My arrival here was a whirlwind of adjustments including lost luggage, incorrect forms, jet lag, spicy foods, strange bugs, and of course, the heat and humidity that comes as a special treat from rainy season in Thailand. Thank goodness for the two fans that run non-stop in my room and midnight thunderstorms that bring a much needed blast of cool air (update: Due to a new worker coming in, I have since moved to a new room with A/C).
I haven’t done much exploring around my city yet, but I am a particular fan of the night food stalls that sell som thum, nam thok, and chocolate milkshakes (my guilty pleasure). In the mornings, it has become a regular routine to listen to the city wake up – in fact, it’s almost a scene straight out of a movie. The birds start chirping around 6 or 7am, the street below starts coming to life, and you can hear people shouting to each other and motorcycles passing by not too long after (of course, I was only able to witness all of this in the first couple days of jet lag; otherwise, I sleep through most anything). At night, I come back to a lively living room with the residents of Rainbow House playing with their toys, watching The Voice (Thai version), and jumping on unsuspecting volunteers like me (one of them is quite the cuddler and will come back literally 0.5 secs after you put him down). Oh, and I can’t forget the adorable but shy dogs: Rainbow, Ribbon, Panda, and Coffee.
My days are spent around children of all kinds: disabled or normally developing, 3 years old to 22 years old, boys and girls, etc. The staff that train me are Thai, and there is a group of long-term British volunteers. Thus, in a way, there is a meshing of several cultures here: Thai, American, British, and the disabled. This is where I find my space as a new CCD volunteer. The learning curve for my work requires flexibility for changing plans due to traffic or flooding, humility for learning from the long-term staff and volunteers, open-mindedness for dancing, singing, and teaching when you feel unqualified to do any of the above, and love.
Even in the short time that I’ve been here, the love is very tangible. There is so much love for these disabled children who will get themselves into the most peculiar messes because they don’t know any better, but who will also give you the sweetest smile from their eyes when their mouth can’t quite move into shape. One child whom I work with will give you the biggest smile for your smile every time without fail. In a room where many of the disabled children spend their days together, there is love present in the way the kids have learned to take care of each other: those able to walk wheeling those in wheelchairs around in circles for our “dance sessions”, checking each other’s diapers, holding each other to fall asleep easier, taking each other to shower, the list is endless.
The staff also exude love in the ways that they intimately know the habits of each and every child and how they tease the kids comfortably, with smiles on their eyes and faces. I’ve seen just a brief snapshot of the challenges that come sometimes in taking care of both disabled and non-disabled children (10/10 times a kid’s energy will far exceed yours), but the staff simply dive into caring for the children in all of their basic needs. Many of them have had little experience with disabled children before coming to CCD. This is not to discredit any of the work that they do, but rather to showcase the miraculous power of their love and care. In the short but powerful testimony of one of the staff, “Ï’ve never seen love like this, so I knew it had to be God’s love. That’s how I became Christian.”
At the end of my days, I am dead tired (“knackered” as my British volunteer coordinator might say), but while some of it is perhaps attributed to jet lag, a very good chunk of it comes from a good day’s work done; the kind of tired that leaves you feeling satisfied and wanting to reflect on your day (perhaps there’s a British term for that as well)?
Fun tips and tidbits that I’ve learned in my time here (or mainly things that I want to say but couldn’t fit anywhere)
- The 7/11 right around the corner sells marvelous sausage and cheese sandwiches that they even cook in a little toaster oven for you! Great for people who can’t cook like me
- If you’re riding a motorcycle taxi, grab onto the handle that’s on the backseat and keep your knees tucked in. It’ll make your life a lot less stressful
- Cooling powder is the greatest invention that has ever been made (ok maybe that’s an exaggeration but it’s a lifesaver when you don’t have A/C)
- If you don’t know what to do with a stray kitten keep praying for the mom to come back and maybe your prayers will be answered
Running list of British vocabulary:
- Mozzy: mosquito
- Knackered: when you’re dead tired (taken from the term “knacker” a horse – kill a horse)
- Grotty: very gross
- Mincing: used to mean taking your time to do something (“stop mincing about”) but now also the term given to a gay man’s strut
- AirCon: A/C
- Marks & Spencers: the British store for working moms, think Banana Republic style
For more information (including posts and pictures updated daily) check out CCD’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/ccdthailand/.