.  And then he brought out two tarantulas,  at which point I made a fierce jump to the furthest possible point.  Still holding some form of lizard, too petrified to go near the staff / tarantulas, I spent a good 15 minutes watching from under a far tree, as the guy proceeded to shove these massive spiders in the faces of screaming 5 year olds, even placing one on top of a child’s hat, and laughing as the child had no clue.

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blluurrrgggghhh

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Once I’d been fully assured by a fellow teacher that these spiders were back in their boxes, I approached the staff, to remind them that I was still holding one of their reptiles.  With great thanks, (as he’d certainly not realised) he took the lizard and replaced it in its cage.

From there we moved on to these angry looking “Alligator Snapping Turtles”.  I’ll tell you this much.  They were not crocodiles; which is what this guy informed the children they were.  However, I chuckled and we moved on to the goats.

The ever famous "crocodile".

The ever famous “crocodile”.

Or the goats moved on to us.  We were all stood around the water tank when a herd suddenly charged, and joyfully jolted around these 5 year olds. The same height as the goats.   Which was beautiful to watch.  I don’t know who was bleating / screaming in each other’s faces more.

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After some goat feeding we moved on to the giant tortoises, and then some snakes kept in Tupperware (I didn’t agree with this place at all, and did have continued sympathy for these creatures), finishing with the salamanders kept in a tank roughly the same size as them.  It wasn’t nice, and it was far from a zoo, and I did point this out many times, however this is the norm for them, and they’ve never seen a zoo, or an animal rehabilitation centre like we have in the West, and I guess I just felt obliged to go along with it, even though this did result in me feeling somewhat guilty.  However, I still found myself taking a selfie with a giant tortoise.

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We then made our way about ten minutes back towards town, to Wana Ostrich and Horse Farm.

Here, we sat on mats that we had brought with us, and unloaded the packed lunches whilst the children fed themselves on rice and juices.  Meanwhile, the Kindergarten department had seemed to have paid for quite the spread for the teachers; as we tucked into piping hot roasted chicken, crunchy pork, and steaming rice with coconut milk.

After this, THE WHOLE group of children queued up to take it in turns to ride on a horse and carriage.  The horse and carriage took about 8 children at once.  There was one horse and carriage.  So I spent an hour and a half entertaining the rest of the waiting kids, by pretending they were aeroplanes and flying them over my shoulders.  Who needs the gym when you teach Kindy, hey?

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When the children had finished their turns on the horse and carriage, they were allowed to enter a paddock, which contained a few sheep, some goats and a couple of small donkeys.  Before this, the kids were encouraged to spend their 20Baht they’d each brought with them, on buying a bunch of grass, with which to feed the animals.  However, in this case, the animals had thought of a cunning plan, in which to outsmart these tiny people.  As soon as the children entered the paddock, the animals bombarded them.  All being the same height, whilst the kids were screaming with joy and excitement, the animals went straight for them, and grabbed the food right out of their hands.

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This, I have to say, is where most of this month’s wages went.  On me buying them all a fresh load of grass, and carrying it to the middle of the paddock for them, so that they could get further than two metres inside, without the whole lot being grabbed.

They ran around some more, playing arcade-like games, shooting targets, and throwing darts at balloons, before we all made our way over to the ostrich section.

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A very lovely Thai man took his time to explain to the children that ostriches are birds, and they lay huge eggs, and people like making handbags out of them, etc etc.  All this time there were two very angry looking ostriches behind him, running in circles sporadically around a pen, with a huge sign saying “Ostrich Riding…Once Time In Your Life”.  (Please note this was not MY typo for once).

At the end of the educational talk, I jokingly asked one of the Thai teachers if she’d take a ride on an ostrich.  Before I could do anything to stop this, she was excitedly telling the farm owner that the white chick wanted a go on the ostrich, whilst the entirety of Kindergarten erupted with “Chai Teacher Kate!  Chai!”.  You don’t have to be Thai to realise they wanted me to ride that massive bird.

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With severe apprehension, but wanting to do anything to make those little faces smile, I ducked under the fence, into the pen, and hesitantly towards the largest bird in the world.  They gave me a little step ladder, whilst one of the younger men pulled a blindfolded ostrich toward me.  Being rather famous for not being the brightest of creatures, not being able to see what was happening, made the ostrich very docile, and it just stood there as I slowly and shakily climbed up its back, hooking my feet underneath its wings.  There were no reins, and no saddle, so I was told to hold on by grabbing onto its wings, right by its armpits….or wing-pits if you will.  I leant back, and was asked if I was ready.  Not being able to speak through apprehension and sheer confusion, I grunted, and the bag was whipped of its head.  The children and staff cheered, as the bird suddenly realised it had a passenger.  I screamed as I suddenly realised I was on an ostrich.

Note the RIDICULOUS bag over its head

Note the RIDICULOUS bag over its head

It ran around the track wildly as I clung on for dear life, screaming and laughing, and thinking “my friends at home have actual jobs and I’m riding an ostrich”.  (Don’t take that the wrong way Dad, I still have a very serious job out here).

Here’s a series of photos to highlight the experience.  SO stupid:

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It lasted just a few minutes and was scarier than Space Mountain, however I loved it.  My only regret was not having my GoPro camera attached to my head to film it all.

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After

Maybe I’ll just have to go back.

And with that, and very sore back side, it was time to return to school.

I’d had a brilliant day, even though some parts went against what was right in my eyes, the kids were screaming with joy and delight, and when that’s how you finish your day; how can you  be sad?

Only a month late…Loy Krathong

After all the excitement in the classroom of celebrating Loy Krathong, my friends and I decided we also ought to celebrate the festival.

So we made our way down to the banks of the River Kok, where the festivities were taking place. I saw festivities like it was the lovely Buddhist festival we had been lead to believe would happen, however it was more of a neon market, selling beers and cuddly toys, or even a litter of puppies if you so wished.

However, realizing that this was a modern twist on a traditional activity, we continued, and not to miss out, we bought some beers to aid our celebrations, even though the weather was a little rainy.

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We made our way through the swarms of people, closer to the river. On the way we kept seeing bags of fish, crabs, eels and other river dwelling creatures. These were being kept in tiny plastic bags, knotted up, with the minimal amount of water possible for the fish and such like to be contained within. The idea of this was for passersby to buy these, and then release them into the river once more. I’m unsure whether this is to “please the river spirits” or to bring good luck to the one that completes the deed. However, I just couldn’t stand to see these huge trout in tiny little bags. So I bought all the big fish that I could afford, said my apologies to the little sand crabs who I felt didn’t need my help quite so much, and together we released them back into freedom and the River Kok. Where no doubt, they will have just been caught further downstream to meet the same cruel fate all over again. But I don’t need to think about that.

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So armed with my Krathong I had made earlier in class, we removed our shoes, and all waded barefoot into the river, screaming every couple of moments as we felt an eel or scaly fish squirm past our ankles.

We collectively posed for photos with each other, and all our Krathongs, before lighting our candles and incense, and setting these free to sail down the river. It was really lovely to see so many people coming to release their Krathongs, an offering to please the river spirits. In the distance, fireworks were set off (although scaring us a little, being set off in any random direction by teenage boys) however it was still a really lovely atmosphere.

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Annoyingly though, the children that kept hanging around us, would chase the Krathongs after we’d released them, steeling the incense and candles, I presume to resell at a later date. However, where there’s potential money to be made, Thai kids will certainly give it a try.

After this, we lit a couple of paper lanterns, and released them up into the sky, which was really lovely.

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Aside from the dangerous and scary fireworks, it was a great night, and really nice to see lots of people coming out to celebrate the old tradition, even if the new tradition involved lots of beers, and tacky fairground rides.

It was another great experience in a city with so many surprises.

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