On my drive out to school Wednesday, I witnessed a spectacular sunrise in my rear-view mirror. As the large orange sun rose above the hazy blue horizon, I was reminded of the prints that were popular in the late 80s by artist Tetsuro Sawada, such as the one above.
The school year has come to an end here in Thailand. Or, at least, it will in the next few weeks. But as for English instruction at Bangkhonthiinai, the year has ended. Next Wednesday is a teacher in-service day and the following week – truly, the last week of instruction – I’ll be in the United States. So this week was the end. I was teaching by myself as Tod was in India and Markus and Ken both had guests in town. There wasn’t any formal farewell for the sixth graders, and I felt a little sad that I likely won’t be seeing them again.
Tuesday evening I baked twelve dozen cookies to bring to school: oatmeal raisin chocolate chip. After lunch, each student received one cookie. They proceeded to nibble at them very carefully and slowly, making a single cookie last for fifteen minutes. I need to learn to appreciate my food so carefully!
Next week I will head out to the school to pick up a dozen polo shirts that Ajarn Yai has ordered for my family members who visited in December. While there, I’ll get the addresses for the sixth graders and will send each a post card from the United States. Who knows how often – if ever – they’ve received a postcard.
So until the end of May I have a break from teaching, although have plenty to fill the time: creating a complete curriculum for next year that integrates the activities that I do with the ones done by the Thai teachers during the rest of the week.
After school, Ajarn Yai, the other teachers and I went to a seafood restaurant for a bite to eat. One of the dishes – gaang som baatsa (a whole deep fried fish served in a tamarind sauce soup with pak grachaet, a type of fern-like green that grows alongside khlongs, pictured left) – was very good and I mentioned that Tawn is a big fan of the dish. Ajarn Yai asked whether Tawn would like some, gesturing to the nearly-finished dish. Thinking she was suggesting that I bring the left-overs home for Tawn, I agreed.
What I didn’t realize is that she meant that she was going to place another order just for Tawn. So I drove home with a large bag containing a whole deep fried fish, another bag with the soup, and a third with the vegetables. As you can imagine, the car had quite the smell of tamarind and fried fish for the next few days.
This is what the Thais call grangjai – a type of obligation you have when someone else has done something for you. So now I’m “grangjai’d” to Ajarn Yai, as is Tawn. Which in turn was a result of Ajarn Yai’s perception that she is “grangjai’d” to me for the work I’ve done at the school. It is a never-ending circle that binds us together.
Wednesday evening, Markus invited me to join him for dinner with a friend of his who was visiting from San Francisco. It ended up being a group of about ten people, a whole interesting group of people who are all interconnected. Some of them included:
- Vic, an expat San Franciscan who just moved to Khrungthep four months ago and lives… guess where? About ten stories above Tawn and I, in the same building!
- Stuart, another expat who moved here about four years ago. He and his partner live over on Ekkamai, in the neighborhood Tawn and I are considering.
- Brian, a Taiwanese expat who lives here with his Thai-Chinese partner, and lives over in the Lang Suan area.
- Todd, another expat from the US who is actually someone Tod, my co-teacher at Bangkhonthiinai, has met a few times and had mentioned to me.
So it seems that Markus has discovered yet another hidden pocket of expats. The circle is ever-expanding!
Christine Emery, the sister of my primary internal customer, Eric, was in town on business later in the week and Eric had put us in touch. Reading her bio, I was a little intimidated to meet her for dinner. After all, she’s a PhD, the Vice President of Investment Policy for the US Government’s Overseas Private Investment Corporation, an agency that promoted US private investment in developing countries. Nonetheless, we met at her hotel on Thursday evening and went to the Banyan Tree Hotel for drinks at their rooftop bar.
After drinks, Christine suggested we just eat dinner at the adjacent restaurant. I’ve never eaten at Vertigo before, but it is certainly a nice place to eat, both in terms of the view as well as the attentive service. The food was good although it didn’t have much of a presence of Thai ingredients let along Thai food. Among the main dishes, the king prawns were really the only local item.
Tawn and I will be meeting Christine today to take her to the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and the Temple of Dawn. This should prove to be a very pleasant afternoon.