I had many favorite days but this one was probably the best.
‘Twas my last Saturday in Thailand. Beca had already left and I had been staying at Olesya’s apartment. She is a very sweet and incredibly mature and intelligent girl I know from working in Honors. She had been doing an internship with the United Nations World Food Programme (Impressive, I know). We signed up to volunteer with In Search of Sanuk to volunteer to help teach English to kids in Bangkok’s slums.
We got to the BTS station where people were supposed to pick us up. We met a few other volunteers – two American and one American/Singaporean – as well as the passionate genius behind the organization, Dwight, from Atlanta. We piled into a taxi and merged onto the traffic jammed Bangkok streets. We passed through Siam, the rich shopping district, and stopped at our destination only a few meters away from that area. We walked along these railroad tracks with shacks built alongside. The residents in their raggedly clothes peeked at us. One friendly lady with broken teeth warmly greeted us and told me her name.
We walked into a classroom which consisted of two chalkboards and a few benches in the middle of the room. The kids suddenly came running in with big smiles on their faces. My mood was immediately lifted. It took a while to get the rowdy kids settled. Us volunteers sat and had some kids in their laps while Dwight yelled over the kids to repeat words that started with A, B, C… The wild little boys could not sit still. They fidgeted around their chairs and kicked their dirty bare feet in the air. They showed their broken blackened teeth as they roared with giggles. We helped them sound out words like “flower” and “happy”. We later played some interactive games and had the kids played with cameras. They surely love getting their photo taken. An older woman gave us powdered milk tablets as a gift. The kids ate them like candy. The kids didn’t know any English but we didn’t need to communicate verbally. Smiling, giggling, and tickling was enough to understand each other. A Thai teacher gave them a moral lesson at the end of the day. She was great with the kids.
These kids had nothing but were happier than any kids I’ve ever encountered. Unlike some kids are so spoiled and are never satisfied. They always want more and are so ungrateful. Their parents mean well and want what’s best for their kids, but fancy toys will do no good. All they need are cardboard boxes, blocks, writing utensils, etc. Let them use their imaginations. Anyway the morning session was very rewarding and eye opening. The fact that these slums were meters away from the hectic and expensive shopping district is symbolic of the economic inequality in Bangkok.
Photos by Olesya.
Later that day the volunteers had lunch and I learned how they came to live in Thailand. Everyone was very cultured and had warm hearts.
Later we went to the next place. They had been working with those kids for quite some time so they knew some English. As soon as we walked in, kids came jumping onto us and greeted us with hugs. They were so tiny and light and fun to spin around in circles and run around with them on our backs. We played a bunch of games to help them learn English. I could not stop laughing and smiling the whole time. One time this boy was tackling me with tickles and it started feeling sensations of torture. Tickling is fun and all but only to a point. I thought I was going to die.
Down by the Banks
“Lianne, are you going to come back?”
It was hard to leave.