Monday, 27 August 2012
As I type choral chanting can be heard over the low drone of the air conditioner. Here I am, on another Tuesday morning, on my own in room 6211. The whereabouts of my students is unknown. They are AWAL, running amok in the university grounds, carefree and unattached to the complexities and painstaking intricacies of Teacher Mike's Conversation Course.
I am sure their reasons for absence are genuine as there is always a commitment competing for their time. This I understand. It is not like my university days. There we were left to our own devices, usually swigging from cider bottles and rolling smokes. Having said that we had academic affairs to attend to; however, outside lecture theatres and tutorials, we were free and usually boozing. Maybe we were too free in retrospect, but that is how things were. Here, students have a million and one people to please, events to organize, and smiles to give. All of which put a heavy weight on the actual amount of time spent learning. Yes, of course they go to ‘class’ but often it is without intellectual focus, day dreams of Korean pop stars taking the place of study.
It is an innocent place, naïve. Students’ general knowledge of the world around them at times is vague. Last term I asked a class:
‘What’s the capital of France?”
I received a saucer eyed silence, each student smiling radiantly as their gaze met mine.
‘Does anyone know what the capital city of France is?’
My intonation rose up towards the clouds.
Once again eye lids fluttered and white teeth glowed. My eye brows rose to near the top of my forehead.
Quizzical, I wrote the word ‘France’ on the whiteboard in the hope that visual stimuli would conjure up a distant memory of Geography class. How wrong I was. Intrigued and at the same time baffled, I repeated the above in Thai. Still the same empty faces peered at me.
What was going on here?
Was I dreaming?
Was this some blurred and repressed memory from childhood send to haunt me in my sleep?
Suddenly, a student spoke and snapped me out of my perplexed reverie.
‘France kru a rai a krap, mai cow jai krap?’
This was it, the moment of truth. The box had been opened and its contents revealed. Revelation! My mind pulsated; my head thumped; was I about to burst into spasmodic fits of laughter, convulsing violently beneath the whiteboard? A sea of faces, oblivious to my thoughts, sat patiently waiting for my response. They must be joking. This is a piss take, surely.
‘France is a country’ I slurred.
Heads nodded and an guttural groan of understanding filled the room.