From Here to There and Back Again

A lot has transpired these last few weeks.  Songkran came and went.  I wrapped up the festivities in Chiang Mai where Songkran is celebrated in a mad frenzy.  It was bananas!  My mom and I left Pai and returned to the charming city only to be kicked out of our taxi when the driver saw the gridlock into the Old City.  Solid bumper-to-bumper traffic, a maniacal water fight with music and madness at every turn.  Imagine our horror as we lugged our suitcases wrapped in garbage bags and ourselves wrapped in raincoats in 95 degree heat through the crowded streets.  Water and people everywhere.  We were getting hit from all angles as we meandered toward our guesthouse.  It was hectic.   The fun of Songkran was quickly dissolving…

One young Thai man had the audacity of walking up to my mom, pulling open her raincoat at the collar and dumping an entire bucket of moat water down her chest.  We were exhausted, exasperated, and pissed off.  We were both muttering expletives under our breath and I swear if my hands weren’t full, I might’ve caught up with that asshole and punched him square in the face. But this is Thailand and it’s important to foster the art of jai yin yin – a cool heart.  I thought my mom was going to lose her shit and go commando on the people around her.  We needed to get to our hotel.  Fast.

A hippie farang with dreds down his back threw an aggressive bucket my way just as I asked him not to since we were clearly en route (it’s one thing if you can join in the fun; it’s another if you are trying to get somewhere with all your belongings).  He ignored my plea and I called him a motherfucker.  Not my finest moment.  It was a miracle we found the guesthouse at all but we finally did.  Hallelujah.

I awoke the next morning and could barely get out of bed.  Somewhere in all the mayhem I threw my back out.  It hurt like hell and I couldn’t fully stand upright.  It took me a half-hour to make if from my bed to the bathroom.  We managed to get a taxi to the Chiang Mai hospital where I saw an orthopedist, had some physical therapy and obtained some pain meds and muscle relaxers.  The one-and-a-half hour visit cost 2,000 baht. That’s not much in U.S. dollars but it’s a wad here.  I was disappointed that I couldn’t go bat shit in the streets of Chiang Mai on the last day of Songkran.  My body just wouldn’t allow for it.  Instead we made a visit to an ecological preserve established by the Thai government for hill tribe families.  We met and visited with Karen, Hmong, and Lisu people.  They were incredibly warm and inviting.  The land was peaceful and beautiful. The  area was dotted with simple bamboo huts, surrounded by mountains, rice fields, and lifestock.  The hilltribe people are stateless, lacking citizenship and access to education, healthcare and wage paying jobs. Statelessness means immobility as well.  These families cannot leave this area but many stated there were okay with that as they live in peace and are comfortable.  The issue of statelessness in this part of the world really baffles me.  How can you be born here yet still be considered non-native?  It’s one thing if you migrated from Burma.  It’s another thing if you were born on Thai soil.

From Chiang Mai we ventured home to Mae Sai – a much welcomed return.  My mother said her goodbyes and packed her bags.  I took her to Chiang Rai and saw her off at the international airport.  I can’t believe a month has passed so quickly. From Bangkok to Phi Phi to Phnom Penh to Siem Reap to Angkor Wat to Bangkok to Mae Sai to Chiang Mai to Pai and back again.  It has been an incredible month of adventure and sightseeing intermixed with fundraising, networking and charitable donation.  We got through the month without wanting to pull each other’s hair out and we had many laughs. I’ll miss my partner in crime.  It was great to have a familiar face around and to show her my world here.  I’m grateful for every minute we shared.

Now life has settled down again in Mae Sai.  I’ve turned my attention toward finishing my projects at DEPDC/GMS before school starts up again.  I had to renew my visa in Burma this week only to come back in on a 15 day visa. Not great but what can a girl do?  This means I have to leave Thailand every 15 days and pay $10 to immigration to renew.  This isn’t so bad considering I live in Mae Sai and it’s easy to pop over to Burma from here but this will add up over time and I’m not sure how long I can sustain it.  It may be time to invest in a better visa by leaving Thailand for a while or it may be time to head home and regroup.  The verdict is out yet.

To the request of my dear friends back home, I’ve added a PayPal donation button to my blog.  Anyone who is interested in helping me help others can do so by making a contribution toward my volunteerism.  It’s certainly not expected but every bit helps.  It is with deep gratitude that I thank the generous individuals who have supported my cause in Southeast Asia.  I am only able to continue my work in the prevention of human trafficking here on the Thai/Burmese border through the generosity and support of others.  I couldn’t do what I’m doing without the kindness of so many of you.  Your support is invaluable and it is truly appreciated.

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