Ian McNamara

Back to school

Shoes are polished and uniforms are in pristine condition


The first day of term is the same all over the world. A day in which the hearts and minds of a nation's youth, and their teachers', are filled with fear, dread and anticipation. Once the countdown to back to school day commences the days pass with alarming speed. One moment you're hanging round Centrepoint, dressed to kill with your gelled hair, earing and new metallic silver strides; in a vain attempt to attract a hi-so teen chick, the next you're being dragged kicking and screaming into the barbers for your 30 baht buzzcut.

A few short hours later you wake up, the first day of school has arrived. Not even a week of prayers to your favourite emotional crutch, the amulet your grandfather gave you, could delay the inevitable sunrise.

4.30am - You wake up, or rather are woken up, by a doting parent who doesn't feel safe entrusting Number One son to the rigours of a bus journey and thus always insists on taking you to school by car. You feel like crap - having spent the best part of the preceding night trying to chat up a 16 year old girl, via ICQ, only to discover at 2.40 am that ‘she' is in fact a group of boys from Mattayom 5 at St Judas' Academy. You silently pray that you didn't use your real name at any time during the negotiating process.

4.43 am - Cold shower to get the brain working, at least that's the latest theory designed to improve your I.Q. You're still getting over the side affects of seaweed addiction, the brain food of choice a couple of years ago.

4.55 am - Breakfast, of the modern Thai variety. Half a dozen calcium tablets - you never know it might kickstart a late growth surge, a couple of multivitamins, artificially enhanced nature identical orange juice and a donut. (Remnants of last night's KFC may also be thrown in to the mix depending on availability.)

5.13 am - Get dressed in a drab, uninspiring, featureless uniform intended to make you feel part of the school family but instead only serving to remind you that you are part of the school family - and that there's no way out.

5.26 am - Realise it's actually ‘Scout Uniform' day today. Put on freshly starched uniform replete with an armful of sew-on badges. Have doubts over the mental capacity of whoever laid down the law requiring people of your girth to wear skin tight shorts.

5.32 am - In the car for the 30 minute ride to school. Listen to your aging father droning on about how the morning's the best part of the day and letting you know that if you ever want to make something of your life you're going to have to buck your ideas up. (As I said earlier, some things are the same the world over.)

6.04 am - Arrive at the gates of St Judas. Notice an abundance of blooming flowers and a distinct lack of fellow inmates. Head to the canteen have another breakfast -‘joke' washed down with a couple of glasses of sickly-sweet, fake green Fanta.

6.21 am - Head up to your room to sleep and wait for friends you haven't seen for a couple of months to arrive.

7.05 am - Disturbed by a new M.1 student who has mistaken you for someone who genuinely gives a toss about his plight. His trembling voice tells a tale of unknown horror, in a school of 3,240 today he's the only boy wearing a blue and white uniform. Resisting the urge to make an example of him in front of the school you ignore him and return to your slumber, safe in the knowledge that a female staff member will take care of him sooner or later.

7.30 am - The school's filling up now. You're no longer alone in your small room. There's 20 other people milling around. Comparing haircuts, admiring new uniforms, marveling at holiday photos taken in far flung Chonburi, and a couple in the corner jealously eyeing up the rather alluring newbie teacher.

7.50 am - It's time to rock n' roll. A quick trip to the toilet to rid yourself of those last minute nerves. A quick check to ensure your woggle's positioned as per the school's medieval dress code. A quick decision, re: the placement of scout beret, does one risk the jaunty angled approach on the first day or should you go with the more conservative ‘dead centre' look?

7.56 am - The bell tolls and the moment of truth has arrived. Your heart tells you to run back home and hibernate until next summer, your head tells you otherwise. Upon being summoned by your superiors, you step out in front of the assembled throng, glance over the sea of expressionless faces and think to yourself :

"How the hell did I end up Head of the English Department?"




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