I'm a bit wiser, but still...

Trip Start Jan 01, 2010
Trip End Jan 27, 2010

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

This is becoming a truly amazing, albeit different trip than expected.  Hard to believe how little I knew about the place, the people & the organization where I was going.  But part of the fun I suppose.

Just a step back as to what I've been able to figure out about Mirror Foundation, the Hill Tribe people, and what we're all doing here....forget an orphanage like I told you, forget the trek into the hills for the family stay via elephant, forget much of what I told you before the trip...not even sure of much of its origin, but this is what I do know now...at least till I discover otherwise.

The history of the region is that many of the displaced people during the war came from Cambodia, Laos, Viet Nam, Myanmar (Burma), & sought refuge in this region of northern Thailand.  They became known in a general term as the Hill Tribe people but are actually made up of many different tribes.  While the gov't of Thailand allowed them to stay, they weren't given citizenship, no education, no healthcare, no nothing from the gov't.

This is where/why the Mirror Foundation came to be....to teach & to pretty much give the Hill Tribe people a shot at making it in Thai society.  Without knowledge of at least English, there really is little to earn a living except prostitution and drugs.  So Mirror tries to provide an education to the Hill Tribe and has been blood testing the Hill people with the hope to show that some may have even a little part Thai blood which would qualify them for citizenship, education & healthcare.

My homestay begins next week and I finally realized that we are in the Hill Tribe where Mirror is located...so no elephant trek into the hills, we are in the hills.  I'll be living with a family for 3 days and the volunteers will be either building a house for a family or digging trench toilets in the area.  The Hill Tribe people are truly wonderful and as I said before, of the 60-70 people living here in the Mirror complex, probably 40 are Hill Tribe people themselves who help run the place, cook, clean, organize etc.  Some live here with their entire families since it is the policy of Mirror that if a Hill person works at Mirror for 10 years, they build a home here for them & their family...pretty neat.

As for our group...really a great bunch, very spirited and funny... I've got close to Jeff my roommate and his daughter as well as pretty much everyone else.  Being that there is so little to do here at Mirror, most evenings we've gone into Chiang Rai, a 35 minute taxi for a massage, dinner and the night market which is a trip in itself.  I've now had 3 massages...two 2 hr. ones and one 3 hr massage...wow-wee as they say.

The work here is set up differently than my past trips in that you don't get attached to any one project or school, but do whatever is needed and wherever is needed.  This weekend is Children's Day in Thailand which is big.  Mirror has 2,000 kids that will be here on this small compound (last yr. they had 1700).  So we are creating games, crafts, etc. for this big day.  I can't even fathom how this is going to go down since this isn't a large place by any means and the roads are essentially dirt paths.  Oh and I haven't counted more than 6-7 bathrooms around here for 2000 kids.  To me it seems to have the makings of a mini Woodstock as to numbers.

So today & tomorrow are all about getting ready for the kids and doing whatever is needed.  There will be no teaching these days for us, other than teaching the monks English tomorrow nite.  But to give you an idea...today we had to make 2000 name cards, but its not like you go to the store to buy them.  We had to cut cardboard, 2 hole punch each card, cut string to go thru the card and around the neck and number them from 1 - 1500 on one side and draw a grid of 1-16 on the back.  It took 15 volunteers and about 15 Mirror workers most of the day just to do name tags...whatever needs to be done, we just swarm like bees on the task and have fun doing it as a group.  I also was part of the tent crew as we put up 6-7 huge tents for the games etc. to be played under.

FYI, ..while my hearing is 'night & day' better than before the operation, it's still far from 'day' and hasn't been quite as easy as I had hoped...the accents, the mumblers, the fast talkers are all pretty challenging tho one on one is much, much better than it ever had been.  And finally, this weekend it looks like a group of us may go into Laos for an elephant trek down to the Mekong River for a 1 hr. boat ride to another border crossing in Mynamar.  At least that is the 'plan de jour'.

All in all, this trip is very much becoming the 'wow' I had hoped for, but it still amazes me how far off my original info had been.  I have many more photos but being 1:45am, I'm only posting a few tonite.  Love to Deborah, Ben & my family and FB friends.
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