As you can tell, I am catching you up on a few days at once. As I initially promised, I wanted to have something for each day, and I stand committed to that. What I have realized, however, is that while I might be able to share something from each day--exciting or not--I may not necessarily be able to actually post it to The Dandygram everyday. For instance, we went nearly 24 hours without internet at the house here in Chiang Rai.
While this type of situation doesn't affect me much, it is important to others. And, it seems I've been "on the go" since I arrived, so when there is some time to relax and lounge--especially in the morning--it is incredibly hard to type away for an update and not talk with the others here about their time in Thailand. So, take delight in that fact that I am sitting on a bus to Chiang Rai (with Rachel, Nate, Deirdre, and Christa) typing up days worth of adventures and stories. Thank you for your patience; I definitely have some great stories to share with you!
Speaking of . . .
Monday was not an early morning per se, but today, we had an agenda. It was a great way to start a week because there have definitely been moments since I finished this past semester at UC Berkeley (and with a 3.7!!) that I have felt guilty about this entire month out of work and school. For example, I walk over to the main house some mornings to find Rachel, Nate, or some of the others already gone and/or working. I then have a feeling--one that has nearly been engrained since starting at Cal or even long before while in the Air Force--that I need to be working or busy reading or typing papers.
You all know the feeling very well: "I need to be doing something!"
Call it a western mentality, being a busy-body, or whatever. It exists, and I dislike it very much, but this feeling is just part of visiting with family and friends while traveling. Soon enough, I'd be getting my wish for work and would do something to get my hands (and feet) dirty with a day's work at the SOLD Resource Center (or the Freedom Project--the name given to the SOLD Project's work specifically being done at the Resource Center and in the village).
I was really looking forward to the hard work ahead of me, but today, on this Monday, the few of us remaining in the house around 10am had our agenda full of tasks that would be accomplished before 1pm in order to hear Rachel's presentation at the Resource Center for the Westmont students.
That morning, Christa and I had made up our minds that we needed to rent scooters for the few days in Chiang Rai before we left on Wednesday for Chiang Mai. As well, I needed to get more baht (Thai money), but since I haven't yet called my bank and notified them of my travels abroad (I know, I know...), I was stuck with doing it the hard and long way: exchanging dollars for baht instead of a simple ATM transaction. Oh well. Once I run out of cash/baht, I figure that will be what finally gets me on the phone with my damn bank since I've learned how after your first withdrawal at a foreign ATM without prior notification to your bank, your account is frozen. I'd obviously rather make the five minute phone call instead of the 20 minutes I've been told it would take me on the phone with a Wells Fargo representative to get my ATM card out of the ice.
After what seemed like a wait at the DMV with ticketed numbers, tellers, and a very long line, I now had fresh and crispy bahts burning a hole in my pocket just waiting to be used for a SCOOTER! Thankfully, Brady was already at the rental place to help smooth out the transaction, and he was incredibly patient as we attempted to keep them for a day and half (instead of just one). It was noon, so we essentially had two more full days before our bus ride to Chiang Mai. We managed to figure out that it was 100 baht (roughly 3 US$) every hour after a 24-hour rental period. Therefore, we settled on just one day because logically, an extra five hours to get a half day in would have been the price for two days. Bummer.
We still needed lunch and decided on Cow Soi--only the finest dish in all of Northern Thailand.
Cow Soi is a pretty simple Thai dish native to the northern region and is basically noodles and pork served in a mildly spicy coconut milk broth. It's a very light lunch, not too filling, but it is one of the favorite dishes among many of the others in our group.
With full stomachs and a gang of motorbikes, we were finally on our way to the Resource Center to hear Rachel give a volunteer information session to the 20 Westmont students. Along with a full audience sitting in the same chairs as the Thai children just days before, I was blown away by Rachel's riveting presentation on the background of trafficking and prostitution in Thailand, who is involved, why the Freedom Project exists, and finally, where people or students can find their niche to "prevent child prostitution through culturally relevant programs for vulnerable children and to share their stories to empower creative, compassionate people to act" (SOLD's mission statement). Kudos to Rachie and the rest of SOLD for all that you've done and continue to do.
Shortly thereafter, we drove 2 minutes away to the primary school where the village's children attend in order for the Westmont students to introduce themselves to the children whose homes they would be staying for a night in the village, or a home stay.
As the children walked home from school, we met them back in the village where Rachel Goble-Carey then grouped the Westmonsters into pairs and assigned them to different homes. The butterflies were definitely flying amongst them, but they remained extremely positive and enthusiastic--even with the distinct possibility of mosquitos, roosters crowing long before the crack of dawn, and frog's legs for breakfast. Every single student left the trucks that afternoon with smiles on their faces--especially because some of the girls stayed in homes with puppies or toddlers while others stayed with teenagers who spoke great English. It looked like a great opportunity nonetheless, but what I feared most for them was the lack of sleep they would get with a big day ahead of us all . . .
Next up on The Dandygram: Concreting, Dredging, Painting, and Celebrating!