That Time I Locked a Student in My House

Shoes removed at the door

image courtesy of Krista Taney

That Time I Locked a Student in My House
| published June 7, 2015 |

By Krista Tani
Thursday Review contributor

The day began much like any other. Roosters crowing, dogs barking, babies crying, monks chanting, motorbikes revving, Thai pop songs blaring–a typical Sunday morning in our neighborhood. After brushing my teeth, I immediately proceeded to the kitchen and soon had every surface covered with vegetables and baking supplies. The previous week, I had somewhat accidentally (sometimes I like to plan things that sound fun without thinking about how feasible they actually are) invited all of my Year 2 students over for an end of the year pizza party. Pizza is hard to come by in Laos. It’s either overpriced, primarily because cheese is so expensive, or bor saep (”not delicious”) or both. Thankfully, my teammate has a great recipe for making pizza crusts, so I got to work. A few hours and one huge mess later, I had eight beautiful, albeit cheese-less, pizzas ready to serve.

My students trickled in, at first one by one and later in large packs, until there were 30 of them excitedly taking pictures, eating pizza, and speaking rapid-fire Lao. After polishing off the pizza, they conferred together and nominated one of the better students in the class to ask me if I was free for the next hour because they wanted to “sing a song.” This is one of the the many things I love about spending time with them–my students, along with most Lao people, love to just hang out and sing together. Personally, I think it’s way more terrifying to sing in front of people than to speak a foreign language in front of people. But even my shyest students who look like they’re about to have a heart attack every time they speak English will sing right along with everyone else.

They sang a few Lao songs while my roommate and I clapped along with them. Eventually there came the inevitable request: “Teacher sing a song?” this time I got out of it by having the whole class sing an English song we had memorized a few weeks before. I was so proud that they remembered it!

A few more songs later, we realized that a thunderstorm was rolling in. They cleared out of my house before I even had time to blink. One student stayed and we made plans to go to a party with her down the street. We chatted for several more minutes before we left, but on the way out we noticed a pair of shoes. “Whose shoes are these?” My student assured us that someone probably just forgot them and would come back for them later. We thought that was weird…who goes home with no shoes? But we put it out of our minds and began to walk.

Not even a minute later, we saw students doubling back on their motorbikes and heard them yell, “She’s still inside!” Immediately connecting those words with the mysterious pair of shoes, we ran back to the house and opened the door to find my poor student huddled by the bathroom light. Our house is pitch black and my other student translated for her, saying, “She says your house is very dark.” Needless to say, I felt like the worst teacher ever. But it was also a struggle not to burst out laughing as I tried to console the poor victim, a task eventually made impossible by my other students who were practically falling over from laughing so hard. The student had a really good attitude about it. I gave her some candy and we joked that now I’ll have to give her an A, at which point my other student said, “Oh! I want to get left in your house too! I’ll go now and you lock the door.” So to all my students: all you need to do to get an A in Achan Krista’s class is get locked inside her house on a stormy afternoon.

Man, I love them.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Learning in Laos; Krista Tani; Thursday Review; November 16, 2014.

Getting Lost in Spain; Krista Tani; Thursday Review; May 21, 2014.