Today, I visited a Thai school just outside of Mae Sot, in a “suburb,” if you will. Our “suburbs” are really just rural village areas, but y’know.
I arrived just around 8am after a twenty minute motorbike ride through the rain and dutifully bumped my horn as I parked and the entire school sang the national song. I just wanted to be sure I started classy.
After meeting up with my friend and being introduced to her colleagues, we made our way to the classrooms. This week is Academic Competition, where each day is filled with tests and contests in every subject area for everyone at secondary & high school level. It will all wrap up Thursday with an all-day assembly and award ceremony.
I was asked to come and help with the English competitions. My first task was to give spelling tests. They were wanting someone to read the words with a native English accent.
I thought this was actually a really good idea for them to learn, but I now think it would have more helpful to go over in the weeks before and on test day. It felt a little like I read out words from the list, received blank stares, and then the Thai teachers said the words quietly under their breath and the students miraculously understood. Oh, well.
The second competition was Story Telling. Each class had a short story they had to present. They introduced themselves and then read or recited the story, being graded on their memorization, tones, voice, and actions.
We finished about 10:30am, and I was invited to go over to watch the music competition.
We walked over and listened to a few singers, their performances being blasted out into the auditorium.
I really have no words for this part: it was really and truly a very cultural experience on many levels. I was very overwhelmed.
I was sitting off to the side as a wallflower–well, as much as I could be as the only foreigner present–and suddenly I was being prodded and pushed by the entire group of teachers around me to get on stage. I really had no idea this was coming. I thought I had just come to listen and suddenly I was trying to convince them “I really don’t sing in public” and “I don’t have such a good voice” and “I really just don’t sing!”
By the end, I was lying.
They wanted me get on stage to sing “The Titanic Song”–circa 1997!
Some days, you just don’t know what people will suggest you fill your day with.
While I was still lying about not really singing ever, I heard my name amongst a string of Thai over the loud speaker. Suddenly, I was informed that since I wasn’t interested in singing, a student would be singing to me.
A student–maybe fifteen?–climbed the steps and looked over at me, saying something about “A Love Song for You” into the microphone.
He started singing a Westlife love song, knowing an impressive percentage of the lyrics. I could feel him looking at me, along with all the other hundred or so people in the room.
And that, my friends, was today’s awkward situation.