Saturday, January 24, 2009

Matching Tevas

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.

Will post sooner, we promise.

Where Jamie slept at Mr. Van's.

The girl on the right is carrying her baby brother.

Meditation at Mae Chan winery.

Can you find Anna? (on a hike near Mr. Van's)


Chickens everywhere.

Chopping down bamboo.

Those are our sunglasses!

Kids sliding outside the school (sorry about the hand in the picture).


  1. Great to talk with you AND I sure wish I was a four year old Thai child! Looks like it is just too much fun to be around you guys.

    Also, I am so pleased that my dextrous skills have been passed on to you and that you can handle a machete with such skill.

    Love Mom

  2. Not sure what happened to comment I just tried posting. I think I erased it. Anyhow, I was wondering WHY Jamie got a great mattress while Anna had to choose between dentist's chair and the cold, hard floor. Not fair.

    Also wanted to say that your blog is GREAT. Hard to tell who writes what -- you're a good team and the photos are so much fun to see. Thanks for taking us along with us for the ride.

    -- (Jamie's) Mom

  3. How good to read this and hear about your experiences. All the kids smiles make me smile too. It sounds like you are having an amazing time and getting a unusually real sense of a culture as a tourist. Keep having fun! Tina

  4. halloooo again,
    the photographs you posted are really nice- the kids are so cute im scared you might bring home a few with you. i also just love having images and an idea of where you are and what your doing. keep posting more stuff its really something fun to see.

    home has been nice, we went on a beautiful hike in point reyes today to the coast. the house is quiet though and i miss you!
    maybe we can skype sometime this week? (by the way sorry i missed you yesterday i was in the city with friends)
    xoxoxo LOVE LOVE LOVE
    ps you must remember a couple of thai phrases (that are hopefully better than the "special" ones i know in norwegian)

  5. guyzzzz
    how interesting it is to see and read about your cultural immersions, as i sit in school majoring in just that...hmmm, maybe i should have just stuffed myself into one of your suitcases.
    it all looks great, i wish i could be one of those little kids having that much fun on a slide.
    shman, i'm sorry you got sick, and ya, why did you sleep on a dentist's chair, and not jamie?
    washington is cold...with a little snowflaking today. Otherwise, i really like my classes and have great profs (or so i think so far...its only been two days of each class)
    still working, and am in a play.
    Miss you guys much, can we try to skype soon?

  6. Great pictures, especially of the kids.

    Kind of cool concept— teachers with machetes. Must do wonders for classroom management.

    Keep it coming,


  7. Jammmiieeee and Annnnaaaaaa! Sawat dee!

    Have you found the right Thai baby to bring back for me?

    My favorite part of this blog post might be the little kid who's trying valiantly to have fun in the middle of the see-saw...

    When you find enlightenment in your full lotus position, please remember what it's like so you can enlighten me when you get back home.

    Wonderful blog, guys.