first 24 hours at Baan San Fan
Hard to find a word that sums up this first 24 hours. ‘Whirlwind’, ‘eye opener’ and other cliches aren’t right. What it’s been is a gentle assimilation into a family life that holds no resemblance to my day to day existence at all. The only similarities are that we sit down for three meals a day, my phone works and I have the same shampoo here.
On arrival at Baan San Fan I met Gai, matriarch of this plentiful family and an inspirational role model from head to toe. You’ll be hearing a lot more about her. We walked around the land, it’s well kept, lush and purposeful :) You’ll be hearing lots more about that as well. Then I met Sam working on the new chicken shed. I say shed, it’s bigger than my Manly pad and looks sturdier.. Sam is quietly friendly, with a firm touch, I like him a lot. We all spent the first few hours chatting and showing each other photos, it was easy, fun and funny – they laughed at all my jokes, a promising start.
Two initial crises: no toilet paper – that was just an error, thank all the gods. And then the fish leaked out of the pond via an uncapped overflow pipe and were flip flopping all over the drive way. I’d just spent two hours insisting that I ‘wanted to do work’ and ‘help as much as possible’. Faced with my first task, what did I do, squeal like a girl and bottle it after touching one fish. What an asset.
meeting the children
The children came home from school and for the most part were shy and reluctant but we did some ‘hello’s and ‘my name is’, I got a few smiles and confidence started to grow on both sides. I stayed out of the way for a bit just seeing what was happening and then jumped in feet first with a frisbee and a smile. A group of us (I’m still learning names but an older boy and girl and two younger boys and girls) played frisbee for the next 90 or so minutes. First of all just chucking around then a sort of piggy in the middle, there was a lot of giggling and by dinner time I was soaked with sweat.
Dinner was a joy – you’ll hear more about the food but safe to say I’ve renamed Gai ‘Masterchef’! Some of the older girls showed me how to help with the washing up out on the verandah, we all did some eye rolling and smiling at my untrained efforts. And I got approximately 22 mosquito bites in the duration! I’ll try not to go on about it but grrr they’re a bit distracting…
So then showers blah blah (I have cold water only and a lizard that babysits my towel). And then homework. I helped Nat with his three pages of English exercises. It was really interesting watching him open up as we worked together, to start he would hardly look at me and wouldn’t repeat words back but by the time we finished he was saying the sentences before I asked, it was good. Then I got some counting cards and crayons out and taught numbers and colours in English. I was surprised that I had a clue how to do this but it went quite well. The three girls I was playing with are gorgeous, they were all eyes and ears, keen to repeat and speak out loud, giggly, cheeky, a lot of fun. We were all wetting ourselves saying ‘thhhhhhhirteen’ (there is no ‘th’ sound in Thai so they find it tricky). They also taught me numbers and colours in Thai, it was wicked, and SO much eye rolling when I couldn’t remember things after the fourth, fifth time. The girls called it a night saying that I looked tired. They were right, I was asleep by 9.30pm!
You may know I’d been told my role here was to be like an older sibling. So this morning, like a typical older sister, I slept through my alarm, got up late and was bugger all use to anyone.
There are no shops in this village at all. Initially I found this unnerving, ‘what if’, ‘what about’, but that’s that. The other thing that’s a bit unusual is someone else being in charge of the catering, the fridge, the coffee pot… I only help myself to water. Still, if you can’t get your arse out of bed on time you can’t expect to have responsibilities can you…
Today, however, was market day. There were food, clothing, homeware stalls right across the road from us. I went over, wandered around and found Gai (‘yes the children are already at school’, ‘yes I’ve already got the shopping’, wow, I’m ace). We bought bits & bobs, I pretended not to see a pig’s head on a table and then we went home for breakfast.
Sam, Gai and I chatted for a bit and I did the washing up including an unfortunate breakage :( Then walked four of the children to school. It’s a ten minute walk but I discovered 1) the simple pleasure of having your hand held by an inquisitive, smiley nine year old, and 2) the difficulty of talking to a nine year old when you have no idea what to say and you can’t speak Thai.
Sam, Gai and I hopped in the car to the nearest town – Takup I think – to buy coconut milk and other shop-only items, including more mozzy repellant and soothing eucalyptus ointment for me :)
Home and then I helped Sam fill sacks with wood chips for the chicken shed. Have I mentioned it’s hot here..? Absolutely stinking. And humid. So, just standing there holding sacks I was drenched and then chucking them into the back of the van.. nuff said. And the sawdust blew all over us. In short I looked like a chicken!
Shower, lunch, then I hung out chatting to Gai. In twenty four hours she’s spoken to me three times about her vision, her ambition for this home. And twice she’s cried as she’s told me. I don’t say that for drama or to embarass her, but to emphasise the wholesome, committed passion that is integral to this organisation. They want to do good. They are doing good. And they want to do more.
As I write this I’m sitting on my yoga mat on the verandah of my building, listening to the rainfall. Sometimes it’s hard to know what do do with an extra pair of hands so I’m staying out of the way for a min (plus, let’s face it, I’ve been useless so far…) and I’m ok looking after myself. To my left four children are making sandcastles on the drive – they’re really content, and with resourcefulness and imagination like that how can you not be..?
So we’ll see what the weekend, next week, the rest of the trip holds. I can tell you that I’ve only shared a snapshot here: this experience is already bringing me equal peacefulness and also stimulation (and bug bites). I’m excited, actually spilling with ideas, but I’m also calm and a bit passive about it all.
I’m learning a lot too: to remember to take my shoes off, just how to chat to nine year olds, to stop bowing (I don’t even know why I do this) and – one day and counting – how to survive a beer free holiday!!!
other posts on Baan San Fan
Volunteering at Baan San Fan, Bang Wan, Thailand
Boxing Day, Baan San Fan
Christmas Day, Baan San Fan
Christmas Eve, Baan San Fan
down to business.. Baan San Fan
Christmas preparations Baan San Fan