Mekong Memories

The Mekong In Chiang Kong, Thailand, looking over to Laos

The Mekong In Chiang Kong, Thailand, looking over to Laos

I have always had a fascination for rivers. I always looked for them on maps tracking them across continents, through countries and comparing their physical features and statistics.

Growing up in the UK we always walked along rivers and I once had the misfortune (probably my own fault) to fall into the River Trent as a child! This didn’t put me off my fascination though and I enjoyed studying river systems and their morphology through school and into university. It is one of my favourite topics to teach bringing the river alive and helping students understand the interconnections that it plays in both our rural and urban landscapes.

Slow boats on the Mekong at Huay Xai In Laos

Slow boats on the Mekong at Huay Xai In Laos

To be able to visit and explore some of the worlds major rivers is a real treat – UK rivers are special but not the most majestic! I hope to tick a few more off my list in the near future. At present we are on a (slow) boat motoring down the Mekong River as it follows the Laos and Thai border and gradually takes us into northern Laos and towards our final destination, Luang Prabang.

On the slow boat

On the slow boat

The power is awesome, a snaking mass of brown water. A monster conveyor belt of muddy sediment that once formed the physical landscape of Central Asia. Like the ocean a river can humble you and make you realise the significance of your being – how many civilisations has the Mekong witnessed? How many more will it outlast? It brings life but also destruction.

Evening in Pak Beng, Laos, looking down at the Mekong

Evening in Pak Beng, Laos, looking down at the Mekong

I have had plenty of time to reflect the last two days on the slow boat and had challenged myself to be more creative and not just tot rely on photos. So Jonah and I wrote some poems and I even learnt from him what a haiku is. We dedicate the following to our inspiration – the River Mekong:

By Jonah:

Fast flowing river
Cold, freezing sometimes warm there
Starts from high mountains

Plants
Green, tall
Growing, drinking, eating
They give us oxygen
Animals

Water
Wet, cold
Raining, evaporating, drinking
Ones hot, ones cold
Steaming, killing, melting
Hot burns
Lava

By Paul:

Mother Mekong moves
Shifting sediment and land
Making its way home

Mekong
Asias greatest
Flows through time
Bringing people
Together

Many meandering miles
Emptying Eastern empires
King of all rivers
Onwards to the ocean
Never knowing, just
Growing and growing

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Sukothai – brings out the artist in you

One of many impressive Buddhas in Sukothai

One of many impressive Buddhas in Sukothai

We have just spent two wonderful days in Sukothai, the ancient capital city of what is now Thailand over 700 years ago.  This UNESCO World Heritage Site is situated towards the north of Thailand, about 3 hours south of Chiang Mai and is a beautifully well kept historical park.  It has taken me 15 years to finally get to Sukothai but it was well worth the wait, the long drive and the bucket of ice cold water.  A late convert to and now sponge of history (once arguing that geography was far more important than history) I found myself in my element walking among the temple ruins and imagining what life was like in this royal capital many centuries ago and what has happened over time for it to be in the varied states we now find it.  My oldest son asked me why the capital city was built here and not originally in Bangkok – a good question and a perfect way to bring geography and history together, as they should be.  We walked around together looking at the physical landscape and setting that we were in and discussed what made this particular place an effective site and situation for such an important city many years ago.

Reflections...

Reflections…

Photos are a great way of capturing what you see when visiting places like Sukothai.  Everyone has a different perspective and interprets the ancient designs and structures in different ways and a digital camera is perfect for capturing your own favourite observations and intricacies.  I also like watching other people and seeing what they are photographing and working out how they are interpreting the complex patterns and capturing their experience the best way they can on camera.  It is even better when a random monk appears and everyone tries to capture that perfect monk shot walking through the temple grounds as if nobody else is anywhere to be seen!  I bet you have all tried it…

Expressing the artist in you

Expressing the artist in you

Then there are those of us that are more traditional (or young and bold) and want to capture their experience and perspectives on paper.  I remember when I used to like to draw and use colour to bring out pictures that I had created.  When I made the time to sit still in one place and really take in the landscape and environment that I was observing.  It is so much easier to snap away with the digital device though and do it the saturation way – one of them will surely be good!  But am I cheating myself out of what is really important?  Should I be challenging myself to embrace this unique cultural and historical context and dig deeper into my hidden and forgotten abilities and develop an even more personal relationship with the moment and make a connection?  It is only now writing this blog and looking back at the photos, especially of Jonah sketching, that I wish that I had sat down and taken more time – a couple of sketches or even a poem – I know I have it in me (I could have posted them – target to oneself: I will next time!).

I want my children to embrace the artist in them as often as possible as they experience life, to draw on their feelings and emotions to produce work that has passion and is important and meaningful to them and will help them to remember and capture the importance of that particular moment.

Or you can always drive a tuk tuk!!

The only way to get around the temples

The only way to get around the temples

Just Can’t Get Enough of the Thai Tims?

The Thai Tims

The Thai Tims

The Thai Tims are a group of enthusiastic and inspirational young Thai students that attend a very special school in Chantaburi, in the east of Thailand.  This is the only Thai school that takes in children who have down-syndrome and allows them to have an inclusive and normal education, just like every other child.   The Thai Tims are made up of children who attend the school and they learn English through fun games, activities, sports and mostly through learning Celtic themed songs taught by Pun and Paul Lennon, the founders of the Thai Tims and the Good Child Foundation.  The idea being that the support the Thai Tims receive locally and internationally (and there is a lot of it!) allows the school to provide the necessary resources to take in Thai children with down-syndrome.

Pun Lennon with the Thai Tims at their school

Pun Lennon with the Thai Tims at their school

Watch this video if you Just can’t get enough of the Thai Tims!

The Thai Tims have quickly established a cult following, especially on social media and among football fans that traditionally follow Celtic Football Club and anything linked to their history and tradition.  Celtic Football Club and their fans have been a huge supporter of the Thai Tims and continue to have a strong community partnership.

Pun teaching the Thai Tims one of their Celtic themed songs

Pun teaching the Thai Tims one of their Celtic themed songs

Pun and Paul have a remarkable story to tell about the Thai Tims and a book will soon be available, written by Paul, that recounts their own personal story and the success and achievements of the Thai Tims.  You can find out more by visiting the Good Child Foundation website or the Thai Tims Facebook, both are below:

Good Child Foundation

Follow the Thai Tims on Facebook.

Gappies with some of the children supported by the Thai Tims

Gappies with some of the children supported by the Thai Tims

The Thai Tims are full of energy – just check out their YouTube clips there are plenty of them.  They also do a lot of travelling not just in Thailand but also overseas.  They have recently visited Scotland to meet the Celtic football team and to also sing before a Scottish Premiership game.  They also love swimming and always enjoy visiting the Regents International School Pattaya and staying overnight which includes a long session of night-swimming!  It has always added an extra cultural and inspiring dimension when events such as International Day, Clean-up the World and Picnic in the Park have involved the Thai Tims as special guests.  I would like to thank Karen Partyka for making the initial connection and believing that the two school groups could work and learn together.

Below is a short article written by Conor Hannigan about his visit to the Thai Tims in 2013, a previous gappie and passionate Celtic FC fan:

Visiting the Thai Tims

On Monday, June 24th, a group of Gap Staff accompanied Mr. Crouch, Khun Da, and Mr. Jones on a visit to the Triamsuksa School in Chantaburi province; home of The Good Child Foundation and the Thai Tims. Khun Da and Mr. Jones were on a mission to set up a possible Outdoor Education activity with the kids from the school, while Mr. Crouch wanted to touch base and strengthen bonds with an already closely knit community partner. For us Gap Staff, it was an opportunity to visit a community partner in rural Thailand and hear the incredibly inspiring story behind the Thai Tims.

Triamsuksa School is one of the only in Thailand which allows children with down syndrome to integrate into a mainstream education system. Normally they are sent to an institution or essentially exiled from Thai education, and from parts of society.

When Mr. Lennon’s first son, Berni, was born with down syndrome, he and his wife Pun worried for Berni’s education. They offered to teach English for free at Triamsuksa School if Berni was offered a place, under the condition that they were allowed to teach the kids football songs.

As a result of these songs, the Thai Tims have a deep connection with Glasgow Celtic Football Club. Mr. Lennon is a Celtic fan, and he has written dozens, perhaps hundreds of songs about the club and its players that the kids sing together to help raise funds for The Good Child Foundation. They are a very famous group of kids, not just among Celtic fans in Scotland and Thailand, but around the world.

Conor with Pun at the Thai Tims

Conor with Pun at the Thai Tims

Throughout the day we were able to look inside the newly constructed Reamonn Gormley Memorial Hall; the strikingly bold centerpiece of the school’s buildings. We also met Nuey and Nook, two of the younger children in the school with down syndrome and Mr. Crouch enjoyed a lovely tea party with them. We were told about the recent trip to Scotland where 47 kids from the school were taken to meet the Celtic players, and sing at one of the games. Mr. Lennon explained that the criterion for selection for this trip was based upon an act of bravery which seemed fitting, as bravery appeared to be a quality which resonated through every aspect of the school.

It was incredible to see the passion emanating from Mr. Lennon as he talked about children with down syndrome and the Thai Tims, and it was clear that Pun’s same passion, as well as her reassurance and support of her husband was just as strong.

After visiting a few classrooms and hearing the kids sing some of their Celtic songs, Mr. Crouch, Khun Da, and Mr. Jones did some final planning with regards to activities for next year between Regent’s and the Thai Tims. We left for Regent’s in the afternoon, feeling inspired, impressed and lucky to have gotten a glimpse of all the things the Lennon family has done for Triamsuksa School, and for down syndrome children in Thailand.

 

Baking for global citizenship

Contributed by Brittany Tang

       

I think that any educator would agree that students need a ‘release’ activity, such as: playing a sport, creating art, writing a story, and in my case, baking. With any of these activities there is potential to incorporate Global Citizenship (playing sports for  a cause, creating persuasive art, writing about positive change, ect.). I spent much of my free time leisurely baking for my local community but, over time, my passion for baking helped me to fund-raise for deserving causes (The Make-A-Wish Foundation, Women With A Mission, ect.), show support for community endeavors and ultimately spread happiness. To me, baking is a science. When I bake I concentrate on adding the right proportions of ingredients, heating the oven to the right temperature and giving my food the right duration of time to properly cook. However, I also think of baking as a social science, a way of bringing a community together through the love of great food. One of the most rewarding parts of my ‘release’ activity is sharing a smile with others as they enjoy the baked goods I make. In this way, baking for Global Citizenship is an interesting phenomenon. Depending on the situation, my community purchases my baked goods to raise money for deserving charities and, at the same time,  the treats I bake are a physical manifestation of the happiness I endeavor to spread.

Brittany’s Global Ambassador Award and CAS blog