Amerti- Akha Hill Tribe
As our vans pulled into the Akha Village, there were a dozen kids playing badminton, soccer and tag in the street. Bopping around the more organized sports were three younger boys, running in nomadic patterns, occasionally getting in the way of the older kids. After unloading our belongings and getting settled into our host houses, a few of us went to go play with the children. Amerti, a little boy of around four years with gapped teeth, was running back and forth with two friends singing the ABCs. Knowing bits of english is rare in the hill tribe villages, and very few even speak Thai. Since Amerti goes to one of the Royal Project schools, he is learning Thai and English. We became fast friends, after I shyly asked “Khoon Chue Aryai kha?” which means “what is your name?” in Thai. I made him repeat it multiple times throughout the night, which he quickly became annoyed of. Amerti clung to my back, hand, and even feet for the rest of the night. When we went and changed into the traditional Akha clothing for a dancing ceremony, he sat on my host families bed and waited while I got dressed.
Fon- Chiang Mai
It is rare to see Fon without her surgical mask on and cooking utensils in hand. Her brother, gang gang is the social host of the family. Her alley-side restaurant, Penny’s, is a huge hit among the study abroad students, the walls clad in home-made posters filled with love from past guests. After getting Fon away from her cooking for a bit, I learned that I was talking to a fellow cat lover. Her restaurant was inspired by her cat Penny, who recently did not return home after a day of exploring. Fon hasn’t lost hope, though, and awaits the homecoming of her beloved feline.
Ms. Premruedee Kullasu- Chiang Mai
This culture conscious crafter opened a business to help teach foreigners the crafts of Thailand. She believes that arts and crafts are not just about the final project, but about the history and culture that each craft contains. Ms. Premruedee wanted to open her house to travelers in order to teach them what life is like for a Thai citizen. When visiting her, we learned about rice farming, cooking, crafting, and even natural tie-dye or Thai-dye, if you were looking to be punny.
Sara- Chiang Rai
The word “Suay” or “beautiful” applies to few people the way it does Sara. She is a lotus blossom, strong and resilient in her beauty. I have never seen Sara outside of her school uniform, since she is always coming from work or some school function, even though it is summer break. For many women, wearing a school uniform makes them look infantile and childish, but Sara wears the white and black combo like an elegant CEO. Like a lotus blossom, Sara has grown and blossomed through adversity. At the age of six, Sara began living in an orphanage in Chiang Mai. This new home christened her with the name “Sara,” which she believes signified the renaming of a new life. Throughout school Sara was bullied for her American name and for being Chinese instead of Thai. Despite these struggles, Sara grew up to be one of the most hard working and intelligent women I know. While in the Orphanage she learned english from the American volunteers that came to visit, and now speaks english so well that I first thought she was a study abroad student like myself. Even though she has only finished one year of college, she has gone to speak at the Young Speakers Contest in Singapore, and placed fifth out of 23 universities and 13 states.