Sorry, No Pictures Allowed

Alright, let me wrap up this Thailand trip. (Be sure to check out the “Other Useful Links” at the end!!)

I had 3 nights, 2 days in Chiang Mai, which you should all go to in lieu of Bangkok.

It’s more laid back, more relaxed, more chill, more peaceful, more beautiful, and more affordable. The end.

Aw, they even have a little sitting area. What a nice hostel.

The first night, I got out of the airport around 11, split a cab with two lovely Hungarian girls, escaped from some demonic dogs, walked along the Night Bazaar in search of Loi Kroh road (or some name like that), and crashed in a hostel that had *gasp* a hot shower.  I was in heaven.

After enjoying my first good night’s sleep in a week, I spent the next two days at the children’s drop-in center run by The Garden of Hope.

Operated by a young woman named Ning, this after-school program works with kids from “the hill,” which is Chiang Mai’s slum center.  The kids are at the highest risk for drugs and sex trafficking, so providing them with education is the best means to give them a different future.

Engrish from my hostel. You thought it was gonna be the No-Pictures sign, didn't you? I'm a tricky one, I am.

(And yes, there is actually a sign there that forbids the taking of pictures. Probably something to do with the children being in actual danger.)

Ning herself is a tiny woman with a heart the size of Alaska (which we all know is at least 3X the size of Texas).  She houses nine children herself–separate from the center–whom she has obtained from families wanting to sell their child or other likewise scary situations.

I also ran into these girls (from Teams Nehemiah Project and Freedom 5:8–if the link’s broken, just use the ones on the sidebar to your right under “1The World Race”) from the trafficking circuit of TheWorldRace.org, who were also working at The Garden.  And I love them.

The intersection we crossed on our bikes. Doesn't look like there's a constant stream of traffic, BUT THERE IS

For lunch, I balanced precariously on the girls’ bicycles to ride to their favorite lunch spot.

Perching on the grate over the back tire, I suspended my legs in mid-air, hung on for dear life, and prayed silently as my driver tried to balance the both of us while holding her hand out as we crossed busy intersections in hopes that the oncoming traffic would slow down and not force me to use my traveler’s insurance.

Me with my backpack, which accompanied my homeless-and-hostel-less self everywhere

It was quite the sight, I’m sure.

I spent my second night with a young girl who teaches at The Garden of Hope.  Through a miscommunication, I was left without a bed for the night, so she offered me her floor.  She lives above an internet cafe, next to a noisy street that had me thankful I was a deep sleeper and completely exhausted on top of it all.

It’s essentially a dorm-type setup.  The bathroom has a wall around it, but there’s about two feet between the top of the wall and the ceiling, so there are no secrets in this place.  She does her laundry by hand, and her “kitchen” consists of a couple shelves of bowls, some utensils, and crates of bottled water.

Kitchen! Is that a rice cooker I see? Should have known...

We feasted on some fresh mangoes, accompanied by a spicy sauce she whipped up which I learned is the norm in Thailand.  It made me sputter and gasp for breath a few times, and rendered me speechless for several minutes, but was quite tasty.  Although she did warn me eating too much of it could harm my stomach…

It was nice, though, to see some of Thai life first-hand, to hear her story and her dreams, to listen to her speak about her family, and to learn she’s a hopeless romantic who yearns for the love of a Taiwanese celebrity who sponsors two Mongolian kids.

See that gap on top of the wall? The bathroom's on the other side. As I said, no secrets.

The next day we meandered around a market. I bought some bracelets, she bought some mangoes.  We enjoyed my last mango shake–I lived off of those my entire time in Thailand–before heading back to The Garden.

My last night I spent with the girls I had run into from The World Race.  Every evening would hang out on “bar street” and talk with the women working there.  The idea is to get to know the women–their stories, how they ended up with their job, if they enjoy it, what dreams they have, that sort of thing.  Then from there, see if they can connect them to some local organizations or opportunities that help them escape their current situation.

Christmas lights out front mean they're open for *all* business

I only had the one night (again, the slight miscommunication), but it was worth every bit of scheduling conflict.  There is one girl in particular I met whose face haunts me.  I sometimes lay awake at night hoping desperately she finds a different life, and feeling all sorts of helpless.  But more on that tomorrow.

I ended the evening showing up to the airport before it was open.

Whoops.

Me. Alone. At the airport. Splendid.

I thought an “international” airport would be open 24/7, but I was wrong.  Oh wells.

Wouldn’t be me if I didn’t flub up in some obvious way, as I’m sure normal people would check to see if it’s open or not.

Or not go to the airport at 3 a.m.

Well, I didn’t want to pay for a hostel to sleep in for only two hours. Makes sense, right?

I thought so.

Other Useful Links:

Recent case from Wichita, Kansas, on March 13, 2011Finally, law enforcement is starting to charge the “johns” of the situation, which is all kinds of wonderful–“No one knows how many youths are currently involved in the U.S. sex trade. ‘These children don’t count, and nobody is counting them,’ wrote Julian Sher in his book…”

Child Sex Tourism Prevention Project–“This organization aims to engage citizens against child sex tourism, and includes links to law enforcement agencies for reporting abuse of children overseas.”

Break the Traffic–“This website sponsors an online petition to express solidarity with trafficking victims and to make a statement against human trafficking.”

The Salvation Army–Lisa Thompson spearheads this branch of the SA to uncover trafficking cases throughout the U.S. and Canada, where it is so often ignored and unseen, and throughout the world, where it is so often accepted.

Business as Mission–“The Business as Mission Resource Team was founded 2001 in response to the increasing interest in the business as mission movement globally…The Business as Mission Resource Team is an international ministry of YWAM (Youth With A Mission).”

Hagar InternationalI couldn’t get the link to work today, but maybe you can?

Freeset–“Freeset is a fair trade business offering employment to women trapped in Kolkata’s sex trade. We make quality jute bags and organic tee-shirts, but our business is freedom!” (if you’re looking for birthday present ideas, I like the Harmony Bag – Maple Print in blue ;))

The Well–“The Well is a Christian ministry in Thailand under Servantworks and other partner organizations.  Its purpose is to love Thai bar girls and sex workers in the same way that Jesus loved that woman and others like her; to help her see and experience her true value as a creation by God, and to help her, her family and village indeed find their dream of a better life.  The Well provides counseling, training, job development and other services to women and their family members.” For stories they’ve had part in, visit their website.

So the deal with these things are--they offer food to the spirits every day to appease them. The next day, they throw the old food away and give them new food. Kind of sad, when there are so many people who actually need food...but you can't fault them for their beliefs

I love rooftops, even when there's not much of a view

Hey! I recognize you! KOREAHHHH

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One response

  1. Rachel, if you go to the Singapore airport at the end of a day, and they have room for you,
    you can check into accommodations right in the airport bldg. The size of the room is
    miniature, but there is a tiny toilet room and I think I recall a small wash basin in the room itself. The place is so small that you can probably wash hands while lying in bed.

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