The night shift
We have worked our first night on the street and if I am honest it was pretty exhilarating! As part of the outreach team we spend our Keys For Windows days at the slums with migrant children but on Thursday we did a double shift and headed to Walking Street at around 9pm. You may have read about Walking Street in my previous articles – it is Pattaya’s red light district. At night it is teaming with all sorts of tourists from coach tour parties rushing through on their allotted half hour slot to families taking in the bright lights and blaring music to those who are more interested in the menus touted outside gogo bars showing photos of unspeakable things I never knew money could buy…
Our aim was to raise awareness of the Human Help Network Foundation and the help they provide. I think we succeeded. To start with James donned the mascot costume so looked like a huge cartoon superhero (wearing flipflops as the mascot comedy shoes were too small) and immediately assumed his role of dancing and hugging the night away. A microphone was thrust at me and I gave an impromptu speech about the work we do which I am sure the reams of Russian and Chinese tourists listened very carefully and felt moved by my words…
Impressively James danced all the way down Walking Street and back again, featuring in several selfies, making children laugh (and cry), sweating buckets and most importantly, inspiring lots of people to stick some cash in the collection box. The best result of the evening was discovering a little girl who was hanging around as her aunt has a food stand on the street. She is HIV positive and lost both her parents to the disease. Her aunt is looking after her but she isn’t going to school anymore or taking her medication properly. Human Help Network are able to offer her support, get her back to school and taking her medication regularly.
This is as fun as it sounds – Thailand dedicate a whole day to kids having a jolly old time! All fun activities are subsidised and there is free icecream! We joined the kids from Child Protection and Development Centre on a trip to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not – a kind sponsor paid for the whole day including lunch at KFC (I used this as practice to think of others before myself as I think this place is vile!) We visited Tussaud’s waxworks, a lazer room (like the one in the Ali G movie!), a scream train and a 12D movie theatre although perhaps the highlight was the Haunted House. We queued for over an hour only to be chased around in complete darkness with corpses popping out of coffins and 6 terrified children hanging on to me even though I was far more scared than they were! The sweet relief of making it out alive after being chased by an angry corpse with a chain saw was felt by all.
An island in the sun (and monsoon showers)
On Sunday morning we were up and out at a reasonable hour to take the boat across to Koh Larn – a little island not far from Pattaya. As luck would have it this was also the day that the heavens opened. We sloshed down the pier and jumped on the old boat for a choppy half hour ride. Having chosen to walk to Samae Beach rather than take a songthaew (local open top taxi) we dodged heavy showers and came across a beautiful wat (temple), a pet pig and a landfill site.
After a blissful swim in the warm sea made all the more incredible by the heavy raindrops causing a jewel like effect on the water the sun eventually came out with blue skies so brilliant it was as though the storm had never happened!
Could the day have got any better? Yes. I bought an ice cream. Durian flavoured (about 25% real fruit content). Durian is an Asian fruit, big, spikey and ugly and it stinks to high heaven. To this point I had not tried it – although it is popular in Thai desserts and 642-999 eaten fresh, it is banned from most establishments due to it’s pungency. I start my icecream. First impressions – sweet (good), creamy (good) and a flavour I recognise (unsure). Keep licking…oh yes I know what that familiar taste is – garlic and onion. I am eating a frozen garlic and onion smoothie on a stick.
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Happy New Year once again!
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