Volunteer Trip to Thailand – Part 1
February 9-14, 2016
Today was the second day of the volunteer camp. Yutaka Kishi wrote about the first day and Genki Omata and Daisuke Kikuchi wrote about the second day.
I’d like to share something that happened at dinnertime. We went to a typical Thai restaurant, like an outdoor cafe. This was our first meal since we arrived. A child came up to us and tried to sell us various things. After that, other people walked in and tried to sell things as well. We were told not to buy anything from them because many times, they were affiliated with gangs. What surprised me was the indifference toward them. The restaurant employees did not say anything to them. I guess this was a common occurrence. Seeing this dark side of the culture was a bit of a shock to me.
Today we had the opportunity to meet the Hmong people. They taught us about their history and the differences between Japan and let us try on some of their traditional clothing. We also helped with repairs to the dormitory, Ban Hmong’s Hope. The most interesting thing I learned today was that in Thailand, it is not polite to pat children on the head. This is something we do quite commonly in Japan, but in Thailand it is frowned upon.
What I felt the most when I met the Hmong people is that they were such pure and genuine people.
The children were always laughing. As soon as they got home from school, they would bring out a soccer ball and start to play. We also joined them and played. Watching the children have such fun with only a soccer ball reminded me of my grade school days. I loved playing outdoors and did so every day until it got dark. This is not seen in Japan that frequently anymore. I think this is because children stay indoors and play video games. By watching the Hmong children, i realized what what a waste of time it is for children to stay home and play video games. This is the only time in their lives that they can run around and play outdoors yet they don’t. Even though we are a developed country with many more conveniences, there are bad sides as well.
Tomorrow we will have cultural exchange with the Hmong people. I hope we can learn more about them and deepen our relationship.
The first thing we did today was meet with Gary, one of the representatives of Ban Hmong’s Hope, at the cafe he runs. As we had some nice coffee, he explained how Ban Hmong’s Hope operated and introduced some of the staff working there. Afterwards, he showed us around the dormitory and we were able to spend some time with the children living there. That night, we had a wonderful dinner of hotpot at a nearby restaurant. The biggest shock was that there was a dead rat on the floor of the restaurant… Otherwise the food was delicious. After that we went to the night bazaar in Chiangmai and haggled for lower prices of Thai souvenirs. It was a lot of fun.
The most memorable part of the day was meeting a girl who worked in Gary’s cafe. Her parents had both died, she was infected with HIV and blind in one eye but she always had a bright smile on her face. I truly felt the love between Gary and the children living there. It is hard to express this in words, but love is what I felt the most strongly while I was there. I felt many things on my first trip abroad, such as differences of culture and language, but I also felt that love is something that is the same all over the world.