Today i was quite homesick for a moment. I am not sure if it is the enormous heat, the lethargic state i am in, the difference in food and habits, or what is probably just referred to as the culture shock 🙂 These lows come and go and i hope this one will pass soon…
My village, my very rural village, has according to “horn” (my Thai hostess) about 100 houses. From my house i can’t see any of those. I can see rice fields, a garden, a dirt road, and many different kinds of fruits and flowers. The school has 50 students all together. Every morning they stand in the patio while first the elder kids say some things in Thai, which is followed by Horn giving other instructions. Then standing up they put their hands one over the other with the palms up in front of their bodies. They turn towards the Buddha in the school and they silently make a little meditation in thankfulness to those who helped them. I was quite moved when i first participated in this little ritual. It is all very informal, not like you would maybe think of an Asian country. Apart from the meditation moment the kids move about all the time. After that they all go to their rooms and are told to clean them before the teachers come in.
The school is really very very simple. It has almost nothing, is quite old, but absolutely spotless. There seems to a very intricate system for calling each other, that seems to depend on your age, your social role, your family status, and combining with my lack of knowledge of Thai it becomes almost impossible for me to remember how to call each person.
I am for instance Kru Krum Tchu. Kru Krum means teacher, and Tchu is what they can make out of my name. There are 4 teachers in the school and each class has two grades, with no more than 10 students. Again, everything is very informal, kids run around, talk, sing, walk out, come back. The teachers answer their phones in class, walk out and leave for a long period of time. And i not surprisingly love this informality, as the kids seem very happy, even though they are very poor and mainly live with a grandparent, as the parents have either left, died or live and work in some other city.
Lunch time for me is nightmare… This is due to mainly two factors. First, i absolutely am not used at all to the food. I have in fact been eating very little lately. Secondly, it is the most shocking time for me, as my host who is most of the time friendly and laughing, and kind grabs a broomstick and walks around shouting orders and hitting kids for faults such as forgetting to bring sticky rice, not having their shirts tucked in, not having had their hair cut, and other minor things. I must say that she hits them very softly, and they don’t cry and don’t seem to have any real pain. But i being a total pacifist and completely against physical or emotional violence can’t help but feel shocked, and personally against it. Noticing my discomfort Horn explained me that it is the job of a teacher to teach her students. I didn’t say anything, as it is absolutely clear to me that she loves these kids beyond anything, and even has a couple of them living in her house. And after all who am I to judge their ways?
Most of my first day in school was destined to help two little Thai girls (Tangmo, 9 years old, and Tangnoi, 12 years old), prepare English speeches for the provincial English speech competition the next day. I spent most of the time with Tangmo who is the brightest and cutest girl ever! I was exhausted, and knowing very little Thai i could not figure out whether she kept going just because i was there or because she wanted it. I decided eventually to go check on Horn and Tangnoi and when i found them laying down on the floor laughing a lot i just joined them in a non-stopable exhausted laughter. Later on, the two girls came over to sleep at Horns place. They were thrilled about it! And we practiced even more.
The day after we went to the competition which was held in a big public school. Students from all villages around came to the competition. I was invited to be photographed with every government offical that was around. Being the only ‘farang’ (foreigner) around i felt every move i made was being observed. Everybody was enormously kind and friendly, and somehow puzzled that i was staying in such a little school. I should note here that my school is so little that it is not even in the Thai rankings. To the principal and Horn and my enormous delight Tangmo (the 9 year old) came second in the competition! The first girl came from the first/best school of the province. So, being second in the competition was for that little poor Thai girl and for our school the equivalent to a Nigerian getting a silver medal in the Winter Olympics. And i, thanks to Horn’s enormous kindness, got my own Thai certificate as an English Trainer for Tangmo! I must say, her success has much more to do with her brightness and amazing personality and Horn’s work throughout the years than my couple of hours of help.
So this is what life here in my little village has been like lately. I must confess it is not always easy for me to get adapted to the different lifestyle. I eat too little, can never figure out whether i have a fever or if it is just very hot outside. As i have said in the beginning I sometimes feel homesick, and have even become comfortably aquainted with Filomena, Genevieve, and Isabella, the spiders that permanently live in my room and bathroom 🙂 But even those lonely moments seem unimportant when i realise the profoundness of my learning, the kindness of my host, and the loveliness of the children. So every day when i ‘Way’ (the way the Thai great each other by putting their hands in prayer form and bowing their head) and i am ‘Way-ed’ back by always smiling people i feel enormous gratitude for being here.