April 18-22, 2011
**As always, kids’ names changed for protection. Sophie picked her name herself. :) **
Monday was staff meeting and prep day. This week I am teaching school supplies again. The kids only had one full day of vocab before break, so this will be a good review for them and teach them some new words. I came up with a lesson plan for every day so that I’d be prepared for the week. Ha. The best laid plans…. After our meeting, Field, Ning, P’Bua, Inna and I went to lunch at the same place we did last Monday. Yummy again! Later I did some more prep with Field and she decided she wanted to give each class level a new name instead of just Beginner, Intermediate, etc. So we brainstormed for awhile, and decided that the littlest kids would be Dolphins, my class will be Penguins, Inna’s class will be Tigers and the oldest kids will be Eagles. See the progression from water animal, to water and land animal, to land animal, to sky animal? Cool, huh? Field thought of that. Dolphins are playful and fun, so that’s perfect for the little ones, penguins are so cute and fun too, tigers are strong and courageous, and eagles can fly highest and are the most majestic in the sky. We are going to unveil the new names, along with the new curriculum, in May, once the kids are back in school and we go back to the regular schedule.
Tuesday: Started off great. I helped P’Bua with dinner, learned a few vocab words with Lucy, played with the kids some, and then we had reading time. I love this time because it’s with a mix of the kids from my English class, Inna’s class and Elizabeth’s class (now Judy’s while she is in the US). The kids get to show off their reading and comprehension skills and I get to explain some English words in a fun setting, rather than a full-on classroom setting. Today, I had Sophie, Nat, Fiona, Willow, Molly, Aaron, Ben, Elliott and Yvonne. They all clustered around the table and first I read to them, having them sound out and say some choice words, and describing them as best I could. That took about 15 minutes.
I had Sophie pick out a book to read, she chose Mother Goose. Great, a book full of words that we don’t use in colloquial speech anymore. Haha. Oh, well, it was fun to read anyway. After we finished that one, we still had some time, so the girls picked Green Eggs and Ham. Good old Dr. Seuss. By this point, the room had split up into girls and boys. So, I had the boys read Sam I Am’s part and the girls read the “I do not like them, Sam I Am” parts. It was pretty funny. I think they had a good time. It’s fun getting to know the kids’ personalities more. Nat is great at sounding out and reading English, so is Fiona. But, the other kids are not intimidated by this, they try just as hard, so I made sure to give each kid the chance to read some words on their own and not let the best kids jump in and say all the words before the other kids had a chance to.
Sophie especially I have been getting to know better. She likes to play the guitar and often grabs it after English class and practices strumming. I taught her the D chord, so now when I see her, I always have her play that one. She is one of the kids whose homes we visited in November, and we bought a bunch of handicrafts from her mom, who then gave us snacks and cool sequin elephant bags. Her dad died in September, so I have a soft spot for her.
English class: So, as great as my kids were last time I taught, that’s how bad they were the first day back from holiday. Oy. I had a plan. I had a good plan. Field had even decided that I would just start off teaching the kids all by myself, because she is so busy anyway. I was excited about this. And then.
See, normally, I have between 6 and 8 kids in my regular class. Well, since Ning’s kids are off school, they have been coming too, which makes my class have 3 extra kids. My classroom is very small, with tile walls that just bounce the sound around. It can get very loud even when there are not 9 kids screaming over each other. The day started off with two of the boys, Elliott and Flynn, punching at each other and just messing around, and that continued the rest of class. Then as the other kids filed in, the noise level just rose and rose. We started playing a game, but Flynn said something to Faith to set her off, and she tossed her cards down the table and decided she was not playing anymore. Then Flynn said something else, which sent her out of the room to the bathroom. I was like “Uh. What just happened?” I grabbed Judy to come figure out what had transpired, and she got the story and went to talk to Faith. She came back in the class, and at first didn’t want to play the game, but decided that everyone was having so much fun, she wanted in on the action, so she joined.
Later, Faith and Bastian got in a heated argument about something. Don’t know what. Elliott and Flynn were still fighting, so I had to separate them, and I tried to separate Faith and Bastian, but there’s only so much space in this room! I nabbed Ning to explain the rules of another game I wanted them to play, so that went better. There was no keeping them quieter than a dull roar though, no matter what I did. I decided I need to learn some more phrases like: sit down, listen please, no yelling, quiet please, and stop fighting. Dude.
After that exhausting hour, I went downstairs for dinner and was talking to Winnie and Sophie for a bit. They were eating mangoes with this salt and chili mix and Sophie was joking around saying the salt was like the salt from sweat. She scooted over on the steps so I could sit down with them, and she asked me (again) what my name was. I told her and she asked what my nickname was. I said I didn’t have one, and she took it upon herself to bestow one on me. Guess what it is. Pa’kaa. It means “sour fish,” like the kind they put in som tam, or papaya salad. It was funny, but I was like “uh, should I be offended?” Then she gave Inna the nickname that means “spicy crab” which is another ingredient in som tam. She said she was manou, lime, and I was like “Hey! Why do you get to be lime and I’m sour fish? I want to be lime!” We were all laughing so hard. Then Field is like “Oh, it’s a good name. People like papaya salad. It’s funny.” I respond with “Yeah, it’s funny to you. That’s because it’s not YOUR name!” haha.
Wednesday: So, the nickname saga continued today. Sophie persisted in calling me the nickname and Lucy said I should just respond with “pa kaa now” which means “smelly sour fish.” Take that, Sophie! Well, the day started out with lunch with Inna. When we got back, there was sweet little Cassie, drawing on the bench, just like she had been there all along! I was so happy to see her! I got to hang out with her for a little bit. I wanted to just pick her up and hug her, but I didn’t want to freak her out, so I just sat next to her, and eventually she crawled on my lap to watch Snow White.
I had a Thai lesson with Lucy, though, so when she came, I had to put Cassie down. She was sad, but I told her I’d see her later. I learned some more sentence structure today, as well as the first 10 letters of the Thai alphabet. There are 44! I almost gave up before I started when I heard that. But, I figured I would start slowly and build on what I learned. At least I can have a foundation and learn letters as I learn words and sentences.
It was so funny, out of the blue, Lucy says “it’s not a beautiful name, Pa Kaa. No. You need a new nickname.” I totally agree!! After our lesson, Lucy was writing her name in Thai characters on the board, and I asked her to write mine, but it’s not translatable into Thai. Isn’t that sad? So far that makes five languages that my name is not translatable into: Arabic, Farsi, Spanish, Hebrew and Thai. Sigh.
English class today was great! The kids were so well-behaved (other than Flynn, who I am beginning to suspect has ADHD) and are learning so well. Today I tried to get them to spell out the school supplies. It’s funny, when I write them on the board, they know immediately what word it is, but when I want them to spell it, they have absolutely no idea. Field wants me to teach them phonetics when we start the new curriculum in May. They can do word recognition, but they don’t really know how to sound out or read things. I did a little of that today as a sort of introduction, so hopefully we can build on that.
I decided that behavior will be points based. The kids HATE losing points, so if they start losing points based on how they behave, that might make them toe the line more, especially the boys.
After class, Judy was hanging out with Fiona, Lucy, Winnie and Sophie. I sat with them for a while, and Sophie was teasing me with the name again. Fiona was like “No, that’s not a good name.” Lucy said she wanted Manou and Fiona agreed. I was like “yeah! 2 against 1!” We went down for dinner, and after dinner, Cassie came over and climbed on my lap and just sat with me for the rest of the evening. During this time, Sophie came out and declared that my new name should be clue-ay, which means “banana.” Hey, I’ll take it, if the alternative is sour fish! She said too many people are named Manou, so I should be clue-ay. She was also talking about eating s’mores again, like we did in November, so I have to get some of the ingredients for that. They still have an entire case of Hershey’s bars from November in the freezer, so we just need marshmallows and crackers. Shouldn’t be too hard. I think we’ll plan to do s’mores and face painting for a special event one month.
We are planning to do a special outing or event every 3 months, so there will be 4 in the next year. I think we will end up doing s’mores, a movie, the zoo and something else. Should be fun planning it!
After dinner, sweet little Cassie, came up and crawled right up on my lap while she ate her dessert. I just love that kid! She’s always so content to just chill out on your lap and watch the other kids run around like crazy. I’m so glad she’s staying with Ning!
Thursday: Today’s English class was not as bad as Tuesday, but not as good as yesterday. I had 10 kids today in that small little classroom. We played a game where I used my backpack and put different school supplies in it. Each kid came up and would pull out whatever was in the bag and tell me what it was. I changed it up for each kid, so they got to practice different things. They seemed to have fun, and I guess that’s all I can ask for! Of course, with ten kids whose language I don’t speak, it’s next to impossible to get them all to calm down and pay attention. As soon as I have one set of kids’ attention, I lose another set, and they are all talking. I think it will be much easier when I only have the kids who are actually in the program, and not Ning’s extra kids, much as I love them. They are super cute, and pretty well behaved, and smart too! I just think it will be much easier to keep control when there are fewer kids.
A couple cool things happened this week though. One, Judy told me the kids had been really quiet going downstairs, which surprised me, since they usually tear out of there before I can remind them to be quiet on the stairs. I have to remember to give them extra points for that next week. Second, Judy has been asking Inna and me to pray for the kids before they leave class. I thought I’d see if any of the kids wanted to pray today. I figured that they would be too shy, but why not ask? So, both Faith and Willow volunteered! And they prayed substantial prayers too. All I understood was them thanking God for me teaching them English, but they went on for about 3 minutes each! I was so impressed and pround of them. J
After dinner, Sophie decided I should learn more of the letters of the alphabet, so she showed me where on the wall the alphabet is printed out. I always thought those letters were the names of the colors of the paper they are printed on, but it’s really the alphabet! Lucy’s 4-year-old baby cousin wanted me to pick her up, so as I was saying the letters, sometimes she would correct me. It was so cute!! After we went all the way through the alphabet, Lucy said she knew all the letters, so that little one recited the entire alphabet. This doesn’t sound like much, but every single letter in the Thai alphabet is at least 2 syllables to say. Most are 4 syllables. Lucy taught her cousin all the words, so I think she’ll be a great pre-school teacher (that’s what she wants to study)! She just needs to get her ID card so she can finish university.
Ning told me this morning that last night when she was putting all the kids to bed, she asked Cassie if she missed her mom and Cassie said “No! I’m having fun!” They have 8 kids in the house now, but the extra beds they ordered have still not arrived, so she was setting up air mattresses for the two new girls. The other girls all wanted to sleep on the floor too, so Ning pulled all their mattresses off the beds and pushed them all together so they could sleep like that. When she went to check on them about 30 minutes later, they were all sleeping together in a pile, like in Where the Wild Things Are. I think that is the cutest thing ever! She was sad she didn’t have her camera with her, because it was such a cute sight.
Today, Cassie was nearly inconsolable because she missed her mom so much. I’m not sure what set her off, but she was sobbing with Judy. Later, I was holding her too as she was crying. Poor thing, she’s had to go through so much this year. She’s supposed to see her mom tomorrow, so I think she’ll feel better after that.
Friday: Today, went to get my work visa. Yay! Finally approved. We thought that the next step was to request a letter to be made up to extend my visa for a year. But, apparently the laws changed again, and now I have to be working for 3 months before we can apply for that. This means that instead of paying to extend my visa just once, I have to pay to extend it twice. Sigh. I keep thinking that when I finally finish jumping through all these hoops, it will be time for me to leave! So frustrating. Oh, well, at least I won’t have to leave the country again!
Other cool news about that trip: when Dae was talking to the lady about visa extensions and stuff, they actually talked about The Garden of Hope, and it turns out that this office, which works with the Department of Child Welfare, has heard good things about TGOH. They want to come observe for a few days and see how it works with the volunteers and the Thai staff, like how we run English classes and activities with the kids. If they are as impressed with it as I think they will be, they want to copy the model and start using it with government programs in the rural areas of Chiang Mai that work with hill tribe families. Isn’t that awesome? I am so excited by the possibility! Of course, a large part of what we do is teaching Bible stories and songs, so I don’t know how much of that would be copied if it were a government program. Even so, exciting developments. We also met some people today who are interested in coming to volunteer for a few months. The couple would come for 6 months and a couple girls from YWAM want to come for the month of May. Since we lost Dtom (she went to help her family in her village, since her mom is sick) we are short staffed for sure, so extra hands will be amazing.
So, back at Taw Saeng, I played bingo with the little kids, watched the teenagers use play-doh to recreate scenes from Easter week, did a guitar lesson with Field, Abby, Nat and Ben, then had dinner. I ate upstairs where we do worship in the mornings and Faa, Ning’s sister who runs the orphanage, ate with us and we had a great conversation. She told us about some of the kids in the house, the type of backgrounds they had, about her own history, which is also Ning’s history to an extent, how she’s working with a lawyer to get foundation status so she can get more monetary help from the government, etc. I was really excited to talk to her, because I have so many questions about all that stuff, and it seems that there’s never enough time to have long conversations with Ning and Faa during the day, when we are all running around keeping the kids entertained. I’d love to spend more time with them, especially now that I know the kids a lot better, since they’ve been coming every day for the last couple weeks. Faa also was telling us about Cassie, how she, and all the kids, actually, had come to the house with just a plastic bag of clothes. Cassie had 2 skirts, 2 shirts, one pair of pants, 2 pairs of socks, and one pair of underwear and shoes. So, tomorrow she is taking her shopping for new clothes, a school uniform (the kids go to a private Christian school) and then to the doctor to see if she is malnourished or needs medicine for any lingering effects of the assault in November. I’m so thankful that God has intervened and allowed Faa and Ning to take over the care of this sweet little kid. I really think she might be saving her life.