By: Tyler Sutton and Greg Pinette
On a morning in Ban Nam Hom I woke up, brushed my teeth, and walked down to breakfast. When I got to breakfast I discovered that I had missed breakfast and needed to help teach English in a classroom. Having almost no teaching experience, I starred blankly at a bunch of children. I wondered what they were thinking. We started with a simple song we had learned the day before and then the ABC’s and then numbers. This went on for about an hour. We thought this was going pretty well until the Thai assistant said we had these kids for another two and half hours. We had run out of ideas and once again found ourselves starring blankly at the children.
Justin took control of the situation and began playing Head-Shoulders-Knees-And Toes. He started playing with the volumes, getting the children to whisper and shout the verses. When they whispered, I found myself getting tired. I thought it would be funny to pretend to fall asleep during Justin’s “lecture.” I did and Justin had all the kids scream the lines of the next verse. I dramatically rolled off the chair and went to the floor. The kids were in stitches and suddenly Justin and I had a routine.
The next few hours flew by as Justin chased me around the classroom while having the kids recite English phrases and verses. We achieved something great that day – we created a rich learning environment via slapstick comedy. Who knew slapstick was universal.
By: Tyler Sutton and Greg Pinette
One of the starkest social differences between the USA and Thailand is gender stereotypes and the transgendered community. Many members of the transgendered community face serious stigma and mistreatment in the US. While in Thailand, these individuals are seen socially as a third gender.
Right off the bat, masculine men wear pink. The bad boys paint their nails and wearing make up has very little to do with sexual orientation. Even more disorienting is the presence of the Kathoeys. It has been a fascinating experience interacting with these individuals and seeing where they fit in the culture here.
Our first experience with a group of Kathoeys happened when we were wondering around the mall. I can honestly say I haven’t been seriously ‘cat-called’ before. When we past the second floor a group of masculine women or very feminine males began hollering and calling out to us. They were working at a make-up shop. This experience was dramatically difference for us because we saw how open they could be in public, which is very different from the US.
Our second interaction was when we were being made up for the rain parade. A pair of Kathoeys did our makeup and costumes. Again, it was interesting to see not only how well these people fit into this role but how they were more respected for it. It was clear that having a kathoey do our make up was something to be proud of.
Our third interacting was during a performance on stage. In Thai culture the Kathoeys embrace their sexuality and make light of their situation. In two performances we saw, the kathoey were the comedic relief and often poked fun at themselves by loosing their wigs and teasing male members of the audience. This was something that everyone in the audience enjoyed.
In conclusion, it is easy to see that the role of transgendered people is something that is not only accepted but in many instances is embraced. This has been an eye-opening experience that you could only get in Thailand!