Village Voice

Amy Salmon's E-Mail from Thailand (Part 10)

As the Thais say, mai pen rai – “no worries.”  Impatience gets you nowhere here, nor does losing your temper.  It just doesn't get no response or respect when you try to deal with people that way.  Not something I tend to do, really, although I'll admit it depends on how much sleep I've had, etc., but I've watched others try.  I'd love to see some of my customers from Starbucks on Park Avenue or PetSmart in Silver Spring try to get their way dealing with the Thais in the same way they dealt with us.  It'd be hysterical.  Their heads would just explode with frustration, I think.  I'm not saying it doesn't occasionally drive me up the wall, but it's such a marked cultural difference that there's just no point in trying to buck the trend.  Realizing that helps curb the tendency to get impatient; it becomes a "pick your battles" kind of thing. 

 This could become a mantra for me as I attempt to mount a full dramatic production involving several hundred people, because the big thing in the works at school for me is the play.  It looks like I will indeed be pretty much in charge of it.  I say pretty much because at Dara, all roads lead to the Director, Dr. Ratsamee, who holds the veto for everything.  Fortunately, Dr. Ratsamee seems to be pretty cool and has spent lots of time in the West, so she understands foreigners and their POV.  At least that's my impression of her so far, based on my own interactions with her and what I've gleaned from talking to others.  And she's the one who originally told me she wanted me to run it when she interviewed me, and again said I was going to lead it when I happened to run into her the other day -- and not in response to my asking her, but in introducing me to the head of the PTA, whose name I cannot remember even though I'd actually met him before -- so that seems like a good sign. 

 I've also got a helpful Thai sidekick, whose name is Ajarn Suchada.  She's great and speaks really good English.  We've had a couple of meetings and she's worked on the plays in the past, which will be nice, and she also wants me to run it.  She's basically told me to tell her what I need and she'll help me make it happen on the Thai side of things, i.e. language and the large contingent of Thai teachers.  Which works fine for me -- there needs to be one director of a show, not two.  Someone has to make the final decisions and oversee everything.  I'm going on the assumption that that's me -- in a properly non-confrontational Thai way -- unless I hear differently from Dr. Ratsamee. 

 Now I just need to figure out what I need and want and how to run it and we'll have ourselves a show!  I'm just kidding.  Every play I've ever been involved with will help with that, and I'm really not worried that I don't know what to do.  (Unless it turns out that I have to choreograph dance numbers, and then all bets are off.  But that's why Ajarn Amy will be delegating that particular task to someone who has talent in that area.  Anyone other than her will be just fine.)  Somehow or other the show always goes on, and I don't think I was ever convinced any one of them wasn't going to be a disaster until the curtain fell after the first performance, and even then there was the next night's show to worry about.  I know what needs to happen and where to start...with a script, auditions, casting, and blocking.  So for the moment we have chosen a show, Aladdin, and I'm in the process of putting together sides for auditions and coming up with a script.    

 I'm excited by the challenge of it, especially getting the kids to focus on telling a story and having fun doing it, by getting them to understand what they're saying, and by getting their English to improve without their even realizing it, because they're not worried about it.  I want them focused on listening and reacting, and telling a story, not on perfect pronunciation.  The pronunciation will take care of itself.  If they get what they're saying, so will the audience.  Acting, after all, is all about communicating, and so is language.  It's a great opportunity to bring a lot of what I've learned and done in a lot of different areas together, and I intend to savor it.  And if that doesn't work I'll just keep repeating mai pen rai, mai pen rai, mai pen rai..

 Coming in the next exciting installment...more on the rainy season, what song/craft I managed to come up with for next week, and whether I found an existing script I could use for Aladdin or had to write one myself based on the DVD. 

And with that, I'm going to end this email, since it's roughly as long as War and Peace, or at least Hamlet.  I hope it doesn't get kicked back for being over the size limit!

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