Sunday, October 19, 2014

Elephants, Accents, and Hearding Kindergarteners

Sometimes, I feel like I’m experiencing my freshman year of college all over again. There’s an abundance of easily accessible alcohol and I’m spending whole days with people I just met days ago. I’m working hard on homework and talking about ordering pizza I can’t afford and therefore turning to ramen instead. It’s weird. This is better than college, though, because I have a pool in my backyard, my allergies are non-existent, and there’s a lady who sells fried chicken and rice for breakfast right down the street for the equivalent of one dollar.

I kind of screwed myself over by not writing anything over the past two weeks, because an overwhelming amount of things have happened since I was last on here (surprise). Therefore, I’m just going to continue doing what I feel like is going to quickly develop into a norm for me; spin the wheel and pick a few random stories to tell.

One I definitely can’t leave out is the trip my group made to a local elephant sanctuary here in Hua Hin. We stopped at a local pineapple farm along the way and picked up donated fruit for the elephants (along with some for ourselves), and then were able to feed them to the elephants! I’ve seen plenty of zoo elephants, but that’s nothing compared to interacting with them on this level. Sometimes an elephant would take the pineapple out of your hand with her trunk and shove the whole thing straight into her mouth, but other times she’d bring the fruit slowly to her feet, and then crush it. The adult elephants would then pick it up piece by piece, but the baby elephant we saw would crush her pineapples and then promptly snorkel all the juice up with her trunk instead of eating it. It was adorable. I’ve always liked elephants, but it’s a truly humbling experience to be making physical contact with a 92-year-old creature who was marched through the jungle during World War II, clearing the trees for a railroad to connect Thai forces with the Nazis. They are intelligent, majestic animals, and I hope I have many other opportunities to interact with them while I’m in Thailand.

It’s been very fun and sometimes confusing to be surrounded by such a diverse group of English speakers in this program. Yesterday, us Americans had to explain to the South Africans what a burrito was. It was a very sad, sad moment. They kept justifying it with “We’ve never seen a Mexican before!” so we tried to explain tacos and enchiladas and it was overwhelmingly depressing. They tried to teach us dances and songs in Afrikaans and convince us that making human chains and touching electric fences was a fun childhood activity, but that didn’t go too well. They also start all conversations with the phrase, “How’s it?” which I never quite know how to answer. Then there was the time an American classmate and an English classmate were paired together to create a lesson plan about sports. They spent 45 minutes arguing about whether they should teach the kids the word “soccer” or “football.” But worse than that was the zebra argument. There has been much debate over the pronunciation of words such as basil, garage, and puma over the last couple weeks, but for some reason, we all found zebra particularly important to fight over. Apparently, the British and South Africans say “zebra” as if it rhymes with the name “Deborah.” Zehbrah. It sounds idiotic. That turned into a very heated class discussion. Let’s just say it ended with a South African saying, “We saw it first!” and a New York Jew responding with “We defeated the Nazis because you couldn’t!” Relevance aside, that’s when everyone decided to shut up.

More relevant to why I’m even in this country, I also learned recently that getting Thai kindergarteners to line up is about as easy as getting a English person to say the word “soccer.” We had to teach an “English Camp” at the school we’re doing our training at, which basically meant giving an hour-long lesson to six classes of students for two days in a row, students who were two days from the end of their school year. So it was nuts to begin with. The first day, I taught early high-schoolers, so it was a generally great experience. Day two though, was Kindie. Oh lord. Kindergarteners in the US are hard enough to corral, but when they don’t know you or the language you speak, imagine how hard it is to get them to do ANYTHING. They are adorable and lovable and absolutely insane. But they’re sticker addicts—literally will do anything for them, or high-fives—so you just have to seduce them and you’re good. Lines, though—lines don’t happen. You pick them up and physically place them in the line, say, “Stay!” very forcefully like you would to a dog, and then they run off again. If you’re on Facebook, check out the video of me and my teaching partner Jimmy trying to get a class in line. It’s pretty funny. If not, just imagine two people trying to get a bunch of fish swimming around in a tank to make some sort of formation. Then take away the walls of the tank, because Kindies love wandering out the door because they have no concept of boundaries. But so cute. You can’t hate them because they are so frickin’ adorable. Watching them dance to “What Does the Fox Say” for one of our activities was the highlight of my week.

Okay, well, I’m afraid that’s all for now because I would love to get 8 hours of sleep before I start my last week of training. I’m leaving for my placement on Friday, and hopefully I’ll have time before then, after my travel plans are confirmed, to keep you updated on where that is and what exactly I’ll be doing J Goodnight or good morning to you all, whichever side of the globe you’re on, and thanks for reading!

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