â€œThe Monks surround and protect us like God's sentries and for a time they hold our souls a little nearer to God, to Love. Today every moment is complete, like no other has been before or will be again.â€ - - Patti Hawn
Click here to see some of Pattiâ€™s impressions
â€œYou folks gave me a priceless experience. It would be my pleasure to send you as much video as I have pertaining to the week or anything else I have mentioned for that matter.â€ - - Terry Westerman, Kealakekua, Hawaii
Click here to see an excerpt from Terryâ€™s journal
"I've done the packaged bus tour thing, and did enjoy it, but I was ready for something different. I'd like to express how wonderful it was to experience Thailand in this way. I felt I got so much deeper and closer to the culture. I have made life-long friends - whoever thought I would have ended up with regular email correspondance with Buddhist monks! And I have come to believe that the best way to make fast, real friendships is by working side by side with people on a project that benefits a needy community. I was overwhelmed by the gratitude that was expressed, and also in the great care (and even pampering!) that was showered on us as volunteers." - - Karen Hibbitt - Washington D.C.
Click here to see an excerpt from Karen's journal.
â€œLet's just say this--my life has changed because of this, but I am still a Catholic actor in LA. Just a more grateful one, and hopefully a little more enlightened. We shall see! I can't begin how to describe to y'all this experience. Travel always puts perspective on things and how much I appreciate our country, and you always learn about other cultures, but to have the experience we have had with a family is basically that works so hard to feed and take care of us, but calls us family and treats us that way; to live in such a basic, and let's face it, primitive environment but to really have everything you need; to get to see what Buddhist life is like (though we always have to ask, or they will never tell us about it!), but one that is non-exclusive with a lot to offer as a philosophy of life; to meet four other Americans who are such cool people and to make new friends in them. It really has been amazing, and it will take me a while to a long while to learn all I have learned from this. It's just hard to describe, but I feel truly blessed by this whole thing.â€ - - D. Patrick
Secret Recipe to Happiness
Add 5 american volunteers to a family of Mamee, Pee Jam, Pee Jap, and Pee Fiat. Add 7 wondurful, young Buddhist Monks. Let Simmer. Sprinkle in love, great food, amazing conversation, open hearts, and open minds, a few mosquitoes, and more laughter than you can imagine. Simmer for 7 days.
Result: One of the most amazing experiances of your life!
At Wat Pai Dam
Mom youâ€™d die
If you saw
How cute the
Mini monks are
At this point
Iâ€™m sure youâ€™re wondering
What the hell
She is thinking
To young children
She still thinks
Greenwich is pronounced
But here I am
Staring at me
No idea where to start
So I take just a moment
Ask his novice
Where theyâ€™re from
And the province
Has a map
And sayâ€™s Iâ€™ve gone there
What a fantastic place to visit
Sheâ€™s so loving
I am sure
That she is wondering
How sheâ€™ll fit them
In her suitcase
And how much she just
Wants to hold them
So much fun with
Ha ha ha
Yes, thatâ€™s a pronoun
Colloquy is the in thing
He makes learning
So much fun
-- Robyn Liston
An Ode to Global Wednesday
The day starts out as always with the dawnâ€™s morning light.
The Monks arrive at camp â€“ to everyoneâ€™s delight.
We start the language training â€“ one monk; one volunteer.
The monks speak el â€“ o â€“ quently; it is music to our ears.
Weâ€™re on to making candles, to give us evening light.
We got our wicks to stand up; to everyoneâ€™s delight.
Then comes â€“ de â€“ fol â€“ i â€“ ation, with axe and knife and saw.
The ladies show their muscles; the men look on in awe.
And then comes time for fishing; the strategy is set.
The fish are also plotting to elude our deadly net.
The crowds are sitting watching as we harken to the task.
One fisherman named Phii Chai feels a tickle near his ass.
Phii Yingâ€™s bit by mosquitoes; Phii Yim is bit by ants.
Phii Chai is bit by fishies that are swimming in his pants.
The next day all are happy; they jump and sing and shout.
Because the menu says that we are having trouser trout.
Monday, December 4th, 2006
We went to the Suan Kaew Foundation for the first time today. We took a walk around with PJAM, Mamee's Daughter, to see all the projects they are working on. We first met with some of the elderly. They were busy at work stuffing envelopes for a important mailing Mamee was in charge of. Next we went by my favorite stop, The Nursery. All the children were so very precious. They all greeted us with a sa wat dee. We got the grand tour of there Nursery. The children from a first glance all seemed to be happy and full of positive energy. Next they all sang us a great song and we played for a while. We then said are goodbye's and headed off for the Environment and Agriculture project. Here they grow traditional medical plants to help those who can't afford medical treatment. They also grow many fruits and vegetables there too. We are now off to visit the dog condos. Yes doggie condos.. There are many wild dogs in Thailand as they do not belive in euthanasia. This place for the dogs is a step up from the streets. But still a little sad for me to see. Are dogs live a pampered life in America.. We headed back to the main office to start helping the elderly finish there envelopes. They were so happy we were there to help.. We headed back to camp around 6:00 PM. We had to be back in time for our fist English lesson with the monks..PJAM cooked us a amazing dinner. They will definitely feed you till you can not take another bite more. The food is so delicious. PJAM is a amazing cook.. Well the monks showed up around 7:00pm. I was so nervous to meet them. After taking to them I was put at ease immediately. They were all so kind and eager to learn English. I brought some postcards from my home state, They loved looking at those. We also went over many idioms. The monks love these. I never new how hard it would be to explain things such as; Elvis has left the building,not my cup of tea,and there is a frog in my throat. The time with the monks flew by. I could of sat and talked with them forever. It was 9:00pm and time for them to head back. Maggie and I head back to our cabin. Tomorrow is the Kings birthday And we will visit Bangkok for the celebration.. I can hardly wait. I do not think it is possible for a day to top this one.
To all who are thinking of visiting Thailand do not think about it JUST DO IT..... I had the most amazing experience of my life. I will be going back. I have also made friends for life. I email the monks everyday. They email me back everyday too. I feel so lucky to be me.. I thank Globe aware and all of Mamees Family for this experience..
Love and Light,
Sunday November 21st
Sunday was a ragged affair. Compromised of sleepless night made for a trying day. Despite this obstacle, the cultural infusion due to the gracious kindness of the monks, made for an unforgettable day. The monks gave us cultural and historical insight to the ancient temples and were better guides than we could have hoped for. It made for many Kodak moments. Mammeeâ€™s house provided the most filling foods and set an excellent precedent of what to expect for the rest of the week. All in all, I was grateful for the day, but glad to see my bed.
-- Scott Baker, Colorado
Friday November 26th
Friday was the last full day at Mammieâ€™s house. In retrospect, this week has been surreal, and the experience has been unbelievably enriching. This last day was more relaxed than the rest and made for much playtime and laughter, perhaps tp balance the emotionally trying departure. The monks exposed their palette to some western flair and challenged the volunteers to test their teamwork and skills. Laughter was irresistibly uncontrollably. Apparently the â€œkrathongsâ€ I worked on later in the day will bring me luck in acquiring a male companion. Weâ€™ll see. The day ended with a goodbye ceremony and a few tears. However, I am filled with more gratitude than sorrow for the gift Iâ€™ve been given through this volunteering endeavor. I hope to litter my future with many more.
-- Scott Baker, Colorado
November 20th-27th 2004
For me it was one of the most special and openhearted weeks of my week. It held many surprises such as the level of Thai generosity, the value they place on fun, the loyalty to their living, and how much dedication of one can help many. I feel very lucky to have been given such insight into Thailand.
Mammieâ€™s house is in Wang Noi, a steep contrast to the busyness and pollution of Bangkok. It lies between 2 canals and is a group of traditional wooden dwellings. We slept every night, Thai style, on a floor mat and we woke every morning to Radio Wang Noi! It was so loud that it was a wake up call for the whole village!
Some of my most special and personal memories include all the joking and questions shared with the family, the volunteers, and the monks. Jokes about language, my clumsiness (Sara sam sam), which robe was green and which orange, the extent to which the monks love pop music and candy. But also more serious insights into Buddhism, or mammieâ€™s ability to motivate all at the foundation. Meeting the orphans and hearing of their self-sufficiency, it puts your own childhood into perspective. We met so many wonderful children; one whose smiles and laughter transcended language barriers, the patience with which they helped build reed animals and the fun of all the games, dances, and songs we participated in together.
The last evening was made all the more special by Phiaâ€™s and Tigerâ€™s crazy radio DJ impression. Each of us received a name sash; Miss Camera, Mr. Popular, Miss Patron, Miss Baby face, and an attentive speech. The effect of it all was astonishing and only bettered by the monkâ€™s personal gifts to us, a good luck chart. I think those moments of chanting will be seared across all of our minds for a long time. Thank you Thailand and its wonderful people, the smallness of our help does not compare with the greatness of your gift.
-- Sarah Shaw, London, England
Saturday, November 20th (Arrival day in BKK at 1:30 am)
I stayed at the Miracle Grand Hotel about 1 mile from the airport. At 12:30 pm, I met Sarah and Scott at the train station across from the airport. Along were 2 people to take us to Mammieâ€™s house. About half an hour drive in the back of a small truck with a camper shell on it. The weather was sunny and warm, but not too bad. Mammieâ€™s place consists of 5 buildings and the kitchen, and dining table in between. Each building is one big room made up for sleeping with one bathroom. A mosquito net hangs over the â€˜bedâ€™ (a very thin pad with a sheet and several pillows), no solid walls, and a wood floor. The bathroom is a toilet and 2 containers with water (one to flush the toilet) the other you scoop the water to wash yourself. A cement floor, a few nails in the walls, a mirror and a small shelf with a doily. A small canal on both sides of the property with not much water in then, and the other sided are rice fields, with lots of dogs and cats. Weâ€™re excited about being here with wonderful friendly people. A temple with a University for the monks, and novice monks is nearby. Several stopped by to meet and greet us. A wonderful meal, lots of talking and laughing until we turned in early to look forward to this great experience.
-- Reinhilde Schmid, California
Wednesday, November 23rd
Again early rise at 5:30am, in the car by 6:00 am to go to the foundation to visit the private school. The tuition helps fund some of the projects. As always plenty of good food to eat in the car. At 8:00am we get picked up to start interacting with different classes, one of us per class. The children range in age from 5-10. They were very curious and asked lots of questions. â€œWhat is your name?â€ â€œWhere do you live?â€ â€œHow old are you?â€ We stopped by 3 different classrooms. At about noon, some of the students performed different dances they had learned for us. We were asked to join in and also sing a song for them, which was a blast. Then it was lunchtime. All the children were served a hot lunch and several went back for 2nds and even 3rds. All of the children wanted to write down our names for each of them, some wanted us to sign as well and our phone numbers and email addresses. I guess we are â€œstarsâ€. In the afternoon we played games with the classes, such as sack hop, and water balloon races. We were all treated like VIPâ€™s. At 3 pm we headed back to the house.
-- Reinhilde Schmid, California
Loi Kratong song day- having the homeless boys sing this to us and accept our Thai mispronunciations with such humor and grace!
Novemberâ€™s full moon shine, Loi Kratang
And the water high up in the rivers
And one Kratong
Loi Kratong is here
And every whereâ€™s full of cheer
Come together at one Kratong
As we push away
Away we pray, away we pray
We will see a better day
It put Prapayonâ€™s words in the morning into a new perspective- never waste a minute.
-- Grace Yoon, Canada
Just a quick note about the Thailand trip through Globeaware. I think it was a terrific experience, exhilarating, exciting and trying all at once. Mamee and her family could not have been more accommodating, patient and friendly. Their hospitality was truly touching. They met me at the Airport despite the 4 hour delay. The food was wonderful and plentiful. P'chitai (sp) was a joy to be with. He taught me a lot about Thai culture and language. The tour of Wat Suan Kaew was a real eye-opener, akin to Mother Theresa's early works in Calcutta I would imagine.
Just like in the tour notes I guess there's a Western tendency towards accomplishment, that the volunteer expects to see real before/after results of their labors by weeks' end. And while it would have been rewarding to see the fruits of a major project such as the completion of a new building I still feel the time spent there was valuable and that the work to which I was assigned had value, whether it was helping with the recent newsletter, translation assistance, English tutoring, loading supplies, Red Cross assistance, cultural exchange with local citizens, etc.
Mamee was a true inspiration. She more than lived up to the bio provided by Globeaware. I don't know how she does it all. If I had the opportunity to do it again I would maybe pick an October/November trip since it took a while to acclimate to the temperatures during my stay --Matt O'Riley
Did this program change how you view your own culture, and if so, how? Yes, I look at people with more compassion. I learned to be kinder to people.
Describe any surprises you learned about the culture you visited (I.e. can't believe how much kids understand even when I don't sign) The big surprise was how much the people of Thailand did not want to start an argument. So much that they would agree with you, but it really wasnâ€™t what they wanted.
What did you like the most on the program I loved the opportunity to get the first hand chance to interact with the monks. To learn about Buddhism. Everything in the program was something that you wouldnâ€™t be able to get in a vacation tour, which is something that I really loved.
Anything else you'd like to share with us? The experience for me was absolutely wonderful. It was a great way to truly experience Thailand and the beautiful people in it. Everyday was full of magic.
-- Robyn Liston
Did you like the food and did you get enough? More than enough
Tell us your thoughts about the accommodation and anything you'd like to change. I thought that Mammeeâ€™s house was wonderful.
Did this program change how you view your own culture, and if so, how? Everyone was so incredibly open and accommodating. They do so much with so less than we do in America.
Describe any surprises you learned about the culture you visited (I.e. can't believe how much kids understand even when I don't sign) That English is the official second language , and that everyone treated me with such importance.
What did you like the most on the program. The kids, the monks, and mammeeâ€™s
-- Scott Baker
Did this program change how you view your own culture, and if so, how? I think more US residents need to get out and meet other people of the world.
Describe any surprises you learned about the culture you visited (I.e. can't believe how much kids understand even when I don't sign) I was continually amazed by the happiness that seemed so sincere emanating from every one that I met. The contrast of poverty and the beauty of the Shrines which were everywhere.
Do you feel your work project was meaningful Yes, I felt I made an impact.
Did you like the food and did you get enough? The food was excellent and there was always plenty.
Tell us your thoughts about the accommodation and anything you'd like to changeThe Accomodations were as expected. If anything was changed, the experience would not be true Thai culture.
Did this program change how you view your own culture, and if so, how? Yes, because ot allowed me to step outside my comfort zone and plunge head first into a culture completely opposite mine.
Describe any surprises you learned about the culture you visited (I.e. can't believe how much kids understand even when I don't sign) The monks were very in tune with American entertainment. It was fun during free time to discuss current movies and stars.
Firebelly's GlobeAware Volunteer Vacation to Thailand
The morning of our holiday party, Firebelly huddled together on the floor exchanging Christmas presents. We were all aware that Dawn's gift to us (always given last) would be something way over the top: really thoughtful but impossible to reciprocate. That's just how she is. So generous you're almost embarrassed. But even knowing that, nothing could have prepared us for the present: a 2-week volunteer vacation in Thailand to work with Buddhist monks, serve the Thai people and bond as a studio. The entire Firebelly Family. All expenses paid. All our clients notified. Oh, and by the way, we're leaving in 10 days.
Ten days later we were on a planeâ€¦ for 25 hours.
We arrived in Bangkok and met our home stay host: Duangjai Thitayarak aka Mammee. Mammee is a 60-something firecracker with a big friendly smile and a twinkle in her eye like she already knows all your secrets. We traveled by van about an hour north to Ayutthaya (eye-you-TEE-ah) province and settled into our home for the next 8 days: simple wooden houses on stilts, open to the outdoors, no running water, no electricityâ€“and it was perfect.
We were all super amped to get right to work but Mammee reminded us that GlobeAware sees cultural exchange as just as important as "helping Thailand" so the trip would be split between experiencing Thailand and helping Thai people. By the end of the trip we'd come to understand how naturally sustainable Thai people already are. Maybe it's the fact that the country is 95% Buddhist, but the Thai temperance, acceptance and awareness was truly inspiring.
The fun started with Lop Buri, also known as Monkey City. Completely overrun by mischievous and wily Rhesus Macaques there were literally monkeys EVERYWHERE. From there we visited and scaled countless ancient ruins and toured opulent palaces and ornate temples. We explored local markets and neighborhood bazaars and learned to cook Thai dishes from the expertâ€“Mammee's daughter, Ja. We also spent a lot of time talking with student monks from the Buddhist university who were anxious to practice their English and learn about America.
We did get to work though. Mostly at the Wat Suan Kaew, a revolutionary temple foundation where Mammee is the volunteer administrator. Suan Kaew and its founding abbot Phra Payom Kalayano offers shelter and job training for marginalized people by combining basic principles of sustainability with the Buddhist virtues of hard work. Our projects there included building a park (which was celebrated for its inadvertent "American-ness"), helping at the pre-school orphanage and fertilizing the foundation's groves of fruit trees.
Obviously, Dawn's gift of the GlobeAware trip to Thailand was a life altering experience for the studio, but quite honestly, our trip included way more than we could ever fit in a single GoodNews. And besides, it's something you need to see rather than read about. So until we edit through the 8 hours of video and post our movie to our website, our flickr gallery of almost 500 photos will have to suffice. If you'd like to learn more about the work of the Wat Suan Kaew, Amanda Suutari of EcoTipping Points wrote a great article and posted even more photos of the foundation.
Reflections on Thailand
Dawn: I gave a gift that returned to me so much more than I could have ever imagined. The days and nights were constantly offering new experiences and personal transformation. The Thai people are the most generous beings I have ever encountered. ALWAYS giving of their time, money, resources, food, whatever they had to help the person or animal nearest to them. Incredibly inspirational, and they live such simple lives. Their smiles light up the world.
Antonio: From the honor of helping to move a 300-year old (500 lb) statue of Buddha to taking alms behind the most revered monk in Thailand, the GlobeAware trip was so full of once-in-a-lifetime moments.
James: The Suan Kaew Foundation as a whole sums up my thoughts on our trip: a small group of caring, dedicated people can turn a good idea into something that benefits an entire nation. I will carry what I learned there with me for the rest of my life.
Katie: When I found out about the trip, I cried. Mostly from joy although part of me was really scared to be doing something so far out of my comfort zone. But I knew I would goâ€“even if I had to do it afraid. As you would expect, it was wonderful and liberating and pretty much life changing. Amazing opportunities have a way of randomly popping up, and you are really missing out if you let them pass you by.
Will: The friendliness of Thai people abounds. Everywhere we went, it was obvious we were foreigners, but this seemed to be a cue and opportunity for Thai people to show their generosity and welcoming natureâ€¦I wish more Americans had this attitude.
Tom: Experiencing the country as a local: living, cooking and getting around; was an awesome treat.