I have spent so much time these past two weeks journaling for my practicum that I forgot it has been a while since I’ve updated my blog – I apologize! My first two weeks interning at MMF have been good, and the weekends have been even better. There is a lot to catch up on, so let’s get started!
So far at MMF, Breezy and I’s main task has been teaching English at the Burmese Learning Center. The children are ages 1.5 – 14 years old, so it is a bit challenging to come up with lessons that won’t be too hard/too difficult, especially since the older children already know some English and the younger kids do not. But they are all eager to learn and energetic, so they are wonderful to work with. We also play games and sing songs with them every day, and while they nap in the afternoons, we either teach the teachers health basics or work on projects for the Human Rights branch of MMF.
Some of the children at the Center. They are wonderful!
Praying before Mae Mali gives out candy.
Precious girls. Having fun on the playground!
We have also spent a few days working at the MMF office, usually to join their meetings, devotionals, and prayer times. It is interesting to see how an NGO functions, and to see how people from various ethnic minorities can come together and work harmoniously. It’s amazing how many different languages are spoken there throughout the day!
To be honest, teaching English is not what I had envisioned or hoped for for my practicum experience, but the people I have met while being at MMF have made the time and experience worth it. Everyone is so gracious, giving, and loving, and they have become role models for me in what it means to be a Christian. And while I have not done a lot of art or nursing for myself, I have been able to use what I have learned in those areas to teach others, such as by teaching the children and teachers about health, by drawing worksheets for the children to color and trace letters, and by having the children do art that goes along with our lessons for the day.
The weekends, on the other hand, have provided so many new and exciting experiences. Last Saturday, we joined some of the MMF scholarship students to plant trees in Karen villages in the mountains. The drive there was a little scary (lots of poorly maintained roads on the edge of the mountains), and once we arrived and got our bags of trees to plant, we trekked through the jungle and up steep, sketchy paths that opened up to a hillside clearing. There we each planted about 5-6 trees (there was such a large group of us, so the work went very quickly!) on the side of the steep hill. The view from that location was absolutely gorgeous. We could see mountains and rivers for miles – it was unreal. Unfortunately, both Breezy and I stupidly did not bring our cameras, since we were afraid it would rain and we’d be dirty from planting all the trees. Hopefully we can attain some pictures that were taken by the MMF staff who went, though!
After the work was done, we all went down and ate a delicious meal in one of the Karen churches. They prepared so much food for us! On the way home, we stopped at an elephant camp, and before we knew it, we were escorted up some stairs and onto an elephant! We definitely were not expecting that when we agreed to plant trees for the day! Our ride lasted about 30 minutes, and then afterwards we headed back home (not before Anawan stopped to get us all Thai iced teas), and then Breezy and I proceeded to nap and relax until dinner.
On Sunday we spent the day with one of our future professors/MMF staff named Peter. It was such a wonderful day, as Peter showed us such generosity by making us breakfast, taking us to church and lunch, and then chatting with us at a coffee shop. He had such energy and love for life, despite the fact he is battling cancer. I have learned a lot from him and his blessings since I’ve been here.
This weekend has been full of firsts! Yesterday, Tim, another MMF staff member, and his family took us to a ceramics studio on the outskirts of Chiang Rai called Doy Din Dang. It was the most beautiful studio I have ever been to, and it definitely re-sparked my desire to do pottery! The main potter there is renowned for his beautiful work, and we actually met him while looking around the various galleries. We also enjoyed some homemade ice cream at their coffee shop – if it wasn’t such a drive to get there, I would spend so many afternoons in that beautiful, quiet, serene, and inspiring setting. The highlight, though, was that the potters working in the studio that day allowed me to throw a couple pieces on the wheel! My skills were a little rusty and the clay was new to me, but it was so good to get back on and practice.
One of the cool buildings of Doy Din Dang.
Back on the wheel!
Making a vase.
Breezy was having fun with the camera. These were all taken by her!
The finished forms! (The two in the center are mine.)
From there we went to Wana Farm, which is a farm that raises ostriches, horses, long-tailed sheep, and peacocks. And yes, they have both horse and ostrich riding available. We couldn’t pass up riding an ostrich! It was rather strange, and a little awkward at times, but it was worth the experience and it gave us a lot of laughs. It took some strength to stay balanced for sure – especially when my ostrich almost wiped out when it started running in the mud. We also proceeded to try ostrich meat when we ate lunch there. It actually was not too bad! May as well get the full experience, right?
“Once Time in your Life”
Couldn’t hold on to the neck! Had to grab hold of the wings. Such a weird experience!
Nit’s boys heading off for a ride.
Waiting expectantly for food.
We then switched gears and went with another MMF staff member (the director, and our supervisor, actually) Nit, and went to the market with her to pick out ingredients for our Mien and Northern Thai meal we would be preparing for the evening. Before we ate, though, they took us to a mountain that overlooks all of Chiang Rai. We got there right as the sun was setting, and it was a gorgeous view. It was an incredibly peaceful place as well, especially as there was a temple and chedi at the top of the mountain.
The quaint city of Chiang Rai.
Sunset over Chiang Rai.
After dinner, we went to the Chiang Rai weekly Walking Street. They have a live band and Thai dancing, and Breezy and I were ushered in to join by some Thai women. They wouldn’t let us leave, so we stayed and danced for about five songs! It was a lot of fun, even though we were some of the only ferangs present. We spent the rest of the evening walking through all the handicrafts, clothing, and food vendors until it started raining and everyone packed up. On the way home, though, we stopped at a Chinese restaurant and Nit ordered us some ginger soup with sesame dumplings. It was probably the strangest food I have ever eaten – the dumplings reminded me of eyeballs. I’m glad I had the excuse of being full from dinner, because I couldn’t bring myself to finish it!
Today we had the morning and afternoon to rest, thankfully, and this evening we went to an English speaking service with Scott. It was so good to go! I had no idea so many missionaries and English speaking people were present in Chiang Rai. It was very comforting to be around people whose culture I was comfortable with (even though I love Thai people!), we met some great missionaries, and we made many connections with people who knew of George Fox, Messiah (Breezy’s college) and our home states. It was exciting to be around them and witness their excitement for the work that is being done in this city, and it made me excited for what God has in store for my future, whatever that may look like.
Tomorrow Breezy and I head off to a village for a couple days to help on a farm. So far we think we’ll be building pig pens, helping a church somehow, and doing other farm work. Should be interesting! My experience here has definitely had highs and lows, but at the moment I’m very grateful to be here and excited for what the week holds. To everyone back home, I miss you greatly, and I’m so sad to be missing out on the Fall season with you. Make some good pumpkin muffins and scones for me, ok? Much love to you all!