Tuesday, 2 March 2010

That's all folks

Left from Cabbages & Condoms, after a lovely lunch, to pick up car to take us to Bangkok, then flight north to Chiang Mai. Sharing this trip with Lyndy, who's the PR manager for the Fr Ray foundation.Arrived in Chiang Mai at 8pm, got settled into our hotel,( though we did move rooms three times!!!) and just had quiet meal in hotel followed by a couple of drinks in the bar. Then off to bed. Pleasantly surprised to discover that it's much cooler at night up in Chiang Mai, so didn't need any air con on at night.
Monday morning, after breakfast, decided to go and explore the old town, which was about 10cms away on the map. . .. . . . .  3 hours later we arrived at the temple we'd decided to visit. Old Chiang Mai is a walled city, but little left of the original town apart from some of the temples - all the original buildings, being made of teak, haven't survived, so was a little disappointing when thinking in terms of what we in the west understand by 'an old walled city'. It is also surprisingly large - second biggest city in Thailand, but there is a much slower pace of life here and traffic actually stops for pedestrians, which it definitely doesn't in Pattaya or Bangkok. Very hot here during the day - everyone waiting for the rainy season to start in May. Had a good look round then caught tuk-tuk back to hotel . A swim and a nap.

Went out to the night bazaar, which covers a huge area. Found a very good Indian restaurant where we had a great meal which cost next to nothing.
Day two and decided that our feet deserved a rest so went for a cruise down the Mae Pong river - very relaxing couple of hours with a stop off for drinks and fresh fruit.

Just before sunset we went up the mountain to visit a very large temple which overlooks the town. Taxi driver said it would take half an hour ............ 85 minutes later we made it just as the sun had set - so no great sunset pictures. But we had the bonus of a floodlit temple and being able to listen to the monks chanting in prayer.

Wednesday was a wondrous day. Up at 6.30 for quick breakfast before we were picked up by minibus to take us to an  elephant sanctuary for the day.The sanctuary is for elephants that have been very badly treated in Thailand. As the decimation of the forests has ceased, the elephants are no longer needed for logging. Many, in the recent past, walked the streets of Bangkok making money for their owners by charging tourists to feed them, often left chained up for long periods of the day by the side of busy roads and not given enough food or water. Some of the rescue stories are even more horrific, but 36 rescued elephants now live in what must be elephant heaven.

We were able to get up close to them - started
by feeding them a dustbinful of fresh fruit per elephant, then walked with them down to the river where we were able to scrub them down and throw lots of buckets of water over them to cool them down.The baby elephants loved getting right in the water and rolling on their backs.They also loved coming straight out of the water and finding a muddy pool to roll in and get just as dirty as they were before - great fun and a real privilege to be able to get so close to them. One elephant loved giving very soggy kisses with her trunk to any human who got close - I guess a relic of a trick learnt under its previous owner. The elephants here are not used to give tourists rides or made to do silly tricks - they are just allowed to be.

Will take ages to edit all the pics, but really good memories.

Thursday flew back to Bangkok.Just time to get to hotel and change before heading off for the Swiss embassy to receive donation from the ambassador for the furnishing of one of the new houses in the Children's village - a delightful lady.From there to PR cocktail party where another donation received, couple of Thai pop stars and soap star met and some yummy food eaten.
Rest day Friday, then sponsored walk at an International school on Saturday - fortunately only 2.5k.
Back to Pattaya on Sunday afternoon - just enough time to relax, pack and go out for meal with some of the volunteers Monday night, then car up to Bangkok this morning.
Now sitting in club lounge of hotel with G & T to hand making this last blog entry. Meeting up with Stuart tonight then it's breakfast at 6 tomorrow before getting cab to airport and 9.30am flight home. Arrive in UK at 6.30pm GMT.

Many thanks for your messages.Hope to see many of you very soon.
Lynne x

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Part Two completed

Well, Last quick Post before I leave for Bangkok to fly up to Chiang Mai.

Last Friday night some of the volunteers decided I couldn't leave Pattaya without visiting Walking Street - all very sleazy. Hopped into a Go-go bar, had one very quick drink and left - not a pleasant experience for all sorts of reasons. Nuff said.

Went down to the beach area in Pattaya on Sunday with Cynthia. It was Chinese New Year so big celebrations. Concert area at local mall which was showcase for young talent. Some very talented singers and musicians.



Hectic working week - mixture of MORE t shirts, sorting invitations in the office for opening of new houses in the village, visiting the village and doing odd bits in day care. Spent yesterday on beach that belongs to Cabbages & Condoms restaurant- now a pretty shade of bright pink ( me that is, not the restaurant! ), but fortunately not too sore. Back to the restaurant for lunch - 30th birthday of one of the volunteers, then car at 3.30pm to Bangkok airport to catch flight to Chiang Mai. Very much looking forward to seeing somewhere new and having a rest . Fly back to Bangkok on Thursday to attend a couple of PR functions - Swiss & American embassy possibly, but reports that there may be civil unrest there over the next week - big court case being concluded on Friday re former Prime Minister, lots of army being mobilised. All good fun eh? Perhaps I can sell some footage to the BBC. Also supposed to be taking part in Charity walk on Saturday, but that may well also be called off. May just have to sit in hotel bar.
So everyone - that's all for now. Will do another posting from Chiang Mai. Fr Ray Foundation has been a real eye opener and a great experience.
Best wishes to you all
Lynne x

Friday, 12 February 2010

Here we are again

Well, another interesting week. Went out on Sunday with Cynthia, from Newfoundland and Phon, the girl who is secretary in day care. Caught a bus ( pick up truck with seats) to the floating market. A complete tourist trap, but good fun nevertheless. The weather was perfect - hot and sunny with a hint of a breeze, so it didn't seem like we were in a sauna.

Managed to get the sorting of tee shirts finished on Monday and eventually got them sent to be laundered, so 350 children will get relatively new tee shirts this weekend.
Back to day care???                                 
Well actually - no. Was asked to go and work in the main office to help out with some PR work. Air conditioning all day - cool, not cold - BLISS! Am certainly seeing lots of aspects of the work here.
There is to be a celebratory opening of six more houses in the children's village on March 13th and I was tasked with phoning the embassies of those nationals who had donated the cost of a house to find out if the Ambassador was free to attend, then send follow up email and explanatory letter to the Embassy/Consulate. The phone calls were quite illuminating. China - rude and aggressive; Singapore helpful, but didn't really get it, but did respond to email almost immediately; Switzerland very friendly ( but they have done lots of work with the foundation) ; Norway and GB extremely helpful and friendly ( had a good old chat with Valerie at the British embassy ). Spending today editing publicity photos for the local newspaper.So that brings me up to date. It's been a long week - working from 8.30 til 5.30 ( not used to that at all ), but have managed to fit in some swimming, which has been good. An unheated but nevertheless warm, outdoor pool in February is great. Just to finish off will upload a couple of shots of the campus. Next week ??? No idea, but will be my last full week here ..... it's gone very quickly.


To those Education based in the UK - enjoy your half term. Hope it stops snowing!
Love to all
Lynne xx 

Saturday, 6 February 2010

End of Week 2

A very different week this week. The US Marines turned up - well 12 of them - on Tuesday, with boxes of clothes and toys from their base in Japan to distribute to the foundation.They have also turfed the children's village, resurfaced the basketball court at the school for the disabled, and are holding a barbecue at the children's village on Saturday for 200 children and 50 staff, with a two star general in attendance ( apparently I should be impressed by that - am impressed that it's a woman) along with her 6 bodyguards !Toys and clothes were to be distributed to the children at some stage of the proceedings.

Now it would seem that my d - dog, d - duck work didn't come up to scratch, and, having said that I didn't mind what I was asked to do ( BIG mistake), I was deployed to use the database to establish numbers and ages of children attending the barbecue, then go through the boxes of clothes, toys and shoes ( around a hundred of them) and sort out suitable gifts for the marines to distribute to the kids at the barbecue.
Unfortunately this has taken 3 solid days work.Slight problem in that the chaplain overseeing the operation was under the impression that almost  everything was new - he was SO WRONG! A huge case of the 'haves' thinking that any old junk would be welcomed by the 'have nots' - and JUNK it most certainly was.Broken toys, games with pieces missing, badly stained clothing etc. Anyway, long story short, had to unpack many boxes, eventually managed to extricate 180 new toys for the children (no new clothes ) , bought an extra 20 small gifts and great fun was had by all at the barbecue on Saturday.
Also , to add to the fun, I had to go to hospital on Friday morning cos my mossie bites ( and there are lots of them ) were becoming infected. Ended up having an intravenous cortisone jab which effectively knocked me out for a couple of hours- must have been some dose - and now have high dose antihistamine tabs to take at night and some sort of antibiotic cream. Have to go back again on Monday. However had great night's sleep and now feeling much better.
Am now having to rethink what I do with the ten days at the end of my stay in Pattaya. Was going to go south for a few days relaxation and snorkelling on one of the islands, but have been told that mossies are even more prevalent down there, so may just stay here a while longer and have five days up north in Chiang Mai.

Monday, 1 February 2010

What happened to January?

And here we are in February - temperatures in low 30s (celsius) dropping to 28 at night. Bit different to the UK I gather.
Had a fairly relaxing weekend. Went to the Children's home on Saturday morning with 10 other volunteers and sat with the children making masks or colouring sheets we took with us.
 Many of the children who live here have come from the street kids centre, others have families who are unable to look after them for a whole variety of reasons. Most will not go back to their families. They are lovely kids, very calm and appreciative of the few bits we bring to pass some weekend time.

The children are well looked after and seem to be very happy. They live in large dormitories and there is some outdoor play space , but not much. I'm not sure what belongings they have to call their own, but they are extremely good at sharing and working together. We had a group of about 20 children. Some of the volunteers were giving extra English lessons to a small number of students - but guess that non - mandatory Saturday morning classes are not that popular.We stayed with the children for a couple of hours before returning back to the centre.

Saturday afternoon we are timetabled to go to the street kids drop in centre or the children's village, but both had other activities already planned, so we had an unexpected afternoon off! Spent some time in the swimming pool and then did some shopping and laundry - exciting stuff eh?

Sunday went to the local church for 8.30 mass ( said and sung in English), very strange singing well loved hymnsin a very foreign country.The church has an excellent choir who were able to do fantastic harmonies and a couple of musicians on guitar and electric keyboard too. Felt quite emotional as the packed congregation belted out 'Shine Jesus, shine' at the end of mass.

In the afternoon spent some time in the orphanage and then went for a long walk with a couple of other volunteers.

I wonder what this next week will bring ? Will now get my worksheets prepared for the daycare centre.Tomorrow it's duck and dog !

Friday, 29 January 2010

Friday update

Yeh - half day off and a whole day on Sunday!

Have spent most of the week at the daycare centre in the mornings and the school for the blind in the afternoons. Unfortunately confined to barracks on Wednesday with whatever the Pattaya equivalent of Delhi belly is ( answers on a postcard please ), but all ok now.

At the school for the blind we sing songs and make music with anything we can make - tins, water bottles, pretty much anything we can lay our hands on that we can put rice or lentils into.The children love singing and are fluent in " If you're happy and you know it" and " the wheels on the bus". Any extra nursery/reception cds of songs gratefully accepted.
 From 8.30 til 12.00 is spent in day care. 8.30 is the equivalent of wake and shake, followed by some calm time meditation. Then I'm off to the room of 3 year olds where first task is to give out the cod liver oil ( orange flavoured so the children are happy to take it) Lessons, as in children sitting at tables, begin at 9.30. First they go through the Thai alphabet - 44 characters, then it's on to ABC. They were trying to cover the whole alphabet all at once, but we've( myself and Cynthia, who's from Nova Scotia) managed to convince them that a letter a day is quite enough. So today was cat and carrot. We're making worksheets as we go along - just the capital letter and a picture.At the moment phonics would be a journey too far for the Thai helpers.

At 10.15 the children have a break for a fruit snack and then are able to play with Lego ( not much else available) the room is large and reasonably airy, but no air con. 10.30 lunch is served, usually noodles, occasionally rice with some pork or chicken and sometimes a bit of greens

After lunch the children are able to go outside to play. Some climbing apparatus and a slide, as well as lots of balls. They enjoy having the volunteers to play with them - there are usually half a dozen of us outside with them.
Then 11.15 and it's inside for a shower, change into pjs and lie down on fold up mattress ( that's the kids not the adults !) The volunteers and Thai staff sit with the children massaging their backs until they drop off to sleep. LOTS of techniques we've used at Vincent's - wish I'd had access to a portable mattress now and again !
Right, it's almost 4.30pm so it's off to the swimming pool to help with the disabled kids swimming lesson - good chance to cool off.
Tomorrow its the children's village in the morning and the street kids drop in centre in the afternoon. Sunday is REST day - may have to celebrate with a few beers.
Next update who knows when !!!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

First full day

Met up with volunteer co-ordinator after breakfast and had a tour of the campus. First stop - vocational school for the disabled. Teenagers, many in wheelchairs, live on the campus for two years and are taught English and either electronics or ITskills, plus business management. There are 200 (?) on site and nearly all will get jobs when they leave. They go home for holidays, but are often quite isolated. Here they get to socialise with their peers and learn a trade.Alcohol is prohibited - first warning means head shaved and a yellow t shirt to be worn ( maroon is normal uniform colour). Second offence and they have to leave. Tough lesson to learn.Students are very focussed in class and make good progress.They certainly look to be a happy bunch of youngsters.
We then went to the special needs unit where children with autism, cerebal palsy, downs syndrome etc come into the school each day with their parent so they can learn basic massage and physio techniques can be taught, as well as activities that parents can do at home with their children.
Then to the day care centre. Now those of you at Vincent's will well know how way out of my comfort zone I was in the Nursery. The day care centre caters for 100+ 2 to 4 year olds. Children are provided with uniforms, transport to school, breakfast and lunch and lots of fruit, showers and pjs for the younger ones so that they can nap after lunch break. Parents pay 5 baht per day ( 55 baht to the pound). Downstairs are the 2 and 3 year olds ( 70+ ) and upstairs the 4 year olds.
I have, of course, been assigned to spending my mornings working downstairs!!!More of that later. In the afternoon , at the moment, I have been assigned to spending an hour working at the school for the blind, which is a ten minute ride away.Ten of us get to ride in a flat bed truck ( just like your Toyota Cal, but with bench seats and a plastic canopy) and do either music or PE with small groups of children.
Maureen, my room was upgraded - the hosepipe now has a shower head and has been attached to the hot water heater! The loo still needs a bucket of water after every use.
Have got more used to the humidity, but still need air con on to get any sleep.
Thanks for all the comments, and hope the fundraising goes well.