The first thing that strikes you when arriving at the Mechai Bamboo School is the setting; a lush campus full of greenery, bridges over waterways, bamboo buildings and lines of mango trees. On entering the front of the school you are immediately welcomed by the Friendship Bridge – a large bamboo and concrete walkway that transcends a large pool and takes you into the heart of the school. My youngest, who loves bridges and is therefore in his element, bounced across the bridge and shouted “rabbits!” being the first to spot the little island of rabbits from the middle of the bridge. There are so many things to find and discover around this school (Khun Mechai likes his thought provoking messages for example) that it is an important reminder of being mindful and taking in your environment at all times. The Bamboo School is truly a centre for lifelong learning and a hub for community development and education; you can see and feel it everywhere you walk – what an environment to learn in everyday.
It was a pleasure to see the Mechai Patana students again, especially those that I have had the pleasure to meet and work with over the last three years. The students are always polite and pleased to see you and they quickly welcomed us to their school and home. New and Pom showed us to our rooms for the next 3 days and it was great to catch up with them both and find out how their studies are going. New is hoping to go to Khon Koen University at the end of next year and study to be a linguist. Her English is definitely a lot better than my Thai! It was also great to see Kong again and to be introduced by him at dinner time to all the students at the school.
Something that struck us was the fact that the teachers were not really present, I don’t mean that they had done a runner as I am sure they are very busy, but it was suddenly very apparent that the senior students were being very attentive to us and making sure everything happened smoothly. They organised dinner and evening prayers and then New addressed all 130 students regarding a discipline matter, apparently about listening to music only in their dorms. Although I did not really understand what she was saying it was obvious that she had the full attention of every student and that she was to be taken very seriously. When she had finished speaking there was a spontaneous round of applause from the rest of the students.
I said to my own kids as we walked back to our room after the evening assembly if they had noticed who was looking after us and leading all the activities… I was glad that they responded, “the students.” I also pointed out that we had not seen one student on an iPhone or mobile device since we had been at the school, which was also impressive and a powerful message. I like the fact that every student was connected in the moment and not disconnected due to an appliance which you see all the time today – at restaurants, on public transport, in meetings, in the cinema, at school, etc. I am even more determined that we make the most of our time visiting this unique learning environment and connect as much as possible with our hosts, the community and the opportunities that present themselves to us.