As I mentioned, Wednesday I headed down to Bangkhonthii with a dozen people in tow, up from my usual one (or none) – a much anticipated event by the locals. The director, Khruu Pitsamai, called me the night before to confirm that we were still coming and told me she was worried that the locals had prepared too much for us.
The visit was a big deal in part because it represented an opportunity to thank me and Tod for our volunteering but also because it was an opportunity to present their community to foreigners – Bangkhonthii is a place you pass by on the way to the Damnoen Saduak floating market, not somewhere that foreigners usually stop in. The more exposure the district gets the more economic benefits it might enjoy.
Right: a bulletin board showing pictures of our visits to the school from the first day Tod and I stopped by to volunteer. Tod’s name is written in Thai in the area with the red border.
Tod and I had spent some time discussing how to best organize things and we ultimately divided the day into four parts:
First, as we started teaching we had all the children (about 46 of them) in one room and they each went around and introduced themselves. The older children also shared their favourite fruit, animal, etc.
Then we broke into six separate activity groups and spent about fifteen minutes in each group. The activity groups included two visitors and seven to eight children apiece. The groups were as follows:
- Sing a song – My mother and father taught the children “The Itsy, Bitsy Spider,” “Hokey-Pokey” and “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” The last one was the favourite, especially with the younger children.
- Read a book – Marc and Jackson had a selection of English-language books including “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss, that they read to the students and then asked questions and practiced repeating sentences.
- Make a sentence – Sandy and Dick used seven sets of photos for the students to look through and practice making sentences about the pictures. Some of the more advanced students also practiced making questions and then took turns answering them.
- Giving directions – Tod and Darrin played a game where a child would be blindfolded and another child would give directions to get the first child from one chair to another.
- Opposites – Ken and I reviewed pair words (hot/cold, good/bad, lazy/diligent) with the children and then each was given a word on an index card and had to pair up with the person holding the card with the opposite word.
- Bingo – Lily, her mother, and Tawn led their groups in a game of bingo. Self-explanatory.
Some pictures of the activities. Click on them to enlarge.
Clockwise from upper left: Sandy and students make sentences from pictures; Tawn and Lily’s mother play bingo; Ken and I do an activity about opposites; my mother and the students sing “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”; Tod and Darrin lead an activity about directions.
The third part of the day following an elaborately-prepared lunch was a khlong (canal) tour of the Bangkhonthii Amphoe (district) in four boats provided by the head of the school board. We stopped at his elaborate Thai-style khlong-side house – “compound” might be a more accurate word – and enjoyed beverages before heading back to the school.
Left: Four of the most studious students were invited to join us on the tour of the district.
Above, left to right: A man and his grandson at a local khlong-side market; an ice-cream vendor along the khlong; Jackson (in blue), Khruu Somchai, Tod, Dariin, my mother and father riding in a long-tail board; a view up the khlong.
Left: Lily, Khruu Pitsamai (the director of the school) and Lilian’s mom. Right: Tod and Darrin at the school.
Right: Three of my students, plus one sibling who attends another school, playing on a bridge in front of their house, alongside the khlong. Since today was a special event, the children were given the second half of the day off school. We scored high marks in their books because of this!
Finally, after all was said and done, we headed out for a nice riverside seafood dinner as the sun set over the Mae Khlong River. It actually started raining just as dessert was served and on our way home we encountered some patches of torrential rain.
On the way back we saw a very frightening sight: a tanker truck on the other side of the highway had clipped another car and, it seemed, had torn through a section of guard rail. It was engulfed in intense flames and in the rain, the burning fuel had spread into a slick, causing a section 40-50 meter section of road to have flames burning up to 10 meters high. The heat was so intense we could feel it on the other side of the road even though a small khlong runs between the two sides. And the smoke was so thick that we shut off the air conditioner and could barely see the car in front of us. To top it off, this was one of those areas where we encountered torrential rain – very odd to see flames and smokes of an intensity matched by the rain!
All in all, the experience seems to have been a very good one for everyone, perhaps their most memorable part of the trip.
Thursday morning we headed up to Chiang Mai where we’ll spend five days. I have some pictures for that but need to get back to the hotel for our 1:00 pick-up. More tomorrow.