Saturday, May 17, 2008

Kwe Ka Boung School

There is little news to offer about cyclone Nagris and the aftermath. Photos of blotted bodies in irrigation ditches, however, circulate and leave a heart empty and a stomach knotted. Though the disaster has led to an influx of refugees, they have not yet arrived in Mae Sot. However, organisations are expecting numbers as high as 500,000 to be crossing the border in the next couple of weeks. There was surprisingly little gos at the expat hangout last night over glasses of regretted Sam Song Whisky! Even the newsagents and mainstream media has skipped town ~ off to cover the Earthquake in China...

Pawk Thein Kee
Playing the Ladder Game

We started teaching English at a migrant school, the Kwe Kah Boung school for Karen kids, last Monday. It is supported by the Austrian NGO Help Without Frontiers. My students are between the age of 12 and 17, and for Nels between 16 and 20. The school is made up of two narrow buildings, unfortunately separated by a house in between. You enter through the restaurant and proceed up the stairs. First flight passed a make-shift bedroom, second passed three computers (always taken) with internet (chatting with e-boyfriends and e-girlfriends). The next flight takes you to my classroom, where students wait for our arrival and greet us with "Hello Teacher." Proceeding further up the stairs, takes you to where Nels teaches: the roof. Follow the gutter and climb down the stairs to reach the other network of classrooms.

The children begin with a choreographed welcome in chorus, "Karen, Karen, Karen, Good afternoon Teacher," I return the monumentous prayer with "Thank you Students. Good Afternoon. Please sit down." I then proceed to ask, "What did you do this morning?" which stuns the young audience and they pick at the hems of their jackets (the temperature drops significantly after each rainfall, though it is still a warm 34*C), and avoid the teacher's eye. The students have a relatively wide vocabulary, but are reluctant to put ideas into sentences. To my delighted surprise, the students drool over dictation, a discovery directly resulting from panic: when a planned exercise fails and there is still an hour and a half of classtime to fill. So I plan to cook a big stew of alphabet soup next week. Students make mistakes like "She has a long hair," and after five days of pounding and genetic modification, I still meet sentences like "She has a long hair," and "She wear shirt green." Frustration builds, but foundation weakens every time class finishes and a student remains behind to carry down the Escher-inpsired stairwell my journal and whiteboard marker. Though, conversation in class is not free-flowing, the Karen culture is exposed through their short-stories, descriptions and drawings.

Students are deliciously adorable, and after five times two hours, we are drawn to each other. Nevertheless, I am relieved that the weekend has come: to recooperate! However, the peacefullness of the weekend has been rudely interrupted by the jack-hammering on the concrete that finally reached the sidewalk in front of our guesthouse. The sound is demoralising. Unfortunately, we cannot direct our anger at the exploited road side worker (geared with flipflops and super invisible earplugs), as he only earns 50baht per meter of sidewalk. He probably accomplishes three meters, he works from dawn til dusk...

We are staying at a guesthouse, 150baht per night for a double. We have rigged it out and it is home, with a porch. Mangoes and Mangastines are currently in season, so we are enjoying mangoes at 5 baht (15 US cents) A KILO!! We are embarrassed to say that we are almost mangoed-out.

8-10 Grade Class
Nels' Class