15-19th December: It was exam time at Assumption last week, meaning no lessons (yippee!) but lots of invigilating, which as it turns out, is one of the dullest jobs you can do (boo). I really sympathise with the students because for two days of the week, they have exams all day from 8.30 a.m. until 3 p.m., with the routine lunchtime and breaks. The exams flit between being in English and Thai too! At the beginning of the week, there was an official blessing from the brothers around a nativity scene displayed on the playground, and some words were said (I’m assuming they were prayers because I didn’t understand what was going on…) then the Christmas lights were turned on. I’ve never known a school to put such an effort into Christmas! There’s now a HUGE Christmas tree just outside our staff room, with lights the colours of the flag of Thailand running down behind it. The trees that are dotted around the school have also been beautifully decorated, making it feel the tinest bit Christmassy, among the heat and the sun.
Mid-week as I got to the staff room, Ms. Boom said her all-too-familiar “Miss Glace” in a way that usually means I’ve done something wrong/I forgot to do something. I refuse to take the blame this time, considering the issue was that I had the wrong stamp in my passport for my visa. Even though I have a non-immigration B visa, the stamp I was given at Bangkok airport was only valid until 20 November 2014… Meaning I’d outstayed my welcome by almost one month… whoops. Ms. Boom said this kind of hiccup happens often though, so I spent Thursday (the one day of non-teaching non-invigilating fundom) getting a 3 a.m. bus to Bangkok, getting a new stamp, turning around twice and coming back. The good thing was that I managed to change a load of sterling to baht – the rates at the airport are some of the best you’ll find at the country, just a little hint.
We were all invited to a local church’s Christmas party last week too, where a lot of the Filipino teachers at the school regularly go. Assumption is a Christian school and a fair few of the teachers practise it, though there’s a really strong Buddhist community in the school too, as well as Hindus and people from other faiths. It was unlike any church party I’d been to before – there was all sorts of food, music (including Assumption’s very own rap artist!), performances, games, all in the open air. Though I’m not religious, it was warming to see everyone being so communal and family-orientated.
Friday 19th brought lots of foodie exploration and the tip of a Christmas-themed iceberg. About ten or so of us ventured out to a restaurant called Wang Matcha, just on the outskirts of the town. The restaurant consists of several little huts and porches that overlooked a lake (or a huge pond), with little ornaments hanging further into the sides of the lake. We ate “family style” and it was some of the best Thai cuisine I’ve had yet in Korat.
The foodie fun continued throughout the weekend, with a new discovery just behind the school. I’ve been trying to scout out decent cafés in the area, and my favourite so far is actually hidden right behind the school – De Forest café is situated right in the heart of a suburban area of Korat, and has a really quirky ambience. The café looks just like a modern house, with a beautiful garden (and a tree swing!) Between the waitresses’ fairly good standard of English and my 3 year-old child’s standard of Thai, I managed to get some honey toast with added fruit instead of the ridiculous amount of dairy and sugar that Thai people just LOVE to add to EVERYTHING. Learning a tiny bit of Thai gets you a long way!