So, last Thursday Jackson, one of the country coordinators here in Thailand, went up to Chiang Mai to pick up our new volunteers! We met them there on Friday night and had a typical Chiang Mai weekend: spent it in a hostel, got soaked from the rain, rode red trucks everywhere, and went to the night markets. We also went to Chiang Mai’s “Grand Canyon” and jumped of cliffs. So that was cool. Sunday we also got to go to church, which was great! Then we came home and got our new volunteers situated!
The beginning of this week was a series of cancelled activities. It was a great introduction for our new people on how development work goes sometimes. You can only control your half of the work and the other half is up to your partners! Monday morning we had planned on planting banana trees with our partner Paw, but we got there and that didn’t end up happening. But, we did get to pay for a bunch of tea trees for the villagers for one of our projects, so it wasn’t a wasted trip. The rest of the day was spent on errands and preparation for the rest of the week (English classes, soccer tournament, etc.).
Tuesday 11 am was the first English class at North Fang Vocational College, then we were supposed to teach English at PLAN, our partner organization here. Later, we were supposed to teach at Huay Luang while others taught a public health lesson at another village, then get together to do a zumba class with a group of ladies who already have a dance class going. Also, while we’re on the topic, those ladies loved when Christine and Emily taught zumba for the first time last week. They kept trying to figure out how the “farangs” (white people) shook their hips. We’ll teach them how eventually!
During our first class at North Fang, some people went and taught while the rest of us went to a village really high in the mountains called Doi Jana. Doi Jana is a village that completely burned down about 4 months ago, so we went and helped with part of the rebuilding process. The village is pretty high up in the mountains and the houses are right by ledges that have a lot of loose ground, which poses the problem of the ground slowly wearing away. Our partner at PLAN international, Amou, came up with a solution for this problem. Have you ever seen really steep mountains with a bunch of trees on them and wondered how those trees managed to stay intact? And how the mountain stays intact with all those trees? Roots. Roots keep both the plants and the ground in place. So, Tuesday morning a bunch of kids from the nearby school, villagers, and our good ol’ Help team got together and planted a ton of little plants to keep the ground together. SOLUTIONS GUYS.
In the afternoon, we picked up our Thai friend Benz from the bus station. He came and visited for a few days from Chiang Mai. He speaks great English (albeit with a British accent because he learned from his British uncle) and speaks Thai so he was super useful!
Instead of teaching English to the teachers at the school in Huay Luang that night, we got invited to go to a dinner with them! Little did we know that we were also invited to a long meeting congratulating all the teachers on their accomplishments for the last however long. I understood about 0.07% of what was said in that meeting, so I was very glad when we went to dinner. However, that being said, it was so important for us to show involvement with the teachers even without understanding anything. Dinner was SO GOOD. It was a buffet-style place where you grab a bunch of raw meat and cook it back at your table. There was also a bunch of already cooked stuff. Moral of the story: it was amazing and we ate SO much. We also got to practice some English with a couple of the teachers so we got some teaching in there anyway! See, it all works out.
On Wednesday, nothing got cancelled! In the morning some of the volunteers went to a community center that needs repairs and worked with these awesome entrepreneur women who want to start making and selling Days for Girls kits. We’re all really excited to start working on that project! The rest of the crew went and picked tea leaves and planted banana trees with Paw since that got cancelled on Monday. The morning was cloudy (hallelujah) as we scaled a mountain to pick tea leaves, so it was great! The afternoon was not so cloudy, so we sweat buckets as we planted banana trees, but still had fun. Paw is so kind and always gives us water after anything we do. Sometimes he’ll throw in bananas or lychee (a local fruit) too! During the afternoon we planned for our anti-drug soccer tournament, then a group went to a soccer field we built to put some finishing touches on it while another group worked on a public health booklet for a different village. The booklet is based on lessons Julia and Kai have been teaching and includes any information that may have been forgotten from the lessons. All in all, a great day in Thailand.
Thursday we were supposed to teach a different class at North Fang, but instead they had a teacher appreciation day ceremony. The students presented flowers representing different things to the teachers. The teachers (which includes us) put 3 dots of paste on the students’ foreheads to represent the passing of knowledge from teacher to student. After that, we did karaoke. The Thai kids LOVED it. All the volunteers went up and sang “Baby” by Justin Bieber since it was one of the only American songs they had. It was pretty entertaining especially since the karaoke version was a lot harder to follow. Oh well. They liked it and we had fun!
In the afternoon we met with a local organization called Ozone that helps fight both HIV/AIDS and drug addictions. In order to do this, they switch out needles for heroin addicts so the needles aren’t being shared (meaning diseases aren’t spreading), and they educate the people on the harmful effects of the drugs they’re using and offer to help wean them off the drugs. A lot of the people who work with Ozone either know people who were addicts or were addicts themselves, so it’s a cool organization. Anyway, we met with them to talk about their mission and about our anti-drug soccer tournament. They gave some good tips were also able to recommend somebody to speak at our tournament about drugs!
Later, some of the volunteers went and helped fix up some water tanks that were built for a village called Jajusi. That project is now complete! Woohoo! We also had a team meeting to talk about all the new project ideas we have. I’ll update those as they get going, but we’re already so excited for all of them!
Friday we cleaned our house, ran some errands, did some soccer tournament prep, and donated some baby hats to a local hospital. Some of us also got Japanese Encephalitis shots (not fun, but it’s SO much cheaper here than in the US and is a lifetime shot, so I did it). Then we did a team building activity and went to Fang Hot Springs. It was kind of rainy, but a lot of fun. We even boiled quail eggs in the springs! They were delicious.