With week eight’s Bangkok visit behind us, it was full steam ahead through the rest of PST. That being said, week nine’s first couple of days were slow as many of us continued to catch-up on sleep from the weekend’s craziness. With the LPI (language proficiency interview) test quickly approaching, I spent much of the week’s free time reviewing and practicing my Thai language skills.
In preparation for our LPI tests, each YinD language group had a visiting Ajaan from the TCCS group, just for the morning on Wednesday. My “guest teacher” was Ajaan Nara, who is originally from the southern province of Surat Thani, but now lives and studies in Bangkok. As part of the morning’s conversation practice, we had to interview Ajaan Nara in Thai. Through conversation, we learned he’s currently working on his PhD, but holds a Bachelor’s degree in German. I asked him if he’d ever traveled to Germany and he said he hadn’t yet, but was going to study for one semester starting in April. Long story short, we soon realized he was going to study at the exact university I studied at in Bonn! During the morning’s break, we talked about Bonn – what to see, do, eat, etc. – and, more importantly, about where to visit in Europe during his semester. Ajaan Nara was very excited about going to Switzerland and visiting different parts of Germany, all of which I reminisced about while showing him photos. Needless to say, the conversation left me feeling “Germany-sick” and I think I’ll need to plan a trip to my “other home country” soon!
Wednesday night was a special one because a friend’s host mom took us out for dinner in a nearby town. We ate hot pot, which basically involved cramming meat, eggs, vegetables and seafood into a boiling pot of flavored water. Dinner was delicious, but the self-serve ice cream station for dessert was easily my favorite part of the evening. Pii Oi (Sarah’s host mom) has been incredibly wonderful to many of us during PST, so it was really nice of her to treat us to dinner and, as always, it was great to spend extra time with good friends.
Thursday brought our final language class day. To celebrate our accomplishments, we had a quick cultural lesson and then had a party! Thanks to our wonderful training manager, Rumpai, our language cluster (8 students from two language groups) got avocados from Bangkok and made guacamole for our teachers. Neither Ajaan had tasted guacamole before and were equally impressed with our ability to make it and how good it tasted. With only a little saved for Rumpai to taste, we ate the whole mixing bowl’s worth. Talk about guacamole-deprived Americans!
Week nine’s YinD program theme was volunteerism, which meant we were responsible for planning and facilitating a volunteer project at our practicum school. Since there were six volunteers teaching at my practicum school, we opted to work together on a bigger volunteer project with all our students. With a little guidance from our Thai co-teachers, we decided to focus our project on garbage pick-up around the school grounds. In addition to a school-wide garbage pick-up, we devised a plan to make garbage cans from recycled car tires that were piled behind the school.
On Thursday afternoon, we went to the school expecting to teach a little bit about our project, set things up for the next day and clean the tires so they could be painted. As we headed up to our classrooms, students flooded outside and, in no time, were rolling out tires, hooking up hoses and filling buckets with soapy water. We had a whole plan of how we wanted things to work that afternoon, but quickly realized we should just go with the flow and let things happen as they do. As all this was going on, I coined our project’s tagline – “just roll with it”!
The volunteer project’s second half took place on Friday afternoon. Since we had about 60 students total, we opted to run the project like more of a camp with three separate stations and smaller groups of students. The first station was a trash pick-up contest, which, to our surprise, the students got more invested in than we anticipated. It was great to see them so enthusiastic, but also kind of gross to see some of the things they found around the school grounds. Our second station was a relay race, during which students had to take trash off of a poster of a school and run it to the trash can at the other end of the room.
The third station involved painting the tires which would then be used for the trash cans. This was, by far, the messiest, but most fun station of the day. Many students and teachers complimented us on our idea, as they didn’t realize used tires could be re-purposed in such a way. Admittedly, we kind of came up with the idea on the fly, but after a quick Google search, realized we definitely weren’t the first to think of such a thing. Although we weren’t able to see the finished garbage cans in person, our co-teacher sent me a picture after the school’s janitor fastened the tires together. If I ever make it back to Kai Bangrachan, I do hope to see those brightly colored tire garbage cans around the school’s grounds.
Saturday and Sunday were equally stressful and relaxing, as I spent most of the weekend hanging out with friends and studying for Monday’s LPI test. I finally made it to “the other coffee shop” in TCCS-land, Cafe Charlotte, and managed to snap a couple pictures of the village’s “big Buddha”, too. Both things were on my PST bucket list, so I was excited to see and spend time at both places. While I know there are certainly areas of our training villages I failed to explore during PST, I am truly grateful for the wonderful people, places and things I have been able to meet, explore and enjoy along the way.