Day 3: The Land of Smiles
GlobeMed GROW members awoke to the sound of howling dogs and a short while later headed over to our usual breakfast place, much to the pleasure of the smiling owner, our new friend. With our business for the next three weeks, she is happy to see us and claims a photo of us will soon grace the walls of her restaurant. Stuffed with pad thai, curry, banana pancakes and enough coffee to keep us wired for the day, we went out to meet our driver. In a new car, we settled in for an exciting and scary drive. Literally flying out of our seats as the driver sped over speed bumps, we held on for dear life. We attempted not to fall out of the open back of the car just as an entire family on a motorbike whizzed past us. The man driving with one young child in front of him, another on his back, and his wife behind him, smiled and waved, suddenly making our fear seem pointless.
We first dropped Nina and Adam to KWAT headquarters to work with Mai. Neelima, Harrison, and I were off to the intern house for day 2 of English teaching. Walking upstairs, we were greeted by the interns’ bright and eager faces. Thailand’s nickname “Land of Smiles” rang true. We dove right in to conversations, learning more about them and mastering all their names. The charades continued to expand their vocabulary. Harrison jumped, I threw items, and Neelima unfortunately got hit in the head instead of catching. The interns learned new verbs and we learned I can’t throw, much to Neelima’s dismay.
We sat around the table together to eat yet another delicious homemade lunch and learned that the interns had woken up at 6 in the morning to prepare the food. Touched by their efforts, we cleared our plates and then began to help clean up, only to have the interns whisk plates out of our hands and run away chanting “My job, my job.” Banned from the kitchen, we enjoyed a cup of ginseng coffee, a treat one of the interns gave us, before returning to our lesson.
Our afternoon became much more active as we played word games that brought out their competitive spirit. They impressed us with just how much knowledge they comprehended and retained. Along with the language, we introduced them to American entertainment playing everyone’s favorite, Finding Nemo. Simple enough to understand, they greatly enjoyed the movie, reading the subtitles out loud and laughing along with us. Turns out Dory’s song “Just keep swimming” is funny in every language.
Just two days in, I already feel much closer to all the interns and it seemed the feeling was mutual. They felt free to ask innumerable questions and comfortable enough to tease us, writing stories about Harrison and laughing at me for how young I am. With the interns ranging from 20 to 42, my age of 19 elicited far too many headshakes and cackles. We ended our day discussing why each of them wanted to learn English and received answers about how they wanted to travel the world and return to Burma to teach English within their communities. They struggled to express their hate for poverty and war as well as their passion for women’s rights. Over the next couple of weeks, I only hope they will learn enough to share even more of their experiences with us.
Back at KWAT headquarters, Adam and Nina planned to continue navigating complicated and lengthy documents to compile an activity report to present to donors and community members. However, they experienced a catastrophic start to their day with Adam’s computer charger catching fire. The only bright side to the explosion? Adam got to ride back to our hostel on a motorbike, much to our envy. Despite the unexpected setback, they were soon back to a productive pace, typing away on their laptops and racing through information about KWAT and all its programs. They ended their day, pleased with their progress, the deeper understanding of KWAT they attained, and the time spent bonding with Mai.
GlobeMed reunited to share stories of our day and enjoy an authentic Thai dinner. As buckets of rain poured down outside and tears poured down Adam and Neelima’s faces for the spicy Tom Yum they shoveled into their mouths, Adam declared, “Masochists like spicy food.” Volunteers by day, masochists by night. That will constitute our adventures in the Land of Smiles.