Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Saturday in the Village, ABCs, and the White Wat

Today was one of the best days in Thailand. With "Thai Lovin" now a thing of the past, I started the day with nothing but smiles from a good night's sleep and no stomach aches. Everyone else in the house was up early, ready to make their way over to the resource center for the new Saturday morning program. The SOLD Project's Resource Center is located just outside the village where most of the outreach work is done.

We arrived to the Resource Center close to 8:30am to begin teaching at 9am, but many of the children from the village had already arrived and were eager to get started. With ages ranging from 7-14 years old, almost 50 students were divided into three levels based on their individual progress with English. The night before, Deirdre had designed a 2 hour lesson plan for the Level 1 students and had approached me about assisting with the lesson. I was ecstatic about the opportunity to teach the young Level 1 students the English alphabet.

As we started going through the alphabet, Christa, Brady, and I had the 28 students repeat each letter of the alphabet a few time, writing down each letter as we went from A to Z. Their enthusiasm was impressive, and I realized that they understood only a small amount of what we were saying and more from what we were doing. After making our way through the ABCs and a few rounds of the alphabet song, we were finally able to allow the students to put their knowledge of the letters to the test in a few short games.

We had them practice writing the alphabet as teams in a race, shaping their bodies as a small team into different letters, and then finally, a closed-note game with the entire group of students getting a random letter and trying as fast as they could to run up to the front and put their letter in order on one of the two tables.

As time grew short with the day quickly heating up, the students were released back to their homes to enjoy the rest of their Saturday. Before we headed back into Chiang Rai, we drove through the village where most of the students live and play. As we drove through the village, I couldn't help but think how irrelevant English, or even staying in school past 9th grade, could be for many of these children.

After much inquiry (a regularity now that I am here with Rachel and Nate who are so patient with all of my questions), I discovered that parents in the village either cannot afford their children's education past 9th grade or they view children as lazy if they are not contributing to their family by working on the farms or in the fields. Needless to say, it was enlightening to be part of The SOLD Project that morning. This feeling was captured in a picture at one of the most picturesque places in the village.

Once we got back on the road to Chiang Rai, we made short detour for lunch and to visit the White Wat. This was quite a unique sight, and we were able to walk around and inside the temple.

Pictures weren't allowed inside the temple, but I can attest to the fact that the paintings on the walls inside the temple are nothing like other Buddhist temples. There were paintings of the twin towers burning on one wall and on an adjacent wall, depictions of superheroes and hollywood characters--even a scene from Avatar. By far, the most peculiar aspect of this modern temple were the hands coming up from ground at the entrance. Can you spot the red finger-nailed hand?? Crazy, huh?

Well, after this incredible morning filled with laughter, joy, and excitement, we found ourselves settled back at the house for some relaxation and reflection. A bit later, I cruised through Chiang Rai on my first motorbike ride. With Brady on a bike in front of me, I had a chance to get a feel for the downtown traffic, driving on the right side of the road, and getting a bug stuck in my eye. Later in the evening, we went for a walk through the city, ate salads with curried chicken, and found ourselves back at the house for another game of Apples to Apples. Another great day in Chiang Rai, and by far the best one yet.

Next up on The Dandygram: Motorbikes, Night Bazaar, and PEACE HOUSE.

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