Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In Which: Rural Thailand Treats Us Well

A lady on the trip with us, N, has written a really great email, so I am going to copy and paste hers below because everyone is waiting for the computer, with some edits by me. (Note: as I'm editing this, it is in fact 8:00 am, Wednesday morning.)

N SAYS: It's 4:30 on Tuesday afternoon as I'm beginning this story and we just finished our second exhausting but rewarding day of work.

We are staying in a small fishing village called Khuraburi. It is 3 hours north of Phuket and it was a very, very, long bus ride from the airport in Phuket to this place, Sunday afternoon.We began today, Tuesday, by walking around the weekly market. The 10 of us negotiated over gifts to give the children at the Burmese school we have been working at, sometimes haggling as much as 25 baht. (Less than a whole dollar.)

We moved on to a delicious breakfast in the local market--we eat there every morning--with hot thai tea and coffee, savory rice porridge with pork or shrimp, and what you might call patties of sticky rice made with coconut milk, wrapped in palm or banana leaves. AARWENN SAYS: This is real Thai cooking, and I am GAINING WEIGHT. It's all delicious, and dinner meals are spicy as heck. Our guide, and a few of us in the party, (including me) consider ourselves to be real spicy food connoisseurs, and our mouths are on fire. And it's absolutely wonderful. I wish I knew the names of the dishes so I knew what to ask for in the states at Thai restaurants, although I don't think most of them are even available. (Hi, parents and grandparents! C and I are not starving!)

Back to N: Next was our long bumpy ride on benches in the back of a "bus"--read: glorified truck--for 45 minutes. When we arrived at the school it wasn't long before the first of the children rushed out to join us in our painting, cleaning, and before long - picture taking. Three little girls took off with our camera and fashion-victim-style sunglasses and took photos of us, themselves, and their friends for the next hour or so. Those photos are priceless and I can't wait to share them.

The work is hard. It's hot. We sweat out the water faster than we can drink it. AARWENN SAYS: Which is good, because the latrines are...latrines. Holes in the ground, although they DO have ceramic or plastic "standing spots". There are about 6 of them at the school, and they vary widely in cleanliness--some are cleaner than most bar/club bathrooms back home, and some left avoided. Thailand in general has a waste management problem, and the Burmese school is in the slums, so there is trash everywhere, huge piles of it out back of all the huts. It's depressing. HOWEVER. In ONE of the latrines, one of the feral dogs has had a litter of puppies! They were born just a day or two before we arrived, if not ON our first day--they don't even have their eyes open yet. It's the little things that make the slums bearable.

Back to N: The children are overwhelming in their enthusiasm. I showed them on a map today where Seattle is, and where Thailand is. Their eyes lit up as they drew their finger across the map and saw how far we had come before showing up to help at their school and entertain them.

We have another day and a half at their school. The last day we will do a skit to teach them about recycling, and oral hygene, and then we give them their gifts of tooth brushes and toothpaste. AARWENN SAYS: Thai food is very sweet, surprisingly so, and the children do not know how to brush, so their baby teeth are rotting out faster than their permanent teeth are coming in. THAT is depressing. However, the older kids, with their permanent teeth, seem to be fine. C and I aren't sure if that's because permanent teeth have better enamel or what. In general, actually, it's obvious throughout the entire area, with both the Burmese and the Thai, that the influence of Western culture has generally had a tremendous positive influence on the health of the citizens in the area. There's a huge difference between Thais our own age, who look exactly like us, and their parents or grandparents, who look much more...rural. Like they just left their hill tribes. On the negative side, the Western culture of consummation of pre-packaged things--sodas and pre-wrapped sweets and things--has TRASHED the area, see the Waste Management problem, above. That's a much longer conversation that I won't subject all of you to right this second--this note is long enough as it is.

Back to N: Then we move on to our home stay in Tung Dap where we will be staying with former people who come from a history of Sea Gypsys who lived aboard their boats. They will be much more modest, but it will be our first time to spend at the beach. They will do a traditional dance for us on the first night we are there--we are all looking forward to this.

AARWENN SAYS: It is hot, for sure, but surprisingly bearable, or maybe we're just getting used to it. And we are fairly covered up--capri pants and short-sleeved shirts--for modesty and to not stand out too much, but again, it is bearable. There is exotic wildlife everywhere, including geckos and the loudest cicadas I have ever met, but nothing invasive. None of us are sick, we are all working very hard, and in general, stepping outside of our comfort zones. I had no idea I would be working with kids this much, but I'm rolling with it, and our accommodations are WONDERFUL! Luxurious little huts with granite floors and gorgeous dark wood fixtures. C and I love and miss all of you. Stay tuned for the next update.

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