Tuesday, August 8, 2017

CCT Volunteer Duncan Brady Last Blog Post (Wat Baan Thong Gai School)

On the Impending Journey home and the breeze off the Hudson...

*** THURSDAY, AUGUST 3RD, 10:25PM***

I think it would be fitting to begin my final internship-focused blog post by stating that this is my fourth attempt at formulating any sort of information of clarity surrounding my last two weeks (and cumulatively my last ten weeks) in Thailand. It’s not to say that I’ve been struggling so profoundly to find the right words, although that certainly adds to the challenge. The real reason is that I have been besieged by so many oncoming distractions and responsibilities that there is quite simply no time to take a seat, take a breath, and type a memoir. For anyone who knows me well enough, my inability to take a seat and take a breath is often the biggest challenge I have in accomplishing any sort of long term or difficult task. And if you don’t know, now you know…

I give thanks for the menial tasks and myriad red herrings that sprout up ahead on my metaphorical path to blog completion, however, as most of them manifest in the form of young children seeking love and attention or new coworkers back home in need of some words of advice from yours truly (Because I’m apparently an adult who can give work advice now). My ever-increasing plethora of busybody battles really just makes me feel at peace. The heavy weight of responsibility comforts me like a warm blanket in the winter in the same way that an ant receives comfort from the purpose it feels in carrying thrice its weight over its tiny shoulders from ant hill to queen.

Nonetheless, as I sit in my penultimate remaining pair of unwashed and unpacked shorts, (the rest are tightly rolled and stuffed into a collection of suitcases at the foot of my wooden rig I choose to call a bed) I am listening to “American Privilege” by Allen Stone in one ear and the sounds of my roommate waking up from his religiously taken 8-10pm nap in the other. I’m mulling over the mundane aspects of living in Thailand, and realizing that it’s only when you settle in to the moments of regularity in which the profound quality of your shock into a foreign world becomes your reality; when your distinct shift in paradigm holds such a clearness in its cogency that you forget, even if for just a moment, that there was ever a reality apart from that which you are currently held.

In my last entry, I think it is safe to say that I tipped my glass rather heavily into the bitter half of a bittersweet feeling. Luckily for anyone foolish enough to dissect my mind by reading what I have to say in this far-from-succinct account of myself, there is an omnipresent truth that our youth learn from an early age in the subtle art that is the Sour Patch Kids commercial: “First they’re sour….Then they’re sweet”. If the seventh inning stretch was the sour valley of my sinusoidal ride in Chiang Mai, the sweetness of melancholy is hitting my tooth now in the bottom of the ninth.

Before I left for this trip, I debated whether or not I should bring my big, shiny camera along with me. I’ve always lived by a precept that to take pictures is to remember what you did and to live in the moment is to remember how you felt (my ghoulish ramblings of the previous blog post are a testament to this). However, it occurred to me that there is really no other outlet for me to remember the faces of the 120+ children and teachers I experienced day in and day out for the last seven weeks. The Baan Thong Gai School is not a tourist attraction that I can Google and see in seconds. If I want to ever see the faces of my students again (something I may never have the chance to do in person), I’m going to need some pictures to do the job. I had not taken my camera out of it’s case in ten weeks, but yesterday I realized that the only thing really worth taking a picture of on this trip was right in the heart of Baan Thong Gai.

…So I made a day of it.

I brought the big ole’ Nikon D52 in, and the kids were glued to it like dry macaroni on the mane of a clipart lion. I’ve never been so concerned for the safety of my camera equipment, something I dropped a substantial amount of cash on two years ago, in my life. The kids were passing the camera around like a volleyball and their little hands could barely hold it up, but after several hours of walking around the school and snapping as many pictures of the kids as I could, I feel like I really documented a day in the life of the many Burmese, Laos, Indian, and Thai students I have the pleasure to hang out with on a daily basis.

Because all of the pictures are on a memory card that is not compatible with my broken SD card slot, you’re going to have to wait until I come back home with an adapter to see the lot of them, but I promise that they are worth the wait. Just scanning through the pictures quickly was enough to bring my heart to a melting point.

I had a lesson planned for my fourth graders this Tuesday, but when I told them it was my second to last class, they unanimously dropped what work they had, and rushed into the adjacent room, returning with a stack of blank papers shouting “Make a card! Make a card!” They then preceded to independently fold, cut, write, and color goodbye cards for me, without me ever instructing them to do a thing. I was speechless for about an hour, because these kids have so much love and kindness in their hearts that they just want to share it with me, and whoever else they can. You just can’t replace that with anything.

My stomach is actually sore from the absurd number of times I have been aggressively hugged around the waist by several students at once. Between the many hugs, the few tears shed from some of my students, the amazing gifts that the teachers and students have been giving me throughout the week, and the going away party that the teachers hosted for me this evening, I don’t know how I’m supposed to walk away from this school tomorrow. It’s just going to be too difficult.

As the age-old sour patch kids motto goes, “first they’re sour….than they’re sweet”. But earlier I failed to address the third, and arguably most important phase in the triumvirate of sour patch kid flavors. “Sour, Sweet, Gone”. If my last blog post was sour, and this was sweet, than unfortunately we all know where this is going.

Kids, honestly I could go on and on. There’s so much I could say about all of these students, and all of these teachers, but there just isn’t enough time in the world, as, like I’ve said before, my full day at work begins bright and early tomorrow, and I need to sleep some time. I’ll follow up some day soon with a trip conclusion and many, many pictures. For now however, enjoy what little I can give you, and take care. ((Also whoever read my blog from the Czech Republic, thank you so much. You have officially brought my viewership to four continents!))

—If you managed to catch all three of this week’s Lin-Manuel Miranda references, be the first to message me and win a souvenir prize from Thailand! — (Offer expires after 11:59pm August 3rd – EST)

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