"White Girl"

"White Girl"

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Sight To See

This morning I went to the local Thai market with a new volunteer.  It was one of those mornings.  To begin with, I had a seven year old boy with cerebral palsy, who is also deaf and blind, on my back piggy back style.  He is very small so not heavy but he cannot hold on too well given the cerebral palsy.  He also likes to decide to hit himself in the head when irritated as a way to communicate and if that doesn't work then he likes to bite his hand or pinch himself.  The two of us made made quite a site.  Little ol' blonde me walking through the market with a little brown boy who keeps hitting and biting himself precariously perched on back. 

Next, add the new volunteer who is taking care of two year old Bekah.  The volunteer arrived about a week ago.  On Monday I learned that she had never changed a diaper before.  I also learned that she planned to be working at Bamboo School (a home for children) for the next year.  I immediately thought she was crazy.  Who commits to working at a children's home without ever having changed a diaper before?  Apparently, she does.  So its been a learning experience for her so far, and for me who has become her guide to all things children, Bamboo School, and Thailand.  As you can imagine, she was a bit lost and overwhelmed as to what to do at an open air market.  It wasn't Walmart.  That's for sure.  There were live eels in buckets, whole dead frogs for the taking, fish paste and chili, machetes for chopping bamboo, sarongs for bathing in a river, and rice to eat.

So the two whities (me and the new volunteer) and the two little ones tried to make our way through the crowded market, while carrying all our new goodies, and then look for even more good stuff like clothes hangers, food storage bins, and mirrors.  Absolute necessities! Plus, limes and peanuts are a must for adding a little flavor and protein.   I was trying to complete a transaction for said clothes hangers etc... with a local vendor (with the little boy on my back and bags slinging from my arm) when I notice everyone looking at us.  This was not new.  I get a lot of looks when I am about, but I noticed something was different.  I looked around, and down, and then realized that not only had little Bekah peed her pants, but had also proceeded to pooh in front of everyone in the market.  She left a nice little something on the ground and on her pants, on her shoes, and on her feet.  The new volunteer was appalled.  I thought it was funny and  inconvenient given the circumstances. 

Bless the new volunteer though as she had toilet paper in her bag.  It came in handy for cleaning up the little girl who poohed in the middle of the market and for picking up the finished (ah hum) byproduct.  So, that was the icing on the cake and the sight to see at the market today.  The two whities, the little boy who hits himself, and the little girl who poohs in the market. 

Coming soon is a brief dissertation on the highly attractive qualities that exist between Thai goats and old green trucks.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Life In Thailand So Far

So... what can I tell you about being in Thailand and at Bamboo School so far?  One of my most favorite moments so far is of a little boy appropriately named Moremorechore, who proudly holding up his finger with a big, gross booger on it yelled, "Teacher! Look!".  I promptly made him go wash his hands.  His proud fat booger reassuring me that yes, this is really where I should be.  On my first day back at Bamboo School, Moremorechore also started a fire, on purpose, in the bushes right next to a bamboo dorm.  The smoke from the fire gave him away, as well as, the lighter in his hand.  I gave him a good spank on the rear and made him carry the water to put it out the fire.  He really wasn't that sorry for it, seeing as he was grinning from ear to ear in-spite of the spanking and water carrying.  I do think he likes to just make more and more chores for us volunteers. 

I have also been doing a lot of grunt work clearing out overgrowth in order to develop a new garden.  It is very difficult to hoe and turn over the ground here because the soil is very very rocky.  I can only carry a half bucket of dirt because it is so dense and heavy.  I have also been cutting back a lot of grass with machetes.  I like to imagine myself bravely hacking through the jungle looking for missing Bamboo School children as I hack away.  Chances are, it will happen too.  Its quite prickly work though.  There are great big thorny plants that grow amongst the grass so you have to wear thick clothing from top to bottom in order to avoid getting stickers and thorns stuck everywhere.  In between the fingers is the worst! 

Another lovely memory is swimming at the lake with the little girls.  The lake is nestled amongst the jungly mountains and towards 4:30 or 5:00 pm the sun begins to tuck in behind the mountains and there is a very hazy, sun setting glow mixed with the sounds of little girls playing in the water.  It is a very calming and beautiful time. Although,  I have to suppress the fear of snakes every time I go swimming.  I can just picture a snake making itself cozy with my ankles under the water.

I also get to make new friends with the other volunteers here.  Ryan and Jesse, a young married couple around their 30's,  introduced me to Tim Tam Slams.  Tim Tams are a type of chocolate cookie from New Zealand and Australia.   So a Tim Tam slam is biting the ends off the rectangular cookie and sucking hot chocolate through the cookie until the chocolate in the cookie melts and you have to slam the melting cookie into your mouth so you don't lose it into your hot chocolate.  Very yummy and messy!

Well, thats all for know.  There is so much more that I can write about but it will have to wait until another day.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My First Pad Thai

My first encounter with Pad Thai was not in a restaurant nor was it served familiarly on a plate.  It came suspiciously wrapped in paper...

It might not seem like a big deal to eat Pad Thai or Pad Thai that is wrapped in paper but it was very meaningful to me.  First,  I was in Thailand.  That means it was actually really good Pad Thai.  Secondly, I was tired, frustrated, alone and hungry.  It had been a really long day.  I had woken up at 5:30 am to get the kids up in time so they could get ready for school, eat breakfast, and do their morning jobs before classes started.  It then took two trips to get all the kids to school.  Then, I made sure the children too young for school were fed, bathed, played with and loved.  Plus, plan the daily English lesson and take the two trips back to pick up the kids. 

So, come 10:30 pm that night, sitting in a cold, not white anymore Thai hospital ward was a little bit disconcerting.  I would have been much happier under my mosquito net tucked in cozily for the night.  Instead, I was still awake sitting on the edge of a hospital bed with bright florescent lights shining down on me.  Cat, the woman who founded Bamboo School, had called me after I had managed to get the last kids home from school, asking if I could go stay at the hospital to take care of baby Bekah (10 months old) who was sick and staying there.  Sure! How difficult could that be?  I was a bit unprepared for the response I received upon walking into the hospital ward where Bekah was staying.  I swear every mother, grandmother and woman converged on me.  Clucking and firing rapid Thai at me.  I practically had to fend them off as I held Bekah in my arms.  It was overwhelming as I didn't know enough Thai to communicate with them.  All the women seemed to think that they knew best how to take care of Bekah, and that this little, young white girl surely did not know what to do.

I couldn't tell them how to leave me alone.  I didn't know how.  I couldn't tell them that I had been taking care of babies since I was fourteen and that Bekah needed special care because of her sickness.

I was hungry.  I hadn't eaten anything since early that morning.  I couldn't tell them that. I didn't know how to ask where to buy food.

I just wanted a hug from my comforting mom.  I wanted to be asleep in a bed that I knew.  I wanted to talk to someone.  I didn't want to be alone, but I didn't know anyone there.

So, there I was.  Sitting on the bed with sweet baby Bekah asleep next to me, cold, tired, frustrated and hungry.  In the next bed over, an older woman who was a burn victim was just as uncomfortable as I had been feeling with her bundled and bandaged hands and feet.  She must have understood and she must have had a mother's intuition.  Even though she was obviously in pain and she couldn't even get the pills to her mouth, she could still offer me my first Pad Thai.  I hungrily devoured it out of its street paper wrapper with my bare fingers as I had no fork.  And then I realized, as I was eating, that I didn't feel quite so alone.

As I later learned, her daughter had broughten her the Pad Thai for dinner not realizing she had already eaten the hospital food.  The older woman and I never really got to say much to each other in the way of words, but we shared a bond of understanding of what it means to be uncomfortable and to feel out of place.  I got to repay her over the next few days at the hospital as I helped her take her medicine and helped her eat seeing as how she couldn't use her bandaged hands.

I did eventually learn how to say, "I am hungry." in Thai. 


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Little Advice for Ya

Honestly, when it comes to experience I don't have a whole lot of it.  Sometimes I'm a little bit short when it comes to brains and common sense too.  I like to blame it on my hair color, but that's probably a sorry excuse.  I can give you some advice though. 

1) Never assume that people outside the U.S. know how to drive.  This is not intended as a jab at their driving skills.  Its just that some people don't know how to drive a vehicle, period.  I guess I didn't understand that considering that in the U.S. the car to human ratio is 1:2.  Most of us Americans get a chance to learn how to drive as we grow up, take Driver's Ed, and own a vehicle.  Some people in other countries have never even ridden in a car let alone driven one.   

2) Whenever teenage boys ask to drive always say no.  No matter how many times they ask.  I'm assuming this applies to everywhere in the world.  In my case, Thailand especially.   

3) Never attempt to teach someone how to drive when you can't speak the same language.  Don't even let them get behind the wheel until you can explain the concepts of fast and slow, clutches, gears, and most importantly brakes.   

4) When the inevitable happens, like a car crash.  You just got to suck it up, put off that overwhelming feeling of shame and embarrassment, and call someone who can help you.  Hopefully, you are not in this alone. 

At this point, you should be sensing that there is story behind all this.  Luckily, I do know enough not to embarrass myself too much by putting it out there for all to see on the great big world of web.  Lets just say it involved the old green truck. . .

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Old Green Truck

Anyone who has ventured far knows that driving and riding vehicles outside the United States is always an adventure.  An adventure in the sense of being dangerous, haphazard and unpredictable.  Now, picture little ol' blond me behind the wheel in a truck that has got to be as old as I am and pointed down the left side of the road, the opposite side than I was used to driving on.  Throw in a truck bed full of kids on the Burmese-Thai border...and that completes the picture.

It always starts out so innocently enough.  What's the harm in driving a truck-full of kids to school?  Did I mention the truck was a manual and I was driving on dirt "roads"?  Going downhill?  Anyways, as I was driving down the Bamboo School* driveway I took a left onto the main village road and felt a good sized bump.  I didn't think anything about it because the road literally has two-foot ruts in it until I hear a loud chorus of "Teacher! Teacher!"  I slow down and turn around to see what they are yelling about when I see a great big geyser of water shooting up behind me.  Little ol' blonde me had just ran over the village's main water supply line that had been so conveniently placed near the road.  It was quite easy to run it over there, but now the hard part was figuring out what in the world was a person suppose to do after running over a water line, in Thailand.

Fortunately, one of the locals hopped on his motorbike and rode down to the local municipal office to get help while I doggedly drove the kids to school, a little wetter than when we had started and with a new town fixture spewing in the background. (Didn't you think a water fountain was just what the village needed?)  A little while later, the kids safely studying at school, I am trudging very red-faced down the now muddy, rutty drive.  It had to be a site the whole village enjoyed as I handed out ice cold water to the burly, muddy Thai repairmen.

Unfortunately, the adventures of the Old Green Truck do not stop there.  More adventures to come soon. 

Bamboo School   

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mayonaise & Hot Dogs

We were sitting on the one piece of furniture in the whole house.  It was an old, dilapidated couch and looked to have been home to cats and an all male college dormitory before being left on the curb for pick-up.  It was a treasure and a rare find considering its location upon the Mexico-U.S. border. (People are poor here.  In case you didn't know.)  I can remember sinking into its spring-less depths and feeling the cool tile beneath my feet in the empty house.  It was a beautiful thing -that couch- after sitting on concrete floors, standing and squatting in the dusty climate just south of San Luis, Arizona.  My fellow travelers and I had just spent the day playing with street kids which meant playing soccer which meant we got our butts handed to us.  Our high school education served us poorly as we attempted to communicate via Spanish.  We must have looked like aliens, we were so white, waving our hands and making odd sounds but we were cool.  All the kids wanted to give us hugs, take pictures with us, and show us their American things.

As a way to express appreciation for the time we spent in their little town, some of the local women made us an American dinner.  These lovely women thought that we would love some American food after eating burritos, rice, beans and potatoes for a week.

This is where the couch comes in.  As I am sitting in its depths, I am holding a delicious looking hot dog that even came with a hot dog bun.  How awesome was that?   I took a big hungry bite and suddenly I wanted to gag.  Along with my hot dog was a whole lot of warm mayonnaise that my hostesses had so nicely prepared for me.  (Apparently, hot dogs with mayonnaise must be American.) Never in my life have I ever seen a hot dog served with mayonnaise.  Do I need to stress this point more?  I wanted to spit it out right then and there.  Hot mayonnaise and hot dogs do not mix well with hot, dusty days spent playing soccer with street kids on the border.  I ended up eating the whole thing.  I am proud of this moment.  Did I mention that I was surrounded by six white American girls who gagged, complained and did not eat their carefully and thoughtfully prepared hot dogs with mayonnaise?  I learned something that day about myself, about white girls, and about earnest hostesses.         

(This was my first international experience. I was fifteen at the time.  I went with a group of high schoolers from a local church.  We stayed in Mezquital, Mexico.)