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Adventures in Northern Thailand: A photo Story

APRIL 4, 2018 | SABAI

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Participating in activities at a local festival in Northern Thailand. Celebrations include music, stilt walking, and fishing.

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Hanging by the river waiting for the festivities to begin in Nan Thailand.

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Puppy friend at the permaculture farm.

he group takes a photo break during their trek outside of Chiang Rai, Thailand.

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Drinking out of bamboo cups at a break during the trek outside of Chiang Rai, Thailand.

Practicing Positive Thinking

APRIL 2, 2018 | NKULA

By Rebecca Klane

Halfway through. Never before have I had such a mix of awe that it has already been six weeks and frustration that we will not experience the comforts of home for another six. Time has passed quickly but it still seems like there is such a long way to go. Though not logical, this juxtaposition between positive and negative mindsets matches up well with the mixture of amazing moments and times of extreme difficulty we have had recently.

These past few weeks we have been watching a series of TED talks about the huge effects of positive thinking, so I’ll start with the positive times we have had since the last blog.

We safely made it to Mufindi Children’s Village which houses and educates children from traumatic backgrounds in a more organized way than SNEC. Since this area has such a high level of HIV, the Children’s Village also provides medication in the on-site clinic.

While here, we have spent quality time with the children playing games and starting art projects. The age range from babies to late teenagers makes it easy to both get our fix of holding and taking care of very young children in the nursery as well as partaking in more involved activities with the older kids. But everyone seems to love duck duck goose no matter their age.

The opportunity for more cultural immersion arose in the unexpected two-day homestay which gave us a preview of the area. The scenery is breathtaking, as it has been in most of the places we have visited. Across the valley, we can see hills covered in green and scattered with different crops.

The most uplifting and exciting moment, at least in my eyes, did not take place while here, but on the drive over. Spotting a giraffe, zebra, and elephant from the bus was so unexpected that Maytal cried of happiness.

Highlighting the positive is beneficial in multiple ways, but it does not cancel out the few negative moments we have endured. However, I will do my best to change my usually cynical mindset to find a silver lining.

Many of us have gotten sick since the last blog post. Stomach problems, extreme colds, and what I hope is the last and only case of malaria in the group have forced a few of us to spend days in bed. Illness hasn’t stopped us from having good times with each other when everyone returns from the day. Lots of card games and some amusing team building activities have kept even the sick smiling.

One of the most unpleasant experiences was the bus from Morogoro, not including the animal sightings of course. Supposed to arrive at the station before 9:30, we boarded at 11:00. Not a surprise as timeliness doesn’t seem to be part of the culture here. So the bus was late.

The bigger issue was it also kept breaking down. It was fixed every time eventually, but one of those times many of us had not returned from a bathroom break. Excited that his bus was finally functioning properly, the driver sped away without us and only hit the brakes after a full minute of us sprinting back and waving our arms, and our peers on board objecting loudly. Stopping for us caused the engine to break down again.

Another hardship: one time we were offered only chips (french fries) for dinner.

It is hard to find a reasonable silver lining in these situations, but I am trying to apply what we learned about “synthetic happiness” to the bigger picture. Instead of thinking of the countless nuisances the next half of the trip will bring, the better way to look at it is with gratitude that we still have six weeks of the awesome moments left.

From Thung Chung to Bangkok

APRIL 1, 2018 | SABAI

Hello family and friends of the Sabai group!

This past week the group headed to our friend Sandot’s permaculture farm in Thung Chung, Thailand. Permaculture farming is a style of sustainable farming that is able to use its surrounding areas to its advantage. This enables the farmer to interact with the farm as minimally as possible (once it is established). We learned so much on the farm.

The first day we had an amazing lesson on the basis of permaculture followed by a walking tour around the farm with our instructor Jake, from the Netherlands. Throughout the remaining of the week, the group took in all parts of farm life. We spent an entire day on one patch of land to plant seeds. We realized how much work went into planting after burning charcoal, gathering manure, breaking apart the ground, fertilizing, sowing the seeds, and finally mulching the ground. It was a lot of work! Other activities included making various items out of bamboo, building stairs out of bamboo, and making bamboo sticky rice. Did I mention there was a lot of bamboo here? This week of agricultural learning provided insight to just how much work it took to operate a farm. All of the students have learned so much this past week and we are very thankful to Mr. Sandot (the owner), Jake (our instructor), and Remi (our French friend) for our stay at the farm.

Then we were off to Bangkok! After a 12-hour bus ride, the group arrived at our hostel on the river, exhausted. The following morning the group embarked on a walking tour throughout the vibrant city led by our fearless leader, Jon. We took a boat tour, rode the Skytrain, saw beautiful markets, a huge temple, and most importantly fed fish. The following day we headed to a Muay Thai match as a group. It was AWESOME. Throughout the days here, the group has had a lot of free time here to explore the city and all of its vibrancy. Tonight is our last night here and we are all headed out to Wat Po which has a gigantic reclining Buddha. Tomorrow morning we head to Phnom Penh, Cambodia at the crack of dawn.

Hope everyone reading has a good week and we send our love to everyone!

Host Family Livin

MARCH 29, 2018 | NKULA

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Kayleigh and Kiara relaxing on the top of a waterfall after a long hike near our Swahili School.

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Group photo with our teacher from Swahili school.

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Prepping to make pizza for our host families in Morogoro.

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Kiara, Elle, and Tosca with their host parents.

Maytal and Kayleigh with their host dad.

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Always waiting for a bus! (Mafinga, Tanzania)

 

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Mary Dudley learning the art of whacking beans with her host family outside of Mufindi Children’s Village.

Sweet little butterfly on Kayleigh’s finger, Kiara glancing with glee in the fuzzy background.

Arajuno Jungle Lodge

MARCH 26, 2018 | INTI

By Karly Britt

Hi friends and family!

This past week, the group had the amazing opportunity to explore the Amazon! The week started with a boat ride down the Arajuno River, a tributary to the Amazon River, to our home for the week: the Arajuno Jungle Lodge. There, we met Tom Larson, AKA the coolest guy ever. Tom told us about all the work he has been doing to help preserve the rainforest and combat deforestation.

Every morning, the group helped Tom with the projects he needed to be done. After weeks of sickness and city life, it was a nice change to get our hands dirty and participate in service work, and doing it for Tom made it even better.

Our first project was weeding and replating bamboo. We also collected bamboo for firewood because, at the lodge, burning bamboo is a large source of energy. After work, we jumped into the river to wash off. That afternoon, we went downriver to Amazoonico, an animal rehabilitation center and sanctuary. At Amazoonico, we got a guided tour from a student from Alex’s Carpe Diem fall semester group, Eli. It was fun to meet a Carpe Diem alum and to see all the animals indigenous to the Amazon.

On Tuesday, the group went to an indigenous community to partake in a ¨minga¨, or work party. We helped plant cinnamon trees and were treated to a presentation on the local culture. We tried many interesting foods (one of the best being roasted grubbs), learned the traditional dance, and learned how to use a blowdart. Tuesday night, we had a good old bonfire complete with ghost stories, singalongs, and smores. The fun night took a turn for the worst after we all returned to our cabin, were telling stories as we went to bed, and then heard banging on the walls of our cabin. Long story short, Sarah Beth, Lauren, and I spent the night in Lauren{s bed to protect each other from whatever the mysterious noise was.
Wednesday, we planted 75 cinnamon trees to help reforestation in the area. On Thursday, we worked with one of the oldest projects of the foundation — conserving the yellow-spotted turtle. We spent the day carrying sand from a nearby beach to Tom{s lagoon where the turtles live and reproduce until they are ready for the wild. On our last day of service, we harvested fish from the pond for lunch and moved the rest of the fish to the lagoon.

That afternoon, we boated up river about 30 minutes, and then jumped into tubes and floated back down the river to home. On Saturday, our last day, we went on a jungle tour where our wonderful guide, Miguel, taught us all about the plants and animals of the Amazon.
Overall, the group learned many lessons this week. After 5-too-many incidents of people getting locked in and out of the cabin and a morning visit with a chicken in our room, we finally figured out how doors work! We are also all experts at scaring away rats and chickens (thanks, Maya!). Last but not least, we learned to never tell ghost stories before bed again.

Habari gani ndugu?

MARCH 23, 2018 | NKULA

By Maytal Agasi

Habari gani ndugu?
Tunajifunza Kiswahili Morogoro.
Tunasema Kiswahili kidogo.
Hali ya hewa ni joto na mvua.
Tunafurahia kunywa chai ya moto.
Tumekula mikate mingi.
Miti na maua ni mizuri.

How are you friend?
We are learning swahili in Morogoro.
We only speak a little Swahili.
The weather is hot and rainy .
We like to drink hot tea at tea time.
We eat a lot of bread.
The trees and flowers are beautiful.

Since our last blog post, a lot has happened. We flew from Kigali in Rwanda to Dar es Salaam by way of Burundi and Kenya. We spent a night in Dar which is one of the largest cities in all of Africa. There is a very large Muslim and Indian presence there which was very different than most of what we are used to. Seeing and experiencing new cultures is one of the most interesting parts of this program. The city was busy and very polluted in comparison to Rwanda. Rwanda is working very hard to preserve its environment and has even banned plastic bags in the entire country! Seeing so much pollution is very hard to see for the many environmentalists within our group. After a night in Dar we were very ready to go to the language school in Morogoro. We split up into three taxis to go to the bus station which was a little scary for the one taxi without an OE. Thankfully all three taxis made it safely to the same place and tears of joy were shed upon our reunion. Then we spent a long five hours in transit watching the scenic views of Tanzania go by. The landscape here is very different from the gorgeous rolling hills of Uganda and Rwanda. Here there are a few tall mountains accompanied by long spans of flat plains. Now we are spending our days in class and our evenings with our homestay families. The language of Swahili is full of many interesting sounds that we are not accustomed to but it makes speaking this new language all the more fun. Since our classes get out at four o’clock we have had lots of free time. We have been filling our time by playing cards and working out. At the very beginning of the trip, some of us decided to do a “mandatory” workout and now that we have increased what we are doing. For the rest of the week, we plan to continue our Swahili studies, hike to a waterfall, and cook a meal for our host families. From here we will travel to the highlands and stay at the Mufindi children’s home.

Badaae, see you later.

Hiking and Volunteering in Southern Rwanda: A photo Story

MARCH 21, 2018 | NKULA

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Meeting with the director of WeAct, an organization that provides health services and entrepreneurship opportunities for women infected with HIV/AIDS in Kigali, Rwanda.

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Meeting with the ladies of the sewing cooperative in Kigali.

 

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Freshly picked coffee beans at the Huye Mountain Coffee Farm.

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Tosca learns how to roast coffee beans the old fashioned way in Huye, Southern Rwanda.

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Morgan enjoying the view after a hike at the Huye Mountain Coffee Farm in southern Rwanda.

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Mary Dudley at the Huye Mountain Coffee Farm in southern Rwanda.

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Kiara looks out over the Huye Mountain Coffee Farm in southern Rwanda.

Maytal and Ellie are very excited for fancy ice cream treats in Kigali.

 

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Morgan wearing a belt that was made by the women from the WeAct Cooperative in Kigali.

New Week, New Country

MARCH 20, 2018 |NKULA

By Tosca van Oostrum and Maytal Agasi

Last week we were in Rwanda and experienced a lot of emotions that we wanted to share with you.

Apprehensive: for crossing our very first land border.
Thankful: for better infrastructure in Rwanda.
Frustrated: with the language barrier.
Clean: due to the supposedly “free” laundry service.
Intune: with the nature that surrounds us (even the bugs).
Shocked: by the personal stories of the genocide but inspired by their growth and positive mindset.
Scammed: by the taxi drivers who overcharged us.
Excited: for the Black Panther film.
Full: from all of the good food in Kigali.
Overwhelmed: by the amazing aroma of the Huye coffee.
Deeper love: for the amazing Carpe family.
Wiser: on the way to Tanzania.