For our final week as SST, we went to the Lahu Village to help plant a desired 2000 banana trees. We went with the goal to help the villagers see the possibilities of sustainable agriculture in their community and to help achieve a man named Witoon’s vision of his village. Witoon grew up in this village, and for a while he was working on his vison with only support from his father. His mother and even his wife had no faith in his dream coming true. Now, not only his wife and mother, but other villagers are starting to believe in his vision. We were able to see all that God has been doing for them in the village, and how Witoon’s dream is becoming more real each day. Our experience at the Lahu village was not like anything we have experienced in our program, and it was a good way to end our program as a whole.
Soon after we got to the village, all of the students went to get settled into their homestays. Each house had two students living there and most beds for the students were located in the family room of the house. Being back at a village also meant using the squatty potties. Most bathrooms were located outside and not attached to the house. There were roosters and chickens outside the homes and they loved to wake everyone up between four and six each morning. After we settled in we got to experience something sad for us, but traditional for the village. We got to experience the slaughtering of a pig as a way of welcoming us to their village. After the killing, they shaved it, and prepared all the desired meat for them to use for our meals the next several days. As sad as it was, it was so interesting to see the children interested in the process and desire to learn and watch their fathers prepare the pig.
On our first Saturday in the village, we went to visit a Chinese student hostel about forty-five minutes from where we stayed. The children were excited to see us all and were ready to play. There were about ten children there since it was summer break and many children went back home. We had face painting, soccer, and volleyball for our morning. After a fun morning with the children, they served a delicious lunch and we returned back to the center for a relaxing afternoon at the village. On Sunday we experienced church at our village. We sang some worship songs, including “How Great Thou Art.” It was so cool to hear the song played in the Lahu language, and we sang it in English as well. We had two students, Amber Adams and Mack Ellis, prepare a devotional for the sermon. They did a great job sharing a wonderful message to the students and the villagers. After church we got to visit one of the greatest temples in Thailand, the White Temple in Chiang Rai. This temple is extremely creative, and is still being worked on. It was absolutely beautiful. Ajarn Mike set it up that we could meet the artist of this temple. We went to a zoo afterwards and got to hear some pretty cool Thai speaking birds. It was a good weekend to prepare us for five days of banana planting.
Monday morning came along quickly which meant it was time to start planting banana trees. We were ready to work knowing we would be planting a lot of trees each day. The first day we planted about four hundred and fifty trees with the help of some of the farmers in the village. Each day the farmers would say how they never would have imagined something so great happening to their fields. Each day we planted, God was showing himself to the villagers and to us students by giving each of us such strength to plants hundreds of trees for six days. We planted from about eight-thirty to about noon each day. We got a good system of moving these trees by making an assembly line and tossing the trees, if light enough, up the hills to the holes to be planted. By the second day, we were able to plant about one hundred and twenty trees in forty-five minutes. We were unstoppable and easily going to reach our goal of two thousand banana trees. At the end of Tuesday we planted almost one thousand trees.
Tuesday night SST began to encounter a bit of a set back to our planting. Me and a couple of students started feeling a little bit off, but did not think much of it. By the end of the night one of the helpers at the village, Nate, and I went to the hospital to get checked out because we were not feeling well at all. Witoon said, “At least it is only a couple of students and not everyone.” With that being said, by Wednesday, more than half of the group was down for the count and ill with the same sickness as Nate and I. The villagers, Witoon, and his wife were so caring and did whatever they could to take care of us and help us get better. Luckily, we are all generally feeling better from this unknown illness.
Even though we were dealing with what we call “The Ban Ba Lah Disease” we still had the healthy students go and plant banana trees. Even the sickness could not keep us from reaching our goal. By the end of the week our group planted a total of two-thousand two-hundred banana trees throughout the village. The villagers were amazed to see the amount planted. At one point I remember Witoon saying that he saw other villagers are starting to plant more banana trees in their fields because they see what we have been doing around the village. We were also able to discuss and come up with some outside ideas for Witoon to help his fields improve and help his dream come true. Pii Mollie came up with some great ideas that will probably be used in the near future to benefit the Lahu Village.
Our final night there we had a fun night dancing and seeing some fireworks. The villagers came dressed in their traditional outfits and we all gave thank you gifts to our homestay families. Ajarn Mike also surprised us at the end of the night with lanterns to send into the sky. It was truly a great way to end our time in the village. Now we are back in Chiang Mai, and officially done with the Spring Semester in Thailand program. Seventeen of us are staying here to do the TEFL program. TEFL stands for “Teaching English as a Foreign Language.” After this program we will be certified to teach English anywhere around the world. Two of the students are traveling, three are staying for some voluntary work, and the rest are going back to America. Thank you again Ajarn Mike, Ajarn Ann, the Pii’s, and all of people who helped make all that we experienced possible. This program has been life changing and an experience we will never forget.
This week’s blog post was written by Hannah Hartman (pictured above, right), sophomore Human Development and Family Sciences major at Messiah College, located in Grantham, PA.
To view photos from the Lahu Village, please click the following link: https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/104834353989728659069/albums/5996806879778317761