Thursday, October 2, 2008

Smooth Talking 101

TAG - Mango with a side of fried Bananas.

Another interesting day... but mostly good. I had a morning class from 10-noon that was pretty quiet. I'd had them twice before though, so I felt comfortable going in. Then I had two new Business English classes in the evening, 4:30-6pm & 6:30 - 8:30pm (unfortunately the first one is off campus, half an hour away - you do the math!)

I'm going to Bangkok tomorrow to get my work permit & extend my visa, so today at lunch Pink took me to get the bus ticket. I hopped on the back of her motorbike and off we went. After that she took me to a Chinese temple for lunch. There's a vegetarian festival in Thailand every year in October. I don't totally understand why - it's related to Buddhism, but as we walked past the temple, Pink didn't wai (a sign of respect) or stop at the alter or anything... she just took me down to the big hall where the food was. It was somewhat communal, dishes, chopsticks and rice in the center of the room... then they bring four prepared dishes to your table. One was a spinach & tofu dish (delicious!!), a carrot & jicama broth based soup, Chinese bamboo and mushrooms, and some other thing that was brown and spicy. The food was really good, and Pink was surprised that I could use chopsticks. Score one for the farang girl! =) when we got up to go I asked how much it was, and she said it was free. So, I guess it was like a church supper kind of thing.

On the way back though, she went over a rock and got a flat tire. I felt really bad, because I'm not exactly a skinny little asian girl, and in addition to my fat farang butt, I carry with me about 20+lbs of books in my backpack. I kinda felt like it was my fault. But of course Pink didn't say anything, and it only cost 40B to fix, so it wasn't a huge crisis. It did mean, however, that it took us an extra half hour to get back to school. I had about 2 hours to plan for my two evening classes. I did it though, not the best lessons in the world - but I wasn't going to be going into the classroom blind. Or so I thought!

The card for my off campus class said they'd been assigned two different things for homework, so I had planned to start by reviewing them. OF COURSE they didn't do it. So I had them do one of the activities in class and it threw me off a bit. Not too bad, but I went over by about 5 minutes. No problem, except that I was 30 minutes away from my 6:30 class...and there was traffic.

No problem... no problem, the Thai people are pretty laid back, so when I got into class all my students were there, no one seemed upset. Almost all my students work at the local Petroleum processing plant, the electric company, or a manufacturing plant. Most are literally blue-colar workers, wearing uniforms with their names on them. I started by introducing myself and said they could ask any questions they wanted - a dangerous gambit - but they're an elementary class... how bad could it be? Oh lordy. So they start by asking where I come from, am I married, why did I choose Thailand, what did I study at University, etc. Their English is actually really fluent... not perfectly accurate, but they communicated well. And then, one of the guys asks me - "Why are you so beautiful?" =O The guys laughed and I said "Because my mother is very beautiful." And the other guys were like "You look lovely." and I was like "Where did you learn this stuff?"

When I started to take attendance it became clear that I had the wrong info card for the class.... and had prepared the entirely wrong lesson. =( Roll with the punches, roll with the punches. I scrapped the book and decided to just talk to them. I had them start by introducing themselves. But I could soon tell that half the class was completely checked out - so I told them to ask each other questions. The first question to pop up? "How many girlfriends do you have?" LOL. Eventually the guys told me that hey all knew each other really well, so I had them introduce each other...and things just went out of control from there. I mean, with one guy they said he played football (soccer) really well, but there was a lot of "He has many many girlfriends." "He really likes beautiful women." and with one of them it was "He's a smooth talker." and they all started immitating him on the phone to women "You look so lovely." "Hello beautiful..." "oh baby, I love you so much." and I just bust up. I completely disolved into giggles. And then of course they'd laugh at me, and I'd start laughing again. All through class I'd look at the guy and just start giggling again. Not the most professional start to this class.

Eventually I had them crack open the book, and we very loosely followed a couple of the activities. Mostly we had a roundtable discussion about Starbucks' business plan, and the pros & cons of mega-marts like Carrefour & Walmart. More of a business discussion than any kind of grammar lesson... but I'll call it a 'freer practice fluency exercise' and call it good. Next week I will at least know what to plan for. I told them I'd make them work really hard.... but I really don't think they believed me.

So overall today was good. But I'm a little freaked out about tomorrow. I don't know what to expect from Bangkok - I've heard that it's hot & dirty & crowded... not my favorite things. Plus there's the whole travel time and switching trains and waiting for who knows how long in the immigration office. None of it sounds fun. But I've also heard there's a giant mall where I can get any kind of western food that I want. So I might just camp out there for an hour or two being farang-girl eating any kind of cheese type food I can get my hands on, and that's as much 'sight seeing' as I have planned.

I don't know, sometimes I feel like the worst tourist, I really haven't explored as much of Thailand as one might expect for having been here for over a month. I barely know any Thai, and really haven't been all that adventurous with regards to eating new foods or talking to new people. I'm experiencing a lot of new things for me, but I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of what kinds of experiences one *can* have here. But then I think... do I really want to be a tourist? Or do I want to experience life in another culture? Because I feel like I'm doing that - as authentically as I can.


Michael5000 said...

You are, as always, rocking the house. You haven't done tourist things 'cause you aren't on a tourist trip. You've done SO MUCH and done SO WELL by yourself; I always want to say "stop feeling bad about the things you haven't done."

But it's not my trip, so you can feel bad about things you haven't done if you want to! : )

BTW: You are much better at handling classroom surprises than I am.

Bezzie said...

Men are men in any culture! Hee hee!!

I'll never forget when I worked in CO going over pre-employment papers with some migrant workers and explaining it to them in my very limited Spanish. The asked me in English if I had a boy friend and then--if I had a sister when I told them I was married. They spoke to each other in Spanish as I sat there watching them fill out their forms and I understood that they were still talking about me and in a dirty old man way--and the worst part was my Espanol wasn't good enough to come up with a snappy comeback!

Heather said...

Are you there on vacation, or are you there to do something different with your life? Don't worry about what you haven't seen, or done. or whatever. You've been exposed to the most authentic kind of experience that I would imagine a stranger, with no friends/family, could have in Thailand. Enjoy yourself!

Rebel said...

M5K - please say it, often & loudly. Kthxbai. =)

Bezzie - it's true, they seem mostly harmless but I'll rein things in a bit more next class.

Heather - I am here for a new life experience... but also to have some fun. Just trying to strike the right balance.

Olga said...

Well, Your are getting your share of fiber from all the veggies your eating!!