February 7th, 2013
Fundraiser in the Works
We have been on the island a week, today. We took these last 7 days to relax and get use to our new surroundings and now we are ready. We are ready to dedicate the next 7 days to the fundraiser for Burmese school children. Yesterday, Oiy our dear Thai friend drove me on her motorbike to the Koh Phayam School. It is such a cute school with about 7 rooms. The shutter doors and windows were wide open, so that when we entered the school grounds, I could see and hear the children talking, laughing and playing. It was that lovely sound of children`s voices that puts a smile on most people`s faces. If only as adults we could keep that playfulness, that resilience for being in the moment in every moment.
It was just after lunch time so they were lined up holding their cups and toothbrushes. Most of the children do not brush their teeth at home so it is an activity that the school has adopted in order to educate dental hygiene. I think it`s a great idea and might consider doing this at my own daycare.
I love Asian children. There is innocence and shyness that is so endearing to me. They greeted me with beautiful smiles and looked upon me with their large, dark, brown eyes and my heart melted. In Thailand children wear school uniforms with the school logo embroidered on the left side right near the heart. From what I can see younger children wear white color shirts with brown shorts and older kids wear darker brown uniforms. As I stood watching them brush their teeth I noticed that a handful of students were not wearing uniforms but tattered street clothes and no shoes. I was later told that these children were admitted to the school later in the year and did not receive the government donation of a uniform. These children were to do without as their parents were unable to afford the uniform and shoes for that matter. It is such a great reminder as to all that we have in Canada. Some children here have no shoes and if I think of my own closet back home, I have several pairs for different occasions.
Oiy introduced me to 3 teachers. One was a petite Thai woman. In my books Thai woman are very beautiful with their dark hair and skin, and graceful manners. The other teacher was a tall, slim young Thai man and the 3rd a male foreigner from Ethiopia who`s name was Philippe. This meeting was about establishing contact and letting them know about the great people in Canada that contributed money towards Burmese children in their school. The conversation was mostly in Thai. The Thai language is a tonal language with low, mid and high tones. I could catch a few worlds here and there but depended on Oiy`s translation for the main message of the conversation. We established that shoes and uniforms were needed, that the tattered soccer nets needed replacing and also sports uniforms could be of great use. I left the school with a list written in Thai indicating what we were to purchase. In order to obtain our treasures we would have to go to the main land of Ranong.
February 8th, 2013
A visit to the School
The day after my visit to the school Jay and I brought Zoe and Owen for a tour. We really wanted them to be part of the experience of giving. We wanted them to meet the children and teachers before our shopping trip. We arrived unannounced and were greeted with open arms. On our arrival students were sitting at their desks writing and learning. I introduced Jay, Zoe and Owen to the teachers and we had a nice conversation about our project. Philippe the teacher from Ethiopia kindly told us not to feel disappointed if the Thai`s reaction to our generosity was minimal. It is Thai culture to not show great appreciation, or happiness when given something as this might be viewed as greedy. It always amazes me how cultures vary from one another. In Canada we would find it offensive to not show gratitude. It is no wonder that throughout the ages misunderstandings and even wars have occurred at the cost of cultural differences. I was grateful that Philippe shared with us this insight.
While we were talking I noticed these two boys wrestling and smiled. Although customs and cultures can separate, we are so the same in so many ways. Here I was observing 2 boys throwing pretend punches, kicking and tackling one another to the ground. They were wrestling in the same way Canadian boys do and other boys do around the world. Despite cultural differences there are common threads between every culture in the world. We all wish to be happy, to be healthy, to be loved and accepted. We wish that for ourselves and for our family.
As we left we walked by a classroom with children talking in chorus. Thailand teaches their children by rote and the children were repeating something in Thai. When the teacher saw us walk by she invited us to come in. Next thing I knew I was standing in front of the class singing: `` If you happy and you know it`` and `` head and shoulders knees and toes``. It felt so natural and I revelled in every moment. It brought me back in time to when I taught English in Surathani. Thai children have respect for their teachers and are receptive students. I do not have a teaching degree and yet I taught English to young Thai children. As Kru (teacher) Annie, I gave it my best. I read every teaching resource available to me and learned as I went. I felt passionate about getting my students to speak, listen, read, and speak a language that felt so natural for me. As I stood in front of those Burmese children singing and having fun I remembered how fun and rewarding it was to teach.
February 9th, 2013
This morning we woke up early, hopped on a moto taxi to the pier and took the slow boat to Ranong. The slow boat is exactly that, slow. It moves tediously through the ocean waters and gently rocks in rhythm with the waves. Zoe felt sea sick while I felt the waves rocking me to sleep. When the kids started getting bored we played geography. Once the boat took port in Ranong we jumped into a pickup truck to the `Thalat`(market). I love riding in the back of a pickup truck it bring s me back to my childhood and my dad`s lime green GMC. I got many rides in the back of that lime pickup truck with the wind blowing through my hair and a feeling of pure freedom.
We were to meet the beautiful Thai teacher and the tall slim teacher at the Seven Eleven at 12:00. We arrived a little early so Jay and Owen stayed behind while Zoe and I checked out the market. It was Chinese New Year and the place was just a bustling. The indoor section was packed with stores selling shirts, flip flops, plastic toys, nick knacks, and other necessities. It was chaotic with people walking in all directions and scooters driving through the crowd. Zoe tried to hold onto my hand but it was impossible as we had to walk single file. Walking out of the indoor complex into the outdoor we were assaulted with the smell of fish. Big silver grey bowls held squid, red and white snapper, and other kinds of fish that I was unfamiliar with. Plucked chickens lied in stillness with clawed feet sticking to the heavens. It was a far cry different from our markets in Ottawa. In these moments of navigating through the market, Zoe hit culture shock so we walked through quickly and left for the Seven Eleven where Jay, Owen and the 2 teachers were waiting for us.
In yoga we speak of Karma Yoga which means being of service to others without any strings attached. This is exactly what our mission felt like and it felt so good to be giving for the sake of giving. In practicing Karma Yoga one feels the joy and happiness of giving. We put ourselves aside and know that the happiness of others brings us happiness. So far this has been my experience in organizing this fundraiser.