Stickman Readers' Submissions February 25th, 2009

Cupid to the Rescue!

To be a foreign Ajarn (teacher) in Thailand you really need to get used to working in “full mushroom mode”; that is to say, being the last person the entire planet to find out what’s going on in your school. Therefore it was no great surprise that a little over a week ago I found out that I would be helping to lead an English Camp over the Valentine’s Day weekend. The theme was, All You Need is Love. Love is All You Need.
Apparently this event had been planned many months ago. “Gee, thanks a lot for all the advanced notice!” Oh well, no time to waste. I needed to prepare for this little “love fest” ASAP!

This two day event was going to take place about an hour and a half from Lampang in Doi Saket, which is not far from Chiang Mai. Great! A sleep-over! Oh joy of joys; I would not only be teaching, but be chaperoning a bunch of teenagers overnight… sixty-three of them to be exact! I had visions of mosquito ridden huts with a trench for a toilet. Undoubtedly these “huts” would have no air conditioning or hot water.

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Luckily (from my standpoint) most of the students would be girls, which is not surprising, since Thai girls are generally better students. I was assigned a group of dozen students to lead. Most of these were my students, and I already got on quite well with them. They decided to call themselves “Love Is All Around” and our designated color was pink. These girls were not only intelligent and good natured, but all “cute as a button”. In addition to attending various teaching “stations”, we would all be putting on a talent show on Saturday evening. Specifically, the Pink Group was to put on a musical drama. I lucked out again to have inherited a troupe of singers and dancers. In a sudden rush of inspiration, I donned my author’s cap and penned a little vignette I called “Cupid to the Rescue!”

Warning!!! Anyone who is a diabetic should skip the following, because it is dripping with enough “sweetness” to induce a coma.

Cupid to the Rescue!

Scene 1

Romeo is standing on the corner looking sad.

Romeo’s friend: “What’s wrong? You look so sad today. Why?”

Romeo: “Why? Because today is Valentine’s Day and I’m all alone! I want to take Juliet to the dance tonight, but she doesn’t know I love her!”

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Juliet walks by with some her friends. She is laughing, but she doesn’t look at Romeo.

Romeo: “See! She won’t even look at me!”

Romeo’s friend: “Why don’t you talk to her best friend Mint? Maybe she knows what you should do. Hey Mint! Can you come here? For a minute”

Mint: “Yes, what do you want?”

Romeo’s friend: “Romeo needs your help! He wants to ask Juliet to go to the dance with him, but she doesn’t have any feelings for him at all. What should he do?”

Mint: “Well, since today is Valentine’s Day, maybe he should ask Cupid to help. He is the god of love.

Romeo: “Do you think he would listen to me?” He is very busy today.”

Mint: “I think if all of us sing a song, he may come to the rescue! Come on let’s try!”

Scene 2

Mint and her friends, along with Romeo and his friend sing a song to get Cupid’s attention. The group sings Stupid Cupid

Stupid Cupid you're a real mean guy,

I'd like to clip your wings off so you can't fly.

I am in love and its crying shame

& I know that you're the one to blame!

Hey hey, set me free

Stupid Cupid, stop picking on me.

I can't do my homework and I can't think straight

I meet him every morning, 'bout a half past eight.

You got me actin' like a lovesick fool.

You even got me carryin' his books to school

hey hey, set me free

Stupid Cupid, stop picking on me.

You mixed me up for good right from the very start.

Hey, go play Robin Hood, with somebody else's heart.

You've got me jumpin' like a crazy clown,

and I don't feature what you're putting down.

Since I kissed his loving lips of wine,

the thing that bothers me is that I like it fine

hey hey, set me free.

Stupid Cupid, stop picking on me.

You've got me jumpin' like a crazy clown,

and I don't feature what you're putting down.

Hey since I kissed his loving lips of wine,

The thing that bothers me is that I like it fine.

Hey, hey. Set me free

Stupid cupid stop picking on me.

Hey hey, Set me free

Stupid cupid, stop picking on me.

Cupid appears, along with his mother Venus, the goddess of love.

Cupid: “I’ve heard your song. What can I do for you on this Valentine’s Day?”

Romeo: “Oh Cupid! I love Juliet very much. I wish that she felt the same about me!”

Cupid: “I could help you, if you truly love her.”

Romeo: “I truly love her with all my heart!”

Cupid: “Mother, what do you think?”

Venus: “If his love is true, let it be so on this Valentine’s Day”.

Cupid: “Let my Arrow of Love fly true!”

Cupid shoots his magic arrow into Juliet’s heart. Juliet turns to Mint.

Juliet: “What’s happened? I feel something I’ve never felt before. What could it be? Could it be…….? Could it be…….?

Mint and all of Juliet’s friends: “Love!”

Romeo steps forward with some flowers and goes down on one knee. He gives the flowers to Juliet.

Romeo: “Dear Juliet. I have always loved you, but was too shy to tell you. Would you please come with me to the dance tonight?”

Juliet: “Of course darling. I would go anywhere with you!”

Romeo: “Cupid, thank you so much. You have made my dream come true!”

Cupid: “Think nothing of it! Today everyone should be in love!”

Everyone cheers!

Are all of you done moaning? Yes I know that this is the smaltziest thing imaginable, but think of my audience….13-16 old girls! As for the song, it wasn’t my choice. I actually wanted to use the old Sam Cooke song, Cupid (“Cupid draw back your bow, and let your arrow go, straight to my lover’s heart for me….” This of course was hopelessly old fashioned for these girls, hence the Mandy Moore version of the old Neil Sedanka hit. Over the next
few days we spent some time practicing during lunch break. Since not a single boy was willing to volunteer, I was unanimously drafted to play Romeo. Lord, the things I do for my students! Actually even though I am not naturally a performer in
any sense of the word, I do like hamming it up with the kids, just to put everyone at ease….and perhaps even teach a soupcon of English.

Fast forward to 6:30 Saturday morning. Two buses arrive to take the students to our destination. Since RHIP (Rank Hath Its Privileges) I rode in a van along with some of the other teachers. With visions of a dreary campsite still in my mind we arrived at our destination…..where my mind was well and truly blown away. This was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to in Thailand! The Tweechol Botanical Garden was simply amazing. Of course we would not be staying in the luxury hotel. We would be staying in some dormitory like buildings used for groups like ours, which were clean and modern if not fancy. But the grounds!

Check it out. The only place I ever saw more topiary at was at Disney World. There were flower gardens, herb gardens, cactus gardens, orchid gardens, exotic trees of all description……along with equally exotic birds. Add fountains, a labyrinth, a small lake and a large series of canals. Throw in a lovely swimming pool, horseback riding, bikes and pedal boats and you had one hell of a nice resort.

As I said, our sleeping facilities were not fancy. There were no beds, only thick pads on the floor. At least I didn’t actually have to sleep in the same large room with the boys. I had a smaller room with a private bathroom. After quickly settling in, it was time for the first phase of the educational portion of the weekend. First all the groups had to create name tags. Being a nice guy, I had actually thought of downloading and printing out some Valentine graphics for my group. Here of course Thai students are in their element. If there was a course in coloring, cutting and cartoons, these guys would ace it.

I and my Thai partner, set up one of five “stations” (Reading, Listening, Writing, Speaking, and Vocabulary) that each group of students would be going through that day. My partner was a smart, vivacious and extremely attractive young woman. Our station’s (Speaking) particular lesson was learning how to give directions. Every activity had something to do with love or Valentine’s Day, so I called this lesson “Heart to Heart”. What we did was set an obstacle course in a wooded area. Two students would have to make their way (going in opposite directions) through the course based on spoken commands given to them by their “navigator”. Oh, did I mention that the two students would be blindfolded? They would also each be wearing a large heart on their chest. If and when they met up, they would of course be “Heart to Heart”. The first thing was though to teach all the English commands: “Go straight ahead.” “Stop” “Take ____ steps forward.” “Take _____ steps backward.” “Turn left.” “Turn right.” Does everyone understand? Really, let’s see how well you understand. Since Thai students never volunteer to do anything, we quickly selected our first victims ……I mean “participants”, although seeing the looks of horror as the blindfolds came out, you would think they
really were going to their executions!

Now the real fun began as their “navigators” attempted to guide them though the course without someone tripping over a tree root. Here are two adventurers starting out back to back.

Surprisingly, everyone made it through safely, although there were a few panicky moments. The biggest laughs came when the two students, especially if they were a boy and a girl wound up inches from each other.

Before sending the kids on to the next station we played a game where they had to pass a heart around without using their hands. Oh, there’s nothing like a little forced intimacy!

After lunch we all had a few hours to enjoy the resort’s facilities.

Here are some students trying out a pedal boat. You can also see someone riding a bicycle through one of the many bike paths.

I spent the time just strolling around and enjoying the grounds.

My group and I managed to spend some time rehearsing for our talent show. We were determined to win the competition! Some of “my girls” had even come up with matching costumes. By the way, the girl in the center of the picture has one serious “set of pipes”! I mean this girl can sing!

After dinner we all gathered around a blazing campfire to kick off our talent show. Let me tell you, Thai students may be laid back when it comes to pursuing their academic work, but mention singing and dancing and suddenly they get extremely competitive. Oh, they are all such hams in the limelight! “Look at me, look at me, look at me, me, me!”

There were five acts in this show. Our team drew the lot for the last slot, which worked out to our advantage, since we were the only ones who had put any thought into our performance, or in fact had practiced at all. Act # 1 was a game show. Act # 2 was a MTV song and dance. Act # 3 was a television advertisement. Act # 4 was a TV interview show. All of these were of course in English, with a fair bit of “Thinglish” for good measure. There were some talented kids doing hip-hop and break dancing. There were some good celebrity imitations. There was also a moment that made every teacher’s jaw drop. Group # 4’s interviewer was one of the school’s resident ladyboys.

She certainly got my attention when she asked one of her “guests” about his sex-life! Did a mention that my school is run by the Brothers of St. Gabriel? And who was in attendance that night? Why the Brother Director of course! Man, I was glad I was not that group’s advisor, since all of us teachers were supposed to be involved in what the kids were doing.

Just an aside: I for one am clueless about how one refers to a boy who looks, dresses and acts like a girl. I am referring to someone of course to someone who has neither received any “enhancements”……. or deletions! Do I refer to this person as he or she? For the record, this “wanna be she” slept in the boys’ dormitory.

Finally it was Love Is All Around’s moment to shine. I can say with all modesty that we kicked butt! Every line was spoken precisely and with feeling. The song and dance number was choreographed to perfection, although my dance moves were confined to shuffling around while the girls strutted their stuff.

Naturally everyone hooted and hollered to see their Farang Ajarn playing a love struck Romeo for all it was worth. Oh well, I had as much fun as anyone. Needless to say we took First Prize, which consisted of lots of snacks and other goodies.

The last activity of the evening was to name the King and Queen of Hearts. This went to the boy and girl who had scored the highest during the afternoon’s activities. I’m happy to say that another of “my girls” went away with the red sash.

The next morning it was time for a scavenger hunt type game that had everyone running all over the resort for clues, including through the Labyrinth. I’ve always enjoyed hedge mazes, and this one was a doozy. I have to admit that I got turned a few times before getting through it.

Well all good things come to an end, and eventually it was time to pack up and head on home, although not directly. After a “grueling” weekend of English, the kids got to spend a few hours running around the Central Airport Plaza in Chiang Mai. I can honestly say that I had a wonderful time, and look forward to our next outing. Cupid certainly worked his magic this time around. Perhaps an encore next year? I’m up for it!

Stickman's thoughts:

It looks like a good time was had by all. Teaching Thai students can be frustrating at times but when things are activity based they really do get into it and they can be a pleasure to work with.

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