Notes From The Road: Hello, Hill Tribes!

A few weeks ago my lovely sociologist friends Daniel and Amanda were sweet enough to take me with them on one of their visits to an Akha hilltribe village, deep in the mountains of northern Thailand. I ate my weight in sticky rice, befriended all the village dogs and sat in on my friends’ interviews.

Other moments of note?

* receiving the Akha name “Mi-thi” which apparently means “medium girl” or “slightly smaller than average girl.” But I guess this is par for the course as other friends were labeled “standard man” and “action girl” and (horrifyingly!) “cat belly”* eating coffee beans and papayas straight off the tree

* waking to the sound of roosters every morning (which I am totally, totally over)

* sitting in a circle of whiskey-drinking men who wanted to stroke my yellow hair* impromptu dancing with a tiny old woman while she sang a song about friends

* hearing the sounds of the village’s Sunday church service wafting through the trees* meeting a pet civet who ate oranges and drank coca-cola

* trying to find a way to (politely) refuse offer after offer of rice whiskey

* listening while my friend told the villagers, in Thai, that I had a pet cat that I liked to dress in clothes. They all nodded and announced that this was wise, as America was a cold place and cats surely needed outfits there.

If you’re in Thailand and would like to visit or volunteer with a hilltribe village, The Mirror Foundation is a fantastic resource. You can volunteer from one week to three months, teaching English, helping at temples and hospitals, building water tanks or even washing the village dogs! The Mirror Foundation also offers trekking and homestay programs and they’ve got a great (and cheap!) guest house in Chiang Rai if you’re in the neighborhood.

17 Comments

SnapandPrint

Sounds wonderful!

I love the wise villagers comments on your pet cat wearing clothing. It is always interesting to ehar what other people in far away palces think of the US…in this case that it is cold so pets need outfits. 🙂

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Brittany

I love that I was just coming down to comment about the cat clothes and SnapandPrint has beat me to it. ;o) Because why would we NOT dress our pets in clothes! I am giggling!

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Natalie

Oh my gosh, the thing about the cat clothes is the most adorable thing I've ever heard! I never thought Thailand was a place I wanted to visit until I heard that. Isn't that a silly reason to visit a country? I would think that people from other countries would think "oh gosh those ridiculous Americans even dress up their animals", and yet they just thought you were wise! I love it!

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Alli (One Pearl Button)

Haha – I laughed out loud about the cat clothes! That sounds like such an incredible experience.

It's amazing how quickly the sound of roosters crowing can go from being charming to being obnoxious!

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caribbean princess

That is so funny that you were named. I had the same when I worked in a refugee camp in Mae Sot with the karen people. They had a special name for the white doctors but because I was afrocaribbean they added on something to my name that meant night or black!
The food we ate was amazing though. Simple but so very tasty!

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