Susan & Ted's 2nd Report
Photos from 2nd report - Adobe .pdf file (363 KB)
July 8, 2003
Dear Family and Friends,
We’ve just started our third week of teaching English in Ban Pong, Ratchaburi, Thailand. Time goes by so fast here!!
Our good friends, Keith and Peg Wheeler from Mad River, CA, have joined us here. They are teaching English at the Nursing College where we taught two years ago, and will travel in and around Thailand. We look forward to weekends playing and touring together, and to sharing and swapping teaching methods with them. They have a website<www.wheelerfolk.org> that has a lot of photos, including a few of us. (You can see Ted competing with the Buddha’s belly!)
Last week, Ted and I took an evening stroll along the river one block from Yupadee’s house (where we live) to enjoy the sunset. We were startled by a small elephant which was eating some of the riverside plant life. For a small "fee" Ted got some peeled sugar cane from the elephant’s keeper to give to the elephant. A great photo op - but the evening light wasn’t strong enough to make it good. We’re sharing the scene with you anyway in the photo collage attached.
Over the weekend, our friend Jing guided the Wheelers and us to visit the famous Shadow Dramas at the Wat Khonon (a Buddhist temple) in a town near Ban Pong. The temple has some fascinating roof lines to scare away the devil; many monkeys that climb around the roofs and wait to have their pictures taken (but if you get too close, and they freak out and run off); and some great old walls which also serve to help the monks dry their saffron robes.
The Shadow Drama goes back about 200 years at this temple. It is a very old art form, taken from characters in Indian folklore (as in from India). The characters are created from cow hides which are ever-so-carefully carved and painted with natural dyes. The drama was in Thai, so we didn’t understand everything – but it was clear when the characters were riding horses into the forest, or they were talking to a wise old monkey in a garden, etc. This temple is one of the two temples in all of Thailand where the shadow dramas are performed!
The English Department at the school where we spend most of our teaching hours (11 each week), has a large English Department. There are 16 Thai English teachers. Their English ranges from very poor (as in unintelligible with very small vocabularies) to good.
No one is as good as Yupadee - she’s in a class by herself. She has written a book on how to teach English. It’s really quite good - but we wish we had been around to help out when the proofreading was done. She is in the process of putting out a first revision. She asked Keith, Peg and us to make a tape for her of various spoken exercises and dialogs in the book. So we spent Sunday making the tape. We were amazed by how difficult it was to just read the English scripts and not stumble over words. We had a lot of good laughs, did several re-takes of some of the sections, and after about 6 hours of work finally got the job finished for her (about 22 minutes of recording!).
Both of us can read Thai numbers now. If only the alphabet were so easy!! Each day we add a few Thai words to our vocabulary - but we’re still unable to speak sentences or say anything more meaningful than "no squid in my soup" or "yes, shrimp on my rice." Susan can now understand most Thai numbers when they’re spoken. Sometimes they have to be repeated more slowly for her to understand them, but she can ask for extension numbers on the phone, knows the difference between "thirty" for time and the number thirty, and can request any amount of photocopies we need.
Ted has gotten proficient at driving on the left side of the road, and only rarely walks to the wrong side of the car to take the wheel. We’re afraid that driving in Mexico might be a major upset for a few days!
About Thai meals: Unlike like US and Mexican cultures, which have type of meals categorized by time of day, in Thailand meal types aren’t specific to the hour at which they’re eaten. There is no "typical" thing that one eats at a particular meal. It’s just as common to see someone eat noodles or vegetable or fish soup for "breakfast," and scrambled or fried egg for "dinner." Meal times are much more similar to those in the US, with lunch being any time between 11 and 1 (in Mexico it’s between 2 and 4), and dinner being around 7 (in Mexico, around 9 or 10 pm).
The rainy season is quite wet now. We get a good heavy rain every couple of days. The mugginess is not as awful as we remembered it from two years ago. Maybe all of our embellished stories about the humidity over the past two years have paid off and made it not seem so bad to us in reality.
Hoping you are all having a happy summer, enjoying each day of your lives, and giving thanks for all your blessings and friends. We send you our love from Thailand,
Ted y Susan
Ban Pong, Thailand