Thursday, December 30, 2004

Tsunami Thoughts

I dont think I can really let the year go by without putting down some thoughts about what happened down the coastlines of the various countries here.

First off I am glad to say that no one I know was killed. As time has gone by, gradually reports came in of friends, ex colleagues and friends of friends who were down there but all survived. Some are still in hospital but thankfully not seriously injured. One person I know lived down there and his house was basically wiped out but through sheer luck he moved back to America at the start of this month.

I will leave all the who didnt do what and why to other sites such as Thai Visa as quite frankly it just bores me. Its one of these things that distance, for me at least, seems to definately have an effect on how an incident touches me. If I were back home I probably would be going yes very sad next please. Here it has - not changed me - but definately it does make an emotional connection.

It is probably one of these mysterious ways that God has, that ensured there was no way I would be down there again - I was in Patong for a week in June. Our school basically only gave us the weekend of Christmas day off. Other schools I know have 2 or 3 weeks off. If I had that I would certainly have gone out of Bangkok somewhere.

But, I think, even if I had been I would have been ok as I probably would have had a hotel back on the 2nd road, I would probably have not left the hotel yet, I would probably have not been on the ground floor and probably I would not have been on the beach ( unless I had got some excursion that lasted a full day organised ). A lot of probablies I know. The scary thoguht is that if I had gone ot one of the smaller islands, the odds are I would have been in some little bamboo bungalow near the shore and well, given the sheer devastation I have seen on the likes of Phi Phi island, I dont know what would have happened.

Again the standard of english in the english language press releases shows no bottom.

" Pravit Janyasittikul, vice-president of marketing at Central Pattana Plc, the operator of Central World Plaza, said the company had called off its Bangkok Countdown 2005 New Year event. Instead, it has launched a relief programme called the ''Biggest Wave of Your Generosity'', which is now accepting donations."

I mean did somebody not think that oh, we have just had the biggest Tsunami in 100 years, lets not call the campaign the "Biggest Wave" It just beggars belief sometimes this country. Did somebody somewhere not have a dictionary??

Since its happened the number of stories about the heroics and generosity of individuals show again that basically, we humans, can actually be human from time to time and stop all the bullshit that we think is important.

Its just a shame that we only tend to do it when the shit has hit the fan and not all the time.

Where ever you are, remember the most important things in life are ( in no particular order ) love, family, friends and health. Everything else is disposable.

Have a Good New Year and may it be better than this one.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Super Teachers!

We have a guy in the office who started at the second semester and he comes over as basically a pompous ass who thinks he is better than everyone else.

He likes to think of himself as a great teacher because he does all this stuff with his kids. Hmm, the reality is he has got them doing all this flashy stuff creating diaramas and posters and what not with about 2 sentences of english. The rest of the time is taking up with colouring in, cutting up, gluing and so on and so on. In other words the kids love it and there is something flashy at the end of it to show off how busy he was but how much have they actually learned?

He also is a space hog - so the people sitting beside him come in to find his bag on their chair, his books / activities in their space and so on. He also bought two plastic "office tidy ups" for all his papers, pens and so on and so on, so they actually take up almost his entire space before anything else goes on. Fortunately I am not one of those beside him but those that are are pissed off. It may sound trivial but in a small staffroom personal space can be a big issue.

He is also apparently turning up late for classes, he comes out of classes quite a few times during lessons to come back to the staffroom to pick up stuff he "forgot" and so on and so on. We are supposed to be here at 7.50. He has decided off his own bat that as he doesnt start working til 9.30 or so some morning he will come in around 9! Now in theory, he is allowed 4 late arrivals before he is docked on of the 3 sick days we are allowed each semester.

And for me the worst thing that someone could possibly do - he noisily SLURPS his coffee!! EEUUUCCCHHH!!!

I would love to know if he has been spoken to about his time keeping. I wont hold my breath though.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Xmas & Some Stats

I hope everyone is having a happy Xmas Day where ever you are in the world and are not working - unlike me.

Apologies to Firefox users. For some reason the addition of the google search box at the bottom of the page has moved to the top of the right hand column. I have no idea why that is, it was fine a couple of days ago and it doesnt do that in IE. Hey Ho!

Some geeky stats for you now.

16% of you are using Firefox, 79% IE, 2% Mozilla, 1% each for Netscape and a couple of versions of Opera.

64% are using XP, 15% Windows 2000, 12% W98, 5% some variation of Mac OS ( I know who you are RickF! ), 1% unknown and 3% Windows Millenium.

Looking at where you are browsing from - as in domains its pretty mixed with at 1%, 2% ( Storekeeper is that you? ), ac.uk1%, 1% and pc7at 6% is the biggest identifiable one. The majority arent trackable and just are classed as IP numbers - 43%.

According to Organisation tracking, I have got 53% tracked as IP addresses, 17% as .net, 13% as .com, 5% as .th, 3% as .uk, 2% as .mil, 2% as .fr, 2% as .ca, 1% as .no, 1% as .edu and 1% as .au

If you recognise yourself well done !

For some reason the 23rd is the most popular day to visit. Must go back and see what I posted on those days! November has been the most popular month.

Ah well. A whole day and a half holiday. Better go and enjoy it.

Keep Safe & Well.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Xmas Cheer In A Bangkok School

I would like to say there is some but basically there aint.

Too much uncertainty still abounds about what is happening next year. The agency still havent officially confirmed what is happening with the contract, if we will be offered new jobs at other schools etc etc.

Add to that this is a marking / report card week where we say ( or rather would like to ) in as many ways as possible that little Somchai is a lazy little shit who we would happily beat around the head until our hands bleed and that we have to perform for the head brothers a couple of christmas carols this afternoon like performing monkeys and that I am not sleeping properly for some reason the last couple of nights and for some reason the fact that I am not at home with my family for Xmas and that we dont get any Xmas holidays and in fact have to work on Xmas morning to attend the brilliantly timed Xmas fair set up by the school and that the are now playing Xmas tunes over the school loudspeakers and that I have a headache and you will probably guess that I am not really in the best of moods today.

What a wonderful Christian school we work at. No extra holidays for Xmas because Xmas day is on a Saturday and they make us work part of it to boot. Back to work as normal on Monday.

Wow. Thanks a lot guys.


It turns out that tomorrow is a holiday after all. Oh yes, the agency knew 2 weeks ago that tomorrow would be a holiday. When did they tell us? This morning! Spastic power hungry fuckers who like to play little mind / power games to try and show who is in control. ( apologies to spastics )

Oh yes, out of the 18 teachers here, how many did the agency invite to the agency xmas party? Two. One of whom just started. So the rest of us who have been here, one year, two years or god forbid 3 years are not invited. And of course, they privately ask the invitees to try and keep the fact that there is a party secret.

And then they wonder why no one is happy.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Pretentious Teachers

Just how pretentious and arrogant are teachers?

The reason I am asking this is a conversation I heard last night in a bar in Silom. It consisted of four teachers, three of whom looked the earnest late 20s out to change the world types and one maybe middle 30s. I suppose that the conversation is a fairly harmless one but it was more the style than the content that had me nearly spilling my beer at times at the whole pretentiousness of it all. As they were talking about different subjects, I am again guessing they were in some English Program somewhere at a better school.

The heat of the discussion was, which is the most vital subject that is being taught today.

Now part of the trouble is that when you are trying to listen to a conversation you shouldn’t be and you are in a public place, you can’t really make it so obvious that you are trying to listen in. Also you tend to miss parts of the conversation.

I wonder if this is a common debate in staffrooms across the lands - my subject’s better than your subject! I really don’t know if they ever stopped to think about just how bad the conversation sounded from the outside. They can’t even have the excuse they were drunk because they weren’t, it was still early afternoon. I think maybe about after 40 minutes or so I gave up and went to another bar as they were still at it.

As ever, it seemed to be the history teacher that had the most to say, how people must learn the past so they don’t make mistakes in the future, the past has many lessons etc etc.
What is it about history teachers? All the ones I have known have loved the sound of their own voice. The last one I worked with was so opinionated that once I had learned the lesson, I never raised particular subjects, walked away when some came up or just went to sleep - mentally. Especially if he had drunk a few. It was then a case that you weren’t really in a conversation, you were in a lecture and you got lectured and any viewpoint was totally dismissed as worthless and you were thought of as an idiot.

But moving on, a lot of teachers here – especially in the “better” schools - do seem to be quite full of their own self importance. I have spoken to a few who seem convinced they were changing the world with the one hour or two a week they see their kids, for how the kids loved them and would press their little faces again the glass window of the classroom eager to get it and learn from them.

It may be different for some people, but I didn’t have a particular teacher that did that to me at school. Sure, there were teachers I respected because they knew their stuff and made it interesting but me running up to the door to press my little face against the classroom door? Please, pass the sick bucket.

The teachers at the lower end seem to have a much better expectation of what impact they have. They know that maybe they will get one or two kids that pay attention in a class or want to learn quietly and maybe just maybe they can pass some encouragement onto the kids. The rest? Well, do your best and hope they will shut up once in a while and maybe one or two will remember you in six months time. The only reason these kids might run up to the classroom window is because they know the will get to play games and run around all lesson.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

American Insensitivity

Its been a while since I have had a rant about some of the others teachers. So today seems a good one after what happened.

We have 5 pcs in the staffroom. Four of which the teachers use and one for the Thai assistants. They are both female and relatively young – mid / early 20s. One of them in particular has really good English, as in she understands about 90% of what we talk about, can make a very good guess of another 5% and will make a reasonable stab at the rest.

For most of today, the internet access was down. But around lunchtime Cleric found out that the pc used by our thai assistants still had access. It seems that the school system administrators have been playing around with the network settings to deny us access. Why this is, I have no idea. Maybe its one of these things they are doing to show even more that they don’t want us or they need the bandwidth for something or whatever I have no idea. Anyway, Cleric starts complaining about it and how "we need our porn" and "fucking this" and "fucking that" and on and on. In some ways a bit understandable if it was just the guys who had been around, after all, I am not adverse to a bit of juicy language at times.

The trouble is that the two Thai assistants were there and very much in earshot.

But it gets worse. As you may remember, Cleric is an ex IT guy, so what does he do? He changes the network settings of on one pc so he can get on the internet. He of course doesn’t offer to do it for anyone else. Nah, that would mean he was thinking of someone else for a change. When someone else from his teaching group saw that, he asked Cleric to change the settings on another pc. Fair enough. Then the fun begins. This other teacher started surfing and opened up a web site that had… well err…. pictures that could only be described as porn. So, Cleric saw this and went to the same site. Now to the bit that gets me into the disbelieving stage. They were on two ajoining pc’s with one of our printers in between. Using the printer at that time was one of our Thai assistants. It just so happens that one of the models has a name similar to our assistant. They then unbelievably make a loud comment about the similarity.

So lets recap. At lunchtime in the staffroom ( admittedly all male teachers ), which both Thai staff and students sometimes come into, two teachers were looking at porn while our two young female assistants were in the office, not only that, they were looking at it on two pcs while she was using a printer in between them!

Sheer and absolute stupity!!!

It gets worse. Our boss – the FUD - actually saw that and was laughing about it afterwards.

OK, lets review again. He sees two teachers, looking at porn while a female Thai assistant is beside a pc and he thinks it’s a joke.

I do not know, if he has actually spoken to or intending to speak to these two or not. But, I mean for gods sake, how about some discipline?

How about some common sense? How about some thought for the feeling of
a) the setting – during the day where students, Thai teachers and administrators could come in
b) the setting – where our two young female staff are in the office
c) the setting – where one of them is actually BESIDE the pc where they are looking at porn
d) not swearing in front of women – I know that’s a bit old fashioned but…

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident of Cleric lack of thought and feeling for others. A few weeks ago, he was complaining about having to live in an apartment that costs 10,000 baht a month to one of the other teachers over in one area of the office. Just listening to him whine was bad enough, but, he was sitting at the Thai assistants desk and one of them was sitting there.

So to recap, he was complaining about having to live in a hovel that costs as much per month as the girl gets in her monthly salary ( if not more ). I mean how would you like it if some fat arsed foreigner who gets 4 times your salary complaining about having to live in some “poor” place that costs your monthly salary. I know I wouldn’t like it, but she is far too polite to complain.

What she must say in private, I have no idea but I can guess it wont be good. All these rich falang who dont care what they say or do, look at porn....... Thank you for making the stereotypical English teacher image stronger than ever.

The sooner this guy fucks off back to yank land with his little trophy girlfriend the better. Apparently the plan is they will live in an area where there are lots of Thais and she will teach Thai. Hmmm. Potential problem here I think. Perhaps if there are lots of Thai people they can already speak Thai? There is a great suspicion that basically once she gets over there and finds out that there are far more handsome, just as rich and thinner Americans, he could be in for a very miserable time. If this sounds like jealousy, I suppose in a little way it is as I don’t have a regular girlfriend and seen how she licks an ice cream ;) but it sure saves a lot of hassle in other ways!!

Anyway, back to the topic. I struggle to find the ways in which what happened was so wrong. Fuckwit.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Thai Kids and Exam Attitudes

Back to the wicked world of exams this week. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

We are only giving two exams just now, a Reading & Writing one and a Listening one. That’s a laugh, them listening. The chance would be a fine thing.

So far, it’s gone pretty much as expected with the usual blank stares, the no hoper efforts and the finished teacher cries after what seems like only 2 minutes from the bright ones. Add in the usual pathetic attempts at teaching, I mean they are not even bright enough to try and copy when I am not looking or more than 1 yard away from their desk!

One thing that was thumped into me at school and especially by my mother - sometimes literally - was the concept of " if you don’t know, put something down and hope you get credit for it anyway" especially in the likes of mathematics where I wasn’t that brilliant, I always ended up putting something down to show what I was trying to do before I got stuck or in the yes / no questions at least a guess. Who knows how many marks I got ( not enough, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. Boom Boom! )

But its crazy the number of kids who just give up and put nothing down, just dashes. I have already started marking and if in a block of 5 questions that they have really got wrong, they will get 0 of course, but if they have made an attempt and by strict marking they would get 0, I am sometimes giving them 1 mark or so depending on how close they were.

One of the sections is about using must or mustn't
the gap sentences are
You --------- feed the animals
You -------- touch the animals
You -------- buy a ticket
You -------- put litter in the bin.

The number who are getting these wrong are scary considering this was only taught two weeks ago. It also maybe explains the number of kids and adults in Thailand who lose limbs or have parts bitten off as they try and touch the nice cuddly lion and oh what big teeth it has. Nice rabid doggy! What do you mean don’t cross the green and brown wirezzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We got told off today because a lot of us are doing marking in the classroom while kids are doing their exam or after they have finished it. Oooh that’s right, the kids might actually find out what their real scores are rather than their pretend wishy washy grade zones are. Of course we can’t let that happen.

I hope that they don’t think we are stupid enough to let the kids see the answers on our desks as we are marking, Nah, probably another control tactic to give us something to do next week when the kids have their Thai exams. As well as writing their mid term progress reports. Then in, oh say February we are marking their full term exams and in March we are writing their full year reports. Talk about overkill. Purlease!

If it actually mattered and anyone took a blind bit of notice about what they said then fine, but they don’t so what’s the point of all the paper work? Control tactics from the agency again, so we look busy and industrious.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Learning Thai

Do we do it? I mean of course learning thai. Err..... the majority, if we are honest will actually say no to this.

The vast majority merely stumble along with maybe 50-60 odd words that we spout out in the hope that they actually mean something and particularly something actually relevent to the conversation you are having.

Probably the biggest barrier is the tones. If you havent got a good ear, words sound exactly the same with a falling, mid, high, rising, low tone or anyother way of saying the blasted word. A lot of times, I just give up and revert to the pointing, mumbling state of tourist terror when they dont understand me. Other times in the 5 ways I say the word I accidently say it with the right inflexion and tone and they understand or someone is listening and they repeat the word to the general nodding of heads and understanding of the person I was speaking to. The trouble is, it sounded exactly like the way I was saying it.

Sometimes, I think it is actually a great conspiracy that Thais have just to make fun of the falang. They just want a bit of fun at the foreigners expense.

The thing of course is confidence. Too many times, we write in our report cards so and so lacks confidence to speak. But what do we do when we have a chance to speak thai? We mumble and stumble or just rely on their English. Not exactly a great example. But, unless I get a fire under my butt and put some effort into learning it properly, I am probably going to continue the same way, picking up a couple of words here and there and maybe in 20 years I will have the Thai level of a 5 year old!

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Its getting cold in Bangkok!

Hard to believe really but it is now feeling pretty cold here in Bangkok.

There have been a couple of times where I have turned off the air con in the classroom and just had the fan on. Its funny watching the kids in their home rooms and the whole logic than goes on here. It seems to be that as soon as the thermometer drops below 30 degrees the kids start wearing jackets and sweatshirts to keep warm. Crazy. Its also the case that they dont seem to be able to regulate the air con thermostat. It just seems to be on or off.

This is true out in the real world as well. So often you see people working with jackets on. Why? Because they are cold. How about changing the air con settings? Cannot do. Err why? Dont know. As usual the double edged sword of living in this country.

Its actually got so cold at night I have put a blanket on the bed. Remarkable considering usually I dont even sleep beneath a sheet. And the stone floor of my living room is so cold that I have to wear socks or put slippers on to keep my feet warm! Good grief, any more of this and it will almost feel like home. I suppose in a couple of months when the hot season starts again I will be looking back at this time with a sense of nostalgia wishing it was colder.

Every so often, I do a little search on google and yahoo and so on, just to see where this site is in their search results. I got a pleasant surprise today to find out I have been mentioned on gadling which is a travelling blog for enagaged travellers. Hmm, not quite sure what that means but hey, more exposure for me.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The run up to exams

Here we are once again in the run up to exams next week and what happens? Its a 2 day teaching week. Just the thing to help the kids prepare dont you think.

A combination of the Kings Birthday, Sports Day and Constitution Day result in vastly reduced hours. I suppose I shouldnt complain but its that old professionalism nagging at the back of my mind again. I really have to get rid of it. Its interfering with my attempts not to give a damm.

At the moment, I am sitting in an internet cafe and boys from the nearest Mathayom school have either cut classes or they have reduced hours as well as they are currently shouting their heads off over Counter Strike which leaves with me a wish that I had a baseball bat or a shotgun with a good supply of shells or indeed both. Oh yes, and earplugs. Just see what I think about noise in a previous rant. I loved the game POSTAL, just the thing to relieve stress by kicking anything living and blowing away the shopkeeper as they charged you too much for a can of coke. ( I will momentarily forget about the big video card requirement this game has and the other drawbacks )

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Thai School Activities

The month of December is filled full of outings, cheering rehearsals ( yes they do get to rehearse how to cheer ), Xmas practice, sports day practice, pratice practice activites and so on and so on.

You soon begin to wonder if the kids can do anything without practising - sorry reality check, no they couldnt.

This has a both pleasant and unpleasant side - doesnt everything? Pleasant side first, well of course, they need time to do all this practice so we dont see the little darlings for as much as usual. Today it worked out I had only one lesson, goodie goodie :) But the unpleasant is really really unpleasant. Our staff room is just about directly above one of the area they have cheering practice in and song practice and anything that involves the kids singing loudly, someone playing a bass drum and an out of tune Thai teacher with microphone leading the song on. At the moment its roughly the tune of When the Saints Go Marching In, so its boom, boom, da daa da daa, boom da da da daa, boom da da daa daa da da daa

There should be a law passed that says anyone who cannot hold a tune or a note for more than 1 second should be banned from singing and the sentence must be immediate execution. That would stop things quite nicely and probably decimate the worlds pop industry as well. Added Bonus !!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Bizzare Sights at School

A few days off due to non internet connectivity at home & work and sheer lazyness to go to a internet cafe resulted in the little break in postings. But I am back BWWAAAAHHHAAAHHAAA!

Earlier today one of my classes was lining up inside their homeroom and their homeroom teacher had just basically fucked off as usual wanting as little interaction with the horrid falang as possible. I thought about opening the door but thought the better of it as they have as little common sense as, well, a thing with very little common sense.

With this particular class even when I ( we the falang ) am in charge of lining them up from a break and sending them into their rooms to get their books and line up again outside its chaos. They always want to battle against each other and go against the prevailing tide so that they can push, shove, thump, bodycheck their way into and out of the classroom unless I physically hold them back or tell / shout to them to again wait until everyone is in the room.

Today it was like a cork coming out a champagne bottle, out they all ran without looking and I unfortunately mistimed getting out the way and they ran yelling and screaming and pushing out of the room. Over, through and a couple I think made it around me. The result was I had footprints and marks on my shoes and somehow on my trousers. If a Thai teacher hadnt been coming down the corridor I would have given those little swine sweet merry hell. She just gave them a looks could kill glance and they shut up. Another example of the level of respect and attention the kids give us and Thai teachers.

And onto bizarre sights, walking to a class at lunchtime today, I was greeted with 5 boys in a corridor in a line spaced about 2 yards apart. Two teachers were there talking to them. A bit strange I thought, maybe the boys were bad and were being punished. Errr, no. Walking a bit more I saw another kid with a football dribbling between the boys to practice his football skills!!! Add to that the number of other boys just moving between classes it was somewhat a surreal sight. No, it wasnt raining and no I have no idea why they could do it down in the playground with cones.

has it really got to the stage where boys are cheaper than traffic cones?