Uttaradit - Thursday, July 8
Today we taught at Doi Ta Sao, a small elementary school of sixty-two students within the provincial capital of Uttaradit. The families whose children attend Doi Ta Sao are even poorer than the poorest in any of the rural villages we've seen. They are landless, nearly homeless, and often jobless. Some of their children have learning disabilities, a few are autistic, and some are so very bright that against all odds they graduate from sixth grade here to the finest secondary schools in the province.
We went there because one of my dearest friends, Ajarn Surapon, is the new headmaster. Seventeen years ago, when I taught full-time in Pah Leurat, Surapon was the assistant headmaster here. He is one of the most dedicated and most intellectually curious educators I've ever known anywhere and it was like coming home to work with him again, even if only for one day.
I told him about meeting Hatai, and while Surapon's cheeks remained dry his eyes were on the verge of brimming over. I had brought a few pictures and copies of The Cantaloupe Star, so we spent several happy moments remembering our years together and the wonderful kids who were our students then. Of course Hatai and I will invite Surapon to join us for our little reunion!
When we were done teaching, Surapon's teachers presented us with the feast they had prepared, which was probably the most wonderful meal we've had all summer. That's really saying something, as Boosaba is a world-class Thai cook and Inside Thailand never cuts corners on food, at home or in restaurants, but this lunch that Surapon treated us to was truly spectacular. It was humbling, too, given the desperate straits of his students, and because with my understanding of the school's budget I knew that Surapon had paid for it all from his own pocket.