Thailand Reflections

Tan the motorbike taxi driver

Tan the friendly motorbike taxi driver

They often say that you won’t live anywhere better in the world as an expat than in Thailand, the Land of Smiles.  Having now lived and worked here for over 15 years I have definitely seen many people come and go, such is the transient nature of the expat and especially international teachers.  One thing that I have noticed is that people do usually return to Thailand, whether it is to visit friends, to holiday or to work again.  I had no idea what was in store for me or what to expect from the Thai people, their culture and their kingdom when I first left for Thailand in 1999.  I know that we will return, Thailand is our home, the place where I got married and also where my three children were born.  It is of course going to be difficult to leave and let go of the many pleasures that we have become accustomed to and take for granted but we also realise that it is time to re-connect with another home, we like to think that we are becoming a global family.

Love that Thinglish!

Love that Thinglish!

My oldest son likes to compare new countries that he visits with Thailand, to observe what is similar and what is different.  He is going to be in shock mid-November in the north west of England when the obvious differences hit him!  What makes Thailand such an amazing place is how easy it is, especially for families.  The Thai people are so welcoming and they love young children.  I will miss speaking Thai with them and getting myself into trouble as I get lost beyond the second sentences of a conversation.  I admire their appreciation and tolerance of a foreigner making the effort though, especially my local barber who I have had the same conversation with (in Thai) four times a year for the last eight years.

What a sandwich!

What a sandwich!

The Thai food is awesome of course but I have to say that one of my all time favourite discoveries on arriving in Thailand was Au Bon Pain.  The chocolate croissants are to die for and the steak and swiss cheese sandwich is mega – I couldn’t believe it when I found out they delivered as well!  I have had two of the sandwiches this week for old times sake and savored them as much as I did in the early bachelorhood days when they were part of the daily diet.  Au Bon Pain always got my mothers blessing as well whenever she visited as she always said, “they making a piping hot cup of tea.”

Ciao Khun John's

Ciao Khun John’s

The first place I ever drank a beer in Thailand was Khun John’s restaurant on the banks of Lake Mabprachan.  The Friday football lads took me there after my first sub-tropical kick-about and I had no idea where I was – I knew I was almost dying of heat stroke though.  The Heineken came in these huge bottles and seemed to be bottomless.  All I can remember is that I was told not to eat or drink after midnight as I had an important medical the next day.  The following Monday I got a note in my tray informing me I had failed the medical and had to attend another one that coming weekend.  I didn’t go to Khun John’s after football that Friday!  I have been many times since though as it is a family favourite eating place.  Any Thai food you want, it is tasty, quick and good value.  We went for the last time this week and coincidentally the waiter told us that Khun John has apparently sold up (after all these years) and it will become an Italian restaurant next month.  I can’t imagine Thailand without Khun John’s it has been a constant in our lives.

The shop that sells everything

The shop that sells everything

I am looking forward to the UK village shop again and buying a daily newspaper and a bag of Walkers Crisps (I have got to stop saying chips… and candies… and cookies) but it is not going to be Janya Mart.  There is something special about the Thai family shop that sells everything.  It is sad that a lot have struggled to survive since Seven Eleven has swept across the country but there are still a number out there and I always make the effort to use them.  Janya Mart is our local village shop and it is one of the best ways to connect with the local community and to use your Thai.  It is set up (like all other Thai family shops) to focus on social interaction with benches and tables outside and always an array of tempting snacks to choose from – it is the hub of the community.  You can buy a beer at anytime of the day, sit down on the bench and watch the Thai world go by. You can even drive your motorbike up to the shop and fill it up with petrol from a selection of bottles usually precariously placed on a wooden framed structure. Janya Mart has been a regular calling point for the last eight years and I will miss the interaction and constant smiling faces of both Janya and Nui who have witnessed our family grow and devour – God knows how many ice lollies!  I have explained to them that we are leaving on Monday but I am not sure if they have really understood, I will pop in before we go, wai, thank them and say goodbye.

If you liked this post you may also like this: 15 Years of Stuff

From ice to rice continued…

Jonah and Zoe giving their rice to Nui

Jonah and Zoe giving their rice to Nui

Who has their eyes on Nui’s ice-cream?

Our good friend in Angola, Robyn Fox, came up with the idea of the (bag of) rice challenge – instead of wasting precious water in Angola and doing the ice bucket challenge Robyn suggested donating a bag of rice to someone instead.  A wonderful example of thinking outside the box and being ‘innovative and proactive’, maybe we will see a GC Award submission from Robyn in the near future… an exemplar global mentor!

The girls getting their hair washed

I was nominated by Sarah Travis-Mulford to do the rice challenge after she had made her of rice to the Hand to Hand Foundation.  I have also been encouraging my two oldest children to do the ice bucket challenge ever since I nominated them in Sukhothai a number of weeks ago when I did the ALS ice bucket challenge – they have managed to avoid it all around the north of Thailand and Laos!  

Today they dipped into their own pocket money though and instead of suffering the shock of ice cold water agreed to buy a large bag of rice each and both chose to donate it to our friend Khun Nui.  We spent a lovely lunch and afternoon with Nui; Jonah’s highlight being ice-creams and Zoe’s having her hair washed and blow dried!You can read Jonah’s version of his rice challenge here.  He has now nominated: Morgan Howard, Ben Harrison and Nampetch Bennett for the rice rice challenge (see my nominations below).

I actually took my bag of rice to the Fountain of Life Children’s Centre last week and gave it to Kru Wannee.  I did explain to her what it is all about and I think she understood, I am sure it will all be eaten up and enjoyed either way.  Now it is my turn to nominate three people for the rice challenge and I choose: Karen Partyka, Sego Mokgothu and Sara Menges.  Three people in three different countries (Scotland, South Africa and the US), it will be interesting to hear back from them and finding out how they got on and who they have passed the rice challenge on to.

Kru Wannee accepting my bag of rice for the Fountain of Life

Kru Wannee accepting my bag of rice for the Fountain of Life

The Fountain of Life Children’s Centre with Kru Wannee

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The Fountain of Life Children’s Centre was the very first community partner that I was fortunate to engage with and learn from when I arrived to live and work in Thailand back in 1999.  It is a learning day centre for young children that do not (or cannot) go to Thai school, especially for children of migrant workers who have no ‘identity’ in Thailand. The centre was founded and is coordinated by the Good Shepherd Foundation, a group of amazing Catholic sisters who are dedicated to improving the education opportunities and living standards of children (and women) across South East Asia.

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The centre is largely funded by the Jesters Care for Kids, a community based group that raises funds and supports development projects specifically for young people in the Pattaya and Chonburi area.  The highlight of their busy calendar being the Jester’s Fair that takes place once a year in early September.

Sabrina at the Fountain of Life Children's Centre

Sabrina at the Fountain of Life Children’s Centre.

I have taken many student and teacher groups to the centre to learn with the children and staff there.  For a number of years part of our school induction programme for new staff involved a visit to the Fountain of Life and meeting the children and staff.  We always challenged the new teachers to immediately engage with the children and to find out who they are, where they come from and what their dreams are – language should never be a barrier or obstacle when learning through service and creating sustainable community partnerships.  The Fountain of Life also visited our school regularly and were included in numerous activities, projects and whole school events.  As part of the community partner programme at the school the Fountain of Life became the permanent learning partner and integrated into the curriculum planning for Year 1.

The Fountain of Life Centre

The Fountain of Life Centre

I have also taken many visitors to the Fountain of Life through work as well as personal friends.  Kru Wannee, the head teacher at the centre, is always very welcoming and understands the importance of community engagement and support.  The children enjoy meeting new people and learning where you come from.  They are always keen to demonstrate their English and sing songs or draw pictures with you.  The centre also makes a wide range of impressive handicraft items, for example cards, which are for sale and the proceeds support the running costs of the centre.

Kru Wannee on the left

Kru Wannee on the left

Kru Wannee is an amazing teacher and lead learner and another inspiring community leader whom I always look up to and try to learn from.  She has an extremely calm and reassuring manner and loves the work she does at the Fountain of Life for the children and her team of teachers.  She is a dedicated and passionate Thai educator and an amazing role model.  I asked her a few questions about her role and what education in Thailand means to her, please see below:

Why did you become a teacher? I would like to help poor children.  I love the children and teaching is a great job.  I really do love this occupation.

What do you think makes a good education? You must teach the children to do it themselves. Allow the children to have a good quarity of life and help them see the value of having a social mind and helping other people. Making sure that all the children can access education who are without  documentation or are from a different country.

What is special about the Fountain of Life Children’s Centre? All of the children have the right to development at the Fountain of life. The Senior staff and children have equality.  We give the power and opportunity and expect respect from the staff, parents and children. We work within a network to protect every child.

How can people support the Fountain of Life? Be a volunteer. Donate money in the bankbook and the office in Pattaya. Promote the center and tell people you know. Do activities with the children and take them on outings. Donate money for education.

What advice would you give people about living and working in Thailand? If you have time you can help us to play games  and sport  with the children and contact Sr.Jimjit or Sr.Joan. You can teach English or handicrafts once a week. Invite the people to visit the center. Contact other people to help the children and raise the funds to support us. Love the city and country you stay in and always help that area.

Nancy Gibson – she loves wildlife

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I have had the pleasure to work with Nancy Gibson, the founder of Love Wildlife Thailand, for a number of years.  This is a lady who is passionate about conservation and especially the welfare of our animal relatives.  Nancy does a great amount of work through education and working with schools and is always willing to visit and partner young people through environment based projects.  She is also an inspiring speaker and can engage large audiences as a key note or even spend the day working with children (and staff) of all ages as a facilitator.  If you are in the South East Asia region and are looking for a way to target your sustainable thinking and action Identity then get in contact with Nancy and the Love Wildlife team – they really do love wildlife!

Why did you start Love Wildlife Thailand?

Nancy: Wildlife was a passion of mine since I ended my pursuit to become a medical doctor in university. I had always been surrounded by animals my whole life and realised late in my undergrad that I wanted to work in wildlife. I did wildlife education for some time in the states and had the opportunity to get experience here in Thailand before going back to start my own “something related to wildlife” in the US. I had actually thought of the name before I moved to Thailand, but didn’t know what I really wanted to do with it at that point.

As I gained experience here working with wildlife vets I realised that Thailand needed more programs for wildlife education, far more than the US could ever need and decided to stay here and start my NGO.

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In what ways are you a global citizen?

Nancy: I have demonstrated being a global citizen by first and foremost, taking responsibility for my own actions and how I treat nature and the environment. Secondly, I would say that I continue to pass on the torch to the younger generation through the education programs I develop and through inspiring kids to do more. The Youth Ecological Network is an example of that, were I am creating an environment for students to take charge and own the programs within their schools and reach out to their communities to spread awareness and take action.

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Why do you think sustainable thinking and action is important in today’s schools?

Nancy: With the rapid deterioration of the environment and overuse from generations before (and even now), it’s definitely important to think sustainable in today’s schools. When we teach student’s to be responsible and make it a habit within the schools, student’s will often carry it on to their homes. This will in turn create a more sustainable future for generations to come. If we do not teach these things, our world will not be a very good place not too far in the future.

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How can schools and individuals work with and support Love Wildlife?

Nancy: Of course Love Wildlife always needs funding to survive and continue to provide programs that not only teach about the environment and wildlife, but also support the conservation efforts as well. Holding events to provide knowledge and outreach to the local communities are always a great thing to do. Many schools have jumped in on programs that they feel match their ideals or interests and have volunteered time to work on certain issues such as shark fin campaigns, dolphin issues and illegal wildlife trade. Supporting our new after school education program from grades 1-4 would (YEN Kids) also help in the sustainability of the organisation as well as give your students fun and interactive ways to learn about the many issues in wildlife.

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Nancy: Love Wildlife not only works hard at educating young students about wildlife, but push forward building a better future for wildlife in Thailand. We work closely with the Thai government in capacity building and improving the lives of captive animals.

Thanks to Nancy for contributing to the Global Citizenship Award website and sharing her thoughts.  Please do check out the Love Wildlife website and get involved, there is plenty to do!

See also Anita’s experience working with Nancy and the Love Wildlife team.

The Michigan Difference

Contributed by Brittany Tang

Michigan

After spending three weeks at the University of Michigan, I am starting to feel the energy in the air, the buzz of academia, the passion and excitement of being part of what is essentially a small city. The first week I dipped my toes into the academic pool of my classes. I got used to what was expected of me and how to succeed. After I felt sufficiently settled and comfortable with my studies I started searching for leadership positions and community service based clubs to join.

I ran for and was elected President of the Events Planning Committee (EPC) for the HSSP (Health Sciences Scholar’s Program) community. As the President, I help facilitate weekly EPC meetings, I design agendas and communicate with the representatives from each HSSP committee. I am also a member of the HSSP Community Service Committee. Myself, along with others in the committee plan service endeavors for the HSSP community: volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House for families with children in critical condition, volunteering at Indian Trails Camp for children and adults with disabilities, ect. I recently received an email from a 4th year MD PhD student who is working to establish an NGO to help provide health care for people in Uganda. A group of  students including myself, will be establishing a sister program for the undergraduate school to raise awareness for the NGO Progressive Health Partnership (PHP) as well as raise some funds. The link to the project is as follows: Progressive Health Partnership | People Helping People. I am also part of an organization called the VIEW (Volunteers Involved Every Week).  The mission of this organization is to “empower students to become educated leaders and create social change in partnership with local organizations and communities”. This club in particular, stood out to me because of its emphasis on global citizenship and community service. I am very excited to be part of the team!

Finally, from a more academic point of view this past week has been extremely busy because I am in the process of searching for undergraduate research opportunities. I sent out multiple applications for multiple research projects and I have had lots of very educational interviews. I am really enjoying the entire process of finding a project I am interested in researching to securing a place on the research team. I have yet to commit to a particular project, at the moment, however by next week I will have my research position. Overall, I think the most important thing to remember is that balance is so incredibly important. Attending university has really challenged me in a positive way and has allowed me to grow into the individual I endeavor to be. I hope to continue down this path of leadership, service, academia and research and I am very excited to see how this first year turns out!

To read more posts by Brittany please click here.

Acting local and thinking global with Anita

Contributed by Anita van Dam – a Global Ambassador

Since the beginning of this Year I have started working at a zoo in Kerkrade, Netherlands, called the Gaia Park. I go there once a week when possible where I work with the primates, for example cleaning the cage, creating recreational activities and making their food and feeding them.

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As a member of the EAG (Environment Action Group) in the school, we collaborated with IKEA for them to switch off all their lights during Earth Hour to raise awareness. I was the supervisor for the group and we also handed out leaflets to costumers and told them about the event and asked them to participate.

Earth Hour

Earth Hour

During my holiday, I bumped into Nancy Gibson* from the Love Wildlife Foundation. She and a few others were heading for a meeting to talk about the opening of the New Dolphinarium in Phuket and so I asked to join in. Below is a link to a rerun on the Phuket News TV about the event.

*Nancy Gibson will feature on a post under speakers soon
Anita and Nancy in Phuket

Anita and Nancy in Phuket

Anita meeting with the Love Wildlife team in Phuket

Anita meeting with the Love Wildlife team in Phuket

I am now in Direct contact with the people there and will be raising awareness in the Netherlands and the other United World Colleges in attempt to make this international.
Making Thai krathongs

Making Thai krathongs

I attended project week where I went to Poland with 5 other students to work with an organisation called Siemacha who work with children who need help in studies or whose parents do not have time to take care of them. Here I led a session where I taught the students about Thailand and had an activity where I taught them how to make krathongs.
The International Fair

The International Fair

Another event that I joined was the International Fair where I had my own Thai stand with pictures and items from Thailand as well as cooking some Thai dishes such as fried rice, rice with Thai omelette, kao man kai and sweet pork shred with sticky rice. I also participated in the international fashion show.
Cupcakes!

Cupcakes!

I also participated in Storytelling Bakery where we learned how to make cupcakes as well as decorate them. We had a story attached to each cupcake that related to each other and had the cupcakes decorated to match the story.
MUN in Italy

MUN in Italy

I have also participated in an MUN conference in Italy with the school United World College Adriatic. It was a great experience and I had a lot of fun. I made many new friends as well as learned the procedures while also getting to see the city. The topics were against me therefore I had to work harder and make my points strong in order to protect my country (India) which was being accused of things we had not done.
Thanks for the update Anita and good luck with your studies in your final year of school at UWC Maarstricht. Please keep us posted with your progress and achievements.  
The GC Award Team.
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Chipseng Thor – a man all about community partnerships

Chipseng with his wife Char by the Seuang River

Chipseng with his wife Char by the Seuang River

Last week I had the pleasure to spend three days with an amazing man and good friend who lives in Laos.  I was fortunate to meet Chipseng in early 2011 through a mutual friend of ours on a community project in Laos (one of the best service projects that I have experienced).  After observing Chipseng passionately lead the project and masterfully connect the visiting group and the local community he knows so well together I decided to invite him to Thailand later that year to experience an international school setting and to allow as many of our students and staff to learn from Chipseng as I had done.  It was great to be able to get the chance to take my family to Luang Prabang in northern Laos and to meet Chipseng and his family and to find out a lot more about what makes this man such an inspiring community leader and developer of educational partnerships.

The mountain along Seuang River where Chipseng was born

The mountain along Seuang River where Chipseng was born

Chipseng was born north east of Luang Prabang in the countryside along the Seuang River that flows into the Mekong.  He is Hmong, people that traditionally live in the highest mountain areas of Laos and other parts of South East Asia. He moved to Luang Prabang when he was only 7 years old to study because, as he told me, he had the ‘authority’ then to leave his family, even though he was the youngest son and was expected to stay in the village and look after the family.  At that time there were no roads and he had to trek and take a boat along the river for two days to get to Luang Prabang.

At that time Chipseng could only speak Hmong. He had to learn the Laos language when he got to school and spent 8 years studying and living at the government school in Luang Prabang. The school was started to give children from the rural areas an opportunity of an education.  He then attended high school for three years and met Chan, his wife. They married after high school and Chipseng’s parents came to live with them in Luang Prabang. He wanted to go to university but had to support the family and joined the Laos Army instead for 3 years. During his time in the army he felt there was a lack of opportunity to develop himself and to also support the community so he left the army and went to teacher training college and studied English for 3 years whilst working freelance as a tour guide. He joined Educational Travel Asia 4 years ago after meeting Graham Harper* on a project. Chipseng is now the project manager for ETA Laos.

*Soon to be be featured under speakers

Chipseng with the Headteachers of Pak Xeng School in a typical classroom

Chipseng with the Headteachers of Pak Xeng School in a typical classroom

Chipseng really loves his job and you can see it.  He knows everyone and he has their full trust and loyalty.  He is one of those unique people that can connect and bring people together to create mutually beneficial learning outcomes and sustainable partnerships.  He repeatedly tells me that he is happy that through his work he has a good opportunity to help and support the local people and his community. He believes it is important to develop international understanding amongst the Laos people but also tourists and international students that visit Laos.

Chipseng is passionate about the partnership of education and tourism and the symbiotic role they should have on one another. He uses a teacher who has not travelled as an example and  questions how that person can impart knowledge and understanding effectively without understanding other people and cultures.  He wants this for the Laos teachers and is working closely with Graham Harper and ETA to ensure that the communities and the schools along Seuang River benefit directly and in a sustainable manner from the increase in tourism and also from international educational partnerships.  A number of international schools and universities already work with Chipseng and visit Seuang River on an annual basis.

Pak Xeng School classroom

Pak Xeng School classroom

Chipseng took my family and I to Pak Xeng, a village about 3 hours from Luang Prabang.  We were honoured to have been hosted by a home-stay family (something every international student and educator should experience) and visited the primary and secondary school.  We met the students, the teachers and also the headteachers and shared a number of facts about our own schools and experiences.  One standout fact is that Pak Xeng Secondary School has 60 – 70 students per class.  You could tell the teachers work very hard and do their very best for the students and never complain. Chipseng and the headteachers showed me around some of the classrooms and explained that the next project is to improve the roof (which was falling down) and to replace the broken desks and benches (see photos).  I said to them that these classrooms were obviously not being used at present and they quickly replied that there were and that there was nowhere else to teach the students.

The roof above the classrooms

The roof above the classrooms

Chipseng and ETA are looking for educational partners to support the Pak Xeng School project.  The approximate cost to replace the roof and to improve the classrooms is $12,000.  If you think your university, your school, your social group, your family or yourself as an individual would like to support this project and/or visit Seuang River as part of a service learning community project then please do contact Chipseng or Graham below:

chipseng@buffalotours.com

graham@buffalotours.com

I highly recommend Seuang River as a place to visit and a community to connect with and there is no better person to do that through than with Chipseng Thor.

Comfort zone… well and truly left!

A few days ago I posted an update about our family adventures and included a few random photos / observations.  Like every adventure should, I stated that we were seeking to go out of our ‘comfort zones’ both physically and mentally and to learn something new about ourselves and the world we live and work in.  A pretty bold statement but also said with a bit of trepidation as I was about to take my young family as far off the beaten track as I have ever taken them before.  When I published the post I used the tagline, ‘When do you know you have gone out of your comfort zone?

Post surgery in Pak Xeng village 'hospital' in northern Laos

Post surgery in Pak Xeng village ‘hospital’ in northern Laos

Well, I have definitely experienced it now!  As part of our five day visit to Laos we were taken on a two day home-stay visit to a village three hours north of Luang Prabang on the Seuang River, in the Pak Xeng district.  We had an amazing time meeting the rural people of Laos and learning about the three different tribes and their traditions.  We visited a number of schools, taught plenty of songs and had some great discussions with the Laotian teachers*.  We were kindly hosted by a family in the village, ate delicious food and were grateful for the wonderful hospitality and enthusiasm to welcome us into their community.  On first meeting the village chief and the elders I did apologise in advance for the chaos and less than traditional behaviour that my family were likely to demonstrate. What I did not realise was that we would be spending two hours in the district hospital with our youngest son, Sam, that evening.

*More information in a post coming soon about opportunities to support and visit the schools and villages in Seuang River, Laos

Sam required two stitches on the back of his head after falling off a bench.  We were miles away from any sort of hospital or clinic that you would expect in ‘our’ part of the world but had to make a decision, it was pretty deep.  The two young Laotian nurses were just as nervous as we were, apparently Sam being the first foreign two-year old (even child) to have surgery in this district.  The whole village were watching through the windows, my wife was holding Sam’s arms and I had him in a big bear hug.  I had to close my eyes when they brought out the big needle and said they were going to give him a local anesthetic. With his tears and my sweat we were both saturated and exhausted after the ordeal.

It was totally right to trust the nurses, that is what they have been trained to do.  They were nervous and slower than you would have hoped (nobody wants a two year old to endure pain) but they did a mighty fine job considering the circumstance and I am glad that they were there.  This is what community partnerships is all about, learning from one another and having the confidence and trust to do so – it is and should be a mutually beneficial process.  Just because people do things a bit differently or expectations don’t always seem to be up to ‘our’ standards it doesn’t mean we should take a superior approach and not fully engage.  Nobody said it was easy either (you don’t have to cut your head open) – but that is why it is called ‘going out of your comfort zone.’

Sam is fine and we are now back in Thailand, stitches come out in a few more days time. His only complaint is that he has to swim in a shower cap until that happens – he will never live the photos down!

Wearing a shower cap in the pool - a different form of comfort zone

Wearing a shower cap in the pool – a different form of comfort zone

Pom and Kong – future leaders of Thailand

Pom

Pom

Kong

Kong

How long have you studied at the Mechai Patana School for?

– Kong has been at the MPS for fives years and remembers Goldfish PLC, a Regent’s School business and social enterprise group that visited the school a few years back.

– Pom has been at the school for two years.  They are both in Grade 11.

The natural environment

The natural environment

Why did you come to MPS?

Pom – My mother told me about the school and when I came to visit I liked the natural feel to the school and how the students were learning.

Kong – I liked the school environment and the fact that the school focused on project based learning and gave the students many different experiences to learn from.

Mechai Patana students who have studied at Regents over the last three years

Mechai Patana students who have studied at Regents over the last three years

What is your favourite thing about MPS?

Kong – opportunities, e.g. the one term exchange with Regents School in Pattaya.

Pom – Learning to play the ukulele and having a ukulele band at the school, I like to learn about music and love playing it.

What do you want to study at university and what career would you like to follow in the future?

Pom – I would like to study languages and work as a guide, possibly have my own business for travellers.

Kong – I would like to be a linguist and have my own translation business.

Another one of those messages

Another one of those messages

How does the MPS help the students become global citizens?

Pom – The school focuses a lot on business and social enterprise and we learn how to give back to our communities.  We are also expected to be tour guides to visitors who come to the school and to think outside the box.

Kong – The school has taught me to be sharing and caring.

A future MPS student and global citizen?

A future MPS student and global citizen?

If you were a teacher what would you say is the most important thing about teaching young people?

Pom – It is important to teach young people how to help themselves and how to help others.  Most teachers in Thailand only teach about the subject.  At MPS we learn how to help ourselves and especially how to help others.

Kong – To teach the young people how to be a good person and how to share with each other and to care for each other.

Khop khun krup Pom and Kong.

 

A Centre for Lifelong Learning and Community Partnership

We are here!

We are here!

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.

"Rabbits!" seen from the Friendship Bridge

“Rabbits!” seen from the Friendship Bridge

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.

Pom and New show us around

Pom and New show us around

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.

One of those little messages you will find

One of those little messages you will find

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.