I’m gaining my footing as an international volunteer with DEPDC. My days are full and my responsibilities are taking shape. I generally get up at 8 a.m. and leave my apartment by 9 a.m. I don’t have a full kitchen so it’s fruit or cereal for breakfast or a quick jaunt to Darling’s for some eggs and wicked strong coffee. I don’t yet have a motorbike or bicycle (god willing, it won’t be much longer) so I take a motortaxi to the center for about a dollar. The cool morning breeze on my face, wind in my hair, and view of the foothills of Mae Sai is not a bad way to start the day. It sure as shit beats scraping ice off my windshield, shivering in my winter boots, and racing to find a vacant parking spot downtown.
After the short jaunt, I arrive at DEPDC and begin teaching my first English class with the BYLTP (Border Youth Leadership Training Programme) kids. I teach from 10 to 11:30. We focus on nouns, verbs, adjectives, present, past and future tenses and our favorite – verb conjugation. English is a highly complicated language to teach to Thai speakers because there are no present, past, future tenses, articles and verb conjugations in Thai. We practice conversational English and often sing songs or play games to make things fun. They really love Justin Bieber. I didn’t know if I’d be a good English teacher as I’m not professionally trained, nor did I know if I would enjoy teaching English, but I can honestly say I’m pleasantly surprised with both. Today my kids told me I am a fantastic teacher. It’s great to hear this compliment but it’s also great to hear them using the word “fantastic.” Double score!
After my morning class, I break for lunch, run errands, work on projects for DEPDC, edit photos, do laundry – whatever needs to be done. Sometimes I find myself back at the center teaching the kids the Electric Slide, practicing English with them, or otherwise hanging about. If there is a meeting in the International Department, I attend. The meetings generally last three to five hours as there are lots of things to discuss and plan for. We have several English classes, a quarterly newsletter to publish, weekly blog posts, a radio show to host for an hour each day, old volunteers leaving and new volunteers arriving, networking and logistical planning for donors, visitors, interns and special projects like MTV EXIT and an upcoming documentary that will be shot by a filmmaker who contracts with Al Jazeera. There is never a dull moment! Add to the stack that we are trying to upgrade the computer/server situation (a sad state of affairs circa 1992), build a new website, write new handbooks, design and update our human trafficking presentation, and you can see that there is more than enough to do.
Between the hours of 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., I generally hit a lull as the heat of the day has me in its grasp. The hot season is rapidly approaching and it’s kicking my ass. It’s easily 95+ degrees everyday. And while I’ve acclimated nicely, I still have Montana blood running through my veins. I typically find a place to chill out (literally) which can be the office, a street side restaurant, my apartment, my neighbor joint, or Coffee Heart. Eat a bit, pound some water, let my skin cool from the intensity of the sun and then head back to DEPDC at 6 p.m. to teach CLC (Community Learning Center). CLC is a class of individuals who live in Mae Sai, are generally older, and really want to learn English. They are often stateless and do not have other educational opportunities. Most of them have jobs during the day so they can only study at night. CLC is a community outreach program that DEPDC provides to this area. The class finishes at 8 p.m. and then I head out to get some dinner. Why cook when I can eat a healthy Thai meal for $1.00 or $2.00? Then it’s back to my apartment.
From 9 p.m. to midnight I’m reading, doing research, studying Thai, kicking it with the other volunteers, blogging, Facebooking, editing photos, or attempting to work out (and often failing). By midnight, it’s time to wash the day off so I take a long shower, rid my feet of the nasty black film they’ve gathered and hit the sack. I put a movie on and I’m asleep within a half-hour. Arise at 8 a.m. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.