Today was my first day of class! We rode the sung-theouw (phonetic spelling) over to the Friends of Asia foundation for class. The professor gave us a background of the Mekong region and a general outline of the course. The professor also had wisdom about life. He said, “Education is a life process”, which is something my father taught me more than anyone else. We are constantly learning, it just depends whether you care to take it all in and act upon your knowledge. The next four weeks I will be learning about the exploitation of people in the area. I read dense material that explained how traffickers take advantage of rural areas and how routes are created in trafficking people. On paper the statistics and the facts seem distant. But I know the things that I will experience this semester will make the statistics my visible reality. It is easy to distance myself from information while in school. I consume statistics through endless textbooks, but amongst all the information I have failed to push beyond just the information to realize that these are people. The statistics are people. Childhood that is cut too short. Women who live in fear. And the false promise of a better life. Already I have felt a love for the Lahu people I am living among and they are one of the groups that often have children go missing. I do not think I will ever be able to comprehend the act of taking someone’s child and putting them in a place of fear. It is awful and horrifying. The more I learn, the more I hope to find the courage to help.
After class we went to the day market in Chiang Mai. There are so many shops with food, crafts, fabric, and more food, haha. Food is definitely a prominent activity for Thai culture. I had rice noodle vegetable soup, more sticky rice, and thai coconut soup. I am used to only having thai coconut soup out of a can in the States, so I was very excited to have REAL thai coconut soup. A key to eating it is you cannot eat half of the stuff in it, haha. It mostly has things in it for flavor such as bamboo and ginger chunks.
Tomorrow we have our second class and more exploring. It still seems unreal that I have the opportunity of living here. How my dream is right in front of me. I am trying to process quickly so I can retain more information. Amongst all the information I thought I might share with you daily living struggles. First is remembering to brush my teeth with only bottled water. Second is realizing sometimes the shower does not want to be warm. Third is being bit by who knows what. Fourth is debating whether I may or may not get sunburned. I am not complaining by any means, it is just different! I am enjoying life here and really enjoy Chiang Mai. There is a wild amount of diversity and a thriving culture. And it is not as touristy as I thought it would be. The crafts are authentically made and the people are genuinely sweet. Even the professor today had a deep care for his country and the people in it. He feels that it is his responsibility to help the country advance into better living and better care of one another. How rare it is to come upon people who are actively living out their philosophy on life. It is truly inspiring. Every day feels like several days in one. Life is moving fast, and I am loving it. Walking around the compound today I watched one of the ladies weaving a bag. She has incredible patience and dedication to the craft that makes the tradition come to life before my eyes. Her life is quiet and she takes care of the students here. Her simple act carries people into a better situation in life. Her name will not go down in history books, but she is known among the Lahu people for her craft. It is humbling to know that there are probably thousands of people just like her just taking care of the people around them. Something I hope to do in a community when I am not traveling around so much.
Thank you to everyone for reading my blog, I hope it helps you understand my journey! (It certainly helps me clarify my thoughts on my experience, thank you!)