The children buzz through the school gates with excitement in the three school colours: red, green and yellow. The chosen few girls are in traditional Thai dress, exquisitely whitened faces and sparkling eyes, jewels, crowns and elaborate fabrics make them all look so grown up. I do a double take on one of the best students in school who has transformed from her usual bashful self into a stunning woman in an orange and black costume, with matching fascinator and feather plume. I pose awkwardly for photos next to them feeling significantly under dressed!
A march around the school starts the celebrations. All students (some a little lopsidedly) keeping to the sai (left), qwa (right), sai beat chanted by the teachers and bellowed by the drums played by the older boys. They process around the slightly bumpy school field before a flaming baton is run half way round the pitch to light a dish and officially begin the games.
By 9am it's hot and the fabulous dresses are starting to slip a little in the heat and humidity. Everything tumbles along efficiently, last minute adjusting of flowers, tampering with microphones and arranging coffee for the parents.
I spend the morning chatting with the Imam from the local mosque. He tries to sell me the virtues of converting to Islam through clunky translations by the head-teacher, but I'm pulled off midway to represent sikiaw (the green team) in the parents tug of war. I definitely underestimated the strength of the very petite Thai mothers and my team loses outright.
Tug of war, football and petanque are the three main sports of the day. The races happened during yesterday's rehearsals so needn't be done again.
I retire after my first and only sporting performance of the day to the shade and watch petanque for the afternoon, attempting to get some English taught to whoever sits next to me. Which, it turns out, is a committed gaggle of thirty or so students each wanting me to repeat certain words, answer semi-intelligible English phrases and sing all at once. Unbeknown to me my very untuneful rendition of Wheels on the Bus accompanied with some off beat tamborine playing is proudly recorded by the Headmistress, (think less Sound of Music more the tragic acts who make up the bloopers for Britain's Got Talent). She claps far too enthusiastically for it's lyrical worth and tells me how excited she is to show her husband and friends; for once I'm glad that my exotically foreign English is so incomprehensible to my overly complimentary hosts.
By the end of the day I'm as hot and sticky as if I'd run the school pitch twice over. Whisked home in the momentary cool idyll of the air-conditioned car the wide beam of my new four year old after-school student awaits my arrival. I lie on the floor and colour in the alphabet with her, feebly chanting v's and th's. Her father, who sits next to us for the lesson, happily joins in and probably got more from the lesson than his daughter who idly traces the letters half watching the kittens prancing around the room.
Nourishment arrives from my Thai mother, P'Tim, who hacks open a fresh coconut for me and laughs as I gulp back the fresh juice. Contentedly sitting back to munch on the sweet coconut flesh, I slowly translate from the sympathetic stares that tomorrow (of course) is sports day #3. So I retreat to bed early not only to sleep but to flick through pages of nursery rhymes to prep me for future spontaneous performances.