Saturday, January 16, 2010

Won't Somebody Think of the Children!

The week in Koh Tao wasn't actually entirely unproductive - we met James (who was doing acupuncture treatment at one of the resorts on the island) and his girlfriend, Faie. She had friends back on the mainland who were involved in putting together a two day English language camp for the local kids, and they wanted a few foreigners to come and, well, mostly just speak English (they even took the Brits and the Irish with all their funny accents). Spending a couple of days on a beach playing with Thai kids sounded like fun, so a bunch of signed up to go, and a day after getting off the boat from the Similans, I ended up back in Chumphon meeting up with the other volunteers to head off to the camp.

They got things off on the right foot by putting all of us up at the Nanaburi hotel for the night, which, I suspect, is the nicest hotel in town (and most likely the nicest I'll be staying in on the trip). Sadly it was still a Thai hotel, so it came equipped with standard rock-hard Thai mattresses, but I'm learning to live with those... It must be good for your back, or something...

Fancy in Chumphon

The following morning, we were up at 6AM to head over to the train station, where we were suddenly thrust right into the fire, sharing two train carriages with the 170 kids heading for the camp over the next two hours.

We got along with the kids quite well though. They had a good time too!

And pretty soon we were all at the camp

Can't beat the location - at a beach resort, with a big temple overlooking things

It's not exactly all hard work here...

Marina on the guitar

To say that I thought that the camp was well oranized would be a gross over-statement. I'm pretty sure that the staff just figured putting kids next to a bunch of foreigners would cause them to learn by osmosis... or something along the lines. So the teachers would spend eternities listening to themselves speak, while giving the kids lots of useless rules and regulations. Then they'd release the kids on to us, and get out of the way. We, of course, didn't have much of an idea what to do, but improvised pretty well, singing songs, playing games (some that even involved some basic English), and generally being silly. The kids all had fun, regardless of whether or not they learned anything, and the teachers seemed to enjoy pawning the kids off onto us, so everybody wins! (i think we had fun too, not that any of us were particularly inclined to actually become teachers afterwards). One of the problem was actually that the kids didn't really know all that much English, which made explaining things a little tough, so we stuck to simple games.

The morning of the second day, the monks showed up, the kids gave them alms (food), and we all troooped up the hill to visit the temple. More endlessly boring instructions ensued from the teachers (in Thai only, so it's possible they had a sense of humor, and I just missed it, but I doubt it). The monks also lectured/preached, but that seemed a lot more appropriate, since they are, you know, Buddhist monks.

Monks passing by the kids

Getting closer to the temple

It's a big, imposing structure

Not quite so imposing to keep Adrian and the kids from having a good time

After lunch, it was time to draw what we had all seen at the camp

And play a few more games - Monika and I educated/entertained with a cross between hang man and pictionary. Pet, and his hat (in front) is clearly hoping to grow up to be a gangsta!

And that evening, we all gathered together for one last round of boring lecturing and fun singing, with everyone saying good bye at the finale

Dave, taking in the lectures

All of us at the conclusion

And at this point, I promptly hopped onto a bus and headed off to Bangkok and Burma, hoping that something we had done may eventually be useful for the kids. And if not? Well, we all had fun anyway! Having the most fun was probably little Ahm, who is only 12 years old, but appears to be well on his way to growing up to be a ladyboy. Which, I had heard, isn't entirely unusual in Thailand, but was still a little surprsing to see...

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