This week, I feel like I have grown to love Koh Tao for what it is. Despite all the crazy tourists and weird positions I have found myself in, it has become a kind of home. Having taught here for nearly 2 months now, the children and their parents like to hang out with me. I have built friendships with shop keepers and know their stories. Then again, just when I feel like I’m adapting and really getting to understand, I know that I am leaving in about 11 days for Sing Buri.
This week school was a little strange. I learned that the kids do have an English exam along with the rest of their finals. The problem is that because the volunteers are teaching the classes, the Thai teachers who make the exam do not know what to put on it. The classes have changed hands with volunteers probably about 4 to 5 times in one semester alone. While teaching a lesson on meal vocabulary and consonants, a Thai teacher handed me freshly copied “Test 2” which was an activity asking the kids to match the days of the week, color, and write English words. The instructions were in Thai and I was confused about two things 1)where we had a copier and 2) how we could afford to have whole sheets of paper for a worksheet. I’m hoping that I can review the basics of English- alphabet, basic vocabulary, and greetings for the exam. Hopefully, the Thai teachers will consult me or Nikki about what to put on the test.
In addition to our meal vocabulary and consonants this week, Nikki has arranged a penpal class in the US for the kids. We put up a letter template and asked the kids to fill in the blanks. The template is as follows:
Hello! My name is ________. I am _____ years old. I am in the 2nd/3rd grade. I live in Koh Tao, Thailand. My favorite color is _____. What is your favorite color? My favorite animal is a _____. My favorite food is _____. Where do you live? Write me soon!
The issue becomes that if the kids are rowdy, we can’t get to do anything cool like letters to their penpals. In one class, only half finished their rough draft. We took pictures of the kids who finished and saved their drafts for the next class. I give Nikki complete credit for thinking of the idea, and I’m hoping we can make it work. It work be really cool for both classes to begin an exploration into another culture via letters.
After school tutoring is working well, with the exception of Saturday. The tutoring pupils I have are beginning to sound out words when reading. It’s really amazing to watch them remember and trying to work out the phonetics of a word. The entire time they are trying to remember I feel all excited and nervous waiting for that *click* in their brain. On Saturdays, the kids or the parents generally forget about their lessons. It makes me sad that they are not taking advantage of the opportunity, but at least I have the ability to offer. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. The kids who are drinking are really making progress. though.
Other than teaching, I realized this week that I only have 30 pictures from the past month and a half. I started taking a lot more because I don’t have much time left here. Saturday was a great day to take pictures. I went to the island’s Buddhist temple with P’Lake (my guesthouse owner’s wife), met a teacher from Koh Samui on the beach randomly, and had dinner with P’Jin and her family.
Temple was really incredible. It was such a gift to get to share in the meditation and rituals of the temple. All the ladies brought savory curries, sweets, and flowers for Buddha. All of these items were shared on the altar. The monks performed chants and we all were supposed to repeat in Thai. I didn’t want to offend anyone with my mispronunciation, so I chose to not attempt. After the service, the monks ate and then shared the rest with the community present. I met P’Lake’s mother-in-law and many other ladies in the community. They were all so kind to me. We all sat in a few large circles with dozens of small bowls filled with spicy, homemade curries. A large bowl of rice was passed around. Then, you were free to pick your favorite curries to top it. After the meal, we shared fruit and sweets. I tried a coconut jelly sweet, jackfruit, and a sticky, egg-flavored sweet. The ladies of Koh Tao are very talented cooks.
From left to right: P’Na (a local massage therapist), Me, and P’Lake.
“P” added to the beginning of someone’s name is a form of respect for your elders.
If they are a grandmother/grandfather, “Boo” is used instead.
In the evening, I went out for dinner with the Lofts (P’Jin, her husband Kevin, and their two daughters, Tara and Charlie). Kevin is from Australia and P’Jin is from mainland Thailand. They met here years ago when Kevin was a dive instructor. Their eldest daughter, Tara, is in my 2nd grade class. When I first came to the island, I went to their technology shop looking for a case for my camera and came away with a friend. I noticed Tara’s picture on the wall and started chatting with Kevin. P’Jin has been instrumental in helping me arrange my tutoring lessons. She’s also become a really great friend. Whenever I have a question about anything- school, snorkeling, life, or where to go to eat- I ask her and she helps me out. I feel so lucky to have them in my life, and they will be missed terribly when I leave. I bought the girls bright pink bracelets and P’Jin a blue bracelet to remember me by.
In the pink, holding the heart- Tara
In the blue, making a face- Charlie
Front to back: Tara, Charlie, and Fasai (another 2nd grader whose mother works at the dive shop across from Kevin’s shop)
P’Jin and Me after dinner. Charlie was running around with my camera taking pictures of random people. Haha!
Friendship bracelets, the eternal sign of friendship. I’m pretty sure I made my first one in 3rd grade, yet they are still so relevant.