My dear friends,
There is so much to experience and learn from this culture. Being a predominantly Buddhist country, the integration is reflected as ornate alters honoring the Buddha adorn every street corner in the city as well as a peppering throughout the country side. Monks draped in orange robes and shoeless feet can be seen softly walking through the streets of Chiang Mai or on the road to Mae Taeng. There is a sense of peace and gratitude that lives in the heart of this country.
We begin our morning yoga practices with a symphony of sounds from the jungle, enjoy fresh food for breakfast and then venture to school. Our last couple of mornings have been busy meeting the curriculum that we have created for the classes of children at the Baan Chang Nai School. Beccah reported has broken the shyness barrier with her fourth grade class. Ian and Leith have been leading competitive games of soccer and basketball with the first and second graders. Emily has been spotted strutting the hula hoop across the school grounds with the best of the fourth and fifth graders. Jen chooses a new classroom everyday as she guides them through the process of creating greeting cards and envelopes. And if interested, when we return, we will be selling the cards in an effort to raise money to meet some of the needs at the school ;) Dr. Sissy and Mary have been visiting a couple classes a day teaching dental hygiene, handing out toothbrushes and singing The Hokey Pokey (that's a stitch to watch)! Jan and I have had the third, fourth and fifth grade classes drawing pictures of their families and homes while labeling in English and Thai. We hope to create a pen pal exchange with same age children in the United States.
And of course our yesterday would not have been complete without riding elephants, lounging with a few tigers and finding a wee bit of entertainment slithering with snakes. It's true though, we did watch an elephant complete a landscape painting...pretty amazing and starting only at 1500 Bth!
Today was a special day for the school as Beccah with the help of the children, forged the community garden. They planted carrots, kale, eggplant, bok choy, and worms! Additionally, each student planted their own veggie pot to take home as a reminder of the time we have had together (and promote good eating habits ;) It was bittersweet being the second to the last day before our departure from the school.
Tonight we had an exceptionally wonderful evening which included a monk chat at a temple and dinner in Chiang Mai. One of the monks tried in earnest to recruit my fifteen year old Leith into the monastery. It was an interesting and enlightening exchange!
Our travels throughout Thailand would not be as enjoyably enhanced if it were not for the crazy and enjoyable company of our in country coordinator and guide, Bank (our Thai guru). He has bestowed each of us with our Thai nick names which is supposedly indicative of our personalities. I'll share later when I can figure out the English for each of the names ;).
Hope all is well on your side of the world and I'll be sending our final letter from Thailand in a few days!
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." ~ Margaret Mead