I watched each village stand and represent themselves in song in a Lahu Thanksgiving gathering. The different harmonies captivated my heart as I observed the gathering of hundreds of people. At the very end of our time there, we also had to sing and represent ourselves. We stood up and sang the only Lahu song we really know. Staring directly down at our papers to avoid eye contact with anyone. We finished singing and sat down. The grandmas smiled and the demeanor changed. We were not just a group of foreigners crashing their Thanksgiving gathering, we were people who are interested in their culture. While joining the long line of mountain rice and pork variations, we witnessed a monkey riding on the back of a dog, which was really quite entertaining.
Monday we had our last full day of lectures. Last week each of us were assigned a spiritual discipline for one of our classes, so I led mine on Monday. I was assigned Acts of Service, which means I was in charge of ordaining the day for God. I played a ‘Pray as you go’ podcast in the morning, read from Oswald Chambers and drew pictures in the afternoon, read from Psalms for dinner, and then played the skit “Everything” and read Isaiah 55. It was not something out of the ordinary for me, it just was a practice I have not done in a long time. It reminded of what I used to do in high school when I led Breakfast Club for two years. It was a unique experience for all of us to come together and be intentionally in God’s word for the entire day.
Tuesday was a new cultural experience. Because of the pain in my arm, it was decided to take a trek to Ram Hospital. The waiting room was a culture in itself. There were stylish Thai people, ex-pats, and some tourists in the lobby. What struck me the most was the fact a lady was hooked into an IV, but was classily dressed and looked nice. Seemed rather strange for the setting. All vitals were normal and we walked back to the doctor. My fingers were less numb that day, so there was a lot on the surface of the issue. He did not talk to me mostly, which I discovered has more to do with my age. Since society is hierarchal, the older you are, the more respect you get. I could feel my own culture begin to show when I wanted to be treated on equal grounds, but when matched with a male Thai doctor, I am considered a lower being. I had a feeling as soon as I walked in that I would not be able to accurately explain myself for him to fully understand. Although he did find it quite entertaining that I hurt myself from rice harvesting. He said he has never heard of that being an issue. It made me wonder why my body is not cut out for manual labor. Rice harvesting is actually very enjoyable when not in pain. It is almost as relaxing as weaving. It is a repetitive motion that is calming and passes the time. I got prescribed a few medications to help the swelling and pain. I left the hospital a little frustrated though. Even though you go in to get something to help, at the end of the day, you are still in pain and have little answers. I can only hope it will heal and it will not be a reoccurring issue or permanent injury. The medications seem to already be helping.
After the hospital, we made some errands for Thanksgiving. Adele, Thippawan + Wanna, Pannee, and Adjun Phillip were all packed in the truck to run errands. We went to Rimping grocery store, which was air conditioned and had some items imported from the States. Including sweet potatoes that cost $10! I wandered through the aisles and let the smooth jazz over the intercom calm my should after the hospital visit. Grocery stores seem so funny to me after being in hundreds of different markets. The food is packaged up and has been for a long time, when at markets it sits out and has a constant stream of buyers. There is something also very comforting to me about grocery stores. Perhaps it comes from the thousands of times I have accompanied my mother to the store and chatted about my day. It is familiar and oddly comforting. While wandering the aisles I found Almond Breeze Chocolate milk, which in my worn out state, pulled it off the shelf into the cart. I followed Pannee around the store and noticed there was a foreigner who was also following his Thai person around. I chuckled to myself about the idea of foreigners following around their designated Thai person. Being in a grocery store I also recognized a different demographic. Ex-pats, and Thai people who can afford more expensive items. One would typically not see a hilltribe family in an air-con grocery store.
After the store we had a Thai cooking class at Sorn’s Restaurant. Sorn is an incredible chef and was kind enough to make something that was not spicy for me. We made Chinese Salad, Curry, and Garlic Pepper Pork. Leah and I made our food very mild so we could actually eat it. I was not much help because I only had one useful arm, but Leah was kind enough to chop up things and I helped where I could. We ate our accomplishments in cooking with satisfaction. It really was delicious, and I am excited to head back home to share my newfound recipes.
Wednesday we had presentations for our classes. In the morning we had Social Context for Community Development, where I shared about Biblical Holism and how it relates to Government systems. Then in the afternoon we each presented our final project. Due to my injury, I have not been able to work on my project, and have needed the help of Adele and Thippawan. My goal is to finish it before I leave, and I believe it is possible! It was fun to walk around and hear about my other adventuremates projects. Each project revealed a piece of the person’s heart. The love for nature, the love for redeeming sacred space, the love for Lahu culture, the love for new inventions, and the love for creating and learning. It was incredible and I am thankful got the things that my adventuremates have taught me while I have been here.
Thursday was our day off, which really meant working on papers the whole day. We had a 3000 word paper that took up a good chunk of time to write. My paper was about redeeming relationships among NGOs in Thailand. There seems to be an issue where there are too many NGOs fighting for the same cause, but get quickly fatigued because the nature of the work. My idea for my paper was giving a suggestion on how NGOs could network and connect. Too many people are starting NGOs, then burning out. If there was a stronger support network, NGOs could reach more people. I suggested there be an online community where every NGO in the region would be listed and they could discuss ideas and provide support. One of the issues however is the problem of money. Donors donate to specific things and organizations, so a support network may be hindered by the fear of losing funds. Writing the paper opened up another path where my future may take me. Perhaps my love for organizations may lead me to help NGOs create a stronger system in the future.
I wrote my paper at Joy’s coffee shop down the road from the Go-ED house. The sound of the fountain and my indie-electro music kept my mind at a steady pace. I sadly knew the reality that is coming around the corner after finishing my paper. The first semester of my Junior year is almost to a close. I have dreamed of coming to Thailand for so long, and now it has quickly vanished time. For four months I have lived in the country of my dreams. It has been challenging, amazing, and has completely torn my heart across the world. I have such a love for this country and the people who reside within and outside the borders of Thailand. My heart seems not ready to go, but my body knows that it is time. It is bittersweet to let this dream come to a close. As the last week comes around the corner, I can only soak in my last moments here and brace myself for the culture shock to come.
Friday we turned in papers, said goodbye to one of our professors, then headed into town. The boys and I discovered a neat niche of Chiang Mai. After having a delicious cup of coffee revealed to us by our directors, we wandered to a Think Park and the Maya Mall. The Think Park is still under construction, but it is built for the incoming international trade traffic. Little air-con boxes of stores are packed in next to one another with expensive items to sell. There was a Hungarian Chimney Cakes store, which looked quite delicious. We were curious why he was in Thailand, but there were more customers coming. We walked over to the mall and I saw firsthand that there is not too many people in the mall. The stores were mostly empty. The most people were on the third floor where the cinema is. There also was a 24 hour cafe/study room. It was packed full of educated people who looked like foreign grad students. The space had a soft green color to it with a grand display of books against the window facing the city. It was in incredible use of space and seems to be well used by the public. We wandered further upstairs to see the rooftop view of the mall. We could see all of Chiang Mai as it rested against the side of the mountains. It was stunningly beautiful. In all its heartache, development, and new found way of life, there is still beauty in it. In the evening we finished the last of out Firefly obsession by watching the movie Serenity. It definitely was more disturbing than I remember, and perhaps that is why I do not remember it. Regardless, it was fun to finish up a whole serious with the adventuremates.
Saturday we awoke to a busy morning of setting up for the Go-ED Family Thanksgiving Party. I am not used to so many people being in a tiny kitchen, so it was a little bit overwhelming. I made my sweet potatoes with a varied recipe due to maple syrup not being a thing here. The decorations were all in place as people arrived. We had the pleasure of having people over who have invested in us as students and as people. It was an incredible time of enjoying food and good conversation. It felt like a family party where everyone could enjoy the company of thankfulness and joy. After the party we walked outside before watching Miracle on 34th Street and Family Man. As I curled up in my bed, the sad thoughts of leaving seemed to seep in a little. I miss things back home, but Thailand will forever have a piece of my heart.