In my Valentine’s Day post I mentioned my school’s Love, Care, Share project. We spent the past month gathering donations and supplies for a school in TeeBoKee village, a tiny place in the mountains where one of our TA’s grew up. A week ago Friday we took those donations to the school.
When we left the school, we drove a little over three hours to a town called Om Koy. For us, this was rural, middle-of-nowhere Thailand. The town had no big stores, and just one 7-11. (For perspective, in the 1.5 miles between my house and the old city, there are eight 7-11’s). That far from Chiang Mai and so close to the mountains, this was also a much colder Thailand that we were used to. We stayed the night at a guesthouse there.
The next morning we awoke early after a shivering night’s sleep and prepared for the second leg of the journey. We were picked up by our TA Thaem’s brother and his friend in two pickup trucks. We loaded all the donations and supplies into one truck and piled ourselves into the other, and then prepared for a very rough ride through the mountains.
Yes, that’s a river. That we drove through. It was a very bumpy ride.
When we arrived at the village, we were greeted by bare feet and smiley faces smeared with dirt. The school children gawked at us (unsurprising, since foreigners never make it that far into the mountains). We set up the donations and then prepared some crafts and games for the kids, which they loved.
This village was nothing like the Thailand we knew. The tiny village was isolated, nestled quietly into the surrounding mountains. It was beautiful, but primitive. None of the amenities I have become so used to in Chiang Mai existed there. They did have running water and electricity, and the school had a computer. But the village seemed like a slice of history, stuck in the past. There were no movie theaters or supermarkets, but instead fields and gardens and wandering livestock.
The people were kind and generous, cooking us food and sharing their supplies. As our TA’s cooked dinner in the back of the school, our driver and some of the locals helped build a fire. We sat around it talking, laughing, and watching the stars while sipping on homemade liquor out of an old beer bottle. Which tasted terrible.
I was reminded of my time living in a tent in Arkansas, when I had very little but nature around me and was as happy as I’ve ever been. There is something so beautiful in the simplicity of this kind of life, away from technology and shopping malls and the inanities of modern life.
As we drove back down the mountain the next morning, dirty, smelly, and sun burnt, we were overwhelmingly content. Tired and sore, but happy. And there’s not much better than that. It was a humbling experience, and an incredible one.