Thursday, April 21, 2011

Land of a Thousand Smiles

Hello from sunny Chiang Mai, Thailand!
The chicken has official flown the coup! The Korean coup that is. So I made it. After flying all night and weedling evil luggage weight Nazis, and slipping them a few bills under the table (rolls eyes), me and all my respectable luggage have touch down in the Land of Smiles. And it's true! These people actually DO smile back at you! It was actually an almost uncomfortable sensation at first to have someone return my goofy smile. I think I even tripped in surprise at the toothless little Thai lady who seemed to find me tromping down the Chiang Mai backstreets as exciting and smile worthy as me! I haven't had much of a chance to do anything except make up for lost Zzz's slobbering on my new Apt veranda and getting lost a couple times down random back streets (which is the best way to explore a new city if you asked me!). For my first Thai food experience I channeled my inner Inge and scored a grilled fish popsicle from a friendly street vendor. It may not sound like heave but trust me, I got weak kneed at how delicious that wee stuck fishy was! I have made close buds with the fruit lady (pineapple for under a buck?!) and espresso lady on my Soi (alley). And yes, all you who had sneaky suspicions about my travels always follow the trail of delicious coffee, Thailand DOES grow its own delicious bean and YES I'm drinking massive amounts. It's so good I haven't even gone to Starbucks once! *gasp*
Yesterday, our ARI volunteers did their weekly Young Lions Art Program workshop with the local Burmese refugee children and I was able to sneak out of the office to spend some time and take some pictures of these beautiful children. Chiang Mai is home to approximately 120,000 Burmese refugees and migrants in search of freedom from fear and oppression. What they find here in Thailand is far different from what they expect. The family members are utilized for cheap construction labor and not given rights or residency by the Thai government. As a result, they have no choice but to live in construction camp slums and their children are not allowed to attend school. Instead, you will find them wandering the streets trying to put food on the table. Yesterday morning, three beautiful Burmese girls came up to me with strings of sweet smelling jasmine flowers clasped in their grubby hands and hopeful eyes. I smiled and told them that I was not buying and to my amazement the oldest one, who had bruises circling her neck, gave me the most incredible smile and told me how beautiful I was with thumbs up. As they walked away she kept looking over her shoulder reluctantly and called out the few English words she knew. I was so touched by these children. The Young Lions Art Program is an art workshop Zoe Lambe, the managing director of Cultural Canvas Thailand, put together to reach out to these children, to give them a chance to just be kids as well as to express themselves creatively. It has been a smashing success! We are trying to raise funds to reach out to the larger community of refugee children here in Chiang Mai. Take a peak at our project and lend your support! Young Lions Art Project
If you can't tell, I am a happy girl here in Thailand! I think I was made for tropical weather, fruit galore, delicious Thai food and working with this beautiful organization: Cultural Canvas Thailand

1 comment:

Inge Kathleen said...

Uhhh you might as well just go plant an Avocado tree in your backyard and start a garden because we've officially lost you to the tropics of Thailand for at least 5 years :) I'm so happy for you!

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