The convention opened with a keynote address by Surin Pitsuwan, a Thai politician and Middle East expert and former Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It was about the importance of English as a community-building language in Southeast Asia. He said one thing, though, that seemed to me to be very condescending: that the job of English teachers includes teaching critical thinking. I agree that we may need to teach critical thinking skills to those students who have not been exposed to them before (like recent high school graduates), but he seemed to be saying that one cannot think critically in other languages. Perhaps I did not understand his intent.
After the plenary, JA and I found Laine and Vance. We took some photos, but mine were awful, so I won't post them. Then Vance hurried off to a dinner with the TESL-EJ people and JA, Laine, and I walked down Grand Ave. to Nicholas Restaurant, recommended by my student Abdullah. I made the mistake of leaving my boots at the hotel and wearing loafers, and of course it rained again, so I got wet feet. But the restaurant was great: tiny, crowded, noisy, and congenial, with friendly service (is there anyone in Portland who is not friendly?) and fabulous food. I had foohl mudamas (fresh baked fava beans with olive oil, lemon juice, tomatoes, garlic and garnished with cumin and parsley). It was delicious, but the portion was so large that I couldn't finish it.
We talked about teaching and learning, our jobs and our backgrounds, and the time passed quickly.
Tomorrow is the first full convention day.