I'm writing another post here at the Bangkok airport because I am bored & I have all night to do so.... But MOSTLY because my heart is so full & I am feeling so many feelings I need to write them down. Today as I left Fang & rode the bus for the last time to Chiangmai, I couldn't keep in the tears. Not because I'm sad to go home, but because I am happy! I am so happy to have had such an amazing experience here in Thailand. To learn & grow so much. I've had this dream to come here for so long & to think I've come & now I'm already leaving is crazy! I am so content. I looked out the open window the entire drive just trying to capture every piece of Thailand in my mind. I don't ever want to forget it. I've fallen in love with this country & the people here, It's makes me sad to think that I may never see this part of the world ever again. Multiple times on the drive when I made eye contact with someone on the street as we passed by, their face would light up & they would smile real big & wave to me! This isn't unusual & I know it is just because I am a farang. (White person) but it touched me a little bit differently this time. I felt as if they were waving goodbye. This has happened a million times before, like everyday in Fang, but this time I really soaked it in. Fang is different than any other place I've been. I feel like a famous person in Fang! They act like they have never seen a white person before (some of them probably haven't) even though it's only three hours away, It's a much different place than Chiangmai. Fang will always have a special place in my heart!
Liz, Ellen, Madison, & Cees were all with me. We first dropped our luggage off at the church then went down the street for Thai massages. This time was a little painful. Or a lot. I asked for firm & that's exactly what I got! It was not very relaxing. Honestly I was in pain most of the time & my body is sore now. I also think she pinched a nerve in my neck. It's okay though because the tea & cookies they give you before & after is worth it all! Don't worry, I bought some for the fam! Plus, it was happy hour so cheaper price! Score. Liz & Ellen then left for their flight... Then there were three. Our numbers just keep getting smaller & smaller. Madison Cees & I roamed the streets for a bit & got a few last minute souvenirs & went in a Buddhist temple. We then decided we should make our way to the mall, which is close by the airport. We chilled there with ALL of our luggage. Mostly just sat & relaxed. It was nice. Then we went to the airport. They are actually taking a bus to Bangkok, but the reason why Cees & Madison came with me to the airport is because they were picking up Cees's luggage (with all his rock climbing, high lining, & camera gear in it) that didn't make it because it got lost when he switched flights & got paid 1000 dollars for doing so. They said it would be here in Chiangmai at 5:30, but it wasn't & they don't know where it is. So yeah, that's the VERY short & confusing story on that. Hopefully they find it & get it back:/ anyways, I then said goodbye to sweet sweet Madison & made my way to my gate. I don't know how I can be happy & sad at the same time, but I am. I'm so so grateful for this opportunity I've had. Thank you Thailand!
Today we cleaned. Lots & lots of cleaning! Mostly just packing things up & putting them in boxes. The worst part was cleaning the truck. Thick white paint was spilt all over the bed of it. It's oil paint so we have to use paint thinner to get it off. It's such intense stuff. Like strait up acid. It literally burns your skin. We were wearing gloves & it still managed to do damage. BUT that's okay because after a lot of scrubbing we got it all off. There's only 7 of us here now. It's really weird, we all fit in one truck now. Man, I'm going to miss all the volunteers I've met here. But hopefully I see them when I make my way to Provo because that's where the majority of them live. We got to meet Cees today. That's Madison's husband! They are cute. He met up with us here in Fang & they are going to travel the south for a bit before heading back to America. We said goodbye to the akha village tonight. So sad. I'm going to miss all the wonderful people I've met here! Especially Aroon & his family. They are such good people & I just want the best for them because if anyone deserves it, they do! Wow, I can't believe my time here is over. I fly home tomorrow! How did that even happen!? Thank you Thailand. You've changed me for the better!
2 more days
I'm going to miss this beautiful country and the amazing people here that I was able to help & in exchange helped me. I am forever changed by my experiences. Thank you Thailand! Thank you.
When the kiddos take super cute selfies, but get their finger in every single one.
3 more days
We took the girls from the akha village swimming this morning & after we got crepes! We let three of the little boys come that didn't get to come to the dudes swim party yesterday. I didn't swim this time though. I just sat poolside & got some rays. While they were swimming Misa (one of the girls) gave me some bracelets to hold. Later when we dropped them off and were saying our goodbyes, before we drove off she ran over & gave me one of them. She is the sweetest. That took most of the morning & afternoon. We got a very short break, but not really, because during it Madison & I started cleaning out one of the trucks. Paint is ALL over the bed of the truck. It's oil paint so we have to use this intense paint thinner to get it off & it burns your hands if you're not wearing gloves. So yeah, not fun. We have a lot of cleaning to do tomorrow before we all head out. Anyways, we then made our way to Lahu. We taught aerobics & a tobacco/drug class. Ma & pa made us a going away/thank you dinner. It was really yummy! I'm not sure if we will see them again or not so we said our goodbyes just in case. It was really sad. It hasn't really hit me yet. But a few tears were shed.
4 more days
Today was another chill day. We were planning on getting up early to go to church at the Akha village by 6:30, but we accidentally slept through. Oops. We did end up going to the very beginning of a church meeting later that day though. They are catholic & have a few different meetings through out the day. The priest is a very very old white man. I guess he must live around here & conducts their church meetings every week. It was an interesting experience. We left early though & went to lahu & handed out a bunch of bracelets that we have been making for them. Just a little something to leave behind & give the kids. We didn't have anything planned at the villages, we were just going there to hang out & let Shivanni say goodbye to everyone because she leaves tomorrow. Abby left today. Sad. Things are a little quieter without her. Haha this morning she took family portraits at the Akha village & we're gonna get them printed out to give to them. That was one of her project ideas she wanted to do. Good thing she got it done last day!!
Today we had a pool party! It was kinda like a celebration for finishing swim lessons. We gave the boys certificates & had a good ole time at the pool! It was only boys at the party because girls and boys don't swim together. Not because they aren't allowed but because they don't like to. The boys make fun of the girls & the girls are self conscious. Kinda sad. So it was just a dudes party today. We made pancakes & egg sandwiches! You guys would probably die if you saw where we were cooking at the pool. Haha I should have taken a picture. Honestly though, it's always kinda disturbing when you see where restaurant around here cook the food & wash the dishes. You just can't look or else you'll be grossed out. I've gotten used to it though. There's a lot of things I've gotten used to & okay with while being here. Haha well, that's about all for today. Other than that we just had a chill Saturday relaxing & hanging out.
Today was the fastest day ever! I can't believe it's already over. This morning half of our group went to Akha to pick fruits while half of us went to teach baby yoga at Lahu. They were so cute the whole time during yoga until after we finished. They were out of control! Seriously, we were like okay, we gotta leave now! Haha then we met the other group at Akha & helped them pick fruits. We did that for a long time. Like a few hours. We took a break & Aroon fed us lunch. Super yummy masaman curry with vegetables. He cut all the vegetables in different shapes for us. He's seriously the best. Aroon & his wife both are so solid. They are like the power couple. Then we picked more fruits. I would describe the fruit as a grape & cantaloupe mixed with the texture of a grapefruit. They aren't that great. I still ate a million though because we were picking them for so long. Basically, the dudes would cut off branches with machetes then bring them over to us to pick the fruit off. We ended up with about 8 huge bags! He then sold them to some place for 8000 baht! Cool. That's all we really did today cause it's the weekend now! We are all staying here in fang though so it's been a pretty chill night. Some of us napped for like three hours & now we're about to make brownie pancakes. We call them pancakes because no oven.
They had som tum for all the moms afterwards. When they were consigned eating we got to make our own som tum! It was actually really fun & mine turned out super yummy! I want one of those mashing bowls, I can't remember what they are called but I'm definitely going to get one, along with the other supplies to make som tum at home. So easy once you have all the ingredients & stuff. Then we went to jajutsi to finish the playground. We got it done so fast. So fast! Seriously we cranked through it. It's so colorful! Hopefully the kids like it. The tire playgrounds have been a hit everywhere else!! This evening we went to lahu to do aerobics while Russell taught a family relationships class. I literally feel like a jungle gym when I go to lahu. My hands are never free because someone is always holding it & kids just hang on you. The whole time. They are so cute but it really just wipes you out & you feel so dirty & sticky after! Haha it's gonna be so sad leaving them. One week & I'll be home!!! That's crazy. Excited to see you all!
It's Mother's Day in Thailand, so HAPPY MOTHERS DAY MOM! Thank you mama. Love you!
Today was Mother's Day here in Thailand! We went to the Fang market this morning while Russell & David were at the soccer tournament the villages were having. I SAW SOME PRETTY CRAZY THINGS AT THE MARKET. Like a lady selling chickens that literally had guts hanging out. I also saw pig snouts for sale. Oh and a shark. A literal shark. They eat the weirdest things! Later we watched one of their tournament games but they lost so they didn't move on. I was happy because that meant we got to leave. IT WAS BLAZING HOT. Then we went to jajutsi village to dig the holes for the tires were using for a playground were making. The dirt was so much softer than the other playgrounds we've made. We were done so fast.
Tomorrow we will place the tires & paint them. This evening we participated in the Akha village festival! It involved a lot more swinging, water balloon toss, & traditional dancing. Some of the older ladies & young kids dressed in their traditional clothing & did a little dance & music show that we joined along in. When I say show I mean they played music & walked in a circle. It was awesome though! Their clothing is so beautiful! I LOVE IT SO MUCH. They are all so beautiful. Oh yeah, I also cut hair for the first time today! Madison let me cut her hair. She's so chill.
This is baby james & his parents (village leaders) You guys. This is the first time
we've seen baby james smile! 5 weeks & he finally cracked! He's sooooooo cute!!!
I really don't know much about the background of the Akha traditions & what the meaning of the swing & everything is. But Tyler found some interesting & pretty accurate (from what I've heard) information.
Akha people who have converted from their traditional belief system (worship of the ancestors, or animism) to Christianity, hold on to some of their original customs and ceremonies IF they convert to catholicism.
Those who move to a protestant based faith, discard all of this. It explains why in some Christian Akha villages, the traditional swing, and spirit gates, can still be seen, while they have disappeared from others.
Hundreds of years ago the Akha had their own kingdom in China, but it was conquered by stronger tribes. Many Akha were made slaves, while others fled to remote mountain areas. Later, these refugees were chased away again, further to the south into Burma, where, so it turned out, peace was also difficult to find. About 1900, the first Akha crossed the border to settle in the mountainous north of Thailand. The kingdom was to become a relatively safe and peaceful haven for them. More than 40,000 Akha now live in Thailand spread among 200 villages, most of them in Chiang Rai province. But another 700,000 Akha still live in China, Burma, Laos and Vietnam.
‘For centuries they have fled suppression,’ explained the late Dr. Leo Alting von Geusau (1), a well-known Akha-expert who lived in Chiang Mai. ‘So, when missionaries and anthropologists described them as semi-nomadic, this was a rather slanted interpretation of the real situation. They are born losers who have internalized their fate. Mere survival has become the core of their culture. They regard the outside world with great suspicion, as being full of potential evil forces. Even now, visiting officials are regarded with distrust and spoken to with sweet words and offered glasses of rice liquor to appease them. But once a year the Akha throw off these feelings of constraint. Then, after the rice has been planted, they erect giant swings in their villages, ‘because when you don’t have your country any more,’ according to a Akha New Year song, ‘you still can feel free while swinging in the air.’
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