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Thailand Interim Trip #servicelearning @FVSofColorado

by Guest Blogger Languages Faculty Nathan Eberhart

On our Interim to Thailand, our service learning experience took place in the mountaintop village of Mae Salong. Situated less than five miles east of the Myanmar border, the village is known for its tea plantations and its Yunnanese Chinese migrant population. Our guide, Chris (his anglicized nickname for Kitiphot), has family ties to Mae Salong and connected us with the Ban Klang School, the local K-9 public school serving students of the various hill tribes of the region. We had learned through Chris that the school had two major projects on their horizon and that they were interested in welcoming American student visitors for some cultural and linguistic exchange.

First, they needed to build a new small water storage system on their campus and wanted our help with its construction. Second, the school was building a roadside café to raise funds for its programs. They hoped we could share some recipes for American cookies, sandwiches and other café fare the students could sell. Additionally, they asked if we could teach them some useful English phrases pertaining to coffee shop sales. Before leaving the U.S., our students agreed eagerly to partner in these endeavors. They began compiling some easy recipes and also collecting children’s books to donate to the school.


Fast forward to our arrival in Mae Salong: after nearly 22 total hours of flying, only a few hours of sleep in a Bangkok hotel, and then a long and bumpy drive on the winding mountain roads, we finally made it! Our jetlagged Danes piled out of our two vans and climbed a steep staircase cut into the hillside, past a magnificent yet unassuming golden statue of Buddha and onto the grounds of the Ban Klang School. At the top of the hill, the principal and several of the school’s English teachers greeted us with big smiles.

Early the next morning, we returned to the school to meet the students and begin our service projects. After formal introductions in the school’s covered outdoor cafeteria/auditorium building, our Danes broke into pairs to begin getting to know the Ban Klang students and to play games like “Simon Says” to practice their English skills. After a couple hours of fun and games, it was time for us to begin our projects. The principal met our group at the site of the water storage system and introduced us to the builder who was overseeing the project. With Chris translating instructions, our Danes got to work mixing and laying concrete, transporting stones and sand uphill to the work site, and finally setting into place and sealing the massive water tank tube sections. The principal beamed as he watched our Danes make quick work out of the project alongside the builder and some of the Thai students.

With much of that project complete and needing time to dry, we began our next task: cooking and language lessons for the staff and students who would run Ban Klang’s roadside café. When we returned to the pavilion where we’d introduced ourselves to the students earlier, we found that a table had been set up with a small oven, a mixing machine, and ingredients for chocolate chip cookies. This would be easy, we thought. The Ban Klang teachers narrated as our students got to work on a chocolate chip cookie recipe one of the English teachers had found. It looked like a pretty good recipe, although it called for nearly two pounds of butter and close to a dozen eggs. When the oven timer rang, we pulled out the baking tray to find incredibly thin, melted pastry discs—not chocolate chip cookies. While the Ban Klang students and teachers were excited about the results, one of our students was determined to show them real American-style chocolate chip cookies.


The next day, we returned to Ban Klang to finish work on the water storage tank and also to conclude the baking lessons and begin teaching useful café phrases. Our students also found and brought in a Nestle Tollhouse cookie recipe. While the new batch of cookies baked, the Danes split into teams to teach English phrases for students and staff to use in the café, such as: “Hello, what would you like?” “I would like a ______ please!” “Okay, that will be ______ bhat.” “Thank you!” “You’re welcome. Enjoy!” After a few rounds of this game, we could smell the glorious scent of chocolate chip cookie success. The students and staff were excited to try American style cookies. They liked them, though one teacher commented that they were very sweet by Thai standards.

That afternoon, we put the finishing touches on the water storage tank and wrapped up for the day. The following morning, we returned to Ban Klang to observe their Friday ritual of singing the national anthem in a ceremonial fashion before class. We then gathered with the staff and students one last time to say goodbye. Our students presented the Ban Klang principal with our donation of children’s books as well as some money we all contributed to help get the café business started. They were very excited. Our donation of just under $150 is more than a teacher’s salary for a month there.

We all really enjoyed working with the students at Ban Klang and were glad we had the opportunity to help out with projects that were important to the School. We hope to stay in touch with the Ban Klang School and to follow its progress with its café. We would love to return to Mae Salong on a future Interim trip to grow our connection with the community there.

Youtube by Nathan Eberhart: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdQ4L6UwV4o


Sammy’s Organic Thai Cooking Class – https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g293917-d2507163-Reviews-Sammy_s_Organic_Thai_Cooking_School-Chiang_Mai.html


Originally posted at https://www.fvs.edu/page/News-Detail?pk=921858

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