A life experience?
It is about 12 o’clock, arrival in SanTor, Chiang Rai, Thailand. After a two hour ride, we get out of the car. Exhausted, not sure what to expect. The chief of the village lends us his house, so we can put our tents inside and be safe from rain and mosquitos. We set up our tents and put our bags inside the house as well. We walk up to the school that we are going to help, where the basic structure is already built. But first we take a look at the schedule for the next few days and Yieuw, one of the Thai students of Rajamangala University, gives us a short briefing. We get out our names written in Thai. And everybody gets a badge, so that everyone can see their names. In order for the Thai students to call us by our names. They also have their names written in Latin letters in order for us to call them by their names. The translation in the other language was going on separately.
After this little translation, it was time for lunch. Only the twelve of us eat lunch at that time without the Thai students. We expected the worst but the food is actually pretty good. After lunch the Thai students all join us to have a quick introduction of all the participants. Everyone introduces himself. The first contact. We are all quite reserved, because neither we, nor the Thai students, know what to expect of each other.
After this introduction we all get up and it is time to work. There is a schedule of what we have to do and how many people are needed. Included is if the work is for girls or boys or both. Work is in a wide range from working with wood – cutting, working with a hammer and nails – mixing cement, painting walls or helping in the kitchen. First real contact with the Thai students is obviously going on. And they are just like us. “Normal people”. The difference in cultures which is supposed to be real big, is not a problem.
At 6:00 pm we finish work for today. We have a little break and come back at 7:30 pm to have dinner. At dinner we also have to decide, who is going to help in the kitchen the next morning at 5:00 am. Three people will have to wake up at 5:00 am and do it. Dinner is over and we have free-time. We play cards for a bit and go to bed after a little while.
The first day, which is described above, describes pretty much our normal day while on this project. Of course this doesn’t include showering, which was basically a bucket with water, you poured over your head. After the first day the Thai students joined us at lunch as well as at dinner. The work was mostly made up of activities as mentioned earlier. Of course during the last few days we had to do more painting, while in the beginning we had to do more cement and wood work. Every time we were all working three people were helping in the kitchen. Of course after the cement was mixed, the walls were being cemented. Every day three people had to wake up at 5.45 am and help to prepare the breakfast and to clean the dishes from the day before. After breakfast and lunch the dishes were also being cleaned.