When I arrived to the Chiang Mai airport, I had no idea that I would be seeing more in just one week than most people do in a month. The beginning of my trip was full of daily activities, which consisted of touring local Wats around Chiang Mai, cruising through the countryside on the motorbikes and going to local artisan markets in the city. Needless to say, I didn’t let the jet lag get in the way of having fun and exploring my new home. I absolutely love Chiang Mai! The vegetarian restaurants, the juice bars on every corner, the coffee shops… it’s like I landed in paradise! Not to mention everyone is smiling—all the time!
My favorite part of the trip so far was going to Ba Pae, a Lawa hill tribe village, about six hours from Chiang Mai. As we hopped in the bed of the pickup truck, I knew this was going to be quite the experience. After climbing the swerving dirt roads into the jungle for a few hours, I was excited to see this village that I’ve heard so much about. The people of Ba Pae are so friendly and welcoming. What amazed me about this remote village in the jungles of Northern Thailand is how happy and connected they are to each other. It’s like one giant family. I learned how to make Lawa food, various handicrafts, I made a tiny basket out of bamboo, and even helped harvest rice!
After being here for just one month, Doi Saket is starting to feel like home. I’ve been driving the motorbike through the countryside everyday, passing rice patties, ponds and mountains. Our favorite place to visit is the local dam, which is a beautiful location to watch the sunset. I’m getting used to my routine living here at the Wat. Every day I wake up to monks chanting and walk downstairs to say hello and make tea with the rest of the teachers. Since I have the mornings off, I like to ride my motorbike to a nearby botanical garden and go for a swim in the salt-water pool. After I make my way back to the Wat, I usually eat lunch with the teachers before class starts at 12:30. I have six classes, the ages ranging from 11 to 17. It’s really fun teaching the novices. I’ve figured out they really like two things – playing games and candy! So, I try to make class fun by playing games where they have to speak English and become engaged in dialogue. And of course, the winner usually gets candy. It’s working out well so far, and I’m eager to see how the rest of the semester turns out as we move into harder material.
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By Nina Tedone