Sr Francis Hayes completed Palms assignment preparation in May at our 8 day Orientation Course and flew to Mae Ramat on the Thai/Myanmar border on the 15th June 2022. Frances is a teacher from Western Australia, experienced in working with refugees. She will be working alongside three local teachers and will teach English to Thai students as well as provide additional English language learning opportunities for the many current dormitory students from Myanmar.
It has always been my wish that my forever home have two criteria: walk to daily Mass and food cooked by someone else. Who would have thought I would find them in Mae Ramat?
The children read and sing at Mass which is very gentle, prayerful and reflective (I don’t understand enough Thai – but thank God universality, at least I know what is happening). I have been told I can take off my shoes or leave them on – “up to you”. I did hear one of the dormitory supervisors caught her toes around the pew and hasn’t been able to walk properly – three months later. I think I stick with socks but take off shoes – gives my feet an airing.
The first morning – so long ago! I received a wonderful welcome from the entire school community, receiving a huge bouquet of flowers made with ribbon which I put down safely and haven’t been able to locate again – maybe they were just for the photo!
The school administration officer and I then drove the 35 min drive to Mae Sot to let the Thai immigration know I had arrived. Because we are so close to the Thai/Myanmar border they are very active. I remember one time when I was in Taunggyi Myanmar for one week the military came four times to make sure I was there. I will need to check if I am able to leave for short visits. There are Buddhist holidays in July and others for the Kings birthday so I am sure Siriporn [a local Karen community leader in charge of the Ba No Bu Centre for children] will suggest we go somewhere – even back to her village.
Back from Mae Sot I was invited into teacher John’s class of Year 12 – who was in the seminary for a while and learnt English from Monica. She did a good job as he is Head of English. He is most emphatic the students take every opportunity to speak with me. Like most teachers and students – not the Sisters- he is of Karen origin [from Myanmar] but has lived in Thailand all his life. I spent the afternoon visiting the six kindergarten classes – 2 of each year. They laughed and clung to me, I guess within two years they will all have Australian accents.
I have a most comfortable bedroom and shower (hot water) and western toilet. I think it was all done up especially as it is very clean and new looking – opposite the Convent, on the ground floor of one of the dormitories but I hear nothing from the children. I have meals in the canteen/lunch area with all the children but at the table with the dormitory supervisors who are so friendly, welcoming and speak English and keen to improve.
There are four St Paul de Chartres Sisters in the community I think – although I have only seen three. Sister Marie Emie is the school director and busy in her office so never see her, Sr Emilio is administrator and walks around so see her all the time, very friendly (keeps bringing me extra food!!!) and has good English, uses an electric scooter to get from A to B because she is 68!!!!! Sr Sofina is a friend of Siriporns and goes to the outlying villages but also very friendly with English. The students in Teacher John’s class asked me about me wearing a uniform like the Sisters so I explained that in Thailand uniforms are very important because of the Buddhist monks and nuns but it is different in Australia!!!!
There are four dormitories- two for girls and two for boys, arranged vertical with children from years 3 to 12. There was a parent meeting so many of them went home for the weekend. After evening meal they usually play sport or games while others clean up (rostered) and then evening presentation – our father in Thai, Hail Mary in English, tables, Thai pronunciation (Karen have very different accent) and then Thai behaviour, working together etc, then off to study and bed about 9.00pm. On the way from the airport Sr Marie Emie asked if I would be happy teaching 20 periods each week. Teacher John suggested maybe 15 so I pointed out it is important for me to work with the teachers so I know what they are doing.
I am having trouble accessing internet but hopefully will work out where it is available. So far I have spent my spare time in the school office as it is reliable there.
Love and prayers to everyone and thanks for your love and support.