School Break ‘Projects’

I’ve written previously how much my students and their friends enjoy coming to my house for visits. Now that midterm break is upon us, interested parties show up on occasion and this past Saturday was no exception. A couple of gals showed up to give me chocolate (bonus!) and sat on my porch to make lotus flower offerings to the Buddha. I sat with them reading on my Kindle and they interrupted me with an idea.

My fish pond was looking a little worse for wear in the algae department. The girls decided the fish were desperate for a clean home and they were determined to give it to them. Being fairly experienced in the ‘ambitious ideas without much follow through’ department, I told them to go right ahead, holding my doubts to myself and continued reading. To my utter surprise though, they chugged right along through emptying the pond, scrubbing, rinsing, cleaning the fish, and refilling it back up again. Somewhere along the way I started helping. And taking pictures.

The ‘before’ picture, the water is so green it almost looked solid up close

The three of us dumped water using the small buckets normally reserved with toilet flushing

Up close and personal with the algae

I think the part they liked the most was ‘catching’ the fish

Getting down into it

They had no problem manhandling these slippery little creatures into cleanliness… I did

The finished product!

It’s so nice to sit on my porch and actually be able to watch the fish now, so I’m really, really glad I gave in to their idea of a project instead of sitting by myself reading my book. Being this far in, America being only a few months away, I need days like this one to remind me why I do love the randomness of Thailand and make me less of a PCV grump. This is not something I would have wanted to do on my precious weekends during school and I wonder if my girls felt this way too. Either way, I thought this made a perfect example of the phrase ‘many hands make light work.’ And kind of fun too actually. Who’d have known?

Days Like This…

…make it all worthwhile. A short little ditty about what makes a PCV’s heart go a fluttering. Sorry about the photo quality, I only had my Itouch, but I had to capture this moment.

Today, I stepped out of the normal lesson plan and showed a youtube video (there are six parts, watch the first part here) about the flooding in Thailand that another Volunteer sent around. The audio is in Thai and has English subtitles. Since we are in one of the affected provinces, I thought this would be worthwhile for my students to watch as a bit of environmental awareness and some critical thinking. I had watched the youtube videos previously, written down some notes, and hoped my coteacher would lead a discussion. She took it up a notch and we had an idea for a project in five minutes.

Splitting our students up into three groups each handling one part of the videos we showed, we gave them questions in English that they had to translate, then answer in Thai, and then try to make up some English sentences. (Honestly, when they get a subject, a verb, or a place thrown together, I’m a happy camper.) Then they were going to do a ‘mapping’ project using large poster sheet paper (which totally brought me back to the constant ‘debriefs’ we had in PST). Next class, they’re presenting their work.

I almost scrapped the whole idea when my coteacher told me fifteen minutes before class that all but two of the girls (and my best students) would be going to the temple to serve food. (This isn’t new and it infuriates me that they take them out of class to essentially waitress for random ‘important’ people in the community, deep breath Erin.) There are some good male specimens in my sixth grade class, but if I’m realistic, most of them are gangsters as my grandmother would say. They, however, blew me away. And I got photographic evidence.

Bringing technology in the classroom, we huddled around my macbook, but they were on their knees craning over each other to watch the clip, this alone was pretty jaw-dropping to me

Getting this group of boys to hit the books was something I never thought I would witness

Working together instead of beating each other up or giving me grief... is this an alternate universe?

The boy looking at the camera is particularly prickily when it comes to English, but he was at least quiet and feigned interest (that's a win)

Finished project and a big smile

They told me they were the most handsome looking group so they were going to have the prettiest poster, do you agree?

I had to hide my face more than once from them so they didn’t see the tears of happiness in my eyes. I have to be the tough guy with them to keep their respect. Instead I made them run laps when they were sloppy and scolded them when they spoke impolitely. But with a smirk on my face.

I know it doesn’t seem like much, but to me, it’s motivation to keep going, to keep trying, to not give up on the boys that have already given up on themselves or the sometimes crazy Thai education system. I only have about another sixteen months here. Better make it count.

Forget that coffee and change a life today!

So there is a project floating around Peace Corps Thailand lately called ‘Youth serving YOUth.’ It’s a really awesome thing consisting of Thai youth showing leadership potential and learning how to apply it to better their own communities. Many places in Thailand lack organized sports, after school activities (outside of cleaning the school), or other early development projects, so something like this will likely change the lives of those that attend. Encouraging Thai youth to strive for more, whether educational or otherwise, is something I’m very passionate about. I would not be the person I am today without the lessons I learned from role models and activities I participated in as a child and then teenager.

I’ve looked over the proposal, budget, and assorted necessities and I really think this is legit. I really wish I could attend with a few of my students, but I don’t feel like I know them well enough after just a few months here and I think it’s better suited for older, high school level students. I hope to start more youth driven activities here in my site, once I’ve settled in fully and my brain isn’t on such an emotional rollercoaster. Back on subject though.

Consider the cost of a daily Starbucks cappa-frappa-do-whats. At around $4 and change, let’s round it up to five dollars, that’s about 150 baht, enough to cover someone’s stay at the conference. Multiply that times five. That’s 750 baht. We’re trying to raise the last $910 for the project, so every little bit counts. If you want to see any more information, like the plan for the conference, details of the budget, or anything else, please email me for further information.  Click here for the official Peace Corps project page for more information or where you can make a tax-deductible donation if you wish.

As Gandhi said, ‘be the change you wish to see in the world.’ I’m not saying do something crazy like join those nutty hippies in the Peace Corps, but maybe forego those coffees for a day, a week, a month and change a kid’s life forever in rural Thailand.