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Baan San Fan 2011

29 July 2011 8,618 views 6 Comments

sunday

had a good journey from Phuket, meaning i slept most of the way • i liked Takua Pa, it’s fun when distant places are familiar • lunch at the bus station: vegetable ‘pancake’, bbq-ed dough balls with corn & taro, grilled bananas (ah, it’s good to be back), pineapple • waited • kept telling taxi drivers ‘no, my family come’ • saw Gai, then saw that all the children had come to collect me, gorgeous • big smiles, familiar car, familiar journey • lots at the home is the same, the volunteers’ house has a few more accessories (furniture, tv, fridge), the greenery seems more abundant (but it is monsoon season), the chickens are HUGE, chicken palace has an extension, there are three new pigs (they stink), the catfish are plentiful (gross), the houses have a few new features • the children are great, some a bit taller, some longer hair, all smiles • Sam and Gai are fabulous • Gai says the children have been pestering her ‘when does Pi Lucy come?’, this makes me happy and sad • the children do their own thing for a bit and then they come and get close to me all giggles and smiling • Jan’s English has improved a lot, Mork is stronger, Bew is taller, Jek is more shy than before • i raise my eyebrows, Mork tries to imitate, she goes cross-eyed, i’m not laughing but it is incredibly funny • i am lethargic and heavy-feeling, this is a familiar sensation here, it’s frustrating • i want to clean me, and i want to clean my house • dinner time, ah it’s good to be back. clearly too good, ‘ha ha ha, Pi Lucy, six pack’, and then ‘twins’, i mean, yes, i’ve stacked it on but c’mon… • the children ask how long i will stay, i say a few days and they’re upset, really upset • i’m having very mixed feelings in my first few hours • i’m really happy to see them playing with the yo yo that i brought last time. i yanked that out of my rucksack on the last day at the last minute and was annoyed to find that it didn’t work brilliantly. but here i am today and they’re spinning, flicking, walking-the-dog with it, inside-smile • the children watch Chelsea vs Thai All Stars on the new tv. Chelsea walk it 4-nil • am confused by some of the noises • it’s frogs. i have NEVER heard anything like it, it’s remarkable • oh the flies and mosquitoes and ants are destroying me already. there are bugs in my jeans but i’m too hot & bothered to be bothered looking for them • i’m glad when it’s bedtime, i’m shattered, did i mention…

monday

i join the children late in the garden, they are not surprised • weeding. although with the rain and heat i’m convinced these weeds’ll be back before lunchtime • Gai & i go to the market at the Muslim village • kha nom jeen for breakfast, lucky girl • back home, bananas, coffee chat, like old times. i like these chats with Gai, the insight to her ambition, dreams. she is open with me, and i with her. i wonder… how have i ended up with this relationship with this lady here… • she is happy that i’m here ‘you’re the first volunteer to come twice’ • i know that just by being here i am making a difference, i know that. but i want to do more. how to? what’s the best way? come here and work to make a bigger difference to this place i also call ‘home’? • today i am cleaning • half a bucket, a few crummy sponges & rags, some peculiar detergent, Pussycat Dolls & Rihanna. i attack the bugs, cobwebs and grime in the volunteers’ house. Thai country people need gardens to grow things to eat and make money. their houses are for washing and resting, they don’t need to be super clean. i am not Thai. neither are the other volunteers. this is a self-serving activity for sure but i am doing it mostly for the other volunteers – there are more expected in the coming weeks • bugs, grime, sweat, i am foul but the rooms are looking much better • i recall how jobs seem to take longer than expected here, i’m thinking ‘i could not do this any faster, it’s SO hot’ • we’re done. everything is clean. i am happy, satisfied. the gratification of manual labour • i could kill a lager • settle for a beautiful shower & hair wash • Gai shows me some of the new products she makes, they’re all excellent • i do colouring with the children. again they pull out books and crayons that i brought with me last time saying ‘Pi Lucy’ • weeding • hopscotch • the weather is good, they don’t watch tv • i love watching the children play, they’re as happy jeering, cheering at each other as actually taking their turn • after dinner i’m not sure what they’re doing, i read my book a bit, i’m sweating • we have worship and a family meeting, they tell me they pray for volunteers ‘to be happy and have good job’ so they’re pleased that i’m going to the US, they’re interested, they ask if i’ll have a second husband there. same questions wherever you are in the world • they ask me to say something. ‘i’m so glad to be back. you all have a special place in my heart. thank you for your prayers.’ i stop at ‘please keep up the good work’. i also stop just in time not to cry • have a big yoga session, my third shower of the day and a brilliant sleep

tuesday

stagger through the garden to the children, pretending to sleep walk and then pretend to fall asleep on one of them, they find this hilarious • time for a shower before breakfast • rice rice rice, omlette and stir-fried vegetables • coffee, coffee and bananas, bananas after breakfast • Gai bought bread because she thought I’d like to eat it (other volunteers have requested it) i say no, so the older children and Sam tuck into it with peanut butter & jam. i have a few reactions – the disappointment you experience when someone innocent joins in with the rest of the world, but also a smile because it’s cute. so i fetch my travel-friendly Vegemite and they try it. and they hate it. ha ha ha • Thailand 1 – Vegemite 0 • Gai, Sam and i go out • i think Gai realised that i found these outings frustrating last time because she hadn’t actually invited me but she didn’t mind that i came along • we go to a coconut farm. quiet people doing the same job over and over. they seem quite happy • did you know coconuts have hearts that the babies grow from? they’re delicious • in Takua Pa i get some new mats (Welcome) for the volunteers’ house • our timing is awesome because it is chucking it down • c-h-u-c-k-i-n-g it down • i enjoy the journey, non stop greenery. the foliage in Thailand is so BIG • i enjoy listening to Sam and Gai chatter, they’re just nattering away, like mates, laughing too • i spend the afternoon working online • there are ants crawling on, in, out, around my MacBook • i’m glad i know the routines around here now and feel comfortable. i worried about being on the computer for too long before (would they think i’m just being lazy) but now it’s ok • i make an office in the main, kitchen house, by the window, listening to Thai music from the garage, a pile of grilled bananas by me (it’s me vs. the ants who gets ’em first!), coffee, a stack of work to do • happy • some Singaporean students arrive to see the home and interview Sam and Gai as part of their journalist degree. the translator is a pretty funny guy, very animated, later Sam and Gai say ‘from Bangkok’ like that explains it! • hopscotch with the children • we look at pictures and videos from my last stay here • seven hot bodies crowded round, i love them dearly but i’m glad when the photo show is over and i can breathe fresh air again! • reading • Theroux is a genius, i love him • hot & delicious palm curry for dinner • after dinner there is no pattern as to who goes where and does what and i’m usually too hot to chase anyone • sit in my house working. Sung is here, she plays the same Thai song over, and over, and over, and over, it does, to be honest, have a nice melody, over and over and over • i give Rung, Nat and Kluay the jigsaws. Nat has never done a puzzle, he puts all the edge bits together, just jams ’em in regardless that they don’t fit, it doesn’t make sense to have an edge up against a gap, the picture is wrong • one of the puzzles has numbered pieces. this is funny • too late i go to my room, i’m not feeling so well • yoga • always feel better after yoga

wednesday

few visa dramas to deal with the minute i wake up, not a great start to the day • go outside, do some weeding and tidying around my pond • the day is back on track • there is the most beautiful pink lily in my pond • gardening is becoming like yoga for me: a gentle thing to do in the morning, eases your body awake, time to reflect and calm the mind before the days starts, fresh air, it’s nice. who’s garden can i weed in san francisco? • rice, rice, eggs, eggs, vegetables, coffee, rambutans • it is rambutan i feel i am turning in to, not banana • after breakfast i tell Sam i’d like to clean the tables in the kitchen. i’m comfortable/ confident enough now to suggest this. he agrees and together we clean the tables, glass tops & take the cloths to be washed • i’m going to get through a pile of that work i need to do today • set up an office in my house: pillow on the floor, Singha box as a desk, MacBook and family of ants, water, Nescafe, Marc Anthony • i get a lot done • again i’m glad that i now understand better how the home works, that it’s ok for me to do this • i go to empty some rubbish in the pit (this practice makes you very aware of how much waste you produce) and there’s a lady crawling round looking for plastic to recycle. i’m really embarrassed. for her? for me? that’s my rubbish she’s looking through… • the rain is really refreshing and cool, plus it means that sitting on my computer is not such a bad thing, i think • i tell Sam and Gai rainy days are ‘good for a movie’ they think this is hilarious • take breaks now & then • go for a walk round the village. this means, walking down the main road, wave at the next-door neighbours, wave at the people over the road (everyone’s sitting, watching at the moment because it’s raining a lot), go down the only road, the one that leads to the school • mince around the shack/ shop, buy some rubbish for the children • i see a lady who i recognise from when i was here last, she sells sticky rice in the market on Fridays. she recognises me too. we do hellos and she sells me some sticky rice • walk down the road together chatting away, her in Thai, me in English. this is what i came out of the house for • Sam comes back with some fruit that i will never know the name of, it looks like a grapefruit but inside it’s fluffy with big seeds. the taste is sharp, sweet, unreal pad se ew for lunch, lashings of lime juice, it’s glorious, and – hurray – not rambutans but mangosteens • bit more work but to be honest i don’t feel so good so i end up reading my book then having a sleep for an hour • feel better. is it just the heat? the slow pace? lazy girl-itis? • do some weeding with the children • watch them play hopscotch • i don’t want to be a whinger, i don’t, but the bloody mozzies are killing me. they’re biting through my clothes. my arse is covered in bites • dinner, the children eat whole fried catfish. i have this mushroom soup that’s just glorious • homework • it takes me a long time to explain to Jek that he just has to draw a picture. i know i’m losing patience. i smile. he knows i’m faking • worship/ meeting again • i think i might actually read the bible, there are some good stories and characters in there • nice bit of yoga follows a dose of procrastination

thursday

weeding AND yoga this morning mmm mmm • it’s raining so much today • heaps of veggies for breakfast and a nice dish of egg & tofu in a sweet sauce, but no fruit, w-w-w-w-hat? • more rain • Sam wants to show me the rest of Bang Wan, the rest of it.?! there’s a fishing village, a river that leads to the ocean (can’t quite see the ocean) and a heap of rubber plantations. who knew. Bang Wan, a rural sprawl • i’ve decided rubber plantations freak me out. i find the dark canopy, the set rows all a bit spooky, especially in the middle of messy, colossal jungle foliage • home, MacBook, kitchen-office, Nescafe, still no fruit, Thai ballads from the garage • we go to Takua Pa for shopping and lunch • kha nom jeen, fresh coconut water • Sam and Gai tell me that people joke about coming to kha nom jeen when they don’t have much money so they can eat as much vegetables as possible for 20 Baht. it’s the Thai version of the Pizza Hut salad bowl • we get more street snacks in Takua Pa: banana & peanuts in sticky rice, fried bananas & sweet potato, bbq-ed dough balls, waffles, papaya. thank god for stretchy pants… • this morning Sam and Gai went to collect some starfruit from their friend, this afternoon Sam and i are going to wash it. there’s an entire dustbin full of starfruit. it takes a while but they smell fresh, glorious • i’ve been working on getting my site fixed (server cock up) and finally i mend it. it always comes down to one dot or digit doesn’t it • Sam, Gai and i look through some photos, they seem to enjoy seeing the rest of my life, especially family • Sam goes to do some work on the garden and Gai asks to see my wedding photos, ha ha ha (i oblige) • copy the Thai ballad album to my iTunes and the children talk me through the ‘best’ tracks :) • sweet n sour, broccoli n sugar snaps for dinner but i’m still full from all the street food dammit • it’s still raining • the children crowd around to look at photos and videos again • the after dinner what’s-gonna-happen-now… • Jan comes and does colouring in some new books that i brought • the other children come • we play Connect Four. i set up a tournament (best of three and swap next person in) then sit back and, well, play on my phone • Jan, Pi and I play Memory. the cards are Swiss and the pictures are ridiculously similar. but Jan nails it; she cleans up • we’re done, ‘goodnight’ ‘goodnight’ • do some writing while listening to frogs (incredible), rain (it’s hammering) and Thai pop music • yoga, beautiful yoga actually, reading, goodnight

friday

wake up before the alarm. eh? • tiny amount of weeding, it’s drizzling and the mozzies are out in force • Bang Wan market day, Gai and i go for shopping • i love the market, the fruit & vegetables are endlessly fascinating to me • Gai buys sticky rice & pork for the children to have, i buy them brownies :) • vegos, fruit, fish being washed in the rain, chicken splayed, piles of chillies and ground chill/shrimp paste • the cooked food smells awesome: boiled sweetcorn, sticky rice, fried chicken, fried pork, steamed Chinese buns, fried rice, noodles, egg • Gai gets me a pancake with sweetcorn, coconut and – at the last minute – a mound of crunchy sugar. it’s made in a clay pot and sort of bubbles, let’s not even speculate about HOW bad it is for me • at one stall we buy every banana available ha ha ha • the lady who sold me the sticky rice the other day is here, she’s already sold out • back home we nibble fried rice, coconut mixed with green rice & sugar (actually, are the crunchy bits ants???), starfruit, and drink hot soy milk mixed with nuts, tapioca & barley, apparently it’s very good for us. and coffee. and later bananas • Sam, Gai and I do some bits and bobs on the computer. help with emails, filling forms. at one point each of us is sat at a different computer! hotdesking ha ha ha • i set up Skype for them on their laptop and go outside to talk to them. they love it and we laugh a lot • we go and do our own thing but i keep messaging Sam from my house to his. ooo, nerd humour • i spend so long mucking around it’s time for ginkow and i still haven’t showered. ew • egg noodle pad se ew, Gai knows how to spoil me • finally do the packing, with Silverchair on. i’ve bought things – soap, oil, bags – and so there’s more to cram in • last… few… things… • Gai has made me a packed lunch for the overnight bus! i’m gonna be one of those people with endless carrier bags of goodies on the bus. man those people are annoying, unless they’re you’re friend • Sam and Gai take me to Kuraburi, where i’m getting the bus • we chat along the way. i tell them i’m happy, proud and impressed with the work they’re doing. they ARE doing an awesome job and i want them to know. we’re all glad that we’ve seen each other again • the goodbyes are brief but loaded • i’ve had enough of goodbyes. enough • however, having returned once i’m leaving confident that i will be back. yes, this is (another) second home now for sure

xxx Pi Lucy

6 Comments »

  • Tammy said:

    Lucy,

    Sounds great but I thought this was a Christian orphanage? I would like to hear about what the Lord is doing there at the orphanage. How is the gospel introduced to the children? Is He the focus of the discussions? Do people read the bible to the children? Does everything revolve around Jesus? Please let me know because I am considering going and serving the children and the couple who run it. I am concerned for their salvation and want to be assured that everything is being done to evangelize these little children of God.

    Thanks for your time and honesty. I really appreciate it.

    Blessings to you, all the children, and the couple who run it,
    Tammy

  • lucyjjames » Blog Archive » South Thailand Islands said:

    […] a lucky girl that things worked out how they did, and to follow it up with another stay in Bang Wan was awesome. There’ll be more Thailand in my future, I want to feel the sand between my toes, […]

  • Sairsha said:

    Hey Lucy!

    I’m not sure if I get a notification when you reply to a comment on your blog but I will come back and check in a few days :)

    I brought my trip forward to Thailand to January, not long to go! Am quite nervous but also really excited to be going as a solo female traveller eeeek.

    I arrive in Phuket on 19th Jan and have an STA Travel shared bus transfer booked to a mixed dorm in Nomads Hostel at Chalong Beach, then I am being picked up on 26th Jan and doing a week at Baan San Fan which I am so excited for. I think a week will be good and I’m sure I’ll want to go back again.

    I read a lot of your blogs about your time there and what to expect it was so useful so thankyou!

    Do you think I will be ok travelling alone and staying in a mixed dorm in the hostel for my first week? After that I think I will pretty much never be alone as I am doing a Contiki tour of the west islands after Baan San Fan.

    In terms of a female traveller what are the sorts of things I need to be aware of? Safety, customs, clothing/modesty, etiquette etc.

    Thanks so much xxx

  • lucyjjames (author) said:

    Sairsha,

    Thanks for reading and for getting in touch. You will have a wonderful time, it sounds like you’ve planned your trip really well. Say hello to all the children from me please :)

    Answers to your specific questions:
    – Generally, travelling on your own is fine. Be sensible, plan well, do what feels right for you wherever you are.
    – Mixed dorm really depends on the crowd at the time. Normally it’s fine, but don’t worry too much.. See hoe you feel after your first night and if you want to change room, just change, it will be worth spending the extra money (or time to look for a room) to feel comfortable and safe and happy. I’m sure it will be ok though.
    – Safety is mostly ok, as I say, just be sensible and take obvious precautions (don’t carry all your valuables with you, check the route you’re taking, don’t travel late/ in the dark)
    – Clothing is just generally best to dress modestly, that way you will attract less attention and have less risk of causing any offense.
    – With regards to etiquette, it depends on the specific areas you go to and the places you visit but generally be respectful of any religious centres and (this is particularly relevant) don’t pat children on the head.

    It sounds like you’ll be spending time with touristy groups (contiki, youth hostel etc) and in touristy areas (islands) so on the whole I’m sure you’ll be fine.

    Let me know if you have any other questions and I hope that helps. Have a wonderful time and stay in touch about your adventures.
    xLucy

  • Sairsha said:

    Hey Lucy

    Thanks so much for the information has eased my mind a little!

    I will definitely make sure I say hello to them for you :) they are picking me up from my hostel on Sat 26th Jan I can’t wait to meet them all. Could you suggest any things to take for them which aren’t too big so I can fit in my bag? What sort of things do I need to expect at the orphanage with regards to things like meals and washing and where I am sleeping and how to greet people!!!

    I have my bus transfer organised right from when I arrive in Phuket so I hope I will meet people soon enough and to be honest I think the age range is very young at the hostel and sociable so will force me to make friends :)

    I have read everywhere to dress as modestly as possible and cover up when not on the beach! I definitely don’t want to be walking around in shorts and tank tops.

    I have been told I don’t need Malaria medication as I am not going anywhere near borders with other countries but I’m really paranoid about it! Shall I just cover up as much as possible and use repellent?

    Thanks so much it’s really useful knowing you went on your own too! x

  • lucyjjames (author) said:

    hi again. Must be getting excited about your trip now.

    I’m glad you asked about what things to buy, here are my tips :)
    – buy gifts in the Thailand, preferably in a town/ village as close to Baan san Fan as possible so that you’re also contributing to the local economy
    – keep packaging to a minimum. all non perishable rubbish (plastic, paper etc) goes into a big hole behind the childrens houses
    – consider things that have more than one purpose, e.g. can be taken to school and shared with other children (e.g. flash cards for learning can be taken to school)
    – in contradiction, consider getting each child one item, they don’t have a lot that’s 100% their own (e.g. one time i took them each their own little keyring)
    – and i shouldn’t say this, but they really love sweets :)
    – another way to look at this, up to you of course, is you may want to save your money, and when you arrive speak discreetly with Gai about how you can contribute to the home. Gifts are wonderful, but a roof that doesn’t leak is better. Y’see what I mean…

    You’ll be fine on your travels. Relax and enjoy it. And do stay in touch..

    Malaria – I do not take malaria tablets in Thailand, they are recommended for some of the hilly areas (far away from Phuket/ Bangkok) but DO TAKE INSECT REPELLANT. the mosquitoes at Baan San Fan are the worst thing ever, i cannot emphasise enough. ok, point made!

    Enjoy yourself and I look forward to the photos & stories.
    xLJ

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