Village Voice

Amy Salmon's E-Mail from Thailand (Part 8)

The first week went well, although it was a busy one.  I have thirteen different groups of kids for a half-hour each, so I'll be hopeless with their names.  I think I'm going to enjoy working at Dara.  There will be a lot more dealing with Thai culture and bureaucracy, which should be interesting and a challenge.  There's enough bureaucracy dealing with a school of 8,000 students and 400 teachers in the United States, so add in the complexity of it being a completely different culture, with unwritten rules that you find out about after you've inadvertently broken them, and stir.  I love it, though; it's one of the reasons I took the job -- for the opportunity to experience Thailand in a way that I wouldn't be able to do if I were just proofreading -- and to get an experience I can't get anywhere else, the bad parts along with the good. 

 Last week -- I think it was my third day -- there was tons of excitement because the kids were going to get to see a buffalo.  There's an "old" field behind the kindergarten building that's a rice paddy, and the kids were going to see how a rice paddy gets planted.  Unbeknownst to me, that begins with a buffalo.  So I got to watch a Thai buffalo and its handler preparing a rice paddy for sowing, along with several hundred Thai children, ages 3-6, and their Thai teachers.  It was quite the time.  All of the littlest kids had never seen this process before, so every time the buffalo came around to where they were, they clapped and cheered.  (Since it was a small field, this happened a lot.)  After the buffalo had finished his part, a small group of kids dressed in grubby clothes got to help with the actual rice planting.  That was hilarious -- they got into this knee-deep mud, knelt down, and stuck little groups of rice plants in not-so-neat rows.  Predictably enough, they all fell down in short order, earning laughs from all of the kids who were still watching.  They got tired after about half of one row, and the professionals took over, planting the rest of the field with astonishing speed.  The last thing they did was put in the fish, whose job it is to swim in the rice paddy and eat the bugs who are trying to feed on the growing rice, as well as to poop in the field, thus adding nitrates that feed the rice.  When the rice gets harvested, the fish does, too, completing Amy's favorite meal in one handy place!   

I'm in the process of moving to my new place...I really don't have more than my clothes and some books and DVDs, but it was going to be a strain on the cheap backpack I bought in Bangkok to carry it all at once, so I'm going to make another trip across town on Tuesday and bring the rest, and get my deposit back and turn in my keys.  I'm sleeping in my new place now, though.  The website is if you want to check it out.  It's more of a long-term hotel than the place I was before.  Since it'll be for a shorter amount of time -- as soon as the apartments on campus are done I'm moving there -- I thought it would be nice for a while. 

I like the atmosphere; it feels a lot more like I'm living in Thailand than my other place did.  The most telling sign of that is that several times a day I can hear the call to prayer outside my window.  I'd bet it's from a nearby mosque, and it's the muezzin, but it could be Buddhist, too, I guess.  My instinct says it's the five-times-a-day-facing-Mecca call I'm hearing, though.  

 I thought that last month's visa run was going to be my last, so I decided to go up and spend the night in the area and see a little more of it, figuring I wouldn't be headed up that way again.  It's a truly beautiful area around the Thai/Burmese border -- the mountains are spectacular and there's some really nice vegetation.  The fog, clouds, and dramatic skies the monsoons bring with them against the backdrop of the mountains is stunning.  I had fun on the bus rides just looking at all of the passing rice paddies, now that they've been planted for the rainy season, and I know for sure what they look like, thanks to my session with the Thai buffalo. 

 It ended up being a nice little trip -- I spent the night in Mae Sai about 3 km from the border in a hotel called the Phu View Resort.  I have no idea what Phu is, nor was there much of a View, and it's reaching to call it a Resort.  However, I had my own little cottage-type thing, so you know I loved that.  Plus, it was really cheap, which is my favorite part about staying in hotels in Thailand. The oddest thing about it was that at first I had no English channels on the television, which is rare, especially in a hotel catering essentially to foreigners. So I asked the front desk clerk, who had come to get me in my little house to drive me to the restaurant for dinner and whose English was minimal, if there really weren't any channels in English.  She said, "Oh, we have to turn them on for you.  What do you want, HBO?"  "Yes," I replied happily, "HBO would be great."  She said she'd take care of it and I went off to have dinner.  When I got back and checked out the TV situation, the only English channel anywhere to be found was TBN -- Trinity Broadcasting Network.  Argh!  Little did I know you could even get that in Thailand.  It was not quite HBO Asia, which was what I was expecting.  So I have no idea what the woman was actually saying, but clearly it wasn't HBO, and as a result the only thing on to watch that wasn't in Thai was Kirk Cameron telling me how to evangelize by emphasizing to people the consequences of hell.  Good times!  Fortunately, I also had a book.

 Return to Village Home Page