More about Graduation

As promised, here is some more interesting information about graduation day in Thailand:

The king of Thailand used to hand out all of the university diplomas awarded in Thailand. People here love the king so much. During the king�s 60th anniversary celebration, thousands of people gathered to catch a glimpse of the king. I saw the celebration on TV. It was amazing! People were crying and shouting. Seeing the king was obviously a very emotional experience for many people. So I imagine that receiving your diploma from the king would be a VERY big deal!

The king stopped handing out the diplomas when he got older. Now the prince and princesses hand out the diplomas. This is still a big deal. One of the princesses will be coming to KKU on Monday. KKU students are planning to line up along the roads on campus. When the princess� car drives by, the boys will bow and the girls will curtsy.

So…graduation day seems pretty exciting. I�m not going to attend the ceremony because I don�t think I can handle being around that many people. Also, the ceremony will be in Thai, and you know how long graduation ceremonies can be!

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Graduation Party

I first learned about graduation day when I tried to schedule a test on Monday, Dec. 18th with my first year students.I thought they were lying to me when they told me all classes were cancelled for graduation on that day!They weren�t lying.

 

Graduation Day is on Monday, but the school is already a flurry of activity.There were dozens of little stalls outside the complex (where I buy coffee) selling flowers and stuffed animals.At the education building, I saw decorations and graduates rehearsing for their ceremony.The graduates aren�t current students; they finished their classes last March.They had to wait 9 months for a graduation ceremony!

Graduation here is a very big deal.Usually, graduates� extended families (I mean everyone they�re related to!) attend the ceremony, so the university is going to be packed!The festivities started today with parties in each department.

 

I first learned about the Education dept. party at about 2:30, when Daniel told me we should leave the office early in order to avoid being forced to attend.He went last year, and said it was the most boring event he�s ever attended in Thailand.The one last year started 2 hours late and didn�t end until midnight.I wanted to avoid the party, but I lost track of time and Sarantip persuaded me to go.

Luckily, the party wasn�t the most boring event I�ve ever attended in Thailand!It was actually kinda fun.It was just a really long, drawn out dinner (8 courses!).I sat with some students and we chatted, listened to the music, and watched the dancers.And it only started 1 hour late!

I want to write about the graduation ceremony too, but this is getting a little long.I�ll write more about it later!

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Daydreams of Chulalongkorn

Chulalongkorn University is the best university in Thailand.� Before last weekend, I never thought about Chula�(that's what we call it for short here).� But now it's a different story!�

You're probably wondering what happened last weekend.� Well, we passed Chulalongkorn University�on the way to the movies in Bangkok.� It's right there next Siam Paragon, a fabulous mall with a movie theater, 2 English-language book stores, a starbucks, a gourmet grocery store where you can buy avocados,�multiple western restaurants, and a little shop that sells the most delicious cream puffs in the world.� As if that weren't enough to make Chulalongkorn an appealing place to work, it's also right across the street from yet another Starbucks, a McDonalds�& a Dunkin Donuts.�

Sometimes I like to think about what it would be like to teach at Chula.� Not so much the teaching part.� Just the easy access to all things American.� I can imagine myself picking up a grande latte on the way to the office.� Maybe I'd eat some Thai food for lunch.� (The school cafeterias at Chulalongkorn are so good that the Lonely Planet guide suggests that tourists eat there.)� After work, maybe I'd catch an English soundtrack movie and then pick up some avocados and tortilla chips for dinner.

I sound really gluttonous right now, don�t I?I guess it�s a good thing I don�t teach at Chula!

Even though I like daydreaming about being an instructor at Chulalongkorn, I�m really happy where I am.I wouldn�t trade my life in Khon Kaen for the conveniences and comforts of Bangkok.This is a better experience for me.

 

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Quick Trip to Bangkok

Fon, one of my 3rd year students, just came home from a week-long trip to Hong Kong. Golf, Rut, Daniel & I decided to meet up with Fon in Bangkok.

We took the 12:45 am bus from Khon Kaen to Bangkok on Saturday night. This was actually my first experience on a night bus. We took a big double-decker bus that had recliner seats with back massagers in them. The massagers were fun! I really wanted to play with mine, but it was kinda loud and I didn't want to disrupt everyone who was trying to sleep. (And I needed to sleep too, of course!). Riding a bus in Thailand feels more like taking an airplane than it feels like taking a greyhound bus. There is a hostess on board who dresses in a flight attendant uniform. The hostess gives out drinks and snacks. Also, you get a blanket in your seat. You definately need the blanket; the bus is really cold!

Our bus arrived in Bangkok at about 7 am. We met Fon at the bus station, and then headed to China town to do some Christmas shopping. We were mostly looking for little knick knacks to give to people at the faculty for Christmas. We went to a big outdoor marketplace that had narrow "aisles" between vendors. It was very crowded. At times, we had to take baby steps and push hard just to get through the crowd. It was stressful and uncomfortable to me to be around that many people in such a small place!

After shopping, we went to a shopping mall for some lunch and some more shopping. We went to a food court, where I found some Indian food (yum!).

We went to the movies in the afternoon to see Happy Feet (in English!). It was the first movie I'd seen in Thailand. The only different thing about the movies in Thailand is that everyone stands for a photo slideshow of the king before the movie starts.

We got some dinner after the movie and then caught the 8:15 pm bus back to Khon Kaen. We arrived in Khon Kaen at about 3:30 am. We were exhausted!

I'm still getting over my cold, so I wasn't sure if it was a good idea to take this trip or not. I'm glad I went. I had a good time shopping, and it was really nice to see a movie.

Click here to see pictures of us looking sleepy in the shopping mall.

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Christmas Party

Tonight I went to a Christmas party held by a woman I know from church. It was really great! I met a lot of new people (some of whom I’ve seen before at McDonald’s and the Pizza Company) and got to chat with some of the American ladies from church that I know but don’t talk with very often. We sang Christmas carols, played some fun games, and did a cookie swap. For the cookie swap, everyone was supposed to bring 6 bags of 6 cookies. After exchanging cookies at the party, you come home with 6 different kinds of cookies.

I wasn’t going to participate in the cookie swap because I don’t have a kitchen and can’t bake cookies. Terri, one of the women from church, correctly guessed that I wouldn’t be able to bring any cookies. She brought some for me! So in the end, I came home with a bunch of really yummy Christmas cookies. I have more cookies here than I want to eat, so I’m going to share them with Daniel.

Some highlights of the evening included chatting with a Korean woman who has been living here for 3 years, meeting a woman who has been in Thailand since 1966 (very interesting stories!), and eating a Mexican bean dip. The best thing was spending time with some really wonderful people.

At the end of the night, the host of the party invited me to spend Christmas day with her and her family (she has a husband and 3 little kids). I continue to be amazed at the kindness and hospitality I’ve received at church. Everyone has been so welcoming and has worked hard to make my life here comfortable and good. I’ve been invited to parties and gatherings for every American holiday that has passed since I’ve come to Thailand. I feel blessed to have found such a great community here.

I feel very well taken care of here. It’s actually kind of humbling. I’m in a position where I can’t do much for other people, and so many people here (colleagues, students, people from church, occasional strangers on the street) seem to be taking care of me. Thailand is an amazing place. It’s hard to imagine that people anywhere else in the world would be so kind.

Getting into the Christmas Spirit

Today is December 9th, but it feels more like July 9th to me. That’s starting to change though! Yesterday I heard some Christmas songs in the grocery store at Fairy Plaza and I saw 2 Christmas trees on the way home. It was nice to see some Christmas stuff out.

Tonight I’m going to a cookie swap party held by one of the ladies at church. I’m not participating in the cookie swap because even though I would enjoy having 12 dozen cookies here in my apartment, I’m not sure I really NEED to eat 12 dozen Christmas cookies.

Betsy says you can see a lot of Christmas decorations and lights in Bangkok, which is lucky for me since I’m going there tonight! After the Christmas party, I’m taking the midnight bus to Bangkok with Daniel and Golf. We’re going to meet up with Fon in Bangkok (she’s returning from a week-long trip to Hong Kong) to do some shopping, catch a movie, and eat at a really good Japanese restaurant in Bangkok. After that, we’ll take the midnight bus from Bangkok back to Khon Kaen. We’ll arrive in Khon Kaen at about 6 am. We’ll be exhausted after this trip, but Monday is a holiday so it doesn’t matter too much.

Afternoon at Fairy Plaza

Today is the first day of midterms. Most classes are cancelled during midterms week because students’ tests are scheduled at times that interfere with their classes. Both of my classes were cancelled today, so I took the day off. It wasn’t my intention to skip work entirely. I meant to go into the office to do some grading & write a test. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work out.

I wanted to let myself sleep in this morning. That usually means waking up at 8:30 or 9:00. I had made plans with a student to go to Fairy Plaza at 2:00, so I thought I would get to the office by 10:30 and work a few hours before going shopping. I was shocked when I woke up at 11:00. I slept 11 hours last night! I suppose it’s because I’m still recovering from my cold.

Fairy Plaza was fun. I went with Betsy, Job and Pui. We had a good time chatting about boys, shopping for shoes, and eating ice cream. (It was a very girly day!) When it was time to leave, we ran into a few problems. First, Betsy couldn’t find her keys. We went to McDonalds to see if she had left them there, and then decided to check to see if her keys were still in the car. They were there in the ignition, and the car was locked. We managed to open a window a crack, and Job was able to fit her skinny little arm through the crack far enough to unlock the door. We thought we were on our way, but the car wouldn’t start. We needed a jump start. We were lucky enough to find some Fairy Plaza security guards to help us, but it was a long, frustrating experience. The third truck we hooked the jumper cables up to was able to successfully start the car. It was a relief when the car finally started and we were able to go home!

My Haunted Classroom

Most, if not all, of my students believe in ghosts and are afraid of them. When I first moved here, many students asked me if I was afraid of the ghosts in my apartment. Many of them can’t stand to be alone at night, and they avoid places that are rumored to have many ghosts. Most dorms have a few ghosts. People say that hospitals have lots of ghosts, so some students will avoid going to the hospital when they’re sick.

There is rumored to be a ghost living on the 5th floor of the Education building. (All of my classes meet there, by the way). My students are still coming to class, but I can tell they’re freaked out about it. Sometimes I don’t close the door all the way and it gets blown open a little bit in the middle of class. Whenever the students hear the door creak, they stop whatever they’re doing and look at the door. Then they exchange some uneasy looks while I go shut the door.