This past week I started normal classes. This means that instead of Mai Thai, Nicha, and I standing around in a group, confusedly watching what the Thai kids were doing as we moved from class to class, we were split up and put into real, normal classes. Now don't get me wrong here - we're happy about this. It actually took a great deal of fast-talking to convince the teachers that we wouldn't be bored out of our minds - and that our Thai would fare better if we didn't just talk to each other day in, day out.
And thus began the saga of my time in 5/5. M5 (Maw Ha) is the Thai name for grade 11 and the /5 is my class number. All the /5 classes at Satit (My School) study French as well as English - probably not a shock that that is where I was placed.
I have many friends in my class, but to be brutally honest I can't remember most of their names. However, they are all super nice and take very good care of the white chick who is now a part of their everyday lives. Gee, the girl who sits beside me, went to the U.S. on exchange, and so she translates for me if/when I need it. The English teacher finds it amusing that I give her answers in class that she couldn't have otherwise known - such as idioms.
On a side note, I realized how stupid most English idioms are when I was forced to explain them to my Thai pals.
So school is fun - Mai Thai, Nicha and I still eat lunch together; a nice compromise between being with them all the time and never seeing them at all. And every Monday and Thursday we leave class early to go to Aerobics and Weight Training.
I never, EVER, thought I would say this, but Aerobics is really fun. And I actually use the treadmill in weight training. (I know, I know! Who am I? And where's Jocelyn?).
On Wednesday I went to my first real Muay Thai session. The best way to imagine ridiculously out-of-shape me attempting to do intense Thai kick-boxing is kind of like this: imagine a person who has never gone swimming in their life and who has only a vague idea of the theory behind it attempting a Channel Crossing as their first swim.
I floated, then I flailed around like a squid having a seizure, and then I died.
And I was only there for 2 hours.
I almost fell asleep at dinner that night, but it was good fun. I go back again this week so wish me luck (if you haven't already realised, I desperately need it).
Thursday was an interesting day. Every Thursday the boys have military training. This training allows them to opt out of mandatory service at 21, but leaves the government with enough well-trained, able-bodied young men should they ever go to war. Because of this training, I do nothing until the mod before lunch. Then I have a class that consists of sitting in an air-conditioned room, watching American TV shows on a big projector screen. Last week, it was Castle; the week before, Prison Break.
After lunch, we were told the M4's were to be putting on a play - Snow White. So Mai Thai, Nicha, and I decided to go. We figured that even with the language barrier we would get what was going on.
We were wrong.
For starters, the entire show - EVERYTHING - was lip synced to what I think were recordings of the kids (maybe). But that wasn't the really weird part.
It started off with groups of kids dancing (& lip syncing) to popular songs - but only for about 1 minute sections of each song. O.O Then - and I mean after many confusing dancing performances, Snow White started.
There was a teacher telling his class that Snow White was their assignment of the day and then it began. Snow White's costume was one of those little girls' princess dresses pinned to the front of her uniform. She and some 'birds' danced to "A Happy Working Song" from Disney's Enchanted. Then the 'dwarfs' danced to what I assume is a Thai or Korean pop song.
There ended Snow White.
The final performance of the day was a short & sweet Cinderella in which everyone save for the step-mother and -sisters wore traditional Thai clothing. The step-mother was played by a lady-boy who was way more feminine than I am.
Now, my description may sound slightly disparaging, and I don't mean to convey that spirit. The entire entity of these myriad performances was made deeply enjoyable by the gusto with which the Thais immersed themselves in every part. The actors had worked hard and were having fun - and the audience was having a blast. It was incredible to see how they enjoyed the plays for what they were, rather than sitting there, disappointed because of what they could have been. I thing Canadian teenagers could stand to learn a thing or two from the Thais.
Friday, I went to a party with my host sister and a bunch of girls from my class. Essentially, we had delicious food (and TONS of it) and then just sat around singing, playing guitar, and having a generally good time. I met a very nice American University Student named Ted who is here on a study abroad program. Good times were had by all.
On Saturday, Mai Thai and I went for a mosey around the city, and ended up in this busy market street filled with stores selling beautiful Thai silk hangings, and clothes. I almost managed to restrain myself and ended up buying a small ring. And shaving cream. Funny story about that.
So we walked into this tiny little drug store, probably about 40 by 40 feet that had about 80 Thai people in it. And lots of shelves. Essentially, it was almost impossible to move. But I was on a mission. I needed to find shaving cream. So I approached a kindly store attendant - who spoke about 4 words of English. After having her show me about 10 different variations on Nair (hair removing cream) I finally gave up and threw my dignity to the wind (like it hadn't left forever ago...) and I made aerosol noises and patted my hands against my face - mimicking a man putting on shaving cream and then shaving. So now I own Nivea (For Men) Shaving Cream and some random Thai lady probably thinks I shave my face.
On Sunday, I went to the Chiangmai Zoo with Aya (from Japan), Nicha (you know who she is), Isabella and Lorena (from Brazil) and Nicha's host sister Pim (and friends). I'll post photos up on FB but it was AWESOME! I fed an Elephant, saw about a billion kinds of fish, two white tigers, 3 pandas (one of whom, Lin Ping, is apparently famous), and tons of other animals. It was so cool. I think the last zoo I went to was the Melbourne Zoo when I was 9 (I was a neglected child), and the Chiangmai Zoo is to zoos what an old-fashioned Nalgene is to your average water bottle.
Before I sign off I'd like to give a shout-out to Julilla Paul, who always comments and makes me feel loved. To the rest of you, I'd loved to know if you're reading. If you can't figure out how to comment, send me an e-mail or write on my wall. If you're a Rotarian, I give you permission to just tell Gwen on Thursday morning and make her contact me :) (isn't that what counselors are for?).
Last, but most certainly not least, I'd just like to say this. As many of you are no doubt aware, my Grandma passed away on September 7th. I just want to thank you all for your love, prayers, and support as I deal with this loss.
Yours in Love and Rotary,