A Small Act of Kindness

I am interrupting my European travelogue for something VERY special. ( it will continue after this post )

Now those of you who follow my blog will understand my reasons for the interruption. If you are new to this page I would humbly suggest reading a post from April of this year before continuing to help better understand just how important this is to me.

Today something quite wonderful happened that reaffirmed my belief that I live in the best city, with the kindest people, in the world.

It was not long after I’d dropped small person off at the school bus this morning and I was back at home pottering around in the kitchen when my phone rang. When I saw it was small person calling my Immediate reaction was to check and see if the Matilda was in her box. ( Our adventurous hedgehog had a recently stowed away in small persons school bag and had an excursion ). Thankfully she was in and the cage lid was closed.
But what could possibly be wrong? She must have only just arrived. Was she sick?

Of course these thoughts were fleeting as I answered the call to an extremely excited 9year old.

“Mum, mum, mum, you will NEVER guess what’s happened!”
“So tell me then…”
“Well I just got to school and one of the secretaries told me that she had something for me and I should wait outside…”
“So what was it?”
“Well she went inside ,then she came back outside and guess what she had?”
“I don’t know…. Tell me, please?”
“She had the bag”
“Which bag?”
“Your bag!”
“My bag?”
“Yes, your bag, THE bag!”
“WHAT?”
“The bag that you left in the songtheaw, your bag, it’s here!”
“But that’s impossible, how?”
“My student ID was in the front pocket of the bag. ( On a side note I was wondering where that had gone, I just assumed it was somewhere in the mess of drawers in her bedroom). The driver must have found it in the pocket and brought it back to the school so they could give it back to me.”
“But that’s amazing, that’s so brilliant and kind. Did the driver leave his name so we could say thank you?”
“I don’t think so, they didn’t say so. He just dropped it off when he was going past.”

I said my goodbyes to small person with the firm promise that she would remember to bring my bag home with her. Of course she’s as absent minded as her mother and left the bag in her classroom when she came home, but it matters not. My smelly frayed old bag has been returned and I could not be happier or more amazed.

The driver could have no idea that an empty bag could have been so missed or mean so much. It was worth very little in monetary terms, probably less than the cost of the fuel he used to get it back to the school, but in terms of memory and feelings it is beyond price. But with no thought of reward, I’m not even able to say thank you, he brought my bag back to me and he will never know how much his seemingly small act of kindness means.

When you do something nice, when you perform one small selfless gesture, when you give something of yourself with no expectation of thanks or reward you often have no idea of the consequences of your actions. Even what you consider to be the smallest most insignificant thing could bring so much happiness to a stranger or a friend. So as a way of saying thanks to this lovely, lovely songtheaw driver I’d like to ask you all a favour.
It’s not a big thing, it won’t take much for you do, but please I’d be honoured if you would.
Just do something nice for no reason. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, it can be as simple as giving up your seat on a crowded train, holding open a door, even a kind word can sometimes be the most precious gift.
So after you’ve read this, be it an hour a day or a week, just do something nice for a friend or a stranger. You have no idea how much joy you might bring.

Jer Gan Mài.

Advertisements

What’s in a name?

The very observant amongst you ( or those of you with far too much time on your hands ), may have noticed a subtle change on my blog pages over the last few posts. I’m not even sure how visible it is on the site, or if you would have to really hunt for it to spot the difference, but there is a difference.

Shall I tell you?

Well of course I shall ! ( it would be an extremely short and rather pointless post if I chose not to ).

It’s all in the name.
Well it’s all in the sub-heading to be more accurate.

Up until very recently my sub heading has been the rather snappy ‘Misadventures in Mayenne’ . As Mayenne was the name of the region of France we used to live in it was no longer apt for my posts now that we are living in Thailand. So I decided to change it. The problem was I couldn’t decide what to change it to. I liked the alliteration of the last one so I wanted something in the same vein. I thought about using a Thai word, but as my knowledge of Thai is, for the moment, limited to “hello”, “thank you” and “can I have the bill please” that wasn’t the best idea.

So it was back to an English phrase. But what? And could I find something that wouldn’t directly translate into something offensive or silly in Thai?

We didn’t really think that we would have so much of an issue with direct translations here, but already we have stumbled blindly into a small social faux pas with an innocent nickname.

Some of you will be aware that one of our many nicknames for small person is ‘moo’. Now in Thailand the work moo means pork or pig. We thought this was rather hilarious, until we came to register her with the school. On one of the many forms they asked for your child’s nickname and we filled it in with ‘moo’. When headmistress read this the look on her face was nothing short of horrorstricken.
“You don’t really mean this, have you made a mistake?”
After an exchange of bewildered looks hubby and I confirmed that yes, we really did call her this and it was just, you know, funny because its the noise that a cow makes, but here it means pork.
“Yes it means pig meat, but to call someone moo in Thailand is, well, it can be offensive you know”.
No. We didn’t know.
“But if you just add a ‘k’ to the end, that would mean ‘pearl’, that would be better yes?”
We hastily agreed and as I was adding a ‘k’ to the end I realised that we were now calling our daughter ‘mook’. Which might be ok for Thailand, but for the western world……not so much.
Thankfully small person has used her full name when introducing herself to her new classmates so no confusion has yet occurred and hubby and I will have to curb our natural instinct lest we insult out daughter in public. whether it be in Thai or in English.

Talking of nicknames, I’m going to have to get myself a new one too. It was hard enough trying to get French people to pronounce my name, but take it to Asia and it’s asking almost the impossible. ( It’s ok, I know you’re all doing the accents to try it out). I think I may have to go for the ultimate regression and re-adopt the old family one of just plain old ‘H’.
And for any of my family who were going to suggest I revert to the old-old nickname well that wouldn’t work here either, and let’s face it ‘dribble’ is hardly an attractive option, ( thank you very much siblings ).

Anyway I digress, unusual I know, but back to the point.

Many many ideas were thought of and then rejected but I have finally settled ( for now anyway ) on Chit-Chat from ChiangMai. I hope you like it, and more importantly I hope you like my ‘chit-chat’ 🙂

But what about my ‘traditional’ sign off of ‘A Bientôt’? For those who don’t know what it means, it’s just a French way of saying ‘see you later’. Well *I think* I have found out how to phonetically spell the relevant phrase in Thai, so, please correct me if I’m wrong, but from me, for now it’s ;

Jer Gan Mài.

Wake up, it’s time to go to school

It’s Monday morning at 9.10 am and im sitting in a multi- national classroom, pretending I’m not here, watching my small person taking large strides into a wider world.

Yes it’s the first day of school.

The selection of international and bilingual schools here is vast and quite staggering. Ranging from strict buddhist teaching through church schools to non-faith academies with everything in between. You can choose for your child to learn in any language and virtually any curriculum from around the world and you can pay anything from £27,000 – £0 per year. ( Although in all fairness in order to pay nothing you would already have to be fluent in Thai, and not too fussy about qualifications at the end of it.)

We had a school picked out and all the paperwork and visas sorted ready to rock up at the start of september. Then we decided to move somewhere different, and the search began anew.

Last week we had it narrowed down to one or two that seemed to suit our needs and philosophies and it was time to do the parental visit.

It’s a weird feeling for me visiting a headmistress office as an adult. I always feel slightly intimidated and a little bit scared that I’m somehow in trouble, but teacher made us feel very comfortable and explained how the school is run with classes taught in English in the mornings, then in Thai after lunch. Of course with small person having no Thai, she will start as a beginner and not be thrown into the deep end of history and science classes just yet. There are also lessons in Thai culture and respectful moral behaviour.

All boxes ticked so far.

At that point we were taken around the school to visit the classes and meet the teachers and view the facilities. It was very pleasing to see the students engaging with the headmistress in a happy and friendly way as we walked around the building. I cast my mind back ( a long long way ) to my schooldays and tried to imagine the children in my school being so happy to see the head teacher. Nope, even with my vivid imagination that wasn’t going to happen.

Then the cacophonous clamour of kids pouring into the hallways told us it was break time. We headed down to the playground and small one was swarmed with tiny children all wanting to say hello and tell her where they were all from.
It was like a roll call of the UN (united nations) and the ASEAN ( association of south east Asian nations). And anywhere else you care to mention really.

Small person was taken with both the students and the playground, although a little startled by the noise levels. Considering that there were only 19 pupils in her school in France by the time she left, I’m sure that it will take a bit of getting used to but she seemed very keen.

After another quick chat with the head teacher we headed off for a family discussion over some ice cream with our arms stuffed with paperwork and our heads full of new information.

As we began to discuss our visit and how impressed we were small person piped up ‘ I really like that school, it made me feel comfortable, can I go back there? I even think the uniform is cool’.

Well we thought that although we all really liked the school we should carry on looking at alternatives rather than just go for the first one we saw, but as we looked again at the other options we kept finding fault and comparing unfavorably with the one we had already seen. It didn’t take us long to make a very simple decision and call the school to take up the place. To our delight she could begin at the start of the very next week and so the practicalities had to be attended to. I mean you can’t start a new school without a new pair of shoes and a school bag.

So far today small one has been made the class ‘team-leader’ ( giving out books and collecting them ) for the week and she has discovered that her form teacher, as well as one of the girls in her class, speak French (yeah!). I have already learned the names of 3 of her classmates, due to the frequency of Teacher A having to tell them to be quiet and I have remembered just how chaotic a ‘normal’ school can be.

Small one was thankfully very excited about coming to a new school, but understandably quite nervous and requested that ‘one of us’ accompany her for the first day or two, so that is the reason that I am sitting in a multi-national classroom, pretending I’m not here.

Now how long is it till lunch?
Oh, that’s still quite a long time really. I hope she settles in soon.

A Bientôt.

Addendum.

20130909-153631.jpg

It’s now 3 pm and the school day is almost done. Small one has been abandoned to her fate because, quite frankly, I’ve already done my time in the classroom and I have discovered that there is an on-site (ish) coffee shop. So that’s where I am right now. My caffeine levels are much depleted after 8 hrs without a hit.

I have made a few discoveries and re-discoveries today;

Small one looks adorable in a school uniform.

I could happily eat school dinners at small ones new school. A choice of noodle soup, or rice and veg, a buffet style salad bar and fruit counter that was both sumptuous and delicious.

Most of the children in Small one’s class can’t pronounce one of their teacher’s names properly and it sounds like they are calling him ‘Teacher Hairy’

Teacher Hairy has a small ant problem in his classroom.

Unless I’m sleeping, more than 4 hours without coffee should NEVER be attempted.

The coffee shop wifi doesn’t work terribly well.

Children, en masse, are quite awful. Teachers everywhere, I salute you. You are made of far far stronger stuff than I.