Thursday, January 20, 2011

Not to Cool for School

This morning we go to the local village school. I am very excited by this and look forward to seeing how this village conducts a typical school day. I have no expectations, and keep my mind wide open. We start our walk to the school at 9:00 a.m. And of course, no day is without adventure. This mornings is the swaying bridge and with 63 humans (3 of which are our guides) and 20 dogs. We have a posse of dogs that always like to escort our large group. I begin to feel that this cannot end well. There is massive swaying and I cannot help but think of the scene from 'Horton Here's a Who', when Horton, voiced by Jim Carrey, attempts to cross a similar bridge. I sway and trip and pat the dog who has suddenly decided to lay down in front of me because he cannot keep his balance. I ask Ekk if anyone has have ever fallen off the bridge and into the water and he laughs and tells me, 'No... but I think you may be our first.'

Adventure follows me everywhere but I reach do reach the end. We walk about about a quarter mile and reach the school.

We reach the school yard and it filled with about seventy children of all ages. We are split into ten different groups and assigned different activities to assist with. Sabine and I both get cooking. Sabine helps with the frying of cookies called 'pop' because when they pop in the oil, they are done cooking.

I help squeeze hot dog meat filled with chicken out of their casing.

This seven year old next to me expertly wields her big sharp knife and slices the hotdogs in half. I am alarmed, surprised and impressed with confidence and agility in using the knife...

I ask if I can take the girls picture but they are shy, so I take it and show them. They immediately giggle and I can tell that they LOVE seeing themselves in my pictures. Some of the other children see me taking the pictures and they all proceed to rearrange themselves together so I will continue to take their pictures. They are adorable!

The teachers are very nice and tell the children to offer samples of what they've prepared. I am not a fan of the chicken hot dogs that were deep fried but the pop cookie is delicious and so I buy a bag for 10 baht. All the cooking that the kids are doing is packaged to sell at the markets. The school day is quite different than a typical school in the U.S. Above the kitchen area where we are cooking, I can hear a cacaphony of music as the some of the kids are having music lessons. Two doors down there are kids making handmade bracelets and necklaces that are also to be sold. I buy a necklace that consists of a black cord with some colored beads and some shells strung on it. I love it! There are classrooms too and some if the other volunteers are helping with art projects. It becomes obvious that the children in this school are being taught academics as well as the sort of home economics skills that are required for the village survival. I admire this since most of the six years olds here could whip a peanut butter and jelly sandwich better than some twelve year old boys I used to know!

The school rooms themselves surround an open courtyard where two games of volleyball have started. The kids are getting a lot less shy around us and grab hands from most of us to play volleyball with them. Some are bold enough as to tickle our sides as they run past us. There is a lot of laughter and giggles in the courtyard and the sun warms my face making me feel extra happy.

By 11:15, it is time for the volunteer group to head back to the Elephant Park. The kids are sad to see us go but they yell and wave goodbye cheerfully. This was a nice change to our typical day at the sanctuary and am thankful that we got a chance to participate in it.