5/31/2018 Bong Toong Ting School, Chiang Mai
By Tara Ryan and Emma Zeumer
On our third day at the school we got to teach an English lesson to the children. The little guys learned the colors of the rainbow, numbers 1-15, played games (Duck Duck Goose, Red Light Green Light, and Rock Paper Scissors), and sang English songs (Down by the Banks and Head Shoulders Knees and Toes). We split up into different grades and each classroom had 4-6 Westminster students teaching the lesson. Now, May, and Am, our Thai guides, floated from class to class to help translate our wordier instructions to the kiddos. Even with their help, there was some confusion and frustration, but nothing that charades and affirmative gestures couldn’t fix. Playing with the kids was a good ice breaker, as they seemed to be very weary of us up to that point. That afternoon, we walked the kids home from the school to the nearby village. It was a 1.5 mile walk, with bumpy, unpaved roads, lots of hills, and flip-flop-stealing mud. The kids do this trek every day, regardless of weather. Walking with the kids and seeing their homes offered us insight into their daily lives. These children live in conditions that a lot of Westerners looking in may consider insufficient as they are not consistent with our Western standards and expectations of housing. Still, the laughter of kids coming home from school could be heard and whole families were out on their porches together.
The last day at the school was spent having a field day with different outside games. The games we played ranged from modified basketball to more unique local games involving produce. There were relay races, an eating competition, a water balloon toss, and team sports. This was a great way to spend our last full day with the kids and teachers. Later that night, the students and teachers had put together a farewell dinner that included two dances and a short video that the school had made to show the changes Westminster students had made to the campus in the last five years we have been visiting. It was a very powerful video, moving some to tears. Four of the older girls that board at the school during the week did a traditional Lanna dance in beautiful garb. The younger kids dressed in traditional Karen outfits and preformed a less traditional, but still very fun, dance. After the performances the students went to bed and then it was karaoke time for the Westminster students and Bong Toong Ting teachers. The first few songs were American classics, but after a few the Thai teachers were coaxed on stage where they sang a well-known Thai song that our van drivers demonstrated the dance for.
Leaving on Friday morning was not easy, as many Westminster students had become very close with the children. There were some tears and a lot of heavy hearts. It was a difficult time for the Westminster teachers too, as they have been coming here for the last five years but it is time to move on to a new village. They do plan to stop for a shorter visit next year to visit with the school they have made such an impact on next year.