Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mai Thai Life

As of June 8th, I have been calling the village of Khuk Khak in southern Thailand my home. I will be living and volunteering here for the next three months. I am sharing a wonderfully spacious apartment (welcome, visitors!) with my boyfriend Matt, who is also here volunteering.

We are surrounded by either long stretches of beach and sky or lush, green jungles. There are even a couple of elephant camps a short distance from where we live and seeing elephants grazing in the fields is a common occurrence. It's actually pretty cool to have elephants as neighbors, those party animals!

The organization that I am volunteering with is the Grassroots Human Rights Education and Development, or GHRE for short. I work with Burmese migrant workers and teach English to 2nd, 3rd, and 5th graders every day in Pakarang, a village 5 minutes away from my house, and conversational English classes twice a week with older students at the Youth Outreach Center in Khuk Khak. Each afternoon, I am back at the main GHRE office to plan and prepare for the next day's lessons and to work on other organizational and administrative projects for GHRE, including creating an on-line store for the Women's Education and Development Association, a division of GHRE.

In the evenings, Matt and I go to the beach (weather permitting) and surf, shop at the local market for food, take rides on our motor scooter through the jungles exploring the many little nooks and crannies in the area or go home and play badminton in our living room before eating a hearty and delicious Thai dinner.

My days are long and exhausting but the rewards of volunteering and living in Thailand are more than worth it.

I guess my Thai life isn't exactly a Mai Thai life, but I'm finally doing something that I've been wanting to do for a long time so I can't complain. In fact, I'm a lot happier here than I have been for awhile and THAT'S a good thing.

© Connie Hum 2010

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Phuket About It!

After all the hustle and bustle, not to mention the sweltering heat and humidity of India, Thailand has been a most welcome respite. The weather is warm and humid, but of a tolerable degree with the occasional monsoonal rainfall. Ever since Matt and I arrived into Thailand a few days ago, we've been pretty much spoiling ourselves rotten.

We stayed at a nice and rather posh hotel along one of Phuket's many gorgeous beaches, a rarity in the backpacker lifestyle. One of the many perks of this particular hotel room was that the shower was actually separate from the toilet so that whenever we had to use the commode, it didn't require that our feet be wet. Ah, what a life!

We rented a stylish moped for a day, zipping along in search for secluded beaches to snorkel in. I'm pretty sure Matt and I stopped traffic all over Phuket because we were so darn stylish (obviously it had nothing, absolutely nothing to do with Matt's moped driving skills, or the fact that the headlight didn't work when we were driving home on the national highway after dark). It's always a fun day when you're on a moped.

We splurged on a side trip to the island of Ko Phi Phi, including 2 SCUBA dives in the Andaman Sea. It had rained intermittently throughout the night before so made the water visibily less than ideal, but I did still manage to see a Bamboo Shark hiding out underneath a rock and a Spotted Eel, among a myriad of other fishes like bannerfish, scorpionfish, pufferfish, clown fish and the like.

Most of all, Matt and I have been spoiling ourselves on street food each day. No doubt, the Thai know how to do street food. I ended my 4-month (mostly) vegetarian stint with a feast of juicy chicken legs, seafood pad thai and endless beef and pork curries. Even though I ask for "no spicy" most of the food is still hot enough to get me sweating. Thank goodness for the Thai iced tea to keep my taste buds in check. I'm in culinary heaven and I'm looking forward to trying more Thai food in the coming months.

The laid-back vibe and natural beauty of Phuket is enough to make us never want to leave but we're looking forward to starting our volunteer program in Khuk Khak in a few days with GHRE (Grassroots Human Rights Education and Development), working with migrant Burmese workers.

Besides the rewarding experience we're sure to get out of volunteering for the next 3 months, Matt and I are only going to be a hour and a half outside
of Phuket so we'll be back. Our last days in Phuket? Phuket about it!

© Connie Hum 2010

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