Our Tuk-Tuk was flagged down in the street by the lady from the little shop and we were walked through the field to the house just as the rain started pouring down. Within seconds we both had a small child hanging off us and we were in the thick of it. Everyone else was out so we just played games and learned the names of the four youngest children. "I like you" was uttered by Felix, this was to be the theme of our week here.
The living conditions were not quite what we had expected from the information we had read before arriving, we knew it would be basic rural living and were ready for that, but had not expected to be stepping over dog poo in the bedrooms of the children or that the ducks (47 of them!) would roam freely into the house and kitchen squirting gifts as they went, the were so many kittens you couldn't count them, usually curled up sleeping on the cooker by the warm pot of rice or on top of the hot water tea kettle. The smell was something else.
The children were gorgeous, as they all started arriving home from school the chaotic fun of after school games and introductions made us feel part of the family already. There were 12 children in total ranging in age from four years to eleven years. They were all orphaned or abandoned to the house as young babies, except for the son and daughter of the woman who runs the house.
The first real day there was spent undertaking a major clean from ceiling down, three local women came to help out. Tim was sent out by bicycle to collect one of the younger boys from the local Thai school, he had to be woken from his nap when he got there, and taken home by giving him a "backie" on the bike back down the highway to the village, part way home Tim realised he had nodded off on the back, luckily they both made it home in one piece. Bee's favourite jobs included getting really mucky cleaning out the duck and chicken houses and feeding the little quails.
It was mating season for the ducks and this meant they hurtled everywhere in pairs, unfortunately for one pair too blinded by their love, they ran straight into the mouth of one of the guard dogs, one died instantly, but the other wasn't so lucky and had a huge wound to its throat and chest, the owner caught it, but on closer examination by Bee it was evident that it was a huge gaping wound and its heart was visibly beating out in the open. It should have been put out of its misery, but the owner was adamant it should be given a chance, so against her better judgement Bee cleaned it and stitched it up and bandaged it carefully for her. Needless to say we were enjoying a gorgeous two duck curry the next evening.
The children were genuinely happy and lived together as one happy family, the boys all went over the field to play football and a very muddy game ensued, especially in the rainy season it often seemed like the children needed hosing down every half an hour. Even though one of our rules was to not let the children get dirty, it was very hard to enforce. The shear joy in their faces as the jumped and splashed around in the muddy puddles was wonderful. The best we could hope for was to get most of the their clothes off first to save on a bit of washing!
One of the other volunteers stepped on a small scorpion in his room, this looked excruciatingly painful, and this was when we suddenly felt really isolated. Not knowing for sure if we should take him to the hospital in town or not. Having been reassured by the local cook that he would be okay and no one died from scorpion bites here helped, but without being able to check on the the Internet for sure, we all still felt quite anxious. Though a few hours later the pain subsided.
The days started early at 6am, woken first by the cockerels, followed the dogs, then the children, a rainy Saturday was filled with colouring in and practicing English. Entertainment was provided by one of the cats catching a snake in the playroom and crunching on it to the delight of the children, we were reassured it wasn't poisonous. Though informed that once we travelled over the border to Burma they have numerous snakes of which an astounding 52 are venomous!
It had been a hard week but the children had made it a real joy, and we were going to miss them all lots and both left without a dry eye as we set off for the Friendship bridge to Burma.