The next day I was awakened early in the morning by someone calling to me from below my bedroom window. Romeo? No indeed! My fellow biology teacher had come to take me to breakfast and to go shopping for ‘polite’ clothes! How nice! After having some tasty food we embarked on a hunt for pleasant blouses and pencil skirts (Neither of these things are usually in my style wheelhouse, hehe). On the drive back home my fellow bio teacher said “Tomorrow… you meet parents. At school. Your hair… not polite. Wear new polite shirt.” Oh man! When I decided to keep one side of my head shaved I knew it would be far from the norm in Thailand but I didn’t know it would offend. I’ve since figured out how to part my hair on the other side of my head to cover it up for special events like meeting parents and such. However, I keep it short partly because quite simply I want to and secondly because I think it’s a part of my culture I’m bringing to the table here. In America we greatly value individuality and self-expression. Here in Thailand it's a bit different. Qualities like loyalty, self-discipline and knowing your place are more valued. It's partly because of these values that the Thai people as a whole are so kind, friendly, and gracious. However this also means that, for example, at my school the girls with short hair get in trouble and are given a talking-to by some of the senior teachers, which is a shame. As an American I want to show the students, by example, that it’s ok to express your uniqueness and be a little different.
|A poster in one of the classrooms|
Fast forward to the next day. Dressed in my pleated orange blouse and my new skirt I joined a few other foreign teachers on this Sunday morning in the main assembly hall. It was packed with parents, other teachers, and school officials.
|A full house|
|School official says a prayer before the proceedings|
|Some of our students receive awards for their work!|
|Sitting behind the visiting monk|
We sat in a reserved seating area behind the director, other dignitaries, and a visiting Buddhist monk. During a lull in the proceeding one of the Thai English teachers came over and said “You should make a speech to all of the parents to introduce yourself. Use as much Thai as possible. You speak in 10 minutes.” WAH?! As much Thai as possible? 10 minutes? Parents?! I wasn’t sure what scared me the most of these things. I scribbled down an introduction and a few phrases I still wasn’t sure I could pronounce properly (having been in the country for one week and at the school for only one day). My heart was beating out of my chest as I waited for others before me to give their remarks. Then it was my turn… I first wai’d to the monk, then to the director, then to the audience, bowing my head deeply. My Thai must have been passable because after stumbling through a few sentences and ending my speech there was a quiet murmur of applause. Giving a speech to 900 (I counted) parents, colleagues, and a monk? Check.
|The view when I gave my speech!|