Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Everyday Life at the Mirror Foundation

Finally, I have gotten my first rolls of film developed!
Sadly though, I feel the ones in my last post were a bit more exciting
But the ones I did take, really do capture what my daily life is like at 
The Mirror Foundation
 Mirror is just a 20 minute song tow ride out of the city of Chiang Rai 

The foundation is almost a little village in itself
 that is constantly buzzing with people.
 There are four main groups of people:
there are the Falangs (white people),
the Japanese, the Thai interns, and the Mirror staff 
The Japanese have a completely separate program than we do, but they generally do the same thing--
they teach Japanese. 
And I can never quite tell what the Thai interns really do...
But that is the lifestyle of the Thai people
very laid back, and always happy
which always tends to result in extreme disorganization and procrastination.
They never plan ahead or willingly make set plans.
The first couple of weeks it drove the rest of the falangs and me crazy!
We are so used to structure and having a set schedule
but eventually you get over it and bow down to the Thai ways.
When in Thailand, right?

Sign says = Help Eachother Live in Harmony
And that really does sum up the lifestle portrayed by
everyone who lives at the foundation.
It is a non-profit organization unique to the region.
Its main purpose is to serve as teachers and advocates for
the people of the Hill Tribes near
Chiang Rai, Thailand in the hopes to decline exploitation, poverty,
and health epidemics
by promoting stability, education and reservation of the local culture.
What I do is teach the locals English,
which may seem like a small thing, but actually the reality is
 if a Thai person can become
fluent in English, it is almost a guarantee they will get a good job.
I like to think it is equivalent to U.S. citizens going to college

I will first start with a virtual tour of where I live
through the lens. 

Surprisingly, and you'll understand as you keep reading,
that the food was the hardest thing to get used to.
Every day, and I literally mean every day
we get a consistant diet of rice, veggies, and soup for 
breakfast, lunch and dinner.   
It'll vary in the type of veggie or vary in the degree of how incredibly spicy it is
But it is generaly the same for every meal.
The only break you get is if you treat yourself at the little food stand on the Mirror grounds or on the weekends.   
Luckily there is also the ice cream man that comes everyday
given it isn't the best in the world
but it's sugar!
Anything will taste good after non-stop rice.
Although I did find myself quite shocked the first time I bought myself an ice cream.
I had asked the man to have the banana flavored popsicle and then proceeded to point at the picture
he gave a little chuckle and made a peeling motion.
I didn't find it strange because
 1 Thai people love the english work banana, they always tend to giggle when it is said and then say it themselves about twenty times. 
 2. The peeling motion is often the motion we make to our students to illustrate we are talking about a banana.
It wasn't until I began to eat my popsicle that I understood his reaction
It was a mochi style ice cream stick
The banana flavored ice cream was surrounded by a banana flavored rice coding that you had to 
 literally peel
As shown in the picture.
The popsicle was delicious and I love mochi
but I couldn't help but chuckle and think about how Asian it was.   

Mom, Haley, Elle, and Emily
Especially Mom
You'll be glad to hear I will never forget to do my dishes again.
The moment you are done eating you must always dump any extra food into the pig feed bin.
Pigs are omnivores and eat literally everything
and you must wash your own plate

This is where I sleep.
Is a room with 10 beds, 3 fans and millions of bugs!

And where ever there are bugs, there are Gecko's!
Everywhere. You can't escape them!
No -- they are not as cute as the mascott of Geico.
Again like all the animals around here they scream GECKO 
at all times of the day and night.
It scared me like no other the first time I heard it.  
One got squished in our screen door last night, I wasn't that heart-broken---
sorry mom.  

And now, I am so sorry.
I will try to keep this as classy as humanly possible but I have to include it.
This is my bathroom. 

Luckily, we get running water.
only problem is its ice cold
Which is ironic.
They can't manage to keep the drinking water cold and they can't keep the shower warm.
And you'd think "It's so hot outside, a cold shower will feel amazing!"
well you'd be wrong.
Your body temperature is set so high because of the heat
 that when the cold water hits your body its a huge shock.
You literally can't breath the first couple of minutes. 
not very pleasant.
but you are always so filthy that you don't care.
I laugh everytime I look at my packed makeup bag.
I was so niave to think I would actually be wearing that stuff.
Looking decent is a luxury I will never take that for granted again!

Or having nice tap water that doesn't stink like sewage--
imagine washing your face with that water.
luckily, it only does that sometimes...

 And I saved the best for last
The Squat Toilets 

Unless it is a international establishment, like a pizza shop
all the toilets are squat.
There is definitely a learning curve to using one of these bad boys.
1. Your feet go on the toilet where the grooves are.
2. you must find the perfect squat position (apparently it is unique to the person)
3. As stated on the wall, you must NEVER flush toilet paper, you put in waste basket afterwards.
in fact it's only a falang thing to use toilet paper
4. If you want to clean yourself the Thai way (which I embrace proudly) you take the squirt gun looking thing that is placed on the toilet in the picture and squirt it, at you know.. yeah. 
5. To flush you must scoop water into the toilet.
I keep getting asked this when I explain this 
And, I will just simply say anything can go down as long as you apply enough water.
 Now anyways, that is my bathroom.
P.S. The shower and the toilet are in the same room. There is no drain but just a hole in the wall
 so the floor is in a constant state of dampness.

And that ladies and gentlemen is where I live :)

P.P.S. In all Asian cultures, it is rude to wear your shoes indoors.
Anytime you look outside of a house or some shops you will see a pile of a dozen shoes or so.

This is my form of transportation.
In one this size you can fit about 10 people comfortably in the back with an additional 1 in the front.
Most of the vehicles are styled like this.
All "taxis" are like these two, but they are called Song Tows

At the foundation, the Song Tows are needed to get us to all of our teaching posts--
which include a local school called Huay Fai School

This was my first day on the job
and if you can't tell, I was nervous.
I've had plenty of other jobs in between then to get more accustomed to it.
So far my favorite positions have been at the Addicts Rehab Center
which I didn't get to photograph.
But as I was leaving I recieved two papers where they had wrote "God Bless You"
and one Lady gave me a bracelet that she had made.
At that moment I fell in love with teaching English.
But in addition to the Addicts center I enjoyed going to...

The Oncology unit at the local hospital
Although this one was a bit depressing, I still enjoyed being able to help
Both were such a unique experience because the purpose wasn't really to teach the people English
but it was to just give them company and to just brighten their day.  

Things to know about Buddist monks
  • In Thailand, all males must be a monk for a certain period of time once in their life (that is if they are buddist)
  • Monks cannot make any physical contact with a woman, which makes teaching quite awkward because you must avoid accidentally brushing them at all times.
  • Woman can be monks as well, they look the same as well with a shaved head and the robes.
  • You can be a monk at any age

This is childcare at a local Lahu tribe.
It is a much more modernized tribe compared to the ones at homestay.
They had electricity and proper buidings as you can see.
Because they are so small, they usually don't understand our lessons
but we were attempting to teach them fruits and vegetables.
They loved the word banana as well.
Go figure. 

I'm sad to say I never got the name of this little boy.
The whole time I was there he just hung all over me.
I guess he just couldnt get enough of this falang.
It wasn't until after multiple times of repeating
"koon chue arai?"
What is your name in Thai
that I remembered that he doesn't understand because he speaks the dialect unique to the Lahu tribes.
So for now he will always just be that cute little Lahu boy.
I just taught this class today.
It was so much fun.
The kids were so energetic and friendly
Which is s big difference from other places because Thai people are notorious for being shy.
It was so cute, I'm almost positive one of the little boys had a crush on me.
I kept catching him staring and such
Which I am used to, being a falang and all
 but he had that look in his eye.
The Thai find white people to be absolutely beautiful--
They love our white skin.
Most of thier skin products have whitening agents in them
similar to how we have tanner in our products--
funny how that works, huh?
They go crazy for tall, white women with blonde hair and blue eyes.
  It was confirmed though when after class he asked to shake my hand and for me to give him an autograph
which was a catalyst the whole class wanting a hand shake and an autograph.
I wish I would have gotten a picture but it was so
I should come here more often.
They make me feel like a superstar! 

So originally I did sign up for just the English teaching program
but since the raining season has just begun
the community was in a urgent need of dams.
So we all ventured into the rain forest and built some dams.
And just like every construction job around here,
 bamboo is used as the main resource.
It was the boys' job to find and cut down the bamboo 
and it was the girls' job to find rocks,
which may sound easy
but it wasn't.
We had to venture far and wide to find the rocks
and 50 rocks were required for one dam.
I think the men purposely took the easy job.
So in total I aided into the construction of 6 dams.

I just love the scenery out here--
So beautiful
These pictures don't even do it justice.

Weekends at Mirror are quite strange.
Saturdays are equivalent to fridays
and Tuesdays are equivalent to Mondays,
so instead of being free for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
we are off for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.
I'm still not quite used to it.
But anyways, all the volunteers leave Mirror to soak up the city life in
Chiang Rai.

All of the volunteers stay at the Boon BunDan guest house.
Actually I should say we take over the place!
It's like a party every night with all of the volunteers around.
It's alot of fun!

These are just some pictures I collected from around the Guest house.
It's not the most developed city--
but it has its own modest beauty.
I love it.
My favorite city so far.


  1. Man Kenz, this is the second time I have read this. You really are getting an amazing experience! This was money well spent! I laughed about the make-up bag..ha and loved the bathroom pics. Miss you so much! xo

  2. I loved this so much! You are so cute with all of those kids. i can't help but be jealous of this incredible experience, so thank you for letting me live vicariously through your blog! We love and miss you so much! keep the posts coming. kisses.

  3. Thanks guys! But don't let it deceive you. This lifestyle is HARD. I am SO grateful for our western luxuries now. I'm pretty after this experience I will be able to eat absolutely everything and will never be able to be grossed out again. My gross apartment is a palace compared to here.
    By the way mom, when you meet me at LAX will you please bring with you a steak chipotle burrito and a el pollo loco flan???? You have no idea the kind of food I've been exposed to. It makes me tear up thinking how badly I want normal food hahaha I will love you FOREVER!