In this post, I’m writing about the rollercoaster feelings that I’ve had while volunteering in Thailand at an orphanage, in Chumphon province. This post is from days 4-9, so I had seen some of the good things and the bad things.
Starting of the week
I was happy to start my Monday with a cup of coffee and chat to Papa. As I mentioned in the previous post, the first weekend was “kind of” hectic. Papa told me how they started this whole project a long time ago. What kind of difficulties they’ve faced, such as Thai government corruption and gaining the trust of the locals (and the latter one they are apparently still somewhat pursuing).
Sometimes you meet people with devotion and vision. I have just met 2 of them, Mama and Papa, who possess both. Could you think of running the show with 30 or so kids, having to come up ways to provide for the kids, food, clothes, pay for daily expenses? The infrastructure, buildings, and utilities are quite different from what we are used to in the Western world.
Of course, in Thailand, in general, the way of life is more modest in the countryside as well, but when you run the show for 30, not 3 or 13 people, it’s quite a different story. On top of this, they welcome all volunteers to their home and show us kindness, friendliness and have the patience to instruct new volunteers time and again. If you are interested and would like to know how to participate, read more here.
Papa’s father lives on the premises as well which brings about an extra challenge. Luckily, he is still physically relatively fit but his memory is not very good. He also dreams of seeing his old hometown which is far in the north and is constantly asking Papa when he can visit this dear place to him.
They have 2 Thai ponies here, and in the afternoon we went to feed them and clean their paddock. The bigger one is a stallion and thinks too much of himself. I’ve needed to memorise all my horsemanship skills to hold this beauty still. Hopefully, we have become friends by the time I need to leave this place. I was hoping to do some riding on him with the kids but have to see first how it goes with him.
By the way, if you are a true animal lover, perhaps you might be interested in volunteering at an elephant park near Chinag Mai also.
“Wing, wing, pai, pai”
The kids really seem to like running, which in Thai is “wing”. “Pai” means going/go. After numerous requests, I needed to give in and go running again. It’s amazing how enduring the little ones are. Me and one of the older boys, nicknamed Oo, didn’t run particularly slowly, yet the younger lads could keep up quite good. In the end, we did 10 kilometres, or in Thai “sip haa kiloo”. I was really proud of my running companions! They are really fit.
After running, I helped girls prepare dinner again. The kitchen is very, very basic, and the level of hygiene is quite different from what we are used to. Same chopping boards are used to cut raw meat and vegetables, no running water (a hose and big buckets for doing the dishes) and so on. You get the idea. I try not to think about it too much, after all, I pat the dogs as well constantly, and continue my vegetable peeling, as if nothing happened.
If I get out of here “alive”, without getting sick, it’s a small miracle. Little kids love playing outside and touch everything they can get their hands on. Then there are chickens, pigs and geese running around. (I love pigs, though, they are cute!) The monsoon showers are making everything damp and wet, an ideal growing area for germs. The other night, when it was properly pouring down, my walkway to the loo was flooded. Oh, the joy, making your way to the loo, nighttime, water almost reaching your ankles.
One more thing. Water gets cut off almost every night, plus every once in a while daytime included. I don’t see kids washing hands very often, so, just imagine… Anyway, I try not to think about it.
With Naan, one of the older girls, I’ve been doing English lessons every morning. At the moment, she and her twin sister are homeschooled, but I’ve noticed that they have taken the big sister role here, and are looking after the younger ones, cooking, cleaning and so on. I wish they’d realise that studying is so important for their future and that they have to make time for studying.
Kingdom of Ants
Or more likely, insects in general. I haven’t had a very good sleep for some reason. The ants and mozzies definitely are not making things any easier for me. Even though I have a mosquito net, somehow a few of these bloodsuckers manage to get through to me. On top of that, the ants are crisscrossing my mattress, and I get paranoid, wondering which bug is crawling on me. One night, a cockroach had managed to sneak under the mozzie net. I was NOT happy about this visitor either.
Here, at dusk and dawn, there are a lot of mosquitoes. My legs are so bloody itchy and I’m scratching them like crazy. I’m a bit worried that I will get dengue before I leave. It’s impossible to fight them, despite the repellant and long pants.
Is it all a bit too much?
The kids are super sweet and I really like doing stuff with them, running, gymnastics, cooking and English lessons. But to be honest, the bugs, mud, dampness, and disarray are also starting to get to me. I can do the very simple lifestyle, but when I’m in my treehouse, with very little light (because sometimes it’s not working or someone has switched the plugs), trying to fight the mozzies and simultaneously look for something that I can’t find in the darkness, I do miss the Western comforts.
My clothes are muddy and damp because of the daily monsoon rains. When I try to find a comfortable sleeping position, the umpteenth time, with zero luck, I’m thinking, what am I doing here? I miss having my own fridge and being able to eat fruits and veggies, making my own food. I can’t really store anything in the treehouse, because of the ants.
Oh yeah, and yesterday we tried to make apple crumble. Guess, if the stove was working?! We peeled and sliced a lot of apples and then… Nothing. I so much wanted to make some Western food for these champs. Not sure how long the apple slices will last at room temperature.
Is volunteering in Thailand at an orphanage all it was cracked up to be?
This time my post on volunteering ended up with a rather moaning tone, even though I said the kids are great. But I haven’t had my final say yet. Wait for my next post, in which I will tell how I felt when the whole volunteering experience at Eurphon children’s homestay came to an end. In the meantime, here’s my guest post on Ajarn.com about volunteering at Eurphon. It has got a few things that I haven’t mentioned in my own blog posts.
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