Sitting in the Chiang Mai International Airport drinking coffee and observing the comings and goings of many nationalities, I find myself reflecting on the past 3 days in Chiang Mai. My first visit to Thailand did not disapoint, and I say first visit because I know I will be back at some point to this beautiful country. In 3 days we barely scratched the surface of what just one city has to offer. The sweet sticky smell of Durian (not so much a favorite) to the smoky charred bbq aroma of the grilled meats and vegetables, every corner and turn held more delicious surprises.
Chiang Mai is known as the city of temples, and I would have to say we couldn't walk more than a few steps without encountering another temple. Each temple just a little different and unique in it's own way. Walking through the old city made me contemplate and wonder about the history of this city that seems to be hovering on the verge of ancient and modern. Looking at the wall and the temples I wondered why was the wall built, you only build a wall generaly as protection, so I did some research and discovered that Chiang Mai gained it's independence after much of Thailand. They gained freedom from Burma and then joined with Thailand. This led to more reading about the temples and the history of the temple on the hill. Doi Suthep temple is high on the moutain about 25km outside the city. Story goes, an ancient monk known to have a piece of the shoulder bone of the original Buddha came to the base of that mountain, and the bone broke in two pieces. One piece was left and a temple was built in the area, and the other piece was tied to a white elephant who wandered the jungles until he died. The place in which he died was where Doi Suthep was built and then housed the piece of shoulder bone. The little stories and nuggets of history like this are what make me want to meet and talk with the people in a place. I want to hear their stories and their history.
The smells, the sounds, the people, the sites, all put together make a place beautiful.
While we did get to spend a good amount of time seeing some of the local sites (like the Elephant Poo Paper Factory), this trip was about more than just seeing Thailand. Gettng to the heart of Thailand and the needs of some of the people here was the ultimate goal. This journey led to that as well. Like all places in the world, there are needs here. Two that I became most aware of were the need for education for all students, and the need for orphan care (which is somewhat a two part need).
First as I began to hear of the need for education, we learned that most students do not recieve beyond a grade 6 education. This continues to a create a cycle that prevents people from being able to make sustainable livings for their family. Thailand also ranks as one of the lowest English speaking Asian nations. The lack of English knowledge for many prevents them from being able to obtain higher paying jobs and better future for their families. There is also a region of Thailand in which 80% of the children do not live with either their father or their mother because the parents leave to go work somewhere else in the country, or if possible in another country, just to make enough to provide for their families. (This also leads to the next issue of orphan care to some degree). The lack of education then also leads to a lack of job opportunities for those in the country.
Second, there is a high rate of orphans in Thailand. For various reasons these children do not have homes, or proper homes, and there is need for places for these children to live and receive a proper education and care. The ideal situation would be families in Thailand taking in and fostering these children, but with that comes the need for training and education and support for these families who are willing to care for and love these children.
There are many layers to all of this obviously, and in my brief 3 days here, I am by no means an expert on the challenges found here, however, I am now more aware that while this place is a land of beautiful land and beautiful people, there are also ways others can help meet needs of those who can greatly benefit from just a little boost.
I look forward to seeing if The Remedy Foundation can be a partner with some here, or if this is simply a way to help connect others who may hear this and say I can be the one to help. Now the journey continues to Malaysia for a few more adventures.