On my first day in Chiang Mai I was introduced to the campus via Denali’s motorbike. Since then I have learned my way around and feel comfortable in at least a small section that has at its hub the English building (or as I like to think of it in Princeton terms, CMU’s very own McCosh hall).
All told CMU stretches over four campuses and a total of 3,500 acres. The original campus, where I teach, is known as Suan Sak and is only a short 7 minute ride from my apartment and covers 600 acres – very few of which I am familiar with. Luckily my songtaeow drivers seem keen to help me learn more of the campus dropping me in different random locations on campus everyday. Each morning has become an adventure – where will I be dropped today and how long will it take me to find the English department? In my wanderings though I have found a small lake, a lot of curvy rolling roads and a stand that sells coconut pudding and Asian pear slices, and yes eventually my home base.
Despite having approximately 130 students in total I have yet to give up hope of learning all of their names (perhaps a foolhardy endeavor). Thai students have two names, their long elegant full names and their much shorter nicknames that they have been given by their parents at a very young age. It is the latter that I am attempting to learn. Some are clearly Thai: Foong, Neno, Pang, Pum, Ploy, Meen. But then there are the names that are simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar: Air, Arm, Gun, Man, Beer, Oat, Bowl, Best, Enjoy, View, New, Name, Frame, Wow.