Sunday, July 25, 2010

Fresh Air on the Island Ko Samet

Ko Samet for four nights and days was an appropriate choice by all means, although the first night was nearly claustrophobic: I was given a tiny room with a fake window, without garden view as booked - actually with no view at all as there was a sordid mirror facing my need to have a view! My own face was not the most wanted view for me but the only choice.

This was because of public holidays and overbooking. The staff behaved all too arrogantly when I complained about the room in a civilized way, and told me that I was an amateur tourist being difficult  without any reason, because I would be given another room the next day.

This was the one supposed to be also for the first night...No sun, but at least a sunflower!

The room I finally got had windows three of them on three walls making a total of 9 windows, haha
 - quite an opposite..

Well, they did not have any sense of customer service, and did not improve their attitude during the whole stay. No smiles, no eye-contact with me. Poor them.

Anyway, the resort itself was just what I needed and desired.

The Mermaid on the left is NOT me.

It is all about a legend based on poetry: "Sunthorn Phu (1786–1855) is probably one of the most respected poets among the Thai people. In the writing Phra Aphai Mani, a mermaid is saving Prince Aphai Mani from the sea and takes him to Koh Samet.

A statue that illustrates this drama is placed on the rocks between Ao Hin Khok and Hat Sai Kaew ", tells the tourist info.

It is also believed that once upon a time, Ko Samet was the home of pirates, and that until these days there is still lost treasures buried somewhere on the island. I did not find any.

Koh Samet in the Rayong province, is one of the 96 national parks found in Thailand. The nature is considered to be so unique that the authorities, The Royal Forestry Department, has decided that this island should be designated as a national park.  Tourism and hotels are allowed on Samet, with some geographical restrictions.

I took lodgings at Saikaew Beach which is considered to be the most beautiful one on the island. Amazingly white sand made even the cloudy and rainy days picturesque. Unfortunately it was raining most of my stay, but swimming in the sea is enjoyable even in rain.

And they had some pretty touristic ways of amusing people hanging out, but I did not feel to be one of those superficially regaled ones. Still tried to document some of it- but nearly forgetting my name - was it something O-related??

Some new experiences to mention was a pitch-black evening, all alone, with no electricity, being terrified by a furious thunderstorm, listening to spooky and monotonous but very loud cry of horned frogs, dozens of black flies biting my ankles - all this at the same time. Fortunately mobile phones have been invented! My friend from Finland had to call and calm me down as my SMSs were loaded with agony - I've been struck by a thunderbolt in my teens. Thanks for caring!

This certain frog is not involved in the crime of making me mad by the cry of horned frogs...but (s)he was a friendly one bodyguard-like-a-frog on my door for the first night.

 Seafood, fresh air and mesmerizing beach made me happy and relaxed.

Ko Samet is said to be easy to reach from Bangkok, and so it was en route to Ko Samet. Homeward-bound was easy as well, until I realized that the minibus would not stop on it's way to Khao San Road , the paradise for backpackers - I just saw the city campus of BU, and the district where I live, to be left behind. In the end, the taxi drive backwards to my residence took nearly as long time as the journey from Ban Phe to Bangkok.               Rainy day, you know.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Saturday Trip to Koh Kret

Dr. Siriwan invited me and an exchange artist Susan Collins to Koh Kret trip on Saturday.  Koh Kret is an island in the Chao Phraya river. The island has made a name for itself by producing earthenware pots in a variety of styles, and for the fact that most of the islanders are of Mon origin, a minority group from Myanmar.

The speciality to purchase on the island is pottery of all kind for household use or as decorative items.

If you feel like having a snack on the island, you can choose for example from deep-fried flowers to fried mini eggs.

After a slow walk on the island we took a river cruise around Koh Kret. The river boat called at some Thai dessert houses, which gave a good impression of dessert art in Thailand.

The day ended to a marvellous lunch (not including those amazing desserts) with good company. Special thanks to Dr. Siwiwan who made a special day for us by arranging everything in the best possible way - the day was enjoyable comfortability with new expierences!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Some slices of Cultural Life at BU

BU's slogan is *Bangkok University - Creative University*. And from the perspective of arranging cultural events it really is. To be creative throughout everyday education is not an easy matter as the fabrics of society and the institutional approach to education do not change in a trice.

As we well know in our brand-new Innovative Business Services programme at SAMK,  the only way to make the general impression and the workings renew, is to start from the scratch, with truly reformist attitude and commitment even though there are lots of question marks and uncertainty factors. Support from the management is an essential facilitator. Nobody can do it all by oneself, not the mundane pioneers nor the managers only - it needs amazingly much empowered willpower combined with openminded co-operation. And I guess that some of the traditional patterns are useful too ;)

Recently I have attended two really greatly organized cultural events, and some more is to come. At City Campus Gallery there was an exhibition opening week ago. Brand New 2010 introduces exhibitions by Dusadee Huntracul presenting his interesting collages, and Mute Mute, an experimental group to promote creativity and to support artists' survival in this business oriented world. Art360 Project administered by SAMK has pretty much the same objectives but more formal organization.

In the first photo: The two great Art Lovers of BU, President Dr. Mathana and Creative Manager of BU, Petch Osathanugrah, the present owner of BU, an artist himself.

This week I had an opportunity to be in the opening ceremonies of the 1st Bangkok International Student Film Festival at Bangkok Art and Culture Center BACC. Aalto University School of Art and Design had their films screened during the six-day festival. I experienced a funny surprise while watching one of their films: suddenly there was an acquaintance of mine acting on the screen! A former boyfriend of my friend from Tampere! What a small world we are living in...

The opening ceremony was extremely professionally organized - by BU Students and their supervisors. The students get brilliant work experience through both these public events and those ceremonious internal events. So do they get at SAMK too, but the scale is totally different here. As well is the support from sponsors, or more like from co-operative partners, too.

Bangkok Art and Culture Center is situated next to the MBK Shopping Center and is really easy to reach. You can easily spend hours at BACC checking out all those small galleries and boutiques. 
I highly recommend!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Working at BUIC - continued

There has been some alterations in the organizational culture since my colleagues have been at BUIC, obviously due to the change of generation: the present owner, son of the founder of BU is an artist himself. The practical changes can be seen for example in dress code: there is no more jacket suit & tights regulation for female (nor male) teachers. The general guideline is to dress so that it's polite ;) I am mostly wearing a light dress, can you imagine!? Black'n White though as you can see in the picture below.

There are smoking areas around the campus nowadays, but I do not smoke myself during working days. Most of the students wear school uniforms but it is up to the teacher if (s)he requires students dress up like that in class. Academic week used to start on Tuesday and end on Saturday - this summer session is the very first to be conducted in western way, starting on Monday and being off on Saturday and Sunday.

Right now I'm busy with designing the final exams, and, coaching the groups with their final presentations. The colleagues have been surprised to notice that my students pop in to my office and use the possibility for on-demand coaching. As well they ask questions in class, which also amazes some of my local colleagues. The set of 3 x 45 minutes lectures daily should have a break of 10 minutes in between, but I never have it as the kids are queuing to me with their questions. I am utterly (this expression is especially for all my IBS colleagues) pleased and content with this success.

Let's see how it goes next week as the final presentations are to come. I hope I'll have lots of reasons to be delighted with the students and their performance.

After seven weeks I'll be back in IBSness!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Internet connections work - no worries anymore!

Every now and then I get surprised of my addiction to Internet. This week's homesickness attack was highly derived from inoperative online connections at home. Right now I feel childish of it, but that's the way it goes as one is so used to get connected anytime and wherever. Anyway, now the connection works well, and awareness of it is enough - no need to get connected round the clock anymore ;)

On Saturday I had a pampering day from tip to toes: I went to the hairdresser's and foot masage.

Monsieur Toom at one of the MBK's hair salons seemd to be pretty comfortable and confident with my thin and soft hair. As my friends back home know, I am really selective and particular with hairdressers but he managed to please me with a reasonable result.

MBK offers the clients a possibility to have a fish spa which I did not want to experience though it is claimed to be very healthy, refreshing and relaxing. Maybe some other time then. Instead I had a traditional foot massage, really relaxing one too.

All this pampering took nearly six hours, and I was so relaxed after this all (including a tasty late lunch) that had to take BTS Skytrain to home and sleep tight. So, I have come through the homesickness and I am again feeling happy and priviledged to be here!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Feeling homesick? Yes...

Before this I thought that I'd be the last person to be feeling homesick. But now I am, seriously.
I've been figuring out the reasons for that, and the conclusion is

1. The Internet connection at my local home is NOT working properly, so I cannot get connected to my closest people in Finland in the evenings, and I have a feeling of being isolated from my origins. So, my beautiful Mac is nearly useless without the possibility of concrete social networking through Internet.

2. I have been commenting on one thesis of my Finnish student (in English) and it is about experiencing culture shock during exchange period in Asia - so, it's a current issue.

3. My local pillows are uncomfortable and I do not sleep well. Have to fix it soon and purchase more suitable ones.

4. I've set pretty high objectives to my success in teaching & coaching on two courses - and the culture is so different that I cannot do my best.

5. It's so humid and hot outside - and so chilly in the office.

6. I do not get a faintest idea of Thai language... Sawat and some other very common phrases are the only ones to cope with. And I've succeeded only once to pronounce and articulate my home address in Thai to a taxi driver so that he got it... depressing :(

My Thai colleagues and students, who happen to read this: I emphasize that this is totally my problem, not yours, as I should be able to accommodate to your culture instead of trying to change yours.

And, all the readers of my blog should keep in their minds that this is kind of documentation combined with experience based commenting on the issues and phenomenon occurring, and not the Truth - only my way of paying attention to something and experiencing moments my way. And, actually, this at its best can be an interactive way to process my exchange period every time when someone comments on these observations and feelings of mine.

Keep on-line, every now and then. Be my guest! Be interactive! Reciprocity is the most beautiful word of my entire life.

PS. I've received two postcards from Finland and it makes me feel a VIP :) Snail Mail rules! Look at the stamp - only Finns can have such a stamp, I guess.

No Exams, No IBS

I have been working with SAMK Innovative Business Services Degree Programme (IBS) since last autumn in Finland as a bread-and-butter (from the bottom of my heart!), and the on-demand coaching in co-operation with an awesome team of seven pretty much like-minded colleagues, has proved to be my type of educational approach. It is demanding and challenging for both coachees and coaches - lots of work and profound learning experiences without traditional exams.

I love my work at BUIC too, but the exam procedures are not my favourite ones.

To examine two times - Midterm and Final - during the Summer Session is obligatory here at BUIC, and the weight is 60%  of grading. All too much, I think. Most of the students read hardly a few hours for the exam, to memorize essentials skin deep barely until the exam. And, after exam you'll just have to admit in class  that most of the students don't recall or seem to know even the basic stuff anymore.  It's the same all around the world, I guess. That's why I think that exams are very seldom - if ever - worthwhile. It is time-consuming to design dozens of open-ended multiple choice questions, as well as checking the papers. And, unfortunately it is not all that rewarding. This kind of exams don't give a faintest evidence of profound comprehension and ability to apply the learned. But so it goes in working life too often, unfortunately - formalities and formal qualifications are valued above adequacy and aptitude for work and team. 

Right at the moment I am relieved that I have done the exam checking of total 120 papers. The relief may last only a few days as I'll have to prepare the final exams to be submitted to the BUIC Faculty office during next week.

So, after getting all these exam duties done before I'll leave Bangkok, I swear that there will be zero exams in my life in near future, probably never :)