(I know it's long but read it anyway)
These are the events at the Thai orphanage. I'll go by what I can roughly remember each day:
Day 1:Meeting the others again (I had already met them by chance the previous night). We took a minivan for our seven hour journey, and watched a cheesey kung-fu flick (white dragon) dubbed in Thai. When I suggested the movie from our choices, they enthusiastically agreed, provided that we could MST3K it, and I knew these were my people.
After brief stops for weird food and looking at the river Kway (sp), we arrived at the orphanage, Ban Urak. The kids instantly glommed us.
That night, we were introduced to vegetarian cuisine, yoga style. Unbeknownst to me, yogis have a pseudo religious organization that has centers and missions around the world. We were introduced to Dada, who makes paintings (1,2) to raise money for the orphanage he is starting in his home country of the Fillipines. The orphanage was infact started by a yogi nun, named Dee Dee, who never set out to start an orphanage, but started taking care of children and kept on going. Also among the yoga cast was Abeegee (name is Sanskrit for victory), who is like the rock star of yogi charity volunteers that build houses, and play jamming electric guitar (with long rocker hair to match). Seriously, Abeegee is one of the coolest guys I ever met.
Day 2 (Dec 25th): It didn't feel very Yule-tidy when the others said "Merry Christmas" that hot, tropical morning.
We started our volunteering by making Christmas decorations. It was soon noticed that I have artistic talent and so I was conscripted to do lots of things, including building the fake fireplace for our skit (I'll get to it).
I think it was during the afternoon that I discovered the bubbly Canadian volunteer Hong didn't really get jokes.
Me: What goes "sis, boom, bah"?
Me: A sheep standing on top of dynamite!
Hong:... ... Oh.
We divided the kids up into groups to play games. I was in the parachute group, and we played with a parachute like we did in days of our elementary school PE classes. The kids didn't bother much to listen to what we were saying, and it was chaos, but I was content to flap my part of the parachute while kids ran amok.
We ended the games by singing carols into a mike. After I finished Silent Night, Hong accused me of being in a choir previously. Just genetics, really. But yeah, I proved an earlier statement in the day when I claimed to rock at karaoke.
That night, we all gathered in the dirt amphitheater to watch Christmas skits and musical performances. But first, as we were in a Yogi-run orphanage, we meditated. We all lit candles. For the first time all day, it felt like Christmas, as you can see here.
Then we performed our skit, the night before Christmas. I didn't realized I was going to be narrating some of it, but as I love the karaoke, I did fine. We had a jolly, Russian-accented Santa (Daniel, who immigrated to the US when he was 16) and many reindeer. Then we sat back and enjoyed the show. A little boy fell asleep, head rested on my thigh, for a good hour.
Day 3: This is where my memory starts to get mixed up, but I think it was the day we picked up trash with the orphans in order to promote recycling. I don't know if it worked, but oh well. After gathering garbage, we played games with trash. I and the classically beautiful (in that certain Japanese way) Annie played steal the bacon with Heineken bottles. The children understood it better than parachute.
The night found me painting a poem onto some posters for Dada's Filipino boys home. The power in the city went out, and I got some good conversation in with three of the girls by candle light. We walked home by candlelight too; it was darker than I've ever seen a city during an outage.
Day 4: Mostly rest. I went swimming. Then I saw Annie writing in her journal. She draws lots of pictures in it. Then she got a look on her face (to be hereafter referred to as the "Annie gleam of opportunity," and asked me to draw everyone in the group. So I characaturised everyone, and some were more happy with the results than others. But charactures are hard, they skirt the fine line between making fun of someone and just laughing with them.
After I started a few drawings, Hong and Annie invited me to go canooing with them. We proved to be a little inept, but we made it to our goal (a rickety bridge) and back with little incident. Except for more jokes. I discovered that Annie didn't get my jokes either. But they did both like one a lot. I retold it to Richard that night:
Me: Knock knock
Richard: who's there?
Me: interrupting cow
Richard: You jerk.
Okay after this I really lose track of events.
Day 5: Dee Dee told us some of the basic beliefs of Yogis concerning fasting and body fluids and why boys are stupid cause they like girls. Then she told us her stories, how she incidentally ended up starting an orphanage and raising over a hundred children. There were sad stories too, and when she told us about deaths, a crazy thought came into my head about what I could do to help. You see, Dee dee does what she can with homeopathic medicine, but doctors are often inexperienced and expensive in this part of the world so... how could I help? Then I thought...
Keep in mind this is a just crazy thought.
Me in Doctors Without Borders. Me, a doctor, helping third world children. Now, it's only a thought right now, so I don't want everyone to think I'm going to do it, I'm so old at this point anyways (25), but still, it's something I will ponder seriously.
Our conversation was finally cut short by a dog getting hit by a car and us being impotent to help it (but I think it will live).
Day 6: I missed yoga. By real yogis. What a waste. Then I waited for a personal meditation session, something I both looked forward to and dreaded for silly reasons. As we waited, I ended up explaining about my religion twice, and explaining to Eric why Mormons don't drink. He seemed pretty impressed. Eric eats mostly fruit, so he was in heaven the whole time we were there, eating nothing but fruits and breads and coconut shakes and-- but I risk digressing if I go on about the cuisine.
Later that day, we went to another orphanage, this one just for boys. But the whole village was there for a festival. We handed out clothes and toys as fairly as we could amidst the greedy and impoverished crowd (I guarded toys). We also played capture the flag (I went down with a water balloon to my leg).
Day 7: Recovered from day 6. And that's about all I remember. I should have gone to the orphanage or something. What a lazy punk I am, to borrow a John Fugittism. I discovered that night that people who are passionately happy get passionately angry, but no big harm was done to anyone. I also did a little disappearing/reappearing act. Same old silly habits.
Day 8: Because I had to be sure to catch a bus, I had to watch everyone else leave to go elephant riding. I really will miss that group, we grew close in our short time.
I took a long bus ride to Bangkok, and a perilous motorcylce ride to the airport. Then I spent a small eternity in airplanes, airports, and Chinese customs on the way home, during which I met a Jet in the next town down.
New years found me with Tomoko, though not quite in the romantic Japanesy way I envisioned. Instead, I spent the first moments of my new year in a bar, eating outrageously priced food. Bah. We did briefly visit a Shinto* shrine and I got my fortune (a little good luck). I rubbed the fish god's ball (hey, stop snickering, it's good luck!) and chatted it up with a woman that turned out to be married to a Tokyo millionaire.
I'm still tired, but I ate a little at Mikie's house and it was good, felt a little like the holidays at home.
*: I only recently found out that if you mention Shinto to a Japanese person, they will generally have no idea what you mean. They don't percieve it as a religion at all, or an anything for that matter. It just is, and I'm not sure where the word came from.