April 2. I ended yesterday’s post earlier than I would normally have done, but it was because I ended the night with anther cab ride and falling asleep at the base. This morning, however, was much more eventful. Bay and Yutanna, the orphanage manager, drove me to Lotus this morning. Lotus is similar to a Wall-Mart, except it has an aisle dedicated to street food. Although the cooks aren’t cooking the food on the street, I still consider it street food because they are cooking their produce exactly how street vendors normally do. I picked up some Thai noodles, but I am disappointed to say that they cannot compare to Chinese noodles, in my opinion. Their thin, tasteless noodles, spicy broth, and large meatballs didn’t really do it for me, but that could just be the result of some peculiar taste buds. I also picked up a soccer ball when Bay told me that the orphanage didn’t own a regular sized one and I was able to buy it for less than 70 bat (roughly 2 American dollars). Then we were finally able to hit the road for a three hour drive to the orphanage.
We stopped twice along the way there and both breaks took at least an hour. Our first stop was to buy flowers to plant at the orphanage. Who knew bargaining the price of a lotus flower would take 45 minutes? Our second stop was for lunch, which turned out to be pretty interesting. We again bought street food, but I chose my own meal this time (I have since let Bay recommend meals for me to try). I bought sticky rice and pork sausage. Yutanna wanted to eat at a restaurant, where Bay and I happily joined him.
Before I started to eat my own lunch, Yutanna offered me a barbequed egg. It was delicious and I ate at least three of them before I ate my food. The rice was particularly delicious and the sausage was flavorsome, yet there was a strange taste to each one. When I mentioned this to Bay he let out a poorly stifled snigger. “What’s so funny?” I asked. When he didn’t say anything I asked again, a bit more suspiciously. He burst of laughing and said “How did you like your brain sausage?” I laughed along with him, thinking he was just pulling my leg. “Brain? You’re hilarious… but seriously, what’s with the taste?” I asked. He laughed again and said “Main ingredient is brain, I’m serious.” It was hard to believe, but I knew he wasn’t lying. At that moment, I realized I had eaten brain for the first time in my life.
Feeling slightly repulsed, I spent the next 2 hours trying to doze off. We finally arrived at the orphanage, and contrary to my original belief, it is not in the middle of nowhere. It’s located near the town of Maesariang, yet the vast, open rice fields surrounding the orphanage create a feeling of total isolation. I arrived at 7pm and since it was dark, I wasn’t able to make out anything other than the fields and the 3 large buildings I was first introduced to.
The largest and main building is the Big House, which holds the class areas and the girls’ dormitory on the second floor. Directly south of that are 2 buildings, one is the boys’ dormitory and the second is the kitchen/dining hall. They had already eaten dinner by the time I arrived, and I didn’t possess much of an appetite after lunch anyway.
The Rustic staff came out immediately to introduce themselves. I met the cook, a Burmese staff member, another local Thai member, and a western staff member. It was hard to pronounce everyone’s name at the time and the only one I can manage to remember was Tim, the westerner.
In order to introduce me to the orphans, and to break the ice, Tim organized a game. All 25 of us gathered in a circle in the Big House. We went around the circle, introducing ourselves and repeating each other’s names in return. It was impossible for me to remember the names of Ekkphan, Mayuree, Sawang, Witwat, and Jaruwan, but I tried my best. Everyone introduced themselves in impressively good English and even stated where they were from and what their favorite food was.
Afterwards, Tim provided us with another game. He handed us all balloons and rubber bands and instructed us to fill the balloons with air and strap them to our feet. Then, when everyone had finished and looked quite ridiculous, Tim told us to try to pop on everyone’s balloon and the last three would receive ice cream. Pandemonium occurred as everyone rushed around the enclosure, pinning each other in place, teaming up on helpless youngsters and trying their best to destroy their opponent’s balloon. My feet throbbed after 10 minutes of countless kids stamping on my feet and I soon lost in the competition. I sat on the sidelines with the other people who had gotten out and laughed out loud with everyone else. It was hysterical to see so many adults and kids running around and stamping on each other’s feet, with all dignity forgotten.
When a few kids had finally been named champions and received their ice cream, it was time for bed. I was then led to my room in the boys’ dormitory building. I will be rooming with another orphan, who calls himself Clash. He’s a small, rambunctious boy of about 12, but he was helpful in showing me the bathroom and providing me with a fan for these hot and humid nights. When he showed me our room, I wasn’t surprised to see a small room with two thin cots on the floor. By now I am used to sleeping on hard surfaces, the cot did almost nothing to alleviate the stiffness of the floor, and I graciously lay down on the bed where I will sleep for the next 2 weeks. Clash went to sleep almost immediately after giving me the grand tour, but I stayed awake, reading late into the night. I couldn’t fall asleep because every so often, when I tried to lay down my book, I would realize where I was and how fortunate I am to be in this situation. That thought kept me up late, but sooner or later, I dozed off, still clutching my book in my hands.