A Pirate’s Life for Me
Our small TEFL crew gaped at one another in soundless horror. 93 children sat before us, patiently lingering in the awkward silence. Waiting to be entertained. All eyes were on us. Expectant stares from the children; expectant stares from the teachers; politely returned with terrified glances from us…the English experts. Shit! We had nothing! No plans, no resources, no clue! All we’d be told was to be ready for 7am as the Tuk Tuk would be coming to collect us. The rest of the day was a mystery. That was until we pulled up an hour later at a large country high school teaming with students.
We’d entered the vast hall to vigorous clapping, led by a smiley Sanjit to the front of the room. Joining us…a solitary microphone. Unsurprisingly we all made purposeful attempts to avoid this. As Sanjit spoke to the students and introduced the amazing English Summer Camp they were about to experience, we had less than 5 minutes to think of a plan. What could we do? How could we put together something in such a short space of time? How could we make it look like it was planned? How the hell we were going to avoid making total idiots of ourselves? I for one was completely freaking out.
‘Pirates’ said Jen calmly. ‘We’ll do pirates’.
It was all we had. We could make this work. Frantically we tore our handbags to pieces searching desperately for bits of anything we could make use of. I recklessly wrapped an orange sarong around my head. The perfect bandana! Jen magically rustled up some makeshift eye patches and a hat. Ruth grabbed a dangerous looking permanent marker and began scribbling thick black pirate tattoos over any exposed flesh. Sinead’s skull and crossbones ended up looking more like a drunken pacman. We were ready.
Max bravely took to the mic: ‘Arrrrghhhhhh me hearties!’ he yelled to the bemused crowd, ‘My name is CAPTAIN MAX!’
It was nice to see he’d taken the liberty of promoting himself to captain already.
He performed a pirate jig up and down room. The kids roared with laughter, probably thinking what on earth could they possibly learn from this bunch of lunatics! Sinead was next. ‘Arrrgghhhh Arrrrgghhhh Arrrrgghhhh!’ she yelled like a drunken hobo, ‘I’m pirate Shinny from Ireland!’ Again followed a pirate jig around the entire room, this one taking on a slightly more Irish twang. There were eight of us in total. With any luck we could stretch out this ridiculous charade of prancing up and down the imaginary catwalk in pirate gear for a good half an hour or so.
All too soon it was over. We looked blankly at one another, each desperately willing the others to THINK OF SOMETHING! And fast! I don’t know who started it. And I don’t know why. But this is seriously what happened next…
‘Walk the plank…walk the plank..’ we chanted softly
‘Walk the plank…walk the plank…’ we were becoming more confident. Yes. Yes this was a good idea. We were making this work. This was fantastic.
‘WALK THE PLANK…WALK THE PLANK’ we screamed, this time the kids joining in.
Now what? We couldn’t just be shouting walk the plank and then end it there! There had to be a reason! We needed to do something! Oh god…do what? Sinead and I rushed out and hauled a whole row of students out of their seats.
‘WALK THE PLANK…WALK THE PLANK!’ we yelled, proceeding to march the poor kids in military fashion up and down the hall. Perfect. There were at least 10 rows of kids, buying us a little more time for further insightful ideas.
It was becoming increasingly obvious that we needed to start teaching these kids some vocabulary. The Thai teachers were throwing us some rather odd glances by this point, and I could hardly blame them. As 60-year-old Jane wailed out a pirate chant she’d just made up in her head, the rest of us scribbled out some flashcards. Parrot. Treasure. Boat. Hook. Mermaid. Oh Yes. All the words these kids would need to know to get by on a trip to London.
After Jane’s pretty horrific tune was over, we began yelling out our key words. For some reason, we had decided to add Kung Fu to the mix. For example the word parrot was followed with a move consisting of lifting one leg bent in the air, both arms outstretched and shrieking out Hiiiii Yahh! So now, not only were we pirates…we were pirates performing Kung Fu. Jeez did we want to confuse these poor kids any more? I don’t think we had predicted just how ridiculous this would look until we saw the students attempt it for themselves!
After the Kung Fu kafuffle we needed to redeem ourselves. Luckily, this time we did have a plan. Music! Sinead’s ipod. The saviour of the day. Pirate DJ Shinny hit the decks and Daft Punk provided us with the perfect backing track to perform Limbo. We had succeeded. We had managed to teach a bunch of Thai kids, a bunch of random English words that they would never need to know. What did it matter that ‘ooo arrrrghhhhh’ was not in the dictionary? What did it matter that there was a high chance that a small proportion of Thai children would now go through life imagining that a gang of angry pirates roamed the Irish Sea? What did it matter that they would grow up with the stereotypical belief that the English were a bunch of crazy tattoo wearing, parrot owning, hook having individuals with a strange affiliation for odd headgear? It didn’t matter, because as the kids chased after our Tuk Tuk dancing and laughing as we pulled away from the school, it was clear to us that they’d had a great time. Either that…or they were chasing us away from their school in a warning never to return!