Thursday, August 27, 2009

Frog's legs: the new white meat.

The past few days have been so full, and so humid! I sit in the computer room at Mae Kok, waiting for the ever-looming clouds to dump buckets; it's been all day, and still no rain. Honestly, I have never wanted rain more than I do in Thailand.

Last night, we had quite a storm! The day began like this one, very hot and sunny, but progressed into thunderstorms as evening came, and by nightfall, we were surrounded by lightning and clouds like I have never seen. We stood outside, undercover, and took it all in. One ominous, coal colored cloud rose up from behind the hills, put on a show, and dissapated within a couple hours... but not before letting loads of rain down onto the earth! Luckily, I had already gone inside, but the deafening sound of tropical rain on the roof is unmistakable.

Needless to say, I'm hoping for another show tonight. I've only just gotten used to taking photos of lightning.

As for the rest of our time here at Mae Kok, it's been really productive. Our group is working on rennovating the children's dormitories still; we've spent this week painting the boys' dorm, which involves sweeping out large bugs, painting several coats of new color, and working the yard around the building. In the heat of the day, there are times I find it difficult to be at the top of my game, I'll admit. But these wonderful children... they are completely worth it. Not to mention, I've been so blessed (and so priveledged) all my life. Using a hoe, getting over my fear of large bugs, and peeling off layers of paint, sweat, and dirt at the end of the day hardly compares to the life these children have. Mae Kok is a pseudo-sanctuary for them, and I am honored to improve it for the kids who live and work here.

Mae Kok Foundation, as our group learned today, is the product of a 20-year project, started by AnuLuck's husband. Originally, it was a drug rehabilitation center for the Hill Tribe people (who all immigated from Burma and have not protection or support from the Thai government), but has now become a foundation strictly for children, most of whom, as I've stated before, have little to no family structure. With so much use of Opium, crack cocaine, and with human trafficking so predominant in these village societies, Mae Kok is an outstanding alternative to the lifestyle these children would otherwise be exposed or forced into. What makes Mae Kok so much more sustainable than other shelters is the value the foundation places on personal responsibility: each child has community chores (such as cooking meals, sweeping, and the like), as well as personal chores, such as laundry. From a Human Services point of view, this makes the prospect of transitioning into everyday adult life positively and autonomously much more viable over foundations who cater to the child's need, but do not instill values within them.

Aside from our volunteer work and education about Mae Kok, I've had some interesting experiences over the last few days:

The night bazaar in downtown Chaing Rai was amazing! Everything is so inexpensive (33 Baht is equal to 1USD!) and well-made, from dresses to artwork to jewelry to games and textiles. It all was amazing, and Thai culture is so much more pleasureable to shop in.... the locals are all much more gracious and happy to have you at their stand. This is especially true in comparison to my personal experiences in Mexico (the only other international shopping I've done), where the local feel is a little more pushy, as if you owe the community money. Thai culture is extremely polite and dilligent; all the products are wonderful, and I love the authentic feel of bartering in the marketplace.

Another market excursion we recently had was to shop for food. As part of our volunteer work, my friend Melissa and I went to the markets with AnuLuck. Although we made several stops, the one which stood out to me was when we went to get meat. Everything is fresh, and I mean fresh! We saw chickens de-headed and cut for sale, and fish, still flipping around in a basket, gasping for dear life, be pulled out, scaled, gutted, and cut for our dinner. The smells werer almost enough to make me queasy, but the topper was carrying the bag of cut fish out of the market, and still feeling it wiggle in my hand!... we had fried fish for dinner that night, if anyone is wondering. Along with our meat purchases, we picked up a couple specialty items: dried frog, maggots, and grasshoppers, oh my! For the first time in my life, I ate a new meat. Typically I only eat fish, but due to the incredibly rare nature of this meal, I decided that one frog really wasn't going to hurt. :)

The weekend is coming up soon, and out group gets to take a holiday on Monday and Tuesday... much more sight-seeing, food tasting, and a possible venture across the border if we are permitted.

Hope you are all well! Sending happiness your way from Thailand!
Love, Laura
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