Friday, June 17, 2005

wun song (day two)

The language barrier is tough. I learned proper Thai from our teacher in Bangkok, Kun Oiy, but the kids at Moo Baan Dek don't really adhere to what is proper. So I speak what I can, I ask the same limited questions over and over and never really undestand the response that I recieve. But a lot can be conveyed through body language and the drawing of pictures. Play doesn't really require language. It feels good to make the kids laugh and they can make me laugh too, without words. My group left today... Chris and Erica are off to Nakom Pathom and the Asok community, John and Tarn are off to Bangkok to pick up Allison. I'm left at Moo Baan Dek to fend for myself.
O.K., not really. I don't have to fend for myself. The Moo Baan Dek community has accepted me most graciously and they include me every meal and activity that I wish to be included in. Danny is an incredible English-speaking resource for me. He's someone I can talk to not just about the particular happenings of the day, but also about his theory on the success and or failure of the school's method. I also am intrigued by his incredible amount of patience and compassion for every member of the community, even in the most stressful of times. Oh yeah, I almost forgot... today I ate some red ant eggs. The ladies in the village go and gather them every day from high in the trees. It's really quite difficult to do. A bunch were hanging out in the kitchen of the house that I stay in at lunch and they offered some to me. Cooked up with some Thai spices they were pretty good... that is until that aversion to eating insects popped up in the back of my mind. Needless to say, I only ate one spoonful. Still, I might have to try a cicada before I leave the country!
I've successfully overcome quite a few aversions in my short time in Thailand and especially at Moo Baan Dek. I always have ants crawling on myself and everything I own. There really is never a time in which I'm not dirty, especially my feet, which are gradually becoming more and more blackened. I sleep under a mosquito net at night, which is a bit comforting seeing as there are lizards of all sizes everywhere, very strange looking insects, and poisonous snakes living all around me. I've come to accept it and not really care anymore, which is a feeling that is quite liberating.
I want to write a few words about the philosophy behind Moo Baan Dek before I begin to share my experiences there because I think that it is important in understanding the goings on of the school. Moo Baan Dek is an alternative Buddhist school for orphans and for children whose families live under the UN poverty line. It is Buddhist in that the students and teachers of the school accept the five precepts of Buddhism. It is alternative in that it does not conduct in the same way that the Thai government-funded public schools do. That is, Moo Baan Dek stresses the idea of teacher not as authority, but as a friend along the path of personal and spiritual growth. In Pali, the word for this type of spiritual friend is "kalayanamit." Teachers at Moo Baan Dek do not discipline children, if a wrong is done it is brought up in the school council and the conviction and punishment is decided by popular vote. Each person, whether he or she be teacher, student, or staff, is allowed one vote. If a student has a problem or if a teacher has a problem, each has to present it to the council. Students are also not forced to come to class. Any student on any given day can choose to either come to class or to play all day. Interestingly enough, nearly every child comes to class every day. Just because they want to. I like that.
I have to say that though some of these children are the wildest tree climbing, rolling in the dirt, lack of manners kids I think I've ever encountered, they also display the most genius and ingenuity I have ever experienced from childred. In the morning at around six-thirty I have been going to the organic garden in the village to help with the day's work. It's very humbling to have a five or six year-old child show me what to do and how to do it! These kids are masters of gardening, weaving, and carpentry. Yesterday I took a walk to the herb garden and found about five kids brandishing a long bamboo pole, sharpened at the end, and speared into a smoldering and smoking coconut rind. One of them then proceeded to climb high in a tree and prod at a bee's nest, tryung to knock it down for its honey. My first instinct was to say "Stop, don't do that!" because it was super dangerous. I didn't say that however, because the truth of the matter is, I don't have authority over my fellow people here. I learn and they learn from experience and if that experience entails falling from a tree and being attacked by a swarm of bees, then so be it. We either learn to not do it again, or to do it in a more tactful, different way. But we never learn not to try.


Blogger Malia said...

Hey Sarah,
It's meeh, Malia. I was just writing to say hello and let you know I'm thinking of you and miss you hella. I hope your having great time and that you don't come back with black feet. I can't really write much but wanted you to know your in my thoughts and prayers.

5:52 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Hi sarah, your blog grabbed my attention. Im about to travel from Australia to northern Thailand next month and Ive neer been to asia before... any survival tips?? it sounds like you are really making an effort to immerse yourself in the culture, which is what I hope to do but I am so clueless!

6:03 PM  
Blogger Emily Posey said...

Hey Sarah,
We were thrilled to hear from you yesterday. Dad had an awesome fathers day and had a huge smile on his face when i played him you message. Hope your having a great time and we miss you so much!! Love you!

8:36 AM  

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