This day has to be written down fast before I forget it.
A few weeks ago, our coordinator at Sa-Nguan Ying School, Kanchana, said that we would be going to an “English Camp” and teaching at another school on the afternoon of the 18th. (Today.) Information always seems to be a bit spotty about things like this. Kanchana said that we’d be teaching a group of 6-11 year olds, and to prepare some songs or games. That was it. We’re used to extra English teaching requests at this point, so I didn’t give it much thought.
We are the midst of giving/grading midterms at our regular school right now, and pretty busy, so I can honestly say I wasn’t really excited about hopping in a minibus to teach kids at another school this afternoon. That’s how I was thinking about it, anyway.
Also, today was the birthday (schools celebrate birthdays here!!) of our school, so classes were cancelled, and all of our students were having a blast with the instant carnival that appeared in the courtyard this morning — complete with a dunk tank, food vendors selling som tam, grilled chicken, and sweets, as well as a decadent lunch for school staff. (It amazes me that this was my morning, like that’s a totally normal thing.)
But we left the festive atmosphere behind, and at noon we (three English teachers, two Chinese teachers, and four Thai teachers) piled into a minibus to head off to “English Camp”. I think we must have been late, because I’m SURE that our driver was cruising at 90+ miles per hour for most of the drive. Until we turned onto a bumpy dirt road surrounded on all sides by rice paddies and palms. And drove for another 30 minutes. “THIS,” I thought, “is Thailand.” And – “Where are we going?!”
We turned off of this rural, jungle-y road onto the grounds of a two story, traditional Thai building – a small school. And about 30 students, boys and girls in uniforms ranging in age from 5 (tiny!) to 12, were standing in a line to greet us, all shy smiles and quivery excitement. We got out of the minibus and the students all said “Sawatdee!” and “Hello!” — blinking at us happily in the hot sun. Tim, one of our Thai teachers, said to us, “They have been waiting for you! They are so excited you are here!”
And up until 20 minutes ago, I was more worried about my midterm grading.
We walked into a small covered auditorium-type building, and after another (typically Thai) gracious greeting, we had 20 minutes with each of three groups of inquisitive, fascinated, happy children. I sang head/shoulders/knees and toes until we were all cracking up and the little ones were falling over themselves. We acted out animals and animal sounds, and they all sang the “Chang Chang” elephant song for me.
In this little school tucked away in a village I don’t even know the name of, the teachers and parents kept handing us cold water, fresh watermelon and mango, coconut cream sweets, and Thai iced tea. I spent one hour teaching. Then we took hundreds (!!) of photos with the teachers and students, gave each student several gifts, and the school teachers gave each of us a beautiful, small change purse and an amulet with the image of a monk who is revered and loved in the village.
I’m overwhelmed. Again. I feel lucky and grateful and over-appreciated, and am a little disappointed in myself for my flippant, casual attitude from earlier today. Yet another experience here in Thailand where any one part of my day – the school birthday carnival, teaching English to kids who have never met a foreigner before in a tiny village, flying down the highway in a monsoon rain – could be its own story.
And tomorrow’s another day! Another adventure. This weekend we have two extra days off so I’m hopping on a plane to explore Chiang Mai and Pai in the cooler, more mountainous, laid-back northern part of Thailand. Everyone I’ve talked to says Pai is amazing and I’ll never want to leave. So if this is my last blog post – I’m in Pai. See you there.