A Day with the Good Shepherd Sisters in Chiang Rai

Wednesday (February 27, 2013) was a very full day … even a bit fuller than I'd anticipated.

The morning dawned beautifully. Sunny skies; moderately cool. Perfect for a 45km motorbike ride to the Good Shepherd Sisters. The first half of the ride was wonderful. (It's really pretty cool being back on two wheels again.) Then, at about the 20km mark there a rear tire blowout at about 50km/hr. No real problem. Stopped safely. Then, of course … what to do? I don't think my AAA card is going to solve this problem.

Pushed the bike about a 1/4 mile back to the gas station I had just passed. No English. Nice people. No repair facility. But, they did get me pointed back in the direction from which I'd just come where I think they were telling me there was a repair station. Pushed the bike back the same 1/4 mile (puff-puff) where another nice man, seeing my plight, gave me the sign language directions to the repair facility … located, of course, up the road farther … and across the four-lane divided highway.

Okay, more push-push … with a little help from the engine to get me up out of the gully in the median separating the two traffic directions. Once I pushed into the small shop things got real easy. Nice young man. No English at all … and we really didn't need any. Opened up the tire, pulled out the tube from which the valve stem had separated from the tube itself, put in a new tube, and had me on the road in about 15 minutes … all for a cost of 140 Baht. (less than $5) Would it surprise you to know that I gave him a nice tip?

Bike Fix

Finally Found a Fix For My Tire

On the road again … and still made it to the Good Shepherd Sisters before 9am. Whew!

This was a challenging meeting focused on just one single issue, namely: What to do about declining enrollment and slipping retention. So, in an effort to "tame" the problem, we arranged to have all the stakeholders in the room at the same time, including the 3 Sisters, the 6 teachers, the 6 staff and workers, 6 of the older, more responsible students, and 6 representative parents.

Thus arose another challenge. As if working in two languages wasn't enough of a challenge, we added a third because the parents were all from the Akha hill tribe and spoke no Thai and, of course, no English. Only Akha … and the Sisters and almost all of the teachers and staff spoke only Thai. Fortunately, one of the teachers was fluent in Akha, and so were 5 of the 6 students. And, to add to the mix … none of the parents could read or write in any language.

All-in-all it went fine. Naturally much slower than it would have taken in the States, but okay. We drew pictures. We told stories. We had lots of table conversations. We shared ideas. We laughed at ourselves. We got a lot of good work done.

Here's a few photos from the day.

Sisters 1

The Sisters at Work

Teachers 1


The Teachers At Work

Parents 1

The Parents at Work

The Room. Quite nice, actually

The Room


A teacher reporting out to the group

Teacher Report


A Parent reporting to the group. It took a bit of encouragement to get him up there, but he ended up doing a nice job of it.

Parent Report


One of the Sisters reporting to the group

Sisters Reporting


A quiet moment that I just happened to capture during the lunch break. (I really love this photo)

Taking a Break


Students preparing their ideas -- and they were awesome

Students at Work


Me -- with the parents, after the meeting

Me With the Family

Me -- with the "Bag Ladies"

Me and the "Bag Ladies"

The group as we finished

The Group


It was a GOOD day -- flat tire and all. Almost made it back to the hotel before dark. Almost was close enough for an uneventful ride.

Life is good … for us, at least. Some of the others can use a little help -- and we can do that if we try.