Well, folks, sorry for the 3-day delay of blog. The WiFi here is about as predictable as the spiciness of your Thai food when it’s described as ‘kind of spicy’ (this range includes anything from Taco Bell mild sauce to raging inferno of the devil’s saliva). As you’ve probably seen from the pictures, we rode elephants! They were INCREDIBLY awesome. My perception of an elephant has largely been crafted by such influences as ‘Dumbo’ and ‘The Jungle Book,’ so I was surprised to learn some new information: elephants can’t eat through their trunk, so shoving a banana up it is not a good idea; elephants are very very hairy; elephants’ trunks are strong enough to lift a grown person up in the air for long enough to take several pictures; elephants eat large clumps of unpeeled bananas in single bites. They had an awesome elephant show, during which elephants kicked soccer balls, played harmonicas with their trunks, painted pictures, and gave massages with their trunks. Needless to say, we were all immensely impressed, and many a video was taken. Also, we went rafting on bamboo rafts and went for an oxcart ride! Oxcarts are very bumpy and slow, and I now have a deeper respect for those people in Bible times who relied on them for transportation, and didn’t have kids running around behind them with shovels either (if you know what I mean). Enough about all that, check out the pictures.
After getting all the tourist-ness out of our systems, we piled into our song-tao and raced off to the village of Mae Wong. Oh wow. I just realized that I haven’t really described song-taos yet, and that’s pretty important. I just googled it and nothing really came up, so we’ll have to get a picture on here or something. A song-tao is basically a Thai taxi, shaped like a van, with a front cab and a back consisting of two benches facing each other with poles on the ceiling to hold on to for the unpredictable Thai driving. The back is open, with two ladders on either side of the door, and we generally take turns riding out in the open, to have more room inside and to avoid carsickness. While here in Thailand, we’ve rented one to accompany us everywhere, rather than find one for every outing. Our driver is Na’Rim, and he doesn’t speak any English at all and just smiles and laughs when we talk to him. Ok so anyway, we rode out to this village called Mae Wong, about an hour outside Chiang Mai. Here we parted ways to spend the night with individual Christian families in the village - me (Zach), Ana and Collin in one house, Alex, Tyler and Jack in another, and Claire, Asia and Rachel in the third.
When we first got to Thailand, we were all commenting on and pointing out all the differences of culture, like “Ahhh, it’s so different!” and “Oh my goodness, such cultural immersion!” etc. These observations were definitely misapplied. Mae Wong was cultural immersion in full form. I’ll try to get Jack, Alex or Tyler to write a bit about their experience, because it’s a great example of one of those stories that’s hilarious in an I-feel-bad-for-you sort of way. To sort of capture our feelings, put yourself in these shoes (or flip flops, as the case may be): you’re staying at a house where you’re royalty, and it’s awkward because you don’t know them and can’t really communicate with them. At all. My repertoire of phrases - “Amah roi!” Delicious food! “Kop kun kop!” Thank you! “Ayou seep gao pie krup!” I am 19 years old! You get the picture - we didn’t have much to work with. Language barrier example story: we were sitting out on the front porch because they wouldn’t let us help prepare dinner, and the fourteen-year-old son kept walking out and saying a single English sentence, like “Where are you from in America?” or “You like Thailand?” or various questions about our lives and our trip. After he asked, he would listen to our responses and go back inside. After a few times, Collin went inside to get something while the boy (Tae) was on one of his mysterious disappearances, and solved the mystery: he had his phone out and was translating basic questions from Thai to English so he could come out and ask us. Such a nice kid.
There were lots of understandable but unforeseen differences, too - open doors and windows means bugs in the house (and beds and food and everywhere), no A/C means you only get a short relief every time the fan oscillates past you, one shower, connected to the kitchen, means the mom walks by in a towel while you’re brushing your teeth (supremely awkward), no English means you can’t say “Stop bringing more food because I was full three bowls ago!”, and living where the day starts with the sun means everybody gets up at four in the morning (we skipped out on that part). Overall, despite the discomfort and difficulty, it was a great experience.
Okey dokey, I’ll keep getting you caught up with another post tonight and hopefully we’ll keep our WiFi juice until then!