Saturday, 21 July 2012

Funny fruit

Imogen - 9th July
At lunch time we went into the staff room. Considering that many teachers used the room, it was very small. We went in and saw the table littered with fruit. It had the normal like apples and oranges and then it had some very strange looking fruit. There was a big round green fruit with little brown prickles, Myoe Nyunt started to somehow peel it. Inside there was a whole other fruit. It was white and was in segments like an orange. He peeled one and then gave me it. I sniffed and then ate it, hmmmmm. Not for me. Not for Seth either and his face was priceless! We didn't know what it was as MN didn't know the English names.
We tried more fruits like one which was like a bunch of grapes but when you pulled one of you peeled it. Also a fruit which you cracked open and it was bright purple. Some of the new ones were nice but some..... The problem was Muin Nunt pealed them so quickly and we felt bad saying no. Luckily little Ailsa came to the rescue!!
Add from David: after lunch, we spoke to one more class and although they had no questions and were very quiet, the sesion ended with some of the older boys doing street dance at the back of the classroom to entertain us. Two of them did backflips from a standing position on the concrete floor! Amazing.

Good morning teacher 2

Before we left Scotland Sheila had said we wouldn't get away with not teaching - and she was right. She'd suggested keeping it simple by taking photos of Campie School around each class and expolaining what was happening. We collected lots of photos of Campie, but Sheila only managed to get one set laminated s we divvied them up and off we went.
David had Immy and Seth and I had Maya and Livvy. Walking into the classroom was the first surprise as everyone stood up, put their hands in prayer position and said "Good morning teacher!" Wow. We talked about Scottish schools, particularly Campie and Musselburgh Grammar and what happens during a normal day at Campie. Sheila had said the kids wouldn't ask many questions, but we had the youngest and they were fabulous. We had "Do you have many trees?" as trees provide important shade here; "Do you have a flagpole?" as they ave to raise the Thai flag every morning and sing to it!; but my favourite question came after showing the class photos of our lovely Campie nursery and telling them about the children playing, a little boy asked when the nursery children have to work. While Sheila was in a different part of the school teaching all about emotional intelligence and how Scottish schools are now concentrating on the early years to create confident, well established and happy children, I tried (with my limited understanding) to explain this to a wee boy in Grade 2 (P3 to us). The children really listened and when I asked who thought they should let children play in the nursery and early years at CDC, every hand shot up in the air. Magic. I did explain about learning through play (if Gillian is reading). The kids were quite confident and had a real laugh. We all sang heads, shoulders, knees and toes, and the kids were just great.
Lisa dropped Jack and Ailsa off when we were half way through, so Livvy got totally distractedad went to play with them. Actually before this she was amazing, and was really taking part in everything. Maya was great as expected. I'm so proud of them.
Our translater They They Lin looked about 17 and was an English teacher at CDC, he had also attended the school. He had done very basic training, but was really good with the kids and had a good laugh with them.
We managed to get around four classes before lunch, but the other lot did all six, so after lunch we swapped photos and did a class each.
It was a wonderful experience and an amazing day. It was great to be with the kids and the staff and to feel a part of everything. It's so comfortable beng here with our friends. Amazing.
Livvy stayed at CDC with Jack, while the rest of us and Ailsa went to theclinic for a tour. More of that later.

Good morning teacher

David - 9th July
We were made to feel very special at the school and during the assembly, two of the Burmese students welcomed us in excellent English. One of them was a young girl not much older than Livvy who was very sweet and confident.
Gaynor, Imogen & Livvy said a few words of welcome. We were very proud of the girls to stand up and speak about the Campie-CDC link on front of so many people in such a different environment. Livvy said the link was very strong and important to the children at Campie.
After the assembly, we split into two groups to talk to individual classes of about 35-40 children - in very bare and basic classrooms with desks that looked like they were from the 1950s.
New teachers at CDC!
Seth & Imogen came with me to do slightly older children, probably around 10-14 and Gaynor, Maya & Livvy did the younger primary groups. Our Burmese is pretty limited, so Myoe Nyunt translated for us & another lovely man called Thay Thay Lin did so for Team Gaynor.
Over the next two hours and more, we spoke to six classes for about 20 minutes each. Each class greeted us by standing and in smiling unison, saying "Good Morning Teacher", which was quite strange.

Using some laminated photographs, which we passed around the children, Imogen told them a little about life in Campie School and the CDC link - one of the pictures showed the board at Campie with the pictures of CDC, Aung San Suu Kyi and a map of Burma & Thailand, which I always think are such oddly-shaped countries.

I talked about Say Hei and Thein Naing visiting us and about TN running into the cold sea and Say Hei putting stacks of chili sauce on all her food! We explained how the Cmpie kids loved e partnership and described done of the events we have held, like two ceilidhs which mixed Scottish dancing and Burmese food.
We said we had brought some small things from Campie - stickers, books, Scottish flags, letters from Campie children, etc - and hoped these would remind the CDC children of the partnership. We also showed them the origami Campie children made by Simon Archer which we hoped would remind the children of us when we had gone home.
We also explained a little about the money we had brought to help CDC - £1600 from the school's Rice Fund, £267 from the One World Night organised at Musselburgh Grammar by Maya and £167 from the Hits from the Musicals night featuring Imogen and her p7 pals Luke, Amy, Lara, Joy, Eve & Hannah.

I had also been told the kids at CDC liked football so Seth & I took some Musselburgh Youngstars strips along, and in each class invited the kids to try them on. In all of the morning classes, at least 7 or 8 children put the strips on and we took some pictures of em in the blue and black striped tops.
We asked the children taught us a few basic Burmese words and added to our limited collection with Ball-o (football), Nay gow la (How are you?) and Mama (older sister). This pleased Imogen very much, as Myoe Nyunt thought she was older than Seth!

The children were a little shy at asking questions, but there were some good ones - about how school was different at Campie and who did we have who was like Aung San Suu Kyi. That was a hard one! Seth said afterwards that maybe we should have said Alex Salmond - or maybe not!
Towards the end of the morning, Imogen & Seth started taking the mickey when I thanked the CDC children for making us all feel so welcome. I said that we also brought with us the smiles and love of the Campie children and would take the smiles and love of CDC back to Scotland. "You sound like a Disney film, dad," Seth & Immy said.

Asssembly at CDC

Seth-9th July, Mae Sot

David note: we were up before 7am to cycle to Casa Mia for breakfast and then onto CDC where we planned to spend most of the day..

Singing to the Thai flag - very strange
We arrived at CDC at about 845ish, just before the start of the Thai National Anthem. We walked in and stood to the side of an open sheltered platform (which I'm going to refer to as 'thingy', because it would be to awkward to refer to it as a sheltered platform) in front of all the primary students.

We were quickly shuffled around to face the Thai Flag and the national anthem began playing. I expected some sort of orchestral music and an anthem similar to 'God Save The Queen'. Instead we heard loud drums and small primary kids shouting pretty loudly (not really what we expected). Listening to it, I found it a bit intimidating and strange, all these loud noisy drums and kids shouting all behind your back feels a bit weird. After the National Anthem, we turned round to face the children.

Sheila said a few words which were translated by Myoe Nyunt. She explained why we were here and that instead of bringing Campie teachers to CDC this year, she brought us. After Sheila's speech the children shuffled to the entrance of the thingy. They did this in a very odd looking way, the children held on to the child in fronts shoulders and they all side stepped along to the end, if I'm honest it reminded me of a sort of follow the leader/conga gone wrong.
Immy and Livvy taking part in the school assembly

After the shuffle, all the children stayed in their classes and were put into nice neat lines and faced the back of the thingy (towards us). Then Say Hei said a few words as so did the head teacher of CDC whose name I can't remember. (David: Man Shwe Nin).

Then Myoe Nyunt introduced some Karen dancers who had a dance they wanted to show us. The dance was excellent and very enjoyable. Myoe Nyunt then explained that some of the students were going to show us a traditional Burmese dance. The dancers lined up and then what sounded like a slow pop song was played. The Burmese dancing was good, however slightly bizarre. The students seemed to be shaking from side to side and moving their arms.
Karen dancers getting ready to perform
At the end of the assembly, we were all presented with tiny wooden Burmese dolls and lovely necklaces, which was very moving.

Ice cream shop

Livvy - 8th July
After going to Mae Tao clinic, we went back to the hotel and Sheila said she would take us for an ice cream at a new ice cream shop. When we got there, we chose our ice cream and topping . I watched them make the ice cream (they got a big block of ice cream of the flavour you asked for and put it in their machine, twisted the handle and held the bowl underneath and got shavings from the block. I got chocolate ice cream with jelly balls, Geoff got blueberry ice cream with mango as a topping, dad got coffee ice cream with chocolate sauce , Immy got vanilla with caramel sauce and jelly balls, Sheila had coconut ice cream with chocolate sauce and Seth got mango ice cream with strawberry sauce. It was AMAZING !!!!!!!!!!!

Meeting Dr Cynthia

We cycled from Thein Naing's house up through the back streets to the Mao Tao Clinic to meet Dr Cynthia, who is also known as ' Our Mother'. Dr Cynthia pretty much looks after the entire Burmese community here.
She fled Burma in-1988 and set up a small clinic to give medical aid to people who had also crossed the border to escape the Tatmadaw (Burmese army). Over the years the clinic has grown and grown, along with demand. The clinic sees between 300 and 400 patients a day, from Thailand and Burma, or 150,000 displaced people every year. Last year they helped deliver 3,000 babies, and they deal with cases of malnutrition and lost limbs through land mine injuries, alongside providing dentistry, an eye clinic, carrying out operations and providing mental health care for many people damaged through the horrific civil war. [in the Thai border province of Tak, there are around 800,000 people - 300,000 of them are Burmese and 120,000 of that 300,000 are aged 15-19]
On top of this Dr Cynthia has set up CDC school, provides medical care, food and humanitarian care for people throughout the border region. She is a totally amazing woman and has received many, many international awards in recognition of her work. Dr Cynthia and the clinic continue to grow and meet the needs of this community in crisis. If anyone would like to find out more about this incredible place visit
As we cycled up to the clinic, we met Sheila, Geoff and a poorly Maya just gettin out of the DK tuk tuk. We all went to meet Dr Cynthia in the library, where she told us about the funding crisis. She explained that the school and clinic (along with most Burmese organistions) are dependent on foreign aid, but this is drying up as most donors are starting to pump money into Burma and leaving the border. This could be the start of a massive crisis. We were told earlier that it wasn't going to be safe for the Burmese to go back to Burma for another few years, so what are these people going to do for all that time. How are the kids going to be fed or the clinic going to continue to provide free health care? It is all very depressing.
We were pleased to give the cash we had brought from Campie, Judith's Hits From the Musicals, Maya's cash and the money Sheila had collected from everyone. I think we all wished we could do more.
It was wonderful to meet Dr Cynthia, but Maya hit the wall and it was time to go. Dr Cynthia said her, Sheila and Geoff could be taken back in the clinic van. We were due to have a tour round the clinic, but decided to leave it to another day.

Thein Naing's House

David - 8 July, Mae Sot
Thein Naing then took us to his house, via a muddy and bumpy orange path alongside a dirty river/canal, where some local boys were having a swim. Later, we saw very small children scavenging through rubbish, collecting plastic bottles and bags to recycle.
The downstairs of Thein Naiang's house is the office where he and his colleagues produce the magazine Maukkha, an educational and cultural magazine for Burmese teachers and others inside and outside Burma. His latest issue had a picture of Aung San Suu Kyi receiving her honorary degree at Oxford.
Thein Naing explained the complex difficulties surrounding the Burmese exiled community returning home. He is keen to go back at some point, but thinks it will be 2-3 years before things really start to change and a lot of Burmese start to go home.
At the moment, there are many reasons why this is problematic, we have learned - fighting in ethnic areas (Shan & Kachin states), general fear and uncertainty about the intentions of the Burmese Government and how much democracy they will allow -and economic issues. There is a shortage of jobs in Burma and many migrant workers feel they have a degree of security in Thailand - even if the jobs are low-paid. These migrant workers are important to the Thai economy, filling many low-paid jobs, but there are also Burmese people who have started their own businesses in Thailand, while in Burma this enterprise culture simply doesn't exist.
Thein Naing is keen to use his skills - as a writer, editor, teacher and teacher trainer - in Burma, but isn't quite sure how he will do that at the moment. A lot of Burmese people living in exile are in the same position.
Despite the changes in Burma, there are still people coming over the border into Thailand. There are 150,000 people in the refugee camps and an enormous migrant population in the Tak state of Thailand of which Mae Sot is part. The problems are all very challenging and there are no easy answers.
Thein Naing then led us on our bikes to Mae Tao Clinic, passing lots of goats and some water buffalo on the way - and then being passed by Sheila, Geoff and a pallid Maya in a motorised rickshaw.
We were led into the library at Mae Tao Clinic, where we were soon introduced to Dr Cynthia.