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Volunthai’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 27 Aug 2008

Location: Khowang, Yasothon, Thailand

This makes two volunteer posts in a row from Khowang, but I wanted to second everything Morgan said (below) and add some favorite experiences of my own.
I've been at Khowang's 900-student upper school for four weeks, and today is my last day of teaching. My time with these 7th-12th graders has flown by, even on days when I taught five classes, tutored a couple of students for their upcoming speech competition in between, and held English Club for an hour or so after school. (In fact, those were probably the days that went by the fastest!)
At my homestay there are trees bearing bananas, papaya, starfruit, dragonfruit, pomegranates, custard apples, mangoes and pomelo in my yard. I am welcomed home each day by the keening of the family dog, Frook; I go to sleep to the hiccuping noise of geckos and wake up to the crowing of my archnemesis, the rooster; my reading is occasionally interrupted by an enormous belching moo from the sweet-faced family cow, which sounds about the way you'd expect a burp to sound when it's coming from four stomachs.
I have learned that in Thailand, there is no man-in-the-moon, but there is a rabbit-in-the-moon. I have adopted one student's creative description of fried eggs as "egg-stars." I've tasted chewy candies with prune-like properties that make you "poof," according to one of the English teachers here. I've pronounced the words "embroidered design triangle cushions and fragrant Hom Mali rice" twenty or thirty times for a student of mine who will be reading them in the speech competition later this week. I have grown to love my pink mosquito net and to expect tremendous lightning storms two or three times a week. I’ve learned and performed the ‘Banana Dance’ in front of 130 students. I have played Hangman with a class who had the letters D-E-M-O-C-R-A-C-_ and guessed "democrash!" In short, I will never be the same again. And I am glad.
I will miss my English Club spelling bees and my occasional "english-speaking" lunches with mostly tongue-tied 9th graders. I will miss the lunchtime student concerts and the funeral-march-paced school anthem played by the band every morning before the flag-raising ceremony. I will miss the school’s kind director, who is the most serious man I have met in Thailand when it comes to education, but can still be talked into having a Dairy Queen blizzard during a school field trip. And I will miss the wonderful teachers who looked after me during my time here—among them, Pi Paula, who taught me how to make a proper ‘wai’; Pi Tukta, who laughs at everything, and showed me how to shred bamboo; Pi Noi, who tender-heartedly honks her car horn at frogs in the road; Pi Si, who drove us home in the rain; Pi Kae, who introduced me to countless new dishes and who is capable of explaining just about anything in English; and above all, Pi Tuang, my host-sister. I have four sisters back in the States, but Pi Tuang is the first sister to teach me to drive a motorcycle (helmet-less, of course), to help me do my laundry every week, and to go to the market at 6am to buy 'moo ping' (pork satay) for my breakfast. She has taken care of me every step of the way.
I only hope that Khowangwittayakhom School will keep getting volunteers for many years to come, and that someday I will make it back here to relive a truly transformative experience.