In order to well beggin 2018, I spend one week living in a hill tribe community. Here is the enssence of my personal experience there.
Three years ago, ARC opened the Little Smiles center in Mae Waen Noi village, the place where I have spent one week, living among the Lisu tribe people.
I stayed at P’Pim’s house with her family, her two sons, her husband and her sister in law, P’Kung, who is also the second teacher at the Little Smiles center.
Mae Waen Noi is located about one hour drive away from Phrao town,center of the district. P’Pim, my host, picked me up in Phrao. After the rough ride through mountain, we arrived in the beautiful little village. From my first moments there, I felt warmly welcomed. I loved every minute and every moment I have spent there.
P’Pim was my guide during this week. She showed me different places around the village. Few times a day, we walked around, so that I could discover the views and the way around the village. As it is a mountain village, the road is quite curvy and hilly. You need to have quite a good motorcycle or car to drive there, at least one with gears.
Every day, P’Pim gave me a lift to and from the center. Onfoot, it would have taken me at least one hour to get there. The kids arrived between eight to nine am as their parents drop them before going to the farm. The class starts at 9.30 and the parents usually pick the kids up around 3pm, on the way back from the farm.
So, basically, one week is divided in three parts. On monday and tuesday, P’Pim and P’Kung teach thai reading and writing, then english for the next two days, and on friday, simple mathematics.
The kids are aged between 2 and 5 years old. P’Pim takes care of younger ones while P’Kung teaches the older group.
So what’s a normal day ? When the kids arrive, they drink milk that the teachers are give to them, they can have two cartons per day. then, they can go play with toys and stuffed animals. Around 9.30, everyone is supposed to be at the center.
Then the class starts with activities for the younger and for the older, then comes lunch time, and, after brushing their teeth, the kids take a big nap until 3pm.
During my first two days at the center, I was just sitting there, helping P’Pim and P’Kung whenever they needed help, and teasing the kids whenever they came close to me. Most of them avoided me, staring at me from behind their milk carton or toys.
Then, once they got used to my presence, they asked me to play with them and to help them.
The english class on wednesday helped a lot as I helped P’Kung teaching them songs as “Old MacDonald had a farm” and as they were singing with me the alphabet song. From that moment, they kept calling me by my name “P’Emi” and ushering me to play games ans sing songs.
To my greatest pleasure, I felt accepted by the kids and couldn’t help laughing with them as I was making a fool of myself to hear them have fun.
After all these activities, I could enjoy a bit of rest in the afternoon as the kids were asleep.
During these moments, I used to walk around with P’Pim or P’kung. We went around the center and as my guide was showing me the different plants and fruits you can find in the mountains like ginger, mint, corn, rice, young onions, coffee, bananas, and much more which I don’t remember the name, I’ve always been amazed by the beauty of the mountains.
You see, in France I live in the countryside but not surrounded by mountains. The nature there is so different. I guess that is what I will miss the most once I’m gone. The wildness and the peace of the mountains in the North of Thailand. Nature is beautiful and in Mae Waen Noi, I discovered that I do not wish to live in big cities. Life in the mountain is more attractive to me.
Even if I couldn’t really discuss with my hosts, due to my lack of thai langage skill, I really enjoyed my time there. I made some new friends and I will surely go back to Mae Wan Noi one day. At least I hope so !