More about Boys Town and the last few of weeks.
12.01.2010 - 20.02.2010 27 °C
So, as I was saying!
Once the boys returned from school we met Anukul (who runs Boystown, and who Pramote will eventually replace) and Pramote and the boys welcomed us to Boys Town. Anukul then explained the basic structure of the day for the boys, which consists of getting up 5am to do some exercise and one hour of chores, then off to school until around 4pm, when they have a snack, and then do another hour of chores. After this they get showered and have dinner and then have two hours of lessons, or homework time before bed. On Friday and Saturday afternoons they have free time when they can watch films, or play games (mostly football, which they all love, and are all avid supporters of English football teams!). Now despite this day sounding fairly full and strict to us, the boys are constantly smiling, get on with their chores happily, and everything just works. The gratitude for this opportunity is clear on all of their faces, and when the alternative is considered, you can understand why. The families that the boys have often left to come to Boystown are very, very poor, many are farmers, with little chance of changing that career. So the fact that so many of the Boys that graduate from Boystown can go to University, or further education is just incredible!
So on our first night in Boystown, we went out at about 7pm to watch and observe one of the English lessons that Pramote was teaching. It was with some of the younger boys, and we ended up helping and telling them about where we were from, what the weather was like in England and I got them to all write down in their notebooks the word ‘Kettering’! Most people in England don’t know where it is, but now everyone at Boystown does! My work is done!! Hehe.
From then on the routine of Boystown seemed to flow and mould around us; Dan and James going off to the Computer room to assess the computers (they actually found a Gecko in one, mice-nibbled cables, and just quite a lot of old-school stuff lying around), and me going off into the nearest village to wander around, and take in the rural side of Thailand. The land around Boystown is beautiful, and everyone along the road down into town was so friendly. They would constantly shout ‘Hello’, ‘How are you?’ and ‘Where are you going?’ whenever we went past, and everyone would offer us lifts to the market as they drove by. I think I’m going to be severely disappointed when I return to England, and this no longer happens when I walk down the road! In the evenings when the Boys returned from school and had finished their chores, we would help with lessons, all taking a couple each, and getting to know our groups. Dan did a lesson on what to pack if you are going travelling, I discussed films and hobbies with an older group who were great, and James managed to find out where the local bus stop was in his lesson on directions, so everyone learnt something in that one!! Pramote would pop round to the guesthouse after he had finished teaching most nights, and come and chat with us which was great. He is so, so friendly, and we were all overwhelmed by how welcomed we were. He is actually being sent over to Australia for 6 months to study at Canberra Uni, which will improve his English immensely (although he is very good already!) and I think just talking to us everyday has helped too. One of the highlights in that first week was the Friday night, when the Boys performed a welcome concert for us. They played some traditional Thai folk music, using traditional instruments, and then they performed some more modern Thai and English music. It was great and they were all so talented! The instruments had been donated to them, and since then, they have all taught themselves to play! We were then asked t sing (I got very worried as I have no musical ability whatsoever!) and we ended up singing some karaoke style songs at them – very embarrassing!
After a week of being in Boystown, we were invited to join Anukul and Pramote at the Khon Kaen Rotary Club meeting. Anukul asked me to prepare a few words to explain what we were doing at Boystown, as the Rotary Club funds a large proportion of Boystown, and helps organise fundraisers. So I tried to find something slightly smarter to wear in my limited selection of travelling clothes, and we headed to Khon Kaen with Pramote. We had a lovely lunch with the Rotarians, and I said a few words, and then we listened to the other topics being discussed in Thai. Hehe.
After the meeting we were introduced to Dr John Nigel-brownlee, who is an Australian who now lives and works in Thailand, and who is a big supporter of Boystown. We got chatting to him about what we had been doing, and he invited us to come and spend the day with him on Saturday, and he would show us the sights and sounds of Khon Kaen.
So on Saturday Pramote dropped us at the bus stop and we met John in Khon Kaen and he took us the University Art Gallery, gave us a tour of the different areas of the city and then took us for lunch at a huge shopping centre that has been built in one year! After lunch we tried to find a dinosaur park, where there are fossils found in the local area, but unfortunately, it had been a while since John had been, so we didn’t managed to find it. After having a drink in town, we got back on, what we thought was the correct bus and headed back to Boystown. However, we had actually managed to get on the wrong bus, and poor Pramote had to pick us up and take us back, bless him – sorry again Pramote!
Now we had only planned on being in Boystown for a couple of weeks, and our Thai visas were about to run out, and after attempting to renew them at immigration, we had to take a quick trip up to Laos to have them extended. We managed to get a 29 baht train to Nong Khai (Thai border town) which is about 60p for a 3 hr journey, and although we had to pay for our Laos visa, our 60 day Thai tourist visa was magically free which was pretty awesome! We spent three days in Vientiane, which was pretty cool, lots of French influenced buildings and food, but the ‘hotel’ we stayed in was awful, and smelt disgusting! We bumped into Ashley and Ben who we’d met on our Chaing Mai Tour, which was really weird, and random, so we had drinks and dinner with them the first night we arrived which was really nice. After doing a bit of sight-seeing and collecting our visas we were ready to head back to good old Thailand and Boystown.
When we got back from Laos, Dan and I decided to go in Khon Kaen as a treat for Dan’s birthday, so we hopped on the bus, and got a hotel, and ate some sushi! It was nice to be out and about again, and we thought we would make the most of being able to go for a drink, so we found a ‘club’ and got a table. Yes that’s right, a table. It seems that clubs here don’t really have dance floors as such, everyone just drinks around a tall table, and then dances around it later in the night. We found this quite odd, and spent most of our time in ‘Rad bar’ watching a group of lady boys and making bets of which toilet they would visit! We had fun anyway!
Back in Boystown, once Dan and James had everything up and running in the Computer room, Pramote offered to show us more of the surrounding area, and arranged for us to go on a picnic to a local dam. But before that we were lucky enough to be asked to visit one of the local schools, which a few of the Boys attend. When we arrived we were greeted by the new director, who had started only a few days before. He was very friendly, obviously very proud of his school and told us that there were over 3000 students in attendance! After explaining what we had been dong at Boystown, the IT teacher arrived, and we were taken to the IT suite which was very impressive. However he explained that there was a problem that he wanted solving, and could Dan and James help? They of course said yes, and began having a look. I was then whisked off by one of the English teachers and asked if I would like to teach a lesson! Having not known that I would be teaching, I hadn’t really prepared anything, as we had done with the lessons at Boystown, so felt a bit overwhelmed! I asked if I could sit and watch while a lesson too place before helping, which was fine. It was really interesting to see the style of the teaching, and the structure of the lesson, and I really enjoyed the teaching I did. Needless to say Dan and James were in the computer suite for the entire day, and left after Pramote and I at about 5.30pm!
But back to our picnic! After taking the Boys to school Pramote loaded up the car with food (there was sooo much) and explained that we would stop off at the market on the way to get some more!!!!! After about an hours driving we arrived at Ubolratana Dam which was amazing. The lake was huge, you literally could see the other side, and the landscape around it was beautiful. We wandered along the top of the dam and then fed the fish before lunch. Pramote made up the bbq, cooked some hotdogs and a whole fish, and then we tucked into our feast which was amazing. The spot we had chose was next to the river under the shade of a lovely big tree, so once we were fat from lunch we just laid down and watched the world go by, it was great! A couple of hours went by, and then Pramote explained that it was now cool enough to climb up to a see a big Buddha and monastery on top of a hill that we could see in the distance. It didn’t really feel cool enough to us, but we trusted our guide and headed off. About half way up the 438 steps to the Buddha, was a site where another temple was in the process of being built, and a monk was sat there. He explained that for a donation of 20 baht we could write on one of tiles that would be placed on the roof. So we did. There are pictures to illustrate all of our Boystown adventures, so have a look on http://www.flickr.com/photos/abilucy/ to see what I mean.
The following morning Pramote took us to King Cobra Village, where we watched some rather odd and rather scary snake charming by little kids and older guys! All very strange but entertaining too! And finally on the Sunday, we had been invited to attend a day of bowling with Pramote and the Nam Phong Rotary Club, to raise money for a local nursery. I think Dan, James and Pramote played about 27 games of bowling over the course of about 7 hours! The boys said they hadn’t bowled so much in their entire lives!!! It just kept going! But I got to entertain Pramote’s gorgeous daughter Yam! She’s so lovely, and it was great to be able to communicate with her, with language, quite freeing almost.
After that weekend we decided it was time to leave Boystown, and when we broke the news to Anukul and Pramote, they asked if we would like to attend one last Rotary event before heading down to Bangkok. It was a mobile hospital which is organised each month and visits a different village every time, providing free medical advice, prescriptions, dental care and even hair cuts for the local villagers! It was great to see this kind of work being done, and the turn out was really good. At this event we met John again, who had already discussed a possible project that he was setting up, and had asked Dan and James to cost it for him. At the hospital event, after Anukul had explained that we were leaving the following day for Bangkok, John offered for us to work for him for a month on this project and others, allowing us to travel afterwards for a bit longer. This sounded great to us, as we had been thinking about trying to get some work out here somewhere.
So that finally brings us up to date. We are working for John in Khon Kaen, and I know most of you won’t believe this, my old colleagues definitely won’t, but I’m actually helping, and kind of consulting on setting up a real estate office, on the lettings side! Yes that’s right, I’m half way round the world, and I’m still thinking about move ins, check outs and those darned utlities!!! Louise am I mad or what?!?! Hehe Anyway, it’s all good experience, and we are teaching English every evening which is really great, so it’s going well so far. We are staying in a really lovely hotel just across the road from work, so we can stroll in after rolling out of bed! We still visit Boystown, and Pramote is leaving for Australia soon, so we will be able to say a big goodbye and good luck to him which will be great.
I better go now, lots to be getting on with, but I’m missing you all loads and loads, and can’t wait to catch up with you all soon.
Also I would like to say a massive congratulations to Sally and Gary who have just got engaged! Wish I was there to give you guys a huge hug, but hopefully I’ll see you soon!
Love Abi xxx