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Chapter 02 Back to School

posted Apr 26, 2017, 9:13 AM by Ratinan Lee   [ updated Sep 8, 2017, 10:36 AM ]

- CHAPTER TWO -

Back to School

—Kevin Chen—

Pā̀k Krèt, Thailand, 9 years ago

The phone rang so loudly at 5:30 am. I reached out my hand to turn off the alarm. It was May. I turned on the light and checked the desktop calendar. Today was marked in red. The first day of school.

After the morning assembly of the first day of the academic year, the students in white shirts and black shorts of secondary 6/9 walked in line back to the classroom. It was routine in Thailand where students needed to wear uniforms and attend the flag raising ceremony every day at 8 o'clock in the morning. I did not like it at all because it was nonsense and the weather was too hot. Well, I badly missed the weather in Taipei, where I used to live in. It had been nine years already since my father divorced and took me here to Thailand, his home country. Although I wanted to stay with my mother, I just could not choose to live or to go.

And well, I learned a few years ago that the flag raising ceremony was common during the war time some sixty years ago. Now, it was a peaceful era, this ceremony was almost fully wiped out from earth.

"เคฟ มึงได้ยินอะไรเกี่ยวกับเด็กใหม่ห้องเราเปล่าวะ? กูได้ยินมาว่าแม่ง สวยสัสว่ะ! (Kev, have you heard something about our new classmate? I heard that she is very beautiful)," said Pɔ̄rámin, or Min. He was a tall and skinny teen who was very good at soccer. "กูโคตรตื่นเต้นสัสๆ เลยว่ะ! (I'm very excited!)"

"ช่าย! กูได้ยินจากไอ้จิว่ะ มันบอกให้พวกกูเหลือที่นั่งซะที่แถวหน้าๆ ห้องอะ (Yeah! I just heard from . He said that we should leave one seat somewhere at the front of the class for her)," said Mēkhā, or Máek, another soccer player who was shorter and fatter than Min.

"แล้วไงวะ? (So?)" I asked them. The information was not yet confirmed. And I had never trusted Jì, our class president[1]. He and I could not go along well. We always had different opinions. If he said right, I said left. Jì was a conservative guy. I was not. Jì loved to do girls' tasks, such as making phān wâi khrū and kràthong[2]. I usually spent times on reading books and Wikipedia articles in English.

"So? So... why aren't you interested in? We are guys, we suppose to talk about girls, am I wrong?" Min replied. "Or are you really a gay like what they said?"

Well, they said that I was a gay because I was single. Min was also single but they did not say anything because Min was good at soccer, which was considered men's sport. I was not good at any sports, but swimming, which was not considered men's sport (just because the school had no swimming pool). And this fact made me a target of the bullies.

"If you don't know anything, you'd better shut your f*** mouth[3] up."

"Hey! If we don't know anything then you tell us," said Máek, "so we know."

"Ok, then, listen! Since when I was in primary school... I met Kate. She was half-German. She was the one who best understood me because both of us did not speak Thai very well. She moved to downtown Bangkok after we finished year five. I just realized when she moved that I loved her. Anyway, I could not contact her for years," I told them, "you have the right to not believe it but I have no more explanation."

And finally, we arrived at the front door of the classroom on the second floor. We had to go to the seventh floor when we were in secondary one. Now, last year at this school, our new classroom was moved down to this floor. It was nice! And we waited for this day for a very long time.

I settled down at my new desk at the second row from the back, just next to the back door. And since the organization of our desks is four-pair by seven-row, my pair was always empty since Min and Máek sat together behind me. And as expected, Khrū[4] Thátsàwan walked in from the front door and told us that she continued to be our homeroom teacher for the third year. Then she passed us the class schedule.

"And well, today we have a new classmate. Her name is Jìrāphɔ̄n Mūnlôe, please welcome her." Our homeroom teacher said.

Mūnlôe? I thought. It must be Müller if she is German, or half-German.

A very beautiful student came in. She was really good-looking, around 170-cm tall. Her face was obviously telling us that she was European, with almost no Asian look, especially at her brown eyes and long blond hair.

"Kate!!!"

"Pardon?" Min turned to me after hearing me murmured something in surprise.

"Nothing... she's just..."

"Ok. So you are interested in her. You are trying to show us that you are not gay?" Máek said in surprise.

"Not like that... but..."

I then turned my attention at listening to her self-introduction.

"Hello, my name is Jìrāphɔ̄n Müller. I'm half-German, so it's Müller, not Mūnlôe. M, U-umlaut, double-L, E, R. You can also call me 'JC'." She introduced herself. "I just moved to Pā̀kkrèt a few days earlier so I can take care of my old grandma, please advise me if I do anything wrong."

Ok. So I knew she must be using "J" for her first name, Jìrāphɔ̄n. But for the "C", I did not know. Maybe she wanted to use the "C" for Chiraphon, which is Jìrāphɔ̄n in RTGS spelling.

Wait. The other possibility was that "C" was for Chiraphon, and "J" was for something else.

"Ok, so now we should find a desk for her, we have a few desks left unoccupied, right?" asked our homeroom teacher.

"Yes, khrū! Please, here's a seat in front of me," Min responded quickly. Well, the seat in front of him was the one next to me.

Silently, JC walked to another vacant seat, which was next to another girl, Pā̂eng.

"Hello, JC. I'm Pā̂eng. Nice to meet you," greeted a pretty girl.

"แห้วแดกว่ะมึง! (You've lost it!)[5]" said Máek, in disappointment.

I smiled... and said, "没事吧。我很好!(That's ok. I'm fine!)"

"Damn you! Nah... Chinese again... Huh..." both Min and Máek turned away from me.

"Hey, gotta go to the toilet," said Min, "shoot[6] me when the teacher comes for the next class."

"I will... but my phone's battery was dead!"

I laughed at them, then I saw Min turned back just for giving Máek a middle finger 🖕.

"So chaotic... these guys. Terrible."

As expected, I heard our class president murmured something bad about us. He could not go along with this modern society. Just seventeen years old, he had around fifty years left to live in this rapidly changing world. And I had a feeling that he was not going to make it well.

———

[1] Class president (หัวหน้าห้อง) in this case is a student elected or appointed to lead the class and assist teachers for such particular class. The position is similar to Chinese 班长, usually translated to class monitor, but to me, class president is more applicable here.

[2] Phān wâi khrū (พานไหว้ครู) is a bowl of flowers used for the Teacher's Day ceremony in June. Kràthong (กระทง) is a floating basket of flowers used in Lɔ̄i Kràthong (ลอยกระทง) Festival held in the 12th month of the lunar calendar, mostly falls in November. Both ceremonies are opposed by newer generations of Thai. Teacher's Day promotes hierarchical social structure which prohibits us from having our normal and free lives as mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Lɔ̄i Kràthong destroys water quality in all rivers and lakes, usually full of garbage in the morning. Tons of fish die every year. Well, many couples have sex after the festival. There are so many Thai children born in July or August every year.

[3] Originally in Thai, ปากหมา (lit. doggish mouth), is used to call someone who speaks so badly.

[4] Khrū (ครู) is a title that students use to call their teachers. It is the same as sensei (先生) in Japanese (i.e. Kobayashi-sensei) and Lǎoshī (老師) in Mandarin (i.e. Zhāng-Lǎoshī).

[5] Thai idiom, แห้วแดกว่ะมึง (lit. "you've been eaten by water chestnut"), is used to say that someone has lost or unable to get something.

[6] Shoot (ยิง) is a slang, used for requesting someone to give you a ring, not a call. Mostly, the caller allows the phone to ring only once to prevent the called from answering the phone. If the phone rings longer, it could possibly be considered a call, not a shoot, so the called one has to answer the phone.

A/N Due to the lack of elective courses in Thai education system, the students are grouped into "class". The first stage of education is kindergarten (อนุบาล; ànúbān). This is for the children aged 4-6 (three years; ànúbān 1-3). Then, for those aged 7-12 (six years; pràthǒm 1-6), they are in primary school (ประถม; pràthǒm). After that, the secondary school splits into two stages. The first stage, three years, is lower secondary or junior high (มัธยมต้น; máttháyom tôn; máttháyom 1-3). The last stage, also three years, is upper secondary or senior high (มัธยมปลาย; máttháyom plāi; máttháyom 4-6), where students can choose their major, e.g. Science-Mathematics, Social Science, or Arts. In each level, students could be divided into, maybe, eight to 12 classes, depends on the size of the school. Every class in the same level is the same, except for the senior high level, where each class is under only one major. The class can be identified by using a number. For example, class 3 of secondary 2, we call it ม. 2/3. Hence, Kev's class can be written as ม. 6/9.


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