Careening up a narrow mountain path in the open back of a red pick-up truck was not how I imagined my first day of volunteering with Art Relief International in Thailand. Nonetheless, this city girl took it in stride when we found out, moments after arrival at a dusty, mountainside, primary school campus, that instead of the planned art workshops we were supposed to be facilitating in conjunction with students from an American university study abroad program, today was “Scout’s Day” at Wat Prachakasem Hill Tribe School.
All morning, we watched the students climb, run, and hike through nature, culminating in a rafting challenge across a small, muddy stream. There were also ropes the students could use to teeter across the river, and we had a good laugh watching as the little Thai kids shook the ropes with all their might to make crossing a challenge for the volunteers who chose to join in the fun.
For lunch, the kids built their own small fires and roasted their own skewers of raw meat. Can you imagine for a second this being allowed, basically unsupervised, at a school in the U.S.? But the kids knew what they were doing, had fun with it, and took care of each other. Meanwhile, the teachers and school staff had a slightly booze-filled picnic undisrupted by the children, though they were happy to share their spicy homemade food and veggies with us volunteers. It was fascinating.
After lunch, all the volunteers and study abroad students led the Hill Tribe kids in games like Duck Duck Goose, Tug of War, and of course, Chilli Chilli.
“Hands UP Chilli Chilli, Chilli Chilli Chilli
Hands DOWN Chilli Chilli, Chilli Chilli Chilli
Touch the GROUND Chilli Chilli, Chilli Chilli Chilli
Turn around Chilli Chilli, Chilli Chilli Chilli”
Overall, my first day at Art Relief International was, as I had learned would be the case during orientation the day before, an unexpected and memorable experience. What a day!
You can read more about the experience on the volunteer blog: http://art-relief.blogspot.com/2015/02/a-week-with-lagrange.html