Saturday, 18 August 2012

Going on a Lion Hunt

Objective: a spot of volunteer teaching.

Possessions: a laptop and pocket full of Clorets.

Time of day: Dangerously early in the morning

I’m not a morning person. Any civilized individual who has ever met me will adhere to this. Just one of my twisted pre-coffee glances can reduce a child to tears and often results in their dear parents shuffling uncontrollably. Today, this I could do without.

My mission was to get to a primary school in the north eastern part of Phuket and then deliver a lesson to group of 65 early learners, and, due to the tardiness of my departure, I was feeling rather apprehensive about the whole gig. I had promised a friend two weeks earlier that I would arrive early to help with the set up, but here I was thirty minutes late and stuck in traffic. My head began to pulsate as the digital thermometer showed 32 degrees.

The roads of Phuket were never built for high volumes of traffic, that much is true, but something that will truly amaze the uninitiated, is the particular methods used by locals to get from A to B: These include an assortment of unconventional driving offenses in any country worth its salt.

The Mazda weaved its way round traffic, slowly and deliberately, slamming the brakes to avoid a cement truck and then hauling to the left as a family of five on a motorcycle flirted with certain death. The road felt alive and seething with precarious possibilities.

Three school children diced with death hanging off the back of a Song Taw one handed, the vacant hand thumbing on a mobile phone. They were immaculately dressed in white shirts and brown shorts, smiling golden smiles and dreaming of God knows what. One of the students was wearing a uniform ironed with such militaristic precision that one could have sworn it was the first day of term. He stood lazily, slouching, not quite ready for the waking day, a leather satchel dangling this way and that. I smiled at him as I past, dodged a motorbike and pointed the Mazda, with some degree of anxiety, towards the shimmering horizon.

When I eventually arrived, I was met by a young lady who was visibly on the edge. Her eye lids fluttered mechanically and the left corner of her mouth weighed downwards, ever so slightly, as if attempting to invert her smile. After much flapping, she introduced herself as the English co-coordinator of the school. We exchanged pleasantries, and, as I was sincerely apologizing for being late, I was led by the arm into an airy room. It was tastefully decorated with green palm leaves and pink and purple tropical flowers. If you ever want an empty space made to look beautiful, ask a Thai. They are fantastic at making the mundane pleasing to the eye.

Without further ado, a micro-phone was given to me and so began my rendition of the early learner classic “We’re going on a Lion Hunt” complete with audio/visual accompaniment. Someone even dug out a hunter costume and a lion mask, which the kids just simply adored. They sang as loud as anything I have heard before and all were beaming.

All in all it was a morning of fun and games for the kids, and their smiles made the whole thing worthwhile.


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