As we wrapped up our first week back at school, I was feeling neglectful of The Guide Hog but too busy to do anything blog-worthy. And then Mother Nature handed me a story.
Rain pounded Vientiane overnight, but that’s nothing new in this wet season. As we headed out the door for school this morning in the deluge, I donned my water-resistant ride-to-school pants, purple plastic poncho and polka-dotted gumboots and then climbed on back of Tony’s motorbike. I prefer to hitch a ride rather than pedal on days like this.
When we arrived at school, we parked the bike and walked toward our classrooms. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until we turned the corner around the administration building. The whole field and playground area had transformed into a lake. My first thought was, “Rain day!” But then I remembered where I was. If we canceled classes for every downpour, we’d have to teach all summer to make up the missed time. No thanks.
I often work with small groups at these outdoor tables, but unfortunately, none of the children came to school in hip waders today.
I had supervision duty here at break time, but my main job today was to tell kids, “Don’t even think about it!” To make up for the playground prohibition, I taught them how to play “Red Light-Green Light” on the sidewalk. That was a surprisingly big hit.
The hallways in the secondary building were literally crawling with every little creature seeking refuge from the flood – spiders, roaches, crickets, beetles, frogs, snakes, snails, you name it.
Many of us felt disconcerted that our 2-year-old campus could experience such terrible flooding problems. We worried that a poorly designed drainage system might lead to weeks of indoor recess (every teacher’s nightmare). We wondered if the land would eventually return to its previous incarnation as a rice paddy. Our new director asked if I knew what a cubit was in case we had to build an ark. (I didn’t.)
Luckily, our facilities manager, a spunky Thai woman named Ben, found the source of the problem. She borrowed my boots, waded into the flood water, and discovered the school’s drainage system worked perfectly to channel the water off campus and into large ditches. Ben also discovered that the pooled water in the ditches was a popular fishing spot for village children. When the heavy rains and flood run-off created a strong current in the ditches, the children used their problem-solving skills and built a dam, effectively trapping the fish and flooding our campus.
After Ben dismantled the dam (and survived an encounter with a large eel), the water and the drama quickly ebbed.