Northern Thailand: Random Notes

Naked Mango Shake, Banana Pineapple Shake & Blue Magic
I'm taking a break from my work assignment at the elephant home and spending the weekend in Chiang Mai.   I get to hangout with other volunteers: S from Canada, M and S from the US, and H from Japan. On our first weekend together we get to exchange notes about our assigned work locations and areas of interest. Over dinner we share photos and stories of our first week of volunteering. M has the most colorful experience by far when it comes to food. She describes how she caught her food (shrimp-shrimp, little crab, sucker fish), and how she popped the whole crab and fish head into her mouth and had maggots for dinner. S from the US talks fondly about her home-stay family. I share a video of H dancing the "Gangnam Style" with the kids from school.  S from Canada and I have our share of getting lost on our first day in Chiang Mai. She reminds me so much of my niece who went to teach in Korea and travel to Southeast Asia after graduating from college that I was quick to reveal deep personal information to her that I normally don't share to someone I just met.   I act like an auntie around her.

Last Monday, I was scheduled to leave for my assignment at the elephant home at 10:00am. But typical of this program, the schedule got changed to 1:30pm. Coincidentally, it was Superbowl Sunday in the States so I took the scheduling change as good news - a chance for me to stay connected to the the internet and get a minute by minute update on the Superbowl.  It was past noon when I saw a posting about the final outcome of the game. I logged off and decided to grab some lunch at the 'Brown Rice Organic Restaurant' near the guest house before the trip to the forest, but decided against it when I realized the service at that restaurant was really slow.

I went to the V & OH, a trendy coffee shop, and had coffee instead.  I was joined by a few cats while having my coffee.  Right across V & OH was a small open-air restaurant offering dishes at 30 Baht (equivalent to $1). But I have yet to get use to eating at that type of restaurant. The day I got lost I saw a woman on a garage floor preparing skewers of meat and it did not appear to be for their own consumption only  (street food a topic worthy of another post).

Morn, the program coordinator, who was supposed to give me a ride to the elephant home was late as usual. It was nearly 4pm when we arrived at the village . We stopped to eat lunch at Morn's favorite restaurant (the place where H and I supposed to get our lunch while in the village), and where I was introduced to my homestay host.  My homestay host and I walked to her house while Morn drove H to his homestay with my luggage in the car.
About half of a kilometer later, we entered a gate leading to my homestay.  In front of the gate I found towering mango and tamarind trees, and a river below the road. My host gave me a quick tour of the property and showed me the cottage (my home during my stay at the village).  It was bordered by a brook with a tiny bridge that led to a vegetable garden and an expanse of vegetation leading to a forest.  Then my host ushered me to go inside the cottage where I found 2 twin beds with mosquito nets hanging above the beds.     Morn and her friend arrived at my homestay later. After dropping my luggage off, they went to pick some tamarinds. My host and I joined in picking tamarinds . Then we walked the whole village picking vegetable along the way: bokchoy, eggplant, beans, blue peas (edible flower). Singing and skipping along like one of the seven dwarfs, Morn was still full of energy to go around the village and greet everybody. At one point she stopped a motorcyclist and and ordered him to get something from the market. The motorcyclist came back with a dozen eggs. "Follow me, we're going to visit an old woman." said Morn. We walked through a tiny dirt road that lead to a tiny house. Dogs barking like crazy. Then an old woman emerged from the tiny house. Morn handed her the eggs and slipped her some money. I found out later that the old woman had no family and her house was built by volunteers.

It was nearly 8:00 pm when we returned to my homestay. Morn still managed to cook what we had gathered. We brought the food to the table outside my cottage and ate under the dark of the evening and light from the campfire.  Ginger tea brewing in the campfire.  Bright stars shooting across the sky.  After sipping my ginger tea from a cup made of bamboo, I retreated to my cottage and fell asleep to the sound of a babbling brook.

to be continued...

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