Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Conversation With A Thai Secretary

(These cartoons were originally posted on the website in 2003 and 2004)

Anybody who knows me will tell you that I have such little interest in languages, or polite communication in general, that it's in fact quite remarkable that I've made my living as an English teacher for pretty much all of my adult life.

One aspect of international communication that I do enjoy is learning enough to make stupid jokes, or saying surreal and bizarre things. One of the first questions that I mastered in Russian was "Which do you prefer, bears or wolves?"  Inevitably, girls though this was some kind of psychological test and actually thought hard about their answers.

Basically I need to find somebody goofy to practice the local language with. It's harder than it sounds -- you have to find somebody who doesn't mind whatever stupidass moronic thing you say, and is willing to reciprocate in same.

Good old Miss Ba, back in the 90's, was one of the many blue-coated women who were paid to sit around the front desk of the school in Thailand I worked at -- their ostensible job was to sign students up for classes and deal with various paperwork, but in reality they mostly fulfilled the function of having a certain number of Thais employed for every legally-employed teacher. (Not that there were too many of those.)

They mostly didn't do anything other than eat KFC and giggle; occasionally the owner would come by and make them do some sort of pointless busy-work -- for example, Miss Ba once had to write the word "disc" 500 times, after mis-spelling it on an inventory form.

They were all girls from villages, as I recall, and all lived way out of Bangkok -- they got bussed in enmasse in a mini-van. If I recall correctly Miss Ba said she spent more than 2 hours a day going to work, and more than 2 hours going home. They lived like 10 to an aparmtent, I think -- I imagine them piled up at night like kittens.

Sadly, Miss Ba got fired shortly after I finally left that place, in 1999 -- apaprently for getting a bit too familiar with the teachers, they transferred her to another branch. Just as well that I left -- it would have been like STAR WARS without R2D2.


- English man in Moscow - said...

Brilliant keep the tales coming.

Anonymous said...

If only my secretary had such a sense of humour...

I miss the 2 dears back in Krakow. Getting drunk in the school toilets after class and making out with one of them was definitely a high point in my career.

Anonymous said...

These old stories are great.

Some guy in Vietnam said...

I remember seeing briefly feature in To Travel Hopelessly but I think you deleted this story. Kinda cool that there was more of a story to Miss Ba. She reminds me of some of the office lady types I became (platonically, alas) friendly with, albeit with far more developed English skills on this side of the SE Asian peninsula.