O Ranong! A place not known for its tourist activities, but somehow it has a pull on us. Here’s a typical day for us:
4am Mr. Rooster wakes us. 5am Mr. Rooster again, ahead of schedule. 8am and we’re up and in to the kitchen to make pancakes for breakfast. The neighbourhood kids are outside making a couch and TV set with polystyrene. Boil up some water to make our bath-shower and we’re nearly ready to go. Blue Marist tops on, check. Ponchos, check.
The sun’s peeping out to expose a fresh glimpse of the nearby hills amidst the low cloud that usually blankets the city, what a calm morning. Hi to the family downstairs, throw a leg over the scooter and off. At the intersection the traffic has stopped for a firecracker centred festival, seemingly erupted from nowhere.
We kill the engine, transfixed. Class soon, so better rip our eyes away from it and find back streets to sneak past the snaking festival. ‘Eww!’, Kristen yells from behind me. Must mean she saw another mangy dog specimen trudging along the sidewalk. We wind past a few heaving, ever-present fish lorries with their morning load from the docks. Slowly brace ourselves for the kamikaze like journey over the potholes on school road. We’re here at MAF.
English class first. My class is doing revision on ‘will’ and I’ve prepared the day before. I ask about their weekends using some prompts on the whiteboard. Now time to open your books to page 118, class! The lesson races by and as I leave some students hand in extra homework and ask me to mark their voluntarily written essays. Ok, sure!
Time now to prepare for Social Studies class. Human Rights. How do I make this stuff interesting? How do you explain to a Burmese child the concept of having the right to speak freely?! I know, I’ll try a drama.
Lunchtime hurtles round and the girls are getting more involved in volleyball, so good to see. It has started to drizzle and that means one thing. You have 30 seconds until torrential downpour. Quick, ponchos on! Lunch is a quick visit to ‘Thai lady’ for a tasty noodle dish which is reached by a plastic-swamped lane – waste management is low on the list of priorities for people whose kids haven’t ever gone to school. Makes you think.
After eating I’ve got to leave for Ban Maria- the primary learning centre run by the church. Partnering with a brilliant local teacher, we’re trying to get the kids confident in vowel pronunciation. Eventually we make some progress and the students can write the Burmese forms in their book. Success!
Now I’ve got a bit of time so I scoot off to a favourite café, order a coffee, and catch up with the Latvian owner. She’s always full of stories and insights in to the world of Ranong. Back at MAF, it’s the last lesson of the day and my students are going stir-crazy. I let them head upstairs for some more space. It’s great that the management give you the books and resources, explain it, and then let you be creative.
School’s done for the day. The little pre-schoolers file down the steps with their baskets that house their lunches, toothbrushes and other essentials.
With adorably precise haircuts they march up onto the back of the school bus, which is really an overhauled ute with a metal cage on the back and two long seats skirting the sides. ‘Good Morning’, they yell while waving wildy, almost dropping their baskets. It is well into the late afternoon.
After class we relax and debrief each other on our days. Dinner is invariably at our ‘Corner Café’ but our attempts at convincing the staff to make us a ‘mai phet’ (not spicy) Thai salad fail every time. We’ll have three sides of coconut water to wash it down, thanks!
Kristen and Luke were a couple from New Zealand who came for a couple of months and made a tremendous difference. Thanks to you both 🙂