Yes, I’ve told you about the flooding, but gee whilickers, who knew it was going to have such an effect on my daily life? I went to school yesterday and taught an epic lesson (not really, it was an easy-peasy soft-toss lesson to get them warmed up to English again) before there was a meeting of some sort called. I didn’t pay attention at all, but for once wish I had because important stuff was going down this time around.
Turns out being in one of the ‘affected’ provinces in Thailand means that even if your roads are bare bones dry with ‘cold’ season moving in, your school might be closing for an extra ten days until the 15th of November. It could be extended if it gets worse, it could be shortened. I was told not to go too far in case school opens back up again (with all the flooding, where could I go?).
I was given two reasons why we closed: to help others in our provincial city/Bangkok and the decision came higher up than us. I can see the idea of going to assist those struggling right now, many of my friends and students did just that over school break. However ‘they told us to’ seems devoid of most logic, but this is Thailand, it’s normal.
The frustrating thing about this (and I mean frustrating because it seriously cuts into my free time) is that the ‘make-up’ for these days means the next ten Saturdays of mine are going to be spent at school. Yummy. I haven’t broached the subject with my coteachers yet, too afraid of their answers, but even though I don’t want to, I would feel guilty if I didn’t go. I already have Friday that I’m not required to go to school, they seem to think this is a free day. I seem to think it’s sometimes the hardest day of the week because it typically means I’m getting myself into awkward situations. Should I be encouraging the differences between us even more though? Even if it means no Thanksgiving celebration with other Volunteers, three-day holiday weekends in early December, or the much-needed space I need from my students in those three-day blocks.
The thing that I’d like to point out to my Thai people though is that if we sat down and had real school for ten days, like actual learning, teachers teaching instead of going to x,y, and z, and kids not cleaning, giving their teacher a massage, or other chores of the teachers, while they should be learning, that could easily give us a month to go help flood victims in the surrounding areas. Alas, this is Thailand, that’s not how it works here.
The other bit I’m realizing his how much of our supplies in my village come from Bangkok. In most of the convenience stores in town, there’s hardly anything, especially so in 7/11. The shelves are extremely bare. This is usually a spot for teenagers to hang out, get snacks, and chat (especially after school). Now hardly anyone is going in to buy things (though there’s a plethora of things you can pay for at 7/11 though, like your bills or in my case, add baht to your phone). We no longer have any sort of ‘fresh’ things like milk, bread, or most snacks.
I say all of this because it really is making me change the way I live in my village, but it’s not bad here at all. Everyone is banding together. There are tons of Bangkokians and the like moving in with family and friends here and are truly welcomed with open arms. My friend Pi-Chaai alone has six people staying with her and there’s no tension at all, she’s happy to have a place for them to stay. We spend days chatting with her visiting friends and family, showing them around to our favorite spots, and they’ve accepted me as part of the group (or should I say I’ve accepted them?). I can usually spot the other new people into town when occupying a favored location of mine and the ‘fresh’ stares start (not the ‘hey there’s Erin, what’s she up to’ kind, but the ‘who is this farang and what is she doing here’ kind. I get an eensy bit annoyed with this because they’re here visiting my town and act like I’m the one that doesn’t belong).
This is the worst flooding in Thailand for nearly half a century. It’s claimed the lives of more than 350 people, disrupted more than 2 million, and caused the country billions in damage. But together, we’re moving on. We’re working together to make it through this disaster. Thailand, I’ve got full faith in you, even if you do make me teach for the next ten Saturdays.