Sunday, January 23, 2011

Anna and the King of Siam

Now finished: Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon
Next up: Dave Barry Does Japan

(backdated to match when I finished the book - sorry it was posted late!)

Sensing a theme yet? I decided to read Anna and the King of Siam in January because I was headed back to Korea, where I taught English to children and the occasional teenager or adult in 2005-06. There's loads to say about returning to Korea - most of which I haven't got around to blogging yet over on my main blog, just give me time - but as I was packing I came across the old paperback of Anna on my shef and decided to toss it in the carry-on. Why not check out another expat-English-teacher-in-Asia, old school style? I never actually bought the book: it was one of a slew of old (50s/60s) paperbacks previously owned by my dad, aunts, and uncle that sat in my grandmother's house for decades until she died in 2007 and I inherited a bunch of the books.

Anna certainly had it harder than any of us random twenty- and thirtysomething teachers today! Never mind online ESL teacher forums or which English-language movie is playing at the theaters, she didn't even have a telephone when she set about educating the children of the king and the ladies of the palace. Of which there were many, because the king was a promiscuous jerk - more on that later. When Anna needed to seek the British consul's help she might have to go by boat on the little river running through Bangkok.

Needless to say, she was a more stalwart soul than us, because she had to be. Also needless to say, the book made me want to visit Thailand like, right now. My other main observation is that the king is a big jerk. I don't really remember the movie musical The King and I that well - Yul Brenner, some kids running around and other prostrating-themselves people, etc. Now that I've read this book I'm not sure I remember the movie at all. Was he this much of a jerk in the movie? I mean, we're talking dozens of concubines/wives AND he has people tortured/killed without much guilt, kind of Dubya-Cheney style.

It was a quick enough read. I don't know that it would suck everyone in, but it is interesting and for sure does one of my favorite things: it reminds 20th and 21st century people (especially young people) that their thoughts and experiences aren't some new modern thing older generations wouldn't relate to. Including galavanting about the world teaching English.

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