And so it begins…
So finally I am in Thailand. It was really a good thing that I made a few backup plans because 2 of the three original plans didn’t quite work out (let’s not badmouth these organization). Luckily the third organization IFRE helped me out and connected me with a project to teach English in primary temple school that had a significant amount of orphan children. The Wat Chang Yai School or Big Elephant School is located in Ayutthaya, a very small and beautiful town that got hit hard with the recent floods.
My house for the next week is a triple in a small family owned hostel. This was the cozy lair for volunteers coming in from all over the world from 5-8 different organizations. The family that owned the hostel immediately made me feel like home with their endless care, amazing food and great company. Even though there was a language barrier from time to time it never stopped us from having great conversations and many great laughs. Here’s a picture with my new Thai family: Asvin, Da and their tireless & extremely friendly son Tim-Tam.
Ayutthaya used to be the capital of Thailand until 1756 when the Burmese army invaded and with massive destruction caused the imperial headquarters to be moved to Bangkok. The remains of grand looking Royal Temples are still around and have become the pride of Ayutthaya.
It seems that even though there are many, many buses of tourists pass by the town to check out the temples. However I saw almost no tourists actually living in Ayutthaya. There are also very few people that speak English in Ayutthaya. I often had to resort to playing Pictionary with the locals to get directions to where I need to go or find what I want. Even the extremely sweet, caring and the highly figured English teacher of the Wat Chang Yai, Nim had a fairly limited knowledge of the language that we’re so used to.
Walking around town I noticed that the houses closer to the river bank especially by our school got hit much harder as you can see by the picture below. It seems that even though very few people lost their lives many took a huge financial hit with destroyed property and having to spend all of their savings to survive for many weeks without work.
Three other volunteers (Hannah from England, Laney & Dana from USA) and I arrived to the Big Elephant School on Monday and were greeted by Yay, the highly respected director of the school and Nim the PE and English teacher of the school. Apparently the English teacher has died three years ago and Nim being the best speaker in the school got the position. All of the endlessly adorable children of Wan Chang Yai looked up at Nim as a motherly figure and constantly surround her with questions and news. Everywhere we went dozens of kids would be yelling “Nim! Nim! Nim!” in their youthful little voices.
We were to be teaching kids of ages 7 to 12. Our first lesson that we were asked by Nim to teach was teaching the kids to ask for things with the term “give me” and to give with term “here you go” and then say “thank you”. Since there were four of us we tried to individually teach the terms to little groups of kids of whom today there were about 30. We quickly learned that the kids were really good at learning the phrases however we also noticed a big problem. When looking back through their notebooks we realized that our kids have written pages and pages of phrases that they did not understand and were unable to read. I did a quick check and found that there was also no knowledge of the alphabet. It looked like we had our work cut out for us. We all want to give as much as possible to these children before we leave. I’m just not sure how much I’ll be able to get done in a week.
And so it begins…