Oct 1, 2008
Posted at 09:38 am by dors76
May 9, 2008
It's never easy starting back at work after a long holiday. As a teacher, a good deal of the worry is based around the following questions: Will I be given a decent timetable? How many year levels will I have to teach? Will my students be nice, or a nightmare? So with the first of these questions answered by Tuesday morning (not necessarily satisfactorily, but I wasn't about to complain), I wasn't anticipating any more surprises.
I and seventy other foreign teachers endured a meeting chaired by the school director. We sat through the slide show on the school's history again, and were reminded that when the missionaries first opened our school, they in fact had to pay students to study here, one of those cute little facts about our school – actually, probably the only cute little fact. Then of course a breakdown of our 'school spirit': honesty, loyalty, responsibility (whatever happened to academic excellence?), and the school motto, which Dr Woranoot read in her painfully halting English – Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. And then, a special paraphrasing followed: 'So, we want… our students to be… overcome by… evil.' Even the fundamentalist Christian next to me giggled into her hand.
An hour or two later, the teachers in my learning stage were handed our classroom keys. We knew that our classrooms were going to be bad, and so they were. Tiny, windowless, crumbling rooms with rusty nails jutting out from the walls and a weird smell, no whiteboards and some even lacking blackboards, backing onto a construction site, they were truly horrible. But, more importantly, after a couple of minutes in this new room of mine, a strange feeling, as though my lungs were compressing. Jon emerged from his room next door complaining that he suddenly had a terrible headache. The first word that sprang to my mind was 'asbestos'.
Jon and I went to the pub after work to talk it over. Perhaps, Jon suggested, we could teach in gas masks?
The next day I got on the internet to do a little research. I discovered that this highly poisonous substance is not illegal in this country, and in fact Thailand is the world's biggest importer of asbestos, shipping it in from the mines of Botswana, Bangladesh, Bhutan and several other unfortunate countries starting with 'b'. And, still on the 'b' theme, just about every building in Bangkok has been insulated with the stuff since the 1930s. As an article in The Nation put it, 'Wherever you are in Bangkok, whether it be a hotel or hospital or school, you can pretty much take it for granted that the building will contain asbestos. No need to panic; just don't drill too many holes in the walls…'
So no cause for alarm then? In fact, half of the building we were in had been demolished a year ago, and at the beginning of last year the back walls of these classrooms had been torn down with it, the rooms left gaping open over the construction site where the school is building a new 20 storey building to match its other two. Since then, the back walls had been rebuilt, but the rooms had been left empty for a year. And now, assigned to us as supposedly usable classrooms. Scary not just for the students who, granted, would only have to in the classrooms for 4 hours a week, but for us as teachers, who would be in there for 30 or 40.
I explained this to the grade 6 teachers in our learning stage, and though they were slightly aghast, they continued on their way to the classrooms with their boxes of equipment. I was a little aghast myself; how could they be so defeatist, so spineless? Yes, the boss is scary, but this is kind of important. 'So I take it you don't want to come and talk to the boss with me then?' I tried talking to more people about it, but you end up feeling like a whiner, and I got the feeling most people either didn't understand or didn't care. After all, the other learning stages had all been given fabulous classrooms, as usual.
I had a few people on my side, though, and one of them was, fortunately, our new coordinator. I convinced him to come into the Department Head's office with me, and we went in armed with a few pages on asbestos I had downloaded from the internet. To my boss's eternal credit, she took the complaint seriously this time, when the subject of health and safety came up, and the reputation of the school – after all the foot and mouth episodes, she could hardly not.
And the upshot? We grade 4 & 5 teachers are being moved back to last year's classrooms for the next two weeks, albeit with no tables or chairs, while there is independent asbestos testing in the dodgy rooms. And, shame, the spineless grade 6 teachers' old rooms have been turned into homerooms for the Thai teachers, which means they will have to spend the next two weeks cursing me while they team teach in the gymnasium.
In the pub last night, I was giving a couple of friends (Canadian, Australian, Irish, Thai) a rundown of these events and after a little while it struck me that they didn't have the foggiest idea what I was talking about. 'So, uh,' asked the Canadian, 'What exactly is this, uh, asabestios?'
And if the results for this testing come up negative? Dora Mills, Public Enemy #1.
Posted at 01:04 pm by dors76
May 2, 2008
Posted at 02:46 pm by dors76
Apr 29, 2008
This is the sort of situation we all do our best to avoid, arrival in a foreign city at night, hours late after a cancelled flight, dreaming of a hotel bed, hopping in an airport cab and being driven round and round through deserted rubbish-strewn streets lined with rundown warehouses, rain pelting the windscreen, taxi metre rising as fast as the sewerage-filled canals, now it's midnight, now it's 1am, and still no sign of any hotel, driver behaving more and more strangely, and you're just waiting for him to park the car in some particularly dark alley where even the mangy dogs cower, bracing yourself for the struggle of your life. But of course, the worst doesn't happen, and although the target cheap hotel has been long since forgotten in the driver's bid to empty the passenger's wallet, it's a relief at 1:30am to pull up at a five star hotel and think of the visa card in the money belt, and to remember that this is the exact situation credit cards were designed for.
Posted at 10:46 am by dors76
Feb 28, 2008
Posted at 03:57 pm by dors76
Feb 25, 2008
I know this couple here in bangkok who are the sort of people that create chaos wherever they go. They met in rehab (this could never be a good story, could it) and came to thailand together. They're alcoholics now, rather than junkies, and have (past tense?) an open relationship. They fell out with each other a couple of weeks ago when he went on a visa run and, while he was away, spent all their money on hookers. Meanwhile she was sleeping with one of her (female) workmates. Later, he came home drunk one night and beat her up - she moved out a couple of days later. Then, as retaliation, she stole some of his stuff, and, in the middle of the night stole his motorbike and drove it into a local canal.
This couple do not remind me of my brother and his girlfriend, who collect discount supermarket vouchers and classify them according to product and price, pinning them to the noticeboard in their kitchen. Their house is wooden, and on stilts; it's identical to every other house in their mountaintop town, and is built over a breathtaking precipice, a terrifying drop. You can stand on their porch and look down into the valley below, and follow the clouds as they pass over the rivers and glens.
After a supermarket trip, my brother and I cruised home on his motorbike down the dirt tracks of his town, me on the back clutching shopping bags while as he nervously negotiated the steep mountain paths (he always was a nervous driver). Suddenly we hit a boulder and spun out of control, racing down a slope and over the clifftop. We found ourselves momentarily spinning in space - that moment of realisation - before plummeting hundreds of metres into the valley below.
Posted at 06:55 am by dors76
Feb 12, 2008
i wanted to prove that i do still exist and this blog is still active. and to prove that it is not a computer writing this, I can recall an old lady chasing me with a stick in a dark Bangkok alleyway (beware if you ever think of bypassing real loos in this country).
The national colour for the last month or so has been BLACK, BLACK, BLACK since the king's sister died, with a day of mild relief on Chinese New Years when the reds came out of the closet. We were just starting to return to more ordinary dress codes when my boss's father died over the weekend, so now it's back to the funerary dress.
Thailand is no longer under military rule - we have a real prime minister (a buddy of Thaksin's, no less) who has had the excellent idea of bannng smoking in all public places - I'm not talking about restaurants and bars, I'm talking in the street, generally. Let's see how long that law lasts.
Meanwhile I'm still working the same job and living in the same apartment, still single and still a satan-worshipping necrophiliac.
Posted at 04:18 pm by dors76
Feb 10, 2008
I am a rebel. I have always been a rebel. And so, naturally, I have always scoffed at the ambitions of conservative society. We are taught as children that our ultimate goal should be to find an appropriate partner, to have children (possibly giving up our career in the process) and to aim for ownership of a home, typically in the suburbs with a little picket fence. And, of course, if we buy into this dream, then the day our house deal comes through is going to be one of the most exciting days of our lives. The same sense of self-congratulation that comes with having children of our own, as though it were an amazing feat, as though no-one had ever done it before. What a ridiculously mundane, mediocre dream it is. Why, how could one want to be the same as everybody else?
Which is why I was taken by surprise tonight on the sky train, when I found myself looking at an ad with some young nuclear family, woman smilingly clutching baby, yuppie man in polo shirt high-fiving young son, standing in the garden of their brand-new house, proud owners who had realized their ultimate nuclear ambition and were jumping for joy, and, just for a moment, I found myself being dragged into their world, a fleeting moment of envy as I considered my own solitary existence in my one-room apartment, and I found myself wondering if one day I might have my own garden to jump up and down in, my own family member to high five in self-congratulatory fashion. And then it hit me: I am becoming like everyone else – those conservative ambitions must have been creeping into my subconscious in the night. How could I let that happen? When, where and how did I start to change? Or does it merely come down to a momentary lapse of reason?
Posted at 09:44 am by dors76
Oct 25, 2007
frowning is smiling if you hang upside down
Most people, when they arrive in thailand, are getting into holiday mode, enjoying the warm sunshine, sitting in a tuktuk wondering if they're getting ripped off, studying their lonely planet and figuring out which islands they're headed for.
Then there's idiots like me who get into bangkok and immediately start worrying about finishing and submitting their assignment, doing the laundry, removing rotting food from the fridge, looking at coursebooks (help! students are back on monday!) and eventually remembering that it's hours and hours past midnight and it's probably a good idea to lie down.
It's times like these that I need to remind myself of the reason I moved here in the first place.
Posted at 02:51 pm by dors76
Sep 12, 2007
This class have finished all their exams, finally, so i go in today with a couple of games planned, be nice, give'm an easy day for a change.
'Ok What did you do yesterday?'
What did you do on Monday?
What did you do on friday?
What did you do on thursday?
Correct. And what are you going to do today?
You don't know?
Beer pipes up. 'Fighting test.'
'Ah. Okay. First we are going to do a fighting test.' (write on whiteboard).
'What are we going to do after that?'
'Okay.' (write on board) 'Third?'
'Ok. After that?'
'Kill Teacher Dora Test'
'Kiss Kongphob test'
'Eating underwear test'
T. Dora (scribbling all these onto whiteboard). 'Good. Ok. So test no 1.'
1) Fighting test Reps from each team come to front to participate in arm wrestling challenge.
2) Sleeping test. Students must pretend to to sleep, T. Dora roams around tickling, pinching and randomly shouting BOO! If a student opens their eyes they lose a point for their team.
3) Game test. Spider hangman 'A shark ate Patter.'
4) Kill Teacher Dora test. Teams get points for coming up with good ways to kill Teacher Dora (strangle, bazooka, throw off balcony, kill with Chaitawat's breath, etc)
5) Eating test. Luckily Pond has a banana. 3 contestants to front, fastest to eat and swallow thier 1/3 banana wins.
6) Teacher Dora test. Quiz questions
a) How old is Teacher Dora?
b) What country is Teacher Dora from?
c) What city is Teacher Dora from?
d) How many children does teacher Dora have? (Jin suggests 132)
7) Video test.
Ask: What is your favourite movie (Ultraman)
What does Ultraman do? (kill robots)
3 contestants to front. You are Ultraman. You must kill robots. Best robot killer gets 3 points. (bizarre robot killing commences)
8) Kiss Kongphob test. Teacher Dora demonstrates - big kiss on cheek. Any student who can give Kong a good kiss gets a point.
9) Eating Underwear test. Oh no! Sorry class! We've run out of time! You'll have to eat your underwear for homework.
Posted at 03:20 pm by dors76