(By McKayla, Wednesday)
We’ve been working at Samart School since Monday. When we arrived three days ago, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We bounced along decrepit dirt paths in a tuk tuk, off the realm of Google Maps, as our driver stopped every three minutes for directions. They definitely need better signs.
As I sit here, the slightest of breezes cools my skin only a few degrees, giving me a very short moment of relief. I have been pouring sweat for three days. I feel like I moved into a sauna… but the sauna is beautiful, the most welcoming family lives here and excited children arrive every night to learn. Trust me – as miserably hot as it is, it is very worth it.
During the day, we work in the dragon fruit fields. It’s hard, hot work but it’s not bad. We work at our own pace, weeding around each plant and tying up the ones that have fallen down. We usually work for about an hour and a half before we take a break to read, write, eat or just sit and watch the abundance of life.
There are about 5 dogs, 2 puppies, a few cats, kittens and cows. Then there’s the frogs, lizards, geckos, ants, dragonflies crazy looking spiders and the elusive earthworms we save for Tom (Tom is the volunteer coordinator, among other things, and has very big plans for this place).
The days are mellow and slow. Every so often, something that sounds like a flute plays a slow, happy melody in the distance.
At 5:00 p.m. class starts. It’s free and optional but the kids come full of energy and enthusiasm. The first night I was a teacher’s aid for an hour before it started raining, the roof leaked and class was dismissed. Our second night, Tom said the teacher’s mom was sick and asked if we could fill in. We said we’d give it a shot despite the fact that neither of us have teaching experience (except ski lessons — WHOLE different ball game). But it’s a class to learn English so Tom pointed out that having them listen to us was a lesson in itself.
Turned out, we weren’t completely on our own. A translator showed up and took charge of the first class. However, his English was very difficult to understand and Nate and I struggled to try to figure out what he wanted us to do. That first class from 5:00 to 6:00 was the little kids, from 6 to 11 years old (one girl told Nate she was 81 years old, then giggled uncontrollably. Props to her for having a good enough grasp on the language to give my husband a good ribbing). The second class from 6:00 to 7:00 was older, more advanced kids, about high school age. We were left alone with them while the translator went next door to teach another class. This class went very well but their work books were a little ridiculous. Try describing what the word ‘charity’ means to people in an underprivileged country! The whole section was about ways to live environmentally friendly. I think they have bigger problems on their plates.
After that second class, one guy hung out to speak with us a while. He thanked us for coming to class and told us how he would like to learn English so he can work in a hotel or something in the tourist industry. We helped the translator in his7:00 – 8:00 class before going to grab dinner and crashing for the night.
No word yet on whether or not we’ll be teaching on our own again tonight. Today we took the bicycles out. Highlight of my time here! Countless kids (and/some adults) would run to the road and yell “hello!” Some yelling “hello,teacher!” And even two saying, “hello, McKayla”. I felt so welcomed and happy.