The Mirror - Day 3
Some of you who are following along may have read days 1 and 2 out of order. That is a "blogger's" error (meaning mine!). Yesterday was a very long day and I accidentally posted both instead of scheduling the second to post at a later date. I was just so happy to have both completed that I was not focused. The details of what caused the crazy day will be shared on Thursday. The good news is that it had a happy ending.
So back to Day 3 - I was able to sleep for the first time in Chiang Rai. Being physically exhausted will do that to you. I was still up very early, excited and nervous for what the day had in store. It was already very hot...
After breakfast, I put back on my still-damp clothes from the day before. I could smell myself, and it was not pretty. But everyone else was re-wearing their same clothes so I quickly decided that these items would never leave Chiang Rai.
We piled into the trucks and headed back to Tigerland Rice Farm. Today we were going to actually do rice farming. I didn't know what that would require but I was interested to find out.
To get to the fields, we had to pass (not use - the cement was not yet dry) the road that we had built. I was pretty excited to see. it. It does not look like much but it was a serious improvement from the sticky mud that we plodded through as we walked beside it.
We dropped off all our stuff - our lunch for today, tools, and many, many water bottles - and we were asked to circle the field for a demonstration of that day's work. It is helpful to provide a visual (and I still cannot post photos) of the land so that the work makes sense. The field is divided into rectangular subplots of a variety of sizes. From what I could tell, they ranged from 25 feet by 50 feet to 35 feet by maybe 65 feet?
The fields in which we were working were lush green, with a thick layer of silty mush beneath. Our job was to pull these rice seedlings up by the root, wash the mud off, and then bundle them into clusters that were about 3 inches in diameter. We bound these together with a piece of bamboo (used like a twist tie) and then gathered all of these bundles together so that their roots were soaking in the sooty water.
It was a hard job! But after moving and placing rocks all of the day before, this task seemed not so bad. But the squatting and bending were pretty brutal for my back. I just wanted to make sure that no one felt like I wasn't carrying my weight! I was easily 20 years older than the next youngest volunteer.
We worked until 4, having cleared all the seedlings in the upper half of the field. So we cleaned up our mess, and piled back into the trucks for a quiet ride home. I think we all were exhausted once again.
Mirror wants to make sure that their volunteer get a chance to see where the Hill Tribe people live. To accomplish this, they have integrated home-stays into their volunteer curriculum. Since I was only staying for one week, I thought I was off the hook for this experience. But that was not the case. I was to spend Thursday night with the family of one of the guys with whom we had been working for two days.
I admit that I was exhausted and would have been very happy to get out of this commitment. But it was a gracious offer of hospitality, so I rushed to get clean when we arrived back at Mirror. This meant racing to get one of the three showers (I should have won, but one of the volunteers from Mexico came into my shower wrapped only in a towel, so I let her go first).
An amusing aside - I wanted to wash out my clothes from the day (since I was going to have the pleasure of wearing them again for a third day|) I went back to the laundry area, and there were two other people washing their clothes. Here I remind you of our dress code in Mirror and the reason for the request for conservative attire. We as volunteers are merely guests in this place. One of the young male volunteers was washing his laundry while wearing a white towel wrapped around his waist. That is all. I admit that he was very handsome and this is an efficient way to make sure that ALL of your clothes are clean, but this seemed like it might not be acceptable in Mirror. What do I know?
Nikki (she of the email about "stupidity" for going home with the wrong airport escort) came looking for me to see how long it would be before I would be ready to go to home-stay. When she saw this man, she stopped and said "you cannot be out here dressed like this". He seemed surprised with the admonishment (good word, if I used it right!) but agreed to leave to put on more clothes. Nikki is my hero for never losing her cool.
There was one other volunteer who was also only staying for one week, so we jointly headed out for our home-stay. The Akha Village is about 10 kilometers away from Mirror. We were fortunate in that our home-stay has beds (as opposed to mats on the floor) so we did not need to bring sleeping bags or pillows. The rooms also had mosquito nets so all we needed were toiletries and a change of clothes. It really was only one night
Our driver gave us a brief tour of the community and told us some of the history. I don't remember many of the specifics but I do know that about 100 people live there and they moved to the land about 20 years ago. We met some of the residents, and played with the kids for bit, then we were on our own until dinner.
It didn't take long for an older woman to invite us in for tea. How nice! Of course, she also had some of her handmade goods available for sale. I now have a few more braided bracelets.
It was time for dinner so we headed back to the place where we were to stay the night. The food was excellent! But it seemed like they must have been expecting more guests. There was too much food. And more courses kep apearing. I was going to sleep well tonight.
After dinner, we planned to go straight to bed to read. But as we were getting up from the table, one of the children asked us if we wanted wifi. Well of course we did! As it turns out, the wifit in the village was better than it was at Mirror. There went another 30 minutes...
It was finally time for bed. That's when I realized that the steps to the nearest bathroom were terrifying! Pretty much like a ladder with steps. This was going to be dangerous after dark! It wasn't even easy during daylight. I resolved to make it through the night without a bathroom break. Not likely...
Actually, if it weren't for the roosters (which crow whenever they feel like it), it was a pretty good night's sleep. And I awoke to an excellent breakfast (French fries AND hashbrowns!) and wifi. It was going to be a good day.
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