Friday, February 28, 2014

Courage + Self-esteem = มั่นใจ

มั่นใจ (man-jai) literally translates to settled heart, and is the word for confidence here in Thailand. It's a quality that I hope to instill in my students not only when they speak English, but throughout all aspects of life.

When I came to Thailand, I knew about Thai Youth Theatre Project and was very much looking forward to being a part of it. Given that I spent most of my childhood in one of three places (home, school, or theatre) it seemed like a perfect fit. The gifts that my theatre upbringing gave me in regards to creativity and confidence I carry with me to this day and brought me out of my shy shell, helping me to see the world from many different perspectives.

I realized early on that my site wasn't going to be participating in TYT in the way that I had hoped.  Although people liked the idea of an English club that focused on performance, no one had the free time available to work alongside me, and this aspect of sustainability is required for Peace Corps Thailand projects. I was disappointed that my interested students wouldn't get the opportunity to experience all that TYT Festival had to offer, but was looking forward to helping make it happen for the other participating volunteers, counterparts, and students as a Committee Member.

Lesson plans, large group activities, performance schedules and stage managing were my main roles leading up to and at the festival. There were some bumps along the road that come along with most projects of this scale, but the team powered past them to focus on the goal at hand, bringing a great weekend of growth and fun for the participants. And so we did...

The students were put through a range of classes:
Mask Making

Sword Fighting
Shaddow Puppetry

Thirteen participating schools put on fourteen performances in English:
The Four Champa Trees

Romeo and Juliet

Pii Mak Phra Khanong 
The Watermelon Prince

And fun was had by all:

As the festival came to a close, I breathed in gratitude for being able to do what I truly love, at least in a small way, while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Thailand. In truth, I haven't felt completely myself without theatre in my life this past year, and having this to add to my book of experiences here in Thailand has fueled me in a way that nothing else has. As I shared with my co-teacher about the experiences that the students and teachers had at the festival this year, her eyes lit up and a smile spread across her face. She said that she now saw what a great gift this could be to our students in order to help them find more joy and confidence in speaking English. It looks like we'll be starting meetings for our own TYT club when the new school year begins in a few months, and I'm thrilled by the prospect of sharing more of who I am with my community.