Monday, February 13, 2017

Camping Trip (Part 2)

Camping with almost 40 kids and 11 teachers in a Thai National Park...check that off the list of things we'd never done.  It was a fun 28 hours, filled with activity, ceremony, music, dancing, ceremony, food, and ceremony.  This is the second part of the 2 part post:

After the campers had set up their tents, had a packed lunch and oriented themselves to the campground, it was time for activity stations.  4 activities were set up at different corners of the park and staffed by at least 2 teachers each (usually a Thai teacher and a foreign teacher).  The stations were designed to get the students to work together as a team to accomplish some kind of task.  My station was called "The Bomb and the Web."  10 students had to stretch a rubber band by pulling on attached strings and then place the band on an open bottle of foul smelling dirty water.  They then had to bring the bottle up a small hill and place it on a path - all without spilling or touching the bottle itself.  Then, they had to navigate The Web, which was an interconnected series of strings tied about a foot and a half above the ground and loaded with small bells hung at different heights.  If the teachers heard even the slightest ring, all kids had to return to the beginning and try again.  This was harder than it looked, apparently, because all 4 groups struggled to make it through.  However, when they did (and they all did, eventually) they hugged and cheered and felt the comradery that the task was designed to create.

One crazy thing that happened while the last group was trying to get through the web was a strange sound of popping and crackling began to become more and more noticeable.  It soon became a distraction.  We all began looking at each other, wondering "what the hell is that?  Did Kru Name start the camp fire already?"  Alas, it was fire, but not our own.  Smoke started to rise above the hill across the river and flames flickered on the ridge.  It was a fire set by local farmers to clear the land, but it was huge.  The only thing that saved us from it was the river that flowed between it and us.  It only lasted about 30 minutes, but there were some scared kids and some slightly nervous adults too.

After stations, it was time to shower, prep dinner, cook, eat and clean up.  The students had to cook for themselves, which turned out great, especially when they came around to the teacher's kitchen area to drool over the food we made!  I was delegated the task of deep frying pork strips.  Deep frying is something I had never done while camping, but when in Rome....

After dinner, Kru Name and I went over the songs that we were to perform for the night ceremony.  He had given me some mp3s of Thai songs to learn earlier in the week but we hadn't had time to get together to practice.  One teacher's husband was there with his guitar too and he told me that "Kru Name likes to change the keys of the songs to suit his voice."  I said that was fine.  We could transpose the songs because they were quite simple.  But then he said, "He likes to change keys in the middle of the song and you never know when or to which key he'll go."  I said, "OK.  I'll follow you."

The younger kids and some parents who had decided to join the party gathered around the raging campfire for the festivities.  Kru Name began to play the first song on the drums and Kru James called out the key "D minor!"  And we were off!  After two or three songs, it was really Go Time.  The upper elementary boys danced their way into the fire circle wearing leopard print loin cloths and toting huge flaming torches dripping some kind of petroleum-based fire starter, dipping and leaping to a Zulu song and chant.  Halfway around the first lap around the fire, one boy dropped his torch, setting the grass on fire and almost causing the boy behind him to step on it.  He then dropped his torch and set off running and screaming out of the circle for fear of being burned.  Hilarious, but also worrisome for the foreigners.  For some reason, the Thai parents and teachers seemed unfazed.  The other boys just picked up the torch and continued the dance and completed the 3 laps around the fire. No big deal.  

Later, it was almost time for bed.  Just one last event: story time.  And I was the designated story teller for the night!  I had selected a camp fire story I found on the interGoogle called The Purple Gorilla.  I grabbed the mic and started walking around the fire, spinning my yarn about seeking refuge at a farm house after my truck broke down.  The farmer brought me to his underground tunnel system, through 3 high-security doors to show me a purple gorilla in a cage.  Well, I won't spoil it for you, but I think the kids enjoyed the story.

After the kids went to bed, Jess and I soon followed because we had a 1:00 - 2:30 AM shift at the campfire where we had to be available to walk kids to the bathroom, should they awake - or talk kids down from bad dreams, should they not see the humor in the Purple Gorilla story.  Fortunately, no one woke up during our shift and we passed the time pleasantly watching the moon rise and the stars move across the sky.  At 2:30 we went to bed in anticipation of the 5:00 AM whistle for camp exercises.  In reality, we didn't hear any such whistle.  We were actually woken up by Radd at 5:45 saying, "I woke up first and went bow and arrow fishing by flashlight with Kru Name.  We shot a crab!"

Friday was a blur of eating, cleaning and co-leading a station about tree bark.  We left the camp around 11:30 that morning and went home to lay around the house. It was an incredible few days of inspiring young minds and having my own mind blown wide open.  Jess and I cannot believe the frequency at which the mind blowing has been occurring here.  The kids take it in stride, but we sometimes feel like astronauts blasting off the launch pad, our faces pushed into smiles by the g-force, the blood pooling in our toes.  It's overwhelming at times...but it's a hell of a ride.

 Lining up for some more ceremony!

                                                                      Nothing like a lazy river to stand next to and chat.

 Did I mention there were hot springs at the park?  Too hot to swim in, but if you brought your own eggs, you could boil them and have a snack.


  1. Love you guys. So happy that you have found your kid at heart... happy for all the joy you have reaped through this passage of time. I put you two on charge of our next campout! You can be the fun police. Xoxo. Hi to Radd and Suni.

  2. Hi! My name is Leyre Remesal, and I am going to be working at Pitisuksa from July as a lower Elementary teacher. May we have a chat some day so you can tell me a bit about your experiences and so on? I would appreciate it so much! Thank you very much! Wish you doing well!! My email is , write me there if you want to talk someday