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Volunthai’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 30 Sep 2007

Location: Rasi Salai, Thailand

MapA Family's Volunteer Experience
by John Battye (john@johnbattye.com)

In Thailand, basic proficiency with the English language can mean the difference between living your life in the rice fields or making some real income and helping your family with basic needs. I am not saying that farming is a bad life, and in many respects simple village ways have a lot to offer over all the racing around that we do, but it is a hard life and surplus income is not a benefit.
This is why my seven-year-old, Jennifer, or my ten-year-old, Timmy, could stand in front of these kids and lead a lesson. They are native speakers. Jennifer loved the beginnings of class, but usually my wife or I would take over at that point with the lesson of the day and leave the last ten minutes to her to teach the students a new song.

My purpose in writing today is to let you know that you can do something like this and that it may be easier than you think. The benefits of making such a trip far outweigh the fears that might hold you back. There were so many moments that made it all worthwhile: My daughter, only there a week, proclaiming with conviction that we have way too much “stuff” at home and could get along just fine with just a couple of toys, watching my sons bargain (respectfully, artfully, and successfully) in Thai at the local market, having the chance to watch the stars in an ink black sky from the back of a pickup, being part of daily life in a rural Thai village populated with the most generous people on earth, and, most importantly, seeing all of my kids pick up the custom of local Thai children who treat helping out and daily chores as an honor, not an obligation. Imagine that!

There are actually lots of ways to get yourself to some exotic sounding place in the world where you get to live with a local family as we did and do something good for the community. As we discovered, most of them cost thousands of dollars, and that’s on top of airfare. But with a patient search and networking (initially through the ubiquitous internet) with other families who have stretched out of their nests, you will find all sorts of ideas and opportunities abroad. When we first began this process we hadn’t even considered Thailand. It became the front runner very quickly because we were looking for a safe, friendly place where people loved children and Americans.

I totally agree with Michael Anderson, the Volunthai founder, who said that you couldn’t possibly give one tenth of what you will get back from the experience.


HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS FAST IN THAILAND
By Jennifer Battye, age 7

If you do not speak someone’s languidge you can just keep smiling and make your expereshen on your face say I like you. Will you be my friend. Let’s play together.

Kids like to play games like Old Maid. Before you deal the cards get the old maid and show it and say “Mai Ow!” which is Not Want! After you deal show two matches and point to them. Put them on the table. You can play Pairs, too. Lay all the cards on the table. Pick two up and if they are the same put them on a pile in front of you. If they are not the same put them back face down. At the end of the game who over has the most matches wins!

At the playground you can laugh together. To act like monkeys say “Ling, Ling” and go in the tree and scratch our heads and tummys and make monkey noises and faces. When it is time to go you will have many friends!

If you want to give compliments say, “Dee” (good), “Dee Mak” (very good) or “Gang Mak” (very, very good.)

Thai people are the nicest people in the world.