Never heard of a hungi kengi?

Adpated from The World Until Yesterday by Jared Diamond

On a Southwest Pacific Island called Rennell middle-aged islanders can name 126 different Rennell plant species in the Rennell language.  For each species they can explain whether the seeds and fruits are inedible to animals as well as to humans, or else eaten by birds and bats but not by humans, or else edible to humans.  Among those species eaten by humans, some are further distinguished as being ‘eaten only after the hungi kengi.’

How did the hungi kengi turn normally inedible fruits into edible ones?

A very old woman on the island is able to explain.  The hungi kengi was the Rennell name for the biggest cyclone to have hit the island in living memory, around about 1910.  The old woman had been a child at the time (and is now in her late 70s or 80s).  The cyclone had flattened Rennell’s forests, destroyed the gardens, and threatened the islanders with starvation.  Until new gardens could be planted and began producing, the people at the time had to resort to anything at all digestible, including not just the usual preferred wild fruit species but also that would be normally ignored – i.e., the fruits as being ‘eaten only after the hungi kengi’.  That required knowledge about which of those second-choice fruits were non-poisonous and safe to eat.  Fortunately, at the time of the hungi kengi, there were islanders alive who remembered an earlier cyclone and how they had coped then.  Now, this old woman is the last person alive in her village with that inherited experience and knowledge.

See also: ‘Laboon’ – the wave that eats people

Today there are about 7,000 languages still spoken throughout the world.  On average 10 languages become extinct every year and extinctions over the next century will leave the world with only a few hundred.

Why do languages become extinct?

What are the implications of a language becoming extinct?

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‘La-boon’ – the wave that eats people.

Why are languages and traditions important?

More than 250,000 people were killed by the Asian Tsunami on 26th December 2004 but not one Moken sea gypsy person was killed by the tsunami on Koh Surin in Thailand – why?

What can we learn from this with regards to the challenges that way face through globalisation and interconnections?

Watch this short video about the Moken sea gypsy community in Koh Surin in southern Thailand

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Photo credit

Community Partnerships – Service Learning in Pattaya, Thailand

http://www.nordangliaeducation.com/our-schools/pattaya/article/2014/4/2/living-in-pattaya-how-to-connect-with-the-local-community

One of our aims at Regents International School Pattaya is to engage with our local community as much as possible and to learn through them and with them. Thailand is our host country and it is only right that we celebrate the unique culture and customs of the people who live and work with us. Below, Paul Crouch, Assistant Principal at Regents, mentions just some of the ways our students and staff connect with the community.

One of Kurt Hahn’s (the founder of Round Square, an education organisation of which the school is a leading member) Laws of Salem is:
‘Free the sons of the wealthy and powerful from enervating sense of privilege.’

With this in mind we believe it is vital as a Round Square school on the outskirts of Pattaya to burst the ‘bubble’ that many international schools can find themselves trapped in and seek not only cultural but also social diversity.  Our Community Partner Programme has been implemented across the school for over 10 years now and we are fortunate to have over 50 different partnerships with local schools, NGO’s and individuals that do amazing things in our area.

The following are some of my favourite ways that our children and staff connect with the Pattaya community on a regular basis and I would recommend you to do the same if you find yourself living, working or visiting the area:

The Father Ray Foundation

Located on Sukhumvit Road, the Father Ray Foundation is welcoming and friendly. There is plenty to see and do at the Foundation, including visiting the Day Care Centre, the Vocational School for the Disabled, the Redemptorist Centre (you can stay the night!), the North Star Library, the café and possibly the most elaborately decorated church in Pattaya – see if you can spot the plates!  If you have any electrical items that need fixing, like a TV or a fan, then the amazing students at the Vocational School have a workshop where you can take your appliances to be fixed by feet only!  The Father Ray Foundation is also a great place to spend the festival of Loy Krathong, joining the community around their small lake to float your krathongs with the residents.

The Fountain of Life Children’s Home

One of the longest established foundations for educating street children in Pattaya, the Fountain of Life is run by the Good Shepherd Sisters and financially supported by the charity Jester’s Care for Kids. Located just off Third Road and near to North Road, the centre is open every day of the week and welcomes visitors to come and learn and play with the children. They especially love to sing songs and engage in art and craft activities. Kru Wannee is the Head teacher and can tell you all you need to know about the centre and the children. Make sure you also find Sister Joan and have a good old Irish chat with her.

Our Home

Founded by Khun Tiew, an icon of community spirit and support work in the Pattaya and Rayong area, Our Home is a project that looks after women and gives them the skills to make a living for themselves through embroidery and cooking. The Home is located on the Green Valley road to Ban Chang and you can call in any time to order some amazing needlework, tasty baking or fresh fruit and vegetables. Look out for the Our Home ladies selling their cakes and pies outside Regents’ main gates every day after school.

Karanyawet Disabled Ladies Home

If you have a free hour any morning during the week grab your nail polish kit, spare hair ties and bands, your favourite CD of pop songs and head down to the Ladies Home just off Sukhumvit Road in Banglamung.  The ladies just love getting their nails painted and their hair made up and if you have time they would love to sing karaoke and have a dance with you.  I doubt you will see bigger smiles anywhere else in Pattaya!

Bang Phra Wildlife Conservation Centre

A good 45 minutes’ drive north of Pattaya towards Bangkok and opposite Khao Kheow Zoo you will find the Bang Phra Wildlife Conservation Centre.  Supported by one of the school’s long standing community partners, Love Wildlife Thailand, the centre takes in animals that have been illegally traded or mistreated across the country.  When I was last at the centre with students, five suitcases arrived from the airport that had over 400 turtles in them and had been abandoned on the luggage carousel.  Regents has also sponsored and helped construct an education facility at the centre and groups are always welcome to visit and volunteer there.

The Mechai Patana School

Founded by the inspiring Khun Mechai himself, the Mechai Patana School in Jomtien is part of the Bamboo School located in Buriram Province. This is no normal Thai school as it embraces experiential learning, entrepreneurship and sustainable development in everything that it does. Learn how to make over 350,000 Thai Baht on one rai of land by planting fruit and vegetables. The students also form the largest ukulele band in Thailand and are always happy to play a few songs for their visitors. The school is right next to the Cabbages and Condoms restaurant and both must be visited when in Pattaya.

The Good Child Foundation

Search for the Thai Tims on Youtube and you will be spoilt for choice for famous Celtic songs sung by the most enthusiastic Thai children. ‘You Just Can’t Get Enough’ is a favourite of ours at Regents and if you get the chance to visit the Good Child Foundation in Chantaburi you must ask the Thai Tims to sing this one for you. The Foundation is the only Thai school in Thailand to take in down-syndrome children and give them a normal education.  Paul and Khun Pun, the creators of the Thai Tims, have dedicated their lives to supporting these amazing young children and teaching English to all the other kids at the school.  This is the place to visit if you are a Celtic supporter – you will be blown away!

Tamar Centre

The Tamar Centre is on Third Road just before it meets Pattaya South Road.  It has a café on the ground floor and sells the best cinnamon swirls you will find in Thailand. The centre supports women who want to learn new skills and helps them find reputable work and employment. You can also buy some amazing craft products from the Tamar Centre including original handmade jewellery for those special occasions.

Kate’s Project Trust

Kate’s Project is a small but big-hearted community partner that makes a real difference to the poorest of people living in the slum areas of Pattaya that we often forget about as we go about our daily routines. Joining Khun Noi on one of her daily trips to visit the people that have literally nothing is an eye-opener for anyone. If you have any second-hand clothes, toys, blankets, toiletries, packaged food or free time – then spend the morning with Kate’s Project and learn what life is really about when living in the slums.

The Hand to Hand Foundation

This small but impactful foundation is located behind Big C in South Pattaya and is passionately coordinated by Margie and Khun Pai. TheHand to Hand is a day care centre for young Thai children and they have loads of fun learning and playing together every day in the busy and colourful classroom. The staff are always welcoming and the children love visitors, especially if you turn up with balloons, bubbles or snacks!

The Pattaya Orphanage and Soptana School for the Deaf

Located on Sukhumvit Road and passionately led by Khun Toy, who welcomes visitors at all times to the centre, the Orphanage is a must visit to play with the little babies in the playroom or to kick a football around outside with the bigger kids. Regents does a half-termly clothes, toys and food collection and drop through our boarding community and our students always look forward to a game of football when they visit. You must also pop into the Deaf School at the same location and learn how to sign language from the children who live and study there.  If you want to meet amazing teachers who are dedicated to their work and inspire young people on a daily basis then the staff at the Deaf School are about the best that I have had the privilege to meet and work with – go see for yourself!

A Thai role model and mentor

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Khun Apichat is the Headteacher of Baan Huay Sapad School in Chiang Mai province in northern Thailand.  I have had the fortune to know and work with Khun Apichat for the last six years on student centred service learning projects.  His collaboration is one of the most influential and effective partnerships that I have been able to forge since working in Thailand for the last 15 years.  The amazing thing is my Thai is virtually non-apparent and his level of English is improving all the time but not at a level you would expect to be able to coordinate such projects effectively but I have total confidence and respect for his ability to make things happen and the manner in which he achieves this.  I have met many school leaders over the years and Khun Apichat has to be one of the very best – I do not need him to be fluent in the English language or to be educated and trained as a teacher in the UK – to know this.  To me he role models the best of what a lead learner should be – he is confident but reserved, extremely hard-working but calm, always present but never the centre of attention.  What I admire the most about him is that he understands the importance of community and bringing them into his school to be part of the learning and the teaching.  Everyone respects him and he is always prepared to roll up his sleeves, pick up a hoe or a shovel and do the same work as everyone else.  Since October 2010 he can be heard saying “We Walk Together” which has become a kind of mantra for him and how he believes in education and collaboration, very rare within the Thai system.  Khun Apichat is someone I will always ‘walk’ with and I look forward to taking my family to visit him and his school community later in the year, watch this space…