Be_Happy & the House of Hope

fullsizeoutput_2e45I spent the next two days running a few errands and working on the computer. I am getting ready for my Osteothai-Internal Organs Workshop at Om Waters that starts Saturday and for my hosting of twelve Natural Health Practitioners of Canada (NHPC) members arriving February 3rd to learn Thai Massage at the Thai Massage School of Chiang Mai (TMC).

At Tip Top I met another interesting guest named Ron. Ron is the President of the US children’s charity called Kids Ark Foundation that helps to break the cycle of poverty for marginalized children in Northwest Thailand. He is a fascinating man with such interesting stories to tell. He and his partner are in the process of moving to Chiang Mai. It astounds me how many foreigners fall in love with this city and come to make it their permanent home.

In the afternoon as I cycled around the city I visited one of my favourite temples, Wat Chedi Luang.

This Wat has a ruined Lanna-style chedi (or stupa) built in 1441 and is situated within a sprawling area that is powerfully atmospheric, especially at night. The top of the chedi was destroyed either by a 16th-century earthquake or by cannon fire during the recapture of Chiang Mai from the Burmese in 1775, no one is quite sure which. Like many ancient monuments in Chiang Mai, Chedi Luang was in ruins when the city began its modern renaissance. A partnership between Unesco and the Japanese government in the 1990s stabilized the monument and prevented further damage.

Clay Studio and Faces is a cafe/restaurant set amongst a beautiful garden filled with intricately carved terracotta statues and pottery, some whole, some broken. Stepping from the small soi (street) into the garden you are transported into a fantasy world that beckons you to sit, read, or converse, but most importantly, to slow down.

To contrast this calm and soothing experience I next went to Warorot Market, Chiang Mai’s largest market, for a few items. You can buy almost anything here and is great for people watching too.

That night I met my sister Melanie, Julie and Ron at the North Gate Jazz Club and stood outside the open doors listening to more great music.

Each morning I try and do a meditation, study Thai language and/or do a run, or some type of exercise. I decided not to do the exercise Tuesday morning as I knew I was meeting Peter and Erica at Buak Haat Public Park inside the old city walls in the afternoon where foreigners meet to practice Thai Massage, Circus tricks and acroyoga. I haven’t done acroyoga since I was in Chiang Mai two years ago. Erica had me doing more than I thought possible in the time we had, as her base (the one on the ground to support the flyer in the air). Then Peter was the base and had me fly doing a mid air cartwheel! I really need to do this back in Saskatoon, it is way too much fun.

Wednesday Phillip expertly drove Noi, Jack, Kay and myself in Dang’s truck from the Old City around part of the Samoeng Loop doing our favourite kind of travel; from one place to eat to another. We began at Baan Dong View Doi, a restaurant with a spectacular view of the Doi Sutep mountain range and wonderful food. I ordered Tom Khao Gai (coconut chicken soup) that came in a pot with a square of solid fuel burning to keep it warm. It began to boil so I tried to  blow it out which entertained Noi so much she took a photograph through her laughter.

Next we drove to the Royal Rose Garden Cafe. Tables are set amongst terraced stretches of rose gardens up the side of the hill. We had Chinese cabbage cake, pumpkin cake and avocado ice cream! I can’t get enough of the witty conversation and delightful company of these people.

That night Ron and I went out for Japanese BBQ at Huromon where Peter, Eric, Shaun, Debbie and I had been the week before. It was every bit as tasty and so very busy. Other BBQ places surround this restaurant but none are as packed with this many happy customers.

Thursday was an amazing day at Jenny and Mark’s about 13km south of Chiang Mai. We had visited for a few hours to help out last week but this week I devoted the day to helping them make bricks that would build the walls and igloo like structures of their home. Peter came out to join the work party elevating our fun factor. We spent the morning scraping clean the wooden molds, then oiling them to be sure the new bricks didn’t stick to the inside of the mold. We ate a delicious meal at a local roadside restaurant before getting back to work.

The afternoon was devoted to making the bricks. These bricks are made of concrete and a foam (made from compressing water and dish soap). The two are mixed and poured into wooden molds to make either a brick (for the igloos) or the beams (for the walls of the main house). It was a fascinating process to watch. Once the forms were full we had to distribute the concrete foam evenly in the molds and level them. After a few days the bricks are removed from the molds and left to dry for several weeks. The final product is extremely light, strong and a super insulator. My last job was to oil a round wooden form Oliver (the brains behind how to build the igloos) had built to place in the hole, in the centre of the igloo, where he applied glue that would support the centre piece.

Peter left for his date night with Erica and once I was done helping Oliver I left for the city and stopped on my way to buy a book called Thai for Beginners by Benjamin Poomsan Becker (comes with 2 CDs) as suggested by Peter to help me learn Thai. After I cleaned up at Tip Top I ate a delicious vegan meal at Good Souls which included a vegan version of Mango Passionfruit Cheesecake (thanks for that suggestion Ron!). I was so tired after all this work and cycling so I stopped at Sense on my way home for a one hour foot massage that set me up for a deep, deep, sleep.

Friday morning I spent working on this blog, and doing other computer work. Ron kindly asked if I wanted to join him at a site visit of House of Hope. House of Hope is a project at a school in the town of Ban Pa Muet is 12km north east of Chiang Mai. Les, a donor who sponsors this project that provides after school tutoring and meals to minority or disadvantaged children, was going to visit the school with Tom and Ron of Kids Ark Foundation and Rick from another agency. It was a great privilege for me to be a part of this visit. The school children were well cared for and seemed so happy, whether playing marbles on the play ground, or doing their after school assignments. The kids kept smiling and laughing as they looked at us. A few brave ones tried out their english on us by telling us their name saying “My name is…”. One enthusiastic girl shouted out her name with great excitement eliciting a great cacophony of laughter from the other children. A teacher approached to thank us all for supporting this project and hoped that it would continue for a long time. She had visited the homes of many of the 30 children (80% Burmese, 20% Thai, and 10% Hill Tribe) that benefit from this program. Most are extremely poor and live with their parents and many siblings in a one room structure. I couldn’t communicate in thai that I was here as a visitor and had nothing to do with this program. So I received their thanks and tried my best to let them know how much I honoured their work as teachers with these children.  I had an overwhelming feeling that at some point in the future I would find a way to support this great project.

Kids Arc is helping these children dream big for their future by providing them access to career options by doing such things as going to the airport to meet a pilot and sit in a cockpit, or visit doctors and nurses in the hospital. This House of Hope program provides support for these impoverished children who would otherwise never have this type of opportunity. At one point during our visit they were drawing and colouring pictures of underwater life. Ron let me know that most of these children have never seen an ocean. This idea boggled my mind. Tourists from all over the world come to Thailand to enjoy the beaches as well as the city life of Thailand and yet these children living near Chiang Mai have never seen the ocean. Kids Arc organizes a special outing once a year and takes 30 children 10 hours by bus to the ocean. They camp by the ocean and then return the next day. Many of the children imagined the ocean was like a large lake. Seeing the ocean for the first time is an overwhealming experience for many of them.

We sat at each of the table where the children worked each of us practicing our thai and english. I loved the sketches on the walls of body parts listed in english, phonetically in thai and then the thai name for that body part. This will be a help to me in my learning too!

Before we left we had photos taken with many of the children from the school. The photo was taken by a group of older boys each holding one of our cellphones. At one point they just kept pressing the smart phone camera buttons making it sound like a large group of paparazzi were taking photos. It was such a funny moment we all burst into laughter.

Back a Tip Top Noi and Phillip invited us for dinner at Kanjana, one of Noi’s favourite places in the Old City. We cycled through the old city to the restaurant and then out to the Night Bazaar area near the Ping river for an intensely good movie at the French Consulate called Corporate.

Tomorrow I leave for my workshop at Om Waters where we have limited solar energy electricity and no cellular or wifi services. Unplugged for the whole week. I can’t wait!

4 Comments

  1. Thank you again for your well written blog of your amazing adventures in Thailand. Everything sounds amazing – well maybe the air borne cartwheel not so much 🙂 – Good luck with your teaching.

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