Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Highlights from the past few weeks

- I went to Chiang Mai for Songkran Festival, which was amazing.
- I rode on an elephant, and guided it around by siting on its head
- I went bamboo rafting
- I swam in a waterfall
- I got completely drenched for 4 days b/c of the festival
- My friends and I bought buckets, along with the rest of Chaing Mai, and positioned ourselves at the moat around the city so we could throw our buckets in, get water and then dump the buckets on everyone/everything passing by (ask me for pics of this later, words cannot describe it)
- I went on a homestay with a family who is fighting against the construction of a Potash (potassium) mine. My nong sao (little sister) was 5, and we got really close. But I got a cold from her since she was sick and was playing with me the entire time i was there
- We had a bunch of amazing exchanges during this unit, but my two higlights were with a group of Core Leaders in the community, and with a man named P'Suwit. The Core Leaders were so full of fire and passionate that I was laughing slash wanting to scream "Amen" for the entire meeting. They kept screaming "YOU KNOW WHAT THE WORLD'S BIGGEST ADDICTION IS??? CHEMICAL FERTILIZER!!" "WE WILL BE ANYWHERE WHERE THERE IS POTASH TO PROTEST!!" They were pretty amazing. P'Suwit is an NGO (NGO's can be one person, who knew?) who basically wrapped up all of the things we have been learning this semester, since this is our last unit. The exchange really made me think about my role as an American and as a young person. He is a really cool guy who was a Marxist when he was young, and then became a "gangster" (according to him) and shot someone - we don't know who - and then decided that being an NGO was the way to help people. So he tries to help inform and organize villagers about the problems that they face. I have a lot of cool quotes from him that I can share at a later poitn b/c they are written down in my room.

Alright, that is all for now. I am about to go work on my Thai Final, Core Course Final, Thai Video and all the other assignments that are due in three days.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Almost break time!!

We have finished unit 4 - looking at dams and the effects that they have had on different communities. It was really interesting to evaluate the use of dams and similar policies of economic development from a villager perspective. These villages are now being forced to move our of their place of residence, because the dams flood their crops and land, causing them to not be able to farm anymore. They had a lot to say, including a few really moving quotes:

"If they cover everything in cement, how will we be able to find our roots?"

"Policy makers only see trees and water on a map, not people."

The assignment for this unit was to reflect on what the past 4 units have meant to us, in any way possible. Some people drew paintings (which were amazing, and i would probably buy them for a lot of money in the states), some wrote poetry, some choreographed dances, some made products which will be used in this Human Rights Festival we will be attending and co-coordinating in May, some wrote letters to loved ones, and a lot of other things. Along with a small group of other students, I helped make a "Sustainable Pass-On," providing information for future semesters on how to live sustainably on the CIEE program and in Khon Kaen. It included restaurants which use organic/local food, useful phrases in Thai, such as "I do not want a plastic bag," compost instructions, etc. It will be something that other semesters can add on to as well. It was so cool to see everyone present their projects, because you could tell that everyone was in their element and put so much effort into their work. It made a bunch of us emotional, and really brought us even closer as a group. It is weird because I already feel so close to people that I have only known for a few months. I think it is partially b/c we are with eachother literally 24 hours a day, in addition to seeing both personal and academic sides of each other. It is like rooming with 29 friends and then attending all of your classes with those friends, eating with them, and going to all of the same extracurricular activities together. Obviously we have Thai friends as well, but we are super tight as a group.

I'm really excited b/c a few of my friends and I are leaving tomorrow night to take an overnight bus to Chiang Mai for Songkran Water Festival. We have our only BREAK!!!!!!! starting the day after tomorrow, lasting for four days. Songkran is the biggest festival of the year, celebrating the New Year, and basically everyone throws water (colored and non-colored) at eachother for the entire 4-day festival. So I expect to be drenched the entire time I'm away from Khon KAen, which I am fine with since it is SO HOT here, and is almost to the 100's on some days.

Alright, I'll write again soon!!