Wednesday evening Tawn and I enjoyed a visit by fellow Xangan, Curry. He’s on his way from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, making an apparently habitual stopover in the Big Mango. One thing that is nice about blogging is that you have the opportunity to meet so many people from around he world with whom you might not otherwise ever cross paths. We had a nice dinner at Cafe de Laos, although service was quite slow. We’ll look forward to his return a week from now when maybe we can have drinks at the Hilton Millennium.
On Sunday the 19th Thailand will have a national referendum on the draft constitution. This charter has been created by a committee of academics, respected statesmen, and citizens that were appointed by the CNS (the coup leaders). Thais will vote either in favor of the constitution or against it. If they vote in favor of it, it will go to the King for cursory approval. If they vote against it, the CNS can take any previous constitution and modify it as they see fit. Most likely they would use the 1997 constitution as a base, the one that was in effect until the coup.
Right: A poster advertising that this is the first time Thailand has ever had an constitutional referendum. Posters are being displayed everywhere to encourage people to vote.
Because many people (especially workers in Khrungthep) are registered back in their home provinces, the day following the election (Monday the 20th) has been declared a national holiday to encourage people to return home to vote. That way they’ll have time to return to work.
Hundreds of thousands of copies of the draft constitution have been sent to households across the Kingdom to ensure everyone has an opportunity to read and understand what they are voting on. It is dense reading, though: Khruu Kitiya told me that after reading about eight pages she was exhausted and set it aside.
In the “Is this Coercion?” category, the Nation reports that Thai prisoners, who are not eligible to vote, are being given copies of the new constitution to read and are being encouraged to write letters to their relatives, encouraging them to vote in favor of the constitution.
“Dear Mom and Dad, please vote in favor of the constitution because that is what my jailers want you to do. I am hoping to get a bunk of my own soon and not have to sleep on the floor anymore. Hint, hint.”
Left: this poster makes the stark choice starker still: the box on the left says “Approve” and the box on the right “Don’t Approve”. Interesting from a graphic layout perspective is the image of the Democracy Monument that is being the text and boxes. The image you see right in the center is a book placed on a tray atop a pedestal.
The book is the constitution. The tray is the type used to hand things to royalty or to monks, so that the people don’t directly touch them. In this poster, the constitution graphically is positioned at a point of balance between the boxes.
It is a very apt image as there has been a lot of discussion about what will happen if the constitution is not approved. There has been a lot of talk that regardless of the outcome, political unrest in Thailand is not over and will likely worsen in the coming year.
Squirrely and whirly and school
The last few weeks of teaching English are passing by. The students must be ready for a break because they have been unruly. Even with Kobfa, Ken and I teaching we still couldn’t keep the noise levels down.
At the same time, students here are much more respectful and disciplined than in some countries. My sister listened wistfully as I described how, when I enter the room at the beginning of class the students stand up, wai me, and say “Good morning, teacher.” At the conclusion of class, the do the same, saying instead, “Thank you, teacher.”
Change is the only constant, so they say. The small, rustic coffee shop (left) that we stop at each Wednesday morning for iced coffee and fried rice is being replaced by a modern indoors building.
With three benches carved from solid pieces of wood surrounding the kitchen, it looks like nothing so much as an American diner done over Thai-style. The busloads of Russian tourists on their way to the floating market pull up and they eat their box breakfasts at the surrounding tables while swamping the coffee shop employees with tea and coffee orders.
It looks like the old building will still remain as overflow seating, but the new glass and aluminium frame building just lacks the charm of the old building.
While teaching the grades 4-6 group, there was a disruption that turned out to be two baby squirrels that some girls had adopted. The squirrels, one of which hasn’t even opened its eyes yet, were being carried around in a purse. Rabies, anyone?
So we stopped everything, took a break, and the students spent some time playing around with the squirrels.
At the end of the day as class was wrapping down, I pulled out a pair of whirly tubes that I use to help students listen to their pronunciation and correct it. My mother, who is a music teacher, would use these with her students so they could learn to be more pitch perfect. I know the tubes as “Japanese whistles” because (I’ve been told) they are used as toys in Japan. Based on Bernoulli’s Principle, the tubes create a whistle as you whirl them, higher or lower pitch depending upon the speed with which they spin.
Little did I know that these would be such a hit. The children formed two groups and had a “whirl-off” in which they competed to see who could spin the tubes faster.
Video of the exciting events at school, here:
Every so often one of the boys will show up to school with a shaved head and no eyebrows, a sure sign that they went into the monkhood for a day or so, usually after the death of a family member. By doing this, they make merit for the deceased relative. This is different than the occasion, usually before age 25, when a young man will join the monkhood for a longer period of time, often more like a week or a month. Right now, Kom and Bill’s friend Art is at Wat Phra Ram Gaew in a one-month stint as part of the Sangha.
What was that lyric again?
You know how sometimes you misunderstand the lyrics to a song? I ran across an interesting mistake at ST Lyrics while reading the lyrics for “Hairspray”. In the big closing number “You Can’t Stop the Beat”, Penny – a self-proclaimed “checkerboard chic” (a white girl who has fallen for a black boy) – tells her love interest, Seaweed, “And if they try to stop us Seaweed, I’ll call the NAACP…”
The incorrect lyric on ST Lyrics is “And if they try to stop us Seaweed, I’ll call the end of a lacy pea.”