Be Prepared

Ao Luk Travel Blog

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"Be prepared for anything", is the best advice I've received so far in Thailand. Just because the bus is supposed to come at 5pm doesn't mean it's obligated to. Just because your supposed to teach 10 year olds doesn't mean you won't end up in a 2nd grade classroom. Being prepared and flexible isn't an option here - it's an absolute necessity.
These past few days at the primary school in Ao Luk have really cemented this way of life into my head. On Monday, we thought we were teaching all week. On Tuesday, we were told Friday was "Teachers Day", and that we had the day off. On Wednesday morning, we learned Wednesday afternoon was "Sporting Day", which means we got to leave class after lunch. On Thursday, we played with preschoolers for about 45 minutes and then went home, because it was "Testing Day." Every day is something new at the school, and now that I've learned to calm down a bit, I love it.
The short time I've spent at "Global Vision International" and the school has been so much fun. The kids are great and are so excited to see us. We're kind of like a freak show... it's like the kids and teachers have never interacted with a Westerner before. We get our picture taken in nearly every classroom. The kids want to shake our hands and get embarrassed when we look them in the eye. They try so hard to please us by speaking proper English, although most of the time it's barely comprehensible. As we parade from class to class, the kids shout "Hello!" and "You are beautiful!" it's a huge ego-booster.
While in the classroom, we try to keep the lessons fun and easy. We figure the kids get more out of listening to us talk than the flashcards, so we try to hold conversations with as many of them as possible. We play "Telephone", "Bingo" and various ball games. We've taught them shapes, numbers, colors and animals. Next week, it's body parts and food. We've been trying to put together a game plan for each day of class, but we've determined it's pointless. The teacher moves us around haphazardly, and we never know what age group we'll be with. So we abide by the preparedness rule, and come with as many different activities as possible.
I've lived in Ao Luk for one week now, and already I can feel my nerves unwinding. My need for control is starting to fade away and I'm taking each day as it comes. Intense planning serves no purpose in Thailand - being prepared to change plans at the last minute does. Everything moves at a slower pace here than America, and I've learned not to expect anything to go the way I've planned it. Everything works out in the end.
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After what seems like an endurance and patience test, we are finally in Thailand! In just a few hours, we start our volunteer program with Global Vision International, and I can't wait. These past few days of traveling have been trying, and I'm just excited to plant my feet (and my extremely heavy backpack) somewhere.
We arrived in Krabi last night, after taking a sleeper train from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It took 13 hours to get here. They call it a sleeper train because you're supposed to sleep (duh!), but I don't know how anyone could. The "KTM Trains" are nothing like Amtrak back home. They creak, shake, tip to one side and are extremely crammed. I don't know if it was cause and effect, but everyone on board also seemed to smoke. The good news is is that there are bunk beds on board, so I layed out my sleeping bad, plugged in my I-Pod and saw the sights.
Unlike the train ride, I really enjoyed Kuala Lumpur (or KL, as everyone calls it). I was surprised at how westernized and modern the city was. The highlight of the day was Batu Caves, for sure. The caves are a Hindu religious site, and a place where monkeys run free. Like seagulls at a beach, monkeys are literally everywhere and not afraid of humans. They would look you in the eye, begging for food. Thanks to excited tourists, food was not in short supply. They were so cute and fun to watch. We didn't touch them though as we were told they carry STD's. Imagine - "I swear I got syphillis from a monkey!" No one would believe you. The caves themselves were also really cool. They featured all sorts of Hindu shrines and a huge statue of an important leader in the religion.
We got to KL via a 7 hour train ride from Singapore. Hauling our backpacks around has been tough. Every time we put the packs on, people stop and gawk. They're massive! A Singapore bus driver laughed when he saw the trouble I was having and yelled "Don't fall, American!" as I was getting off his bus. I appreciated the words of encouragement, however I would have appreciated help in exiting the bus more.
The sun is now coming up over Krabi, Thailand and the day looks like another gorgeous one. A GVI staff member is picking us up at our hotel in about 3 hours and taking us to the base camp outside of town. I'm so excited to get going and give back to this community. Most everyone has been very friendly, but the Thai children need to learn English. Come to think of it, I need to learn a bit of Thai too. GVI promises to enrich me in the Thai culture, so hopefully by the next blog I'll at least know how to say hello in the native language. Maybe I'll even teach a kid to say hello in my own language, too.

14,372 km (8,930 miles) traveled
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Ao Luk
photo by: Kramerdude