April 2015

Building a small school


Province de Chiang Rai

Testimony of a participant :

The very second that I knew of the trip to Thailand for the 13IB’s, I immediately knew that I wanted to go. I have always had a desire to travel and to explore different cultures, nationalities and all in all to meet and interact with new and different kinds of people.


The day before we left I was extremely apprehensive and was having my doubts on how much I really wanted to go on this trip and how willing I was to actually do the hard work that it required. However, the day of the 3rd (our departure day) when I woke up, an overwhelming feeling of excitement was consuming me and I knew that I was going to have the time of my life on this trip. We travelled first from Geneva airport to Zurich airport and then from Zurich airport to Bangkok. The flight from Zurich to Bangkok was approximately 9.5hours, but it was bearable because we all knew that what awaited us on the other side was something completely worth the while. After we arrived in Bangkok there was a 5 hour overlay in which we were just wondering around Bangkok airport and exploring some of the shops. We were all exhausted and I can say that now after the trip we have all developed the ability to fall asleep wherever. It was then time for our flight to Chiang Rai where we then stayed the night in the extremely luxurious hotel (The Legend.) We were told that even though we were really appreciative of this amazing hotel before we left for the village our appreciation would increase by 1,000 after we came back to the hotel after our long week of hard work.


When it was time the next morning (4th April) to pack our bags, hand in our phones, and make our way to the village, the same feeling of apprehension was slowly making itself known. It started to increase as we were making our way up the dirt, bumpy road to the village.


My first impressions of Mai Jan Tai were not too positive just because I had never experienced such a place and I was not used to living in the conditions that the villagers were living in. Not to say that I was incapable of living in those conditions I was just quite shocked to see them for the first time. Our living quarters in which we put all our tents (girls and boys) had one of the most amazing views from the village. It was open to the elements, complete with grills in replacement for windows and it really was beautiful.  The bathroom facilities I would like to say were not entirely favourable as our toilet was essentially a hole in the floor (a lot of squatting required) and a cold shower. Yet, I would like to say that I am extremely appreciative of the fact that the shower actually was running water.


When our work started I knew that this week would not be easy, but I knew that as a group we would all do the best we could. Whether it was cement mixing, cement laying, tiling, cooking, painting or extremely demanding manual labour I knew that for a fact myself and the whole group were putting their 100% effort in, regardless of whether they were skilled at the job or not. I will not lie, there were some moments that I did struggle. I struggled with something quite pathetic, the fact that I did not have my phone. It wasn’t the fact that I missed the phone itself, I just really disliked not being able to talk to my friends, family and loved ones, and not being able to check whether they were okay. I also struggled sometimes with the work itself, I was quite tired some days and the fact that we were sleeping on the floor in a tent that was not always very warm didn’t help the fact. But as the week progressed, and I got more into the tasks at hand and I was really started to see a progression in the building of the school, I became much, much happier.


In an experience such as this there are so many things to be learnt. In terms of skill sets I learnt how to mix cement, I learnt how to plaster cement, I learned how to paint, I somewhat learnt how to tile, I also was taught a little how to cook some Thai dishes. The experience just completely changed my attitude to everything. It really made me realize how fortunate I am to live the life that I do, but it also made me realize that it doesn’t matter the quality of your life, if you’re happy then that’s all that matters. The children in the village helped me learn this, they have very little as compared to the children that I know but they were so happy, happier than a large majority of the children that I know as well. It helped me get to know the people that I travelled with better. It helped me form new friendships. It also opened up my mind to new experiences. I tried things that I didn’t think I would ever try, such as eating foods I never thought I would eat.


All in all this trip was challenging, being away and not being able to communicate with home, the manual labour, the living conditions but I loved it. I feel so fortunate to have gone on this trip, I’m taking everything that I learnt even though I didn’t like some parts and I’m going to use it to not only help myself but also to help the people around me. I overcame the difficult parts of this trip by continuing to remain open minded and by simply focusing on putting my 100% effort into every task I did, no matter how small. I am so happy that I went on this trip and I honestly wish that I appreciated all of it while I experienced it instead of after I experienced it.