A Travellerspoint blog

Back in Blighty

The rambler returns

sunny 33 °C

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Damn this country is grey and cold! Left the haven of a stunning wee island and landed back in blighty last nighty, inappropriately still wearing a rather salt-encrusted bikini. It's weird having itchy mosquito bites in mid-winter. Now all i need to do is find a home and a job. Hmm

The last couple of weeks have flown by without the chance to update. Leaving the home was a wrench – the last few weeks it really began to feel like my home, I’d started to get to know the older boys a lot better, bonding over countless games of pass the pigs. The ‘School of Rock’ are really getting into the swing of things, and with our coaching have picked up their game and are putting on really good performances at local guesthouses. They were the hot favourite on my last night over a painful Thai karaoke team who’d been specially enlisted to entertain the government visitors to the guesthouse that night.
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Since I left they got to perform at an AIDS awareness benefit, on a huge stage in front of a large audience. Things are looking up…all of the kids now have sponsors and Dada finally got enough donations to buy a truck!

The week before I left we hosted a belated Halloween party for the kids – had the younger ones making paper plate masks and painted everyone’s faces. HOME AND H..EEN 047.jpg
The balloon games went down a treat, as did the ‘face in the flour’ game, until I foolishly rubbed Amon’s face in it, triggering a full-scale pizza dough war in which myself and Lindsay were pretty much annihilated. HOME AND H..EEN 056.jpgWe were also having the monthly pizza party to celebrate the birthdays that month, rolled out with a section of bamboo and baked in dada’s hand made clay oven. Most bizarre pizza I’ve ever tasted, with tofu and chilli topping, but pretty good nontheless. HOME AND H..EEN 050.jpg

Had a bit of a dispute with a taxi driver one evening when trying to make out way back from the local town Sangklaburi, to the home. After lying to us about the public taxi having already left he encouraged us to charter our own private taxi (at a pretty high price) and then proceeded to pick up all manner of people and parcels and took various diverions to other villages,picking up more taxi fares along the way. When we eventually got out I just handed him the same fare that everyone else had paid, the correct fare for the usual taxi ride home, and he went crazy and was shouting at us. Fortunately Harrish, one of the girls from the home was riding by and acted as translator. We managed to solve it with us paying only double (!) but it really makes me angry when the taxi drivers etc just expect you to pay extortionate amounts just because you’re foreign. He told Harrish we were selfish and didn’t care about helping others. Right. Poor lass, getting caught up in it as translator, she was quite upset at how unfairly we get treated sometimes.
Harrish is a real interesting one, actually. Dada calls her the home’s first girl, though biologically she’s male. She’s what Thais call ‘kathoey’ and we misguidedly call ‘lady boys’. Roughly translated it means ‘the third sex’, something not uncommon in Thai culture, having its roots firmly in the Buddhist tradition, which respects such people as those serving a life-time of hardship as penance for previous sins. They’re accepted, but not respected really outside of the narrow sphere allocated for them, in entertainment and beauty etc. I got to know Harrish quite well over the last 6 weeks, and she began to tell me a bit more about herself and in particular her fears over her future. One night as we rode the moped home she asked me “Do you have people same like me in your country, sister?” I wasn’t sure if she meant ‘orphans’ or if she was referring specifically to her gender at first, but then she went on to tell me she worried that nobody would ever really love her for who she was. Unfortunately Kathoey can often be treated merely as sex objects – many thai men have no problem accepting them as ‘girls’ and enjoying their company, but wouldn’t consider an actual serious relationship. Harrish has been taking hormone tablets for years now, wears a bra and squeals at everything. She permanently texts her numerous ‘boyfriends’ – most of whom she never sees and the other being a monk. Some of the other boys aren’t particularly fond of her as you’d imagine amongst teenage boys. But she is a doting mother-figure for the younger boys who adore her. She checks they’re clean, cooks, helps with homework, evens teaches Thai to the mothers and some of the younger kids whose level isn’t yet good enough to attend local school. I hope the future treats her kindly.

Took to riding motorbike taxis back after that incident anyway - usually on zero gas with the drivers challenging each other for the lead. Gives you a slight thrill as you grip on tight, hands behind you as you try desperately not to slide too far into the driver’s back. Every time I went downhill I had to clench my thighs to retain my balance, which the driver seemed to take as some kind of geeing on and sped up further, The wind whips through your hair with a greasy tingle as the occasional bug thwats you in the face. It’s the best way to view the sunset as you fly over the mountains, the clouds like whipped peaks over layer upon layer of crumbly blue-green hills.

Took a brief trip to Kanchanaburi in my last week - a kind internet cafe owner has allowed to use a wall in his shop for Baan Dada advertising, whilst a guesthouse has offered to try to sell some of the weaving produced by the women in the weaving centre at the home. We went to the stunning Erawan Falls 2 days in a row, and frolicked with the biting fish in various pools of blue. Perfect after the sweat we worked up on the climb.
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Also paid a brief visit to the Three Pagaodas Pass and the Death Railway with the notorious bridge over the river Kwai. Horrifying to read about the Japanese mechanical brutality, yet seems strangely unsurprising, knowing their impersonal approach to matters requiring 'efficiency' - the railway even today is hailed unapologetically by some Japanese as a remarkable feat of engineering. Yet having experienced too what a warm and peace-loving society they can be, it makes me feel torn. erawan falls 036.jpg

On my last evening at Baan Dada we broke the rules and snuck some wine into the volunteer house. We’d also managed to aquire some cheese so it was a veritable feast, and exciting in a childish way, like we'd stolen rations vouchers. I got up early the next morning to say goodbye to the children before they left for school – some had already gone, so Dada sent Kiik zooming off on his moped to bring them back for a final photocall.
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Aung Sunai wouldn’t let go of me and kept running back, jumping up into my arms, wrapping his legs around me and giving me the tightest hug. It felt so hard to just walk away from them all. Just before I left I sat on the dusty floor of the weaving centre, looking through photos with Chinamu sat on my knee, the sticky humid smell of sand with a faint tinge of urine making my nostrils smart, in a peculiarly nostalgic way. Farewell, Bann Dada.
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I am now a qualified and certified Thai massuese! I headed to Bangkok and enrolled at the Wat Po school of Thai traditional medicine and massage. The course/exam were surprisingly intense, and was kind of weird being paired up with a random German guy, Christian, as my model, particularly in the more fart-inducing positions!
DSC05487.JPGOn my first morning in Bangkok I bumped into Musti, rather bizarrely. He had volunteered at the home for a couple of weeks and then headed off on his travels. We ended up sharing a room where he most obligingly allowed me to practice massage on him, without too many bruises I hope. Also took a trip to watch Muay Thai champions match at the Lumpini stadium. We sat umming and ahing over whether to actually go inside, after realising we were being charged 5 times the ticket price of locals, for the dubious distinction of being VIPs (ie - foreign). I expect to pay more than locals for most things and don't mind generally, but when it's that much of a difference it just gets ridiculous and is downright unfair. Imagine the uproar that would ensue if non-Brits were charged enormously inflated prices to football matches at home!! Was really exciting though to be in the thick of it, standing on rickety wooden benches, the stench of sweat and urine wafting up from the basement as old men made a series of gestures with their hands to indicate how much they were betting. An astonishing 'performance' of traditional Muai Thai (hands bound in bandages, dipped in honey and broken glass) was followed by the big match, which always begins with a ritualistic dance by the contenders to invoke the power and grace of whoever the fighting gods are. Like peacocks strutting around the ring, yet with the grace and agillity of a ballerina. The match seemed to be a forgone conclusion from the start, with one guy clearly taking the lead, but a lucky uppercut directly into his stomach brought the match to a sudden and rather brutal close. The audience, cheering wildly for the favourite only moments before, lost interest immediately, turning to continue chatting without a second glance as the fallen fighter was unceremoniously carried away.DSC05494.JPG

Finally I headed south to Ko Chang for a bit of beach relaxation. On the boat over I got chatting to a welsh girl, Jenni, who’d been doing similar volunteer work in Cambodia, and was also an English teacher. We hit it off so stayed in a bungalow together, first on Ko Chang at a bit of a hippy resort, before heading further afield to a coconut plantation island called Ko Maak. And there lies paradise!! The most perfect pristine white sands and blueblue water, with hardly any tourists and no big hotel developments to spoil things..yet.
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Stayed at lazy days resort, which was formerly a commune (all that’s left of that is a slightly unhinged irish guy named ray who spends his days smoking bongs and reminiscing. We shared a hut right on the beach front, fully furnished with a bed and a mosquito net. DSC05539.JPGAh what paradise. Paddled out in kayaks, snorkled and generally lazed, and it was over all too soon. DSC05542.JPGAfter one last dip I zoomed off on an excitingly bumpy speed boat and made my way back to BKK, in time for the King’s birthday celebrations, which mostly seemed to involve lots of yellow Tshirts, candles, dodgy firewords and squeaky music blared out over tanoys. After a last round of bargain shopping on Khao San and a final foot reflexology session I was off, back to Kuwait to, well, wait. Before I knew it I was hovering over London with its toy streets and houses, the jungle sunshine already seeming like a dream. That familiar cagey feeling descended with the plane, but not nearly so gloomy as it was, almost a year ago to the day, when I ended my last Asian adventure.

How long till the next, I wonder?
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Posted by tsubaki 04:50 Archived in Thailand Tagged events Comments (1)

Home sweet home

sunny 33 °C

Dada returned from a brief sojourn to BKK last night with a bag full of toys and a Norwegian in tow. Rita is an optomotrist here to volunteer with the Unite for Sight NGO campaign, which tours around the impoverished areas here offering free eyecare and glasses. Had a great time with Musti last week experimenting with glasses that afforded my cheeks as much vision as my eyes. Sadly we didn't manage to take any pictures for laughing. Musti left yesterday havig completed building the new goat house. Now I have nobody to bully - come back, Musti! ; ) He's gone to meditate in silence for a month at a Thai temple. "ANICHA" - live in the moment!

Rita was going to have the whole other side of the volunteer house to herself, but after spotting the fresh rat poo she decided to stay in my room. He's quite a cute rat really, brown and fluffy, and certainly in good health, having eaten most of Lindsay's vitamin tablets yesterday.
This morning brought sad news. Reports have surfaced amongst volunteer workers here(not for the first time) of a Thai man sexually abusing the children at his orphanage, just down the road from Baan Dada. It's a very tricky situation as no-one can really provide evidence (he chucked out the older boys who tried to stand up to him). Even worse, he's a man of huge influence and standing the community, and should he be challenged he'll be sure to do his damnedest to drag down the other children's homes with him and make trouble. Most homes out here are run by non-thai volunteers for non-thai children, making for pretty shaky political foundations in a country where so many burmese refugees are barely allowed to make a living for themselves. If he chose to he could cause huge problems for Dada and others like him :(

Sat with Anuwat on my knee this morning looking at photos on the laptop. He takes great delight in seeing himself and those he knows caught on camera, and makes an excited squeal whilst pointing frantically from the screen to himself. He does the same if I'm reading to him, paying scant attention to the story and just seeking out pictures of robots and aeroplanes, which he then stakes a claim upon, pointing from them to himself and announcing "Anuwat, anuwat!"

There's pics of him and some of the other boys here:
http://www.travellerspoint.com/photos/gallery/users/tsubaki/

floating house 051.jpgThis new addition to the home is Chinamu. She was so shy at first but now she trots over to sit on my lap and gives me the cheekiest grin. The rest of the time she has a troubled scowl upon her face. Her mother is here too, with another daughter. No idea what happened to the father.Chinamu had a fight with another toddler, Male'eh, when Male'eh stole her shoes! For quite a while Male'eh was the only baby around and so lapped up all the attention from volunteers - now she's a bit of a tantrum thrower and doesn't like to share her spot in the limelight with the newcomers. She peed on the kitchen table this morning, after screaming for her mother for quite a while. I managed to catch her just as she was about t fall off onto the concrete floor, and got a spattering in the process. All in a day's work : )

Posted by tsubaki 22:04 Archived in Thailand Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

Loi Kra Thong - The Buddhist Light Festival

The floating house

sunny 30 °C

Here I am, back in my usual seat at the Baan Unrak bakery/internet cafe. Baan Unrak (House of Joy) is another children's home, part of the Neo-Humanist foundation, only it's much bigger, is run by three women (Didis, aka sisters) and has by far the better facilites due to recent donations from some bigass bangkok company. Just had an incredible weekend - it was Loi Krathong, the Buddhist Light Festival, celebrating the end of the rainy season. Everybody makes little boats out of banana trunk and leaves, filled with incense, money and a candle, makes a wish and sets them free to float across the river by the light of the full moon. It was so beautiful to see the candles reflecting off the black ripply water. The boys got upset when their candles went out so they just dove(dived?damn these americanisms) into the water fully clothed and swam out to retrieve and re-light them.ProudoftheirBoats.JPG
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Our wee school of rock played twice over the weekend, complete with the new banner we spent ages making!
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Instead of paying to ferry everyone back and forth, Dada hired a floating house for the night, and there we frolicked, 42 kids, us 4 volunteers (Lindsay's cousin Kate is now here)and 2 dadas. We spend the entire time swimming around, diving off rafts and canoes, trying to keep our mouths shut tight after Musti informed us of exactly how the on-boat toilet worked.. :(
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Some of the younger kids can't yet swim so i put on a lifejacket and acted as their buoyancy aid - it's pretty tough trying to tread water with 3 kids grabbing round your neck.
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The boy's concert was excellent on the first night, made quite a bit of money towards their college fund - though the unanticipated arrival of a dada from Baan Unrak and his impromptu ( and rather rubbish) Jimi Hendrix impression resulted in the manager retracting his offer of a venue for future gigs by the boys. I'm going to make sure he knows quite how sucessful his performance was.

Naoki and Olan's mother is here - she finally saved enough money to visit, and now is asking for a job at the home, which unfortunately Dada is unable to offer, being already in dire straits financially. it's so nice to see naoki with a spring in his step, barely leaving her side, and always wanting to do handclap games which we taught him, to impress his mother.
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Bit of a fiasco at the home 2 nights ago, when one of the mother's psycho (and alcoholic) sons went on a rampage with a gun after a money dispute. The farm workers chased him off into the jungle and the police came. As a cautionary measure 2 dadas stayed at the volunteer house with us - one was an ancient crustacean of a man, visiting from india, with flowing beard and orange robes, then other being the new dada from the philippines who is pretty tiny and too has flowing locks (to ensure he doesnt attract women, apparently). Awoke in the morning to the bizarre sound of pounding on the walls accompanied by loud and stomach-hurling 'huh' sounds....I sent Musti off to investigate and he reported back that the ancient dada was engaged in a very energetic arms swinging, legs jumping tantric yoga dance. He kept it up for over an hour, incredibly.

I quizzed Dada1 last night about exactly what Neo-Humanism and its founding body Ananda Marga is and why does it claim not to be a religion when so much of what they do - the meditation, the tantric yoga and the various regimes they follow seem to similar to buddhism, hinduism and other indian religions. Dada2 (of the flowing locks) lent me a book to help with yoga, which also offers detailed guidlines on everything from washing your body to marital relations. Apparently we should hold our eyes open and splash water a mimimum of 12 times before eating. Women who are menstruating should take great care not to touch an adult male or exerting themselves unduly. And as for singing loudly or blowing a conch - forget it, at least until you're back in the 'safe zone'!
I didn't entirely understand his response, but basically he takes a much more rational approach to his spirituality, and is mosly concerned with his life devoted to community deveopment, rather than rigidly following guidelines which for the most part seem irrelevent to anything. He told me of a story he once heard a guru tell, ultimately boiling down to the notion of rationality. If a spiritual leader should say something illogical - ignore it; and likewise if a child should say something sensible and rational then accept it whole-heartedly.Most of Dada's ideas are concerned with the energy of the universe. "E=mc2", he explains to the older children regularly. "every action has an equal and opposite reaction". I guess it's similar to karma.
Every night the children have meditation, where they sing the words to an ancient mantra " baba Lam, ke va Lam", roughly translated as 'love is everything, everything is love'. Dada regrets that really the children don't think about or comprehend what they are singing so whole-heartedly and thus there wasn't much point in medidating. But the feeling of calm and comradeship which envelops you when you stand there singing with them surely is just as important, and gives them a real sense of security and community.
Which is exactly what these kids need.
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Posted by tsubaki 22:58 Archived in Thailand Tagged events Comments (0)

Rock n roll

semi-overcast 30 °C

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2 consecutive blog entries, ohh what a treat! The boys were a big success last night, made over 700Baht pocket money for themselves (which one of them tried ot give to Dada). Westlife seasons in the sun was my personal favourite, especially seeing a tiny 12 year old boy, legs dangling from the keyboard chair! Dada is trying to raise funds to send the boys to music school over the summer - any donations welcome ; ) Olan in particular shows real potential as a drummer, and in fact it's the only time you really see him show any emotion, except for when he's tending the puppies. His brother Naoki is pretty good on the bass too, though he's only played a year. Usually he's really chatty but he's been down recently as his mother has been promising to come from BKK to see her 3 boys for months, but always pulls out at the last moment. Their Japanese father abandoned her and returned home when Naoki was born- she remarried, had Viith, then upped and left all three of them for yet another husband in BKK.
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Taught a class this morning, had them all over-pronouncing their letters, partyly for phonics practice but mostly for my own amusement ; ) Anuwat however just wanted to throw paper aeroplanes at me. Fair enough.
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Dada was telling us amusing stories of how ocasinally when meditating his whole body jumps as though electricty were coursing through it. Something to do with blockage of chakras, apparently(he's a Yogic Monk, y'see) Dada.jpg
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Got the whole girls' side to myself right now as Lindsay is doing a visa run to Laos. New Swiss guy Musti is next door though. Each night when I get in I do an insect hunt to see if there's any scorpions or other beasts lying in wait - there's always a moment of breath-holding anticipation when you push open the bathroom door (which incidentally no longer exists since the termites finally devoured the frame last week).Killed a scorpion with some Neo Humanist tome (ah the irony) the other day, after staring at it transfixed/terrified for a good 10 minutes before hand. Now we barely flutter an eyelid and just stomp.

Posted by tsubaki 23:21 Archived in Thailand Tagged travelling_with_pets Comments (0)

Pass the Pastor

sunny 33 °C

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Welcome back! As usual got no time so just going to update directly from my diary through the medium of cut n past. Ingenious.
Here goes:

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We've been discussing a project to develop eco-tourism in the Piloki village, a community of mostly Karen people who fled persecution by the Burmese goverment. Their original settlement was flooded when the Thais dammed the river and they were compensated by being given help to build houses in a new place, with a few solar panels thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately this place, though beautiful, is accessible only by river, and is in a protected area, which means no land can be cleared for farming, leaving the community pretty much jobless and with little means of supporting themselves. A number of the children at Dada's are from Piloki, but their families couldn't afford to support them.
So off we went across the river on a little narrow boat, we 3 volunteers, to propose this project to the villagers. We were housed at the local pastor's house, a lovely wooden place offering welcome respite from the sweltering heat, which the locals are free to pop in and out of at any time. Inevitably there was a flurry of visitors as we arrived, mostly to come and stare at us, I suspect. We couldn't actually speak a word to the Pastor but fortunately there happened to be a young English-speaking Piloki guy returning for the weekend who found himself landed with the role of translator/tour guide, whilst Polly from Baan Dada nominated herself as cook. As it was Sunday we went to a service in the village church (around 40% are Christian), a concrete building complete with fans, electric guitars and numerous laminated gaudy pictures of the sacred heart. Almost everybody chatted throughout the rumbling prayers of whoever it was leading the service (not the Pastor!) followed by what seemed to be a bit of a musical free-for-all, with young people taking it in turns to come to the front and sing. We finally managed to ‘speak’ to the Pastor about organizing a meeting with all Piloki residents to discuss the project, but he seemed far more concerned with getting us to teach English and seemed to be avoiding the issue- he was leaving the next morning for Bangkok anyway, it turned out. We sat cross-legged on the floor of his home, us three young white female volunteers, facing three male village elders, barefoot and dark-skinned, trying to assert our reason for the visit (which had been pre-planned with Pastor). It reminded me of my attempts to suggest new ideas to my school principle in Japan, but knowing that however much he smiled and agreed with me, my efforts would amount to nothing. Poor Lamay inevitably bore the brunt of our frustration as he did his best to translate, whilst we looked on, smiles fixed, nodding as though we understood what was being said. So it was finally decided, we would teach 2 children’s classes in the morning and an adult class in the evening, after which we could propose our idea to those interested. Result?!

Bright and early the next morning we headed to the school rooms – a stone building with small rooms, each containing a blackboard and a few low benches, with gaps in the walls instead of windows and doors, and a couple of faded Thai alphabet charts and withered paper flowers were dotted about on the walls. Children slowly started to trickle in and before long we had a full house, so we launched into the usual English song and games teaching that we’d used in Japan, whilst other residents drifted over to see what the commotion was, and why all their children were prancing about singing ‘what’s your name?’ at the top of their lungs. Or at least, I was. Lamay’s suggestion to the older kids that we take a boat up the river to go swimming was met with great enthusiasm, but the word spread like wildfire and when we headed to the river it seemed that all the children in the village wanted in on the action – not what we were hoping for as the river was fast and we didn’t want responsibility for 30- odd toddlers who couldn’t swim. Eventually we got the message across and a couple of adults joined us for a crazy few hours of splashing about, the older kids launching themselves over the small rapids in an inner-tube, or towing the pastor’s wife around like the Queen in another. Had to extract small arms from around my neck as they clung desperately, rather alarming when you can barely swim through the current yourself, whilst others simply used me as a launch pad. Discovered on our return that it was assumed we would pay for the 3 boats it had taken to cart everybody up the river (as for their unexpected return trip to Baan Dada’s the next day) but there you go : foreigners = money, apparently!Boatful.jpg
The evening class got off to a very slow start, but we managed to persuade the frail-looking grandmother in from where she was sat shyly peeking from the doorway. The rest of the class was mostly young women and a couple of children who strayed in. We taught them the usual self intro stuff, then an embarrassing rendition of ‘you are my sunshine’ adapted to make pronunciation easier. It then turned into a bit of a cultural exchange event, their children performing a song in Karen in exhange for a leg-flinging Dutch dance from Mireille ( which she later informed nobody in Holland ever does) and we threw in Kumbaya for good measure (it’s amazing how many times that song has come in handy when put on the spot in random Asian countries…) They seemed so appreciative at the end, thanking us individually, hands in the customary ‘prayer’ position of greeting/thanks “Kahpkumkah!”
We had a grand total of 3 come to our meeting (including the grandmother from the class and her husband) but it went well considering – they were definitely interested in the idea of the community running a tourist project and receiving all of the income (as opposed to an outside business). Whether or not our hopes for a democratically elected co-operative to run it (instead of an exclusively older male group) are so well received remains to be seen. They pointed out a few immediate difficulties, what with the Thai government restricting their every move (we even had to go to the police station – a bamboo hut at the end of the village- to ‘sign in’ and explain our presence on arrival). But their response was encouraging and the next day they came to see us off, the grandmother clambering into the boat after me, planting an unexpected kiss on my cheek which almost caused me to topple the boat in my surprise. We sailed back, me frantically scooping water out of the boat which refilled just as rapidly.

see www.go-mad.org for more info on the eco-tourist project and how to get involved, if you fancy it.

Tuesday October 24th

Last Friday we went on a research trip to a successful ecotourism project in Thongpapoom, to get ideas for our Piloki project and to get advice from the manager. We were chauffered around in high speed boats and Mercedes, given free accommodation in rustic (albeit pretty luxurious) floating bamboo bungalows, and ‘treated’ to a performance of traditional Mon dancing/music by residents of the local Mon village (looking mostly po-faced and bored), whose community the resort was developed to support (originally by a Frenchman but since sold on to the current owner). Not the kind of tourist project we have in mind (package tourists from Russia etc who come en masse and want to see the locals ‘perform’ without having to leave the comfort of aircon and western toilets. But still, an interesting trip! On our return Lindsay, Mireille and I stopped off in town to visit a temple. We climbed the steep hill in sweltering heat, turned around and there it was, shining in all its golden glory…on the opposite side of the river. We’d got the wrong bloody hill! Not to be phased, we just stripped off and swam in the cool water, before venturing back into town and taking the opportunity to indulge in MEAT and a beer : )

The last week really has felt like a bit of a holiday – we piled onto Dada’s tractor the other day with about 20 kids and went bumping over the lanes to a beautiful stretch of river, where we frolicked for hours and buried each other in the sand. The kids mostly swim in their clothes (the cleanest they’ll get) making me stand out like a milk bottle in a bikini. We piled back in and made our way home as the sun was setting, the kids singing at the top of their voices the whole ride.

Sunday 29th October- that'll be today then!

Madly playing diary catch-up again. Persuaded Dada to bring the computer down in the tractor to the volunteer’s house so now we can type away at the project proposals etc without being attacked by a hoard of excited kids wanting to play on Microsoft Paint.

The home seems to be buzzing with energy right now. Mireille left, to be replaced by 2 more volunteers, English and Dutch, though I think they’re only staying a week. The kids are all back from wherever they’ve been disappearing to over the summer, bring a few newbies with them, though who they are and why has yet to be ascertained! One little girl (who we all thought was a boy), Notaba, with a penchant for digging you in the ribs every 5 minutes is the daughter of the new Laundry Man (how 21st century is that?), a landmine victim who Dada’s going to be employing. Polly, one of the ‘Mothers’ is back from Piloki with all 12 of her children – 3 sets of twins, she had! Like the other mothers here, Dada’s given her work and a safe home to live in, far away from the reaches of an abusive husband. The new weaving centre is up and running (just seeking a market for all their intricate goods –anyone interested?), though it seems to have been taken over by the boys already and become music/dvd room, with the older kids sleeping there at night. Great really as it frees a bit more floor space for the younguns.

Last night Ong Sunai came shyly over (upon my urging after the others informed me) to show me where he’d cut his finger – my stomach lurched at the sight. Yellow and festering, it looked like a cocktail sausage which has split right open in the heat. I had to grab Polly’s arm to stop her as she attempted to clean it with a piece of dirty cotton wool and tap water. The poor lad had just kept it to himself – they’re so used to having to just fend for themselves – so I called Dada and off they rushed to hospital, which fortunately is only a 10 minute ride. Apparently he cut it on the fin of a Catfish. Random. Ong Sunai is one of my favourites at the home – I know it’s unfair but he’s so darned sweet! He rushes over whenever I’m around and gives me the biggest hugs ever, and the second the band stikes up he holds onto my hands and jiggles his spindly legs like Barrymore with ants in his pants. And he never moaned once about his finger. In fact he’s being worryingly quiet so I’m going to keep an eye on him.

The last week has alternated between being incredibly inspiring and horribly frustrating. At times I’ve felt like I really didn’t know what to do as a volunteer. Dada never sets you any specific tasks, and the children don’t really have any structure or timetable to their day, meaning I had to physically round them up if I wanted to teach a class. Even then it’s a battle to control them as they’re so unused to having to sit still and pay attention for any amount of time. Not speaking Thai or Karen doesn’t help either! The children themselves must get pretty confused as most of the time we just clown about with them, then suddenly turn into authority figures demanding silence.
But our suggestions to Dada seem to have been taken into consideration and he’s hired a local woman to teach the pre-school children Thai and Karen, Maths etc (she’s not qualified and doesn’t always feel the need to turn up, but it’s better than nothing). Myself and Lindsay have been on a hygiene rampage and drag the kids off to wash their hands before and clean teeth after dinner. Not a lot we can do about their filthy clothes as they’re out playing in the dirt all day and sleep in the same clothes, but we chuck them into the shower whenever we get the chance. Would be nice if they all had their own blankets too instead of sharing the same old raggy ones (some clearly harbouring the pee of children past) but that would mean buying new ones and there’s no money for that. Hence germs and diseases spread like the plague – at least 2 currently have ugly blotchy fungal rashes all over their bodies.

The new kindy timetable though means we have a set time (ish) to teach, so we’ve been going through the great old games of running an hitting the correct vocab, and taking them on ‘nature hunts’, encouraging their interest and respect for nature, Dada said. Upon which the boys promptly pulled branches off trees and threw a crab from the river into a dry field…. It has made me realize that whilst I at first marveled at how few arguments and tantrums there were amongst the kids, the main reason is because they pretty much do as they please all the time and so have no authority figure to argue against! Dada does a remarkable job but he can’t be in a hundred places at once, and if we shout at the kids it obviously sounds like gobbledygook and so they just ignore us! They certainly aren’t bad kids, just inevitably a little unruly. Last night I almost got a firecracker in the face (they were just throwing them around randomly) whilst the night before Churi-Pon narrowly missed being decapitated by a paper aeroplane, which had first been set on fire.

have to run now as just brought the older boys into town to swim in the river before their band plays at a guesthouse later.
la kohn!

Posted by tsubaki 01:53 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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