Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Ayutthaya update



Life here in Ayutthaya continues to be sweaty. The rainy season is now here proper so most days there is rain in some form or another. Sometimes it spits for hours but the floor is not even wet. The ambient heat that rests in everything just evaporates the moisture so quickly. The heavier showers create clouds of steam to rise from the tarmac so the road can look like someone is using dry ice for special effects and, when it really rains, within seconds large pools of water soon sit on the surface of the roads and are ‘bath’ hot! This sort of rain stops most things from happening because to do would be like performing the task underwater. The good thing is that, momentarily, the heat dissipates. Sitting on the (rather grandly called) veranda with the loud splatters of rain hitting the tin roof and seemingly columns of water dropping from the sky is a joy as the temperature actually goes down a little. Since these downpours are usually charged with thunder and lightning one is left feeling energised and excited. Ayutthaya, in case I haven’t said this before, is hot most of the time with average temperatures for the last couple of months being 34 to 36 in the shade. Couple this with the now moisture filled air and the natural bowl that the town sits in and you begin to see why we struggle. Even at night we are talking 29 or 30 degrees so there is no let up until around dawn and even then it’s only a couple of degrees less. We frequently have to seek sanctuary in our air con bedroom where 27 degrees feels chilly. What is really strange is that the heat stays not only in the tarmac but in everything -  Glasses on a shelf feel like they have come out of a dishwasher, soft furnishings as tumble dried and metal surfaces are burn hazards to be wary of. All that said we are still privileged to be living this life and even in this sultry environment we revel in how fortunate we are.

We have been getting a lot of swimming in over the last three weeks as we are members at a pool. We go in the day and always have the pool to ourselves which is 25m long and has loungers around the outside. Rachel is not a great swimmer but is still increasing her lengths and enjoys the coolness and exercise of it. I generally do between 1km to 1.5 km 4 times a week and can see and feel a bit of muscle coming back after so many months of comparative  inactivity. I have even started running again, but only when I wake up at 5.30am and its cooler. That said I still pour sweat and Rachel then has to put up with me climbing back into bed, even after showering, sweating and moaning about the heat.
 
Bikey


We are still loving the bike which continues to be rumbly and comfy. It is a joy to whizz along and feel like Steve Macqueen in The great escape. Although my antics are somewhat tamer and I frequently get ‘burned’ at traffic lights by fat old women on mopeds. Oh well, each to their own.  There is something magnificent about the acceleration, leaning into bends and the feel of air on your skin. The downside is of course that when it rains you get wet. Oh the joys of biking. Another joy of biking is what happens to feet when you wear sandals all day. Yesterday morning when I was sitting astride the bike and sort of walking it backwards in my drive to turn it round I had forgotten the stand was down so managed to trap and slash my big toe on a sharp corner. I realised it was a nasty cut so had to drive (dripping blood) to the local clinic where I was quickly seen due to the mess I was making and was given seven stitches, bandaged up, a tetanus jap, pain killers and antibiotics. 1200 baht (£25). Well spent for such an excellent service but boy does it throb. Anyway no swimming and only one legged showers for me for a week – damn!

 
Frankenstoe (the bolt is only artistic license)
 

Off to Bangkok in a mo to get a root canal for Rachel. 7 weeks ago in Chiang Mai her tooth split so she got a crown put on. Now its gone septic, blah blah blah and needs a root canal and new crown. Old dentists not interested so several hundred quid down and a lot of hassle – not to mention all the pain poor Rachel is in – we have to go and get it sorted. We are a sorry sight. Me with a big white bandaged toe and her with a swollen face and both feeling jaded after getting quite pissed with a couple of people we know.

Angie Russell and Glenn Geeves

 Glenn – the gayest straight guy in the world and his mum – a solicitor turned free spirit who loves her drink and drugs. They are interesting company and very entertaining, their hearts are good and they’re very likeable. It’s like being in a sit com that is a cross between ‘Shameless’ and ‘Catherine Tate Show’ skit about Derek – who dear, me dear! We have a Wednesday night regular with them (Wednesday is effectively our Saturday night due to working patterns) and since we are weak willed and they are devils incarnate we often drink too much.

 
The cook in his domain

We are still living in our little thai house and having thai lessons but it is a tricky one to pick up so not getting along too fast. Old dogs new tricks. Talking of dogs…There are packs of them roaming the streets here in the evenings and one is frequently having to brandish brolleys or big rocks to get them to back off. Whereupon they retreat and start up a howling chorus that rings around the streets and grows as more and more join in. Ayutthaya, is actually a pretty noisy town. What with dogs, singing monks and worst of the school that is very near us and at 7.00am every morning plays a medley of thai reproduced classics from the the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s. It is f ******ing awful and made even more so by the frequent Karaoke accompaniment of the headmaster. In addition to this cacophony of noise there are whistle blowing parking attendants, wheelie pulling school kids screeching as they whizz down the road three up. There is plainly no rest for the wicked so we have to endure.

 

Ayutthaya has probably only got about 300 Wats left for us to see. I suspect it may stay that way although there are a couple we will visit tomorrow which are on the river and look nice as we pass them by.

 

We are giving our notices in on Saturday with a month’s notice. When we leave we will have had three months of varied teaching experience. According to most travelling teachers we have met the Thai education is poorer than most other countries because none of the children can fail the tests. It’s a given that no matter how stupid they are, if their parents are paying for education, then they will do well. It’s a great system. The kids don’t want to feel like failures. The parents like to pretend that their kids are capable, the schools don’t want to lose the customers, the teachers don’t want to lose their jobs and the supply chain of teachers don’t want to lose their contracts.  Shame that we seem to be the only ones fighting the good fight. I suppose its because we are older, have some money and are not overly concerned if they sack us. Oh well, we will be gone in a few weeks and the cheating and copying can resume with full vigour again. I know this all sounds a bit jaded but it can be a little demoralising. However that rock star welcome on entry to the classroom, the constant stream of little children cuddling my legs or hi fiving me, the sudden fear in their eyes when they overstep the mark and I pick them up by their throats. And that feeling when they actually get it does balance this whole thing out.

 

Rachel pretends she hates em all but I have been in the classroom next to her at zenith and heard her voice. That’s not the voice of the childcatcher…possibly someone who pinches children when no one is looking but nothing more.

 
Anyway. Giving this up means that we will once again be on the move. After a visit from my sister for a few days whilst she is over to visiting Josh (her son). Looking forward to that and will enjoy showing her Bangkok and Ayutthaya and impressing her with our Thai and local knowledge. As to the further travels we will head up country to spend a few days with the Chiang Mai crowd then head down to the southern most tip to see another friend before arriving at KL from where we will fly to Burma for a month. Then back to KL and travel around Malaysia for a further month when some good pals from England – Gary and Mel (we love you) are coming out to see us for 10 days and spend time climbing a volcano called mount Bromo and then off to Bali. After that. Who knows what we will do till the end of November  when we are starting a 4 month stint homesitting in Miri in Malaysia which is a stones throw from Brunei. Here we are planning to teach a little, get very fit again, learn some Spanish and possibly write that book!!

 

Anyway that’s it for now.