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Beautiful Patterns, Common Threads


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Interview with Prince Royal College students at
Central Mall, Chiang Mai

Translations by Sakda (Sak) Yarangsi December 27, 1998

Q: Why do you like Chiang Mai?

A (all): For one thing, it has a beautiful environment. People have nice smiles. And, there are lots of pretty girls.

Q: Does any of you guys have a girlfriend?

A (Sak): No, you don't usually have a girlfriend here until you're about 18.

Q: What's your normal school day like?

A (Aum): I get up at 6:00, have breakfast and take a bath. Some students have their breakfast at the school. I get picked up by fixed transport to go to the school, though again other students are different -- some get taken by a parent, and others ride a motorbike. (How old do you have to be to drive a motorbike?) You have to be fourteen, but the legal age is fifteen. So, when we get to the school we play around in the yard for a while. It's a Christian school, so we go to the church at 8:00 for prayers and to sing the national anthem. (Does everyone have to pray?) No, most students aren't Christian, but they usually pray in their own way. School start at 8:30, and we take math, Thai, science, sports, history, agriculture, social sciences and Boy Scouts. (What's that?) It's like discipline training, kind of "soldier" training. But now we're not taking classes because we're preparing for the comprehensive tests. You take them once a year. If you fail the test, you stay in the same grade for the next year.

Q: What would you say is the goal of the school?

A (Sak): How to solve problems, mostly. Our school slogan is "Love, care, share", so they try to teach us about that, too.

Q: Anything else important to say about school?

A (May): We have to wear uniforms.

Q: Were the students involved in that decision, or any other?

A (Sak): Not really. But sometimes we are involved, like when students in higher grades protest something. But it's not in the structure of the school.

Q: What's a non-school day like for you?

A (Sak and others): Mostly, we stay home and have friends over to play football, badminton, takraw or video games. We go out to hang out at the mall a lot. Or, we go to movies, or go cycling. A lot of the time we just stay home and watch TV.

Q: What are your families like?

A (all): [Three live with mother and father and siblings in a separate house, but close to their relatives except for those in Bangkok. One lives with his single, divorced mother; the other lives with his aunt while his parents are working in Japan.]

Q: What kinds of music do you like?

A (all): Heavy rock, like Hole, Nirvana and Kurt Cobain.

Metal, like Green Day.

Thai pop. I like everybody.

Pop, like Sting.

Different kinds. I like the Backstreet Boys, and 911.

Q: Who are some of your heroes?

A (all): Bill Clinton. King Bhumibol. The police, at least some of them. Thai actors, like Willy McIntosh. (Who's that? He doesn't sound Thai.) He's Thai-English. My mother. My father (sometimes).

Q: What would you want students in the U.S. to know about Thailand?

A (all): We're not backwards. We're interested in the world. "Amazing Thailand." (I know, that's the tourism slogan. But what does it MEAN?) Islands; food; smiles. (OK, what else?) The economic crisis. Owing money makes us look like slaves!

Q: What questions do you have for students your age in the U.S.?

A (all):

*Why do you smoke when you're young?

*Mr. Black said some of you have boyfriends and girlfriends when you're eleven or twelve. What do you DO with your girlfriend or boyfriend?

*We think Americans look down on us and think of us as being inferior. Why?

*What religions are you?

What do you think about the end of the world coming in the year 2000. Do you believe it?

*Why do kids join gangs? What is the "territory" stuff all about?

*What games do you play?

*At what age do your parents give you the freedom to go out and do things on your own?

*How's your school life -- what's a normal school day like?

*Tell us about your customs. Why do you put your feet on the table? What taboos do you have?

*America is very powerful. What do you think about your own country and its place in the world?

*How do you solve quarrels between friends?

*What kinds of things scare you? Believe me, we have ghosts here.

*After you've heard more about us, what do you think of us now?

If you would like to write to these students at Prince Royal College, just e-mail me.

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