Leaving Bangkok

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On the 27th of October we stood up at 7AM after a short night due to many dogs barking all the time. As we arrived, I was surprised that people in Nong Bua Lam Phu and Udon Thani like dogs so much. We have many dogs in France too but not to the extent I could see in north east of Thailand.
After getting up we got quickly ready and went walking to the bus station. The bus for Bankok leaving at 9AM was already there. We had not taken many things to eat as while coming from Bangkok to Udon Thani they had offered many dishes. By chance we had taken some water as in this bus no dish and no beverages were offered:-(
This time we did not drive on the motorway but through many villages. We could see several wonderful panoramas. Nong Bua Lam Phu is located 50KM south to Udon Thani but it took our bus more than 10 hours to bring us to Bangkok whereas going from Bangkok to Udon Thani lasted 8h30.
I took several hours to continue some software development on my program and was thinking as well a lot to these children. I wish so much I could bring something in their lives. Somehow, some ego from my side but as well a real compassion feeling. So far there is no fixed plan that let me think I would see them again … however sometimes life likes making surprises…
As we arrived to the bus terminal of Bangkok we took a taxi and were surprised how dense the traffic was. It took almost an hour for the taxi to drive the 8km to our hotel. As we arrived, we were surprised to see so many tourists. We had left Bangkok seeing more local people than tourists and coming back it is the opposite. Then we remembered that high seasons starts in november … hence this year it started a few days before …

Next day we had planned to go to Patunam. The cheap place where almost no tourists come as anyway clothes’ sizes are rather Thai ones. Nino could remember a few nice places where she may have bought a dress or new shoes. On the way we went through the electronic devices, I found a nice 200mW laser that I could use for medical therapy activating acupuncture points. Looking around we found that some places were selling IPhones for less than 100Euros. A person explained us that for each IPhone model, there are many assemblers. Each assembler leading to different prices. The IPhone we usually buy in Europe is the most expensive but the most reliable. Then lower prices are made possible through less reliable devices.
We walked as well through many clothes stores. Each store is tiny: less than 9m2. They offer very low prices however very often it is not allowed to try. As we came back I heard of a cheap fruits and vegetables market close to our hotel. As Nino felt tired, she went back in the room and I went searching for the cheap market. From the touristic area, walking a few meters in a street that can be found only by chance, one has the feeling to land in an other country. The market is covered, dense air inside but very nice smiling people. As many places were already closed I could not buy much. I was surprised to see that prices were lower than in Nong Bua Lam Phu. Walking around I noticed several narrow ways. I tried one. One each side were apartments were local people are leaving. Extremely hot, here no Air Cond. Usually only one small room to eat, sleep and watch TV for several people. Every one can see each other but people seem to be very nice. I wondered whether they could take showers. At the end of the narrow way many local places offering something to eat. However, here only thai people could be seen. I did not see a single tourist in this place.
I found very interesting to see the difference of the over touristic area compared to the real areas of people from Bangkok. On one side, loud music, light everywhere, many air-con systems. People being loud and most of the time not very opened to smile to other ones. On the other side the opposite πŸ™‚
In the evening we went for a walk and made several photos of a nice place close to a temple. Tomorrow we must stand up at 3:45AM. Our plane takes off at 6:50 … the night will be short.

Actually the night was so short that we almost could not fall asleep. At 3:45 we stood up and at 4:05AM we were outside looking for a taxi … an unexpected adventure was waiting for us … as we found a taxi, we asked for the airport. I had prepared the word airport in Thai but the driver understood. He drove us almost 50 minutes. We arrived 2 hours before the departure. As we checked the departure flights … our flight was not in the list. Looking closer I noticed that no flights of Air Asia were in the list. Going to the information office I supposed there was another terminal … unfortunately since the beginning of the month, Air Asia is using another airport located 50 km far away.
We went back to our driver who drove us to the airport. We had only 380 Baht left (less than 10 euros) and 1 hour. The taxi driver drove fast and we thought it should be OK but arriving close to the airport he missed the exit of the road and seemed lost. After he tried a few roads we saw again a sign for the airport and we could get in its area. Again in the airport he lost. Time was getting critical … after a U-Turn driving in very strange roads we arrived less than 1 hour before the departure (check in would have closed 20 minutes later). The drive cost 381 Baht … we were leaving Thailand with 0 Baht πŸ™‚

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Last days at the Sisters’ house

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Coming back to the sisters on Monday the 22th, the way was much shorter as I have to walk 1 or 2 km only from our hotel to the sisters’ house. As I arrived, many children came to me to thank for the pizzas. Actually we could not eat with them on saturday as we had to catch our bus. Sisters told they enjoyed the pizzas too and some asked for the receipt. I did my best to describe it however, the pasta for pizza needs some practical exercise to understand when it is ready, when it still needs water or when there is too much water…
As I was starting the english course, a sister came to me saying that as the children were enjoying the courses they all got new notebooks to write the course and their exercises inside. I was happy to hear that. On this day I tried to explain the comparative in english. As usual some understand immediately whereas some others are lacking self-assurance. Somehow they can easily repeat a sentence said but it is much harder for them to construct or change a sentence according to an exercise. I assume any teacher faces this problem. I try to use concrete examples for a sentence but maybe tomorrow I will try to use more visual examples.
As algebra I try to make them doing additions using bananas and apples. After a few exercises, they are able to do algebra using letters a and b… I also tried to use slices explaining I cut a banana in 2 slices, if I have 3 bananas, how many slices … however the concept seems to be too aggressive. I will try converting euros to Baht.
Before leaving I said the sister, friday will be my last day. We talked about my plans in Cambodia and she explained me what houses were doing. One of them located in the center of a city cares about babies suffering of malnutrition. Maybe I can help there with some acupuncture as chinese acupuncture for children does not need any needle to be inserted … I will see as however, most of the houses are quite reluctant to para-medicine. Only in this house, I was surprised, the sister asked me what I could do with para-medicine for the HIV children … in such a case I stay away from trying anything. As the conventional medication works fine I would never attempt anything that could have side effects on the results of the medication: acupuncture does not have side effects on a person not taking any strong medication. However, it is recommended to avoid this when someone is weak or just after some chemotherapy … hence maybe HIV medication could be an unknown contra indication …

Next day I taught english using more visual examples: 2 boys had to stand up and children had to say who was the taller, who was the smaller. I realized that some of them do not understand a lot. Even the simple english words seem to be too complex for them as they use a different alphabet and seem to have big difficulties to read the western one. However, most of them could understand and construct new phrases.
Discussing with a sisters I came to know that Thailand has a very deep Buddhisms culture where the believe in Karma tend to reduce compassion for sick people. She explained me that at the beginning, the children were all going to the same school. As other children knew they were infected from HIV, they segregated them. As a reaction they grouped together and reacted as a band so that it became difficult for the school to manage them.
In order to prevent this, children are now spread in various school. It is however surprising to know that it is not the case in Vietnam or Cambodia as these countries were colonized. I was happy to hear that colonialism could bring anything on the longer term for poor people.

On the 24th, I went for a very simple exercise: write verbs in present form from pronoun I to They. The children had to pay attention to He/She. I noticed they had a lot of fun with this exercise as it is very simple. Even the ones who so far could not understand very much came regularly to me showing me the results of their exercise and were happy when I gave a new verb to complete. At the end of an english lesson I continue giving some simple mathematics exercises. Since 2 days I gave the ratio between Euro and Baht. From this point they have to calculate how many Baht for a defined amount of Euros or the other way around (more difficult): how many Euros for a defined amount of Baht. This is again much more difficult exercise where only a few succeed.
I played as well with the kids to this famous game hide and seek. Since 2 days, children are playing constantly this game and are having much fun with it. As a sister told me, teaching english is important but playing with them might be even more important so that they get out of this feeling of segregation by seeing that other people like to stay with them.
I was as well thinking how hard it must be for them when they come back from school. After having to face segregation, they will end up in their orphanage without parents waiting for them trying to give them courage. The sisters do their best to help them and I find they succeed very good. However, it is not the same as having their own parents. Certainly this explains why they never do any caprices. Anyway whatever they would complain nothing would change. Another point is that they seem not to have any toy that belong to them. All belong to everyone and it seems to be normal. Sometimes a few fight for unimportant reasons but usually this is always very short and they will be again in good mood after a few minutes … I find this really interesting compared to many things I saw in Europe where children getting an overdose of presents or whatever they wish being that way very capricious and unhappy.

Thursday the 25th I tried again easy english: regular verbs to be written in the past form, the present and future. I was surprised that all children had a lot of fun with this exercise trying to make it fast and always coming to ask for new verbs as exercises. Tomorrow will be my last day and I will try to make a sum up of all what I tried to teach.
I spoke as well with the superior sister. She explained me that when children go to school, sisters use the free time to visit poor people and families living in slums around to talk and maybe help them in some basic tasks. They could also care to bring them to hospital when needed or when someone is about to die he would call them to avoid dying alone.
Furthermore, for Christmas, they will invite several families and children to prepare lunch and some snacks so that they feel a kind of happy feeling. As I asked where they would get the money from, the sister told me it comes from the providence. They do not accept anyone wanting to raise any fund, they do not accept money from the state or whatever official organization. They only accept private donations. It goes even further: in Thailand, an orphanage can get 500 Baht per month per child. Sisters refuse this help, they consider these children are cared by the Missionaries of Charity which is as Mother Teresa said created thanks to God’s will. If private donations should anytime stop, then it will be as well God’s decision. Mother Teresa started her huge work as she was 38 years old with 5 Roupies. As she passed away, there were more than 700 houses in the world all living thanks to what is called providence donations. However, as children need specific school-clothes and books which all in all are expensive., sisters will accept that the state offer them as it does for all poor children.

Friday was my last day at the sisters. It was full of emotions, much more than what I expected. As I arrived, all children were busy in the classrooms with the sisters. Then I went around and visited the area around the house the children are living. It is wonderful. All this was given from a rich lady. As the sister do not like to own anything, it was given to the church who reserved it for the sisters.

As Som had so do many things I proposed her to help some kitchen work. I spoke again with the sister who told me it was very surprising that all children were so attached to me as we could even not speak the same language. I cannot explain that too, I had simply a very good feeling with them. I had a lot of compassion for them and maybe they felt it. I wish so much their lives become full of success and as the sister says that they remember this house so that they never forget to help others on their way.
Later on came a dentist who checked the teeth of all children. She is a social worker and comes on regular basis since 5 years.

Around 11AM a child came to me and told me I should join all in the class room, as I arrived in the class room they had written many thankful messages on the board. They started to sing, and one by one, brought me flowers and very nice pictures they did themselves. I was surprised from so much thankful, I had never had so many … the sister gave me as well a photo of Mother Teresa excusing that they are poor and could not afford any present … I replied they offered much more what money can buy. I then left the house for the last time … this was my greatest experience at the Missionaries of Charity.
As I came back home we went for our last walk in Nong Bua Lam Phu. We bought passion fruits which are extremely good and visited the local temple.
Tomorrow we are leaving early and go back to Bangkok for 1,5 days. On monday we will fly to Hanoi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving to Nong Bua Lam Phu

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I am time to time speaking with the main sister. She is responsible for the house. What I noticed through a few experiences in houses is that the main sisters are always persons giving a colder aspect the fist time they will be seen compared to the other sisters. I think they have a lot of pressure and responsibilities. However, when one has time to know them a little more, they are very interesting and nice persons.
With the main sister of the house of Non Gua Lam Phu I hat a few conversations about the children. She explained me how hard it was as they all young were: the sisters had to wash them, take proper clothes, feed them, take care of many aspects they do not need anymore. Today is quite okay and no more that difficult as it was.
Many children are now 12 years old and when they are 15 they will leave the house to go to a brother’s house to attend high school and maybe university. There they will not have much discipline as they have to follow at the sisters. The first generation arriving to 12 were really hard to handle. Sisters are not mothers and taking care of so many adolescent is quite hard for a noun without the proper experience. The sister explained me she was at the end of her patience and was lacking courage … Then she found several activities which made the kids easier to handle.
With the experience, the generation I am partly taking care of are extremely easy to handle. No problem to start an english or mathematics course. They will all come and stay as long as I say it is over.

Arriving to such a house one could wonder whether there is much to do as all children are nice. It looks like an easy task. However, hearing how the past was, one understands that behind this peaceful atmosphere a lot of work is hidden.
Sometimes, when getting older, the children think their medication against HIV is no more necessary. They would like to start getting rid of it. Some do it and after a few time, brain lesion will appear. Sisters take a lot of time to explain the children how important the medication and some rules to follow are. They also try to make them aware that being in such a house is a luck for them. Whether they use it or spoil it is their own choice. However I was an adolescent too and I understand such discussion might be difficult for a 13 years old child to believe.
The youngest child (I call Pepito) is extremely intelligent. During the courses he makes always something different but is fully able to follow. If I ask him to do an exercise he will provide the best answers. As I informed the sister to make sure she is aware of it she told she knows he is very intelligent. However, in the past these intelligent children got quite bad future. Somehow they left school very early and ended being bad guys. Giving him discipline is much harder than the others but sisters seem to be fully decided to make their best to give these children a real chance.
Another important point is the freedom of religion. Children come with their own religion, whatever it is and they will mostly leave the house with the same religion. The aim of the sister is not to convert anyone to Catholicism.

As we were talking about religion, the sister explained me her view: all religions lead to the same God. Hence it does not matter which religion one follows as anyway the result is the same: staying thankful to God whatever one’s believe is: Muslim, Christian, Jew, …

We decided we would make a pizza party on saturday the 20th of October. I would take care of buying all ingredients and Nino and I would prepare the pizzas with the children. The main sister advised me to go to a shop named Tesco which is quite cheap to buy all ingredients.
On the 18th, as the local bus brought me to the intercity bus station, I asked the driver whether he would go to the Tesco shop. Such shop is huge and located along big roads in the middle of nowhere. The previous day, coming back from the sisters I had seen one which I thought was not too far from the bus stop.
The driver told me he would bring me there for 40 Baht. I thought I would try my own way. I started to walk in the direction I supposed being the right one aside a very long and large road. After a while I was wondering whether I was in the right direction and started regretting not to have gone with the bus.
Then I saw 2 people talking. One of them having a motorbike. I asked them the direction. They shown me with signs I was in the right one: they could not speak english. As I wanted to continue my way, one of them proposed me (with signs) to bring me to the Tasco shop. As I asked ‘How much ?’, he replied ‘No’. I accepted and actually, there were around 5 to 7 km from the bus stop I left until the shop.
As we arrived, the shop was not yet opened and the guy gave me the impression he would have waited for me and brought me back if the shop would have been opened. As he saw that some time was still needed before the shop opens, he told me ‘I go home’. I found this so nice from him. The more I get to know people here the more I am impressed how nice they are.
The shop was huge. By chance I had written in Thai (thanks to google translator) all ingredients so that I could ask several people working in the shop. Finding ingredients in a place where all is written in Thai alphabet (less then 10% having english translation) would have been impossible without such translations.
After having found all what I needed, I asked at the information of the shop where I could get the bus to Nong Bua Lam Phu. Obviously they could not speak english. They explained me with a lot of detailed in Thai… thanks to the signs they made, I understood it would be just on the opposite of the road. I crossed the road and 5 minutes later the bus came …
As I arrived at the sister, everyone was carrying of cleaning all around the house. I decided to help. After 30 minutes we had almost finished and a child came to me asking for english lesson. As all children arrived in the teaching room we started. I try to make them speak, write and hear. However, this needs to regularly take one or 2 children separately for a few minutes … in the meantime, the other ones would obviously talk together or do other things. However, some really try to improve their level and study continuously.

On friday the 19th, I gave again an english lesson. One of the children I had not noticed so far surprised me a lot. He is 12 years old but really motivated and seems to be very talented. He understands quickly and for the exercises I give he always searches for the most complex solution. His name is Bee. He looks like somehow a mix of Thai and Indian. He laughs as well a lot. I wish he never looses these qualities of being able to laugh so much, being motivated and intelligent. The course I gave lasted quite long. A little more than one hour. I tried to go for a little more complex mathematical exercises. I notice a huge difference between the children. Some understanding immediately and others lacking a lot of self confidence. Maybe I should try to separate them in 2 groups, one having more difficult exercises and another one having more simpler ones … however I am afraid to create a kind of competition between them. What I like very much with them is that they emanate peaceful and harmony.

On saturday the 20th we started pizzas around 9AM. I had bought 3kg of flour and after having prepared the pastry we cut in small pieces onions and garlic. The sister proposed us that the children could help for any work and actually without asking many came and really tried to do their best. It was fun preparing the pizzas with them. Nino came to help me … they were shy asking her her name. It was funny but I insisted helping them as they had to use english to get a real information from an unknown person outside of the area of a course.
Sum, the cook who is a very nice woman, prepared us something to eat for midday. After this children went for a 2hours rest and we finished the pizzas around 3PM… we left at 3.30 and took the bus back to Udon Thani for the last time … next day we moved to Nong Bua Lam Phu. In the evening we ate a few pizzas and went for a milkshake and hot chocolate as a dessert. After this we looked at how people have fun in Udon Thani walking around many discos and bars located just behind our hotel.

On sunday we moved to Nong Bua Lam Phu. However before we left, we wanted to complain in a shop where Nino had bought very nice shoes infected from xylophagous insects eating big quantities of wood every day. The shop however did not care … as we could not really complain in Thai we could only leave … we took a Tuk Tuk to the bus station and left around 3PM Udon Thani. As we arrived in the new hotel we were surprised how nice it is. Still around 9 euros with a very nice and comfortable bed. We thought we would have not met any western people … we were wrong the first person we met was Sam coming from the US πŸ™‚
We then walked around and found a laundry after searching for a long time … walking around we found many wild bananas and after a while we entered a bar where many people were sitting. It turned out to be a meeting of several people being christian. They talked to us and we understood some of them were healer. They regularly come in different places to heal people always for free. It was very interesting. As I have a pain since 1,5 year I asked whether they could do something. So far I am not sure it helped a lot but I will continue observing.
The village of Nong Bua Lam Phu is really nice, several long roads with many shops. We bought some fruits in the night market.

Volunteering at the Sisters’ house

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The experiences at the sisters are always very nice. I play with children and some of them seem to be happy spending time with me. One very young looks like Pepito the smallest child in the film “Les enfants de Monsieur Matthieu” πŸ™‚ However, sometimes I look at them and I am sad, I know they are HIV infected and AIDS could suddenly arise. I wonder why life is sometimes so ugly to children…
I started to teach some english. Their level is not very high (my english level is far from being high enough to teach it but there it is ok). As I checked how far they can count I noticed they had many problem to differenciate the pronounciation of 13/30, 14/40, 15/50, … After a few exercises I switched on algebra and there they were really very good. They needed some explanations but afterwards could count very fast and very easy.
Later on as I had a chess game with me I proposed one child to play it. Another came immediately and they played together. They did not know very good the rules. I just showed more or less how to move on the squares and after 30 minutes they were very good. Able to understand what they could move, the risks they may face because of the other player’s game configuration. I was amazed that after only a few explanation they were able to play so good.
They played a long time, other children came and learned as well. Many wanted to understand the rules. Maybe because it is a different game. I hope I can find some books describing better how to play and written in Thai …

On Tuesday the 16th of October, the sisters had planned to bring the kids to a water fall for the so called year picnic. This is a good opportunity for the children to have fun outside the house. I left my hotel at 5:15 AM to be at the sisters at 7:40 AM… We left the house of the sisters at 8:00. It took to the bus around 3 hours to reach the place. We took a guide who brought us through a kind of jungle ending with huge rocks where we had to do some fitness to climb and discover a wonderful panorama. After this we went back and ended in a kind of small market where very nice memories were sold around 15 Baht (less than 50 euro cents). At that place the prices were incredibly low. People looked like central America one.
We then took a kind of Dalla Dalla to go back to our arrival point and our bus brought us close to the water fall. There children played almost one hour in very cold water. They are really restless. After this we went back. After 2,5 hours drive we arrived a little before 5.25PM at the house and I was home around 8:00PM. After going out to dinner my bed became my best friend…

Starting at the sisters of Nong Bua Lamphu

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We got up on the 11th of October at 6AM and after being ready got out and found a taxi immediately. He drove us to the main bus station. We had to wait almost an hour before we left. The bus was quite comfortable. Much better than all our past experiences in Africa. It was nice too to be in the middle of Thai people and no more surrounded of many tourists.
The mentality of these people is nice, one has to take time to observe them. There is a kind of shyness sometimes in their way of being. Other times it is exactly the way around.
It took almost 9 hours to the bus to complete the 515km. An interesting point was that most of the panoramas were not differing very much from what we see in Europe. The country seems to be much developed.
However, approaching Udon Thani many small business running gave again a typical asia touch.
We needed to take a Tuk Tuk to get to our hotel. Here Tuk Tuk are quite different from the ones driving in Bangkok. A kind of mix between Bangkok Tuk Tuk and Zanzibars Dalla Dalla …
The hotel is very comfortable. We even have our own shower and toilet … it is already a long time we had not that much luxus. We then decided to go outside for dinner. In our street there are exclusively Internet Cafe and Hair cut. This is amazing. more than 200m long only such business are running and even new opening. The average rate is 10 Baht for an hour (25 Euro cents). In the touristic area of Bangkok the rate is 3 times higher…
The city is as well very nice, people are looking at us being kind of surprised to see Mzungu (white people) here. Indeed we saw only another white man. Otherwise only Thai people.
We found a very typical restaurant: a few tables and chairs spread and in a corner the kitchen in a very small area providing gas and located closed to a fridge. We avoid strictly meat. However here almost no one speaks english. Hence we showed simply to the cook with our fingers: fish -> Yes, meat -> No with big signs. She laughed and prepared our dish.
As we were served we had exclusively meat … I wondered whether we will have any chance to communicate when so low level dialog gets misunderstood … 30 minutes later as the cook saw we left all meat aside, she came apologizing in Thai πŸ™‚
Another communication surprise was when I called the reception to know whether I could let my computer in the room or if I should rather bring it to the reception when going out. They answered: Yes. I asked whether she understood my question and replied just a moment … looking for another person speaking better english.
Hence people here are very polite but they prefer saying yes than explaining they did not understood what was said … maybe it is impolite here not to understand a person.

On the 12th I stood up at 7AM to go to the village of Nong Bua Lamphu (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nong_Bua_Lamphu_Province) where the sisters are staying. I asked the reception to write me in Thai the name of the village and left the hotel to go to the Bus Terminal located far away. As I saw a Tuk Tuk I asked him to drive me to the Bus Terminal. He could not understand what I meant. He called someone speaking english and I asked again … same thing he could not understand. Then I showed the name of the village. Then he understood. He asked me for 100Baht that I could reduce to 70.
The bus going there is really nice, many colors and pictures inside. A little chaotic but lovely. It took over an hour to drive 50 km and I was left in the middle of nowhere. I asked a local Tuk Tuk for the House of Mother Teresa. Even the word mother could not be understood. I then asked in a shop and a girl speaking english told me it was far away.
She called a Tuk Tuk (he could not understand even a word of english) and we went … for a small adventure. We drove a lot on a kind of Highway where I think a Tuk Tuk is not allowed to drive on such roads. After a while, as no house could be found he asked any guy on the street who somehow sent him to hell. Then he drove in the opposite direction and asked again someone who told him to ask over the road. He asked again and after a long discussion in Thai we went again further in the first direction … for a long time. After asking 2 or 3 times we arrived at a place for children but it was not the one of the sisters. There he spoke a long time with people. He was somehow upset but I could not understand him. After the long discussion he drove me again very far in a different direction. Again he had to asked 2 or 3 times and finally after almost 2 hours in total we arrived …
I met the main sister who explained me at the house children are in average 14 years old and most of them are HIV positive. However they are carefully followed and one cannot notice anything: no sign of weakness … they are actually restless. We talked half an hour and then as the children were not at home that day she told me I could come next day.

In the evening we went to eat in a nice restaurant. We could order from the menu to make sure it would be well understood. To drink we asked for Milk Shake Coco … they said no problem and we got chocolate sorbet πŸ™‚

On the 13th (saturday), similar story. This time I took a bus which drove me to the bus terminal of Udon Thani and then switched to the one going to the bus terminal of Nong Bua Lamphu. I tried to find the way of the sisters. She had written in Thai the name of their house. I asked many people but unfortunately no one knew. Again I spent around 1h30 searching. I met many very nice people who really tried to help me asking around … without success. As I asked in a kind of restaurant, someone took his motorway and brought me there. As we arrived he did not want even 1 Baht … he did that only to help. I am amazed seeing how nice people here are. Only Tuk Tuk give the feeling to try to cheat but they are as well really nice persons.
As I arrived, the sisters were away, the cook showed me the room where the children were and I went inside. Children were somehow spreaded all playing, some in groups, some alone. I went around, every child greeted me very politely with a smile mixed of a kind of curiosity and shyness. One of them is kind of mentally disabled. It was intersting to notice the difference with the children of Tanzania who immiediately started to play with us when we arrived the first hour already.
Here they first observe. We then went to eat altogether sit around the same table. Many observed me. I started to ask for some translation: Rice, Chicken, … It was a kind of fun. Afer lunch, in most of the houses of the sisters I saw so far, children go for 2 hours rest.
After resting some came out to do some hula hoop. I took the opportunity to try what I did not do since around 30 years … it was a disaster but nice to get more in contact. Then a seven years old child proposed me to play draughts. I as well did not do so since around 30 years. I tried and after less than 2 minutes the child had won. A second time I could survive 5 minutes. Then another child a little older came and help me. We survived 10 minutes. But the youngest seems to be really good. He stopped and never lost even once … around 16:00 I left the house and went back to Udon Thani.

Discovering Bangkok

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Since our arrival in Bangkok I have been looking for a place to volunteer. There are a lot of places needing help however most of themΒ  only request money.
Some requesting volunteers asked me to fill out some long documents with the reason why I want to volunteer, describing my past experiences and giving detailed references where I already helped. I found this good. This gave the impression of seriousness. The only problem is that after having sent all information they answer they have anyway no place for volunteers…
Other places require volunteers to pay fees. Usually around 300 Euros to subscribe and then 50 to 75 euros every week. I find this amazing. One comes to help and he has to pay for this. They promise the money will be used for local people … due to my last 15 years of volunteering here and there (most of the time occasionally) by default I consider any charity organization non honest unless they proved me they are honest… for this reason I refused.
By chance there is one place where one can almost always volunteer: the Missionaries of Charity (Houses of Mother Teresa). They are located far away from Bangkok: in the North east of Thailand, close to the border of Laos. Having served in various houses, this is the only organization I fully trust without any doubt.

While searching for all these associations and waiting for answers we took the opportunity to visit the town where cheap places propose very interesting stuff: most of tourists are not coming there as one needs to take the bus. As tourists spend very few time in Bangkok (around 3 days in average) they usually do not come to the information.
Anyway for clothes one should have Thai size … it is mostly not European case … but it fits perfectly for Nino πŸ™‚ There are as well places to buy very cheap electronic devices.

We also went to the hair cut. For a few euros they will be happy to cut hair. I found them talented. We did not miss Thai massage and feet massage. Both interesting but however somehow different to what we expect in Europe as they tend to use a lot of force in the massage they do. This reminds me somehow Tanzania where children were able to face a lot of beats without even showing any kind of pain. Maybe as in Tanzania, people can here face much more pain as we do and hence such massages would fit perfectly for them.

If I now had to compare my feelings between Dar es Salaam (my favorite place in Tanzania) and Bangkok, I would say here we do not feel this kind of being altogether as in Tanzania. In Africa if one takes the time to discover people he will discover the feeling of being in a big family. One simple example, from 35 to 40 years old, women will be called Mama and before Sister. This matches perfectly what one feels there. Another example, one woman comes in a bus with 3 small children, automatically 2 people will care of 2 of the children. This belongs to normal way of being …far away from all what I saw so far.
In Thailand people seem not to be so close to each other. It looks rather like in Europe. However, what is interesting is the concentration they use for any of their work and looks like not taking care at all how much it would be paid. This is mainly true for young people. Maybe it is the fact they are all attached doing their work perfectly that makes it possible for a poor country to be so clean, providing excellent food at extremely low rate. Tourists places are expensive to buy memories but going a bit further around, tourist area ends quickly, no more colors every where but real Bangkok starts with extremely polite people selling extremely cheap products.

Tomorrow (the 11th of October) we are getting up at 6AM to take the bus to the north east. We already reserved a room in Udon Thani. The village where the sisters are should be one hour drive form the city.

Arriving in Bangkok

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We arrived on the 4th of October in Bangkok. We were amazed how clean it is. We took a taxi and could notice streets can be very different to each others. Slums are mixed with very clean streets on the way between the airport and the city center.
After arriving to our hotel we went to a restaurant. By the way excellent. We paid in total 10 euros including beverage.

On the 5th of October, we decided to go to the Tourism Information. A Tuk Tuk brought us there. Many small branches of the main tourism information try to sell packages: travel in other cities of Thailand. If any special requirement is asked they can mostly not answer: a map of the city seems to be available only in the main tourism information. I would like to volunteer in Thailand however it seems to be quite difficult to find an association working like the sisters where any one can go and help. Here many details are required.
As we got a map we decided to make our mind to find places to visit. On the way a guy saw us and helped us a lot giving us many details. He explained us it was the birthday of a very great monk and for this reason Tuk Tuk were cheap (20B = 0.5 Euros) and would brought us to many places in Bangkok. He even found one for us.
We then went to see first the Big Buddha, then the Lucky Buddha. As the fest was being organized for next day a guy told us the entrance was not that easy. However he recommended us to go to a special tailor doing great discount.
Then we followed his idea and went there. The tailor designs really great smocking. After looking at many models with the help of Nino I went for a combination of some of them.
We came later back close to our guest house and decided to eat on the street where food is sold. It was excellent. Amazing, for less than 1 euro per person one can get really good food.

The 6th of October was our last day in our guest house. We found another one very close to the previous one and really wonderful. Antic style everywhere with a wonderful garden full of green trees. We moved in the morning and after a breakfast we had an appointment with our Tuk Tuk who promised us to take us back at 12:00. Unfortunately he did not came. We then took another one to go to a very touristic street. Many things being sold at much higher price than one can find in local shops. Furthermore people selling there are mainly unfriendly. It is however full of tourists.
After this we went to see Lucky Buddha which was now opened. Very lovely, full of people coming to pray. We were invited to sign as many buddistΒ  Thai did on a Guest Book and to greet a picture of the Monk. We were amazed to see how Thai people are opened and let anyone come and take part to their celebration.
Later we lost in many streets and ended up in small ones where shops were intended for local people : very cheap prices and really nice and friendly people are working there. Nino bought new sandals and later we went back to the tailor for a first trial session.

Tomorrow another session to the tailor is planned and we would like to go for a fruit market …