Tuesday, September 1, 2009

thoughts from an internet cafe.

Our group is having a blast on holiday. I write this to you from a cute internet cafe amidst the markets bordering Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), with a thai iced tea (or here, a milk tea) at my side. Here's what I've been up to lately:

Friday night, all the kids and staff at Mae Kok had a cultural exchange in honor of the Japanese students who came to visit. There was much celebration, music, dancing, and clapping. All of the children at MKF are a part of one Hill Tribe or another (most are from the Akha tribe), and thus performed traditional dances. I feel so blessed to have seen these dances up close in such an open setting. Sadly, many Hill Tribes sell their culture to tourists, charging admission fees to enter their villages. This cultural exchange was completely for the sake of teaching and learning, which felt so much more genuine. The girls from Mae Kok, who are normally quite shy, really seemed to shine in the traditional outfits they wore. The Akha tribe in particular has some amazing headdresses, strung with colored beads and metal bangles. For a young girl, I'm sure they are quite a headache, but watching them dance in this attire was a great opportunity to see a whole different side of them. Our ISV group participated in the cultural exchange as well, learning a summer camp dance from one of our UK group members. This, of course, brought me back to my days as a member of my high school dance team, and I found myself counting off the moves during our informal practices (much to the dismay of some group members). ;) With my unique talent of doing 'the worm', I was even given a short solo to show off for the kids. This is all to say that our dance was nothing in comparison to the beauty and integrity of the Hill Tribe dances, and made me wish that I had stronger ties to the roots from which I am created. Perhaps my next international trip will include stops to Italy or Poland... or any of the other dozen European countries my ancestors come from. After the performances, everyone from Mae Kok went outside with rice paper lanterns, lit them at the bottom, and watched with childlike wonder as hot air filled them and they ascended into the night sky. In the pure dark of rural Thailand, the lanterns floated gracefully to the stars, and I found myself wondering why my own US culture does not find more joy in these simple things.

The next day, we worked all day painting the boys' dormitory. Today was the day we were assigned to paint a mural on one of the walls, and due to my huge enthusiasm for drawing, coupled with my teammates' lack of desire to draw, I got to head up this project. :) We spent hours creating a scene with boys playing football (our Westernized soccer) with an elephant. I loved the joy each child got from seeing us put color on the walls. I had to work my way around the kids as I put my pencil to the building... they were so excited to see what we would do for them! Our work on the building will be complete tomorrow, when we put the finishing touches on the dorm. How great to leave my mark in Thailand, and to such a great cause, for such wonderfully resilient children. In the midst of danger and poverty, these kids still thrive.

That evening, we went to visit the night bazaar, and on our way back, we came in contact with such danger. A police officer stopped our van in the middle of a dark empty road, spoke to the driver and our group leader in Thai, and let us continue on our way. When we asked what happened, our leader, Claire, told us the officer was looking for drugs and human trafficking. Apparently, he had 4 men behind him with machine guns, and this is not an uncommon occurence. Reality struck me as we sped home, and once again validated my reasoning and passion behind my personal purpose for this trip. Behind the safe gates of MKF, it is hard to see the dangers amid the rest of Chiang Rai. However, trafficking is so incredibly common, and hidden so well, an average visitor may never know. It makes me sick to drive through the hills and see an orphanage or shelter next to a resort, but it exists much more than you would think. The world needs to be made aware.

Our holiday is great as well. So far, we have visited the White Temple (the product of a famous Thai artist) and the Black House (his house, with over 48 huts set in a Zen-like yard... with the nicest bathroom I will likely ever use in this country), a Thai tea farm (and had an official tea tasting!), the Golden Triangle (where a large amount of opium is transported between China, Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos), taken a longtail boatride to Laos, and seen market after market after market. There is so much more to say, but little time and words. I will post pictures at the end of my trip; it is so beautiful here.

In terms of culture, I've also recently discovered that Thai people love Jason Mraz. So we have more in common than I thought. :)

Thinking about each of you as I continue my trip. My adventure tour begins on Friday, and I'm not sure how much internet I will have from there on out. I'll write as time and zest allows.

Much love from Southeast Asia,
Share |

No comments:

Post a Comment