We finally arrived in Kranuan, Thailand after spending a couple of days in and out of airports. Luckily we had friends to visit along the way. We had a 24-hour layover in Singapore and spent one night in Bangkok, before jumping on yet another airplane to take us to Khon Kaen where we were met by Jonathan (friend from MN) and Nathaporn (Jasmine) our gracious host and director of the school we would be working with. Peter is a member of the board for The Nonsomboon Project a non-profit started by our friend Jonathan Hatch. We came this time around to check things out, Peter to do a needs assessment and I to be the first volunteer!
We drove through sugar cane fields and leap-frogged passed trucks loaded with cassava root on our way to the place we would call home for the next two weeks in rural northeast Thailand. Jasmine and her husband Tony were like our mom and dad, providing meals for us, showing us around town, and welcoming us into their home. I was dubbed “Wah-ree” (meaning “river”) which is the easiest way to pronounce “Valerie” in Thai since they don’t differentiate between [l/r] and [v] is hard to articulate. Jonathan was called “Cho-la-tan” another word for river. Confused, I asked “What is the difference between my river and his?” Nathaporn laughed after thinking about the answer and then told us that my river is clean while his is dirty… It was a running joke the rest of our stay.
For the next couple weeks, we got to know the students, staff, and surrounding community of Namoon School. The first week the kids were knee deep into Scout Week. Kind of like a scout program for boys and girls both. From what we could tell by watching, they learned to do militaristic things with sticks, march, and cook over fires. They prepared dances and skits to perform for the teachers before a roaring bonfire, after which they snuggled into tents set up on the school-yard field. It was quite an event.
The second week, I prepared lesson plans for the three of us to teach. We made hoops on Monday after learning about shapes, on Wednesday we learned colors and songs that I accompanied on mandolin and on Friday we learned body parts and actions and then went outside for folk dancing in the field. Peter led a successful snake dance for the first time while I played mando. The students had a lot of fun and were very sad that we couldn’t stay longer.
On our last day at school, we were given a big send-off. Students made cards for us and thanked us by tying little white strings on our wrists for good luck. That staff did the same, everyone saying over and over either “khap kun krap” (men) or “khap kun kaa” (women), meaning thank you in Thai. The song for this post is linked through youtube below the pictures. It’s called Kin Tap and it’s what the Thai kids loved dancing to during scout camp. Imagine little kids skanking and jumping around a huge bonfire. Teachers too! Jonathan Hatch gets credit for most photos.