My name is . . . ?

People here go by short nicknames instead of their full names. So, after I introduce myself as Danielle, I am promptly asked what my nickname is. The first time I was asked this I was stumped since almost everyone just calls me Danielle.

My first thought was Dani, the most popular nickname for a Danielle. But Dani is most definitely not my name, as most of you already know. I have been trained by all of my elementary school friends and my parents that my name is NOT Dani. There was a short period in middle school in which people tried to call me Dani. But when they called my house and asked to speak to Dani, my Dad would respond by saying “Dani doesn’t live here.” So Dani was out of the question.

My next thought was Ellie. I always liked that name and secretly hoped to go by it one day. I lived with an Elly last year though, so now when I hear that name I think of her and wouldn’t respond to that name either. Plus, L’s are a little hard for them to pronounce here.

My third idea was Dee. I have a handful of friends that call me that and I like it. So after a minute of pondering, I said my nickname was Dee. There was then a chorus of Dee Dees repeated back to me. I had become Dee Dee.

It sounded weird at first. I tried to explain that at home DD means a sober driver, hoping they would decide to drop the second Dee. They responded by telling me that Dee means good in Thai and that saying Dee Dee means very good. It still sounded a little awkward to me, so when I woke up the next morning I looked through my Thai-English dictionary to find some other words that I might like as a nickname. I could pick anything, but I didn’t find any that called out to me, so I decided to stick with the name “very good.”

I FINALLY started my blog!

Sa-wat-dee-ka! (Hello!)

 

I apologize for how long it has taken for me to start this blog. I have barely had any free time since I arrived here and I was waiting to find the perfect blog name before I set one up. As you can see, I finally came to a decision. The title of my blog comes from the Thai translation of the word excited, which is dtung ten. Dtung means wake up and ten means dance, so the translation of excited is literally wake up and dance, which I thought was pretty whimsical. Now that I have a blog title I will try to post to this blog at least once a week.

This entry will just be a little background information, but the future ones will be much more fun. I promise!

As all of you reading this probably know, I am currently living in Khon Kaen, Thailand. I arrived here on October 22nd and have a contract with the Khon Kaen Education Initiative (KKEI) for five months. During those five months I will be helping three Thai Teachers improve their English skills and develop lesson plans for teaching their English classes. In return, I will learn about Thai culture and language.

KKEI is a nonprofit started by a few NGOs and the very progressive mayor of the city. It focuses on alternative education and how we can change the Thai teaching system by helping a few teachers develop better teaching skills. In doing so, the teachers will become more empowered and it will hopefully have a domino effect with the rest of the faculty. The goal is to get to a point where the Thai teachers can teach English well and no longer need to rely on foreign teachers to teach English, thus creating a more sustainable system. So basically, if we do our jobs well, we will put ourselves out of business.

There are currently three schools and six Thai teachers (seven if you include the slightly baba bobo (crazy) teacher who nobody has told yet that she isn’t in the program) working with KKEI. There is only one other native English speaker in the program, and it turns out that she went to my high school! She was two years younger than me though, and I didn’t recognize her. Her name is Liz and she is taking a break from college right now. She will be working with the teachers that teach first through third graders and I will be working with the teachers who teach fourth through sixth graders.

The school system here stuns me. I’m not quite sure if students really learn much of anything. There is not much organization and a lot of inefficiency in the system. The concept of a lesson plan is actually unheard of! Sometimes you have one teacher subbing four classes at once, leaving very little time for them to focus on their own responsibilities as a teacher.

The Thai teachers who teach English in the schools can barely speak English themselves, which makes for a difficult work day. Even though communication is difficult at times, their spirits and willingness to learn and teach is inspirational. The schools are very chaotic, and students do not understand the concept of listening to their teacher. I have thought about suggesting more discipline, but the kids that are loud and disruptive are the ones with the worst homes. It seems like discipline would kill their spirits.

The next five months are going to be a challenge, but I’m sure that nothing but good things will come of this adventure. These past two weeks have been packed with so many new and confusing experiences, and I am sure there are many more to come.

Please write me emails about what is going on in your lives and feel free to leave comments on the blog! If you have any blog topic requests let me know and I’ll see what I can do!

That’s it for now! I will post again in a few days.

Danielle