With four full days of playtime and settling in before class started on Thursday, four of us made a trip to Erawan National Park on Tuesday, which is famous for seven cascading waterfalls. It’s as beautiful as it sounds. And we almost ended up having to sleep there since we weren’t exactly diligent about checking bus schedules. True to form, a lovely Thai woman saved the day for us and helped us (running) to catch the last bus to Suphanburi, and we all made it back in time for our pre-school meetings on Wednesday morning.
My conundrum is that the only way I could possibly do justice to the delightful, confusing, kind introductions we had at Sanguan Ying School on Wednesday would be to recite it all word for word. And my memory’s just not that good. Yet. Perhaps after I’ve memorized 900 (!!) new students’ names in the next ten days I’ll be up to the task! For now, here are a few glimpses into our first few hours at SY School.
We (Caitlin, Caitlin and I – the three new teachers at SY School) showed up a little early for a noon meeting. At noon, one of the Thai teachers told us it was lunchtime so we should go downstairs. Things you learn quickly in Thailand – you may show up for something (a meeting, a bus) and it may or may not be at that time. Or it will be switched to next Thursday. There’s no telling!
So we went downstairs to an outdoor buffet of fresh, spicy food, and were quickly ushered into an air-conditioned area of the canteen. It’s worth mentioning that in the two block walk to school, we were all sweating through our clothes. Maintaining a “professional” look is going to be challenging, if not impossible! We’re told we will acclimate. I think I’ll just be toweling off between classes.
Right away, we were introduced to several of the Thai teachers, the director and assistant director of our school, and sat down for lunch. Then the fun with names began. First, it’s confusing that two of us are named Caitlin. And my name, Annie, is easy for some Thai people to say, but more difficult for others. The letters “L” and “N” are often interchanged because the sounds are very different in Thai. Easy Thai solution – nicknames! In Thailand nearly everyone has a short, one syllable nickname. It’s often an English word, but not always. So Caitlin, Caitlin, and Annie became Mai, Prer and Fai. Kanchana, our coordinator, said, “We will give you the nicknames of my daughters!” And there you have it. No more of this “Annie” business. As we were introduced with our new names, there was much smiling and laughing and chatter, all of it well-intentioned and happy. I’m starting to truly see why this is the Land of Smiles.
Upstairs in the teachers’ lounge / office, we were shown our desks which were at the back of a room with about 15 other teachers in the Foreign Language Department. We got our schedules – I’ll be teaching Mathayom (Mat-ay-ohm) 1 and 2, which is the Thai equivalent of grades 7 and 8 in the U.S. I’ll teach 19 classes per week and see each class one time. 50 kids in each class. That’s a LOT of kids!! Did I also mention that they wear the same uniforms, AND have the same haircuts? Yes. And many have the same nicknames. It’s like a Rubix cube for your brain. Every morning.
After getting our schedules we sat with Kanchana and two of the other teachers, Tim and Preeda. All three were gracious and kind, though not entirely forthcoming with some essential details. This is the Thai way – everything happens as it happens. You quickly learn to adapt to any situation because it all may change at a moment’s notice, and everyone is so relaxed that they may forget to tell you a few things. Like when the school holidays are, what time to arrive in the morning, where our class attendance lists are – we just had to dig a little for this information. But we got it all, I think.
Without a doubt, my favorite moment of the day was when Tim, smiling broadly, gestured to us and all of the teachers in the room and said, “You are Mai, Fai, and Prer. I am your mom number one! And Preeda is your mom number two, Kanchana is your mom number three, Los is your mom number four! We are all your moms! You can come to us for anything. If you are sick, we will take care of you. If you have naughty students, we will help you. Okay?”
I have an amazing mom. And now I have at least four more. Not a bad way to start a new job. Or anything, for that matter!
Now, we’re off to the races……