Sa wa di ka! I’ve officially finished 13 days here in Thailand. Today we left Chiang Mai, and headed for UHDP (Upland Holistic Development Program). It was a long four hour drive with absolutely breathtaking views! UHDP grows crops on its farm sustainably and organically. Today I looked around and found piglets (!), a bowl of live catfish, a bowl of frogs, and copious amounts of chickens.
Tomorrow we will learn how to make animal feed, and next week we will return to Chiang Mai and sell the produce we find around the farm to the local market!
I am having such an amazing adventure. The 6 other girls on this trip feel like sisters to me. In our seminars, we have answered questions like “What is development?” “Who’s responsibility is it to develop whom?” “who am i?” “what is my relationship to food?”. I’m learning so much about myself, and also a good amount of Thai!
‘Sa wa di kah. Dichan chuu Hallie namsakun Burke, kah. Sa bay dee. Kob kun kah!”
^ Hello. My name is Hallie Burke. I am doing well. Thank you!^
After a 13 hour flight (San Fran to Hong Kong), a 2 hour flight (Hong Kong to Singapore) a 5 hour layover, then a 3 hour flight with a whole row to myself (Singapore to Chiang Mai) we drove to the Eco Resort Hotel – our home for the next week! There are trees and green bushes everywhere, lotuses, flowers, and lanterns hanging from all of the trees. It’s rainy season here in Thailand, so nearly every day there is a brief torrential downpour.
My 6 new friends and 2 program leaders are some of the nicest, loveliest, and supportive people I have ever met.
Every day I smell a mixture of something burning, Thai soup, and strange body odor all mixed into one. Outside our hotels are tons of taxi drivers wishing to pick us up and rip us off! Just today, I got the best massage of my entire life. In a Thai massage, it’s a mixture of physical therapy stretching and massaging. I could say “sa wa di ka” (hello) “sa bai de mai” (how are you?) and “tow rai ka?” (how much does this cost?) all from the knowledge my sister Sean gave me from the Thai she learned when she studied abroad there.
As a group, we’ve already done a ton of soul searching. Questioning what development is, and who we consider ourselves to be. We’ve visited the Chiang Mai Cultural Center, where we were led by a guide in a museum filled with ancient Thai artifacts. One of the beautifully woven skirts we saw costed at the time 500,000 Baht (the Thai currency) which translates to over $10,000 U.S. dollars!
There’s a 7/11 in town which we obviously visited. 6 girls had to help our program leader carry 10 gallons of water. It was an arm workout! We have to be careful drinking the local water here, so we brush our teeth/wash our faces/ and strictly drink from distilled bottled water. Tonight we are heading to a local Jazz bar in town – and treating ourselves to a legal drink as a group!
I’m missing my friends and family back home, but i simply cant wait to share my pictures and experiences with everyone, so far, too!
I’ve always suffered from FOMO. For anyone who has absolutely no clue what that acronym means, it refers to a “Fear of Missing Out”. Whether it be not getting the invite to an elementary school sleep over, or itching to sit at the ‘adults’ table at Thanksgiving, I always seem to want to be everywhere, all at once. Recently, I’ve seen all of my dear friends enjoying their first week at college. Via Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media platform, 100% of my peers seem to be having the absolute time of their lives. And then there’s me. A girl who, in just 5 days, will be traveling to Southeast Asia to devote 3 months to studying sustainable agriculture and educational enrichment. When my sister studied abroad in Thailand, she slept on a floor with a straw mat. Going from the oasis that is my comfy Manhattan bed, to a new country, a new city, a new pseudo family, and a new culture will be an interesting transition. I’ve learned how to say ‘hi’ in my host countries’ languages: ‘sa-wa-di-kah’ in Thai,’chromreabsuor’ in Khmer [Cambodia], and ‘namaste’ in Hindi. I’m a hopeless wanderer, a girl who knew she needed to see the reality of developing countries with her own eyes, before examining statistics about those countries in a lengthy college textbook.