The second module of my Thai lesson is quickly winding down, the final examination occurring on Tuesday. Hard to believe that another twenty days of instruction are almost complete. There is a lot of vocabulary to learn this weekend: body parts, the names of the months, and prepositions.
“The hand is on the arm. The arm is beside the body. The body is in front of the house. The house was purchased in November.”
Picture 1: Union Language School is located on the seventh floor of the Church of Christ in Thailand’s building near the Ratchatevi Skytrain station.
Or, as comedian Eddie Izzard pointed out in his “Dressed to Kill” concert, you learn the most bloody useless phrases (“The cat is on the chair,” “The monkey is in the tree”) and then you have a heck of a time using them. Partial transcript of the funny parts:
And I learnt French at school, up to the age of 16, and then I just kept talking it endlessly after that. And at school, the first page I ever learnt in French was full of things that are quite difficult to get into conversation, things like “the mouse is underneath the table” – la souris est en dessous la table. Just slip that when you’re buying a ticket to Paris: “Le train à Paris, oui? C’est ici? C’est maintenant? Cinq minutes… la souris est en dessous la table…”
The other line was, “the cat is on the chair” – le chat est sur la chaise – slightly more easy to fit in; and “the monkey is on the branch” – “le singe est sur la branche.” Very difficult to get into a conversation! Not a lot of jungle in France… monkeys thin on the ground… thin in the air… just generally pretty trim!
And yes, so it just wasn’t working.
In the end, the only way I could get that line into a conversation was I had to go to France with a cat, a mouse, a monkey, a table and a chair, and wander around heavily wooded areas. “Come on, come on! Someone’s coming, someone’s coming! Quick, positions! Les positions, maintenant! Boulot, boulot! Tout de suite! Vas-y! Vas-y!
“Eh, bonjour. Qu’est-ce qui se passe?”
“Bonjour, je suis Anglais, je suis ici en vacances. C’est très belle ici, les couleurs, les bois, très belle.”
( inhaling ) “Tu est un travesti?”
“Oui, je suis un travesti, mais pas un travesti typical. Je suis un travesti executive… Un travesti d’action!”
“Mais, la souris est en dessous la table, le chat est sur la chaise et le singe est… est… le singe est disparu.”
Anyhow… the highlight of the week was a trip to Bella Napoli restaurant with my classmates and teachers. We’re experiencing some splintering in the group as different students decide whether or not to continue with the program, so we decided to get together while we’re still all at ULS. Actually, along the way, our group has reduced from 13 students to seven, with only four of us continuing to module 3.
So on Thursday evening the lot of us, including our current teacher, our teacher from module 1, and everybody’s spouses or faan (girl- or boyfriends), met up at this charming little Italian pizzeria on Sukhumvit Soi 31 that Guido, our Italian classmate, had proclaimed to be the most authentically Italian restaurant he’s found in Bangkok. Tawn and I had been twice before and really enjoyed the food and atmosphere. Picture 2: Chris, Carlos, Yoichi, and Damon.
We were an international lot: Americans, Thai, Japanese, Italian, British, Israeli, and Bolivian. Damon and his wife are a British couple with two daughters, 4 and 8 years old. His wife teaches at an International School in Bangkok, along with the girlfriend of Guido, an Italian who towers over the rest of us and has lived for a long time in Britain. Yoichi and Chihiro are the Japanese students about whom I wrote a few entries ago, when with uncharacteristic directness, Chihiro asked Yoichi whether he likes boys or girls. Chihiro is here living with her Japanese-speaking Thai boyfriend. Yoichi is in the computer technology industry and… we don’t know why he is here, except to drink sake and smoke. Tim (also known as Vladimir or Kim) is the Israeli of Russian heritage who asked lots and lots of questions in Module one and decided to repeat it instead of continuing to module two with the rest of us. Carlos is the young, lanky Bolivian who studies martial arts and has previously lived in Japan and China on his quest for new experiences. Kari, along with her husband Ron who is several modules ahead of us, is here from Texas as a Christian missionary. Everyone has their different reasons for being here. Picture 3 from left: Khruu Lakkana, Khruu Phimjai, Kari (in red), Tim, Yoichi (partially hidden by), Carlos, Damon, Chihiro, Guido, Guido’s girlfriend (whose name I forget), and me. Damon’s camera-shy wife Carole is hiding behind me. Picture 4: Ron and Kari Harmon.
Picture 5: Guido and his girlfriend. Picture 6: Kari and Chihiro. Picture 7 from left: Kim, Chris, Khruu Phimjai, Guido, Chihiro, Carlos, Damon, Yoichi, Khruu Lakkana, Tawn, and Kari.
The food was good and the company more so, and I was very suprirsed that, all things considered, our Thai conversation was pretty good. Of course, it was pidgin Thai, but for only two months of study, it was impressive. Tawn and the other spouses had a good time, although he was the only one of the lot who actually understood the Thai conversation.
After dinner, we combined our two tables and the fun began. The post-dinner conversation mirrored our classroom conversation, often deviating from the curriculum, the Thai language (or at least Thai grammar), and largely based on teasing one-another. Numerous jokes about Yoichi’s supposed substance abuse.
Things ended with Khruu Lakkana, who taught us in module one, singing the elephant song (“chang, chang, chang, chang, chang, nong khuey hen chang ruplau?” – elephant, elephant, elephant, elephant, elephanht, brogther have you ever seen an elephant?) The song, of course, includes acting out of the different parts of an elepant: ears, trunk, and tusks – pictured here.
The biggest mystery of the night was why Khruu Phimjai didn’t get who Tawn was. She kept asking questions of him like, “Where do you live?” Tawn replied that he lived on Soi Asoke. Khruu Phimjai said, “Oh, that’s near where Chris lives.” Everyone else got it, but she seemed to not understand that Tawn was a feen, not a phueng (friend). Oh well, so it goes in Bangkok.