Dam field trip

Right now I’m comfortably installed on the upper level of a huge elaborately-painted karaoke bus.  

   We’re making our way across Thailand’s central plains. Destination: the dam at Lopburi, where our students will learn about the King’s successes as a hydrological engineer.

The bus is filled with identically-uniformed students; a special uniform for field trips, I think, as I’ve not yet seen today’s couture among the bewildering array of outfits worn by our students.   

Now I know why at the end of last term the parents lined up to get envelopes of cash from school officials: the Thai government provides money to buy all the uniforms. (This causes me to ponder the institutional value given to order and, well, uniformity.  Contrapuntally, it’s the same government that invites American Peace Corps volunteers to disrupt the usual way of educating. But I digress.)

The kids are delighted by some Russel Crowe film playing on the silver screen, and I’m delighted by the dubbed Thai coming from the actors’ lips.

The experience, despite being part of a large group of happy people, is  almost a solitary one. My Thai is too primitive for any prolonged discussion (mostly, the highly-amped music wouldn’t allow conversation anyway). My respect is already high for Peace Corps volunteers who serve in lonely assignments — today’s “lonliness in a crowd” feeling renews my respect. Paul and I are lucky to serve together, to rely upon each other for everything from emotional support to cooking to comic relief. Especially comic relief.      

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Teacher Paul

Native Thai speakers struggle with the “sh” sound in English. “Fish” can end up rhyming with “itch” without careful coaching, which is just what Paul is providing.  


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Swastika at my school    … I need your help

About a month ago, I stumbled onto the following John Oliver clip in which he illustrates the maxim “those who do not study history are condemned to repeat it”:

Hm, I wondered, is there history instruction at my school?

Today I arrived at school and as I got off my bike I saw this:  I’ve no doubt that the student with the swastika sticker has no idea what naziism is. Of course, he needs to know. 

And that leads me to a request for your help. 

I need your help to find an online video. It’ll be 3 to 5 minutes long. It’ll explain what happened in Germany during Hitler’s reign. And — here’s the catch — it’ll be either in Thai (unlikely) or be language-neutral so a Thai kid can fully grasp the details without understanding narration or screen text.

(Why all the constraints? You’ve gotta meet your audience where they are; you can’t  drag them to where they aren’t).

Tall order, I know. Please send this link to anyone you know who might be able to help with a little online research!

Hoping for the best. Please email the link to bob -at- sykora.org

Thanks in advance for your help.

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My co-teachers

 Despite my high respect for their skills, I cannot wai them because they’re younger than I am. So on Uniform Day (Mondays) I salute them.

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