Mother's Day performance and more at Baan Vieng Ping

This week has been quite an emotional one. On Tuesday evening, my students at Baan Vieng Ping performed for the orphanage's celebration of the Queen's birthday/Mother's Day. The event was much more elaborate than I had expected with several performances and ceremonies. At one point, No Mi, Jeannie, Kristy and I weere asked to sit on stage with the orphanage directors in order to accept reverence and flowers from the children. A child would come sit in front of each on of us and bow low before us as we patted him/her head and gently whispered wishes for her good luck and good life. After a special meal all together, my students performed their dance. They did great! I could tell that they were nervous but everything worked out fine. I think that some felt frustrated in themselves, like they had disappointed me with a few mess-ups, but I was very proud of them. Fortunately, the performance was filmed!

The celebration ended with a very somber and serious skit about a young girl who is rude to her mother, who then gets killed by robbers (of course, the rascals in my class played the role of these thieving murderers). I had noticed some sadness in the girls earlier in the evening, but once the skit ended, it was as if a dam had been burst. They were all weeping while hugging one another and their "mothers" or supervisors. When I saw one of my dear students, Bee, walking towards me with a look of such despair, I held her to me and immediately burst into tears myself. We cried together in that embrace for a long time until other girls--even girls who were never in my class--began coming to me for some love. Eventually I was escorted to my tuk-tuk--my grand chariot--where No Mi and Jeannie were waiting. Before we could leave the director of the orphanage came to thank us. We rode home in utter silence, just holding one another's hands and looking out on the city around us. This was a stark contrast to our last ride in this tuk-tuk together, singing and laughing loudly and joyously after they had come with me to Baan Vieng Ping to paint masks with the girls.

For my final class with the girls, I brought a cd of Thai pop music that included a popular Korean pop song called "Nobody." I'm not crazy about the song, but they love it and there is a special dance for it that everyone knows so I tried to learn a bit to do with them. I had made each one of them a card and wrote a very personal message to go along with a photo I had printed for them. Amp didn't think it was necessary to translate my message into thai for them, so I hoped that they would understand some of it. When I handed the cards out, not one of them could comprehend what I had written to them. They also wrote me a few notes in thai, so we sat together longing for some way of commmunicating all that we wanted to say. I could tell that some of them had already moved on from our time together: they acted like they didn't care and never said goodbye. That was fine though for the girls that I connected most with remained with me and we had fun together, taking photos and being silly. My precious Bee gave me a little stuffed panda bear key chain and Nat gave me a strange fruit that she wanted me to try (she was always making me try things). I was so touched that they had even taken the time to think of giving me something, especially when they have so few material things to give.


Hope Home Landscape Watercolors

Today was our last day at Hope Home. Some of the children made landscape watercolors and collage. The others were entertained with musical instruments and exploration. Phil is very talented with his feet. With Wad's help, he played the guitar with his toes.

Boonrat made a gorgeous painting with turquoise colors and a sensitive touch. Pat was entertained as always with squeaky toys. Pancake held onto a maraca for the whole session grooving in the garden. Sassy was queen of the boat swing.. "Can we go to a deserted island Sassy? Where are you taking us?!" It has been truly magical to work with each of these beautiful little beings.

The Finishing of the Quilt

No Mi and I have wrapped up all the loose ends of the quilt. We are finally finished. Tomorrow is our last meeting with Mplus. We will film their explanations of the leaves they painted, and the quilt will begin its travels on Sunday! To follow it's journey, go to http://travelingquiltofdreams.blogspot.com


The Sea Lion Women at Baan Vieng Ping

My my my, it has been quite a well since you all heard about the dancers at Baan Vieng Ping. Not much has changed since the last update; I've been teaching them their dance to "Sea Lion Woman" by Feist, which they will perform on Tuesday evening (eek!). They painted masks for the dance on Wednesday and each did a wonderful job personalizing her own.

The dance certainly isn't challenging choreography, but given the time limit it is something fun and a bit unusual for them. Their energy has been low the past week; it's hard to be impatient with them when I have no idea what they've been doing the whole day before I arrive. They could be working on all sorts of things for the Queen's birthday at school and at the orphanage and so they could just be extra tired.

I now only have two more classes with them: one rehearsal tonight and then a goodbye class on Friday. I am already feeling sad to leave, knowing that I've only recently begun to really understand and connect with them on a deeper level. Today one of the younger girls was accidentally kicked in the face by a friend while we were rehearsing. As I sat there trying to comfort her and to hold a glass of chilly water to her cheek, I thought about how in a very short time I, who have had an almost daily presence in her life for the last 3 weeks, would soon become a brief blip in the past.

Everyone was quieted and distracted after Fluk was hurt, and I didn't feel like forcing them to continue. The performance will be ok; it's their level of happiness with me that I want to prioritize when I am there. With a little extra work tonight and the help of Amp's translation, I hope to leave rehearsal tonight having prepared them for a great performance tomorrow of which they can feel proud.


Wat Pa Pao Mother's Day

It's mothers day in Thailand next Wednesday... Yesterday we did three (the magic number) card making workshops to celebrate their wonderFULL wonder woman mothers!


The Traveling Quilt of Dreams

Jeannie and I (No Mi) are making a 'Traveling Quilt of Dreams' with MPLUS! Mplus is an organization of self-identified gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender individuals. They are one of two organizations in Thailand, the other is Rainbow Sky in Bangkok, that is working to promote sexual health and sex and gender freedoms.

We want to explore the relationship between these individuals memories and dreams. We will be composing a quilt of these personal depictions. The quilt will be two sided, a tree on each side. Each individual will be given two pieces of canvas in the shape of leaves, on which to paint one memory and one future dream.

Jeannie and I will sew the finished canvas leaves to the tree. The leaves will be sewn back-to-back creating a mirror image of each person’s memory and dream. Once the quilt is complete, it will be sent to various locations around the world to be suspended in spaces where people can observe it from both sides. This will be continually documented to maintain communication between Cultural Canvas, Mplus and the Quilt.

Mplus is an organization of self-identified, gay, lesbian, and transgender individuals. Although these people would classify themselves in this way, they maintain their individuality in how they experience these particular classifications. Beyond these similar identifications, the people at Mplus are all living within the society of Thailand. In Thailand, these individuals’ identities are handled differently than in other places in the world. We would like to emphasize individuality in this project as well as their undeniable connections. The tree (a brainstormed collaboration) is a symbol of Mplus as a whole. The leaves are a reflection of their inner memories and dreams.

Quilts are a timeless tradition that are associated with the world of sleeping and the stages of dreaming. The first stage being conscious contemplation and reflection upon ones day. The second stage is dreaming, a subconscious reflection of ourselves, and our inspiration. The third stage is waking, the birth of awareness. The traveling quilt will bring awareness of the community of Mplus to the people and places it travels to.

Today Mplus painted their dreams and memories onto canvas leaves...

and so the story of the quilt begins!