LiBeL Column

Dear Diary

Columns from The Nation newspaper

A column of two halves

First, ‘Poll Booth lotteries’. It’s not students who should be drug tested it’s the guys who come up with ideas like this.

I’m not alone in this sentiment, a bellyaching member of the committee that drafted the new constitution a couple of years ago did come up with a half-hearted attempt at criticism: “No other country in the world hires voters to vote.” However, no country in the world offers broadband internet access to all its citizens, so. by that reasoning – just because no-one else does it doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.

If people are too tired to vote then they deserve the dictatorship they get. At least if they’re paid to vote – and no doubt paid more if they put their ‘X’ in the correct place – then they get to choose their preferred dictator. This action of bringing politics out of parliament and into the lives of everyday people in a manner they can relate to i.e. giving people a hand in deciding which tank commander is going to turn his guns on their family, might just motivate people to vote of their own free will. But only when it’s too late.

Then everyone will forget about corpses making leafy avenues look untidy and the cycle of ” I’m too bored to vote.”, “It’s too hot to vote.” etc will continue until the cycle goes full circle and ‘Poll Booth Scratchcard Bingo’ is introduced whereby contestants have to rub out any three squares to make the initials of a political party – if they get the answer correct they win a cash prize.

The following scratchcard prototype (developed by Thai scientists and patented – before in case anyone else steals the idea. It’s a world first remember.) has already been approved by the current legislature:

Educational issues now. After all, that’s the reason people read this column. The latest addition to the super soar away success that is the ajarn.com website, is the ‘Teacher’s Diary’. For the uninitiated, this is the daily diary of a corporate slave plying his trade at a well known language school in beautiful downtown Bangkok. It’s one guy’s take on his own life as a teacher.

J.E. was along time visitor to ajarn.com before he ever decided to lay pen to paper and churn out what one miffed reader described rather eloquently as ‘rantings’. The writer was equating ranting with negativity.

So, to rant or not to rant that is the question. Should positive, ‘fluffy poodle and loving master’ stories be included at the expense of ‘ganglang katoey teenage counterfeit drug lord murders monk’ type of headlines which don’t quite reflect the state of things in such a rosy glow. Can the punters take the truth? The punters in question being the great unwashed who make up the farang English teaching fraternity here.

It was only after J.E. had grown disillusioned with what he termed the ‘daydream believers who inhabit the discussion board’ and the overtly and at times cynical manner that I myself (I’m not immune to criticism) talk up the prospects and lifestyle for teachers in Bangkok, that he decided to offer to set the record straight.

Of course the Diary isn’t 100% accurate, real names are changed, there is no “Bangkok Jams Co Ltd”. If we mentioned the name of the dual wattage mobile phone airtime provider, where J.E. teaches from time to time, then I’m sure that wouldn’t go down too well. Ditto, the three initialled ‘language school’, for want of a better description where J.E. ‘teaches’, for want of a better description.

The author doesn’t claim to be the world’s greatest teacher and has no desire to aim for that lofty goal. Several years of being used and abused by a succession of D.o.Ss. at halfway houses masquerading as language schools have clearly taken their toll. The initial enthusiasm which once burned bright in J.E.’s heart has long since been replaced with a feeling of despair. In a more sombre, and indeed sobre, moment J.E. confided that his thoughts have often turned to packing it all in and heading back to Blighty. However, what’s a disillusioned 30 something with no transferable skills to do once at home? You might as well stay and play in the sun.

J.E.’s lifestyle may not be acceptable to those looking down from the lofty heights of the Thai TESOL empire or ‘professional educators’ lured to teach in Bangkok by the promise of unlimited exposure to traditional Thai culture. (No other reason people would want to teach here, is there?)

It’s a life, maybe not one that’s sits well with the majority of teachers here – at least not in public – but certainly he’s not the pariah he’s made out to be by some.

At the end of the day J.E. is inwardly content that he’s come to terms with his own little world. The loving Noi will forgive his transgressions, the school secretary will humiliate him at every turn, the laundrywoman will hold him in contempt, his mates will be ready for beer on Cowboy any night of the week, the first question out of any new student’s lips will be “Do you have lady Thai?” and the Diary will lead to 15 minutes of anonymous fame.