Sunday Summary #32

Welcome to Sunday Summary, the meme in which I attempt to summarize the week that came before.

A strange week — I went to work every day but the only duties were to teach a new group of young children a new song & dance for a show that was originally scheduled for Tuesday but is now going to occur tomorrow morning. We were told after the kids left on Friday and we all expected (and NEED) one more day of rehearsal.

My chosen tune is a medley of “Stayin’ Alive” by The Bee Gees and “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang; we’re using the Playin’ For Change version of the latter as the video features kids dancing to it. I edited bits of the two songs together and synced those to videos; the first part is a dance routine I found on YouTube that didn’t seem that difficult at the time.

I should mention that I hated disco and, thus, these songs when I was forming my musical identity in northeast Kansas in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I still have not seen the movie Saturday Night Fever with John Travolta, the soundtrack of which had a huge hit with “Stayin’ Alive”. I never actively listened to the original tune until I fell in love with Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band’s version, recorded live in Brisbane, Australia, on 26 February 2014, seen here:

These days, a lot of disco and dance music from the 1970s on up to the 1990s and beyond makes me happy. I love hearing these tunes and they make me want to dance, despite my not feeling I can do so well. After the psychobilly and garage punk of “Teenage Goo-Goo Muck” that made up the bulk of my Open House dance, I immediately decided to do a disco song when told to do this latter performance. I happened upon the Playin’ For Change video of “Celebration” soon after and I knew I wanted to incorporate that into the routine. Once I found the Hollywood Hotshots performance of “Stayin’ Alive”, I knew I wanted to do a mash-up. I edited bits of both videos together and overdubbed an audio edit synced to parts of the dances that I wanted the kids to learn. Given another few days, I think most of them would have mastered it.

I think I mentioned repeatedly during the approximately ten days that we got to rehearse for the Open House dances that I have never been able to dance and certainly (still) have no clue as to how to teach someone else how to dance. Much less when my projected dancers are three- and four-year old kids, most of whom understand little to no English at all. I had major problems with just getting them to do moves involving directions as they still do not know their left from their right (or even their “sai” from their “kwa”, to use the Thai).

My dance team #2 — left to right (back row): Pim, Cartoon, Omsing, Pangpond; (front row): Pupa, Botun, Look-ao

The littlest ones were content to just roll around on the floor while the slightly older kids liked to chase each other around or fight with each other. Once I got one or two children more or less following along, someone else would be acting out and it was very rare to get through a run-through of the routine without someone going completely off-the-rails.

This time around, we only had five days of practice with two hours allotted each day (about 2/3 of which were useless as the kids were either being uncontrollably naughty or wanting to eat or use the restroom). Once I taught them the routine, we would follow along to the video for one or two play-throughs at which time half the kids were ready for a “break”. Any stoppage meant that getting started again took exponentially longer each succeeding attempt at rehearsal.

Know how these kids “operate”, I was okay with the practice a little and rest a lot trend the first day and a half. We still made fairly good progress with a couple of kids really trying hard to master the routine. Towards the end of the second day, the Thai teacher in charge came to watch my routine and seemed fairly disgusted with what she saw. Luckily, she doesn’t understand enough English to ask about the lyrics of “Stayin’ Alive” but she expected the kids to be completely in sync with each other during the routine. I’d been teaching them to each do something a bit different, doing what they felt and not worrying so much about what the others were doing. She wanted me to write out a script detailing what each kid would be doing at each point of the dance.

I ended up just doing counts of four and repeating different moves during different counts. The kids added a fist-pump and shout during the choruses of “Celebration” which added greatly to it but then began competing on who could shout that the loudest (which removed the “happy” element of the dance). The left and right during the “Stayin’ Alive” choruses continued to be a big issue; kids who understood I only wanted the point-move to be right-handed would alternate and do it with their left during one play-through and with their right during the next practice. A bit maddening.

I shot a lot of video during the week (and very, very few still photos). I showed most of the them to the kids so they could see their mistakes but just pointed out the mistakes made by the other kids. Somedays, they were better than the day before but most days they seemed to forget significant pieces they had mastered the day before. Frustration began to set in as two kids (who had come HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by their Thai teachers) spent most of their time their just not doing anything constructive at all. I wasn’t alone, however, as the Chinese teacher actually banned several of her kids. Although I threatened to do the same, I kept my original line-up throughout the week.

After that second day, the Thai teacher in charge never came onto the third floor again. A different Thai teacher allowed me to use her classroom for a couple of days (great air-condition) but someone else took exception with that and we were locked out of all rooms one day forcing us to practice in the space between my cubicle and the restrooms. It was hot! The other teacher felt that when we were in the classroom, the kids just played with the toys in there (I didn’t allow this at all) and made a mess with snacks.

Thursday snack break

Snacks were a BIG issue as all of the kids had treats in their backpacks (but always seemed to forget bottles of water and I had to buy these each day so the kids wouldn’t get dehydrated). I would tell them they couldn’t eat snacks in the classroom and started confiscating bags of potato chips, cookies, etc. and putting these on my office desk. Still, the kids would hide things in their pockets and I would only find out when another kid ratted them out or when I stepped on something they had dropped. On Thursday and Friday, I took them downstairs and outside to eat at the halfway point. The rest of the time, we were either working or I was yelling at them to stop messing around so we could work!

I’d wanted to find a disco ball to incorporate into the routine. My idea was to have a kid who couldn’t dance just walk around holding the disco ball up for all to see. I never did find one but Tuesday afternoon I found a colored light display that plugged into a USB port. It was only 35 baht (about US $1). The kids loved it but I don’t think I will use it as the VIP’s we are performing for might not understand. Still, it was fun to use during rehearsal on Wednesday once the kids got over their initial fascination with it.

The kids were supposed to stay until 11:30 each morning but usually several parents would arrive before 11. Once three of my kids had been taken home, I would end the practice for the day and take the two or three remaining students out to the playground to wait for their parents. One day, there was a funeral wake going on in the area outside and the mourners gave the Chinese teacher and me large amounts of food to eat.

My afternoons consisted of sweating in my cubicle waiting for 3pm to arrive. It was just too hot to concentrate on anything or else I would have done some heavy-duty blogging. The Thai teachers were not even in the school at all Thursday and Friday; as I mentioned, I was locked-out of using a classroom on Thursday but the door to the classroom I’d previously used was mysteriously unlocked that morning. I think that room’s teacher is sympathetic to our cause.

I had to deal with a fairly big problem late Thursday afternoon. I had sent all my final scores and grades in a week or so ago. That afternoon, the agency representative sent me a spreadsheet containing names and asked if I could please re-enter the scores as my spreadsheet had one too many columns. Turns out that column was the test scores. They didn’t actually want the scores for exams (then why did I have to give them exams?!). Rather than argue, I figured I would just incorporate the exam scores into the “Listening” and “Speaking” assessments and adjust until they matched the original score percentage.

Easy enough but then I noticed the bigger problem: my names from the original spreadsheet didn’t match the new spreadsheet at all. In most cases, there were more students (for example, my class lists had 20 students in one class while the new one had just 15 or so; this was the case with all the classes — more students). I just put the names I had at the bottom. Then I noticed that the gender of many of the kids was wrong and there weren’t any classes that had twins (the new spreadsheet contained several names nearly identical which usually denotes twins). Also, there was an extra class (K2/4) that doesn’t exist at our school. After a lot of frustration, I walked over to the Nursery to see if the staff over their recognized any of the student names. Thy had the advantage of being to read the Thai script at the top of the workbooks — I had been sent spreadsheets for the wrong school!!!

My handler at the agency initially declined that a mistake had been made; she said she just forgot to change the school name on the workbooks. But somehow I got the correct spreadsheets the next morning and only had to make a few minor corrections for kids who had left the school already. Still, this sort of thing should never happen if certain people are doing their jobs (and if they would have sent me the name lists at the beginning of the term as I repeatedly asked).

The remainder of the week is a complete and utter blur. I got a pizza (my first of 2023) from a local restaurant on Friday. Takeaway. It was tasty and only 189 baht but I wished it had been larger or that I had bought two. Next time, I will order more than one. I still haven’t watched The Mandalorian this week (and have yet to download the new episode) but I finally watched the fifth episode of 1923. I listened to U2’s new album (which I found quite a struggle — 40 “reinterpretations” of their classic songs but the stripped-down versions sounded like mere demos and I longed for the original arrangements) and then began listening to my complete U2 collection chronologically (got through 1978 and 1979 already, now starting on 1980). I read most nights and am about halfway through with Steve Berry’s The Last Kingdom already.

Once again, I missed a few days of blogging. My best-received article all week was the one on Pitcairn Island who are finally returning to stamps with Pitcairn topics (this one being postcards showing the island in the 1920s) rather than ones bearing members of the British royal family. My first “Postal Playlist” article also received a fair number of views.

Today, I did some design tweaks to Philatelic Pursuits. As I learn about how to edit the blog’s various template, I am finding new and creative ways to improve the look.

Kan is back in Buriram. She returned Friday after being out of work during the entire week because of her foot injury. She was due to return to work that night but then got word that her paternal grandmother had died. No chance now of recovering the job which is just as well. She will probably stay in her home village at least until mid-April so she can celebrate the Thai New Year there (my Lovely Lady says she doesn’t care at all about her birthday which occurs the next day which I take to be code for “you better send me a nice gift!”). I think she might be able to return to Phuket just in time for me to go back to school after the summer holiday. We’ll see.

I hope you enjoyed my Sunday Summary for March 20-26, 2023, and that the week to come is just how you want it to be. Cheers!

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