You will forever be in my heart Ayutthaya!
I’ve been in Ayutthaya teaching English to the kids of Big Elephant Temple School for a whole week now. It’s such a shame it has to end so suddenly. A week maybe a very short period, but within this time I got quite attached to this friendly little town.
Every morning the three other volunteers and I biked about 3 miles to our school through the bright green fields and the railroad tracks.
By Wednesday morning the ever-so-adorable kids of Wat Chang Yai already knew our names and would be yelling them as we entered the school grounds on our bikes without breaks. I’d be a horrible liar if I said that I’m not going to miss seeing my students waving at me at seven in the morning wand and hearing their Thai pronunciation of my name “Shaoooneiy!” . This little girl on the right, Mei, taught me how to write my name in Thai. Since Thai is a tonal language the same word just pronounced with different tones/accents can mean completely different things. For this reason I’m 90% sure that I wrote down Mei’s name incorrectly as I had to ask her how to pronounce it correctly every morning (pretty embarrassing I know, but it was totally worth it to see my students laugh with joy as I’d make a fool of myself thinking that I know all the names).
All of the hardworking teachers and staff treated us with great respect. At the beginning of each day they greeted us with big smiles and a “Savasdee Khap” (Hello in Thai) as they would press their palms together while raising them to their nose. In fact the whole school would do that. It also makes for a really nice group photo pose:
This week was jam packed with events. Hannah, Laney and Dana had the opportunity to teach the kids some great vocabulary through singing, dancing and playing Pictionary. The kids loved these activities so much that they would teach them to their friends and play them on their own. What a success! As it goes for me I was able to teach my kids about half the alphabet and a word that begins with each letter (both of which I really, really hope they will remember) through positive reinforcement in the form of candy prizes and friendly competitions.
It was interesting to see that most teachers have almost given up on boys. I noticed that it was the girls who were getting the majority of the attention from the teachers. If the boys wanted to know anything they’d ask the girls. You can see this in the picture below where al the girls are doing work and being tutored on an almost individual basis while the boys are running around berserk.
When I talked to Nim about this her reply was “girls smart, boys only…” here she did a gesture with her two fingers indicating a person rebelliously running around. However while teaching I discovered that a lot of the boys were eager to learn. After assigning the loudest boys and the bullies tasks like handing out notebooks and giving them outside attention like playing Thai games I noticed that not only did they listen much more attentively and participate more, but also peer pressured others into doing the same as well.
In return for our work the school let us take part in an amazing field trip to watch the march of a thousand monks by the Wat Phai Rong Wua temple. I’ve never seen a Buddhist monk before and now there were 1,127 of them walking past me:
Wat Phai Rong Wua is a famous temple in Thailand. In its center is an enormous statue of Buddha. You can see me standing in front of it with my new Thai friend Poi who deeply enlightened about the Buddhist religion.
On one side of Buddha is hell. It’s filled with grotesque statues of sinners being violently tortured. This one for example is a depiction of what happens to those who commit adultery. They are chased by dogs and demons with spears to climb a cactus with razor-sharp needles completely naked. I think I’ll leave out the rest of the bloody descriptions of this scene for the sanctity of our blog.
On the other end of Buddha is heaven. It is filled with monks, beautiful mystic creatures and people of impeccable beauty. No matter what you looked like on Earth, in Buddhist heaven everyone morphs into an image of perfection and gets to spend an eternity in paradise.
This temple trip was to teach the children of the Big Elephant Temple School what is right and what is wrong. Needless to say I had an absolute blast exploring the Thai culture with Poi as my guide. I later met Poi’s wife Bhoughn that made the most amazing Pad Thai in Thailand in her little café that has been operated by her family for over 40 years. The amazing food and even more amazing company kept me coming back to this wonderful couple that I really hope to see again one day.
As I was packing up my things and saying goodbye to my Thai family I couldn’t believe that this all was over. I gave a tight hug to my house mom Da and as I was leaving little Tim Tam (that is infamous for not hugging anyone) gave me the biggest hug a 3.5 kid can give. He whispered something to Da and Da translated it for me “he says he really likes you and that he’ll miss you a lot”.
On this touching note I got into my pink cab to go into Bangkok where I’ll be spending the next few days before flying off to India.
Goodbye Ayutthaya! You will forever be in my heart and I’ll definitely come back to see you again!