Another early start was followed by an action-packed morning. Mountain bikes were the latest mode of transport as we explored the local area. Students managed two hours as we viewed rice paddies, villages and beautiful scenery in the hills. The rest of the morning was spent doing team-building exercises on the low ropes and the high wall challenge as the rain finally arrived.
Less strenuous but rather more emotional was our visit to Viengping Children’s Home this afternoon. Child protection laws prevented us from taking photos inside. This institution takes care of orphans, children facing social problems, abandoned children and those infected with or impacted by HIV. It attempts to promote child development, support education and instil life skills. It also provides them with love. Our visit was an opportunity to spend time and play with vulnerable children from those barely a year old up to the age of 6. The children craved the attention of our students and staff and we spent over an hour with small children throwing themselves at us, wanting to play ball and wanting to be held. When the time came to leave it was not easy for our students to tear themselves away.
We dressed up for the evening as it was time for a very special traditional Thai meal which dates back many centuries: the Khantoke dinner. A Khantoke is a raised tray used as a small dining table in northern Thailand and is a traditional way of serving food when entertaining guests. We sat on the floor outside and ate with our fingers whilst we were entertained by a traditional dance and music troupe. The performances were extraordinary and there was even student participation towards the end. The evening culminated in fireworks and the release of our Thai lanterns. There were smiles all round and nobody seemed to notice the rain.
Tonight is the last night we will sleep on campus. Tomorrow we travel up into the mountains for the community project.
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