I am feeling confident today, confident enough to start giving advice (the lawyer in me just won’t quiet!). Here is my advice entitled “How to settle in in Pattaya, Thailand”:
1. Go to the beach and watch the sunset – preferably with trainers on so you can dodge the tourists more easily (I have quickly dismissed any idea that I am a tourist – I am a volunteer!)
2. Go to Walking Street just after sunset when it is lively but not yet full of sex workers trying to drag you and your boyfriend into a bar or, worse, child prostitutes sent there because their parents don’t think they have any other way of earning a living (more on this later).
3. Don’t dismiss eating in restaurants next to Tesco Lotus – they may serve food just as tasty and cheap as Thai street food but with the added luxury of air con.
4. Go to the cinema on a Wednesday (tickets are less than £2) or just watch a film made in honour of the king on his birthday as it’s free. But remember to always stand up for the national anthem before every film – they love their king here more than the Daily Mail loves Kate Middleton.
5. Give any lizard, cockroach or creepy crawly you find in your room a nice name like Lizzie – a stranger is just a friend you have not met yet…
Pro bono work done. Today we started our first day at the Mobile Training Unit (MTU). There are several construction sites around Pattaya, workers are often migrants who come to live in slums with their families. These children can’t go to school as they aren’t registered, their living conditions are grim and their poverty means they are particularly vunerable to sex trafficking. The MTU provides education to the children from basic cleanliness to raising awareness of the importance of education through activities and lessons. The MTU has also now been given permission to carry out field work on Walking Street at night which means they can establish a presence, raise awareness and offer support to the child sex workers.
This morning we visited a day centre for slum children which was far more rudimentary than I expected – a glorified shack but a refuge for the children nevertheless. We sang, played games, reflected on what we had learnt from the games (incredible – some of the kids can’t have been more than 3 years old), did some colouring, sang and bought them lunch. James let slip that we had done a First Aid course and soon had a queue of children with some pretty messy wounds to clean up (we are still arguing over whether he should now be referred to as ‘Nurse James’ or ‘Doctor James’!)
All in all the children were left nourished – tummies, minds and souls. I was left in admiration – those kids were filthy and smelt of stale pee but fiercely brave and smiling – a big family, eager to learn and grateful beyond belief.
Off in search of some supper now although not sure how I have managed to work up such an appetite (breakfast was an omlette, fruit and phad thai, lunch was a huge bowl of egg fried rice and I have also fitted snacks in!)
Thank you for taking the time to read this! Until next time.