We have spent the past three days in Thai culture class. Strangely enough, the Thai government doesn’t want just any foreign doofuses teaching at the nation’s schools: it wants certified doofuses, and it wants them certified in country. This involves a process that is simultaneously arduous and simplistic. Arduous, because it involves a 20 hour course on top of all the hours that the teachers have spent applying for various forms of documentation. Simplistic, because half the activities involve arts’n’crafts and show’n’tell. We completed our training today, and I feel certified.*
It was originally unclear whether I should participate in the course. I’m not a teacher, nor do I particularly wish to become one. However, should my job search prove futile, I may end up substitute teaching at the school, and so the administration decided that I should take the class along with the real teachers. Going to work with T-bone was a new experience, and one that I’m not sure he’d recommend, though I found it entertaining. Let’s call it “marital enrichment.”
Thai school involved several distinct activities. The first involved listening to our adorable Thai teachers explain a l.e.n.g.t.h.y. series of powerpoint presentations. Their English is good, but not totally fluent, and they tend to insert a variety of Thai expressions such as “Ka,” “mm-Ka,” and “Ah-Ka.” This is soothing, but sometimes difficult to follow. A sample sentence:
“The Thai people, they love the King very much, Kaaa. I feel, ah-Ka, that the King is very mmm-Ka, wonderful. Ah-Ka. Kaaaaaa”
The second portion of the class centred on Thai Language Learning. I’ve sat in many language classes throughout the years, but never one that focused on a tonal language. I’ve heard French and German slaughtered pretty thoroughly, but nothing like the utter annihilation that the Thai language experienced in the mouths of this batch of North Americans. Imagine someone who’s demented, tone deaf, and illiterate trying to sing an opera score. Total carnage.
The third and most crucial portion of our class involved arts and crafts. We learned to make fish mobiles out of banana leaves, “love sticks” out of flowers, and kites out of paper and straws. I caught a glimpse of my lost childhood (mostly years 3 and 4), and I found myself spontaneously singing the clean-up song.** Our apartment is now decorated with mobiles of dead fish (we couldn’t figure out how to make them dangle upright), rotting “love sticks,” and mangled kites. They blend in nicely with our New Style Trend decor.
This afternoon, we officially graduated. We now have a complete and perfect understanding of the Thai culture, and the government is ready to inflict us on unsuspecting students. Kaaaaaa.
*Or perhaps certifiable…
**For the uninitiated: “clean up, clean up, everybody do your share, clean up, clean up… “ to be repeated ad nauseum