Toothless Grins and Burning Trash

A calendar will tell me we just spent the last two weeks traveling.  My body argues it was more like 2 months; maybe that’s the jet lag and lack of sleep talking.  My mind argues it was more like two days; maybe that’s due to the whirlwind of 16 flights in 16 days.  And 4 countries, 16 cities, 8 schools, 580 photos, thousands of kids and a billion smiles.

Here is what I learned:

In Myanmar

  • The most beautiful smiles do not require teeth.
  • Joy lives in thanksgiving.
  • Beach balls are more fun than any number of video games.
  • More than classes, it seems that the Paw Myar community needs hope; and I think that’s exactly what our school is providing. Hope is found in the small teal building in the center of the community; and hope is invaluable.
  • Schools are community centers. Everyone in the community showed up to welcome us in Myanmar, not just the students.  I guess that’s the point.  The school’s not just about the students, it’s about everyone.

In Thailand

  • Meaningful relationships can be forged without a common language, as evidenced by the friendships between our Thailand Teaching Fellow Amanda and the other teachers at the schools in Mae La Noi.
  • Life-changing relationships are not time sensitive; as evidenced by the countless students with tears streaming down their faces at the departure of our Global Fellow Kendall.

In Vietnam

  • Bearded white people with red hair can be kind of scary to young hill-tribe children. When you are two languages removed from someone, it is difficult to explain that you are not going to eat them.
  • Seesaws remove all fear. Who would have thought?  All it took was a couple of pumps on the seesaw and the kids were stroking my beard.  I love the mind of a 7-year old.
  • A successful recess needs no more than a piece of string. Without a playground, the students got creative.  Two girls would sit on the ground and wrap string around their necks, creating a narrow box of string approximately 2 feet off the ground.  Then they took turns choreographing and replicating jump routines using the string.

In the Philippines

  • Filipino students have some big dreams. They want to be lawyers, doctors, teachers, engineers, pilots; the list goes on.  I wanted to be a basketball player when I was their age.
  • Stephen Curry is the most popular man in the Philippines.
  • Elementary students are much more creative than I am. At one point, the chalkboard fell off the wall in the middle of an intense round of Simon Says.  It just couldn’t handle the pressure.  Students rushed to fix the chalkboard.  I told them to watch out for the nails and to sit back down.  Shortly thereafter, I left the classroom for school pictures.  When I returned, 9-year old Adrian had retrieved a log and two rocks and had contracted other students to nail the chalkboard back to the wall, using the rocks, while the log acted as a makeshift chalkboard holder.  There was no teacher in the classroom, just a bunch of nine year olds playing with nails and rocks.  I returned just in time to see the final nail “rocked” into place.  The chalkboard no longer needs fixing.
  • The Mangoso attitude is inspiring. A man in their town is holding all of the local water hostage in order to blackmail community members into voting for him in the upcoming elections.  That would make me very angry, but it makes them laugh.  They have complete confidence that water will be provided when they run out.  The Philippines is a very faithful nation.
  • There is so much left to do. Waste management in each of these countries looks like a giant pile of burning trash.  In some communities, there are at least attempts to control the burning.  This is not so much the case in the Philippines.  At one point, a classroom of seven and eight year olds filled up with smoke.  It was too thick to teach.  The teacher, in tears, begged me to stop the burning because “it is killing our children.”  I think she’s probably right.  If anyone wants to start a compost initiative in the Philippines, that would be very helpful.

Check out the videos below for a glimpse into the anecdotes above!

**New Address:

Khe Sanh, #12 Tran Huu Duc Street, Khe Sanh Township, Quang Tri Province, 52xxx Viet Nam

Check out the Global Playground on Facebook, Twitter (Globalplay), Insta (Lifeontheplayground), or at


3 thoughts on “Toothless Grins and Burning Trash

  1. Scott, I lover seeing your pictures and hearing what you are doing. It’s so interesting that kids of all ages are curious, creative, and forward thinking. Keep the pictures and videos coming. I have also friended Global Playground to stay up to date. How long will you be at this address?
    Love RE


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