Since you are all sleeping away (except, perhaps, Rachel and Ben) as I write this, I almost wish I could publish these entries in reverse. You really should go back to the start of today's writing to understand where I'm at at the moment. I shall carry on, though, with the assumption you already know of my woes and such.
So. We had the meeting. A lot of it was a repeat of the same information we keep receiving (I've seen/been told the "Wat Dos and Don'ts" at least five times by now). However, I did gather the following:
1. The other teachers consist of
A. Jessica - from Canada; a tall, thin mid-30s woman with strawberry-blonde hair who really likes organization and yet isn't assertive enough to actually get people to be organized; is here for at least a year to act as the coordinator of the program
B. Eunice - from Sacramento; a petite woman in her 30s who is very quiet and kind. She's a middle-school teacher back in the states, has been here for at least three weeks from what I can gather, and will be here for some time more.
C. Paul - from Minnesota (I think). Tall, blond guy I first met this morning when he was sneaking off the wat grounds for a cigarette. He's been here about two weeks and leaves next week.
D. Oscar - from California. About my height, althetic, I think his family's from Mexico. He's going to be a sophomore at MIT this fall. He is talking a little bit more, but everyone has to ask him to repeat what he says because he's so quiet.
2. Phra Quan is the administrator of the English program here. He's pretty good with the language - good enough to crack puns that usually pass Jessica right by. He's a younger monk - somewhere between 25-40, practical, has worked here for "360 days", and is quietly proud of the fact that this wat is one of the few that offers courses in English for the monks, and probably the only one in Thailand with native speakers as the teachers. He said they're getting a reputation for that, and that there are some monks who have come from wats over 10 hours away to study English here.
3. There are four classes divided into two periods. In the morning from 8:45-10:45 is the "Introduction to Buddhist English" beginner and intermediate classes. Those will vary in size (3-15 people), since the monks who are traveling to be here will be gone on Thursdays and Fridays. From 6:00-7:00 in the evening, there are classes for younger kids (age 13-17, I believe). One class is for "community students" while the other is for novice monks.
4. This week, my main job seems to be to "observe," although I bet I'll be used to help with small groups or maybe some small lessons. I bet I'll be given more interaction with the evening classes.
5. This Thursday at 1:00 we are taking an excursion. They are opening up a wat 4 hours to the south of here, so Phra Bart is taking the teachers there to... see it? Test it out? I don't know what our purpose is. But it's on a private beach, so I'm not complaining. I like how the way I planned this trip is allowing me to see many different parts of this country.
6. I am running into some spiritual conflicts. I think I'll dedicate a separate post about that, though, since it's a longer topic.
7. There doesn't seem to be a schedule for the meditation instruction. I asked Jessica about it after the meeting, and she said it was "whenever. Just talk to Phra Bart." Hmm. I am not a fan of no structure and I don't like being direct when figuring out new things, so this might be a good test for me.
8. Best of all, after asking Jessica about the meditation, I also asked her about the walk to the house. I explained how I wanted to stay there, but was concerned after hearing some people say they didn't think it was a safe walk after dark. (Side note, I'm finding that the cause of danger is rather volatile and mysterious - is it other people? The cars on the highway? The mud in the coconut grove? The dragons and lizards? The total darkness? I don't know!)
Phra Quan overheard us discussing this and interjected, saying that if I asked the guard at the gate to drive me home, they would.
"Really?" I asked. "Every day?"
He nodded yes. Jessica had the great idea to have him write out the request in Thai, which he promptly did.
We'll see. I think Oscar's going back tonight, since his stuff is still there (unless he's there moving it as I type). Either way, if it works out where I walk to the wat in the morning and I can hitch a ride at night, that would be brilliant and a huge load off my mind.
Now if only I can figure out the food....
P.S. Oh! And? The restroom on the top floor of the University Building has a Western toilet! No toilet paper and no soap, but I've got my handy tissue packs and hand sanitizer! So, woot!
P.P.S. Food, bathrooms, and shelter. No wonder I'm panicking - all of my basic necessities are being threatened!
P.P.P.S. Speaking of basic necessities, did I mention that my Kindle broke? Like, two weeks ago? I've coped with it so far by reading the battered copy of "The Historian" someone had left at the EcoHouse and by reading the books I had downloaded to my iPhone. I'm almost done with those, though, so the panic over not having anything to read is rising again. Phra Bart gave me a book called "The Heart of Dhammakaya Meditation, Vol. 1" and I was overjoyed to be handed a book in English. Jessica asked each of us to share our biggest fear right now as part of our introductions. Mine was running out of water to drink and books to read. Both are dangling by a thread right now. No wonder I'm freaking out a little.