Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Singapore or Canada?

  Wednesday already? I'm starting to lose track of time because I'm so busy! This past weekend I made a day trip to Hua Hin, a beautiful beach resort two hours away from Bangkok. The annual Jazz Festival was being held that weekend, so I wanted to check it out. However, I was almost left behind by the group when I overslept. That's what I get for ignoring my alarm. When I awoke on Saturday morning and cursed myself for being late, I called all my friends going to the beach to try to catch up. Unfortunately, they all had their vans (or "wans" in Thai English) booked and ready for departure. At that point I decided to venture off by myself and find my own wan. I told the cab driver to take me to Victory Monument so I could board a wan headed for Hua Hin. The rest of the group left from a different location. The whole process was surprisingly efficient. I pulled up to the wan station, ran into the place, bought my ticket, and hopped into the vehicle just minutes before departure. After all that running around the wan ride was painfully long. If you know me, I'm also an impatient person who can't sleep in moving vehicles, so not even my dying Ipod could calm me down. I entertained myself by talking to a young Thai couple sitting next to me. Once I arrived at Hua Hin, everything seemed to happen rather quickly.

  I brought my two new Thai friends to eat with me and the Loyola gang at an Italian restaurant in the village outside the beach. After lunch, my Thai friends and I parted ways. It's difficult to describe the Hua Hin village and differentiate it from any Bangkok village, but it felt like a beach community. Sometimes when you go to a beach community you can distinguish the relaxed vibe of the people and culture from that of city life. It's always great to get away from the city, to escape from the noise, pollution and stress. All of that melts away when you recline in a chair on a tropical beach. One way I can describe the Thailand beaches is that they are very similar to the Florida Keys: palm trees, white sand, and clear warm water. The water at Hua Hin wasn't clear by any means, but felt just as warm as any other body of water I've dabbled in so far. Interestingly enough at this beach one had the option of riding a mini-horse up and down the coast for a short trot. I'm no horse expert and I don't mean to suggest a pony or mule, but some breed in between a pony and stallion. I was too relaxed to bother with mounting my noble steed. I was content to relax in my chair and chat with friends. 
  Toward dusk we all headed toward the jazz festival near the end of the beach. A massive stage was constructed along the water so everyone could sit in the sand and feel the ocean breeze while smooth jazz washed over them. When my eyes became heavy on the verge of passing out, I decided to head back to Bangkok to see what kind of mischief I could get into. Luckily, Boom was out and about with his friends so I caught up with them and had enjoyed my night out Thai style. 

  As for this school week, all of the American teachers are helping with conducting interviews and grading written exams for a school-wide scholarship competition for Canada and Singapore. The Singapore scholarship is awarded to the top students from Primary level, meanwhile the Canada scholarship is awarded to students in Secondary. First, the written tests. The questions were totally irrelevant to the nature of the two countries and also pointless to judging a student's ability to speak English in another country. It seems more like a test of random facts or useless knowledge. For example, "What is Elbus?" What do you mean, Albus Dumbledore? I guarantee that none of the students nor anyone reading this post knows what "Elbus" is. Truth be told, Elbus happens to be in fact the largest mountain in Europe. Who knew? Most of the students had no idea or wrote that Snape killed him. So, questions like this frustrated me because the students aren't even going to Europe! I'm not sure of the purpose of these questions. If the students were given the questions and answers to study before the exam, I would find that acceptable. But considering that most of the students answered incorrectly, if at all, I assume that the tests were poorly crafted. One would think that the students would be tested on the prospective country they might travel to. I just feel bad for the students who received poor test grades because it doesn't reflect their conversational English skills - something they will actually use in another country.

  Now, the interviews. For the Primary kids we are to ask them simple questions about their favorite school subjects, or favorite foods so as to dance around the topic at hand before asking them about Singapore. A seven or eight-year-old kid can barely decide what he wants to eat for lunch; how can he decide if he wants to go to Singapore for a few weeks without Mommy? If the kid actually knows what he wants, then good for him. To me, it just seems like a difficult concept for a child to understand the future outcome of their decision and the impact it will have on them. The Secondary students are asked more logical questions about the climate and culture of Canada. I've had some interesting conversations with students who have already been to Canada, or have very eloquently expressed their desire to travel there to improve their English skills. Most of the time it is difficult for the students to express how badly they would like to go because of limited vocabulary. So, I naturally want to send the more fluent students, but the less fluent students are the ones who really need the experience. I try to get a feel for what students are actually interested versus those who are just applying because they have to. All students are required to apply because there were few applicants last year. I respect the students who are honest about how they feel about the scholarship. One student told me that he is not particularly interested in going to Canada, but if he is accepted he will go because his mother wants him to. However, he said he will still enjoy the experience even though he is not passionate or interested in the country. I wonder if I will make a difference in the selection process. It's a great opportunity for these students to live and study abroad for a short period of time. Like I've said before, even a month abroad makes a noticeable improvement in a student's English skills. 
Song of the Day: Same Same But Different
  Flashback all the way to 1965 when the Rolling Stones released their song, "Satisfaction". Fun fact: Keith Richards wrote the intro guitar riff and the words "I can't get no satisfaction" when he awoke during the middle of the night. He quickly recorded them and fell back asleep. That's Keith Richards for you. 
As wacky as these exams and interviews are, "I can't get no satisfaction".

Rolling Stones - 'Satisfaction'

Rolling Stones - 'Satisfaction' (Discotech Remix) <<<Download

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