Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween at Benchama Maharat

Halloween snuck up on me this year.  It was at our Wednesday afternoon staff meeting that we were told students would be having an assembly and we should dress in halloween attire.  This was not a surprise for everyone.  Anyone who has been teaching EP knows that Halloween is an English speaking celebration and as part of the cultural immersion, students get to party on down!  It's amazing how quickly people can come up with costumes. 

Manoraj, our emcee...

with David

and some of the EP staff.

The students always know everything before the teachers, so they were well prepared...


As far as Thais are concerned, Halloween is ONLY about scary ghosts, ghouls, vampires, dracula, and the living dead.

The assembly opens with, what else.... the full length version of Thriller!

Prizes abound, and they're nothing to sneeze at.  A trip to Macro (think Sam's Club) produced boxes and boxes of cookies, cakes, and sweets.

Trivia questions about English speaking Halloween and Thai ghost stories were posed, and correct answers war rewarded with, not a package, but a box of treats. (These Thais love their sweets)

In between trivia, ghost story telling contests and costume awards kept the crowd tuned in.

While the rest of the city wonders where these creatures came from and what are they doing in our city, the students get a reprieve from classes for the afternoon, and a lot of sugar to carry them through the day.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Benchama Maharat School

My new school is located in the city of Ubon Ratchathani, and is only one of the public schools in the city.  It is the highest rated in the province.

The school has a total of 4800 students in grades 7 through 12.   

Our day officially starts at 8 AM with an all school assembly.  Teachers have to check in using a  fingerprint scan by 7:50.

Students arrive at school on foot, bicycle, car, or on their scooter.  They must be inside the gates by 8:00, but of course, everyone runs on Thai time!

The school song is played over loudspeakers; a call to assembly.  When students are lined up by class,  the national anthem is played and the flag is raised, a prayer to Buddha is offered, and two students give words of wisdom for being good students/citizens for the day.  This is followed by school announcements.... no interruptions during class!

Although lined up so neatly, it is never quiet as the incessant talking drowns out the speaker.
Teachers are guilty as well.

Most days the students wear the national uniform which also dictates hair length and shoes.  On Fridays, they wear the school uniform.

For such a large school the band is pretty small.

These students are M-1, M-2, and M-3 (7th, 8th, and 9th grade).  The girls stay with the girls and the boys stay with the boys.  At least when the teachers are around.


EP, English Program, is a "school within a school".  Students must take an exam to take part, and there is a fee of 30,000 baht/semester ($1000).  While our class sizes are 30 students,
the rest of the school has classes of 50.
We also have air-conditioned classrooms which aren't available
elsewhere on campus.

There is an overhead marquis with inspirational messages.
This message has been alternating with a comment about attendance, and a quote from Audrey Hepburn.  Ya, that's right.

The classrooms are basic...

And the student bathrooms primitive....

This is a squat and splash.  For further instructions....

But the campus is beautiful, and orchids hang from overhead trellises throughout.

The gardeners are busy every hour of the day!

A spirit house

and another.

sitting areas

The first week of school is over and we hit the ground running.  Registering students, holding classes, writing lesson plans, Open House, celebrating Rama V, 
and mourning the loss of the patriarchal monk.

And this coming week is Halloween.  I've been told students take this seriously.  One year they rented two elephants to parade around campus!

There will be more to come about school, but this is enough for now.  Hope you enjoy!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rafting and elephants and dinner cruise, Oh My!!!

Our Thai lessons are over, no more TOEFL classes.  Our final destination... Kanchanaburi!  Our OEG leaders like to keep surprises, so all we knew was we were to pack an overnight bag and make sure we had a bathing suit.  A three hour bus ride (most of it in Bangkok traffic) brought us northwest of Bangkok to the Taweechai Elephant Camp.  The day included floating and swimming down the river on bamboo rafts and riding elephants.


I swear Thais can sleep anywhere!

and then we noticed the people on the other raft had jumped in.....

The ride was too short, we could have floated all afternoon, but the elephants were waiting!

and, of course, the other assortment of animals.....

A quick trip to the River Kwai (pronounced Kwa like apple not Kwy)

 The original bridge was bombed and rebuilt, and then bombed again.  The one you see today was rebuilt after the war was over.

because I knew Hillary would appreciate this shot...

The Japanese ordered the bridge to be built to carry supplies from Myanmar (Burma) to Thailand.
Almost half of the POWs forced to work on this project died from malnutrition or disease.

And, yes, it is still used.

A whirlwind visit to the bridge, then back to our hotel to change for dinner.

The Pavillion
The view from our window.

The grounds went on endlessly.

Just one of the two pools.

and the other.

No time for play, we had to leave by 5PM sharp.... (well, we're always on Thai time) for

our dinner on the river.  Four barges tied together floating down the river.

My new BFFs, Hillary and Ari

And then the DJ cranks it up!

Long day that ended too early.  Back to the hotel for a night of rest (for some of us), then back to Bangkok the next day to meet our school coordinators and head to our new homes.