Baan Butako

3 weeks in Baan Butako

On my first day at school I meet with the Director and staff of Baan Butako. Next, a gentle introduction to my first teaching post: sharing classes with Ms Khan (Siwa). For the following week, I go along under her guidance, but become frustrated, as my role is limited to pronouncing words she finds difficult. The kids are great but I am underused, as Siwa insists on doing most things herself. A new volunteer from Argentina (Julio) lifts my spirits somewhat, giving me hope that his arrival will be the catalyst for change to the way I am being used in lessons.

Three weeks pass and still no improvement. During this time an episode occurred, which while at the time seemed scary, in retrospect now seems funny. One evening Julio and I got tipsy, and when I retired to my room I fell asleep neglecting to switch off the light. Next morning the sound of buzzing awoke me. At first, I thought the noise was from flies, but soon noticed that these insects were larger.  I looked up to the pale (almost blanked out) light. Wasps covered the entire glass fitting. It didn’t help that the previous evening I had discarded my clothes, in a somewhat leisurely manner, thus delaying my urge to get out. Leaving the room (switching the light off and closing the door behind me) I headed upstairs. I walked to the school hoping to find the general handyman who I had got to know well, hoping for a solution to my predicament. Alas, there was no sign of him. A monk noticed me wandering around and asked if I was looking for someone or something. He listened as I told him of my problem and asked him how I could exterminate them. Several minutes passed while he digested the information.

“Mr Alan,” he replied, “we are Buddhists, we respect nature. They will not harm you, but if they should come near, or alight (his very word!) on your person, just shoo them away.”

Well, knock me down with a feather! I mulled over what he had said and decided to just nod and return to the apartment. Thanking him, I took my leave and started walking back to the room.  Dark thoughts emerged as I wondered how to fix this problem. Passing by the local store, I thought of insecticide, but was undecided whether to eliminate the wasps or leave them to find their own way out. In the end, I bought two cans of insect spray. Oh, ye of little faith!

I returned to the room, carefully opened the door and with insecticide at the ready, I felt shame at what I found. They had disappeared. When dawn arrives wasps get active and prepare for work, much like humans. Due to the hive location in the ceiling, the wasps attracted by luminance had congregated around the light fitting. With the light switched off, and the hearalding of daylight, they had headed outside, back the way they had come. But how had they got there? It had gone unnoticed by myself that the light fitting had a  hole next to it in the ceiling, thus allowing the light to permeate the space above, and access into the room. Returning to the shop, I purchased a roll of tape, patched up the hole and ensured myself, in future, the light would be  extinguished before sleep.

My departure for Korat on the Saturday was a hurried affair. I had only just volunteered earlier to move schools, as an administrative faux pas by Ms Khan, who, under pressure due to the unexpected arrival of three female volunteers, now lacked accommodation. She asked me to consider moving to another school and believing this an opportunity, I had accepted. Friday was spent packing bags and the daunting task of saying goodbyes. It is remarkable how in such a short space of time one can become attached. Friday evening saw an invitation to the local restaurant, and a party atmosphere ensued. A few hours of eating and drinking eased my regrets and fueled my ambitions.

Saturday morning and my new hosts arrived, a young couple, smiling and friendly. Noi, a teacher (who will be my mentor) and her husband Mit. This time l am driven the direct route and an hour later we arrive at their home on the southern edge of Korat. A modern couple, their home is within a compound, one of many springing up in the wake of Thailand’s economic recovery. The house is a one storey, three-bedrooms and a small garden surrounded by a wall. Home for the next stage of my adventures.

next – Blog 2014 Part 2

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