Day 4: Wow


As the workweek comes to a close, it is safe to say that the GROW team here in Chiang Mai is at once exhausted and excited. It was undoubtedly a productive week – we made good headway with our projects, battled both jet lag and unforgiving monsoons, and made many new friends. Albeit the highly questionable amount of coffee we’ve all consumed since arrival, it was definitely our own excitement, that of those around us, and the ubiquitous smiles we have encountered here that fueled our work this week. Now that our circadian rhythms are more or less back on track, we can all claim renewed energy and excitement for the days to come.


Today, Adam and Kristina spent the day at the KWAT office, while Harrison, Nina and I returned to our new Kachin friends who greeted us with a chorus of “hello,” “how are you this morning?” and “nice to see you again.” We revisited Simon Says today with some newly learned verbs, which made for quite an interesting display of poking and scratching – to note the more eccentric choices of our lesson. The smiles were unyielding despite the surprisingly fierce competitive spirit that permeated the room. Later in the day, we asked the students to write stories about a “girl who wants to earn a lot of money.” The final products were simple yet eloquent, and underscored the fact that certain universal values, like honesty and hard work, transcend both culture and language.


In the meantime, Adam and Kristina, egged on by Mai’s enthusiasm and support, made good progress with KWAT’s Activity Report. They cemented an organizational template for us to follow in the coming weeks and helped revise and edit a grant proposal with an imminent deadline. In their spare time, they even helped Mai plan the GROW team’s weekend trip to Doi Suthep and an elephant camp – two of the several destinations we are planning to visit in the next couple days.


While Adam and Kristina took on the dual role of intern and travel planner, the intern house rang with laughter as we continued our viewing of Finding Nemo after lunch. Not only did we have a excellent time attempting to explain the colloquialism, “righteous dude,” but by the end of class we had everyone shouting “I got it” and “check it out.” Questions about the meaning of “fella” and “sharkbait oo-ha-ha” followed, and although we struggled to face the challenge at first, their naïveté and diligence both entertained and impressed us.


At the end of class, we left it to the interns to ask us questions. From “how many boyfriends do you have?” to “have you seen Obama? can you talk to him for us?” we heard it all. Tactfully dodging the first question, we answered the latter by assuring them that, although Obama was by no means a close friend, we would do what we could. It was a rewarding way to end the week for both the Kachin and American interns, as we conversed not as student and teacher, but as advocates united for the cause of social justice. To describe the day’s experience in the words of Mr. Myo, one of our more vocal interns – “wow.”