Apparently there has been speculation about whether or not I am dead. As far as I know, these are just wild rumours, unless somehow I died and managed to keep getting up at 6:30am to go to work, though I doubt that if I did die this would actually happen.
No, I've just been busy, and when I haven't been busy I've been relaxing. Every once in a while my computer taunts me and complains that I never blog anymore, but it's easily ignored by leaving the apartment.
My new job is interesting. I work at one school 4 days a week and another on Wednesdays. The first is called Wat Weruwan and it is in Sarapee, which is a ways outside of the city. I teach Prathom 4, 5, and 6 as well as Mattayom 1, 2, and 3 at this school (roughly translated to grades 4-8). It's a very relaxed atmosphere and most of the teachers are really great. There are two other farang teachers. For the first few days I walked around the grounds students would stare, giggle, point, and said 'Hello' and 'good morning/afternoon' whenever I passed. Now they're mostly restricted to the latter because the novelty has worn off, I think. According to some the fascination is not just because I'm a farang but that I'm a female. Either way it's a nice school and I enjoy that I'm a regular part of it now. I feel like I'm actually involved in a Thai community rather than just the backpackery one I've been experiencing so far. I'll be there until the end of February when the term ends.
The other school is a bit crazier. I'm only there once a week so the stares haven't quite subsided yet. This school is known as the trial by fire kind of place. If you can teach here, you can teach anywhere. My first day of teaching ever was here and it really intimidated me. There are over 40 wild kids in the classes, they have very low level English, and it is nearly impossible to get them to do anything other than play a game (which every Thai student can request in perfect English).
So that's work. I am employed by a contracting agency that placed me in these schools. They provide a syllabus for each grade level that includes a theme, vocabulary, and structure. I have to come up with how to teach it and what activities to do. At the end of the semester I have to give oral exams which will be difficult because I'll only have been teaching the kids for 1/4 of the school year. The contracting agency has a headquarters with some resources that are available to me so that's helpful.
Other than work I've been hanging out around town meeting some cool people. My two good buddies moved out of the city this week. Noah went to Beijing in search of a job that pays some decent money and a little more adventure than he can find here. Heith moved down to Mae Sat on the border with Burma to work with refugees for 3 months.
Yesterday I went to Ratchaphruek, the Royal Flora festival that has been going on in Chiang Mai since my first weekend here. It ends this week and as much as I've heard it's just a bunch of hype and not really worth it I figured I should at least check it out for myself. The King of Thailand is known for his work in improving the agriculture of the country and this festival/show thing is meant to show off all of the amazing accomplishments of Thailand. Every region was told to come up with a way of showcasing their strengths. I'm not entirely sure why it is held in Chiang Mai, but it's pulled in a lot of money for the area and the visitors have been flowing in and out the entire time I've been here. The people I've met, both Thai and farang don't seem too impressed with it, but there are some that have season passes and have been over 10 times.
I went with Lou and some of his friends. He has two visitors from home at the moment and his friend Pan came as well. We went later in the day to avoid the heat and the crowds. Here are some pictures:
Our first stop was the orchid pavilion. It was pretty busy even at 4pm, but this was probably the most amazing part of the whole exhibition. There were specially bred orchids from all over the world and a special section for a sculpted garden competition.
Dede said this flower was incredibly sexual. Its scent was beyond description.
Lou happily smelling the orchid that looked like a Georgia O'Keeffe painting.
Me sitting in front of one of the amazingly sculpted orchid gardens.
Happy Banana or Sinister Sex Toy? You decide.
To add to my international amusing sign collection.
One section of the exhibition was dedicated to international gardens. Some of them were amazingly manicured (Belgium, Espana, Japan) while others were little more than some grass and the country's flag (Cambodia) which seemed sadly to fit the wider world.
These prayer wheels were in the Nepalese garden.
One of the first countries we visited was Morocco. The building was cool but it seemed less focused on the gardens and more on getting people to buy kitschy Moroccan merchandise.
After the international gardens we headed for the Royal Pavilion, the focal point of the exhibition's design. It was about to close but we made it into the throng of people streaming in to look at the inside of a temple like structure that was built for the exhibition.
This is what was inside, but taken from the outside.
The Royal Pavilion was beautiful from the outside, but as we made our way closer to the inside I experienced my first real mobbing experience. I've been in crowds here, they're pretty hard to avoid. This was something else entirely though. As we walked up the final set of stairs to enter people just pushed the person in front of them in order to make the crowd go faster. I shot a few dirty looks at the young girl behind me and was really tempted to swirl around and say "Bitch, please!" in my best attempt to make my point made. I didn't though, and once we were inside my only reaction was 'this is what all of these people were so keen on getting to so quickly?' and I stayed for a few minutes but quickly left to wait outside while my companions looked around.
After that we decided to find a spot to sit and watch the evening show. We ended up on a hill not far from the Royal Pavilion, where the show was.
A view of all of the people finding a place to settle.
The show itself was very visually impressive, and I got the gist of the story (it was in Thai, of course) but much of it was lost on me. There were fireworks, dancing women, music, dragons, loud dramatic announcers, dancing elephants, and a laser show. My camera doesn't like to function at night so unfortunately I don't have any pictures for you.
All in all Ratchaphruek was a very impressive display of Thailand's agricultural achievements, and although we didn't manage to see even half of the displays it was enough for me. The whole thing was strangely Disney-like, which turned me off a little, but the flowers were certainly beautiful. Afterwards we went out for some dinner and went back to Lou's. They're a fun group, those Aussies. Dede and Bill have both taught English in different countries and have many stories to share. They were very interested in my job and what it entails.
Today I plan to spend working on lesson plans and relaxing. I'm not sure when I'll update again, but I like to think it won't be as long between posts as last time. We'll see about that. At least I finally did something touristy and managed to bring my camera along.
I will leave you with this picture of a broken mannequin whose breasts are the biggest I've seen in my entire time in Chiang Mai. Makes me wonder what she was used for before she broke...