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A taste of what is to come...

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HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn is presented with the “Fulbright Caring Leader Across Cultures Award” by Fulbright Thailand
July 16, 2010, 7:59 pm

(Both the article and the photo are taken from the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of Thailand, accessible here.)

On 15 July 2010, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn was presented with the “Fulbright Caring Leader Across Cultures Award” by Ms. Alina Ramonowski, Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of State, in honour of Her Royal Highness’ dedication to the peoples of different cultures, serving as an excellent example to the world community at large. The presentation was held during the “International Symposium on Caring Leaders across Cultures” in celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Fulbright Program in Thailand, presided over by Her Royal Highness and co-hosted by the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the U.S. Department of State, and the Thailand-United States Educational Foundation (TUSEF/ Fulbright Thailand), at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

On this occasion, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn congratulated the Fulbright Program in Thailand for its 60th anniversary and expressed her appreciation for the Award. Her Royal Highness also delivered a keynote address on “Caring Leaders across Cultures”, stating that a leader should be one who is responsible, generous, and determined to seek solutions to problems. Her Royal Highness expressed her admiration for the Fulbright Program’s contribution towards building a harmonious world and emphasized the importance of creating new leaders in the future.

On the same occasion, Foreign Minister Kasit stated that the 60th Anniversary of the Fulbright Program in Thailand marks another extraordinary achievement in the 177 years of Thai-U.S. relations. Fulbright Thailand has become an important mechanism in strengthening the close bond between Thailand and the U.S., both at the state and the people-to-people level, through greater understanding and mutual respect between Thais and Americans. He also added that this special understanding has ensured the U.S.’ continued and constructive engagement with Thailand and Asia.

Foreign Minister Kasit further stated that while technological advancements have brought people of different cultures closer, there remain tensions, conflicts, and disputes between nations and even within nations. However, Her Royal Highness’ tireless dedication and hard work have demonstrated the true qualities of a great caring leader, and have become a source of inspiration for all of us to follow.

The International Symposium was attended by approximately 250 participants consisting of individuals and organizations that work closely with the Foundation, representatives from the public, private and academic circles from both Thailand and the U.S. as well as Thai and American Fulbright alumni. Furthermore, Mr. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN, and Mr. Stuart Dean, President of General Electric Group in ASEAN, also participated as panelists in the Symposium.

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn

Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn

Posted by decuirrl 01:41 Archived in Thailand Tagged events Comments (0)

The big city.

and back.

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The Thailand U.S. Educational Foundation turned 60 years old this month. I am still collecting photos from various sources (at events where most people have cameras I tend to get lazy and take no photos of my own), and will wait on describing the celebrations until these excellent visual aids come through. Bangkok itself, as a separate entity from the people and events of TUSEF, was interesting. This was the first time that I have been back to Bangkok since the majority of the violence a few months ago. There are posters downtown promoting the oneness of Thai people. People wearing shirts proclaiming their love for the country and the king—in the red, white, and blue of the Thai flag. The art museum has dedicated the 9th floor to works of art both in response to the events and in pursuit of reconciliation. As moving as these pieces and gestures are, the scars of the events are easily visible, and stunning. The skytrain passes by Central World, the shopping center that was burnt at the height of the violence. Remember seeing pictures of Bangkok burning? Most of the smoke was coming from this building, in the middle of everything we as ETAs know in the city. As the train passes it, eyes turn that direction. Some stare outright, others try to be a bit more discreet, but most people (most Thais) are looking. A burnt black shell, with construction work starting, is an inescapable reminder of a protest that went horribly wrong somewhere. There is a feeling that no problems have been solved, but rather were swept under a rug, or covered by giant signs on buildings. It is sobering.

There is something that is always a bit odd about coming to Bangkok, not just the idea of returning to a place that was in turmoil a few months prior. On the train ride in from Ubon, the idea of the city was surreal. I have reached a point in Det Udom where I am used to all the little inconveniences, and mostly okay with the big ones . I have this familiarity with the difficulties and coming to Bangkok puts a definite break in what I have come to establish as my life… in some ways a welcome break but in others a complicated one. In the same way that Bangkok is surreal to me when I am in Det Udom, when I left, the idea of returning to Det Udom felt just as odd. I had been spending my time in Bangkok amongst skyscrapers and English speakers, air conditioning and seminars. The creature comforts that Bangkok offers are like not so subtle reminders of things that I am missing. Hamburgers (say what you will, still one of my favorite foods). Mobility. Availability of everything. English radio stations. English newspapers. Bookstores. Soft beds. Needing a blanket. Not being stared at. Not standing out nearly as much. It's refreshing, but in a not so exciting way, because I know that it is so limited.

The cab driver who brought me to the airport tried to charge me 450 baht, telling me that his meter was broken. When I insisted that he turn on the meter or let me out, he finally turned it on with a harumph. He then (purposefully, I'm sure) took the toll roads without asking, making sure that every expressway was used, even though I had allotted plenty of time so as not to pay the extra fees. When we finished and the fare was 200 baht less than what he had originally wanted to charge me, I didn’t say anything. I didn't ask that he give me my 20 baht change. I politely exited the vehicle, keeping my snide comments to myself.

When I arrived in Ubon, I came out of the tiny airport (even smaller than LFT—only one baggage carousel, and, for all intents and purposes, only one gate) to a very different scene. There was almost no traffic. In fact, there was no form of public transportation at all. After standing there in a moment of, "Really?," I spotted a tuktuk and made my way over. The man politely explained that he was waiting for a specific group of people and that in order to catch a ride, I would have to walk to the end of the road that way. So I heft my bag, grumbled a bit to myself, and set of in the 1 o'clock heat down what turned out to be a very long road. Somewhere along this road, a woman coming the opposite direction on a motorcycle caught my eye, yelled something at me before turning around. She pulled up next to me and asked where I was going, and if I could ride on a motorcycle. A bit of conversation led to her giving me a lift to the end of the road where I could easily catch a tuktuk. Then she saw a song taew (the trucks with the benches in the back), flagged him down, and told me that it was going to the market. I hopped off her bike, thanked her, and hopped on to the song taew. We pulled into the market in time for me to catch the Det Udom bus just as it was leaving, cutting my travel time down from two hours to only one. Excellent.

The contrast between the two transports was a nice welcome home. It reminded me that I am a small town (or small city) gal, that as much as Bangkok seems to have, Ubon still has something to offer.

Like this sneak peek of the candle festival. Bleachers have been set up on the main street and the results of the 5th international wax carving contest are on display outside the museum.

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Yesterday, my classes were canceled because all of my students are practicing dance all day long in preparation for the celebrations. This coming weekend (and the Monday and Tuesday) marks the big event. It also marks my approximate "100 days till home"… exciting, isn't it?

Posted by decuirrl 19:59 Archived in Thailand Tagged living_abroad Comments (3)

Wai Kru Day!

the long awaited teacher day post.

sunny 95 °F

I have very vague memories of giving my teachers gifts. There were the years when my parents must have sent me to school with something in my booksack to say thank you. Then I know there was a time when I had a more active role in the gift-giving; the teachers I respected were suddenly the only ones on the receiving end. In Thailand, teachers are treated with a great amount of respect. The title 'ajarn' is often used outside of class by people who aren't even students. The woman across the street who makes my food, the cafeteria people, the parent of my students all use 'ajarn' with the appropriate amount of deference. When students walk near teachers having a conversation, they duck a little. Some students will why me through the window of our office, stopping in their tracks and bowing in my direction. When they actually come into the office , students never talk from a standing position, instead squatting or kneeling so as to not be above me. The one time I managed to have a girl to pull up a chair and sit down in it took some real convincing. At any point in time, I can send my students on errands—go grab books from my office, deliver my package to my room, or take ten baht to buy me a lemon tea. This type of respect obviously does not extend to every student, nor does it always extend into the classroom, but it characterizes how well established the roles are in the hierarchical systems that pervade Thailand. It has taken some getting used to in a lot of respects, kind of like how it takes some getting used to functioning in a fancy restaurant or hotel environment, but I have adjusted well. I no longer move out of the way on a staircase when met with a flood of students. I know that I don't always have to acknowledge their wais with anything more than a nod. I also am getting better with walking into a room and saying "Teacher needs this done. Which one of you will do it?" and expecting results.

With all of this in mind, I had been looking forward to Teacher Day for a while. I was not disappointed. The day started with all of the teachers and students lining up in front of one of the statues on campus. (I wish I knew more about what it was…sorry. I'll work on that.)

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The same fancy man in the white uniform that had welcomed all of the new students by chanting as we all held a string connecting us in a circle was leading the ceremony. It was RIDICULOUSLY hot. The teachers were doing their best to hang out in the shade while the students brought up a collection of gifts to the alter of this statue. Eventually, though, everyone was required to be in nicely respectful lines. Then came the praying, the incense, the chanting, the waiing. And the sweating.

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(Can you see me?)

Once the chanting stopped, the teachers went up and received blessings from the man in white—a powder and water mixture provided a dot on the right hand and a few dots on the forehead. Teachers then turned and gave the same to the students. It was like Ash Wednesday…Powder Thursday?

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Once we had all been properly blessed, we made it to the part that I was looking forward to: the gift giving. I had seen my students hanging around school very late the night before and when I asked what they were doing, they all gave me the same answer. Making these:

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The arrangements are made by each class of students, mostly out of flowers and other plant life, each symbolizing some quality. (Eggplant flowers symbolize respect because they bend low to the ground). They are beautiful. In the important event room at the top of the auto mechanics building, we sat trying to cool off as the students presented their gifts to us , waiing in the most respectful of position.

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A monk came and talked of the importance of teachers in everyone's lives. We were then given the rest of the day off.

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We used the free time to take a lot of photos. Teachers and students, teachers and teachers.

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This is a classic photo of a third of the English Department.

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Sometimes, the kids go a bit overboard. I think I have an idea what it would be like if I were a celebrity and Thai teenagers were the paparazzi.

Aaaaaannnnd some of my favorites:

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(That is a replica of the king's barge. Inscribed with DTEC. Not too shabby)

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Because what good is it working at a technical college if you don't get your students to rig something up with electrical wiring?

That's how Teacher Day should be done. The respect and flowers, electrical wiring optional.

Speaking of teaching, I have nine weeks left. In these nine weeks, I want to have a culture lesson, a review session, a final exam, and a "you can ask me ANYthing" day. That means I have 4 lessons of actual English teaching left. What?

Posted by decuirrl 01:40 Archived in Thailand Tagged events Comments (1)

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