New Year in Naan
Thankfully New Year was much better than Christmas. There was no time to feel homesick, no craving turkey (I don't even like the stuff but... at midnight on Christmas Day, locked in a house with a woman who wasn't even speaking to me, and fresh from listening to my family talk about their Christmas; their pressies and their food, the fact that they'd just eaten, watched a couple of programs on TV and were just about to start playing cards, I was desperate to be there... to eat dinner with them, to talk to them all, or.. just to be surrounded by people I cared about, and who cared about me...)
Christmas was sh*t. For the first time, in 3 years in Thailand I desperatly wanted to be at home. I've never felt as lost and lonely as I did on Christmas Day. School was OK. I took a big box of cadbury's chocs and tescos biccies into school with me, and the other teachers seemed quite pleased to share them. In the afternoon, the P1-P3 kids were sat outside the classroom reciting their times tables and Thai poems, and their Thai teacher, seeing me sitting around scoffing an orange, asked me if I wanted to teach them Jingle bells too. I wished I could have recorded it. They all sounded very cute. But, after school... It all went downhill from there.
I tried calling a few friends in BKK to say that I didn't feel too great. I didn't want much, just a friendly voice, someone who could understand me and give me a big fat verbal hug over the phone... The result? If they picked their phones up, they were all too busy, working, or, later in the day, drinking or partying to have time to say anything other than a quick hello.
They're Thai. They celebrate Christmas but they don't really understand what it means. That, to a foreigner it's probably the most special day in the whole year. It's a day for being with your family, or failing that, good friends, people you care about.
I really wanted to complain about the person that I am living with too... Christmas Day was part of a 5 day long sulk (that's only just ended...) but, calling from "home" was impossible. Speak English, and she can understand. Speak Thai and, it will be me that sounds the rude one, as... to complain about how stupid, rude and downright babyish older people are here, is, in itself really rude.
In England, people have to earn your respect. If they habitually lie, or are really manipulative, people would make little time for them. If they behaved like a stroppy 7 year old kid, choosing to communicate via a language of slammed doors and refusing to reply to a good morning, how are you ? or sa-wat-dee, all because you refused to agree with them, they would be derided. They would be seem as being immature, childish and downright stupid etc. But here? Older people are supposed to be respected. You have no choice but to behave politely and respectfully towards them even if the way they behave towards you would have resulted in a massive argument, or a smashed face or two back home.
Plus, I'm staying at this person's house for free. That makes ccomplaining about them, or their behavior even worse...
Anyway... I'm not going to go into the details. It's petty, trivial and wouldn't warrant more than a quick 5 minute rant and the words 'stupid b***h' back home.
But... not being spoken to, and feeling too 'new' to dare to confide in any of the other teachers at school didn't make Christmas fun. I came back from a weekend in the mountains to walk into an hour long sea of complaints. And, it was late. In her closed little mind, the streets of Naan are really, really dangerous. Being out after 9pm is not good. Running to an internet cafe, talking a walk down the street and calling a friend (since I couldn't talk on the phone in the house), taking my bike for a quick spin, or, doing anything that might have lightened my mood or made me feel better about things was out. I felt trapped in the house and spent Chritmas Eve, laid in bed, in silence, unable to sleep and dreading Christmas Day. Then, on Christmas Day itself, things got worse. Much, much worse.
I got home, went to my room and spent the night in tears, not really knowing who to talk to, or how to talk about what was wrong... I only knew that I needed to talk to someone to stop the tears. And ??? No one had time to listen.
Boxing Day morning started with her telling me that it was rude to speak English in the house and to gossip about her to people.... Sure, I'd called home, sure it had been late at night (it had just turned 11pm when I called my dad) but...
1. she was snoring away. Her pig like grunts echoed through the house. I would never have guessed that she was awake, or that she had been listening to my call.
2. I needed to talk to my family when all my relatives were in the house. They would have murdered me if I'd ignored them on Christmas Day.
3. Since they're all English, there's no way I could have spoken Thai.
4. The alternative.. opening the 3 locks on the front door plus moving a massive (and very loud) metal gate sideways and setting most of the dogs in the neighbourhood off barking would have been much, much worse.
5. I didn't gossip about her. I didn't even mention her name. I just told my family that I was staying with a friend in Naan. My family aren't really that interested in my life here. I wanted to know about them, and their Christmas. Who had come to the house, how they were, what they had brought each other, how their dinner was, what they were up to etc... In the 40 minutes that I was on the phone, I rarely spoke about me, and never mentioned her, or how awkward the situation here had become.
But... she's older and its her house. As ever, I'm in the wrong. The complaints continued. The last thing she said was that she didn't want me to talk to the other teachers at school. They think that I'm rude and dispectful to them, she told me, and it would be better for everyone if I said nothing ohter than hello to them. This one really confused me. The other teachers are always talking to me. They always seem friendly and are forever telling me stories, trying to get me to pronounce words in a northern Thai accent (much harder than it sounds) or getting me to try their food. To obey her, and blank them would, in English culture, be really, really rude.
Whilst I was listening to her go on, I couldn't help thinking that the woman was a total control freak. Nobody tells me who I can or cannot talk to. I decide for myself. Maybe its this that annoys her. She is used to being able to manipulate people, and get them to do what she wants. I rarely let people force me to do things that I don't want to.
It was at this point that it clicked. I kind of concluded that everything I did would be wrong. Nothing would be right in her eyes... and there was little I could do to change things. Sure, I still felt down but, knowing that her moods were her problem, not mine, made me feel a touch better.
Her sulk continued. My New Year Plan fell apart. I needed to be at school on the 1st. Whether I liked it or not, I had to be in Naan, and in her house on New Year's Eve. I really didn't want to be. I called a friend who had gone home for New Year. I must have sounded really desperate to see him. It wasn't him I was after. Anyone would have done, just someone I knew, someone I could talk to. He sounded equally desperate to avoid me. He would be busy, he said.
On Thurdsay one of the other teachers at school (the ones I wasn't supposed to talk to) suggested I meet a couple of her friends. Her friend invited me to the mountains near Pua, where she works. I spent 2 nights camping out there, met a ton of interesting people and headed back to Naan feeling refreshed and determined not to let the situation at home get to me anymore.
New Years Eve was quiet but fun. I wandered the streets, sent a couple of mails, then went down to the river front just in time for the countdown. There were a couple of fireworks and a few people setting off lanterns. The lanterns looked really beautiful. I wish I'd taken photos. It was 1am when I crawled back home. The storm I was expecting (I didn't lock the door when I left the house - I couldn't, as she had gone to sleep and taken her bundle of keys upstairs with her) never occured.
New Year's Day was suprisingly civil. I had a ride to school. She left early. She had private business to attend to - more important than her job, I guess - as she had a day's leave from school today too.
The ceremony at school was fun. On Friday afternoon the kids had started typing Sai Sin (sacred string) to the hall walls. By the time we arrived at school, the mesh of string was almost complete. The local villagers had also errected a pyramid shaped structure on the stage, and some had brought silver bowls filled with food and flowers to give to the monks. The monks chanted, we watched, ate food then went home again. I took zillions of pics, and pasted them here
Today things were back to normal. She was away (the other teachers seemed quite bemused by the fact that I had no idea where...), it was a nice quiet relaxing day at school. One of the teachers cooked Suki for her students, so we spent the afternoon stuffing our faces with the remains. It made a nice change from Som Tam, and the chilli dip was great.
B's mum came back earlier this evening. I've no idea whether things will improve or not, but there's only one more week left now. I don't really care about her and her moods anymore. I want to do a good job, for the kids at school. They're great, they all try really hard and are such good fun to teach. They deserve a decent teacher.
I'm really going to miss the kids when I leave next Thurdsday. I'll miss the other teachers too. They are so kind, and good fun to talk to. But as for B's mum... As my friends in BKK keep telling me... Only 7 more days to go... สู้สู้
|Create Date : 02 มกราคม 2551
|Last Update : 2 มกราคม 2551 21:24:55 น.
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