Saturday, January 16, 2010

15 Minutes at Coffee Shop: Prepare for Run-on Sentences!

We are chilling at Doi Chaang, an amazing coffee shop down the street from our hotel. They are very highly-ranked, and their coffee is from an Auca hill tribe that is all fair trade, self-sustaining, etc. I almost wrote "organic," but that seems like a moot point out here. As I waited for my omellete at the hotel breakfast this morning, I watched a farmer's pick-up truck bring in a crate of eggs. What a strange and distinctly American feeling to toast their naturalness and throw back my immunity pills just the same.

The Thai people are beautiful. Thailand is "The Land of Smiles," and it is true. The culture is very much about saving face, so if you trip and fall, they will laugh at you--or with you, I should say--to help you save face and be able to laugh at yourself. The children are very cooperative, as I said, and want to help each other out. This is not a country of getting ahead; in fact, it is more about disappearing into your place and accepting it. It is very, very much about taking care of your family. In Buddhism, your parents brought you into this world and you owe them your life, so it is your responsibility to take care of them--at all costs--until they die. (Cue snarky comment from Mr. and Mrs. Wenzel, right guys? Haha) As one book put it, girls are not seen as valuable enough to educate, but are also expected to be the family's sole breadwinner. You can imagine how that plays in to what I said a few days ago about a girl having no choice but to go into prostitution. An illogical reasoning at best.

In a strange way, Thailand is a very safe place. The country is completely Buddhist; put very simply (and I apologize for doing so), it is a system of karma where you must do more good than bad. Bad things will lead to punishment in future lives; many girls accept their fate at punishment for behavior in a former life because fighting karma would not be good. For example, the prostitutes in Bangkok make offerings at the temple the next day to gain favor, or "make merit," by feeding monks. Stealing is not rampant here for that reason, too. How that all plays itself out in subtleties like trafficking, drug trade etc. I am not sure, and I think it would take a lifetime to learn.

There is also a great respect in the culture here, as least comparatively. When we handed out balloons to the kids yesterday, they all gave a "wai" (y), which means they pressed their palms together in front of their nose and gave a little bow. We do that when greeting our elders too. I must admit it is fun to say "sawadeekah" and give a little bow. It was such a strange thing to experience, especially when some of the boys were balancing mischievous water balloons while they did it!

If you've seen the SOLD DVD, I want to tell you that we saw Cat yesterday, and she is so much bigger! She rules the school, and you can tell the other kids adore her. We also got to hang out with Taiwee last night, which was fantastic. Even hanging out with the Rachels is a little strange--I've seen all these people on films and heard about them for so long, and here they are!

Let me introduce you to our team a little bit... From sponsors to supporters to friends, they are all very invested in SOLD's work. We truly adore everyone on this trip. We are so amazed at all the experiences between us and what unique things we all bring to the table. Major major apologies to my new friends! How dare I summarize the countless conversations we've had and the life-changing people that you are in just a few sentences??

Meredith is 23 and headed to Kenya after this; she was an intern with SOLD. Shannon, also 23, is also a former intern and just finished a few weeks in Burma and works part-time with SOLD in California. Carrie is SOLD's intern coordinator and my first introduction at SOLD! Daniel and Jenny (who was Rachel SG's college roommate) are a young couple from Indiana; Daniel is a professional photographer and promises to send us CDs! Alex is from D.C. and came on this trip last summer, only to have her heartbroken by the "lady boys" who work in the bars. (There is little being done to help them, so she has returned for three months to try while her husband remains in D.C. As she describes playing soccer with these little boys all afternoon, laughing and playing, then seeing them snuggle up to these gross men in the bars each night, you can hear her heart for them.) Brandon is finishing up international studies and was on this trip last year; he so clearly loves Thailand, and he has been a wealth of information. Adrian is from Tasmania and runs an organization that goes into churches and speaks to young men about pornography, sex addiction, etc. I can't wait to see how he uses this trip for his work. Mari is this wonderfully energetic woman from California that is ready to get her church's justice committee into gear when she gets home! She is a lot of fun. D'uan is Rachel GC's mom, and she is loving to exprience firsthand her daughter's work; she's an olive farmer! Plus, there is Rachel SG and Nate, living here in Thailand and Rachel GC and Kevin; Kevin was here for the first few days of the trip. These four are--- well, you can imagine they are pretty fantastic.

A few other things:

1. I forget to mention that the lizard I wrote of yesterday can be over two feet long and, when it bites, will not let go. You have to drown it to get it to relinquish its grasp.

2. I've offered for Mike to write, but we usually have about ten minutes of availability or battery, and he doesn't think he could say much in that time. Then there's me, who will vomit all thoughts at will. Sigh.

3. We knew Mike's wheat allergies wouldn't be a problem here in the land of rice, but they put egg on everything, come to find out. Fried eggs on rice for breakfast, pad thai served in egg bowl, etc. Who knew?

4. The school (200-ish kids) were going to do a show for us yesterday morning. "An Arabic dance," Nate said. As they begin, we were like "Nate, did you mean aerobic?" Between the Tae Bo-like moves and the pseudo-jumping jacks, we was easily convinced he'd misunderstood. It was hilarious.

5. Our Thai massages were $7, plus tip, and it was two hours of the best kind of pain. Like, they spent thirty minutes on each leg! I've never been phsyically stretched like that in my life. She kept saying "You okay?" because I was grimacing. How do you explain in Thai that is hurts but feels so good? She kept laughing at me because my feet were hanging off the mat.