Camping New Year Eve 2008

Breeo & Nuke & Joi-Joi

It is quite a challenge to lug 140 kids, about 40 staff, tents, clothes, enough fresh food and water for 2 days, twice a day medicine individually packaged for 60 kids and a massive sound and karaoke system to a dry old paddock an hour and a half drive away. Yet this is what the staff at Sarnelli House organised and accomplished for the annual New Year’s Eve camping trip to Nong Seang.

Setting up camp

Tents were set up within a couple of hours, with kids helping each other hammer stakes into the rock hard ground, arrange their belongings and mark their territory. The boys section was fairly organised and the little kids from House of Hope had 2 big tents facing each other with a tarpaulin covering the space in between to give a little shade. The Viengkhuk girls marked out their space up the back next to the House of Hope kids, the Sarnelli kids happened to settle in front of the toilet and shower block, and as close to Kung and co. as possible. The younger Sarnelli kids were on the opposite side next to Fr Shea’s small house and the staff was intermingled among everyone.

Lyn & Bang

Shade was hard to come by, but blankets came in handy and were stretched and tied between tents to offer some shade, as it was far too hot to sit and play and chat and visit each other inside the tent. There was no such thing as personal space, it was almost impossible to walk between the tents to get from point A to point B, or just to get to the toilet block. Eventually after not too much effort the place started to look like a well used refugee camp and everyone seemed satisfied.

"Hardly room to walk"

Some of the boys from Sarnelli who had been shopping the day before for chips, coke and junk food had what looked like a little shop going in front of their tent. Somehow or other they had acquired a miniature snooker table which they invitingly displayed their goods on. They had rigged up black garbage bags over the entrance to their tent which provided shade and were sitting around the snooker table playing cards. It was like a scene out of a gangster movie. There was Bandum, in on every scam that’s out there, fearless in the face of a spare baht or a free packet of chips. Then Deep, the perfect silent but strong guy, on guard duty to spy out any bigger boys who may crash the place and escape with all the loot. Kee Dee was the mastermind, even while organising the set up, he still had time to flirt with the girls in the tent, 4 tents up from his. They had it made, it was going to be a hell of a 2 days.

Gip & Puerk & Ying

The afternoon was joyously unfettered, food was available almost 2nd hourly and the kids were untrammelled by time restrictions or rules. The karaoke machine had turned into a TV and DVDs were being shown under the shade of a big tarpaulin. The big girls hijacked the little House of Hope kids and played at being mother. The boys ran around chasing the girls, then the girls ran around chasing the boys. Little packs of 8 year old girls giggled their way around the tents, commenting and laughing at their own private jokes. The ladies of the kitchen sat on the cement floor and amidst the gossip and camaraderie diligently chopped, sliced, cooked and boiled up, 3 full meals a day as well as the snacks in between.


Showers started at 3pm, before the cold set in, and there were squeals and screams as boys do what boys do and tried to spy on the girls, lock them in the toilet and generally be obnoxious. Then the music started and didn’t finish till late into the night. Karaoke as well as a running commentary of whatever was happening, blow by blow, by Khru Kor.

Outing to the temple

NYE saw an early start as the staff tried to find and wake the Sarnelli kids for their 6am medications. This was a hard bunch to wake especially after the revelry of the night before. Then showers in the cold water of the cold morning. Breakfast came next and then a trip out to visit a temple, with a good long walk up a mountain to get there. The beautiful white statute of Buddha atop the mountain was worth the walk. All the kids came along, even Tadum who is blind but didn’t let that stop her, Dottie, 2 years old with HIV who doesn’t let anything that the big kids do stop her. The afternoon was spent hanging out in each other’s tents and generally relaxing for the long evening ahead. Eventually the sun set and the big bonfire in the middle of the paddock was lit. All the kids from each out of the houses came out to perform their well rehearsed dances for Fr Shea’s enjoyment and to show off their latest dresses and dance moves. Bingo was played, and it was a seriously competitive game, played for big stakes like the barbie doll hanging from the wire. Desperation was heard in the voices” I have an A, was it an A? Oh no, he said E, do I have an E? Is that an E?” Karaoke was in full swing with some really bad singers, who weren’t about to give the microphone up to anyone. Then 12 midnight arrived with more dancing, the bonfire still going, the cold forgotten and more Karaoke. Welcome 2009!

Cooking (left) and Medicine (right)

After an even more difficult waking up of the kids at 6am with threats like “....you won’t be coming back next year if you don’t wake up now and take this medicine...”, it was mass, and then breakfast. The tents all came down, everything was packed up, and the place all at once was a dry old paddock, with the remnants of a big fire in the middle, and the off key notes of the last really bad karaoke singer lingering in the air.

New Year Eve dancing

Prize for bingo

Bring on NYE 2009 and let’s do it all over again


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