One foot in front of the other

I am trying to summon up some energy to begin writing a blog post this week. John and I have both been under the weather, fighting off a cold/illness of some sort. That’s why John didn’t get his blog out on time this week.

It was a tougher week. My main supervisor for Hands of Hope, Antonia, was gone all week on a much-needed retreat. Hands of Hope is a well-run place. All of the producers take on their various roles with pride and care. However, there was a moment today when I had no idea what to do, and only Antonia could make the decision. It’s hard not to feel frustrated when that happens, especially when feeling a little sick. 

I’m still doing and planning for a lot of new activities in my weekly schedule. I have led the patient activity on Wednesday mornings two times now, when Antonia has been out of town. I’m still fairly new to the patients here, so I’m struggling to find appropriate games that meet them at their level. This won’t be a common occurrence, though, because Antonia usually creates and leads this activity and I simply assist.

The school-aged children are also on their school break for the month. Some of them come to work at Hands of Hope and earn money for their education. I lead an activity in the morning and afternoon to give the kids a little break during their work day. It’s not overly complicated, but I have no real experience with stuff like this. I try to keep the activities exciting, with some variety, and somehow explain the rules of the game/activity with my very simplistic Thai. Thankfully, the kids are great at picking things up, when I’m demonstrating what to do and using a Thai word or two. 

Somehow, we played “I Spy…” this week. I do feel successful about that one, but I had more difficulty playing the same game with the patients. They didn’t understand the nuances of the game as quickly and regularly pointed out the object they had chosen right away, instead of letting the others guess. Then, of course, I didn’t account for the patient who is mostly blind (luckily, we had already completed two other activities at that point, so it wasn’t a complete bore for him). Nonetheless, I did not feel very helpful that morning.

I have also begun teaching music to the patients, as part of music therapy. The patients have little, if any, music background. From what some of the staff have told me, it is not common for Thai people to have much music background (I’m not sure if this is the case for this area or all of Thailand). Despite my fairly extensive music training, I have never really taught music before. I’m beginning by teaching them some very basic songs in English. I have asked about Thai songs, but I have been told that it is hard to translate songs from English (or another language) to Thai because Thai is such a tonal language. For example, if the note is high, it could give the word a different meaning because of its higher pitch. So, on top of the patients trying to learn music for what is most likely their first time, they are also learning it in another language. Fortunately, Gate, one of the social workers, shares the music therapy duty with me and can translate anything needed along the way.

None of these things are overly complex on their own, but altogether, while still trying to learn and express myself in Thai as well as feeling under the weather, it was a bit much this week. In addition, as my sisters would say, I’m tackling everything in a “Berch” way, meaning that I’m wanting to be perfect in all things immediately. 

I’ll try to be more patient with myself, but that doesn’t always come easily. On a positive note (just saw the pun of it all when I was re-reading this!), at least I get to do some stuff with music here. I play my new keyboard regularly at home. And some of the patients seem to enjoy the music therapy. One of them has already asked if I can teach her how to play piano.

On another positive note, it is so much fun to be around these adorable kids. I have especially fallen in love with Gate’s daughter. She is too young to work at Hands of Hope, but she sometimes pops in to see her mom at work at the end of the day and often comes for part of Saturday - when John and I are often at my work for some internet time. She is about four years old, and she is just a bundle of energy! Once she decided she liked me, she enters the room and just runs over to me to give me a hug. Then she likes to show me everything she brought with her, including all of her kahnomes (Thai word for snack/sweet), and then she will dole some of her stash out to me and John throughout her stay. 

We recently attended a wake; it was for the husband of one of the staff. He died rather unexpectedly last week. John actually writes more about the wake and funeral in his recent blog post (which is posted on our website but you may not have received the email yet), so feel free to read more about it through his eyes. Anyway, Gate’s daughter decided to sit with me as we ate some food at the wake. At one point, she started petting me and John, while making some kind of cooing/animal sound. It was a really quiet sound, and she just would not stop! She just kept making the sound and petting us continuously. We were cracking up about it that night, and now I’m laughing to myself as I’m writing this. It was pretty adorable.

Before I sign off this week, I want to share about my dessert today, which John provided. We have some coconut trees behind our home. Our community has told us that we can pick them if they’re ripe. Today John hacked away at the coconut (we don’t have the best knife for slicing open a coconut), and chilled both the coconut water and the delicious, fatty coconut flesh in a glass for our dessert. It was a delectable treat. So, cheers from me to you, as I lift up my glass of the best kind of coconut water - straight from the coconut!