My favorite moments on the road are the small slices of life that simultaneously remind us how alike us humans are, and highlight how differently we express it.
We spent two months at a Thai special needs school, hanging out with the kids, helping out where we could and learning about daily Thai life. The school ran heavily on donations, mostly from local individuals and organizations. It wasn’t unusual for a high school or a local business to show up to serve lunch, or for a truck to back into the parking lot to unload new toys or teaching materials.
This particular moment was during morning assembly. The teachers happily announced they’d recieved a donation of “jakayan” (bicycles).
I cheered a little bit. (Finally a morning announcement with words I knew! Plus I love teaching kids to ride bikes.) As for the kids, like any human child, they cheered, clapped and ran around excitedly as the staff brought out 10 or so bicycles or various sizes and colours.
Then… they climbed on the bike luggage racks and waited.
* * *
I laughed and laughed. I’m laughing as I write this. The behaviour was funny because it was so foreign to me – in a lifetime spend around children, I’ve never seen that before – but it made so much sense.
Kids love bikes. European kids love bikes, North American kids love bikes, Australian kids love bikes, Asian kids love bikes. I’d bet money on South American and African kids loving bikes too. They take a little bit of skill to ride, but not a huge amount, you can control them, they can go fast, you can ride them with friends, you can ride for either fun or getting around and the list goes on.
So of course, these kids loved bikes too. Some didn’t know how to ride, either because they were too young or because they hadn’t grasped the concept of pedaling (remember, special needs school – many kids were non verbal, so you couldn’t just explain it to them) but they all loved having this toy to play with it.
Sitting on the luggage rack, though, gave the scene a uniquely Thai flavour. In Thailand, and particularly in this region of Thailand, people use bikes a lot, both for getting around and for exercise. Bike child seats aren’t readily available like they are in more developed countries/regions (or perhaps not affordable, but we never even saw any for sale), so most children learn to ride on the luggage rack as soon as they’re old enough to sit up and hold on.
Add to that their age (most of them under 7) and they development differences, and it’s only natural that the first thing they do when given a bike is wait on the luggage rack.