Readers' Submissions

Letting Their Hair Down


It’s not even 10:30 on Tuesday morning, and I already have quite a buzz on, and am in fact feeling no pain. This is quite unusual for me, because although I am hardly on the wagon, I never have anything alcoholic at this time of the day, except during Songkran, when everyone is putting a cold drink in your hand. What is perhaps more amazing, is that I’m here at school, and that almost everyone around me is in pretty much the same state I am.

This of course is not the usual state of affairs. While not at all straight laced, the teachers here behave in a professional manner while on duty. But today is not your ordinary school day. Exams were finished over a week ago. Students have long since departed for their summer vacations. Today is what every teacher dreams of all year long. It is the last day of school! No more classes until the middle of May…well not really, since most of us will be returning to teach Summer School at the end of the month. But that still gives everyone a few weeks to decompress and have a little fun. And if there’s one thing the Thais have nailed down, it’s sanuk!

While I have at times complained about the state of academic affairs here, I can’t deny that on the whole everyone here gets along very well and that when given the opportunity have a lot of fun together. The school itself puts on a number of parties for the teaching staff, such as the one that started here just after 8:00 A.M.

“Wear a colorful shirt tomorrow” one of my colleagues said before going home yesterday.” “We are going to have a BIG celebration!” Since a have a closet full of Songkran and Hawaiian type shirts, that was no problem. I chose a brilliant yellow and blue one with swaying coconut trees on it. Sunglasses are definitely needed to gaze upon it without scorching your retinas! No dress slack for me today, just a well worn pair of blue jeans. I fit right in today. Even the Brother Director look like just another beach bum!

The day’s festivities started off with a parade around campus, with cymbals and bells clanging and the rhythm of traditional Thai drums thumping out a deep reverberating bass. Everyone is smiling and laughing. We do look quite a sight! I can just imagine what our students would think if they saw us now. Oh well, teachers are human beings too aren’t they?

Onward to the gymnasium and let the games begin! Much to surprise, I was actually asked to play indoor football for the men’s Mathiyom team, but respectfully declined that particular honor! What a pathetic spectacle I would be playing any sport at my age and in my less than toned condition, let alone football. Football is of course what most of the world calls the game we provincial Americans refer to as soccer. I’m sure that 99 percent of the human race is probably right, but for me, having never grown up with it as a “serious” sport, the “Beautiful Game” is not exactly thrilling. In any case I was spared the humiliation of actually playing the damned game in front of everyone. That was good, since just after sitting down to enjoy some genuine athletes, the cold beer arrived. That was certainly welcome since though only mid March, the hot season has recently arrived. 9:00 in the morning and I’m already hot! A cool beer (or two) was just what I needed to put in the right frame of mind! Cold beer, even if it’s only Leo is fine. This is my kind of Catholic School!

Today’s the competition is Mathiyom (Junior and High School) versus Pratom (Elementary School) and Anuban (Kindergarten). This is my last day in Mathiyom. Next term I will begin teaching Kindergarten full time. So today is my last chance to hang out with and cheer with these guys. The word cheer is not something to be taken lightly in a Thai school. Thai cheers are long elaborate chants, accompanied with snare drums, congas, and anything else with can be drummed upon. And what are cheers without cheerleaders? The young ladies performing have obviously been practicing, because every bump and grind, every hand gesture and turn has been choreographed to perfection. I must admit that some of these gals are looking very fine indeed!

Eventually it’s time for a much needed lunch break. The heat, combined with a few beers has made me a tad sleepy. I think it’s time for a strong iced espresso.

The afternoon is more sports: volleyball, basketball, etc. While I enjoy watching, I can only take so much, and then head off for a little peace and quiet and a chance to begin writing this up. The school is putting on a fancy dinner tonight, so I think I will head home in a while for a shower and a change of clothes. I will pick up the rest of this story later.

No one can ever accuse the Thais of not knowing how to have a party! They have the formula down pat: plenty of delicious food. plenty of cold alcoholic beverages, and plenty of music (alas played waaaaaay too loud!) My school really does go out of its way to show their appreciation to the teaching staff. They even thoughtfully provided cute “beer girls” in skimpy outfits to keep the pitchers full. One of the things that constantly amazes me is how things that are seeming contradictions fit together. I kept waiting for the coyotes to appear on stage, but alas that was probably too much to expect. But I will tell you that at a party I attended at the first school I taught at here in Lampang, there were indeed coyotes! No, the dancers tonight were made up of teachers happily strutting their stuff. I must say they had all the right moves.

Although the party went on until quite late, I left around 10:00, having consumed only a single glass of beer. It is dangerous enough to navigate the streets when you are dead sober, let alone half in the bag. My fellow teachers, having really and truly “let their hair down” for the day were content to booze it up Thai style. What the hell! It’s not easy an easy job, so go ahead and have a ball. “Chai Yo!”

Stickman's thoughts:

The final day of school….the best day of the school year!