Thursday, 31 July 2008

The strengths of Hle Bee School 2008

Looking back over our summer 2008 in Hle Bee School, Mae Sot, what strengths did we see?


- A thriving, growing school of 329 children who feel safe, happy, nurtured and valued in their school and who have a hunger for learning.






- A community based around the school, with fantastic parental involvement in the school, so much pride in their school and a passion to improve their school







- A highly dedicated and committed staff team who live and work closely to improve the lives of their students and to give them skills which will give them better life opportunities in the future.



It's a privilege for Forthview to be global partners with Hle Bee. They have so much to teach us. Thank you Hle Bee for your amazing hospitality to us again this year. In the next post, I'll share the challenges facing Hle Bee in coming months....


However, this is probably the appropriate moment to tell you all the difficult news that Hle Bee and some other Burmese learning centres in Mae Sot have lost their previous funding. If it were not for the £5000 that Forthview raised over the last year, Hle Bee would now have no funding. This £5000 is keeping Hle Bee running until October 2008. Another long term funder is being sought but many funds are now being diverted to Cyclone Nargis relief so the future is not certain.......

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

walk a mile... wash your hands



Remember Forthview School walked a mile round the school in March 2008 and raised £200 so that Hle Bee School could have wash hand basins by their toilets? Well here are the toilets in action.



I spent many a magic moment watching children run to the toilets then come out and wash their hands.
So simple, so wonderful, so much coming from so little.

Ricky Gervais: The Real Disaster In Burma Is The Government

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=mPAZg-Cdq3k

Friday, 25 July 2008

Safely home... but don't stop reading the blog as there's more to say!

We arrived home safely and on time on Thursday 24th July and are all fine. Please have another look at last week's blogging, particularly FRIDAY 18 JULY because I spent Wed afternoon in Bangkok uploading more photos and filling in stories.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

The sad story of Zin Zaw, a young and able Burmese learner

On Thursday night while eating in the night market, we were invited over to see Zin Zaw's house (not her real name). She is in one of the top classes in school and is a very smart, engaging, clever lassie with good friends. When we saw her little home we were amazed at how lovely she and her family had made what was essentially a corrugated iron shed. It had one room and everyone slept on a wee platform with a curtain to screen off the young married couple she lives with while her mum is away working. So all in all, it seems that 7 folk may stay in this little iron lean to. On the wall Zin Zaw has her Hle Bee photo and a letter from her Forthview friend. It showed me how much hope and richness this partnership gives to individual Burmese children.

Zin Zaw is 14 and didn't turn up for school at the start of this school year. When the teachers went round to her home, they found her working in a cafe as a waitress. Her mum said they couldn't afford to have her not working any more. They need the income so she must leave school and work. The Headteacher persuaded mum to let Zin Zaw return to school but for how long?

So we asked, 'IF Scotland could pay her mother the wages Zin Zaw would earn (about 80p a day!), could the teachers ask her mother if she could come to school every day?' We know this happens for one other boy in the school from another donor. The teachers thought the mum would accept this. She does want the best for her daughter. So we wait to hear if this is possible.

How shocking is it that for 80p a day a child might have to leave school. What sort of world do we live in?
Now you know why we were so distressed....

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Lost in Trang!

Anyone seen Trang on a map and does anyone know how to get back to the hotel? Cos we haven't a clue! Our hotel in Trang is stunningly beautiful and idyllic but the remotest place in the world. It also has many signs that say TSUNAMI EVACUATION ROUTE, which seem to point in all different directions, even back to the sea - doesnae really inspire confidence. So Geoff and I decided we needed to take a 'public bus' 40 Km into Trang Town to get some expectorant for Sheila's awful cough (passed on from Hle Bee baby via Louise to Sheila) and some after sun because we burnt to a frazzle yesterday in 36 degrees by the pool! Louise decided not to join us and is staying at the hotel for her beauty treatments.

Finally we drive into Trang, somewhere on the outskirts and the driver stops and tells us to get off and meet him at 4pm. 4pm!!! 5 hours in Trang and where in Trang are we? Nightmare and many swearie words ensued. Finally decided to draw a map as we walked to somewhere. 20 mins later, all our tasks done and 4.5 hrs still to wait in what must be 40 degrees. I think it's time to go back to wet and rainy Scotland but that's tomorrow's joy, meanwhile we traipse the streets of Trang!

(Wed 23 July, Bangkok) You'll be glad to know we made it back to the hotel, which was a miracle. We left Trang this morning and are now in a Bangkok hotel for the afternoon, eating, sleeping, blogging and bogging, ready for the long haul to London via Doha tonight. Trang was beautiful and we swam in the sea, ate nice food and slept but it's a bit remote for us. The 3 of us just wanted to be back in Mae Sot with our friends....

Monday, 21 July 2008

Mia culpa... who knows when we'll be all together again?

Well, this is a guest blog from Murray, who is feeling kind of bereft after the past week’s friendship and solidarity that only comes from a seemingly bottomless supply of toilet stories from Sheila – this should perhaps be renamed www.forthview.bogspot.com – and the deep connections we have consolidated with our Burmese friends, parting from whom was so moving and has left me humming incessantly:
“We’re all together now - we’re here, we’re here...”


I have been given a long list of complicated jobs to complete as a prelude to the first part of Forthview’s reciprocal visit in September, which will coincide with work involving five Edinburgh schools’ “Awards for All” initiative - something which was planned before “my retirement” out east to Chiang Mai.

Fortunately these tasks fit very well into the community capacity building remit of my voluntary work in Chiang Mai and the Thai-Burma border and plans to extend the training opportunities for Migrant Worker/Refugee Teachers including our Edinburgh partner schools, look like being met by Dr Thein Lwin in a programme of intensive training for teachers in the Mae Sot cluster in October.

Discussions about support for Migrant schools to register as Thai Ministry of Education Learning Centres funded by the International Labour Organisation are now underway, bringing together Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and potentially the British Council into a strategic plan, which would potentially safeguard the schools’, teachers’ and pupils’ futures.

Elsewhere today, the Nobel Women’s Initiative, established in 2006 by a group of women Nobel Peace Laureates, held a special seminar at Chiang Mai University, led by one of NWI’s founder members, Anti-landmines campaigner, Professor Jody Williams. International participants included the UNICEF goodwill ambassador and famous American actress Mia Farrow, Chinese labour rights activist Qing Zhang and Dr. Sima Samar former Vice-President of Afghanistan. Discussions at the seminar focussed on the political-rights crisis faced by women in both Burma and Thailand. Mia Farrow gave a very moving account of work UNICEF have undertaken in Darfur, showing children’s drawings of villages burning, soldiers shooting women and children – images almost identical to those drawn by Burmese children on the border.

There was video testimony by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, (herself a Nobel Peace Laureate whose house arrest was recently extended for another year) which was presented and discussed, as were the systematic violations of women’s rights, the crackdown on democracy activists and the ongoing violence in Burma. A background of the terrible ongoing situation in Burma was also presented, highlighting Aung San Suu Kyi’s situation, the regime’s criminal blockage of aid to cyclone Nargis survivors and the situation of refugees on Burma’s borders who are continuing to flee from persecution.

Much of the discussion was about collectivising individual actions and active citizenship and Murray had spoken earlier with the panel, giving them each a Forthview saffron ribbon and telling them about Forthview – and now Pirniehall’s – unique Global School’s partnership with our Burmese friends: school to school; teacher to teacher; pupil to pupil. They were so moved that they proudly wore the ribbons throughout the press call and afterwards once the event was over and they said they would wear them all this week when they too visit Mae Sot – another wee bit of international solidarity and awareness raising by Forthview pupils and BEST! Told you it would happen Sheila... and here’s the photo to prove it!

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Leaving Hle Bee Part 2


On Friday night, our dear friends from Hle Bee rolled up to the DK Hotel to take us to the bus station, which some of you may remember ended in us staying an extra day last year because we missed the bus... That couldn't happen again, could it? No, 20 children and adults from the Hle Bee School community came in the pick up truck to collect us. We were deeply unhappy to learn that though some of our friends were allowed up to our rooms to collect the bags, one of the lovely young teachers was told to leave the hotel by a member of hotel staff. Why? Because she is Burmese and the Thai people often look down on the Burmese. Very sad and the young woman was very embarrassed. Hmmm....

So we got to the bus station really early for the 9pm bus and were happy to see 2 Bangkok buses in. Unfortunately neither were ours and nor were the next 3 that came in. We were told one was our and the 4 of us (Sheila, Geoff, Fiona and Louise) said weeping goodbyes to our 20 friends only to be told that wasn't our bus!!!! Fiona was saying, 'We have to go tonight. I can't say goodbye again.' Finally 90 mins later, our bus rolled in and we said our final weeping farewell. These people are so hard to leave. We then set off on a very uncomfortable 8hr journey to Bangkok. Poor Geoff, he found it like torture.

We thought the bus station might be quiet at 6am - oh my goodness, there were hundreds of people getting into hundreds of taxis. We ended up going in 2 taxis and forgot to tell Geoff and Louise the name of the hotel. Fiona and I were so relieved to see their taxi roll up behind ours. Breakfast and collapsing into bed, we slept till noon.

When we woke, we phoned Guardian Angel. He told us, 'Hle Bee (most staff live there) hardly slept last night. I can't tell you how sad they feel.' Our partnership has bought us so close to our friends and they to us, that parting hurts a lot for us all. Fiona Vacher has been a basket case all week and says she's cried more here than she has for years.

Anyway, we set off to the Grand Palace of Bangkok via taxi and river bus at noon and enjoyed looking at the beautiful Thai art and buildings. Louise was very impressively photographing the decor and buildings for her 6th year art project. Back to the hotel and Fiona gathered her luggage together and left in the taxi for her flight which we hope and pray left on time at 8pm Bangkok time. Strange to say goodbye to Fiona. She worked so hard at Hle Bee, trying to help the staff become more effective in teaching the massive kindergarten. However, she is of course very excited to be returning to Beth and Gavin.

We are now back to being a wee family again and are off to Trang in South Thailand for a few days. We will post more writing and photos (can't find the packed cable tonight!) there about our last 2 days at Hle Bee and about the challenges ahead for Hle Bee and the plans we have for future working. I (Sheila) now feel completely shattered. It's been hard work for a fortnight and I still need to recover from the end of Forthview term so a few days in a very quiet hotel will be great. ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzz

A note to end - Louise is sitting in this beautiful bedroom saying what we are all feeling today. 'I find it hard to think about how much we have, how much we waste and how ungrateful we are compared to what they have in Mae Sot. I'd give up all this to go back to Mae Sot.'

We all would.

Friday, 18 July 2008

How do you say 'goodbye?'











Today has been the last visit to Hle Bee school -a craft session for teachers and children, a last parachute game, teaching games of Twister and Guess Who....for the last time...














...saying goodbye to lovely folk who have become good friends over the last 2 weeks - Louise and her beloved baby.... (actually not hers!)



...collecting up the artwork which has been produced this week to take back to Edinburgh to compile into a book about Burma.

So now we are all packed and ready for the overnight bus to Bangkok. The last round of tearful goodbyes at the bus station (all the teachers and many of the students will be there!) will herald a long night of travel.

More from Bangkok - see you there!

The Border, The Training, A Birthday and a Celebration of Friendship Meal.

The day began with a trip to the Friendship Bridge which links Mae Sot, Thailand with Myawaddy, Burma. Sheila and Geoff visited here last year. In the first photo you can see Geoff with Myawaddy across the muddy river. So Geoff is standing in Thailand looking across to Burma.











Murray had never visited here and it was a sobering experience for him, Fiona and Louise. Guardian Angel took us up river to where Burmese people cross the river. It was quite unbelievable to see people risking a lot to cross in a big rubber tube.












Unfortunately things don't always go too well and we saw some Thai soldiers then stopped some people about to cross and were probably asking for money to allow them to cross. This all goes on with the awareness of the authorities. It's chilling to watch this, mainly because it is to common here and so alien to us. Louise was horrified and very angry to see this abuse of power.
In the afternoon, we had a teacher training session with the Hle Bee teachers. We covered classroom management, simple craft ideas and an introduction to Emotional Literacy - all in 90 mins. One of the joys of this for us was that there was funding for this from the Global Schools Partnership and we were able to give the teachers 1000 baht for participating in the training session. This is 15 UK pounds and is equivalent to about 10 days' pay. The session was a challenge for Guardian Angel to interpret for. 'Do you know cognitive intelligence, GA? Do you know body language?' And of course he does.


In the evening, we took the 25 school staff and families out for a meal at the night market. We met at 6.30pm and didn't leave until 10.30pm which is a long time for the staff who normally always return to school/home (as most of them live there) by 9pm latest. It was one of the most pleasant evenings I have ever enjoyed. It was so delightful to see everyone laughing, happy and chatting. the Burmese-English barriers are being overcome as we gradually learn words from each others language and can communicate more and more. It was Myint Su's birthday and she was 9 so that made it very special. She is an adorable, able, artistic child who speaks Thai, Burmese and English really well. She's like a wee parrot and just soaks in language. She is the daughter of one of the teachers and along with Than Than, her cousin, she is into everything, knows everybody and everything about everything! She ended up negotiating our bus to Bangkok with the Thai bus driver!

The school community presented us all with lovely gifts, which was quite overwhelming. I'm sure you can imagine. They welcome us, they give us so much and then they give us gifts. We all felt very humbled by their huge generousity.






And finally the best present of all, for over a year, Guardian Angel has been painting a portrait of Geoff and Sheila from a wee passport photo we gave him. Just look at this!

An amazing ending to an another amazing day in Hle Bee.

During the evening however, we saw something that deeply saddened us all. One of the girls in school lives by the market and took us to see her home. We will post more about this next week as it had such a profound impact on us all.



Thursday, 17 July 2008

Wednesday blog - we're all behind!

Sorry to be so behind. We have been busy, busy, busy trying to get everything done before we leave. Everything takes ages when there are 5 Scots having breakfast then somebody needs the toilet so a few better go, we forget the suntan lotion/beastie cream/bum wipes/water etc and the rooms are 3 steep flights upstairs. Then we set off so everything is slower, why not? (as Guardian Angel would say.)

Wednesday 16th July was the Gillespie's last day here in Say Tar Nar School and we went along to do some etching work on Burma with the Grade 5 class. It was great to be seeing Pirniehall's link school and to spend time with the beautiful, committed couple who run the school and their staff. Here you can see Mary and Po Cho signing their Partnership Agreement for the Global Schools Partnership.


Maybe you are wondering where is Geoff in all this? Geoff has been industriously working behind the scenes turning the OUR LIVES exhibition into a book. No easy feat so far from home. On Wednesday he finally finished it and had 50 books 88 pages long printed in Burmese and English. This will be used in Hle Bee and Say Ta Nar as a context for critical thinking. There are almost no valuable books for this in Burmese and English for children so it's a groundbreaking venture. Thank you Geoff. Each copy cost 60 baht = £1. We hope to source funding to enable this book to be published and given to all the Burmese Learning Centres in Mae Sot. We also want to publish it in Edinburgh for Scottish children. Tha Zin was so excited to read it. She was very proud to see her students' work in print and the parents she showed the book to were amazed and quite overwhelmed to see their child's work in print. We gave Murray a copy of the book and you can see his delight here.


Wednesday was one of those days when you want to be in 2 places at once. Hle Bee were having a special Buddha Day celebration, which the Parent Council had been preparing for all day yesterday. The teachers had worked long and hard to prepare the school for the event. So Fiona and Murray left Sheila and Guardian Angel etching at Say Ta Nar and joined Hle Bee. Fiona found the whole event moving as she now explains....


Monks were invited to the school to pray and receive offerings. We arrived just as they were finishing their chanting/prayers to see the whole school community in action - Tracey Berry you would have been in your element! Teachers and parents set up a 'food station' in one area to feed the visitors and parents, whilst the classrooms at the back had been cleared to make a huge dining hall for the children which you can see in the photo. The nature of the buildings in the school mean that you have to be as flexible as you can - one minute the space is your classroom, next it's a dining hall, then it's a space for dancing. Older students and other teachers fed the 300+ children in two sittings. There was no fuss and everyone worked together to make sure things ran smoothly. The younger children, in their 'glad rags' were having a lovely relaxed time. The older children were the model of 'responsible citizens', helping with the food and clearing with no complaint. There were lots of friendly faces all keen to say 'mighla ba' and the atmosphere was just magic. For me it was my chance to finally taste an authentic version of 'Mohinga' - remember that, Forthview staff, my 'boggin' version? Well, there were a few added ingredients which we cannot get in the UK and they have been making it for a few more years than me...needless to say it was just delicious. Hmm funny how, however, Sheila arrived back just in time to miss it!
All throughout this week the generosity of everyone in the school has had me taken aback - children, staff and parents alike would willingly give you their very last bit of food or belongings with a huge smile. They are also superb at making a little go a long way - food, materials, entertainment and their kindness. Very humbling. We rounded the morning off with an informal singsong/karaoke and for about the hundreth time this week I was blubbing, as Sheila introduced them to 'Auld Lang Syne'...and it was only Wednesday!! A taste of things to come, me thinks.

In the afternoon, the older children gave us a dance show like they did last year when we saw the traditional Burmese Umbrella dance. This year we were amazed at the mix of Burmese and Asian/American rap music they danced to. We'll post a video of this next week. We were also treated to some teachers singing and dancing, which was very moving. Oh yes - and Sheila taught them all the Cha Cha Slide by DJ Casper! It was all very 'Forthview' and rounded off a day which highlighted the many similarities between our two schools.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Hysteria and Laughter!


Sorry we didn't blog last night. Us 9 Scots went out for a meal and returned in no fit state to blog. As many of you know, I (Sheila today) don't drink alcohol as a rule. Garry Forgie will tell you it tends to make me boring and quiet so better off the stuff. However in Aiya restaurant food and drinks come very slowly and in random order so being very thirsty, I thought I should drink some of Geoff's Singha beer, which had come first. (Geoff's meal actually came after Lewis' dessert! That's just the way it happens - and it always happens to Geoff!) Then my limeade came and I had the bright idea of pouring it into my Singha beer. Very nice drink. I had consumed most of that when the waiter appeared with the limeade. Oops, I had taken Fiona's gin and tonic and put it in the Singha! And thus the evening continued = no blogging!



Tuesday morning, Sheila, Murray and Tha Zin went to the Thai Ministry of Education to meet Alicia, the new VSO volunteer in the office that would have been Philip Campbell's. She explained that the Thai Government are wanting to accredit Burmese Learning Centres (they don't give them the status of schools) and fund them BUT they have to compromise on their Burmese education and the big question is where the compromise can be happily found. This is a very crude summary of a very complex task.

Fiona and Louise meanwhile were back at Hle Bee, working their socks off running the Kindergarten of 150 children from morning till 2pm with the help of some novice teachers and with no interpreter because Guardian Angel was finishing the etching with Grade 4! As Fiona introduced the concept of working in groups round a range of activities, the novice teachers looked horrified at the craft activity she was assigning them. Fiona then clarified that she couldn't manage 150 Kg students for craft! So when we came back, the sweat was lashing off her and she was now onto lunchtime activities for children. That's where the hysteria came in. The reason for the strangeness of the day in Hle Bee was that the whole school including most of the teachers were preparing for Buddha Day and the Full Moon festival on Wednesday. On Wed at 10.30am the monks were coming to Hle Bee and the school would make an offering of robes to the monks so the rooms were cleared ready for this event.

On Tuesday afternoon, Fiona took the youngest kindergarten class and gave out the Forthview teddy bears to the children. These teddy bears will be given to the children when they settle down for their daily afternoon sleep. The children were fascinated by them. Sheila got Murray to hand out 100 hands drawn by Forthview children to the other 100 KG children. (Revenge for all his outlandish requests over the last 2 years!) He did so well that I think he believes he has found his calling and may become a kindergarten teacher! Sheila then relieved Murray of his misery and 100 children were then amused for 20 mins with 4 tubs of bubbles!

Finally,at 2pm, we gathered the whole school in the main building, which is now a real squeeze with 329 children. We sang our Fischy music favourites and handed out the hands Forthview children drew and sent over for their friends. It was a great delight when Mary Gillespie, Pirniehall Headteacher and her lovely family - Alan, Callum and Lewis arrived to see Hle Bee. We treated them to I'm the Only I and As We Go Now, which had many of us greetin! It was a magic moment to be in Hle Bee with 8 other Scottish people singing to the children, 'As we go into the future together, may we realise how precious we are...'


And where was Louise in all this? Where she usually is - adoring the babies. In particular, she adores Tha Zin's brother's baby, as you can see.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Sheila Makes A Splash - the video!

video

If the video clip gets jerky, it's because you have a slow connection.

Monday, 14 July 2008

The best day of my life....(short of the birth of my baby!)

Hello, Fiona guest-blogging here! Having finally made it to Mae Sot (!) the day came for my first visit to Hle Bee. We filled up on breakfast at the legendary Canadian Dave's and then prepared to wobble on the bikes along the road to the school. This is quite an event - dodging goats, pot holes, motorbikes, pedestrians, cars...and each other!! Still it works up a lovely sweat and raises a few eye brows as the possie of hooting scots (and honorary scots!) head up the road.

No amount of looking at photos and hearing stories can prepare you for seeing the school 'in the flesh'. As you come along the lane you can hear the loud noises of several classes working in close proximity which let you know that the school is ahead. After a crash landing with the bikes you peer over the wall to be greeted by smiling faces.

We went on a tour of the school and were introduced to each class - the children were completely besotted with Louise, as they all want to have her very white skin, which they think is beautiful...ironic really since many a 'blue-skinned' scot hankers after the gorgeous brown tan! The first thing that brought a huge lump to my throat as we walked round the main building, was seeing the kindergarten class working away under the building. The head height in the room is just a bit higher than most of the children so any adult teaching in the space has to stoop the whole time - health and safety eat your heart out. The rooms are quite empty of the things which we take so much for granted in our schools in Edinburgh - few toys, reading books, writing tables, construction etc. and yet there is a huge sense of pride in the school and children are eager to learn. The children learn mostly by rote and concentrate so well, considering there are so many distractions from the noise levels in each of the very large classes. There are no support staff or piles of resources to fall back on and yet the children and staff seem to achieve so much from so little.


Tour over and many 'minghla bas' later - time to get out the new Duplo (and a few extra wee people and cars chored from Forthview nursery)!! We had balked at the idea that there were 50 children in the nursery here, but today discovered that there are actually 150 children in three classes!! With little or no toys and one teacher in each class - so, so different. This was the first time for these first fifty Kindergarten children to play with the construction set and many were unsure how to begin. However, with a little encouragement they began to build and build, keen to keep hold of their first creations. They sat engrossed for ages in their small groups. This roused huge interest from the other classes who were just finishing their lunch and gathered at the edge of the area, so Sheila and I lead an 'impromptu' Fabby dabby dee singalong, swapping classes over to allow everyone to get a chance to dance or build. What a lot of fun, with the children reminding me so much of my own P1s (sorry, big P2s now!) with the amount of energy they were putting into the singing.

Then out came the parachute which I had brought from school. Again the first time that the staff and children had used this, but they took to it like ducks to water, as you will see from the photos. I suspect there are hours of fun to come with this activity...


In the afternoon we introduced the handwashing programme which both schools are going to be working on. Our Guardian Angel was on top form translating the songs and interpreting the video for Sheila - what a talented and amazing Angel we have! Again it was amazing to see the amount of information that the children can take in and repeat back in such a short space of time. The coming days of using the newly-installed sinks will tell us whether it has all sunk in, but they seem to be well on the way.


The day ended with a mad assembly, with the whole school crammed into the room, where I discovered many similarities between Sheila and Thazin...whilst Hle Bee does not have a tannoy system, Thazin does have a megaphone - it is not dissimilar in high pitched tone!

So the end of my first day at Hle Bee, two scuzzy toilet visits later (and yes those stories are all true!) and sweaty everything all round...what an amazing place to be. As I came into Mae Sot on the bus on Sunday - highly knackered and emotional - a Forthview calm down favourite by Dido started playing over the loud speaker...'I just want to tell you, you're gonna have the best day of your life' - it surely was an omen, because I just did.
Fiona

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Fiona and Louise arrive at last - hurray!


Today Fiona and Louise finally arrived in Mae Sot at 6.30pm Sunday, having left Edinburgh at 5am on Thursday. It's so wonderful to see them both. Murray came with them from Chiang Mai to Mae Sot so it was quite a reunion as you can see.
The Hle Bee teachers and their children came with us to welcome them. The little girl kept saying to Louise, 'Welcome teacher. You are beautiful teacher.'
Last night Fiona and Louise got to Chiang Mai at midnight and as I spoke to Louise on the phone, I realised I was going to be very sick, threw the phone to Geoff and threw up a lot! Had I caught Geoff's tummy bug? Was it delayed shock? Don't know but I lay very low today, visiting the toilet very often, not eating, slept a lot and by the time they arrived, it had passed (I hope). Geoff and I are both now on the mend, which is a relief.
Mind you, we didn't quite do nothing today. Tha Zin and I have selected about 34 of the children's writings from OUR LIVES exhibition and Geoff and I are formatting a book which we hope to get printed this week in Mae Sot. The book can be used for Critical Thinking in Burmese and Scottish schools. When I come back to Edinburgh, I hope to find a wee fund to enable this book to have a wider circulation in the Mae Sot Learning Centres/Schools because it is a very valuable resource, being Burmese and English and about real children's lives. So on this floor of our hotel, there are now 9 Scots. Quite surreal really but each of us feel really privileged to be here.