Life in Isaan- Volunteering in Thailand

The time in rural Thailand passes slow. It is nice. The “littlest” things gain such an importance. Like observing the clouds pass, or the webbing of a spider, or the sounds of the rain. Slowly even a person coming from an enormous concrete city with millions of inhabitants suddenly feels at ease with life around. It is strange how we from big cities are so used to other people, but so afraid of other creatures. Now I am no longer frightened of the geckos, or beetles, or spiders, if I do not want to share room with them, i take them out. That is all.

This weekend, had a very slow pace. I could say I did nothing really, but it felt like so many things happened. No light when the storm broke out, many stars in the sky when there was no rain, and the eternal passing clouds. Brain ( Horm’s 17 year old son), brought his girlfriend over, and I could only tell she was his girlfriend because he combed her hair.

The Thai seem to be very very discrete in love matters. Brain usually avoids talking to me all together, this weekend he brought me sweets. He did not give them to me, he gave them to Non Nan who was in front of me, and she passed them on to me. But he had bought them for me! So when I later said “thank you” and he replied  “you are welcome” I was bewildered. Then I said I was hot, and he brought me the fan. I was not saying it to him, of to anyone, just saying something to Non Nan, something she could understand. I was surprised again. He understood me, and was relating to me. See the little things in rural Thailand suddenly mean much more. And in fact it is not so little. It is huge, it is getting closer to someone who is there, and is shy and takes his time, but in fact is always very aware of you. It is huge We from the big cities have lost that.

Sunday night ended with Hom, Oh ( masseuse) and I laughing in the porch. Horm and I were having massage, and talking about the silliest things. Lying down on the floor, looking at the sky. They were laughing at my shaved legs. Thais do not shave. Th’e like their hair. “Well, Asians barely have hair” I replied. They laughed! Oh shared with us the details of shaving practices of all countries she had worked in. Those were Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey, Korea, and Hungary. It was hilarious. She told us about all situations a masseuse can get into. We laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

Today in school I was left alone the whole day. Horm was enormously busy planning for the English Camp. Most of the day went fine. I even joined the kids in cleaning the school. Can you believe that ? I have the most beautiful pictures ever of Ben washing up plates. I will hopefully post them soon.

I have not mentioned before, but Thai kids hit each other a lot!!! I tried to implement the “no hitting” policy in my class, but it was piratically a complete loss of time. They are simply soooo used to hitting each other, and kicking, and using the ruler over each other’s head, and screaming that even while I was saying no hitting, not nice to one, someone else was already kicking someone else. Well… again no one cries….So one side of me, who wants to respect their cultural ways feels I should say nothing, but when I see a kid with an enormous ruler smashing someone else s head, I cant take it. So I spent enormous time just stopping hitting. And being me, I did it in a totally calm, pacifist and eventually dismayed way.

Then there was game time, which was a total disaster, as Pai started crying, and I could not figure out why. And obviously she could not explain me even if she wanted to. This 12 year old, who is usually super helpful, just sat down, lowered her head, and did not want to play, or lift her head up. I sat next to her, asking ” why are you crying ?” and caressing her for about 10 minutes to no avail. In the end, Non Nan was able to explain me it was because she did not want to be in Tawit’s ( a little fat boy who is hipper active) team.

When things were finally resolved Horm, showed up to invite me to come talk to the supervisor ( or as she calls it ” the super advisor”) of the region. He wanted to meet me, and take pictures and ask me questions such as ” What do yo think about Thailand? ANd how about Thai Culture? Thai students? Thai teachers?” and so on. He also had more elaborate questions which his very poor English made it impossible for me to understand, and even harder for me to answer.

You have to remember, all of this is happening with people understanding only a few words of what you say. And you having to speak slowly, and clearly and simply. And lots of what they are saying is just lost. Lost in translation, in pronounciation, in smiles. It is lot of guessing. But he was kind, he told me he would like to take me to visit the region, and that when i return to Thailand he would show me all around. He said he could see in the eyes of the kids how happy they were. I “way-ed” saying “kop kum ka” ( thank you)

The principal of my school, who wants to take me to karaoke this week, decided to make a garden behind the volleyball court. Horm was super unhappy about it, as she thinks it not only reduces the playing area for the kids (being therefore a bad idea), but also that no flowers would grow being hit by balls all the time. And let me tell you Horm has a beautiful garden and loves plants!!!

I agreed with her, but as I was invited to plant, I did. The gardeners were completely amused at my farang performance:) They were nice though. And they took cell pictures of me -planting . Horm, said to me in English ” what a stupid idea, don’t u think?” She was delighted she could curse their plan in a language they cant understand. We laughed. And then we rode home. We stopped by the rice fields, the market, and as everybody knows me now, and as I know them as well, time passes slow, but I notice much more things then ever.

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