I am having lots of technology issus So posting has been much harder than I anticipated. When I can ever get the pieces together, I will add this to my "lessons learned" page. Suffice it to say that the Kindle Fire is USELESS as a blogging tool. I cannot tell you what else it is good for but the keyboard takes up the screen so you cannot even see what you are typing. That's helpful. And the external keyboard keeps randomly disconnecting from my tablet. I know - Fist World Problems in a Second World country.
It's perfect place to start on my story about my adventure in Chiang Rai.
I arrived into Chiang Rai mid-afternoon on Monday. The Mirror people picked up me along with three other volunteers (no- I did not get into the wrong car because I am not stupid - see previous blog). Our ride to the village where we would be living and working took place in a Songtou (sp?) - essentially a pick-up truck that has been altered to convert the bed for more "comfort". They have added bench seating along the sides of the bed and placed a roof on top. It's basically open air riding.
The Mirror compound (as it can best be described) consists of about 12 buildings. They include an administrative office; a small coffee cafe (which had excellent smoothies and French fries!); a work area where Hill Tribe women made clay whistles to see, a store which sold those whistles and other hand made items; a kitchen and eating area (similar to an outdoor pavilion at a park); a shed for work tools; a laundry area (the "washing machine" did agitate clothes in soapy water and spun out excess water, which was helpful after a day of outdoor work); four homes for families living on the property; wifi room (Nikki kept trying to get us to refer to this as the "volunteer office" but that name never stuck); and about 5 dormitories for volunteers. The accomodations were simple, but it met all of our basic needs. Someday, I will figure out how to get my technology to allow for adding photos to this blog and you can see for yourse!f! A girl can dream...
Sadly, I did not get my own room. This time of year, Mirror gets too many volunteers to give anyone an individual room. So I saved $40 and got two roommates. We shared our bathroom with 4 other rooms of three girls Surprisingly, this really did not turn out to be an issue. Perhaps it was because no one was using hair dryers or putting on make-up.
Volunteers were arriving from all over the world at a variety of times throughout the day so Monday was just a day to get settled. Orientation would begin on Tuesday morning, and we were scheduled to start working in the rice fields in the afternoon. Mirror offered us a trip into town for any necessary supplies, but I decided that I was set so I took advantage of the downtime to read.
I did not sleep very well the fist night. It was bloody hot, the mosquito netting kept getting in my eyes (not to self buy the mosquito net with the loop at the top or you will continually be pulling at it all night long! But I was grateful to have it as I watched one particular mosquito examine me each time I woke up), and the bed was really hard. And then it started to rain - a lot. One of those good rainstorms that we get in the southern US where it thunders and lightnings, but you are content to watch movies and thank God for your well-made home. Except there is no TV and my house feels like it was put together by previous volunteers. I was officially awake by 5 am.
It was still raining when I awoke. The compound had large puddles throughout and streams of water passed along every rail. I made my way to the wifi room, only to learn that the network was down. And in this little corner of the world, cellular service was not good during a storm. So I went back to my book.
Breakfast was served at 8. We had really good food, even though I would not have chosen rice and eggs for breakfast. There was always lots of fruit, so that was nice, and he instant lattes were actually tasty! Not bad for a volunteer compound.
Our daily morning meetings were at 8:30. Nikki used the time to provide reminders about dress code and travel arrangements for the day. Those of us who had just arrived would spend the morning in orientation, and then work in the afternoon. It was still raining.
I really like the way they did orientation. They began by providing us a more detailed overview of The Mirror Foundation (Mirror) and the work that Mirror does in the area. As a bit of background - Mirror has been operating since the early 00's (what do we call these years?). They started by working on human rights for all Thai people, but decided to focus on the Hill Tribe people late in the decade. The Hill Tribe people were cast-outs from China and Myanmar who farmed in the hills of northern Thailand. The government decided to take over this land and make it national parks so they forced the Hill Tribe people out.
Hill Tribe people have no citizenship, which means they have no rights. They are limited in their education opportunities, which then leads to limited options for employment. Until 206, Hill Tribe people were only allowed to work in 27 jobs. They are now allowed any jobs except for government work.
The Hill Tribe people still live in their own communities. Their lack of skills often leads to high incidences of alcohol and drug abuse, as well as sexual exploitation. Mirror works within the community to offer education and programs to combat the abuses that are rampant with the Hill Tribe people.
The Mirror purchased land in the lowlands from where the Hill Tribe was displaced and they offer volunteer programs to help the people work the land. t is on one of these projects that I would be working.
It continued to rain all day Tuesday. Sadly, this meant that we would be unable to work. All we could do is go buy thigh-high boots and work gloves because we were definitely going to need them the next day.