My eyes opened as the sun rose over the mountains and shined through the windows. I could hear the roosters crow, the soft sound of the fans, and the small creaks of the building. I could smell the sweet cinnamon smell of Thailand in juxtaposition with the muskiness of the concrete like mattress. I woke up tired and unsure of the happenings of the day. If it is one thing I have learned here, it is to be prepared for anything, and then expect that to change. We rode over to the Migrant Children’s Center and observed what happens in a normal day. The morning starts with songs with movements then moves to montessori time (not sure how to spell it, but it was developed by Catholic Nuns and is designed to help small children recognize patterns and basic motor skills). We played with them outside and laughed and giggled with them about who knows what. At one point one kid knocked a couple over and there were lots of tears and one girl on the ground. The house mom and helper were not outside at the time, so being the mama bear I am, I walked over to calm the situation. I can imagine the poor child’s reaction to a person she does not know, talking in a language that is unfamiliar, and is picking her up to stand on her feet to calm down. I just spoke in soft tones and eventually she was distracted enough to stop crying. At that point another little one had wandered over to me and already was ready to sit on my lap. I watched as the Burmese house mother ran the house with a stick and forceful discipline, which in the states would almost be seen as abuse. But it is not abuse, and it is very apparent that this women loves these kids and takes good care of them. The afternoon progressed in us trying to teach the song Jesus Loves Me to them, but only could teach two lines of it, since the language is different it is hard to remember. After that was lunch time that was rice, eggplant, and chicken. Then bath time, which means watered down, soaped up, watered down again, then dried! It was a bit humorous cause it felt like a kid washing station. We then tried to work on the printer as nap time started, but were picked up to head back to MMF.
At MMF we discussed the inner workings of MMF and what they do. It was interesting to learn from an insider perspective on the organization and the opinions that come with long term work here. I could sense the harsh realities of past mentalities of organizations coming in and providing aid, but actually hindering the community from being sustainable. The hardest thing about cross-cultural work, is the simple fact that different cultures think differently. Thailand culture is community minded and many tribal communities still hold onto their roots of animism. Even when becoming a Christian, they cannot completely disregard how they have been raised. It has been interesting learning how people see faith and how they see God or what other cultures should believe about the Bible. If God moves beyond culture, I wonder why some westerners believe they see God better than those in tribal groups. It makes me question how faith and tradition are intertwined and how to figure out what is more culture around the Bible as opposed to what the Bible actually says. I still have many things to think about concerning faith and NGOs. The more I learn, the more I question and wonder what the future of NGOs may look like for my generation.
In the evening we returned to Grace Children’s Home and went to the park to walk and dance, then back to the home to eat. We also walked around the night market with the Australian couple, but it was cut short by the thunder and lightning. The thunder was so loud it almost cracked your ears and shuttered your heart! We stopped and watched the clock tower light up and sing as it does twice an evening. The clock tower is at the center of town and is quite the mark of pride for Chiang Rai. After that we returned back to MMF and discussed deeply once again about all we have learned and saw today. What struck me the most today was once again the love and care that people have for others. The Australian couple are a couple of the most genuine people I think I have met. They have an incredible heart for children and continue to visit the children’s home twice a year. They love them as their own, and it was wonderful learning their story and perspective about the world and wha the world’s needs are. As the guy said, there will always be people who accept aid with gratitude, and there will always be those who are too lazy to make something of themselves. Across cultures, people react differently, and each individual is different. There are stereotypes of cultures sure, but is the power of individuals that empower themselves.
I am still getting used to the environment and the change of scenery, but so far, I am still at peace. Even being at the children’s home in the evening is not tiring, it is just a time to be me. A time to laugh, a time to give love, and a time to pray. Life cannot get much better than that.