Never coming home JK. I'll be home in a couple weeks. Still trying to figure out who's helping who here? #helpintl
This morning we worked on the playground at the Lahu village. We're so close to being finished! We fixed some of the tire placements & then cleaned them so they are ready to be painted. Of course we had plenty of help from the lil minions, which was nice. They take such good care of us, seriously. After we finished cleaning they would say, "sit down, sit down" so they can wash our hands with water. They always want to hold our bags when we're walking so we don't have to work anymore. I feel bad, but they WANT to do it. It's their way of saying thank you! So you just let them. We got some cement & two men in the village started placing it to hold the tires in place. It's kinda a slow process & easier if we just let them do it. So we took the kids on a little walk to keep them away. Maa (the village leaders wife) made us some papaya salad for lunch. I LOVE PAPAYA SALAD, so I was really excited for this meal. We all were, cause we were starving. We sat down & she brought it over & we started eating out of the bowls. You guys, it was NOT GOOD. Some of the volunteers had one bite & were done. They just couldn't do it. It was so spicy & SO FISHY. It wasn't even the spice that got me as much as it was the fishiness. There were tiny little crab legs in it & the smell was so potent. We didn't know what to do. There were only like 5 of us that we're actually eating it. Just cause we had to. The only way we could get through it was if you had a tomato & peanut in every bite. Seriously. That was the only way. We asked for more peanuts & just piled them on. After each bite we would suck on the fruits the little kids gave us. We probably had like 30 fruits & they were all gone by the end of the meal. You don't really get that much fruit out of each one so all together it really wasn't that much but still. We tried to eat as much as we could. It really had potential to be a yummy meal, & she's fed us very yummy things before, this in particular was just not the best. It tasted like she poured a gallon of fish sauce on it. I was still very thankful for it though. Very very thankful. David thanked her for the meal after & told her we didn't finish & to let the kids eat the rest. I stayed for a sec & watched them eat. Seriously the biggest bites, not even phased by the fishy taste. It's amazing really. I think it's totally okay to be weirded out by things here, just as they would be if they came to America. Our cultures are just so different & I love it. Afterwards we got ice cream bars at 7-11 & it never tasted so good!! Okay sorry enough about the food. I'm done. Today was a good day. We leave to Chiang RAI tomorrow. A different place than Chiang MAI. Can't wait!
David, Liz, Jana, & I had quite the adventure. We went to the Daraang village to teach first aid. It's a little bit further & we didn't know exactly how to get there so we had to keep asking people on the road. Finally we made it & we were able to teach our class. They were really engaged & participative. They showed us some sores on a couple of the kids & they were wondering what it was. We weren't sure, we took pictures & told them we would research about it & get back to them next time we come. But pretty soon they were showing us more & more things on people's bodies & EVERYONE had these nasty sores on their bodies. I don't know if they were all the same thing but something is definitely contagious & going around their village. One lady said her husband had it first & then she got it on her stomach. Hers was about golf ball size or bigger. They told us that they itched & hurt. By this point I was ready to leave. I did not want to be there anymore. It was starting to make me sick & all I could think about was how I did not want it. We let them continue practicing cleaning & bandaging wounds & then made our way out! We all immediately put hand sanitizer on & hit the road. They are going back on Friday to teach dental but I won't be here cause I'll be in the south. I'm secretly happy. They definitely have a need there though & I think that would be a good place for HELP to really focus on next summer. We got a little lost on our way back home & played church music to calm our souls. Haha it was an interesting night.
We all kinda split up this morning, which is normal. One group taught swim lessons to the Akha kids at the pool & another group finished painting at Akha. I went to the jajusii (?) village with two others to teach our dental class, which is about 15 minutes from Akha. So we walked. This is the first time I've been. We had a Thai lady named Peone come with us because there's a big drug problem at jajusii so she comes just to be safe. She lives just outside the Akha village. Jajusii is a smaller village & very poor. I really didn't feel "unsafe" though. Honestly, I never do. I feel so safe here in Thailand. At least where I've been. Not once have I felt scared or threatened. It's a good place. Tonight we went to Lahu & half of the girls painted the murals while the other half went up top to the playground. We finished digging all the holes & placed the tires! Yay, progress!!! It feels so nice. Now we just need to clean & paint the tires. Oh & place the sand. You'll see pictures when it's finished. The best part about it all is that all the kids are helping us. So it's their project too & it will mean so much more to them because they did it. They are such hard workers. It's funny though, the whole time were working little girls will just hang on you & say your name over & over while you're trying to work. Sometimes we say things that you would never say if they could understand you. Lol it's kinda nice. Nothing mean, just things like, "okay okay go away!" Or "not in the mood little girl." We love them though. So much. Lol oh yeah btw the girl that gave me the picture her name is Tagaporn. I'm also her mom. They play this game & choose moms & pretend like they are our adoptive children. So I'm Tagaporns mom & she is my child. Ha she is so cute. I love her so much! It was a very successful & fun night at Lahu tonight. I don't think I've told you guys yet, but I bought my plane ticket a couple days ago to go to the south. We're flying to Krabi. Just a couple of us. I leave Wednesday & come back to fang Sunday! I'm so excited to just relax on the beach & visit the islands. It'll be a good little break.
This is at jajusii. These toys were donated from some Singapore students. They were opening the boxes while we were there. The girl in the green has a cleft pallet. & a couple others as well. I wanna look up the causes because none of the other villages have this problem.
We had our weekly team activity this morning. We joined with some of the Akha preschool kids & teacher. We went around to a couple different temples. We basically just watched them do their thing. There's a monk waiting inside the temple when you get there, you sit down & he starts doing weird chants & they give the monk gifts & they pray. I'm not exactly sure what's all going on & what everything symbolizes. But it was cool to watch & kinda cute watching 3 year olds pray. The second temple we went to had a casket with a dead monk inside. I don't know how old the body was but it was kinda disturbing. Not really sure why they kept that monks body over others. Haha weird. So even though they are Christian, I guess they still participate in Buddhism traditions because it's part of their culture. Plus tomorrow is a holiday for them. So that had something to do with it.
We worked on the playground some more at the Lahu village. It rained (surprise surprise) so the dirt was softer & so much easier to dig. At first it was just a few of us volunteers working on it, then slowly but surely 1 million kids showed up. They helped a little bit.. then things got a little out of control. The pictures will explain. But we had a mud fight & were covered in mud. Things are always a little obnoxious at Lahu. I love it though. I feel like I have a better connection with the kids at Lahu, so I enjoy going there. They also taught a acne/skin class to the girls at Lahu today. I wasn't really there for that but they taught skin health & did papaya facials on all the girls! So fun. In fact I think boys even joined in. They did facials on at least 50 people! Success!
SO MUCH RAIN.
A cute girl at Lahu drew me this. (I forget her name) but it says I love mar. Mar is me. They call me Mel, but it sounds like they say mar. I guess thy spell it mar too. Haha then on the other side it says from Tanaporn. Oh that's right. Tanaporn, her name is Tanaporn. You see why it's so hard to remember names! Okay actually I'm not sure, maybe her name is Chagtanaporn. Idk. I'll figure it out.
Taught another dental class today at the Akha village. Same routine. Went really well. We're running low on the toothbrushes, toothpaste, & floss though. I don't know if we're going to have enough for all the kids. Which is unfortunate. We're gonna look into buying more or getting some donated. We started building a playground at Lahu today. It will be similar to the "tires" one at Akha. It's actually really hard work. The dirt is so hard & it's making it difficult to dig holes for the tires. I'm so excited to see how it turns out. It will definitely take some time though. Some volunteers are teaching English to the government leaders. Which is awesome. They need to know it in order to communicate with countries & communities in the future.
It rained so much today. I was literally cold all day from about 3 pm to, well, now. It's the coldest I've ever been here. It didn't help that it started pouring rain while we were in the truck so we got soaked, plus wind blown. All I wanted was a warm shower when I got back home & I didn't get it. Nope. Cold shower for me. Sometimes it struggles & if someone else is showering or using water it shuts off or gets cold. You never know what you're gonna get. It's like a mystery. Haha its the funniest thing though when it shuts off on someone besides yourself cause you feel their pain, but you're just so happy it's not you. You just have to laugh, so you don't cry. Lol
That's all for today, sorry it's so short. I'm happy & loving Thailand! Bye.
Starting from scratch.
It's Monday! Start of a new week & it couldn't have been any better. We worked hard & got a lot done today. This morning we (almost finished) painting our murals at the Akha village & preparing the garden for the little kids to plant veggies in the tires. It took all morning to do but accomplished so much! I'll post pictures so you can see exactly what it looks like. Kinda hard to explain how we are using the tires & such in the garden, but it's such a cute idea I wanna do it with my kids in the future! Painting the mural was fun & we got a lot of it done because we were just drawing grass & flowers so you didn't have to have any artistic talent. Haha perfect.
We also painted at the Lahu village today. This mural is a bit more complicated & is taking more time because they wanted more detailed drawings. We are doing Moses parting the sea on one wall & Noah's ark on the other. Soo that'll be interesting. It looks good so far though!
I finally got to teach the dental classic at the Lahu village with one of the other volunteers, Liz. She brought a bunch of visuals to help teach; along with toothbrushes, toothpaste, & floss to give to the kids. It turned out great! Again, hard to explain the visuals but I have pictures so you can see & understand. Basically we had 5 kids come up & put pillow cases over their heads (that looked like teeth) & we demonstrated how to brush & floss. It was actually the cutest thing ever. Finally, we ended the night with a cultural experience. They wanted to share with us some traditions they have & a cultural dance. Well before I talk more about this I'm just gonna say how obnoxious things can be at the Lahu village sometimes because of all the kids, so many kids, so so many crazy kids. That being said, it made it really hard to hear & understand exactly what they were saying. Especially because Russell (team lead) was translating. Sooooo I don't really have a lot to say about it besides they dressed up in their native clothing, which was fun to see & they had a funky dance they showed us & had us all join in & follow along. It was dark, but I have a video to share that hopefully does justice.
I wish it wasn't so dark but the video is of the dance that they showed us & we eventually joined along in & these pics are some of the kids in their native clothing!
Check out this video on YouTube
Melanie is in this video beginning at 2:08. Fulfilling a dream on her bucket list!
Saturday was a fun filled day! We (Me, Abby, Madison, Courtney, & Mckenzie) woke up at 7:30 to wait for our ride outside of our hotel to go ride elephants!! They picked us up & a few other groups then we headed to the jungle, about an hour away. The place we went to was called "panda tours" it makes no sense & it's kinda hilarious. Haha it was such a good place though. We were nervous about the elephants being treated badly & stuff like that but we didn't get that vibe at all. They were very informative & told us everything. The place was actually located in a village & the owners of the elephants ARE the villagers. They are working elephants for the villagers. We were basically taking care of the elephants for them & the price we paid (50 dollars) pays for the food for the elephants, our lunch, & obviously the experience. Oh & I guess for the trainers to get paid too. So it is very self sufficient. When we got there we first changed into these dirty denim clothes & hung out with the elephants & fed them. I think the point was to get us comfortable with them. They are the cutest animals to me. It's trunk alone almost seems like an animal itself. It's weird. There was a little baby elephant that was 3 years old that kissed our cheeks. It felt like a vacuum suction! 3 is very young for an elephant. Elephants can live up to 90 years old!!! Like humans! So cool. We took a bunch of pictures & then the trainers taught us some basic Thai commands to control the elephants. Like stop, go, left, right, etc. We also practiced getting on & off the elephants. You grab it's ear & a chunk of fat on its side then step on its foot & say "lift, higher" in Thai.. (I already forgot oops) & it lifts & you walk up its leg & hop on! Just like that! Then to get off, you slide off the front by its trunk. They are so strong & thick, I felt like a feather on top of it. Playing with them is not like playing with a cat (that's what the trainer was saying) you have to be firm with them & sometimes that makes people think you are hurting them. But they like it! You can tell the trainers have good friendly relationships with them. Just like someone would with their dog. I guess it's possible that they could just be putting on a show, but I like to think the best of them & again it seemed legit. Anyways, Abby, Madison, & I rode on an elephant together. They took us around the jungle, not too far because they actually walk really slow. Big steps, but slow. We went through a river & a lot of mud. At first it was difficult to stabilize yourself on the bare back but you got used to it. Half way through the trainer (when I say trainer just know I'm talking about the same one every time) he was the fun/funny one! So halfway through he jumped onto the back of our elephant & rode the rest of the way with us. He kinda came out of nowhere, I don't even know how he jumped on... Maybe off a big rock or tree... I don't remember. Haha then we rode to a watering hole at the end & slid off the elephant into the water. They gave us buckets & this weird tree bark stuff to scrub & wash the elephant with. After we finished scrubbing the elephant ate the bark we washed it with. I guess they will eat anything. Haha Then the trainer started throwing buckets of water on us & thus began our water fight! We got completely soaked, head to toe. That was one of my favorite parts. Just hanging out in the water with these huge elephants having a water fight in Thailand! Cool. I still can't believe I rode an elephant. It's been something I've wanted to do for so long & now I've done it!! Makes me realize how possible it is to do so many things on my bucket list. Check! Afterwards they fed us lunch, curry. & then we headed back to our hotel & relaxed a bit before going to the walking street (street market) oh wait. Before that we went to Dukes! I can't forget about Dukes! They serve the best American food in all the world. Seriously. & its run by all Asians. Their menu is huge they have everything! Madison & I split a calzone. Bomb. The only problem with the place is that their wifi never works. Haha THEN we went to the walking street. I like this market best because they have more hand crafted things, it was just so crowded! We were there for a while then some of the girls wanted to go back to the hotel because they were tired. It was only 8 & I still wanted to go to Muay Thai boxing. I've realized since being here that if there are certain things I wanna do sometimes I just have to make it happen. I thought everyone would be the same way because we are in Thailand! But I guess not. Plus a lot of the girls have been here longer so they have already experienced things that some of us haven't yet. Anyways long story short only Madison & I ended up going. We got a tuk tuk to a bar & realized once we got there that it wasn't the training match (free) one we thought. So we were trying to decide what to do. We were gonna go back to the hotel cause we didn't want to pay, plus it was a sketch environment.. but then we got the price lowered from 400 baht to 200 baht each. Half off. Score! A lady took us back & we got front row cushioned seats. I don't even know how... I was confused, we paid half price & got "special treatment" cool. It was just a small place at a bar so it's not like it was really that much different than the back row, but it was still just funny. The match was sweet! I've never seen anything like it so close in person. I don't know how legit & good they really were but the experience was still awesome! Madison met a Russian man that was sitting next to us (she served in russia) & they were talking the whole time. I think it was fun for her to speak Russian & he couldn't believe she was an American, speaking Russian in Thailand he thought she was like a princess! He was floored when he found out she was married. Too young he said. Ha She shared the gospel with him a bit cause he asked how she knew Russian & then she gave him LDS.org. So cool. We were only going to stay for a bit but we ended up staying till midnight! We got out of there way fast after though & got a tuk tuk to our hotel. Met another cool dude in the tuk tuk. That's one thing I love about Chiang Mai. All the people we meet from different countries & places. It's fun. Such a great day.
They run her legs & dump ice water over her after each match.
We spent the morning at the Akha village preparing a garden & washing walls to paint a mural on it. We're helping them make a garden for the little kids to grow veggies. We flipped old bike tires inside out because they are using them for the garden. It's kinda hard to explain but they are going to lay the tires down & plant inside the circles. Cute idea! Then a sweet lady at the village fed us lunch. They've been feeding us a lot lately. Haha it's great! Then we left for Chiang Mai around 2:00. Everybody went in a van but Abby & I left a little earlier on the bus because it takes longer. It was quite the adventure. NO ONE IN FANG SPEAKS ENGLISH, or very little of it. The ladies at the bus station were just laughing at us, it was actually really frustrating & rude but they didn't know what else to do I guess. Finally we called Russ to talk to them on the phone & explain what & where we needed to go. I like the bus better cause it's more airy & it's cheaper! 3 hours later we got to Chiang Mai & ate at a Japanese buffet. So bomb. The freshest sushi ever. Then... I had a life changing experience. A couple of us got a Thai massage. It was literally life changing. They really go all in, using their whole bodies to stretch & massage ours. It was seriously the best service & only 8 bucks for an hour. Tea & cookies included.
Hello! Hope all is well. I am doing good. These past two days have been a little slow. Some things fell through yesterday so I ended up taking a long (much needed) nap through the afternoon. Yesterday morning we did paint at the Lahu village though. We are painting a small building that I think they use as a cafeteria. We're painting the inside walls a light light blue & a Noah's ark mural (upon request) & Adam & Eve (also upon request) haha then the outside is a bright bright blue! It's a pretty color, I really like it. It will probably take a week or two to finish the murals & stuff. Especially because the kids keep breaking in before it dries & putting their dirty feet on the wall & drawing on it with sharpie. Literally. Ugh. They're cute though sooooooo. Ha They have some other paintings that were here before I got here & it's amazing how much better it makes their village look. Most of the painting are from HELP In other years. Project beautify is what we call it!:) Anyways so that's what we did before I slept the afternoon away. Then last night we taught first aid and had a BBQ at the Akha village. It pretty much was just us eating chicken & veggies with our fingers as it came off the grill. Haha it was so yummy. Russell (team lead) is a great cook turns out!
Ps. My friend Madison I told you about, please keep her in your prayers. Her dad has ALS & just passed away this morning. She is so strong. I know she will be okay. Thanks guys!!!
We can all make a difference. That's why I set off on a 38-day, 7,000-mile journey through the slums of Thailand to give food to the hungry, hope to the helpless, and relief in the face of despair all along