Friday, January 9, 2015

The Sky Can Change Its Mind (A Weekly Recap)

"No, but the sky can change its mind." This is what a student said to me when I asked him if it was normal for it to rain in January. For the record Lao people are very nice, but they are also very sassy.

This week was my last week of classes for the first term and this upcoming week I will give my final exams. Oh how nice it is to be on the one giving finals instead of taking them. Though I am relieved to have a break from teaching for a while i'm sad for the semester to be over. Thursday was my last class with my year 4s before they go off to do practice teaching in the other provinces. My year 2 students are still stuck with me though.

Speaking of year 2 students this week was a major breakthrough with them. One of my favorite classes that I teach is OT, an extra tutoring class for the lower level English speakers. The students in that class hold an extra special place in my heart and fill me with so much joy and encouragement every time I teach them. Unfortunately these students are often the shiest and the last ones willing to invite me to spend time with them. But something must have triggered inside of them this week. I hung out with them almost every day this week.

Monday morning as I was walking to school two of my OT students were walking in the opposite direction. "Have you had breakfast teacher," they asked. A normal question here in Laos, it's essentially the equivalent of "how are you" back home. And just how you always respond "good" here in Laos you always say "yes" when someone asks if you have eaten. "Yes" I have had breakfast," I responded. "Teacher we are on our way to eat breakfast" "Oh you know what I was wrong I haven't had breakfast yet." "Oh teacher you should come have breakfast with us" "Okay!" So I turned around and followed them to where I would eat my second breakfast that morning. 

The following afternoon I was standing around talking with students when a few of them invited me to go to Phuo si. Phou si is a small mountain in downtown LPB to which I have had countless invitations to go walk up. Almost anytime a student invites me somewhere it is to Phou si. Often times I decline because as a falang I have to pay to visit, but since these were my OT students I knew if I said no this offer may never come again. 

So up Phu si we went. Though there was little conversation I had a blast walking through town and taking selfies with the girls. My students also spoiled me to death (shouldn't it be the other way around) they bought me two bracelets at the market and paid for my dinner. I swear to you, you can't out kind a Lao person.

Wednesday my students invited me to come watch the dance competition. Both my year 4 and year 2 students had been practicing for the competition since early November, and now the time had come for them to show off all their hard work. My year 4 girls got 3rd place which I thought was pretty great; they were disappointed.

The guys sat in the crowds with signs cheering the girls on. Too adorable.

Though the dance competition was intended for students I somehow ended up having to dance. Why I thought I would escape the humiliation, I don't know. As the judges tallied up the scores a small dance line/circle (not sure how to explain it, but if you live in Laos you know exactly what i'm talking about) began to form. The students come up and asks the important people in the room. A few minutes into the dance and still no student had come up to me, I thought I was in the clear. Suddenly the room filled with clapping and I was walking out to the dance floor. 

Thankfully my humiliation ended after only one song, and the falang's horrendous attempts at Lao dancing was forgotten. Well probably not forgotten, but my students were still willing to be seen with me. 

After a week of reviewing and fitting in all those last minute grammar and vocabulary lessons, I had my OT students over for pancakes. They asked earlier on in the week if they could come to my house Friday to learn how to cook American food, but we never confirmed time for them to come. I expected that would mean a no show. I ran out to the market to pick up what I need anway, and as I was walking home I got a call. "Teacher we are at your house. Where are you?" I booked it back home afraid that if I didn't get there fast enough they would leave. Fortunately they were still there eagerly waiting. I let them in and taught them the magical art of flapjack making. 

And yes my stove (along with my oven) sits on the floor. You do what you have to do when you have only one working outlet.

Fingers crossed that my OT students wanting to spend time with me isn't just a phase. I tell you one of these days my students are going to realize i'm not as cool as I pretend to be and in reality I am just that weird teacher from America. 


Chloe Logan said...

This makes me smile! Lao culture seems so different yet so much more inviting. I mean, it's not normal to hang out with your teacher in the U.S., but over there it's the opposite based on what I gather from your posts. The breakfast thing is too funny, too! What if it's mid-day/dinner time?

Chloe | Wanderlust in the Midwest

Dani said...

Normally students here don't have much of a relationship with their teachers. The main reason they hang out with me is because I beg and plead with them too. Okay not really but it does take a lot of effort to convince them that I really do want to be their friend and not just their teacher. The culture here is so big on respecting authority that it takes a while to break down that barrier and build relationships outside the classroom. I've been very lucky though and have played up my being a foreigner charm because everyone wants to hang out with the foreigner.
And if it isn't breakfast time they will just insert what ever meal time it is.

John Hunter said...

I find weird often is much better and more interesting than cool, maybe your students know you are weird and appreciate that :-)

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