Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Mothers Day and the Kings Foundation Visit
Today was one of the most memorable days I've had since I've come here. It might have been the excruciating heat I sat through for 3 hours in heavy business attire in a stuffy assembly hall or maybe the heart-warming Mother's Day tradition I witnessed that made all the sweating worth all the joyful tears.
Mothers are sacred in Thailand, really family, but I'm going to spend a moment just talking about moms. It seems that the children Muslim and Buddhist are told since day 0 years old, to be thankful and appreciate their mothers love, for they would not be alive without her carrying you for 9 months. There are 10 principals the children at the Kings Foundation school recite daily, I don't know them all yet. But two of the highest priorities are 1. Love your King 2. Appreciate your Mother. Daily they repeat this philosophy (and 8 others), similarly to the United states where we recite the pledge of allegiance daily at school.
So, mothers day assembly is a day where all the mothers of all the children come to the school and sit in a circle around the perimeter of the room as guests of honor. Then, each class of children is called out one-by-one (who's mothers are present) and their mothers are asked to approach the front stage of the room and take a seat in the chairs set out. Their children then approach them, gift them a flower and then kneel at their feet, placing their head down in their mother's lap. The mothers place their hands over their children's head and together they spend a minute praising one another and sharing a very loving and spiritual exchange of appreciation. EVERYONE CRIES, I cried. At first I thought it was more of a great anthropological observation of Thai culture, but suddenly the mothers and kids were all crying as they lifted their heads, while smiling. My heart began to fill with emotional attachment to this moment feeling overwhelmed with the beauty and love in the room.
They spend about 30 minutes doing this because the children are then invited to go to all the women in the room (teachers included) who has acted as a mother in their life and praise them. It's beautiful. One teacher sitting next to me who has a close bond with many of the residential children who didn't have mother's present, started to receive a line of kids kneeling at her feet and holding her, it was intense! Speaking of the residential children who's mothers either couldn't come because they are unable to pay for the distance to visit their children or simply do not have a mother- this was the hardest part. Working at Coconut Club full time where I only really get to know the residential children, I had a particularly difficult time with this. I had to hold one girl for about 5 minutes while she soaked my shirt bawling "no mother". All I could do was hold her and simply cry back. Many residential children would comfort each other, lying on the floor in the room holding each other crying. It was an awe inspiring moment to see all the children who I'm greeted happily by daily, be sad for the first time and get a glimpse into the true horror of their past or life as an orphan. Many outside visitors when I explain the set-up for the 150 children who live at the school say "Oh yeah like a boarding school, I went to one." The misconception is big, its more like an orphanage, these teachers Thai and English are the closest thing they get to an adults support and love. In this way, the foundation is pertinent to their lives and I'm glad I can be a part of this....
Oddly enough Mothers Day was accompanied by a visit from the President of the Kings Foundation. On several accounts I've herd co-workers say, "In the 2 years I've worked here, a man this high-up in the Kings Foundation has never visited- this is a big deal!" And it was, I have never seen the students so stoic and well-behaved, especially after such an emotional morning. But it didn't matter, a man was coming who represented the most important person in the country and that was more important than any mother in the room suddenly. I of course didn't understand anything he said, it was all in Thai, but i did understand the importance and cultural respect made due to his visit. We had every news station on Phuket and Bangkok in our Assembly hall. The Governor of Phuket Showed, The mayor of Phuket and more important people traveled from Bangkok to accompany him for this hour long speech he made to the school. The message seemed well received so I guess it was all good things he said, and our school is considered doing well by the Kings Foundation Standards. One student was talking while he was talking and he made the student come stand next to him in front of the auditorium, to set an example- he continued this as students kept talking.....