Wat Suandok & Other Thoughts

Today was my second day of volunteering. There’s six of us that are volunteering at Wat Suandok School in Chiang Mai. We help teach English, kind of.

Wat Suandok
Wat Suandok

We get picked up from UniLoft at 7:45 by a songthaew. (Sidenote: 7:45 is way too early for us). We get to the school around 8:15. Once we’re there, we sit in the school yard with the students and other teachers. There are announcements in Thai. Afterwards, the students sing some songs, which we debate about whether or not we should stand up (is it Thailand’s national anthem? Is it the school spirit song? We don’t know). The first class starts at 8:30 and the students switch every hour. Lunch is from 11:30 to 12:30. Our day is over at 2:30.

Most of the time we teach English.

Depending on the grade, we go over the lesson for the day. For the young kids, it’s the alphabet; for the older students, it’s words and sentences. The students repeat what we say in English and really, I mean they repeat everything we say… even if it is, “good job” (so we just nod and smile now).

My favorite is the younger grades, like grades one and two. They are adorable! We go over the alphabet with them, then go over the next four letters in the lesson. Today, it was P, Q, R, and S. For example, I’ll say, “S” and the students repeat the letter, then the sound, “sssss”, and then the corresponding word, “sun”. After that, the students draw the letters, pictures, and words in their notebooks. I really like this part because the kids want us to draw the pictures for them. They’ll say, “teacher!” Then point at their notebook.

Class is a lot different than class in the United States, though. In the United States, if a student is acting up or not paying attention, the teacher will call out that student in front of the entire class. In Thailand, that doesn’t happen. Sometimes we’ll get a group of students who are mostly quiet and paying attention, but sometimes we’ll get a group of really rowdy kids. That’s just how it is.

I could say a lot more about this right now, but I’m kind of lazy. There is no AC in Wat Suandok. We are outside from when we arrive and until we leave. I mean, we teach in a classroom, but there are only fans.

Classroom
Classroom at Wat Suandok

So, having to be ready at 7:45 and then being in the heat and humidity all day really wears me down, as it does all of us.

I’ll write more about it later, maybe.

* * *

As my time in Thailand comes to an end, I have mixed feelings. I really like volunteering in a foreign country. Teachers are really appreciated here. Every time new students come in, they all say, “Good morning teacher. How are you happy today?” in unison. Once class is over, they all say, “Thank you teacher”, and wai to us. Some of them really like us too! They’ll give us hugs and presents.

Gifts - bracelets, drawing, and origami stars
Gifts – bracelets, drawing, and origami stars

Also, I’ve met a few backpackers while I’ve been here. Like last night, I met this 23-year-old guy from Chicago named Adam. I was asking him lots of questions about how much he spends and how he finds his way around different countries. He told me that, here in Asia, he spends about $25 a day. He also said that a big chunk of that money is spent on food.

My trip to Thailand has added a few new lenses to my perspective on life also. I don’t really think I’m meant to be in one place. I mean, I will always come back to Arizona. That’s my state, but the world is so interesting! And another thing: while being in Thailand, I’ve learned to really appreciate where I come from. I mean, I liked Arizona before, but I just feel cool saying that I’m from there, as I am fine with telling people that I’m American. I guess you just have to get out to appreciate what you have. That sentence applies to pretty much everything in life, though.

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