As I write this, I lay on bed of patterned pillows and colorful tapestries on the rooftop of our guesthouse. The city of Chiang Mai is all around me— tiled rooftops, golden temples, and lush greenery stretch for miles in front of a mountainous backdrop. Between the cool breeze drifting through the rooftop's wind chimes and the soft jazz playing at a restaurant on the street corner below, I think I could stay here forever.
Then, I remember I'm not on vacation forever. I'm here for a little over a week, and then it's back to Korat, and back to teaching. I think back to the week before we boarded the 12-hour night bus to Chiang Mai, when we experienced a fun-filled week at our school. The jam-packed week of events made the transition into vacation much easier, but it will only make the return to the classroom much more difficult.
Let's focus on the positive though, shall we?
The Tuesday before our holiday, we put together an afternoon of Christmas activities for all the primary students (ages 6-12). You're probably wondering why a school in Thailand would be celebrating a Christian holiday... I was too, and I'm still not quite sure why. While most of our students are Thai, a majority of them come from mixed families— maybe one of their parents is Thai, while the other is American or British. In other words, having Christmas activities at school is more of a way for the students to have fun, learn a little about Christmas from their foreign teachers, and eat too many sweets.
The afternoon began with an introduction and welcome from our two lovely MC's, Teacher Pleum (a Thai English teacher) and Teacher Emily (an American English teacher). They explained a bit about the origins of Christmas and what kids do to celebrate the holiday.
Christmas day wouldn't be complete without Mr. and Mrs. Claus, so, naturally, two students dressed head to toe in red and were even pulled on a decorated "sleigh" by two "reindeer" (a couple students dressed in the most adorable reindeer costumes). They kicked off the celebrations by surprising the audience and throwing candy their way.
Next in the line-up? A fashion show: Christmas edition. Pop hits from Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran blasted in the auditorium while about 50 students from grades one to six cat walked across the stage in their best Christmas outfits. Seeing the sass and attitude these kids had while they strutted and posed was absolutely hilarious. They would have all won America's Next Top Model in my book.
I'm glad I wasn't a judge this time around because it would have been tough to narrow down all the fabulous red and green outfits into a final round of ten. The judges did, though, and their top ten picks went back on stage for a round of Christmas trivia. Teacher Emily asked the students questions like, "How many reindeer does Santa have?" and "What day is Christmas celebrated on?"
Not super easy questions in my opinion, but the students did a great job and answered most of them correctly.
As the judges deliberated on the fashion show winner, one of my fourth grade students took the stage in a Santa suit and aviator shades to dance to "PPAP (Pen Pineapple Apple Pen)" (arguably the most annoyingly catchy song, ever). He was wonderfully confident— the audience loved him.
After his performance, a group of fifth grade girls performed a dance number to the Christmas classic, "All I Want For Christmas Is You." Their nerves seemed to get the best of them, but they were still all smiles and fun on stage.
Following the dance number, the fashion show winners were named. I can't even remember who won because I was too busy setting up my craft station. All of the English teachers were tasked with setting up a game or craft station for the students. Each grade would rotate through the stations, giving everyone the chance to make a craft, play some games, and win lots of candy.
I went simple with my craft station: Christmas cards. But, I wish I went simpler. I mixed paint for the younger students to make fingerprint Christmas tree cards and cut out colored construction paper for the older students to make pop-up cards thinking they would have more time at each station, but they only ended up having about five minutes. Eek! Definitely not enough time to make a pop-up card, and barely enough time to paint.
As you could imagine, having multiple rotations of 40-60 students painting and using glitter proved to be extremely messy. Oh well, c'est la vie. In hindsight, I wish I kept it even simpler and had the students use markers and colored pencils, but I think they had fun getting their fingers a little dirty and using lots of glitter. I hope they did, at least.
The event seemed to be over before it even started as I soon found myself cleaning up my station and helping take down our decorated Christmas stage. Next up in the week? Sports days: a yearly tradition at Plookpanya School.
Pink vs. Blue vs. Purple vs. Green: the battle is on!
At the beginning of the term, all of the primary students were divided into four teams. Every day after school, they would get together with their teams to practice chants, dances, and cheers. No joke— this was serious business.
Opening ceremonies began at 8 AM sharp on Wednesday. The school band marched around the main area of campus playing the Thai National Anthem while each team assembled on their decorated bleachers. Boys banged on their drums and the first graders danced as the teams chanted loudly. The head of the school kicked off the competition with a brief welcoming. Then, the teams were off to the high school side of campus for the first round of games!
The first game was chair ball: think ultimate frisbee meets basketball. One person on each team stands on a chair holding a basket while their team tries to score. The person on the chair can move around the basket to try to catch the ball, but they have to stay standing on the chair. It's a fun and exciting game to watch! The rounds took quite a long time though, as the boys and girls competed separately, grade by grade. Aside from our snack break, chair ball took up most of the morning. Everyone was happy and hungry by lunch time.
After lunch, the long jump, 50-meter dash, and relay races took up most of the afternoon. The following day, we spent most of the time finalizing our work permits, so we missed out on most of the games that day.
The final day ended with a bang. All of the students pulled out all the stops to dress in their team's color. Each team had a girl from sixth grade leading the group dressed in a sparkly gown, high-heeled shoes, and beauty pageant makeup. Each team marched across the field as the leader of the school congradulated all the teams on a job well done.
Following the welcome ceremony, each team took their bleachers. Instead of cheering all together, each team took a turn showcasing their best chants and dances. The judges took note as to which team had the best spirit and the most creative cheers. The rest of the day, students competed in a few more running races, an eating contest, and even more cheering competitions.
After our lunch break (and one final cheering competition), the judges gave out their awards. Every team won an award. My team, Team Pink, won "Best Cheering" while others one "Best Team Management" and "Best Sportsmanship." The Blue Team took home the gold as the winner of most of the competitions. The awards ended with all of the students taking to the field, laughing and dancing to "Panama Song" — another catchy favorite.
The Christmas activities and sports days were a wonderful way to wrap up the first half of the term and have some fun with our students before the holiday. Now, off to enjoy the rest of our vacation in the mountains of Thailand...
The happiest holiday wishes to you, readers!