Wednesday, June 16, 2010

In Which We Go Swimming

This morning I was prepared. When I got to the orphanage and found myself in a room of 2nd graders, I pulled out a deck of Uno cards and taught six of the kiddos how to play that. The others were busy playing a blend of tag/hide-and-seek/grab-my-purse-and-go-running-away with other volunteers.

The good news is that I'm seeing more misbehavior. It would have been too weird otherwise. Nothing unusual or too bad - just normal kid stuff.

At lunch, one of the veteran volunteers was complaining about how bad her kids were today - "One of them came to class with no books and no pencils. I told him to go get them, and he said, 'I don't want to!'" Her friends clucked in appropriate dismay. "They're like the worst kids ever!" she continued.

I snorted.

I'm sorry, I know it was rude, but I just couldn't help it. I snorted, they all looked at me, and I just continued to focus on my small noodles with chicken. I didn't want to do the whole "Lady, you have no clue," high-status thing, so I figured it was best to ignore it. Which they did as well.

I did introduce them to the concept of time-out today, though. We took the 4th graders swimming at the pool downtown - seven boys and one girl. Some of the kids were too wound-up by the whole thing and kept jumping off the side of the pool in the shallow end. The pool owner told them, "No jumping!" We told them, "No jumping!" Then one boy did it again, quite deliberately. The other volunteers did their usual thing - looked at them with big frowny faces and shook their fingers and said, "No jumping!" and then went back to big grins and hugs and kisses and such.

I thought, "Give me a break." I swam over to the kid, picked him up and sat him on the side of the pool. I looked him in the eye, firmly said, "Mai. Mai." ("No. No." Or perhaps "Dog. Dog.") and said, "Time out. Two minutes," pointing to the ground where he sat, to the clock on the wall, and held up the number two.

The other volunteers looked on aghast. "He's been told four times not to do that," I shrugged.

The kid knew exactly what was going on. He sat there sulking (as you have to do in time-out), then when the time was up he looked at me, I said, "Okay," and he got back in the water very nicely.

The veteran volunteers are very good at loving the kids - they hug them and kiss them and shower them with all kinds of affection that I'm sure the kids need. Still, I think sometimes they're reluctant to actually discipline the kids because of the whole "poor orphans!" thing. I'm not. I'm not good at the showering of affection, but I'm also not at all afraid to make sure the kids know they did something wrong. It makes me wonder if teaching's made me too thick-skinned (and I wasn't too much of a molly-coddler to begin with). Then again, it's also why I'm better at teaching middle and high school than I am with young kids.

Oh, speaking of thick skin, we discovered this deep cut in one of the boy's chins. He hadn't said a word about it - one of his buddies pointed it out. The kid was tough - it was a pretty deep cut, but it wasn't bleeding much. The kid held totally still while I cleaned out the wound with some iodine-looking stuff from a Thai first aid kit and bandaged him up. One of the other volunteers was set on getting him to a hospital for stitches. I pointed out that it was hardly bleeding. It was deep, but I put a normal bandage on it, and it didn't even bleed through that. I think they're afraid of infection, especially since the kids don't get good medical care at the orphanage from what we can see. I'll check in on the kid tomorrow to see how the gash is looking.

In any case, it was fun to swim with little kids today. We had the pool to ourselves, and we got them some ice cream.

After dinner tonight we went to a night market in town. Many of the stands were packing up when we got there, but it was open enough for me to get a new pair of sunglasses for $1.50 to replace my pair that had snapped in half yesterday. You should have seen the food for sale, though! It was too dark for me to take pictures, so you'll just have to imagine the tiny whole roasted birds tied together in pairs at the leg bones, the whole fish battered and fried and packed into wooden dim-sum-style baskets with eyes intact, giant (like, size of your forearm) boiled asparagus stalks, and the whole-squid-on-a-stick. I was certainly not hungry after that.

Oh, also? I may have eaten ant eggs and a fried snake head. That's what someone said was in the dinner today, and I didn't pick up on any cues of joking/sarcasm. I need to do a little more research on that one to see if they trump the sheep testicles from Paris that are currently at the top of my "weird-foods-I've-eaten" list.

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