This summers trip took us to Phu Rhua
As the bus runs through a landscape of ricepaddies the mountains behind are slowly getting higher and higher.
This is the rainy season and the waterfalls should be filled with water by now, but the rain has been slow to come this year. But even a slowly dripping waterfall is a relief when you have been walking three houres straight up a mountain in 32 C and 95% humidity.
Caves also offers some relief from the heat and humidity.
Getting high enough up the mountain the heat gives away to something that can resemble a warm european summers day.
After a first night at a guesthouse we are all set and getting ready to go. 15 volunteers and six students and staff, we walk up the hill to split in dfferent groups to different waterfalls and caves.
Second night spent in four tents with five people each at a breathtaking wiewpoint.
Thailand is the country of stray dogs.
When the monks in the many Wats that surround our house in Nongkhai start sounding their gong-gongs at 5 am the dogs in the neighborhood start running around the block barking.
This wakes the roosters and they mobilize their family of hens to check on what this night's storm may have brought to the surface. By then nobody can sleep any longer. So few of the dogs can count on our sympathy.
But some definitely have managed their way into the hearts of our volunteers. In Namsom a scabby, bad smelling dog was given the name Theresa and in Nongkhai the volunteers adopted a skinny puppy with big eyes, naming her Baby. Chosen amongst others these two are cleaned, de-flied, fed and have definitely settled in the role of watchdogs for their respective dorms.
(Picture shows Theresa)
Jenny from England was pioneering our programes in Namsom. With huge courage and good sence of humor she joggled her way into the harts of the local people.
If the teachers at Nangwa School, Namsom had been able to speak enough English, (or I enough Thai) I would have understood that I hadn't simply arrived at school on my first day to arrange a schedule. Instead I was thrown to the lions at 9 am and left to figure out for myself that I was to teach not only for the next 3 hours solid, with no materials or coursebook, but also to teach for the next 3 hours simultaneously!
And by Thursday the entire school had decided they wanted to come to my class and stare at the strange new pale skinned teacher. The problem was, they all wanted to do it at once and with every single other teacher engrossed in a staff meeting, there was nobobdy to stop them.
Dozens of pairs of hands and eyes appeared at every crack of wood between the classrooms and even when the doors were bolted and blocked shut, the simultaneous efforts of 50 to 60 kids pounding the doors and walls meant that they didn't stay shut for long.
And outside the classroom was no different. Being the only white skinned female in Namsom it wasn't hard to see me coming. And by the end of the first week, having been paraded round like a prize winning bull in front of 4 or 5 different households every day, (not to mention the extended friends and family who came to look, poke and prod me each day) there wasn't a single person in town who didn't know my name.
"Jen-neee!" The market traders would cry as I tried to wander the market inconspicuously.
"Falang! Falang! Falang!' The nearest child would scream if I dared step outside my front door causing a torrent of children to some cascading down the street, appearing from seemingly nowhere!
So yes, my first week in Namsom was quite an experience. I didn't just learn about teaching English but also I learned more about Thai life and Thai people than I thought possible, the rural setting ensuring I was fully integrated into day to day life. Students and teachers alike went out of their way to be kind and warm towards me.
It was an unforgetable time and I would like to finally thank the wonderful people I met in Namsom and wish them good luck for the future!