We've begun our first week of volunteering...though it wasn't a typical week. All of the Mirror Foundation staff were away for an annual staff meeting in Southern Thailand meaning we, the volunteers, were sent to "work" somewhere else. After our 1st two days of orientation (sitting around) at Mirror, we all headed off to a small village outside of Mae Chan and stayed with Mr. Van, who could sleep and feed all 25 of us (the richest man in the village - his house is built above all the other houses symbolizing his status in the community).
Day 1 We were told, much to our disappointment, that we had the whole day off to relax. We were given a tour of Mr. Van's unbelievable house (which he built and wired himself!), discovered his mom lives in Oakland, and enjoyed the first of many of his delicious home-cooked meals. Anna spent the week sleeping on a dentist chair, as the only other option was the cold stone floor, while Jamie slept on a soft mattress.
Days 2-3 The work finally started. Our task was to build cement bases for the school playground (don't ask us why). We got to chop down bamboo trees with machetes, which were sliced down to strips and used as tensile support for the concrete. Next we mixed cement with rocks and sand and water (with changing proportions each time) and finally we poured it. We're not sure what this does for the playground but it was satisfying work for us.
Day 4 It was our group's day to teach the childcare down the street (basically a preschool ages 2 to 6). While we were only scheduled to teach in the morning, the regular teacher decided to take the week off so we taught the full day. The day started off calm, with structured art projects and "the Meditation Song" (don't get it stuck in your head!), but ended in chaos, with children clinging to every limb and a boy crying because he pooped his pants.
Days 5-6 For whatever reasons, all work was canceled so we sat around, read books, took walks, and watched crap-amazing movies (Mr Van owned DVDs purchased at the border which each included 36 different films under genres such as "Beauty Action Spy Movies" or "Mel Gibson v.s. Colin Farrel").
Night 6 Anna gets sick. Natural detox for 2 days (gross)
Day 7 While Anna lays on her dentist chair, Jamie (and everyone else) goes to the "zoo" (really a breeding facility for rare animals in the region). The zoo was nothing special, but the hike and its accompanying views were amazing. We caught a noon sawngthaew that left at 1:30 (Thai Time) and headed back to Chiang Rai for our weekend off.
Where Jamie slept at Mr. Van's.
Kids sliding outside the school (sorry about the hand in the picture).