Friday, November 29, 2013

Selected Moments From My First Full Day in Huay Tong Ko

Well, I’m back from another expedition.  Actually, I've been back a week. I haven't posted though because it has been so hard to find the words all that was Forests course. I had a decent grip on Agro, its themes and its lessons, but Forests has me filled with so many words and simultaneously at a loss, but I’ll try.

For Forests, we went to Mae Hong Sone (MHS) province, north-west of Chiang Mai province.  The bus-ride to MHS is long and steep and contains 1864 curves. We spent the majority of the course backpacking through Mae Surin National Park staying at six Karen villages. 

Our first village stay was in a village named Huay Tong Ko. It is the furthest away (3 hours) from Mae Hong Sone Town. Here are some selected thoughts from my first full day in Huay Tong Ko.


It’s 5am. I’m freezing cold and the damn roosters are performing their own version of Carol of the Bells. My family just woke up and I can hear them working, but I’m determined to sleep a bit longer.

I'm wearing four layers of shirts, my warm hat, my Buff pulled over my nose, pants, and socks. Desperate to warm up, I sit next to the kitchen fire while my Paw-ti scurries around cooking in shorts and a t-shirt.  My 90 year old grandfather sits nearby and lifts his feet closer to the fire. Thai etiquette matters less when your toes are cold.

What I wore to sleep at night in Huai Tong Ko

The view of our pig outside m y window 
To my great disbelief, I am handed toast and Schmuckers jam for a pre-breakfast snack.

Sarah, my house-mate, and I head to the rice field with our dad to help harvest rice. Our mother has already been there half an hour. To get to work, I cross two rivers and nearly lose my shoe to ankle-deep mud when I misstep. My body finally warms up on the way over.

Paw-ti is very patient in showing Sarah and I the proper way to harvest and bundle the rice. We screw up a lot, but we eventually get the hang of it. We chat and sing while we work.

Sarah walking in the rice paddy
It's a constant game of "Whose on First" going on in my brain. Some sentences have Thai, English, and Karen words in them and it gets confusing. For example, tee: in Thai it is a preposition word, in  English, its a hot beverage made by steeping leaves, and in Karen it means drinking water.

Walking the balance beam ridge that surrounds the rice-paddy, I slip and fall into the rice and can't stop laughing.

After eating lunch, we ask Paw-ti if we will return to the rice field. Sarah and I want to help more. He tells us that he will return, but not us. When I ask why, he says, "because  nack-sick-sa [students] are tired."

Sarah and I make plans to return to the field anyway.

I open my eyes to find my face stuck to the pages of my course reader, lying not on, but next to the bed. Our family appears to have left for the field. I did everything to stay awake,  talked with Sarah, took a stroll around the village, but I feel victim to T. Forsyth and his essay on Upland Peoples.

The shower.  I am struggling because my body instinctively flinches away from wherever my arm dumps the water. When I finally dump the ice-cold water over my head I lose my breath for a second.

I walk outside and find Paw-ti sharpening machetes with his wet-stone outback. He is one of five people in the village that black-smiths. Right before my eyes, tarnished blades glisten in the sun. We don't speak and my mind drifts. I feel frustated that I took such a long nap after lunch and didn't "do more" with my family. It's then that I realize that sometimes its just about being present, together, not about "doing something." I remember all the times in my family at home with my mom knitting, my dad playing guitar, and me reading, doing nothing, together and realize that family life is just about being together in the quiet moments.

Family portrait

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thai-English Dictionary

Understand it or not, Thai is a regular part of my vernacular now. ISDSI students have become fluent in a language we have dubbed, Thai-lish and when I get back to the states, I won't be able to give up on a few of my favorite Thai words. Here are a few words and phrases to learn and love:

Sah-wat-dee: Hello!

ex: Sah-wat-dee ka Aaron. How was Madrid?

Mae/Paw: Mom/Dad

ex: I am going home over Spring to see my Mae and Paw

sabai sabai: relaxing, chill chill,

ex: Instead of going to the party, I stayed home, drank tea, and watched a movie. Sabai Sabai

mai-pen-rai: It's all good, it doesn't mater, no big deal, hakunah matata

ex: Aww man! The ice cream store is out of rocky road. Mai-pen-rai, I'll get mint chocolate chip." 

mai-ru (jak): I don't know

ex: "Hey, Wendy, do you know when The Hobbit is coming out?" "Mai-ru" 

sue-sue: Fight on! Victory! You can do it! Stay the course! This phrase is usually followed by a peace sign (aka a V for victory)

ex: "ugggh! I don't want to write this paper." "You can do it! Sue-Sue!" 

nit-noi: a little bit, slightly, always put at the end of sentences

ex: I'm hungry nit noi . The test was hard nit noi

cheem: taste/sample

ex: ooh! Your snack looks good. Can I cheem it? 

kanom: snack/desert

ex: ooh your kanom looks good. Can I cheem it? 

pang (mahk): (very) expensive

ex: I went to the tourist-y area of town and it was pang mahk! 

farang: Westerner/white person

ex: I went to the farang area of town and it was pang mahk! 

I reserve the right to add more words to this list at any time.