Susan & Ted's 3rd Report

Photos from 3rd & 4th weeks - Adobe .pdf file (239 KB)

Dear Family and Friends,

We're now finishing our fifth week of teaching in Amazing Thailand. 

We've become fond of many of our students, and are enjoying finding new ways to help them improve their speaking skills. It's fun to go to work! 

This week they've learned the words and tune to Dona Dona -- and occasionally in the halls we hear some of the kids singing the refrain to each other. They're also learning about Mexico, the use of contractions, and some more crazy stuff about English: like pronouncing l-a-u-g-h-t-e-r one way, and pronouncing 
s-l-a-u-g-h-t-e-r another.

The thrill and excitement at our school for the past three weeks has been the build-up to "sports day." This is a national event -- held at different times throughout the year at all schools in the country. Each school has two days of intramural competitions (not with other schools, just with its own students). All the kids at our school have been working out like crazy for three weeks getting ready for it. Some of them will be cheerleaders, and the rest will compete with each other. The day goes on even in the pouring rain.

We're interested to see how they "compete" because they are so non-competitive in class. They shamelessly copy from each other's work and turn around and talk to each other for help when they don't understand what we've asked them to do or say -- there's a fierce cooperation among them. And they never laugh at each other's mistakes in any way that could be considered embarrassing. The kid who erred is laughing as hard as anyone -- and it seems genuine. It seems likely that they will all stop short at the finish line and cross it together. These are a light-hearted people who don't take themselves as seriously as our culture does. They seem to get it that this is just one journey among many, and they enjoy it.

Cultural notes:

Use of the toothpick -- Thai people spend a great deal of energy hiding their mouth behind one hand, while with the other and a toothpick they clean their teeth after a meal. Yet, blatantly picking one's nose seems to be socially acceptable behavior.

It's a natural question to ask one his or her age. Often when we meet someone, it's one of the first questions we're asked. We're expected to tell the truth, too. Fortunately, we're comfortable with our ages -- but we're still surprised when we're asked to tell them.

It's also natural to ask where one is going or where one has been. Again, with the expectation that this is normal, not nosy, and IS everybody's business. Fortunately, again, we're never going, or have been, anywhere that we don't want to talk about.

How much we paid for something is another "normal" piece of information that seems to be worth acquiring. No matter what we purchase, someone wants to know how much it was. And it's not considered rude. It would be considered rude not to answer. The conversation never goes very far if we're speaking to a Thai who speaks no English, but we understand "how much" and we know how to say the numbers. If we're speaking with someone who speaks English, the conversation will go on further to whether or not what we paid was more or less than we would have paid in the US or in Mexico.

Living in the center of Ban Pong has been a great experience for us. Within easy walking distance are literally dozens and dozens of tasty food shops which sell all kinds of food. Even the locals hardly cook when it's so easy to walk out the door, buy something delicious and cheap (even for Thais), and take it home to eat. Ted has fallen in love with a bakery of chocolate croissants.

There are seamstresses on every block, as well as fabric shops, shoe shops, beauty and massage parlors, and sundries shops -- no matter what we might need it's only a short walk away. The tailor is a little farther away - it takes all of 5 minutes to walk to his shop.

Using the Internet is an experience in itself, too. We're fortunate that our hostess, Yupadee, has a good phone line. It's only 3 baht per 2 hours to be online (and the system hangs up right on the dot of two hours!). There are 40 baht to the dollar - so, as you can see, it's cheap! From about 8 am till 11 pm, though, trying to upload or download anything is excruciatingly slow. The whole world seems to be on-line then, and the service just drags. Ted solves that problem by getting up at 3 am and working for a few hours when the service is much faster and doesn't eat up our whole two hours just to retrieve our messages and send replies.

Cultural Events:

Two weeks ago was Buddhist Lent. It gave us a 4-day weekend. The weekend began on Friday, with nation-wide parades and wax candle competitions. We marched in Ban Pong's parade with the Ban Pong Rotary. They had a small, but very complex and ornate float made entirely of flowers and banana leaves, and a large golden colored wax candle. Our school had a float and a candle that won first place (Rotary's won second place). The parade went from one end of Ban Pong to the other, and ended at the Wat next door to our school. 

The Rotarians invited us to go to the temple with them, we accepted, and then discovered they did not mean the temple we were at (a very typically ornate and elaborate temple). They meant the temple where some of them go to pray -- just out of town, in a small forest, and very simple and humble. Much more in keeping with our interpretation of what the Buddha preached -- not filled with the trappings of this world. The nuns at the temple had prepared a delicious soup lunch for us, and the Rotarians had brought huge stores of rice, candles, oil, other foodstuffs, and loaded a "money tree" with Baht to tide the community of nuns and monks through the Lenten season.

The Buddha taught that during the three months of the rainy season the monks were to remain in their temples and not wander about. This tradition of bringing food to them is to help them not starve while they are not making their daily pilgrimage for rice. It's a very holy time of year. Taking food to the monks also enables the giver to "make merit" (improve his good karma) points toward his next reincarnation.

We were invited to join them in the prayer ceremony, which was spoken and chanted in Pali, not Thai. The Thai language is derived from Pali and Sanskrit. The monks chant in Pali; and the people respond in Pali, and don't understand what they say. The ceremony had several aspects to it - and the gist of it was to pray for peace in the world and for the souls of the living and the dead. 

It was an honor to be so welcomed into this tradition. We're fortunate that a couple of the Rotarians speak very good English and helped us to understand the meaning of this day.

Our friends, the Wheelers, have more photos and their notes on-line at:

We're attaching a few photos of the events we've experienced and the things we've enjoyed these past two weeks; we send you love and hugs from Thailand.

Ted y Susan

Ted Rose & Susan Hill
  Project Amigo
Cofradia de Suchitlan, Colima, Mexico
Tel in Mexico +52 (312) 395-4485
Fax in Mexico  (312) 395-4484
Fax in USA 1 (775) 593-0427
Mailing Address in USA: 
708 Gravenstein Hwy N #183
Sebastopol, CA  95472


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