Sunday, 18 May 2008

Cat's English Club

When last year Cat built a big wooden house down the garden while I was away in England, I asked her why she’d made its verandah so huge.

‘It’s because I want to run a school,’ she said, as irrepressible and zany as ever. I had little idea what she was talking about but I’ve since found out.

I wanted to write about the school as a last chapter to my new book, MY THAI GIRL AND I, but I realized that if I did, new events would keep making the book longer and longer. I just had to stop somewhere and publish the book. So I mentioned it briefly in the epilogue and now have the chance to tell the story in full.

Cat calls it her English Club and that’s exactly what it is. From time to time she’s had a number of children around to learn English before but now it’s become quite a big thing. Every weekday after the school day finishes twelve kiddies aged about nine to twelve arrive and sit down and chat excitedly on the verandah floor. Then teacher Cat appears and they all fall silent. This is serious stuff!

Then she teaches intensively for about three hours, both written and spoken English. It’s a very long day for them but they love every minute of it. She’s bought eight of those low school tables that Thai children use, a white board and various pictures and teaching aids, but the biggest teaching aid of all is a real live native-speaking farang.

Yes, I’ve been doing my half an hour or so and it’s been fun. Concentrating on oral English and pronunciation, I’ve usually arrived with a rucksack full of things like cups and spoons and toys and I pull them out and show them to the kids.

‘What’s this?’ ‘It’s a…’ I drill again and again. Eventually something sinks in and they’ve really learned quite a lot.

It looks professional too, a full thirty hour course with a proper invoice issued, a school outing to the lake where we all ate and swam and with certificates of completion nicely printed and handed out at the end of term dinner.

What quite impressed me was that the kids were not all from our village and the parents delivered them and collected them on their motorbikes. Cat is at last realizing her dream even in a small way of being a teacher and she’s much in demand.

When term had ended at the local school, she then began a second course for younger children in the school break. As it was getting much hotter, a cooler place to teach was our own concrete house. The main room downstairs is huge and again was perfect for the purpose.

This time I found them harder to teach. They were like puppies falling about the place and fighting, unable to concentrate for more than a few minutes. It was hard work to keep them engaged. Most of all they loved the two stuffed toys that sat on my knee and talked to each other. One was a dog, an ugly boy who loved the pretty penguin and did the children shriek with laughter at their silly courtship.

It really was fun and having the house full of noisy, happy kids a wonderful tonic for an elderly farang. For Cat too it was rather special, but already there’s something new in her life. She too has just become a full-time student!


donna quixote said...

Hi there Andrew,

Really enjoyed your book. Very insightful, funny and warm... Thanks a lot. Keep up the good work!


Maria said...

I´m constantly amazed by Cat´s all projects! She´s the most energetic I´ve ever met! A true inpiration!
Love to you both from Phnom Penh,

Thai Girl said...

Thanks, Donna, that really means a lot to me.

And Maria, Cat's just stunned me again by signing up for a two year full time course at a local college in Computer Graphics. She's always been upset that this farang came along and distracted her from her external degree course but now she's making a new start.

It looks like hard work with a very long day but I'm sure she'll stick at it.


Maria said...

As I said; I´m constantly amazed. And impressed!