I recently had the pleasure of taking part in The Central Region English Program Open House at The Mall Ngamwongwan in Bangkok. Its theme was "Aim High, Fly High, Be United". I wasn't sure whether I felt like joining The Air Force or calling my travel agent first. Instead, I packed my overnight bag, all of my exemplary students work and went off into the sunset and the bowels of the overnight air conditioned coach to Ekkamai.
It was a rousing success. There were a number of garbled speeches through substandard speaker systems, plenty of cheerleaders, unintelligible speeches by bigwig talking heads and eight, yes eight, different versions of "Hero" by Mariah Carey. Each one tugged the heartstrings more than the last. Oh, I almost forgot. There was also a ballerina dancing around in front of the stage! Now how's THAT for fantabulastic?! The cacophony of 30 or more different schools each doing something noisy, plus two stages on which some song that would make an M1 girl cry were being belted out, was enough to make me wish I had brought my earplugs. But hey...when in Rome right? Farang kit mak!
There were booths for every single school with an EP in The Central Region. We had to present some our students best work, make sure we had plenty of slick, expensive brochures to pass out and be on hand to answer such hard hitting questions as:
- "How much of an under the table payment do I need to make to ensure that my
child gets a spot?
- "Are all of your teachers farang hua dang?"
- "Can my child take his cell-phone into the classroom?"
- "Since I am paying so much, do you guarantee that my child will get a good
My fellow teachers and I arrived, as ordered, at 8 a.m. After a delicious and nutritious McDonalds "bake-faht" we proceeded to the front doors of The Mall. Of course they were locked. We looked around for some signs that would, perhaps, point us to an alternative entrance. Would you believe it? There weren't any!
With a hopeful smile upon my visage and a spring in my step, I proceeded to ask Mr. Somnuek the security guard if he, perchance, knew how we could get up to the 4th floor? (I asked him in Thai.) His answer, after a full minute of brow bending inner deliberation was "Mai roo."
So I decided to call Ajarn #@&*%$, The Head of EP at our school. Surprisingly enough, her phone was turned off. So we went back into McDonalds and waited for the inevitable phone call. I knew, from past experience, what sort of things and atmosphere were waiting for us upstairs. So I decided to head to the bathroom to take an Atarax!
Let me tell you about Atarax, I beg you! Forget teaching degrees, experience, common sense, dedication or any of that malarkey right now mister or miss! Atarax just MAY be the single most useful teaching tool the EP teacher here has at their disposal. Hear my words newbies! Atarax! (OK, "word", not "words" but you get the picture.)
They come in 10 or 25 milligram tablets, are completely legal and can be found anywhere. They are advertised as "an antihistamine with a pleasantly sedative effect." I recommend the 25 mil ones. Ahhhhhhh.
After taking one you are (almost) as mellow, relaxed and laid back as after having smoked a Backwoods and taken a mild ‘Lude. PLUS your nasal passages are clear! WHAT'S not to love?!
Stressed out by the seeming chronic inability of certain groups of people around you to ever do anything in an organized, planned, professional manner? Take an Atarax!
Saddened by the fact that only those children from families with money ever get a chance, even though they often have their grades/degrees bought for them? Take an Atarax!
Tired of being the convenient scapegoat for any and all troubles that ail your academic program? Take an Atarax!
Have to spend your entire weekend at The EP Open House, whether you want to or not? Take an Atarax!
By the time the phone call came, I was feeling no pain.
Ajarn #@&*%$: Where you at!?
Me: I'm here, in McDonalds, with all the other teachers.
Ajarn #@&*%$: Why you don't come upstairs?
Me: We cannot find a way in, everything is locked. (Giggle)
Ajarn #@&*%$: You stay there I send Teacher &%$#@ to bring you.
Me: Giggle, giggle
So Teacher &%$#@ came and found us. She then led us on a circuitous trek, akin the lost tribes of Israel, through the parking garage, an employee's entrance, up five flights of stairs and into the promised land.
We had made it at last! Angels sang, clouds parted and a light, warm rain fell on our faces as we thanked Teacher &%$#@ for our deliverance. (I was hallucinating by now, but that was from lack of sleep and the climb up the stairs, not the Atarax.)
After a severe dressing down, reminiscent of the morning flag ceremony harangues, we all went to our booth, feeling very guilty and inadequate for not being able to do something SO easy as find our way to the conference room. (You know how trying we farangs can be!)
So we then stood there from 9 to 3, Saturday and Sunday and made the future safe for democracy. We heard "Hero", "Nobody, Nobody" and "Love...I Need Somebody" enough times that I now know the lyrics better than my 13 year old niece. You should see me do that dance with the little beating heart thing with my hands. I look JUST like that Korean Pop sensation. She's quite impressed and has congratulated me several times, so the weekend wasn't a TOTAL waste, which is good.
So in conclusion, the Open House was highly informative and showcased how successful EP programs have been in turning undisciplined, spoiled, misbehaving, intellectually disinterested, narrow minded Thai students into the model world citizens, open minded diplomats, heady intellectuals and free thinkers that they are today.
To quote a friend "A good time was had by all!"
So I'll see you next year at The Open House and (whatever you do) DON'T forget to bring your Atarax!