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.