Friday, December 20, 2013

A Day In The Life

After reading my friend Jes' blog entry about not yet having shared a typical day with her readers, I realized I also haven't written such an entry. I want to share with you all the magic that occurs during a typical Peace Corps Thailand day.

0615ish: I awaken, much to my chagrin. I'm likely hot and sweaty already if I chose not to use my air conditioning. On a Peace Corps volunteer budget, there are some things you just can't afford all the time.

0622: I end my approximately seven minute (read: give or take twenty minutes) long tantrum/love-affair-with-bed/rollfest and arise to conquer a new day. I find my fluffy pink slippies (thanks, Bonnie!) and stumble downstairs, quite literally because the stairs are a strange height/depth, and combined with slippies, they become a tricky obstacle course.
0623: I make, the most critical juncture in my day, and proceed to shower. 

0635: Three days out of four, I cook a delicious greasy Thai omelet and place it over rice for breakfast. I return to my hole upstairs for consumption and interwebbing. 

0741: I wait until the last possible moment to put on the rest of my clothes. If there is one thing that absolutely does not make sense in Thailand (this is a downright hilarious concept, as there is nothing short of a million of these), it's the concept of riap roi (proper) presentation and face-melting temperatures. If I have to be in slacks and a polo for even one additional moment of each day, I'd likely deem all life spiteful and full of contempt. 

0749: I walk to school, passing by my kind neighbors who dependably ask if I've eaten yet, to which I always answer with a smile "gin laeo krap." (I've eaten, thanks) Sorry the photo is turrrrible. It doesn't do either woman's kindness any justice. The bpaa (maternal aunt literally, but is reserved for women older than your mom) on the left is super sweet, always giving us fruit. The woman on the right makes sure I've eaten.
0751: I arrive at school, to many wonderful smiles and "Hello!"s. Sometimes, my more courageous students engage in conversation with me to practice our week's lesson. I basically want to cry a million tears of happy knowing all my hours of (sometimes agonizing) work shows in my students.
0755: I sign in for the day's work and drop off my stuff. I am often greeted by the assistant director, Pii Nongyao (pictured below in the pink top and red hat. She's simply amazing- definitely the glue of the school, and a huge runner/advocate of sports and fitness in general), and a Thai kanom (snack/dessert) from her- gluai tot (fried banana) being the most common culprit of excess calories. I then make my way to the schoolyard for our daily assembly. Below is my typical work station inside our school's meeting room.

During this time, kids clean the school grounds.
0800: The King's anthem plays, and everyone within earshot, stops what they're doing (including walking) to pay their respects. Afterwards, the kids gather for the morning assembly, where they honor HM The King and their country, say a daily prayer to the Buddha, sing the school anthem, and are informed of the day's happenings.

During this time, I'm often entertained by kindergartners' shenanigans.
0830-1130: I teach the first three periods Tuesday through Friday (only the first two on Monday). Some days I facilitate much of the lesson so my spectacular co-teacher, Kruu Aoy, can take notes on how to implement the (participatory, student-centered) lesson plan we create together. Other days, she requests to take the lead, and I support her in whichever ways I can. I'm very lucky to have a teacher who is dedicated to her craft and aims to be as good an English teacher as she possibly can for her students. She's my big sister here, and we've crafted a fantastic personal and professional relationship. I've already seen such growth in her!
Here's one class, on Scout Day Wednesday, working hard on their past tense worksheet.
1130: Lunchtime! Teachers serve food to the children as they filter into the cafeteria. After the vast majority of children have received food, teachers then sit down themselves to a hard earned meal. 
This is our cafeteria.
1200-1230: I usually finish with lunch quickly, by noon, and take some time to myself. I will websurf, often catching up on the day's sports scores, update some Peace Corps paperwork, review lessons, tend to Peer Support Network and/or Project Review Committee matters, or have meetings with other teachers. 

1230-330: There are three more periods that are to be taught during this time. I have one or two classes each day. 

330-?: Depending on the day, I have some extra responsibilities to tend to after school. On Mondays, Nadia and I teach an English class to teachers of my school. We average around eleven participants each week, and it's always an incredibly good time (picture coming Monday). 

Tuesdays and Wednesdays I leave at 330 and, without fail, buy som dtam (papaya salad) from my local som dtam lady who parks on the school's road and sells it to kids and adults alike. Som dtam is a wonderful concoction of shredded unripened papaya and carrot, mixed with crushed garlic and peppers, which sit in a fish sauce brine. You can order it all sorts of ways (sweet, spicy, sour, salty, with entire crabs ripped into parts, dried shrimp, peanuts). It is made to order, and I prefer mine sour with five chilies, without the crab parts or shrimp. Additionally, there are many food and trinket vendors that line up on the road between 230 and 500. Kids are a good source of income since they're always hungry and need to feed by this time. Additionally, students hang out and play football or socialize. Here's what it looks like after school.

Thursdays our school has a staff meeting until 515/530. These are definitely difficult to endure since they're in Thai exclusively. Sometimes the director asks me something in Thai, and one hundred percent of the time I don't hear it at first because I'm too busy daydreaming about monkeys, travel plans, or running/biking. I'll give some answer, to which people laugh with/at me, and I return to my daydream.

400/500: On not-Saturdays/Mondays, Nadia and I have a specific run allocated, depending on the day, for our ultra-marathon training. Sundays are our plodding endurance run. Tuesdays are hills, Wednesdays are mid-week six to ten mile tempo runs, Thursdays are intervals, and Fridays cross-training days (in which I bike ride and/or do some P90X leg workout). This is one of the little backroads that we have run, which is filled with scary dogs, excitable children, and curious locals. 
600: Dinner time! Nadia and I collaborate on making dinner, splitting up the slicing, dicing, stirring, cooking, serving, and cleaning. We generally make everything from scratch since we eat what we can find at our local market and store. We're still trying to learn the all the various of ways to prepare virtually the same ten vegetables with rice or noodles and a protein. I'd say we have a solid eight different meals we cook regularly, which is good and bad, I suppose. We make soups, various stir frys, innumerable egg dishes, pasta dishes, and strange combinations (like left over spaghetti and an over-easy egg on top, mm mmm!) because Thailand. Nadia and I both have loved rice since before living in Thailand, so we've bought into the Thai sentiment about meals, "If it doesn't have rice, it's only just a snack." Therefore, we both eat rice three times a day and have zero qualms about it. 

630-930: Since I have an exceptional talent at being a hermit, the rest of the evening is generally us unwinding from the day. Teaching/entertaining kids, existing in a foreign language, and the heat all combine to sap me of all social desires, so I lay in bed reading, watching some funny American show, or conversating with Nadia. Being introverted, all of this stimulation and interaction are incredibly exhausting, and I need the evening to prepare for another ten hours the next day. Real life Jay and Kruu Jay are two different people, and being Kruu Jay draining. If I absolutely need to, I'll do some project related work, but I generally procrastinate until I'm "on the clock" again. 

930~1030: I try to make sure I get a solid hour of reading in daily. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is this week's flavor. I'll read until my eyes shut and I recharge for another day. 

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