Monday, June 21, 2010

Getting to Know All About You

I have traded orange tigers for purple elephants – CMU’s mascot, which is depicted life-size in leafy vegetation at the campuses sweeping front entrance. On my first foray into the University I had the exhilarating and unnerving feeling of driving up to a palace, which in actually is a ceremonial hall built to receive the king. In years past the King attended the graduations of all of the original five universities and personally handed out the diplomas to the graduates - to encourage the studiousness of his subjects. More recently the Prince has taken on this honor. CMU is known as the best university in Northern Thailand and the third best in the country after Chulalongkorn and Thammasat in Bangkok.

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).

(The English Department aka McCosh!)

(That would make this student center...Frist!)

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.


  1. Can you make an elephant like that in front of my house when you get home? Awesome! Keep up the posting - it's terrific!

  2. Those are some pretty awesome names. You can learn them! Just keep repeating their names in your head when you're listening to them. And you know, manage the class and teach at the same time. Oh the challenges of being a teacher...