Rediscovering the land of smiles in Rayong

Trip Start Aug 09, 2010
Trip End Feb 01, 2012

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Where I stayed
n a house
What I did
Taught english and did some manual work too.

Flag of Thailand  , Rayong,
Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hello all!

Greetings from the middle of nowhere, halfway between a town called Rayong and another one called Klaeng in Thailand. 

We were staying in a retreat centre owned by the Neo-Humanist foundation and run by a lovely man called Georg. 'Huh?' I hear you say. What the hell is she talking about???

Well, in an effort to prolong our trip (it's only been a year after all) Paul and I have been looking to do some work in exchange for free lodging and food. We found an amazing website called (check it might have you packing your bags!) which lists lots of work exchange opportunities. Initially we were meant to work in a Yoga retreat centre but we were told it had suddenly closed down on the day we were travelling to Thailand. We decided to still come back to Thailand and look for another opportunity and found one advertised by the Neo-Humanist Foundation. The foundation exists all over the world and it's main aim is to provide a service to those in need. It's members live a simple life and help those they can. 

We spent nearly three weeks here and worked around twenty hours a week. Half of that time was spent teaching kids english - I'll let Paul write about that as he was in his element doing it. During the other ten hours we helped with the maintenance of the place - so for 3 days each week P and I scrubbed old paint and mould off a block of 8 toilets, that had stood outside without a roof for a few years. By the end of the morning we'd be totally covered in dust, our clothes drenched with sweat, our hearts, or rather my heart beating 10 times faster thanks to the giant spiders lurking around. But, my oh my, very few things are as satisfying as manual labour! We felt so proud of our sparkling, newly scraped block of loos. I really wish we'd taken a before and after shot! The physical work, coupled with the simple vegetarian food we were eating meant that we both lost about half a stone each - RESULT!! 

We also learnt how to make soya milk from soy beans, that if you leave dried beans soak in water overnight and then let them stand on a sieve they will actually sprout (!!!!) and also how to make medicinal capsules from the tree that cures all ailments - the Neem tree. It was amazing! 
One of the most thrilling things I saw was a giant gecko, (think 40 cm long at least) hunt down a giant cockroach. (Forget everything's big in America, everything's ginormous in the Thai countryside!) Anyways back to our Gecko. This huge cockroach was flying around (yes flying around!) and landed on our glass door. We were on the other side of the door, which is why I can write calmly about this. As soon as it spotted it, the gecko quickly ran down the door so it was below the cockroach and then millimetre by millimetre it made it's way back up moving closer and closer to the brown beast. We could see it lift one limb after another and slowly pushing itself slightly upwards. When it got close enough (this took about 20 minutes by the way) it suddenly shot towards the cockroach and.....result... grabbed the mighty cockroach at the first go! P and I were literally sitting at the edge of our seats watching this and started cheering when we saw it succeed. Gecko 1 - Cockroach - nil! Who needs thrillers eh!

I have to say that, whilst our main aim in coming here was to extend our trip, we left the place having found a new way of travelling, a new way of meeting inspiring people, a new way of living and even a new way of eating! The biggest lesson or reminder for me was the joy that comes with helping others freely and willingly. In these past three weeks of very simple living I have felt so many moments of pure happiness for no particular reason that it does make me wonder if I've over-complicated my life in the past. Well let's hope I remember to take this with me when we eventually go back home. And now enough ruminating from me, here's my better half....

Before I talk about the adorable kids, I must mention the people we met in these last 3 weeks. The locals of this area were simply fantastic. We really did rediscover the land of smiles. Wherever we went curious people would smile and say hello. From the bus driver who went out of his way to drop us off, to the store owners who were proud that we were shopping in their store. I have lost count of the amount of lifts people offered us whilst we waited for Georg to pick us up. It was very humbling. It seems if you want to really know what a country's people are like it is best to leave the touristy places. 

Another bonus about being in a remote place is the price of things! 2 pence an hour for internet. 1 for 2 meals! It was brilliant for us poor backpackers. 

Right, I better talk about the stars of the show. The kids! As Karen mentioned, we had the opportunity to teach some of the local children English on Saturday's & Sunday's. We were slightly apprehensive as we had never taught before and did not know how the children would react to us. Well that apprehension disappeared within the first 5 mins. Seeing those beautiful smiles and huge bright eyes on the kid's faces melted our hearts. They learn English in school but they come for weekend lessons too. Khun PJ is a retired teacher who opens up his house / restaurant to teach them. He is a wonderful man who went out of his way to make us feel at home while we stayed in the area. He even picked us up one day to take us out to the beach and his friend's buffalo farm. Not to mention the delicious food that his Filipino wife would serve us after teaching the children. She even cooked us the Filipino dish Chicken Adobo as she knew we loved it. Bless them both and I know they will read this so THANK YOU so much!! 

Khun PJ was so impressed with our teaching skills that he asked us if we would like to teach in a proper school for a day. We jumped at the chance and it was an experience we will never forget. We both went off on our own and I think I got the short straw /but in a way the best deal. Whilst Karen's teacher could speak English and assisted Karen all day, I on the other hand had to teach on my own! Walking into that first class of 30 kids was nerve racking. Yet again, within 2 mins I was in my element. Each lesson was an hour in the morning. The kids were so well behaved and eager to learn that it was a delight teaching them. They don't get to see many foreigners in this area so any exposure to native English speakers is a real bonus for them. Word got around the whole school that we were there teaching and we became mini celebrities. The kids made us feel like that anyhow as after every lesson they would come up to me and ask me to sign their books and then have a big hug. Bless their cotton socks. In our lunch break I got chatting to another teacher and when she found out that we were only in the school for 1 day she said that every class wanted to be taught by me! Wow. So what did she do? Combined 2 classes at a time! So all afternoon I had classes of 60 kids for 1.5 hours. They were everywhere! Sitting on the floor between desks, sitting all along the sides and even underneath the blackboard! I thought to myself that I will never be able to control 60 kids but once again they really behaved and did what I asked of them. Whilst I had kids literally under my feet my better half had 1.5hours off! I am not moaning though. I really took to teaching and would definitely do it as a job if we lived in Asia. I am not sure if I could do it back home though. The kids here are so much more behaved and their parents really appreciate the job you do. 

The school itself had many practices that I think we could do with back home. For example, after lunch all the children have to wash up their plates and glasses. They then have to brush their teeth and finally they all sit of the floor and do 20 mins of meditation. By doing the meditation, they calm themselves down and come into the class calm and collected as opposed to on a sugar rush like kids back home. At the end of the day, certain designated children have to clean the class room, the hallways and offices. They even have a recycling area at the back of the school. I was very impressed. 

Finally I would just like to say what a lovely man Georg ( our host / volunteer boss) is. When we first arrived Georg said to us to treat the house as our home for 3 weeks. We did as he asked but with his help. He really made us feel apart of his life for 3 weeks. We met his friends, learnt about his beliefs and his life. It was lovely and we would not have got to teach without Georg's help. We learnt a lot from him and hopefully we can keep it up when we get back home. THANK YOU Georg for everything. 

We are now in Bangkok for two days before heading back down to Penang in Malaysia to get the boat over to Indonesia. 3 countries in 1 week such is the life of a traveler! See you in one of those places!    

All our love Paul & Karen. (p.s., Picture this scene, Georg, Karen & I on 1 moped traveling down the wrong side of a motorway in t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops. Need I say more?) 
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Mom on

Amazing ,such gorgeous children,great read keep safe xx

Dean ;-) on

Hi Guys yet again lovely to read, I wish I could send my 4 kids there!! You both look in great shape . It must be so rewarding to see all those children benefit from what your doing, they all seem so happy and content.

Love to both xx

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