I'm not really writing this on day one, actually I've been at Moo Baan Dek four days now... but since I must walk a kilometer and ride the bus for an hour to get to an internet cafe, I'v had to write my journal longhand. So let's just pretend it's day one...
Today was my first full day at Moo Baan Dek. We arrived here yesterday just in time four the daily swim/bath/laundry session. Our contact at the school, Danny Aguilar-Ortiz, a Maryknoll missionary who has been here for six years, quickly ushered us down to a small pier on the river Kwae that was crawling with dozens of absolutely wild children. The kids were leaping into the river in every direction we turned. I suppose this was as good an introduction as any to the jungle that is Moo Baan Dek. Little naked bodies were running, leaping, thrashing around, and climing to the highest hieghts possible in order to drop into the drink below. We all looked at each other with bit of unease... except for John, who was in the river before we knew it! "What the hell!" we decided, and we all jumped in. The river was quite refreshing!
Once we had finished our swim, we took a quick stroll around the campus before going out to dinner with Danny and Chas, a student from Notre Dame, who is doing volunteer work at the school for the summer. We returned from dinner just in time for the weekly student-run council meeting at 8:30 that night. At first, when we arrived at the council room, we thought that maybe we had missed the meeting because there was nobody around, but within a minute a bell rang and kids (and dogs)began to flood in... through the doors, the windows, leaping in, flipping in, crawling in... really, they were entering the room in every way possible and literally swinging from the rafters. Many of the kids swarmed on us "farang" immediatley and very affectionately as soon as they saw our new faces. We all exchanged glances of disbelief as the pandemonium ensued.
Pandemonium it was, until a group of stdents took their place at the front of the council room to begin the meeting. At that point in time, nearly all the energy was focused toward these six students. You see, with the exception of the five precepts of Buddhism that are always in effect as rules, all other school rules are created, tweaked, and destroyed in this very room each week by a vote in which each student and teacher has equal weight. This makes this meeting very important to the children at Moo Baan Dek.
The student-directors of each meeting do not hold these positions for an extended period of time, but rather they are chosen each week to be responsible for directing the proceedings of the next week. So tonight, this weeks leader rang a bell to begin...
The first order of the meeting was to review the rules already in place. Two of which included:
1) The use of a particular type of popular student-made slingshot was permitted providing that it was not shot at people.
2) If a child is within his or her first three months of living at Moo Baan Dek, then he or she is not subject to be punished for breaking the rules except for rules that apply to physical violence.
After the reading of rules, the council then proceeded to take complaints or accusations. One small girl, whom I've now come to know as "Bpoo," stood up and accused some other people of throwing "twenty pieces of trash." However, Bpoo herself, was part of the group that threw the trash. The cooncil, by popular vote, decided that this trash-throwing group would recieve twenty days without snack, but thet Bpoo would only recieve half that sentence because she had told on herself. She was quite excited to figure out half of twenty once she was sentenced! Later, another young boy accused a kindergartener of throwing away her shirt, but when he had to find a witness he discovered that his only witness had curled up and fallen asleep next to me! His case was thrown out.
This acusation session lasted a while longer and the meeting was adjourned. Most of the kids jumped up and bolted out except for a few who stayed to appeal their sentences to a different appeal board who sat and listened to their stories.
Before the night was over we met as a group to discuss our plans. Mine was what I knew it was going to be all along, Moo Baan Dek was the place for me, it's fascinating to interact with such free children. Chris and Erica, with a bit of hesitation, decided to leave and go back to the Asok community that we had visited before, which is also a fantastic place and right up their "sustainable living alley." So I'm left here solo, but I know that it's going to be an incredible experience! More to come...later today.