Archive for the ‘Ping Pong’ Category

Opening Doors

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Well. I started off my day by getting locked inside my apartment.

I honestly don’t know how it happened. Two other ETAs who were visiting Gwangju crashed at my apartment and when I left at 6 am to walk them to the bus stop we didn’t have any problems with the lock. However, after going back to sleep, waking up late, and rushing to throw on makeup and change clothes I somehow had locked myself in. My apartment’s pretty old, there’s no keypad lock and we didn’t get CCTV until this past semester, but I have two big intimidating locks. The bottom one I can lock with my key and the top one is a pretty secure deadbolt. The deadbolt was the one that wouldn’t budge.

I rattled the deadbolt back and forth and it was not moving at all. Starting to freak out a little because I teach first period, and thinking that maybe it was jammed, I slammed my shoulder against the door a few times, which did absolutely nothing because I’m really not that strong. I only succeeded in completely waking myself up. I attempted the lock for a few more minutes before calling my rockstar co-teacher and fully aware of how ridiculous a situation this was, told her that I’d probably be late because I was locked in my apartment.

“Wait. Locked inside your apartment?”
“Yeah. I can’t leave. The lock isn’t budging.”
“Um. Let me call someone.”

Of course as soon as I hang up, smooth as butter, the lock clicks open and I’m able to leave. I call my co-teacher, but I don’t get to her in time and she’s already informed Awesome Mr. Kim, who happens to be not only one of my co-teachers but also the second grade 부장 AND one of my neighbors. Upon arriving to school about ten minutes before my first class, we rush off to the second grade office and talk to Mr. Kim who proceeds to discuss the situation with me loudly and publicly. I decide to roll with it, with all of the second grade teachers listening in.

“Emily! You must have been so frightened.”
“Not frightened, just worried I would be late. If I was locked out maybe I’d be frightened, but I have heat and food inside my apartment so I would’ve been fine for a few days.”
“It’s a good thing you had a cellphone so you could call us. What would you have done if you didn’t have a cellphone?”
“I probably would’ve stood on my balcony and yelled for help until someone arrived.”

All-in-all it worked itself out, and it’s nice to know people care about me, but it was pretty embarrassing and I’m a bit concerned about the lock. Some school officials are heading over to look at it today. Thank goodness I just cleaned my apartment!

One thing I’ve been working on is connecting more with other teachers at school, and appearing approachable. I’m rather proud to say that I’ve been able to make pretty solid friends at school both within and outside of the English department. We don’t have very many female teachers, so the female teachers that we do have are very supportive of each other. Last semester three new young female teachers all the same time started working at CPHS, and all of them had pretty good English. One’s a German teacher, one’s a science teacher, and one’s a Korean teacher. I like them all, but the Korean teacher has been especially nice to me. We eat lunch together a lot, and speak half in English and half in Korean and help each other with our respective languages.

The Korean teacher told me in passing that she has a ping pong game against the Music teacher tomorrow. I assumed that she meant they were casually playing in our school’s auditorium/gym. Oh how wrong I was.

Apparently this is a legitimate thing at our school. The Korean teacher was approached by another teacher and told to try playing with the CPHS teacher’s ping pong team. She asked me if I wanted to go with her after lunch to see the ping pong room and I said sure, not really knowing what to expect.

In order to properly picture this, you have to understand the layout of the main school building. If you look at the main building from the soccer field, you’ll notice that the first floor is raised up. In order to get to the first floor hallway, you have to walk up a short set of stairs. The ground behind our school slopes down, which makes the difference between the ground and the first floor even greater. The area under the school, the “basement” (even though it’s not underground) is open except for a few supporting pillars here and there, and the ceiling is high enough that you can easily walk under it. Further towards the center of the building are some offices. Down there is where the printer’s office is, the female teacher’s lounge (which I found out about halfway through last year), the boy’s convenience store, and the ping pong room.

We wandered through the open hallway and opened one of the doors to the sound of plastic balls swishing back and forth. The pingpong room was divided into two by a sheer green curtain, against which ping pong balls were raining. There were two ping pong tables, one on each side of the curtain, and teachers dressed in athletic clothes playing ping pong. They all stopped, looked at us, laughed, and kept playing. Other than the music teacher who was trying but failing to keep the ball on the table, we were the only female teachers, and the only teachers under thirty five. Every single other teacher in there was was an older male teacher.

A teacher, one I’ve never talked to before, came over and asked in Korean if I wanted to play. I looked at him and stammered that I couldn’t play well. He handed me a paddle and showed me how to hold it. Now, I’ve played ping pong before and while I’m not great, I can hit the ball. With the new penhold grip he was teaching me, I could barely hit anything. He was lecturing me in Korean and moving me around while I was standing there laughing and trying to follow as best I could.

The bell that signaled the end of the lunch period rang, and I thanked him and said that I had to run because I had a class. He said goodbye, looked me dead in the eye and told me to come back tomorrow. Never mind the fact that tomorrow I actually don’t have to come to school because I have no classes, I’m coming to school specifically for ping pong. If doing ping pong with older male teachers that don’t speak a lick of English helps me bond with some of the teachers, then I’m going to do it.

It’s all about creating opportunities and opening doors.

The Ping Pong Show

Friday, May 6th, 2011

Before going to sleep the night before Lindsay and I had pulled the window curtains in our room, and they were so thick that we both woke up independently of one another around nine am and went back to sleep thinking we had woken up in the middle of the night because it was so dark in our room. By the time we actually got out of bed, unable to lie there trying to sleep anymore we had no idea what time it was because there was no alarm clock in our room. We fumbled around in the dark looking for some sort of clock and then opened up the window curtains to be greeted with a blindingly sunny morning. We both had a good disbelieving chuckle and once we found a clock found out it was past ten am and not four in the morning like we both thought it was. Since we had mistakenly slept through the hours during which breakfast was being served we leisurely got ready for the day and munched on some fruit from the complimentary fruit basket in our room. We had a few hours to kill before we needed to meet the speed boats again, so we went and purchased stamps in one of the small postcard shops in town and then sat in the hotel lobby writing postcards to our friends and family.

We rode around the islands in two boats that looked like the one on the right- this is the dock in Phi Phi

Around noon we loaded onto the speed boats once more for a thirty minute ride to another coral reef where we then got to snorkel for another hour. Many of the people in our group were still hungover from the night before, and this coupled with the sunburn that had acquired over the last few days made them very grumpy. I have never been hungover and on a speedboat in the midday sun, but judging by the faces of some of the heavier party-ers in our group I am guessing its not all that enjoyable of an experience. This was day eight of a ten day trip and it seemed like everyone was starting to drag a bit. Even Lindsay, Anneka, Danielle and I who had been diligent about going to bed early and hadn’t really gone out drinking, were beginning to feel a bit worn down. The snorkeling turned into more of a floating and hanging out, and after an hour of that we all piled back into the boats and sped off towards a small island where a picnic lunch was waiting for us on the beach. We were also treated to wine spritzers and spent a good two hours resting on the beach and chowing down. Everyone seemed to have already had their fill of the sun at this point because almost all the girls who had been slathering on tanning oil and taking naps by the pool in the midday blaze were now hiding under towels and beach umbrellas.

Where we stopped for lunch

Once we had eaten our fill and rested a bit we loaded back up into the boats and sped off towards out final destination for the trip: Phuket. Once we had settled into our hotel, been reunited with our checked luggage, showered, and changed, me and my three favorite Thai travel companions set out in search of somewhere to eat for dinner. We ended up eating at the Banana cafe, which was an inexpensive thai/american restaurant along the main strip of the commercial district.

Courtyard pool at the Mariot Hotel we stayed in in Phuket, it had constellation lighting in it at night which was AWESOME

After dinner we spent some time walking around the various shops and vendor stalls, but most of the stuff we were seeing was no different from what we had already seen in Phi Phi and Chiang Mai, but here things were a bit more expensive since this was a very heavily touristy area and the vendors knew they could get western tourists to pay exorbitant prices and not haggle for them. Lindsay wanted to get a cocktail, and in search of a place to fulfill that desire we stumbled across this cute little VW van that had been refurbished to be a portable party bar. It had a sweet sound system with massive subwoofers blasting dance music, so while we stopped to have a little dance party on the street Lindsay ordered a bucket of pineapple rum for 300 baht (about $10). While we sat on the curb singing along to the music we met this really friendly asian girl who started talking to us and then asked if she could take a picture with us. We ended up hanging out at the VW bar for about forty five minutes and then around 9:30 headed back to the hotel lobby to meet our group leader Christian and most of the rest of the group for what Christian had been hyping all week as an “optional cultural experience.”

VW van curbside party bar



Ever since our first night in Chiang Mai Christian had been talking about this “cultural experience” that we simply had to have called a Ping Pong show. Christian had been mum on the details of this initially, but as the week progressed we had gotten little snippets of  what this would be like. He described it as being a weird strip show type of event where women pulled odd things our of their….well….vaginas. Judging by the name of the event I assumed that there would be some sort of spectacle made out of ping pong balls being birthed vaginally, but I honestly had no idea what to expect. This was a purely optional event, but he had put to the group that he would be going and that anyone else who thought they were brave enough was welcome to come along.

Anneka opted out, but Danielle and Lindsay both had their curiosities peaked, and I figured when in Rome, play ping pong with the Romans! While there were a few people who didn’t go, there was a group of easily 30 or so of us that did. Christian led us away from the hotel down a boulevard that was lined with high end bars and strip clubs with dozens of people standing in the streets trying to pass out fliers and pictures in hopes of luring customers into their various dens of inequity. Among the strip bars along this street some of them were inside with tinted glass doors so that you couldn’t see anything from the street, but many of them were open air bars where you could plainly see Asian girls devoid of any curves dancing on poles in skimpy underwear.

Naughty nightlife district

We arrived at a small establishment called “Playschool A- Go Go” and I wondered what in the hell I had gotten myself into. Lindsay, Danielle and I took seats close to the back, but Lindsay was a bit tipsy from before and as soon as she saw that there were open seats right on the edge of the stage that no one was sitting in she dragged us down there.  There is no cover charge for the club, but they will not start the show until everyone has purchased a drink, and since it was the end of the trip and I was trying to go home with some money in my pocket I went for the cheapest item on the menu, which was a beer for 100 baht (about $3). I have never purchased a beer for myself before, nor have I ever liked any American beers that I have tried, but the Thai beer that I had, a Singha, which was recommended to me by some girls in the program who had said it was their favorite, wasn’t all that bad. While everyone was ordering their drinks there were three or four girls up on the stage which was in the middle of the room. The girls looked very young and somewhat disinterested in being there. They weren’t stripping they were just apathetically dancing around each other and around the two poles on the stage to American club hits.

Going through this door I had no idea of the horrors that awaited me

Thai wheat beer: not half bad

Once everyone had their drinks in hand the show began. To call what we saw a ‘show’ would be up playing it up a bit. It was really more of one older woman showing off a very odd skill, like a peculiar circus act. A woman came out wearing nothing but a teddy lingerie top and proceeded to do all manner of odd and peculiar things with her baby maker. The first thing she did was to pull out a string of fake flowers out of her vag and then drape it across all the boys sitting in the front row of the audience. That was the most tame thing to happen all evening. After the flowers came a whistle that she played by putting it up to her lady parts and pushing air through it. I think she may have even been attempting a tune, but it was hard to tell admist all the awkward laughing and giggling.

With every passing minute the items to come out from under this woman got stranger and more alarming. The next item that was brought onto stage was a fishbowl with water in it. O no. I almost didn’t want to see what was going to end up swimming in there. The woman squatted over the bowl and squeezed out two small eels. Next a small cage was brought out onto stage. I tried to look away. She squatted over the cage and birthed a small terrified looking brown hamster into the cage. In between each inter-species birthing the woman went offstage and the dancers took over for a few minutes, I assume so she could reload with the next critter. She also had a bottle of lubricant off stage so thank goodness for that. Someone needs to alert PETA because this is animal cruelty if I have ever seen it. The next critter to be forcibly birthed out of this woman was a small bird with clipped wings, and then two small turtles and two fish joined the eels in the fishbowl. After escaping from this womans lady parts they crawled around and tried to escape from this hell pit of freakish fantasies, so I am sure they were real animals. As if pulling enough critters out of her vag to fill a small pet store wasn’t disturbing enough she then proceeded to light a cigarette and blow smoke through it out of her hoo ha. She also loaded two ping pong balls into her cha cha and popped them out sending them across the room. One of the more alarming props to emerge from the depths of her coochie was a string of razor blades, which she proved were razors by slicing up a plastic straw into tiny pieces after she had removed them. For the grand finale she put a blow gun loaded with two darts into her coochie and sent the darts flying through the air to pop balloons that were taped to the ceiling.

This whole ordeal lasted about thirty minutes and the faces of all the kids in our group who were there were priceless. I can’t say I really enjoyed the experience, it would be more accurate to say that I was oddly horrified, but watching the reactions of everyone in the room almost made the trip worth it.

The horror

The feeling I was left with post show is similar to what I imagine boys feel when they witness another boy get kicked in the balls and they shrink back in horror due to the imagined pain. This is how I felt. I was shrinking in horror imagining the pain that would come from putting small rodents and sea creatures and RAZORS into a place where they most CERTAINLY do not belong.

Reaction shot post ping pong show

group reaction shot

While some of the other kids went out to party on the town for our last night in Thailand, Lindsay, Danielle and I were too emotionally disturbed and exhausted to do anything else, so we headed back to the hotel to get a good nights sleep since the next night we would spend trying to sleep on a ten hour flight back to Sydney.