Read our first blog from our Thailand 1 team! For the latest updates, be sure to follow our blog and social media – Facebook and Instagram!
Monday, June 12th
Despite the switching of days for the Opening Ceremony, the majority of the group went head first into construction, about 8 from the group went to vocational while the rest started the two construction projects.
The first project was tearing down the cement school sign with hammers, it was the hoes at first but were quickly proven ineffective. The school sign was out of date, with many students, teachers, and families had high hopes of redesigning the sign with both English and Thai translations of the school name.
Some of our few men on the team, Jake, and Tyrel, progressed the sign to this point with the help of a few others, collapsing the sign by the time we took our lunch break. I could hear the cheers once the sign fell, this was a huge accomplishment.
Another project consisted using the rubble from the old school sign, mixed with sand and cement, to create a large stage to put inside the canteen. Many had to chip away the white tile in the canteen for the outline of the stage, where many brave students took turns to slam the hammer or axe into the tile. As one could guess, this was a very slow progress. Local men from the village came soon after and hacked away at the tile too, they made more progress than us… Eventually, by the end of the day, all the tile that we wanted out was finally chipped away.
The team had to weed around the very large wall about the school, the wall where the school’s sign was connected. Many students were given hoes to hack at the growth along the wall. I can speak for all of us when we encounter many large and different insects…
There were many times where our whole team, including the vocational group, where we had to do assembly lines to get the bags of cement and bricks to certain spots to be used later on in our day and week. Not only did we find out that this was the most effective way to get the objects to the spots but also a huge team bonding activity, many joked about it but we all knew it was true.
Lastly, by the end of our busy construction day, few people were gathered together to mix one full tub of cement and to begin plastering the outside wall of the school. This large wall required a lot of cement and today, we only covered the first few wall of many! Yet, the progress that was made on the wall today was still unbelievable. This project will keep our following days busy and will eventually be our canvas for our team’s mural.
There were a few beautiful moments of relaxation that occurred today; moments of some of the team playing soccer in the rain, and another when a few ladies were playing around with a ball with a few of the local young girls. There were such warm smiles from both ends that were smiling so big to each other.
Vocational committee was set up to have the whole day to prep all of their supplies. Little did they know, they would get stuck in the mud on their drive over to the village. The 8 of them had to push the truck through the mud in order to get the truck through. When they made it to the room and unloaded all of the supplies, they began to build the loom. The large loom is about the size of a bed frame. All of the instructions were in Thai, so it took the full three hours to complete.
But when the committee came back after lunch, women were already using it, so it must have been set up right. Women and children heard we were in the village, so many made their way over to see. The group was able to take many breaks and talk and play with the kids.
In the afternoon, they were able to unload all of the donated supplies, organize everything, and start to plan the lessons. Unfortunately, the power went out, so they were not even able to turn the machines on. They did all that they could and were sent on their way. Little did they know, their truck would get stuck in the mud, yet again. The same 8 girls pushed another truck through the mud. Even though the committee was not on construction with the rest of the team today, they did do some heavy labor.
This first day was tough and long filled with sweat, dirt, and shoes covered in mud. Many are going to fill the pain and aches in their back, but I believe we can all claim that it was a productive day AND that we are all going to sleep very well tonight!
Tuesday, June 13th
Our morning began on the right foot with a good breakfast of a classic tofu Thai dish, not all the students are very quick to try it, but those that did loved it. Quickly we traveled down the road that we are all coming to know but still loving the ride itself and the view. Lucky for us, no trucks were stuck in the mud this time going up. Coming down was a very different story.
I believe I speak for all of us that nobody knew what to expect for the Opening Ceremony. Even though most of the students didn’t feel a 100% on our Opening Ceremony, Adrienne has commented many times that this is the most prepared Opening Ceremony she has seen. So, as we gathered in the biggest room at the school, we all sat there waiting for the ceremony to start.
It began with the introduction of the school’s teacher, and to my pleasant surprise, majority of the teachers were all able to tell us their name and their class in English. Following that, a local woman, dressed in their traditional long skirt and shirt. She played her guitar and sang to the Thailand Team, her fellow local woman, and the children. Although I wasn’t able to understand a word, but we all appreciate her beautiful voice and her talent with the guitar.
Following her solo, our Youthlinc team gathered in front of the room and began introducing ourselves with small gesture for the locals to remember our name better. One student, Jake, said his name and pounded his chest, from that point on all the children now remember Jake and his classic chest pounding action and always repeat his action towards him. The team than gathered together to sing “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars where we stated “1, 2, 3” and “4, 3, 2” in Thai, “Nung, Song, Sam,” “See, Sam, Song” (this is most likely incorrect spelling of the numbers in Thai). Afterwards, our group stayed together in our large clump and danced to the “Cupid Shuffle,” the music was faint to all our ears due to the steps of our feet and voicing singing along. The in-country coordinators set up few games for the students to interact for the first time with the Youthlinc students. We first showed them our dance that we had just barely done. All the students were so shy to come and stand by us, many had to encourage them or to even be pulled to our sides to form a large circle (which didn’t fit everybody). Jim, our head in-country coordinator, tried to break the ice by following up the a game called Snake. Although the rules were hard to understand at first, it was quickly understood by everyone. As the game dwindle the teams to two teams and battled each other to a game of Rock, Paper, and Scissors. Most of us had never seen this game before, but it was so fun, and we will definitely play it again.
Before lunch, both the students from the school and the Youthlinc students were able interact with one and one and truly meet each other (the best we could). We more or less evenly split between some meeting the older students and the other half meeting the wee young babies (my guess, ages around 4 to 5 years old). A few people went straight to work.
During lunch we collected in a separate room from the students, and were served lunch from the local woman from the village. I believed only a few students braved the soupy dish of blood clumps (the best I could describe), and other ate the rice and cucumber egg dish.
After lunch, the work truly began, where many first time English and health lesson were performed on the students, construction of the stage’s first wall began, started the base structure for the school’s new sign, home visits, and the start of building the dehydrators for the village. As we expected, nothing went fully as we planned. But the team adapted, and did so with a smile on their faces. It was expected that the English and Health lessons would go differently, but the results were wonderful. Both the Youthlinc teachers and leaders all reported that it went very well, more than anyone thought. Both construction sites went well and now have a great start for the further days.
A heavy rain storm came suddenly, only makes sense since it is the beginning of monsoon season, and made the electricity go in and out and when it was “in,” it was extremely weak. Due to this, this made business committee unable to complete the dehydrators. They were able to prep for everything but nothing was able to be screwed together.
Well our day came to an end, the Youthlinc team was able to see and experience the usually ending ceremony for the schools. While I still at this moment not able to understand what was said, it was a beautiful experience to watch. About 10 lines were formed of boy and girl lines that ranged from youngest to oldest, stood together and watched the flag come down and follow a prayer led by a student. A teacher spoke words to the students while two other students began cutting into boxes of milk to pass out to the students. Once each line received their milk, they drank and then lines up to throw their trash away and started their walk home. Many youthlincers high-fived the passing students and waved goodbye to them over and over. Good thing we’ll be seeing them again!
The ending of our day, was dripping wet. Most of the students were safely taken back to the hostile in the yellow and cover buses, while only a few other sat in the backs of trucks. About halfway through our 45 minute drive back up to the hostile, the rain came down like a mist and then, hard. It pelted our clothes and soaked us instantly, many bags had to be quickly stored inside the truck. Only two or three people had their raincoats on hand, they whipped them out but in the end, didn’t stop the rain from still soaking them. When we drove into the parking area of the hostile, the students who arrived prior to the rain had their jaws to the ground due to how soaked we were. Yet, we all happily hopped off the truck and smile at the amazing memory that we now all have.