This summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Thailand with Cate School alum, Mac Bakewell ’65 and one of my classmates, Willem Vorster ’12. The Thailand experience is one that is coordinated by Mac Bakewell ’65 and sponsored by Cate. Each summer, Mac takes a number of students from Cate as well as other independent schools in California to he and his wife’s village in Pah Leurat, Thailand. Prior to arriving at the village, which is in the northern part of Thailand, Mac takes us to Bangkok where we are able to experience the city life for a few days before heading to the rural village where we will spend the bulk of out time.
Our focus during the experience is to exchange culture, learn and be of service by way of teaching English at the same village school where Mac’s wife attended as a child. Spending a month in a foreign country with a Cate alum was awesome! We got to hear a first hand perspective on an older Cate. It was easy to connect because although Mac attended a Cate with no girls and less diversity than we enjoy today, the morals and principles that make this a special place seem to have been maintained. Willem and I would ask him many questions about life at Cate back in the day. We were very curious about dorm life back then, formal dinners, athletics and Mr. Cate himself. Mac actually met Mr. Cate, and frequently shared meals and enlightening conversations with him each Sunday at Mesa House.
Teaching was an amazing experience in and of itself. Each morning, after presenting alms to the monks and receiving our daily blessing, we would teach three classes (K-9) of about 15-20 students. We would teach vocabulary and basic sentence structure as well as exchanging culture in open conversation with those whose English was strong. The teaching experience didn’t end there.
After we were done teaching at the village school, we went back to Mac’s house or to the temple. Often times, we would plan our next lesson or play with the local village children. By 4pm, Mac’s house would fill up with all the school children returning home and excited to see and spend more time with our group.
They were very inviting and urged Willem and me to come play football, Ta Kaw (a traditional Thai game close to volleyball but played with the feet), or go to the river for an afternoon swim. I most enjoyed playing Ta Kaw or really anything after school with the kids. Going to the local river was a blast too.
A highlight of my summer was attempting to climb a coconut tree (unsuccessfully)! I also learned to make fish baskets from the elder women in the village. Mine didn’t look that great, but it was a neat experience and talent to bring back to the United States. Before we left, Willem and I had an opportunity to stay in the temple with the Monks and another Thai boy our age.
My experience in Thailand was one I will never forget. Being immersed in the Thai culture, learning and sharing with a Cate alum and fellow classmate while exchanging culture and experiencing new things was something I am truly grateful for. I’m fortunate to attend a school that presents these opportunities to me.
Nevada City, CA
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