The Last Few Days
We took a break from our service work and traveled to visit a cave that used to be inhabited by the Burmese. Inside were sculptures of the budda used for people to worship but most of the cave contained natural caverns and rock formations. We were led through the caves by guides with gas lamps because there were no other sources of light. After this we ate lunch and then drove to a near by hill tribe village where we began a hike through the mountains hill tribe corn farms to get to the lodge where we would spend the night.
In the morning we went on another hike around the neighboring communities and then returned to the lodge where we were taught how to make papaya salad for our lunch. After this we left the lodge and drove to a waterfall before coming back to home base.
Today we returned to our service work in two separate groups like before, (one going to the agape orphanage and the other going to the wildflower womens home). The rest of the day we spent doing activities including visiting another waterfall and going to a buffalo camp were we learned about how water buffalos are trained and used for work and also about traditional rice farming.
– by Vicki and Trinity
Today we woke up to a delicious feast of fried rice and fruit to give us energy for our adventures in the hills of Chiang Mai. We drove an hour from home base out of Chiang Mai proper to a biking/kayaking excursion. We rode our bikes through small villages and various rice farmlands for 2 ½ hours. It was tiring but the beautiful views paid off for our hard work. After lunch, we embarked on tandem kayaks to explore the lake and play games on the water.
After putting on some dry clothes we piled into the vans and headed to the Sunday night walking market in Chiang Mai, where we ate dinner and shopped at the various handicraft stands. Afterwards we all met at Burger King to return to home base. We are all going to bed now and looking forward to hiking tomorrow.
– Griffin and Virginia
Sawadika everyone! Yesterday started out just like any other day with an amazing breakfast. At 9 we departed for service. I, Jen, went to Wildflower and there iI got to play with the kids. It was so much fun even though the twins wouldn’t stop crying. It was a great day at Wildflower.
While Jen was at Wildflower, I, Faithe, went to the Agape orphanage where we spent about two hours playing with the children. The boys spent their time playing “futbol” while the girls played with the little ones on the trampoline or in a game of ping-pong. We Americans lost in ping-pong every time!
We then departed to a historical village where we all got dressed up in traditional Thai clothing with all the Wildflower women and children and the Agape kids. While everyone else went to get some snacks and treats, Galen and I were too busy holding two adorable twins who were only two months old! They were sleeping in our arms and we just couldn’t let them go! I think we considered the idea of adopting them.
While Faithe was holding the baby, I had to watch over a seven year old boy from Agape who is just the sweetest thing I have ever met in my life and I wish I could just take him home with me.
At the end of the activity we had a delicious lunch, went back to home base and later that evening we went to the night bazaar where we had dinner, actually, a feast at a place called “The Duke’s.” Jen and Virginia chowed down a whole plate of ribs and two plates of fried chicken. They even did a competition to see if they could eat 6 pieces of wings in 2 minutes. Then Faithe and I went shopping after dinner at the night bazaar where we went crazy and bought a bunch of stuff and at the end of the night we were like “ok no more shopping!”
– Jen and Faithe
The Dawn of the Spider – Parts I & II
The day was June 27, 2014. I (Peter) woke up this morning and made my way groggily to the bathroom, where I was expecting to complete my morning routine. I flipped on the light switch, walked in, and started to set my stuff down, when I noticed a MASSIVE spider just chilling on the wall, maybe 4 inches away from my face.
I can’t remember a time when I had ever run faster than at that moment!
Fast forward to 9:00 AM. My team and I arrived at Wildflower Home, a home for single mothers in need. We were given an introduction and then went to start our service work. We assisted in the production of the herbal shampoos and conditioners that come exclusively from the Wildflower Home, made by those who inhabit it. We peeled Kefir Limes, chopped up the peel, and then used a mortar and pestle to create a fine substance.
We had lunch at the home, and then drove to a 3D Art Museum. We spent the afternoon there, and finished the afternoon at the coffee shop connected to the museum, where the Wi-Fi was greatly appreciated.
Fast forward to 6:30 PM. The other team had come back and we went to check if the spider from earlier was still there. Naturally, it was. After we tried to kill it, as it ran towards us (all eight of its dangling legs in motion), an unnamed mentor (Allie) figuratively peeing her pants, and a Thai staff member hearing our screams and running in to get rid of the spider, we were all left with one ridiculous story to tell: a story of survival.
– Peter Ganovsky
My morning was sadly much less eventful.
After a relaxing morning, we headed out at 9:30 for the 3D Art Museum. Now, this was no normal boring art museum. Throughout the museum there were many different paintings and illusions to take pictures in and with. After walking through, we spent an hour at the museum café, relaxing before our service in the afternoon. After an hour at the café, we headed out to the Agape for our first day.
For the past week my group has been working at the Wildflower home (for the record, we did much more work than Peter’s group!). When we arrived we were greeted by Kelly, an excited Australian who works at the orphanage. We were shown around the orphanage and led to a room where we received our formal introduction. We watched a video about Agape’s past, which highlighted the founder, Avis. Unfortunately, my group did not get to meet Avis because she returned to Canada to work on her book.
The rest of the day was simply amazing. We spent about an hour doing service. When that was over the kids arrived home from school and we spent the afternoon and early evening playing with the children. We ate dinner with the kids and then returned to the home base to spend the evening playing cards and hanging out (well, not including the aforementioned spider attack)
– Riley Janeway
2 Perspectives on Wildflower and Agape
Agape is an orphanage for children living with HIV. Our visits have been very emotional and it has been difficult to digest their situations. Our groups has been splitting our time working to clean and repair the exterior of Agape’s facilities. We have also been interacting with the kids and the staff. All of us have been traveling on half-day excursions to various destinations in and around Chiang Mai, such as going to a Buddhist university and having an intimate chat with a practicing monk. Additionally, we enjoyed touring one of the most famous temples in Thailand, Wat Doi Suthep. On the flip side, we also had a rejuvenating relaxation rendezvous at a local reservoir. It shocks us that our trip is halfway done and we are flabbergasted at the closeness of our group.
Our day at Agape was quite eventful. After a couple hours of shoveling dirt and cleaning gutters, we got the special opportunity of witnessing an adoption. We joined the Agape kids and Avis for a sending off prayer. After being joined by an Australian school group that helped us keep all 103 kids in line, we spent our remaining time getting crafty with the kids, making paper flowers, kites, and friendship bracelets. We enjoyed getting to work with the kids, especially competing with a 38-person Australian squad. Our time at Agape gave us incredible insight and perspective on those who live with HIV. Although Agape’s residents live with uncontrollable diseases, their happiness is contagious. The wonderful volunteers and staff make a home out of an orphanage for kids who are ostracized by society.
Over at Wildflower, a home for young women facing familial or financial adversity, we split our morning into two parts. When we arrived, we helped shovel and transport soil to the playground where the young children of the mothers played. This was a task we were accustomed to, having worked on the same project for the preceding three days. After completing this, however, we were able to help peel, chop, and mash limes that would be used in an organic shampoo. This shampoo is chemical free, and is used to cleanse the women and their babies, while excess is sold to support the home. It was a particularly satisfying day at Wildflower to learn how the shampoo is made and to know that we were making a more direct impact on helping the home.
Our non-service activity for everyone was pottery at the Chiang Mai University. We learned from Thai ceramicists how to use clay to create mugs, necklaces, key chains, and casts of different animals. This was a unique and excellent activity because it was a step back from the role of the tourist and explorer; it allowed us to interact with the locals, use the creative mind, and complete a fun hands-on project.
We are excited to switch service locations tomorrow for the rest of our time here, and to participate in new and unique adventures. It is crazy to think that we are over halfway through our trip, and that after eleven days the students have all grown so close. Thank you for tuning in to our experiences in Thailand and we are excited to be able to share even more!!Here are some more photos from our recent adventures:
We’re writing to you after an incredible week of teaching English at two local elementary schools, as well as a weekend of Elephant riding and zip-lining! Needless to say, students have had a pretty busy schedule over the last seven days. However, energy levels are high due to the excitement surrounding each new activity!
This past week, GLA students did a fantastic job working with one another to develop creative strategies to engage their young Thai counterparts in the classroom. Lessons were taught on subjects such as basic greetings, colors, shapes and animals. Our main purpose within these schools was to not only teach English, but also create and environment that made learning English fun and purposeful to students who traditionally have little access to communicating with native English speakers. Overall, our time within each school was a complete success! Both GLA and Thai students came away with the realization that the most important language in this world is simply energy. Although there were many times when neither party could understand one another, students founds that forming bonds with others is as simple as sharing a quiet smile or boisterous laughter.
Following our week of teaching, we headed to a province north of Chiang Mai to relax and cool off in a river while helping to bathe ELEPHANTS! Being around such majestic beings was truly an experience that will not be forgotten. The elephants certainly enjoyed their bath, and we equally enjoyed their playful nature as we continuously dodged the water from their mega squirt-gun trunks!
On Sunday morning, we visited a local village that provided us with a brief tour and history of their agriculturally sustainable community as well as time to make handicrafts such as leaf ornaments, paper journals, and tissue paper ornaments, alongside community members. After lunch, we proceeded to our zip-lining course! Everyone had a blast while conquering their fears amongst the canopies of 100 ft tall trees north of Chiang Mai.
After an eventful week, we ended our first seven days in Thailand with a night stroll down Chiang Mai’s famous Sunday night street market. During this time, we had the opportunity to shop for local crafts, indulge in the extraordinary cuisines, and most importantly – reflect on our experiences and the impact they’ve had on each of us thus far.
Energy is the most important language one can possess.
Here are some photos of us from the past couple of days. We’ll send more, along with additional blog posts, as we go!
Greetings from Chiang Mai, Thailand!!!
Two days ago over the course of the day members of our student group arrived at the Chiang Mai airport. This was essentially a rest day for our students to settle in, try the wonderful food prepared by our warm and welcoming cooks, and spend time by the pool reading and relaxing. By the time the last group of students arrived it was night time here and so we provided a dinner of Pad Thai and vegetable soup and then everyone went off to sleep.
Yesterday, Monday, was our first official day of the program. After staff and student introductions in the morning and some fun get-to-know-you activities as well as a crash course in speaking Thai we departed for a city tour of Chiang Mai. Our first stops were at the Nong Krai school and the Wat pa Koi Tai School. These are the 2 schools that our students will be teaching English at for the next several days. We then drove to the center of the city and visited 2 very distinct Buddhist temples. At each temple we learned a bit about the iconography of the paintings on the wall, the significance of different Buddhist statues, as well as the cultural norms of how to enter a temple, how to sit, and where to place one’s feet.
The energy of our group really began to come together on this city tour and the students were all very keen and interested in everything that was new like driving on the left side of the road, noticing the dress of Thai monks, noticing how many motorbikes there are on the road etc..
We then traveled to our lunch site which was a very nice buffet offering everything from traditional Thai Curries to salads, sushi rolls, and even pasta and pizza. In the Thai language when you are full we say “im” and believe me we were all very “im” by the end of this great lunch. In the afternoon we split into 2 smaller groups and took a traditional Thai cooking course. Every one in each group had their own personal stove to cook on and prepared a green curry with eggplant, lemongrass, ginger, kefir lime, and of course chili paste. We also made sweet sticky rice with fresh mango.
Again our bellies were full and although the students were feeling the jet lag we pushed forward. We returned to home base, allotted for a bit of down time, and jumped right in to our teaching groups to prepare for our first big day of teaching.
Today, Tuesday, our students taught English at both schools in small groups. Some taught English to 1st and 2nd graders while others taught to 7th and 8th graders with a bit more experience in the English language. This first day proved to be each exciting and challenging. There is a saying that goes something like “the best way to master a subject is to teach it.” And so little by little or Jai Yen Yen( in Thai), we are learning to become masters of our craft. We unwound this afternoon by taking a Muy Thai Kickboxing lesson. We are now back at Home Base and students are taking a refreshing dip in our pool. Soon we will have dinner together, reflect on our day of teaching and make a plan for tomorrow.
We have a wonderful group of students and I would like to personally thank all you parents, friends and family members out there in helping make this experience possible for your children. I assure you they are in good hands, will be well fed, given enough time to sleep and refresh. We will also be taking full advantage of our short time here in Thailand with service, and group activities, and reflections so this will mean very full days. At times these action packed days may be a bit challenging, but that is also part of our program. It is in those challenges that we all grow. Count on more updates on our blog as our program continues to unfold.
Kind Regards and Well Wishes!
– The Thailand Cultural Kaleidoscope team
All students have arrived safely in Thailand and have called home. We’re looking forward to our first few days getting to know one another and this beautiful country!