By: Siri Wieringa and Kaylene Moulton
Today we went to the Learning Center in the village where there was a welcome ceremony. From Kaylene’s view point, there is no need for words to communicate. Although it would be a lot easier, I believe I connected with some of the Children on a whole different level. The children were very accepting of us being in the school and were so happy to see us. I don’t think I have ever felt so loved and welcomed by complete strangers. From Siri’s perspective, the learning center is the focal point of the entire village. The school provides a happy and secure environment that can build individuals who can help this village to survive.
Even though there is a language barrier, we found ways to communicate and connect with the children of the Learning Center and our host families. It seems that nonverbal communication could be more powerful than verbal communication. We were encouraged to play with the children and were immediately accepted. When I first walked into the school and sat on the floor with the children, this boy immediately came and sat in my lap. Even though we couldn’t speak to each other I felt so welcomed and so much more comfortable. With my host family, they do not speak any English and I believe that it has made us closer. We will try to speak to each other, especially the younger daughters, and since we can’t we look at each other really confused then just start laughing.
At the Learning Center, we painted shirts with the children which really gave us a chance to connect. Through the paintings we all had something in common. I would paint something while Kap, the little boy I was with, was watching me and would smile when I was finished with my section. While he would paint I would do the same. I can’t really describe the feeling I had while painting the shirts. I was so excited and happy to be doing art with Kap. After we finished, we gave the shirts to the children and the children gave us a gift as well. The kids were so grateful, one little boy gave Spencer (a student on our trip) a kiss on the cheek. I think that all the Westminster students can say that was one of the greatest experiences so far.
When we had free time, I saw this little boy riding a bike and went to play with him. At first he was hesitant to play with me, but then I picked him up along with the bike he was riding and was running around so it seemed as if he was flying. I knew he liked it because he kept picking up his feet to act like he was flying. It was fun for him and me, even though it was a lot of hard work.
In the U.S., I feel that people don’t want to take the time to communicate or connect with you as easily if there is a language barrier. I have never felt so accepted in my life even in the U.S. where I do not have a language barrier. So far, this has been an amazing experience and I cannot wait to make more connections with people and meet the people in the other village.
I came to this town with no expectations, curious about how life in a small village differed from life in a big city like Bangkok. I was immediately greeted with open arms by my host family. Despite our inability to communicate, simple smiles between one another kept us on the same level. But as nice as it was to be able to smile back and forth and know that we were all friendly, I found myself becoming very frustrated with the fact that I couldn’t even say that I appreciated their hospitality. All I want is to be able to express how grateful I am to be able to live with them and know their family.
Our first day in Kalasin gave us a peak into village life. We woke up bright and early at 5:30 which my American mind saw as an aggressive morning. However, I was surprised to find that they wake up that early to simply be able to enjoy the cooler temperatures and have breakfast till 9:00. We then made our way to the local school and my perspective changed.
As I approached the school I became overwhelmed with goose bumps. The scene greeted us with smiles, laughter, playing, community members and learning. It seemed as though the excitement and energy of the village was harnessed within the colored fence posts of the school. I don’t think that you could possibly avoid happiness from seeping into your emotions. The smiles on the children’s faces as they saw us, melted my heart. Those smiles revealed that of upmost happiness to see us and I felt compelled to do as much as I feasibly can to keep this school going.
The school provides a focal point for the village as it is a facilitator for the up and coming generations to develop the necessary skills to keep the traditions and customs alive from this village for years to come. I feel so honored to be able to help this school thrive, because its success is the village’s success.