Saab Bor Hok – the Sixth Grade Test

Settling back into the routine here in Krungthep, I’m reminded why I carry my camera with me most everywhere I go.  There is always something interesting to see.  On Wednesday I had to run some errands.  I drove to the Ministry of Labor to retrieve my work permit book, the address of which I had modified to reflect the “annex” unit we bought next door to our condo.  Then I continued to the post office to mail wedding thank-you cards.  Next I headed to UOB Bank to drop off some paperwork.  Finally, I stopped at Emporium mall to have some pho at Little Hanoi restaurant.


While sitting in traffic on Sukhumvit Road, I noticed something odd about the cement truck in front of me.  Dangling between the rear wheels was a dirty pink stuffed animal, akin to an Ugly Doll but probably not a branded one.  I’ve seen this before.  In fact, about a year ago I was noticing this on cars and trucks of all types here in Krungthep.  To this day, though, nobody with whom I’ve spoken has an explanation.  Why would you tie a stuffed animal at the back of your vehicle?


From the carpark at UOB Bank (the Sukhumvit 25 branch), I snapped this picture of an unfinished hotel.  This is supposed to become a Crowne Plaza property at the corner of Sukhumvit Soi 27 but the developer halted construction about six months ago, ostensibly in response to the lousy tourism market.  It is very well-located, just a few blocks from the Asoke/Sukhumvit junction and the Skytrain and Subway stations there.  to the right of the picture you can see the Windsor Suites hotel, managed by our friend Ben.  Very nice hotel and also well-located.  If you’re looking for a place to stay in Krungthep, I recommend it.


Tawn was very inspired by our trip to New York, taking careful notes on the styles and looks he saw on Manhattan’s busy streets.  Above is one of his work outfits that he put together as a result of his inspiration.  What do you think?


Speaking of New York, I returned from my 24-day trip to the US only to discover that a Dunkin Donuts kiosk has opened underneath the escalator connection from the Asoke Skytrain station to the Sukhumvit Subway station.  See, the Big Mango is just like the Big Apple!


Since my return, I’ve resumed my twice-weekly classes with my Thai tutor, Khruu Kitiya.  For the past two and a half years, we’ve been meeting at the same place, a small coffee shop and restaurant called Bitter Brown, also close to the Asoke/Sukhumvit junction.  They make cute latte art, like the flowers above.  After having been gone for nearly a month, the owner was a bit shocked to see me again.  “We thought you must have graduated!” he said, upon seeing me.

No, I haven’t graduated.  Although, Khruu Kitiya is suggesting it might be a good idea for me to take the government administered “Saab Bor Hok”, or Sixth Grade Examination.  While it isn’t a requirement for me, this examination represents the level of linguistic skills the government expects for certain types of visa holders such as missionaries or those applying for permanent residency.  The test, which lasts about five hours, has four parts:

  • Dictation of questions and multiple-choice answers, in which you have to indicate the correct answer on an exam sheet.
  • Reading of questions and multiple-choice answers, in which you have to indicate the correct answer on an exam sheet.
  • A writing section composed of two parts: Dictation of paragraphs which you have to correctly write on the exam sheet, and then the composing of a short essay based on a question or subject given during the exam.
  • An oral section in which you have to engage in a ten-minute conversation with an evaluator.

Khruu Kitiya’s assessment, with which I concur, is that the first two parts would be very easy for me, the writing section would be challenging (the essay would be harder for me than the dictation), and the oral section would be a killer.  This is because the one thing I don’t spend much time doing is actually speaking with Thais, since I work from home and my work is in English.  As she has suggested before, Tawn and I should probably start using Thai as the spoken language at home.

Contrast this with Jon, a 19-year old Canadian with whom we had dinner Thursday night.  Jon first contacted me through this blog more than a year and a half ago, when he was on a one-year Rotary Club exchange program here in Bangkok.  He finished that program and returned to complete his senior year in Edmonton, with the plan of returning to Bangkok after he has his university degree.

Jon spent most of his year here immersed with Thais – Thai students, Thai friends, living with a Thai family.  Then on this current two-month trip, the circumstances have been the same: all Thai, all the time.  Needless to say, his spoken Thai is way beyond mine and I was humbled by the ease with which he and Tawn were able to converse.  Clearly, there is still some work for me to do!

The good news is, the “Saab Bor Hok” isn’t until the end of November, so I have time to prepare for it as well as time to decide whether or not I even want to take it at this time.


View from my balcony on Friday late afternoon.  We’re in rainy season and there were some spectacular storms this week.  The best part about it, in my opinion, is the way these awesome (and I mean that in the original sense of the word) clouds form: huge, complicated things that build into dark, angry towers.  They are amazing to watch.

Lots of cooking to update you on in the next entry.


0 thoughts on “Saab Bor Hok – the Sixth Grade Test

  1. I just called Pat upstairs to look at your picture of the unfinished hotel…I do believe that is in the same general area that we lived, 30+ years ago!!! Wow, what a change!!! Tell Tawn that I approve of his outfit..he could completel change the look of the outfit with a softer colored tie…give the outfit more “faces”. I have no guesses on why the poor little ugly doll is dangling from the back end of that truck!! I am sure it has something to do with the Thai affinity to “decorating” their transportation!! I can still close my eyes and remember the myriad of decorations in all of the taxis that I rode in. Would you mind sharing with me what type of work you and Tawn do? I am also curious as to how the two of you met in the first place?And I am SO impressed that you are learning not only to speak Thai but to read and write it, such a difficult task!! You definitely need to immerse yourself in Thai if you want to grow in your abilities, that is the way that Pat became basically fluent in less than a year!!! Have a great weekendRuth Ann

  2. Tawn’s outfit looks great as usual. I usually sniff to see what is clean and wear those. I couldn’t hold a 10 minute conversation in Chinese. Even the clerks in the Chinese stores here take pity on me and switch to English.

  3. Tawn looks dapper in his outfit heheAs per the pink stuffed animal dangling from the truck, it is pretty common to see “waste managemente” and other trucks (at least around NYC) which have a stuffed animal of sort tied up around the grill. I’ve seen anything from a Winnie the Pooh that is rather grey or brown from the dirt to all other kinds of stuffed animals as decorations. I’m not sure if it’s some sort of a charm but I remember reading an article somewhere about this “phenomenon”.

  4. i was just gonna say i love tawn’s outfit! seems i’m not alone =)i knew i was reading too fast when i thought you had to engage in a conversation in an elevator for 10 minutes…hhhaahh…it sounds like a tough exam but it might be a good idea…i find it hard to learn something when i don’t have the push to study/practice/prepare for an exam…lol…

  5. I have seen other kinds of stuffed animals tied to the back of SUVs here in LA as well, but no garbage trucks yet. A “YES” vote for Tawn’s outfit, perfect for the warm weather climate, such stylish and upbeat colour! As for your Thai language lessons, it sure helps when immersed in a 100% Thai environment. How about listening to Thai songs or even going to the karaoke lounge, there are so many of these places all over the city.

  6. The purple doll reminded me of Grimace from MacDonald’s!LOVE Tawn’s outfit! Yummy! ^^I think it is a good idea to switch to speaking in Thai at home!You are so lucky to have that option!Complete immersion in a language is the key!Thai is a tonal language, it is hard!I absolutely love the balcony photo!The clouds and light shining through is amazing!

  7. @Redlegsix –  Ruth Ann, Tawn is an account manager with a global Public Relations firm and I manage, create and update the training programs and materials for a division of a Fortune 500 firm. As for how we met, I actually blogged about that back in January 2008, before you stumbled across the blog. Here’s the link to that entry.@ElusiveWords –  I’m closer to your style of building an outfit, Matt!@TheLatinObserver –  Interesting. So it is more of a sanitation worker culture thing?@onmovement –  Having a specific goal or a deadline to meet can be a good way to concentrate one’s efforts. Hopefully it will work for me.@CurryPuffy –  I’ve tried doing that to some extent, but the way that Thai lyrics are written doesn’t correspond very well with how people actually speak, if that makes any sense. It certainly wouldn’t hurt for me to listen to more Thai music, though.@Dezinerdreams –  Yes, it is a beautiful picture, isnt’ it? The clouds are amazing.@minhaners –  I’d like to watch an episode of that show.@yang1815 –  About ten days after, actually!@ZenPaper –  The challenge is, after a full day of being immersed in Thai, Tawn comes home and wants to speak English. D’oh!@snowjunky8 –  Thanks, I’ll let him know.THANK YOU to everyone for your kind words about Tawn’s outfit. I’ll pass them on.

  8. Unfinished hotels and business offices were everywhere in Dubai. Thanks to the global economic depression.I remember that Rotary exchange student from last year. See, now you too can learn to verbalise in Thai fluently. Mind over matter buddy.

  9. Pink is a really, really good color on Tawn! I love his outfit!I’ve found that it’s much, much easier to learn and really begin to know (I think there’s a big difference between those two) a language. When you are forced to speak the language in order to move through whatever you are doing, you learn it much quicker. When you don’t have to use the language all the time, I don’t think that you pick it up that fast. I had been taking Spanish since I was in 7th grade. When I was a Junior in college, I studied abroad for 6 weeks in the heart of Mexico. I lived with a family that only spoke Spanish so if I wanted to talk to them, I had to use Spanish (we sat around the dinner table with an English to Spanish dictionary a lot). I couldn’t believe how much better my Spanish got in that relatively short amount of time!!! Good luck! I think that if you put your mind to it, you’ll have no problem passing the test 🙂

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