Day 1 | 13 November, Monday
This was our first day attending school in CHIJ Bangkok. In the morning, we facilitated our planned activities with the Year 3 students, which included a range of cultural, interactive and language-related activities. The foreign environment and unfamiliar faces made us confused and worried at first. However, when we saw how the students appeared to be having a lot of fun with what we planned, we loosened up and started to interact with them more. We were very new to this experience and did not perform well enough to our expectations. We discovered many areas that we could improve on – our confidence in delivery, interaction with students, time management and unity within the team.
In the afternoon, we went to the Ancient City of Ayutthaya and visited three sites – Wat Yai Chai Mongkol, Wat Phra Mahathat and Wat Phra Si Sanphet. The view was stunning and the temples are very beautiful. We could imagine the magnificence of the city during its glory days. Our tour guide, Peach, enlightened us with the history of Ayutthaya and the stories behind the temples. We also learnt how to differentiate between the early and the late Ayutthaya era, by seeing the windows of the temples. We had our first experience of Bangkok’s slow traffic, which caused us late arrival back in school.
During the reflection session, we shared that our preparation of activities were good and they were conduct as planned, but we needed to work on the human touch that would bring about effective engagement with students. Thus, before the end of day, we gathered and discussed about the activities that we were going to conduct the next day in order to perform better.
~ Group 1 (Phoebe Oh, Emily Aurelia, Clarice Toh, Dian Umaira)
Day 2 | 14 November, Tuesday
This time around, we spent our day with the Year 2 students. We took in all the suggestions from the teachers on how to improve on our facilitation in class. To start off, we played icebreaker games to get to know each other’s names, followed by a short skit on our school life and an accompanying “Plickers” Quiz to test their understanding of the skit. Subsequently, we brought them on a Tour of Singapore through the PowerPoint presentation of different places of interest in Singapore.
We particularly enjoyed the segment on “A Multicultural Society”, where we let them try on traditional costumes, namely Kebaya, Sari, Baju Kurung and Cheongsam, which we brought from Singapore. They were so enthusiastic when we asked for volunteers to try on the costumes. Lastly, we had Spelling Bee, which was aimed to test their knowledge in spelling English words correctly. We wrapped up the session with a class photo and prize giving session. Today’s session went a lot better and we are very thankful for this opportunity to improve.
In the afternoon, we went for a very fun Thai cooking class. We were very serious and the chef kept saying “Keep smiling! You’re in Masterchef!” to encourage us. In addition, as we were pounding the spices to make Green Curry paste, the chef told us that according to the Thai beliefs, the faster we pound, the higher the likelihood of a handsome husband! We felt like true Thai chefs as we cooked the dishes, Tom Yam, Pad Thai and Green Curry. We are glad that today went well and we had new experiences that we will never forget!
~ Group 2 (Graciella Christina, Chloe Faith Tham, Clare Marissa Joseph)
Day 3 | 15 November, Wednesday
Today, we went into the year 1 classes to facilitate. The students were quieter than the Years 2 and 3s, probably because of the language barrier. It was a real challenge for us to speak in standard English with good diction and at a slower speed, as we always speak in Singlish back in Singapore. Nonetheless, it really heartened us that they were open to all our activities and had a keen interest in learning more about Singapore. They were enthusiastic to learn about new things, especially about our Co-Curricular Activities (CCAs). Since CHIJ Bangkok does not offer CCA, they were very interested to find out what CCAs are available in our school and what we do during these sessions.
When we introduced the different ethnic costumes of Singapore, they were amazed at the variety of races we have as compared to Thailand. This helped us to realise how unique Singapore is, and that what we are used to in Singapore is not the same as the rest of the world. This experience really changed our outlook on the world and we are grateful for all the different opportunities we have.
In the evening, we set off to Siam Niramit, which houses the Ratchada Theatre and a miniature Thai village. We enjoyed an elaborate performance on the history of Thailand at the Rachada Theatre, which is the world's highest stage certified by Guinness World of Records. The show is structured into three acts – Journey Back into History, Journey Beyond Imagination: The Three Realms and Journey Through Joyous Festivals. One of our friends, Emily, was chosen to float ‘krathong’ on the stage 'klong' (river) towards the end of the performance. Krathong is traditionally a small leaf container which is made to hold a small portion of goods, such as a traditional Thai "Hor Mok" dish or dessert. It is usually made from a slice of a banana tree trunk or a spider lily plant.
Overall, we realised the similarity and differences between both countries, and learnt many new aspects about Thailand in terms of history and culture.
~ Group 3 (Natasha Kie, Brey Brianna, Sophie Chin)
Day 4 | 16 November, Thursday
We visited the IJ Day Care Centre for children aged three to size years old, together with sixteen CHIJ Bangkok students. The children welcomed us with a stalk of rose and an earnest performance. In the beginning, the activities that we planned went off tangent and some of us lost track of what we needed to do as a team. Despite our planning the night before, we retreated into staying as a group for comfort, after noticing the huge language barrier with the children.
However, after our teachers intervened and gave useful advice on focussing on their rhythm and attention through reinforcement, we worked towards improving the situation by distributing ourselves across the entire room so that every child gets optimum attention from us. We realised that when we were young, we learnt things methodically, and hence we have to do likewise to ensure that they understand and stay engaged. Hence, we taught them nursery rhymes with actions step-by-step in order to ensure that they understand, followed by acting out the entire song together. Towards the end of the session with the children, we heard from some CHIJ Bangkok students telling us that the children expressed to them that this was the best day of their lives! This feeling was extremely rewarding as we managed to fulfil our mission of bringing joy and learning to the people around us.
After we left IJ Day Care Centre, we made our way to the Grand Palace. During our journey, we interacted with CHIJ Bangkok students through games that strengthened our bonds with them. At the Grand Palace, both the tour guide and CHIJ Bangkok students shared very thorough information on the culture and history of the palace, as well as the nuances of the architecture.
The learning curve today was high for us due to the many assumptions that we have made today. However, this experience helped us to understand and interact with children more effectively.
~ Group 4 (Eva Mary Arun, Cheung Ci Ning, Claire Yap)
Day 5 | 17 November, Friday
It’s the last day of the Mission trip. First, we had our farewells with respective classes. The students surprised us with activities about their Thai culture. In particular, the activity on Songkran festival conducted by the Year 3s was memorable as we had the opportunity to try thanaka on our faces. We were also given the chance to pay respect to our teachers, by pouring water on their hands and blessing them. In addition, the Thai students taught us simple Thai dance moves. At the end of each farewell session, we had a gift exchange session, where we gave every student a handmade friendship bracelet as a remembrance of our friendships.
To thank the school for the hospitality, we presented tokens of appreciation to the principal, Ms Rachnida Arora, the director, Sister Jane and Sister Anne-Marie. We also put up a Zumba dance performance and taught the whole cohort the dance moves. It was heartening to see that everyone was very enthusiastic in participating and dancing with us.
When it was time to go, we were all reluctant to board the bus, knowing that we will miss the students so much. We took many photographs and exchanged our Instagram accounts so we can continue to keep in contact with one another. We experienced a lot of sincerity from the Thai students, especially when they followed our bus and waved all the way until our bus left the school compound. Though it has been a short five-day journey with them, we will never forget the friendships forged.
~ Group 1 (Phoebe Oh, Emily Aurelia, Clarice Toh, Dian Umaira)