"Thanks and thanks again to Him who offers to the man whom the sorrows of life have assaulted and left naked–offers to him the fig leaf of the Word with which he can cover his wretchedness." -Søren Kierkegaard

Tutoring

Posted in Day-To-Day by matt on Thursday, February 26, 2009

Lemme tell ya, there are precious few things about my week that are truly consistent.

Work? Nope, the schedule changes at random and sometimes almost illogically. One Thai teacher put it well, “In Thailand things flow like a river. Traffic and schedules – you just go with the river flow.” He was absolutely right, it’s just dumb to attempt fighting the current here. You’ll just get nowhere and end up tired.

Relationships? Not those either. In a crazy-international city like this people are constantly flying in and out of your life on any given week. It’s fun, but sometimes it’s tough to keep consistency with people.

Well what about church? Ya, that’s fairly consistent except for the fact that it’s also a series of never ending new faces, and there’s a different speaker practically every other week. Don’t get me wrong I definitely love it for countless reasons, but I love it for reasons other than it’s consistency.

So really, apart from time with Cayla, the thing that has felt the most consistent happens just about every Sunday afternoon at 3pm. I tutor a hyperactive 3rd grader, and the whole experience is hilarious.

Perhaps the most ridiculous thing about this scenario is not that I’m tutoring but what. I teach him math. The slacker who got a “C” in Ideas and Mathematics (math for people who are afraid of numbers) is now teaching mathematics.

Each week’s lesson, with the occasional exception, goes about like this: I walk to their house and arrive about 3 or 4 minutes early. Their servants come to the gate to escort me onto the property and give me nervous smiles mixed with the occasional awkward head-nod-bow combo, and if I dress up enough I sometimes even get a deep wai. I always try to wai back, but my wais are super awkward – a firm, Texas handshake is just so natural!

The servants take me to the family’s small “play house” in the back part of the property. This is basically another house for hangin out in when you’re bored with the bigger one. I go in, sit down, tell God thank you for air conditioning, and wait for Khun Dto to arrive with her son. Now I’m convinced that all women can be matronly – especially with children, but Dto exudes matronly kindness to everyone. She meets you, she’s your mother, and it’s about that simple.

So, without fail, the first question she always asks me is, “Oh no! You are so sweaty! Did you walk again?” And, before I can even respond, “Here is so dangerous and so hot. I tell my husband, ‘He cannot walk today because it is too hot’, but here you walk anyway! So bad. Bangkok so dangerous.”

Cultural note: in Thailand, walking isn’t really an option. Thais would rather wait hours for a bus than walk 30 minutes up the road. So it’s pretty weird to them that Cayla and I walk all over this city. As soon as she found out that I walked, Khun Dtoadded a little money to my tutoring money so I could afford a taxi, and she immediately makes me drink water and eat coconut pastries each time I arrive. I don’t complain about the extra cash and pastries. I still walk.

After she sees me eating and drinking, she leaves us alone to begin the lesson. So her son, Dton (yup, their names are almost identical – took me weeks to distinguish, and I still can’t say them correctly), cracks open the math book and we get after it. Fortunately for me, he knows his math problems. But every now and then he needs help, and it usually takes me an embarrassing amount of time to figure out those pesky 3-digit addition problems.

Not to mention the language barrier issue. Try explaining “Jane has 100 apples and dispenses them equally into 5 baskets” to a 3rd grader who speaks very little English. Ha ha, I’m on my way to being an amazing charades player.

If I have to use the restroom Dton will sit on the floor against the bathroom door until I come out. Once I smacked him by opening the door too fast. I knew Thais didn’t like being alone, but this kid hates it. If I didn’t lock the door he’d prolly come in there with me.

After the hour’s up Dton robotically says, “Thank-you-teecha-see-you-next-week” and bolts out the door to watch cartoons. I walk outside and awkwardly mill around until they pay me. Dto usually asks about Cayla and any of our recent travels and then tells me how worried she is about her son’s health. Then I leave. 

And, like clockwork, we start the whole thing over again next week.

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