Haiku’s for Teachers – 24th February 2021

For the end of term celebration dinner I thought it a nice idea to write a haiku for each of the teachers I work with – an artistic test for myself. I printed them on A4, laminated, cut, hole-punched and cut and tied ribbons on each. I enjoyed the whole process.

Kru Fluke

UNO champ, waiting
Watching the new Thai drama
Quiet achiever

For a while, at the end of the working day, teachers would gather to play UNO before heading home. Fluke would sit in quietly, watching some Thai drama series or other on her iPad at the same time. With a sweet and lovely smile she was a vicious backstabber when it came to the game and often won. It was best not to sit next to her round the table!

Kru JJ

Lipstick, mascara
You make it work, you go girl
Swing those hips wildly

All the male teachers in our building (and in most of the school) are gay and love getting dressed up for special events. They can be so spectacular and outrageous that it’s difficult not to get swept up in the occasion. JJ is, of course, one of them. A smart young guy who should’ve been born a girl.

Teacher Dylan

Sleepy ginger boy
Wake up; the world wants you now
So, wake the fuck up

Dylan is from Northern Ireland and is here in Chiang Rai along with his many brothers, cousins and other relatives I’m sure. The brothers look so alike that they find it difficult to meet girls that other members of the family have not already met, Chiang Rai being a pretty small town to start with. Anyway, Dylan arrives at school each day well before he has actually woken up and being young he attracts the most attention from the other similarly aged female teachers.

Kru KT

Silky voice, smooth tune
Loud and proud; but wait, what’s this
Big boy is sleeping

KT, or Kate, is another male teacher, though not quite as outrageous, he loves to sing loudly and play fight with the female teachers. He is a big (and big hearted) guy and because of this he has a problem where he stops breathing in his sleep so wakes up all through the night. This affects him at work as he often nods off, sometimes mid song. There are many pictures and videos of him snoring away.

Kru Champ

Stress, happiness, stress
Working hard for the future
Your reward will come

Champ is our hard working coordinator who gets a ton of (nonsensical) work dumped on him whilst also trying to implement things in a better way, hence his ever-swinging between stress and happiness. If efforts were truly rewarded in this world, he will achieve a lot. Lives with his boyfriend and supports the many LGBTQ+ kids in the school.

Kru Amp

Dance under the moon
The wolf is crazy; no sleep
Sleep when you are dead

Amp, along with First, JJ and Tee, was one of the student teachers from the local university. She taught Chinese and her English was the best when it came to speaking but her understanding was very good. So good that she could play along well with jokes and she loved having a fun time, especially dancing.

Kru First

Face reflects the moon
A laugh and smile; gone too soon
No more UNO now

First had a face that reminded me of a childhood story-book moon. A genuine personality and diligent worker it was sad to see her leave at the end of the term.

Kru Gratae

Love is in your heart
Impatient; where is the one?
Wait, don’t try so hard

Gratae is a loud, funny and self deprecating girl always looking for love advice from anyone. She is not so pretty on the outside but once you get to know her there is a sad vulnerability hidden there and when she is not hiding herself behind her defenses is a very nice person.

Kru Tee

Soft and gentle girl
Turns out tough; always goes hard
Life of the party

Tee introduced herself as ‘Tee, as in PART-TEE!’ She is a chubby happy girl that I believe hides her abilities and real personality. Very likable, I’m glad she has stayed on here as a teacher.

Kru Mai

Purposeful, thoughtful
Watch the students dance with joy
Always going forth

Mai has a striking looking feminine posture with a mushroom haircut. If you see him you will wonder what he is about. As far as I can tell he is a well respected teacher among the students, particularly as he will often play music and encourage dancing in his classes. Obviously he coordinates a lot of the stage show events the schools here seem to love. Mai is always the most outrageous cross dresser in the school. He is unrecognisable in a blonde wig and tight black dress.

Kru Aomsin

No accident stops
Her from happiness and play
Another round, yes?

Aomsin recently had a motorbike accident that smashed one of her front teeth but that didn’t get her down. She will always be the first to want to play UNO.

Kru China

Tag team with Gratae
Keep fighting, fighting today
Who talks the loudest?

China (pronounced Sheena) and Gratae appear to be best friends and once they are in a room together the volume is cranked to 11. This can be funny most times, but others, when trying to concentrate, becomes very distracting. One of China’s favourite phrases is to keep fighting.

Kru Feung Fah

A secret boyfriend
The sporty type? Shy? Humble?
Liaisons out of our sight

Feung Fah is a skinny, sporty girl that seeks to deny the fact she has a boyfriend for some reason. Her English is not the best but I can feel she has a good personality.

Teacher George

Good morning teacher
Big smile, warm welcome, let’s go
Seven-eleven

George greets everyone happily each morning, showing his face to let them know that he is here at school before quickly sneaking off to get coffee at his favourite cafe. Going out of school is not always accepted unless it is to the 7-11. So, whatever it is that needs to be done outside school, going to 7-11 is the default answer.

Senyawa – Alkisah – 21st February 2021

Indonesia’s intense, vital experimental duo Senyawa release their newest album Alkisah via a decentralised worldwide co-operative effort. An explosive, exploratory trip through Senyawa’s unique sonics, Alkisah represents these masters of unpredictable experimental music pushing their own boundaries. 

Instrumentalist Wukir Suryadi performs on his homemade instruments, created from bamboo and other natural materials, offering a rarely explored link between the ancient, traditional, mystical music of South-East Asia and the contemporary avant-garde. 

Vocalist Rully Shabara (also of tenzenmen recording artists Zoo) mines the human voice for its strangest and most challenging sounds, chanting, yowling and throat-singing like a chorus of demons in one song and an arcane, chattering machine in the next. 

Rhythms skitter and crash around like gamelan, punctuated with trashcan drums or bulging plumbing percussion, while doomier moments (such as “Istana”) crush with seething waves of distortion and Rully’s mesmeric growls (a mix of Javanese, Bahasa, and other Indonesian languages). The record lurches from urgency to apocalypse, a twisting and twining story with animist mythology and hellish atmospherics. 

ALKISAH can be translated as ONCE UPON A TIME. 

This is that time.

SENYAWA 
Wukir Suryadi: Custom Instruments 
Rully Shabara: Lyrics, Vocals 

Recorded and Mixed by Iwan Karak 
At Eloprogo, September 2020 

Soundscape of Eloprogo recorded by tesaran 

Artworks by Sopeng 

Minang proverbs on “Kabau” compiled by Taufik Adam

Then it’s not if I win but how I play that matters, right? – 8th February 2021

We all have to start somewhere. I was always interested in art at school because it appealed to the part of my brain that could utilise imagination rather than drier subjects that required adherence to some sort of order. Weirdly I did well enough in those subjects though. Anyway, art just felt like the easy pass.

Of course, painting wine bottles and flowers didn’t really appeal and I wasn’t mature enough or my imagination broad enough to conjure anything worthwhile. I think I actually ended up doing more artistic things at home more than in class. Two pieces particularly stick in my mind and I don’t recall doing either at school. My most prominent memory of my three years of art class was finishing off a bottle of vodka and leaving the bottle in the classroom for other people to draw in the future. That was first year of high school – we were 13 years old. 1980 or 1981.

Like the other times I’ve had to draw on my education, such as Maths and English tests when applying to University, I’ve been able to dig deep into my memory and apply myself somehow. So, now I’m sketching when I have the chance and I’m digging into those art lessons I honestly don’t remember anything. What I learned about perspective I got when studying photography back about 12 years ago and watching YouTube videos about pavement artists and force perspectives.

Now, what I really learned, and learned from punk rock and my mother, is about just doing it. Getting on and doing it. When I look at these sketches again I can see the imperfections, the incorrect spacing etc. But when I look with kindness I think, wow, that’s pretty good (for me!).

Rather than set my expectation too high and demand perfection or failure, I choose the middle ground. Do it, finish, move on.

These sketches are from my morning coffee spot, House. My enjoyment with these was due to the very strong perspective of all the straight lines in the room.

First sketch

After making each drawing I gave them to Guey, the owner, and, if working from a photo I took, deleted the photo so all I end up with is a digital file of my sketch. I will do the sketch within 30 minutes, not as a rule but more that I have found the feel and if I went any further I would be getting down into detail that would take it beyond a sketch. Through these 3 sketches (over 3 or 4 days) I could feel improvement each time and they made me really happy and gave me a small sense of achievement.

Second sketch

When I find some more free time and inspiration I will do more but I think I’m done with House now, though they have a cute dog and a challenging garden that would be fun to draw. Hmm….ok – tomorrow!

We are teachers by trade, complainers by role – 3rd February 2021

Let’s make a list
So we can feel like we’re accomplishing something
So we can feel like we’re working together

Let’s sit in a circle adding to the list
As we move around the room one by one
As you make a suggestion begin sternly
– you take no shit –
To give credence to your semi-constructive argument

Tomorrow we’ll wonder where this generation
Gets their priorities from
Tomorrow my heart will skip a beat
As it does every morning nine months of the year

It has to do with this list
Before the bells even ring
Before the hair is even combed

Will the approach ever change
Or will it begin as I’ve said
And end with a lighthearted twist
To prove we’re all adults?

It has to do with this list
Which we’ll put in our pockets
To throw away at a later date

It has to do with this list
Which makes me feel more uncomfortable
Than I’ve ever felt
More apple pie than I’ve ever been

We are not housewives, executives, or entrepreneurs
We are teachers by trade, complainers by role

– Let’s Make a List by The Van Pelt

I really love the Van Pelt’s subdued musical tone and the singer’s talk-sing delivery. The lyrics here struck me deeply as these days, once again, I wake during the night thinking about how I could help this student or that student and really make a difference to their lives – if only there was enough time.

Let’s make a list
So we can feel like we’re accomplishing something
So we can feel like we’re working together

Lists and meetings – throwbacks to my office days – useless, endless, time-wasting meetings. Lists have their place but may also be overrated – yet here we are, in the absence of a better solution, doing the same so that we can feel like we are doing something. I like the playful sarcasm of these lines – it appeals directly to my Englishness.

Let’s sit in a circle adding to the list
As we move around the room one by one

See that list, let’s mindlessly add to it – we are accomplishing a list. You’re turn next.

As you make a suggestion begin sternly
– you take no shit –
To give credence to your semi-constructive argument

If I speak louder then my information must be more important. Oops – there’s my own sarcasm manifest. I must also remember not to use this strategy when I’m teaching – or in every day communication, come to that. Recall the stereotype of shouting louder to non-English speakers in the misguided belief that this will help them understand.

Tomorrow we’ll wonder where this generation
Gets their priorities from

I hate the kids! That’s what we are supposed to do, right? Yet, I don’t – I love them all very much – even the angry, lazy, nasty ones, the ones that remind me of myself. But I am not one of them and I shouldn’t expect them to bend to my equations, to live up to my expectations. That’s a useless frustration. I felt my grandparents look upon me in that tut-tutting way but my mother showed me and taught me to find my own way. It was the struggle I needed. It is the struggle I still endure and have learned to love.

Tomorrow my heart will skip a beat
As it does every morning nine months of the year

Every day of school I have to pretend I am a teacher. I am purely a teacher based on my mother tongue and my age. But I consider myself a student first. When I feel joy at seeing the student’s grow – I see my own journey. I feel grateful to them for teaching me about myself.

Will the approach ever change
Or will it begin as I’ve said
And end with a lighthearted twist
To prove we’re all adults?

These were the lyrics that really stood out when considering the education system in government schools in Thailand. I was told by other teachers that I would never be able to facilitate change in the system here. I took that as a coward’s statement. They chose the easy way, the way to not ruffle anyone’s feathers, to not take to task the inefficiencies that all can see. Even the students are aware of the low quality of education they receive and have made it part of the protest movement of this past year.

Anyway, the nail that sticks out gets hammered down and that is what had happened to me before here. But, the feathers were ruffled enough to make some change – I felt the sacrifice worth it and the lazy and noncommittal can benefit from it. Of course, there was no sweeping change to a utopia but patience will be rewarded. It may take another 100 years but I’d rather be a lit match that started a tiny fire than a bucket of water. I feel sorry for the kids – how can you hate them?

It has to do with this list
Which we’ll put in our pockets
To throw away at a later date

Ouch! Isn’t that the truth?

We are teachers by trade, complainers by role

Where do we get our priorities from?