Entries in Thailand (4)


Wang Lin's Second Week and Counting

By Lira Low Roberts 

We first started documenting Qi volunteer Wang Lin's experiences on the Qi Blog a week ago. Wang Lin is now in her second week at the Mechai Pattana School in Thailand, and recounts the past week's events at the eco-friendly, free-for-all school in her own words.


Having spoken with some visitors this past week, I realized that this school offers students many opportunities. From the Mandarin Chinese class I teach, I learnt to be tolerant of uncertainty and the need to be flexible. The lesson with village kids at a library corner with a white board was also a memorable experience for me.


Opportunities for the Students

I met an English teacher from Pattaya's The Regent’s School. She told me that some students went for an exchange at her school for three days, and in turn she was curious about Mechai's School so she came here. In the afternoon she taught six students speech, because they were selected to go to Malaysia for a 10-day visit with Khun Mechai. 


Hong accompanying visitors from Mahidol University in the library

Hong, the girl on the left was one of the students going to Malaysia. She prepared to talk about democracy at the school. Students not only designed the school uniform (what she was wearing), but also decide on the intake of new students and evaluate the teachers. In addition, students can choose projects they are interested in. This term, Hong chose to study about Buddha. She also took part in the Chinese class. I could see that she was very responsive and keen to learn. 


The number of students coming to the class varies from 2 to 19, although I was told initially that there would be 2 groups of 15 students each. I guess because Chinese class is scheduled as an after school activity, students may sometimes have meetings with teachers after school, or at other times they are just eager to go home, and hence may not always attend the class. This uncertainty was a bit stressful for me at first, but now I have learnt to handle it with calm. In the case of 2 students, I was really grateful for their presence. That class was highly interactive. I even got to know their favorite actors and singers.


For some reason in the larger class, students like to talk and disturb each other. It is a challenge for me to keep a balance between a lively class and some discipline. I asked an English teacher about this and he gave me some advice that I will try out next week.


Lovely Time with Village Kids


Our original classroom was holding a teacher-parent meeting on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, I was informed of this only 20 minutes before the start of the class. In order not to disappoint kids who rode their motorcycles to come learn, I decided to conduct the lesson at a corner of the library with a white board.

 Jam, the boy who looks like the character in “UP” brought his friend Sam.  We learnt words for fruits. The kids’ favourites are mango and durian.


It was easier for the kids to follow if they could ask any words that they wanted to know. For instance, the kids asked how to say “palace” (as Thais really respect their King) and “amusement park”. 

So I found that the lack of powerpoints did not matter. When kids are subconsciously aware that you are relaxed and just care about them, they will in turn also be relaxed and responsive. The most enjoyable moment is seeing the sparks in their eyes when they are excited about an interesting new word. 


Luckily on Sunday we got the classroom back, so we watched “Kungfu Panda” after our lesson. 


Wang Lin's Experience at the Mechai Pattana School

By Lira Low Roberts 

Qi volunteer Wang Lin has started an exciting new experience teaching Mandarin Chinese at the Mechai Pattana School in Thailand. The free-for-all, eco-friendly school was founded by Qi 2010 Speaker and UN Gold Peace Medal recipient Mechai Viravaidya in 2009. The following is Wang Lin's own initial reflections on her time at the school.

Learn more about the school here.


Bamboo archway

My first week at the Mechai Pattana School in Buriram, Thailand left me with some lovely moments. I experienced “Wai Kru”, a traditional Thai ceremony in which students pay their respect to teachers, and I gained some insights through weekend classes with village kids.

Lovely Bamboo Campus with Lively Students

The school is really beautiful and quiet. Colorful bamboo classrooms are dotted in greenery.

Students are thriving in this lovely campus. They have six classes and spend free time in the afternoon for their own projects. I learnt from some students I met in the computer room that they had run a mushroom business last year. This was communicated to me be a girl who used Google translator and images.

Last Saturday they also went to Buriram Historic Park to learn about culture.

A Close and Harmonious Community 

Wai Kru was a ceremony with both laughs and tears. Students performed traditional Thai dance as well as a modern dance called “look like love”. This was when teachers showed “love” gestures back to the students. It was really a lovely moment. Everyone was laughing. 


After the Wai Kru ceremony 

When the students were singing in a circle around the teachers, those who were standing inside started to shed tears. In fact, tissue boxes were being passed around.

What these students made for the teachers was also very lovely. Flowers came in different creative packages. I received a daisy wrapped up in banana leaves, and a flower bracelet.









Enjoyable Teaching Time with Village Kids

I teach 30 students who are interested to learn Chinese and 8 village kids who come to learn during Saturday and Sunday. Due to the first week’s schedule, I managed to conduct only an hour’s class with the students but four-hour weekend sessions with the village kids.

 Six 'sisters' who live at the school taught me how to say "I love you" in Thai 

 Nam (in red) said he likes playing ping-pong

My friend Noon from a nearby county visited me this weekend. He took photos and helped me with Thai translation.

I asked everyone what their favorite food was (students were encouraged to practise using “I like…”). One of the boys Jam, said “I like XX”. Noon explained to me that it meant Thai BBQ. So in return I taught Jam how to say BBQ in Chinese.

I am touched that these kids came again on Sunday and even brought friends!

Funny moments: they learnt to describe their friend next to them by using “he/she is very funny/naughty/shy/outgoing, etc”. The person being described can answer “yes” or “no, I am actually very…”. When Nam said “Jam is very naughty”, after thinking for a while, Jam replied “no, I am actually very shy”!


Jam having a shy moment? 

Let me see those notes

I find that asking kids what they like (e.g. to eat, to do etc using expressions taught in class) is a useful way to keep classes lively and enjoyable. By hearing their various answers, I also learnt more about them (such as their personalities, likes and daily life.) 


Asking kids what other words they would like to know about this topic is also important. This way, they learn something more related to their interests and are more likely to remember it. One girl had even asked me how to say “ride a motorbike” in Chinese as motorbikes are really popular here. 

 Remember how to say "I am fourteen years old"?

 More to come soon!


From ignorance to knowledge

A good news story coming from Thailand with Mechai Viravaidya and his “cheerful revolution” to promote education in rural areas.

The Mechai Pattana School, in the north-eastern Buriam Province, is a free, private school that teaches pupil in a project-based environment to ensure the desire for knowledge does not end in the classroom. The school is eco-friendly and features the world’s largest bamboo geodesic dome.  Its mission: To create a generation of honest leaders who will improve rural Thailand. Inspirational!

Mechai Viravaidya was one of the keynote speakers at Qi Global 2010 held in Singapore on October 8-9, 2010.


Over-consumption challenged

We were inspired My FamilyProject by Thirasak Tanapatanakul. Take a look – the video speaks for itself.