All posts by Hannaheggy

Two Worlds Within a Country

By: Hannah Hegwood and Morgan Lendway

Hannah:

Upon arrival in the first village of Kalasin, I quickly noticed the simplicity of everything. The road was barely paved, packs of dogs roamed and open pastures lead up to a magnificent mountain range. The simplistic way of life stemmed from the home: which was a one level, not vey ornamental, mostly one room humble abode. It served its purpose as a shelter and a comforting place, somewhere I could easily call home. Everyone here had hardened hands and works hard to maintain their lifestyles. The people here were obviously slightly influenced by our annual visits and some seem to be adopting some of our western ideas. We were greeted warmly with hugs and some girls even wore tank tops, not customary in the Thai culture. Some English was spoken, although harsh and broken, which created many communication challenges. It was interesting learning how to effectively communicate and realizing that the language of love, anger and other emotions are universal. I could tell when my homestay mother was being affectionate towards me when she touched my hair and smiled; I could also tell she was upset when I forgot to take my shoes off in the house.

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The place I will be comparing Kalasin to is the beautiful beach island of Ko Samet. We stepped off a speedboat into the warm blue/green water and saw resorts for as far as the eye could see. People walked with a relaxed step, lounged on the beach in barely any clothing and splashed around in the sea; the resort although simple had a clean and expensive appeal. A sandy road lead to a paved one that lead to what appeared to be main street, which had two seven-elevens (the groups favorite pit stop). Many shops lined the streets selling over priced souvenirs. Many other streets traveled along the coast and were heavily marked by hoping clubs.  The native Thai people living on this island that we interacted with were heavily influenced by the tourism they are surrounded by. Many of them spoke decent English and appeared well manicured. Many of the Thai people vacationing here didn’t look callused or had dark complexions, which in the Thai culture could be symbolic of wealth.Image

What I am trying to get across with my two previous paragraphs is the stark differences between living in a rural village and a tourist beach area. Never to say the western influences are bad, but that they create noticeable and life altering differences.

Morgan:

Thailand.  It is a place where you never know what to expect. I was lucky enough to experience this country in all the ways that it could possibly offer. With the first village, in Kalasin I could see a place, which was hard at work to get what they had, a place that didn’t receive things easily, they worked for their living. In past years, this village has had interactions with Westerners and I could only imagine what their lives had been like before ever interacting with people from the US. The villagers had simple occupations such as farmers, weavers, and fishermen. They lived a life of simplicity and were non-materialistic; they would only by what was absolutely necessary for them. Many of them didn’t even have the luxury of having a owning any means of transportation. They didn’t have the best means of health care when it came to caring for the wellbeing of some of the locals there. Another thing that really made this experience unique were the difficulties that came with trying to communicate with the people of Kalasin. Their Engilsh was broken and we had to go down to their level to speak with them in order for them to understand. Simple things live emotions of anger or happiness were an easy way to communicate because you could easily express it back.

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Now, the village in Kalasin to the island Koh Samet is absolutely mind altering. I went from a place of simplicity to a place greatly influenced by western culture.  On Koh Samet, the locals are exposed to other cultures and tourist attitude every day. They are so adapted that their English is so developed and able communicate at a much more sophisticated level; which is a lot to say in comparison to Phu Por. There are tourists everywhere, with such a large amount of western influence. The natives on Koh Samet seemed much more materialistic. I believe that is due to the fact that they were interacting with tourists every day they had to try and be as seen as figures of wealth and seen knowledge able. If you were to ask any local had come from, a majority would say that they come from a little village back on the main land. Which just shows that with this world change they have learned to be more like they people they were making their living off of.

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In the end, the differences between the villages and that of the island, one that stands would out like a sore thumb.  The western influence has taken its toll on people, who were once living in a village to living in a place where they are forced to interact every day. I don’t think having to adapt is necessary a bad thing, I just find it interesting how much of a difference in makes in the local citizens of Thailand who were born and raised in a village to that of people who have branched out of their village in seek of a new and better life.

Mechai Pattana Bamboo School

By: Hannah Hegwood

The Mechai Pattana School is for the rural poor of Thailand. Many children from other rural schools end up migrating to the cities for a better education, the Pattana School aims to keep these children at home. This schools mission is, “to create a generation of honest leaders who will improve rural Thailand” they achieve this mission statement by “promoting the following values: environmental protection, education, poverty eradication, philanthropy, integrity, democracy and gender inequality” (mechaifoundation.org). They achieve these goals by encouraging creativity and imagination, which develops the whole individual, not just the intellectual abilities of this person. This school is not only for the children; this is a life long learning center for members of the community. The community members can use the school as well to improve their knowledge of agriculture, business and vocational skills. “This will guarantee that within three years, no family that has children at the school will be in poverty” (mechaifoundation.org).

CommunityThai

(Community members learning about democracy)

The Mechai Pattana School encourages the interaction and involvement of the students in every step of their education. One way the students are involved is that they have to earn their lunches and tuition. The students earn their tuition and lunches by community service; one lunch equals one hour of community service and to pay for tuition the students and parents must plant 400 trees and do 400 hours of community service. The students are also involved in teacher selection, they get participate in the interview process and help make final decisions. Students also get to choose incoming students; students in the eighth and ninth grade decide on the incoming seventh graders. Another way the students are involved is that two students get to be on the school board and all students can be involved in the schools purchasing and auditing committee. Mechai believes that being apart of these committees helps illustrate real world situations. All of these interactions provide an irreplaceable experience of responsibility and leadership.

ServiceThai

(Students performing community service)

The two most impressive aspects of this school are that during the student’s education they will operate their own businesses and also get to decide what they want to learn. “Students understand the link between entrepreneurship and philanthropy, and they start many businesses of their own” (mechaifoundation.org). The profits that the student’s make through their businesses provides scholarships for needy children in other rural villages, they also provide these children with tutoring and mentoring. From running a business where they provide for the community, they not only learn how to manage money but also a sense of social entrepreneurship. The other very impressive part of this school is that the children choose which projects and activities they would like to learn more about. The teachers then help facilitate the learning process; they have to think how they can incorporate math, sciences and languages into the subject chosen. Also, the school rarely uses textbooks, they believe the knowledge is limited to what the writer wanted to say, instead they use the Internet where the knowledge is endless and can be unbiased. The students are asked to think for themselves, which develops strong critical and analytical processes.

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(Students using the Internet along with textbooks)

The Mechai Pattana School is creating a generation of children who are globally conscious, well rounded individuals who can think for themselves. Mr. Mechai Viravaidya the founder of this astounding school describes the Dragon Bridge To Knowledge, which truly sums up his philosophy of education. This is a literal bridge built over a canal that symbolizes your walk from ignorance to knowledge everyday.

DragonBridgeTHai

(Dragon Bridge To Knowledge)

Each morning you walk from ignorance towards knowledge and you have this            water, and you should look down and see who’s ignorant and you will see your own face.   Then in the evening you come back from knowledge to ignorance again, so we always have to rewind and do it again. There is no end to learning (Mechai Viravaidya).

The Pattana School aims to create good citizens who want a good life, know how to earn it and how to share. This school creates well rounded individuals which is worth so much more than an IQ number on a piece of paper.

“The Mechai Pattana School.” MechaiFoundation.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 May 2013.