With each Friday morning comes the long, bumpy drive to Baan Piranan to visit with Nong Mai, Witchai and Joop Jang. In the past few weeks, the road has seemed even longer and bumpier the boys (Nong Mai and Witchai) have been growing increasingly bored of working with paintbrushes and extenders and the young Joop Jang, raised in a prison and thought to be fully blind and mostly deaf, remains a mystery. We at CCT have racked our brains trying to think of anything new that will fall within the parameters cruelly set by these children’s disabilities. We have used pastels, introduced music, videos, and computer games, worked with stamps made of potatoes, and even tried using corncobs as paint rollers! To think of new activities for the young boys has been frustrating. To find downfalls in even the simplest activities because they do not fall between those thin parameters is angering – anger comes with the fact that this disease exists, anger comes with the realization that Nong Mai was caged for the majority of his life, and anger comes with the fact that six year old Joop Jang only had her first bite of solid food in the last few months. It is anger that, though justifiable, is nonetheless disheartening.
However, the product created this week has made every bit of frustration and anger I have felt in attempting to find activities entirely worthwhile. I must continually remind myself that “disabled” does not mean “unable” and that there exists a whole world of things that these boys are able to do. This week, moving away from colors, we turned to something a bit wilder – exploring life under the sea. Using contact paper, we put clear stencils of fish and coral onto a large piece of white paper. Using watered down acrylic paints in spray bottles, the boys sprayed greens and blues and even some orange and maroons onto this large paper. While the paint spread over the paper and floor and fingers and toes, smiles and laughter spread even quicker. How quickly the anger I feel through the week is able to dissolve in that room! While at Baan Piranan, the word “disabled” hardly ever comes into my head as I am overwhelmed with keeping up with all that the boys are able to do and all of the beauty that are able to create!
As they say, within each artist is a tortured soul. Beethoven could not hear a note, Van Gogh cut off his own ear, and our own Nong Mai lived in a bamboo cage. Perhaps this tortured soul exists more in some than in others. But looking at the painted aquarium that now decorates our office, any history of torture is hidden behind a thick layer of green and blue paint and all I can see is happiness. Sending thousands of smiles from Chiang Mai – Aimee.