The first field studies of my high school year was slightly different from the previous field studies I have attended in my many years at YIS. We were provided with a choice of either going to Phuket located in Thailand or Izu located in Japan. When I was provided with these two choices, I immediately decided to go to Phuket as I wanted to experience something new and different compared to the previous field studies I have attended. I thought I would gain a precious experience to go to a country which is quite different from the countries that I am familiar with.
This trip started off with two exhausting plane rides with three teachers who were supervising us, and 30 students including myself. In spite of the exhausting and tiresome flights, I felt great when I arrived at Phuket and British International School in Phuket,also known as BIS, which is a large boarding school with great facilities. We stayed at the school during the trip and spent a large portion of our time in Phuket there. The staff there were very generous and kind to the YIS teachers and students.
When I arrived at Phuket, I immediately felt the high humidity and high temperature, which was largely different from Japan at the time, as the weather in Yokohama during October was warm but sometimes chilly. When we arrived at the school, we were first introduced to some basic rules, location of each of the facilities and some of the staff whom we would be seeing frequently throughout our trip. However, the main highlight of this day was getting rest and prepare for upcoming activities in our busy week.
The following morning, we were welcomed by the school with a delicious breakfast that consisted of a mixture of western and Thai style dishes. There were numbers of dishes that we could choose from, and everyone was able to find something for their preference. For the morning activity of our first day in Phuket, the teachers gave us two options, visiting the Burmese school to paint the walls and improve on the facility, or staying at the BIS school and conduct a fun creative activity, which was to paint wooden elephants with the Burmese children. I chose the second option, which was to stay at the BIS school, and it was truly a great experience meeting the children. My personal opinion was it was better to interact and get to know the children before going over to their school and helping out, as it gave me a rough idea what kind of environment these children live in, and how their culture is different to mine. The most challenging part of this activity was to communicate with the children because of the limited amount of words that the children and I both could understand as the children did not speak or understand English. As I have limited experience that I am not able to communicate with people as I speak English, German and Japanese and I have lived in the United States, Germany and Japan, this experience was completely new for me. I tried to communicate with these children using expressions, gestures, sounds and drawings and it was quite enjoyable.
The second activity of the day consisted of a four hour hike around the Pamgpae waterfall. In the humid climate we were in, it was a very tiring hike for the group and was very challenging for all of us to stay in one group since all of us walked in different speeds and had different amount of energy. What I enjoyed most about this hike was the fact that I was able to communicate with peers that I usually don’t have many opportunities to talk with, and of course I enjoyed the beautiful scenery that could be viewed from any point of the hike as well. Something that was noticeable were number of plant names that I have never heard before and how different they looked to what can be seen in United States, Germany and Japan. I got to learn and experience tropical nature through the hike.
For this first activity of our second day, my group had the opportunity of visiting the school the Burmese children went to. The moment we arrived there, I was surprised in the environment these children had to study in everyday. The school we visited was completely different from my school or any school I have seen in the United States, Germany and Japan. The kids had to study on benches with no desks and they had a minimum amount of supplies to work and study with. As the walls of their school were plain rocks , our group helped out by painting the walls with white paint, which was enjoyable for me as I enjoy creating artworks using paint, as well as designing the banners with drawings that we imagined the kids would enjoy seeing when they arrive at school. Overall, this was a very enjoyable experience that I was able to work successfully with my peers. Even though painting the school was a very tiring job, imagining the faces the children would make when seeing the transformation of their school facilities helped me work hard and continuously. The second half of this day was more relaxed, and consisted of a swimming session in the BIS swimming pool, where we practiced snorkeling.
On the third day, the whole group went snorkeling. The beach in Thailand was completely different from beaches in Japan where was dirty with waste in them. However, when looking down into the clear water, many fishes and chorals could clearly be seen, which was absolutely beautiful, and wasn’t something that I regularly come across in Japan. However, a large amount of dead and bleached chorals were seen as well. Even though it might not be so obvious when looking at the clear water and the white sand, the impact humans have on the beach and the creatures in the beach could clearly be seen and it can strongly be felt that our small actions can build up to something bigger.
The fourth day started off with a very early morning, where everyone had to rush into the busses to go to plant the mangroves. This was my first time planting trees and was a interesting and enjoyable experience for me. After we finished planting the mangroves, the whole group went to walk through a mangrove haven, where one of the teachers explained to us more in depth about this specific plant and its ecosystem.
Afterwards, we were rewarded to go to a large water park, located on our way back to BIS from the mangrove planting sight. I was again able to spend a fun time talking with my peers and spending a relaxable time. It was great after a few days of continuous activities.
For our fifth and final day in Phuket, we were given some free time at the swimming pool with the Burmese children, who came to visit BIS again. This was a very enjoyable time for me as I was able to spend a fun time with both the Burmese children and my peers, which was an overall great experience to end off the trip with.
Throughout this trip, what really hit me was how different the environment that these children live in is from the one I live in. All of these children have to study in small facilities with no desks or walls or even a cooling system when they live in an environment of such a high humidity and high temperature. In the countries I have lived, we strive for better equipment with higher technologies everyday, usually for more convenience and personal satisfaction. When Burmese children came to BIS where everything was so different and new to them, it seemed that they did not have many opportunities to paint and craft or play in swimming pools. When I looked at the smile on their faces during these activities, I thought I could do more for these children other than making their facility look better during the Field Studies Trip, which was a one time activity. It strongly inspired me to actually donate food, clothing or money when I come by a donation box, buy *Fairtrade products and being a part of a service community that help these children that are in need for better environment and supplies to make success in the future.
*Fairtrade is an alternative approach to conventional trade and is based on a partnership between producers and consumers. When farmers can sell on Fairtrade terms, it provides with them a better deal and improved terms of trade. This allows them the opportunity to improve their lives and plan for their future. Fiartrade offers consumers a powerful way to reduce poverty through their every day shopping. (www.fairtrade.net, May 10, 2015)
Donations are one-time only help and once the receiver use up the money, they need money again. However, by purchasing their products on Fairtrade terms, the country will have infrastructure to produce and sell the product/s and they can make money by themselves continuously.
As I was fortunate enough to be a part of fortunate family, school and environment, I could share a part of my fortune with these children that aren’t as privileged as I am.