Executive summary: The last week or so has really been a change of pace. Firstly there were exams and we were left in charge of the school – poor students had no chance of cheating or ‘helping’ as it’s called here. Then our dear friends Jonny and Mary-Grace arrived here in Ranong to take over from us as the married-couple-from-New-Zealand-English-teachers. Finally we had a fun picnic at the beach with a lovely but very tearful farewell from our students and co-teachers.
Final exams at MEC are normally very unlike exams in New Zealand. The concepts of ‘study’, ‘revision’, ‘think about the question’ and ‘don’t copy’ are utterly alien to the students. This is not really surprising when one stops to consider that they haven’t had much experience of school before coming here. Fortunately with all Thai and Burmese speaking staff away at a conference, Nuala and I were headmistress and headmaster. This ensured that students were seated next to those who were doing different exams, or were back to back with one of us prowling the aisles looking for the slightest hint of an exchanged gesture or glance.
Jonny and Mary-Grace (MG) arrived in Ranong at 5:30am. They must be really good friends because I met them at the bus stop and we even exchanged a few (somewhat) coherent words before I resumed my slumber. It’s scary to think that they’re asking us questions about Ranong, about teaching and about Thai and Burmese. Thank God for the phrase “well we don’t really have any idea…but…” Anyway, one way we are only too happy to help is introducing them to all our favourite eating and drinking places…. so much to teach, so little time. They’ll be here for the next 6 months and will enjoy the cool season and then the hot season. We’ve only had the rainy season so we’re a little jealous. Unfortunately their coming has also coincided with a ‘repair’ of the water supply infrastructure. So far 3 days with no water… it’s a good thing I actually like carrying buckets of water up 4 flights of stairs.
Last Friday was the last day of school. And what better way to end than with a day at the beach!? It really was a blessed day – the weather was warm and dry but not too sunny, the transport all worked and no one got arrested at the military checkpoints!
Once at the beach, proceedings began with some farewell speeches and songs from the students. It was completely overwhelming to see the students so emotional while speaking and singing so beautifully about their feelings for us. This was particularly striking as we’ve never really been sure that we’re actually connecting with the students or teaching them anything. Their sadness and their affection fully silenced these doubts as their sheer emotion was as totally inexplicable as is was moving. We were both very sad at the thought of leaving to begin with, but seeing how upset the students made our feelings that much harder to control. I was reflecting later that I didn’t shed a tear even on my wedding day so this day was definitely sadder than the day we got married.
Fortunately all the badness of sadness was over before we were happy to introduce Jonnny and MG to the students, introduce the students to lunch and then introduce all of us to the beautiful (warm, warm warm!!!) water. To all those people who tried to get to me to swim in Lyall bay or in fact anywhere in NZ… It was totally worth the wait! Warm, blissfully warm water, a lovely natural sandy beach and no other people. Perfect.