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Final Days of Student Directed Travel

Hello family and friends, 

This is Jessica Soto with the final updates of Leum Dtaa as we head toward the end of our SE Asia program. These last final days students have directed our new adventures to Hua Hin where we spent two additional days in the salty sea waters, blazing sun and gritty sand. We swam, played water games and had a fun competitive game of soccer. We also went to art museum full, where we took many optical illusion pictures and enjoyed the art.

Following Hua Hin, we are in Bangkok, once again. So far, we visited the Kings Palace which was a little overwhelming mainly because there were masses of people and it was really hot. The palace was covered in precious gems, gold and cultural artifacts. Our time in Bangkok, we explored malls, local markets and even watched Thai boxing. The boxing was intense and kept us on our feet all night, rooting for our favorite boxers! We had front row seats so we saw and heard every punch, jab and kick that boxers threw to another. Seeing the force of power and hearing the POW and BAM of the jabs, I swear I could feel those hits! There was some blood involved in the fights but don’t worry the fighters were ok!

Our final day the group decided to take it slow and have a scrumptious BBQ and a little fruit salad on the side. We spent the morning prepping skewers and cutting tropical fruits. I never liked papaya but theres something about Thailand papaya that has me fiending for some papaya! We had so much leftover food from lunch that we had more for dinner! 

The challenges from studying abroad has molded us in many different aspects that allowed us to grow. The group bonded with others, ate new unique foods, faced and overcame challenges and saw beautiful Cambodian and Thailand scenery. The group and I are ready to go home and see our loving family, friends and loved ones but we also really want a break from the scorching heat! We had a blast studying abroad and are excited to share our stories of adventure with our families. 

See you all soon!


Bangkok and Koh Tao


Dear viewers, 

Welcome back to our blog. After a mindful and peaceful week at Plum village, we are back to the city life. As mentioned before one of our group member’s birthday passed. We were determined to celebrate it properly. We decided to go out and karaoke. To make this night one to remember we took public transportations. We first got on a boat that took us half and hour to get us to the BTS sky train station which we took next. Funny story we got off on the wrong stops on both modes of transportation. Afterward we were puzzled because we didn’t know which way is south. After much walking and asking people for directions, we met a nice lady who willing to let us use her phone for directions. We finally made it after two hours and turned out the place was booked all night. We were sad but we weren’t going to let that ruin Roselin’s birthday. We decided to go get dinner because we were all hungry. We found a really cute place near by the karaoke place and we did a family style dinner. The food was very delicious. It was very lavish and what some might say luxurious meal.

The next morning most of us went to the mall to spend our half day in Bangkok before leaving to Koh Tao. Jessica, Loida and I got a fast & furious tuk tuk. I thought I was going to fly out of the seat. It was fun and scary ride for us. The mall is enormous and crowed with people. That afternoon we were ready to go to the train station. For most of us this was our very first overnight train ride. We were looking forward to it. On the train we slept while some us played some intense card games. Around bed time the attendant came and set up our beds. After seven and half hours of ride we finally got off. But waited two hours at train station for the bus to take us to where our ferry at. In ferry some of us stayed under air condition and some of us enjoy the hot and breezing air. We reached Koh Tao at mid day which gave us time to explore and enjoy the island before we got introduced to New Heavens Marine Conservation program.


Marine Conservation program helps preserve marine life through creating artificial reefs and bring awareness to the ocean. Their slogan is (Our ocean, our responsibility). We were taught by the three awesome teachers who made our three days unforgettable experience. Their name were Elle, Spencer and Crissy. Overall we went snorting at Tanot where we saw baby sharks and Shark Bay. We helped built artificial reefs and care for turtles. On our last evening we had a special surprised planned for our OEs. We met up on the beach shore and have a small fire going. First we went around and gave our individual gratitude to show our appreciation and love for them. Afterward we sung them a song written by the group which made them emotional. Lastly we toped it off with a small meaningful gift. We got emotional for a bit. Afterward we decided to have a dance party along the beach. Toper got his speaker. Then Nolan surprised us with sprinkler firework. We took badass photos. We kept dancing until we were tired and we laid on the sand admired the stars. Realizing we are almost finish with the program and will be back in Portland in a week. TRAGIC!

Plum Village Meditation Center


After Spending a day and a half of exploring the big city of Bangkok, we left to Plum Village. Plum Village is a Vietnamese meditation center created in Thailand by Thich Nhat Hanh. He is a very famous for teaching Zen Buddhism, which is basically mindfulness. Mostly everyone was pretty excited to go on this retreat where we would learn mindfulness and get time to be on our own and just relax without thinking so much of the future. When we arrived to Plum village we were received by a grey cloudy sky and the oh so beautiful rain. To us the rain was a blessing to all the nuns and monks it was not. It was so cute although there was barely any rain compared to what we get in Portland, they were running around with their umbrellas. Our first day was very confusing, we literally broke most of the rules on our first day but we ended up learning by observing others. 


Everyday we were woken up at 4am by loud ringing bells, that lasted for 15 minutes or so. Let me tell you, the first full day was the hardest for all of us. Then at 4:30 we had sitting meditation in a big hall, in the dark, where we sat on mats for 30 minutes. We were told that we should relax and not try to think too much about the future or past but stay in the present moment. It was hard not thinking because then I felt like sleeping because I was usually very tired. Right after we would go on a meditation walk at 5. We would walk following our breath, breathing in and out and admiring the nature. It was sometimes funny watching the people walk in front of us, everyone looked like zombies walking so slow in the dark. Sometimes right after we would have exercising time, where a monk would lead us in an exercise using a bamboo stick, the moves were quite fun. If we didn’t exercise we would have a break then breakfast. I loved how after every single event we had during the day they would give us resting time. After breakfast we usually had a full schedule, we would have house cleaning, then we would have Dharma talk. Where we learned about the 5 mindfulness guidelines that most people follow and people experience with the guidelines. Which is to make it short, no killing, no using drugs or drinking alcohol, showing love and compassion to others, no greed or selfishness and being kind to the earth. We would then have lunch, then do some meditation work. We did all kinds of work from recycling, to planting, harvesting, raking leaves and making paths with stones. Then we would eat again, then have resting time and after sitting meditation before we went to bed at 7:30.


The days seemed to be very long at first but then we got used to it. I never really saw myself surviving here, but I made it. All the brothers and sisters (monks and nuns) were very sweet and had such soothing voices. The food they prepared for us everyday was probably the best and healthiest food I’ve had this whole trip. They made all kinds of delicious vegetable soups and cooked tofu like 1o different ways that I never got tired of. They had all kinds of dessert and my favorite: mangos everyday.  One day during exercise time in the afternoon Anya, Elena, Davineekaht, Paw Klu, Roselin, Jessica and I saw some sisters playing basketball so we went over to ask them if we could play with them. We had a very fun and competitive basketball game, the sisters were so into the game. By the end we were all sweaty and sticky, we didn’t keep score of all of Anya’s buckets but we had a very fun time with Sister Galaxy and Sister Bright Year. We also helped lead some English learning games with the sisters, we played emotion charades and vegetable walk off with the sisters. Elena and Davineekaht really did a really great job with the games.


We also had a small cake for Roselin’s birthday on the 27th of March. We gave her a bunch of flower hearts with our feelings written on them and she was very happy and almost cried. Our last day during our tea ceremony, our composer Elena wrote a gratitude song for Plum Village, named “If you’re happy in Plum Village” and presented it to our brothers, sisters and friends. Everyone was so happy with the song it made all of us smile especially Elena when she got complimented from someone very special to her. Also Anya, Topher and Nolan took the 5 mindfulness trainings on our last day, we are all so proud of them. I think Plum Village was a very beautiful retreat, we all had fun, laughed and spent a very relaxing mindful week.

-Blog written by Loida Pat

The Farm Life

The Farm Life

Sawadee Kah (Hello) future students, friends, family and supporters.

This is Davineekaht blogging to ya’ll. After a 5 hour van ride, we arrived on the farm confused. Only saw dusty dirt roads and no houses. Everyone looks at each other looking tried and confused. All of sudden a rusty red Monza truck slowly coming down the dirt road and stoped where we are standing. It was Sandot and his son Jon Jon. We load our heavy bags onto the truck. Then we had to walk up the hill. We didn’t know how far we were walking but everyone started to walk up the hill. Soon we reached Sandot and Jon Jon at the top. Sandot showed us were we are staying. All we saw was a straw roof, a floor made out of bamboo and mats covered with mosquitos nets. No walls, no doors, we were out in the open. Besides the open huts we had a beautiful view. We saw beautiful green trees covered the hills and other people’s houses.

Ban Apha


As soon as we hopped off the sungtao at the Akha village, we were greeted with delicious freshly made food and fruit. After lunch, we were given a tour by Pi’ Cartoon, a guide from The Mirror Foundation and Yui an intern from The Mirror Foundation. She has a very bubbly and funny personality so we felt comfortable with her at first sight.

As we walked around the village, we saw Appi Attah (an elder of the village) and her daughter sewing beautiful patterns on tribal fabrics. Appi Attah’s daughter helped teach Davineekaht how to sew some of the beautiful patterns. As we were watching the beautiful sewing, Loida was playing with Appi Attah’s grandson who had beautiful plump cheeks and a tender smile. We then moved further down the village, Paw Klu, Elena and I helped a very kind lady cut banana trees stems which are used to feed pigs. We also saw how straw roofs were made and met a bunch of little cute kids on the way.

Every morning at 7 am we woke up to the sounds of roosters, cats, dogs and children at the Akha village. After inhaling the delicious breakfast cooked by our host families, we got ready to climb up the mountain. We helped build a pipe line that starts at a spring and wraps down the side of the mountain to the wells close to a wat. After a few hours of digging, carrying rocks and sand, we head down for lunch, which was delicious as always. Then we climb back up the mountain and continue digging. Repeat for a couple of days except the last day where we had green mangoes with chili in celebration of finishing the project. In the afternoon we walked to a waterfall where we saw young people jump off from a high cliff into the water.

That same day was our last night at Akha village. After cleaning ourselves up we prepared to have dinner with the villagers. Before getting our food we walked through a line of elder community members, they each tied strings around our wrists and gave us their blessings. After dinner, the Mirror Foundation interns, Baifern and Shan played a sweet video created from clips of our work from the week and our interviews where we each talked about how we felt about the program and the village. Then our host families took us a side to dress up in Akha traditional clothing. We danced with the community members around a big fire and sang, it was very beautiful.

The next morning we were all sad to go we loaded our bags into a van and started our trek through the forest. During our time in the village there was a ugly cute black dog named Saigo, her english name was sausage. Everyday we went to work she would follow us up and down the mountain, like usual she followed us as we walked. We all kept telling her bpai (go back) but she kept following us. The trek was hard at first, but it got easier after a while and seeing Sausage's energy helped us all keep walking. For lunch we ate fried chicken with sticky rice at a waterfall. This time we saw young monks jump off the cliff. After more walking we arrived at a Lahu village to stay the night. That night we celebrated Jessica’s 20th birthday, our leaders surprised her with a strawberry cake that Pi’Cartoon helped deliver. We then had karaoke, Davineekaht was definitely the main vocal of the night.

The next morning, we got up and continued walking for a couple hours and yes Sausage was still by our side protecting us. For lunch our two male guides cooked a meal for us. They made rice, pumpkin soup, and grilled chicken all cooked inside of bamboo. They also made us some delicious lemon grass tea. After we kept walking and then finally we arrived at the meeting location which was at a Elephant riding place. The elephants looked so sad, it was very different from the Karen elephant sanctuary we went to last time. As we were sitting down, out of no where a ice cream man appeared and we all felt so happy and relieved to eat something cold under the beating sun.

Right after our ride arrived and we all hopped in the back of a truck and sausage came with us too. We took a 30 minute car ride to our guest house in Chiang Rai, when we arrived we were all sad to say goodbye to Sausage she kept trying to jump out of the car. We were happy to hear that one of our male guides was from the village so he took her back with him, we will always remember sausage. We then went straight to our comfy beds and relaxed, we all needed it.

The next day we visited the White temple where we took some cute pics and then visited the Black House where we ate some charcoal and vanilla ice cream and learned some history about the place. That was how we spent our last day before heading to a farm in Nan. 


Homestays and elephants


As we approached the last complete days in Mae Rim, the group decided to go out and explore. They biked about 15-20 minutes to go see how elephant poop is turned into paper and other recyclable products.


Finally and tragically our last day in Mae Rim, all our preparation was coming down to this night. First as usual we had our thai language class in the sala where we added the finishing touches to our speeches. Then we made some lanterns out of banana trees for a ceremony called Loi Kratong. We continued to set up and rehearse for this highlighted event in Mae Rim. We were finally able to finish an uno game that had lasted for hours. We then started to get ready. Ladies with long skirts, white shirts, red sash, a floral headpiece, and long gold fingernails. The gentlemen wore white shirts, burgundy pants, and had swords. It was time.


As our host families started to arrive with tasty dishes, we did final touches. We first started with a Buddhist ceremony, in which at the end we got blessings from our host parents and other community members. After dinner we gave our very first speech in Thai. Some of our proud host parents filmed us. Afterwards we put on a performance of a lifetime. Following that we topped it off with a dance created by us to show how grateful we were for them. And it had people dancing. The next morning were our real goodbyes. I cried, that’s all I have to say.

Then off we went back to Chiang Mai. We had a free day to go out and explore. We went to the internet cafe, Wararot market, and tried new places to eat. In the evening, we went bowling and the ladies went to do some karaoke. The following day we spent the day caring for elephants. Feeding them, walking them, and bathing them. Elephants are such sweethearts. They gave us a good time and kisses.


Currently we are in Chiang Rai, where we have started our work with the mirror foundation. After orientation at their base, we settled into the village where we would be working. So far the work is hard but doable.

Stay tuned for more updates in a few days!

Homestay Experience

Sawadee kah,

Sawadee kah means hello in Thai. I’ve just arrived back to Chiang Mai this morning after staying five days with a home stay family in a little rural village known as Mayream. Shortly arriving into Mayream, the first thing on the agenda was to take Thai language classes. On the first lesson I learned the basics to communicate with my family. After class, I was introduced to my lovely home stay family. I was welcomed with a big warm hug from my older sister, Pii Fon. I was introduced to her two children, Namon who is six and Nun who is ten years old. I also met Pii Fon’s mother and father in law. Staying with my home stay family for five days was truly heart warming. My time with my home stay I learned about Thai culture. Buddhism, learned about my home stay family and ate delicious spicy food along with mouth watering Thai sweets.

Every day I bonded more and more with my family. I talked about my life in America and Pii Fon talked about her life in Thailand. I was a little nervous about language barriers but Pii Fon spoke decent English, enough to understand and keep conversation. During breakfast and dinner time we would talk for hours, learning about another and teaching each other our languages. I also taught her a bit if Spanish! My homestay was a poor family, living with the basic every day needs.

Jessica host family.jpg
Leum Dtaa thai traditional.jpg

I was touched about how happy they lived with minimal things. I thought to myself that you only need happiness, health and love to live a simple content life.

I also learned traditional Thai dance, how to cook dishes and was able to immerse myself in Thai culture. Everyday the students and I practiced our dancing and Thai. Our final day with our home stay we had a religous ceremony to send us off with good luck. That night we danced, ate lots of good food, performed a traditonal dance and thank you speeches to the village.

Roselin and Jessica host family.jpg

Leum Dtaa goes to Angkor Wat and Thailand by Nolan Slay

Greetings blog viewers! Thank you for tuning in to the journeys of Leum Dtaa cohort in Southeast Asia. I’ll be your host, Nolan Slay, on this special report live from the small but beautiful village of Mae Rim. When you saw us last we had just visited the horrific sites of the Khmer Rouge in Phnom Penh. After wetting our feet a bit more in the bustling capital city, we travelled by van for a cool six hours north to Siem Reap for more action packed learning! Dodging drunk tourists and ducking persistent entrepreneurs, we explored the expansive local night market. I got nearly half my leg hair singed off by a fire dancer, and we did everything in our power to keep Lloida from buying the whole place.

We spent some quality time with a very fancy hospitality training organization called Egbok and its crazy fun students. We folded flowers, ate bugs (including tarantulas - I’m not kidding folks) and had a very lit dance party after dinner. An equally lit game of musical chairs was won by our very own Davineekaht White Elk. In the words of one of the Egbok students, “this is a very unusual day.”

The next day, at a time far before anyone should ever wake up, we journeyed by tuk-tuk to to see the sun rise at Angkor Wat - part of the Angkor complex, the largest and most impressive religious monument in the world. The stone, castle-like structure took 300,000 people 37 years to build. We explored that and other temples for around eight hours, including the one where Tomb Raider was filmed.

Later that day, we went to see the Cambodian circus, a Cirque-Due-Soleil-type display of acrobatics, precise choreography, storytelling, and goof. It was fun, impressive, and honestly one of my personal favorite parts of our time in Cambodia.

After a couple more shenanigans, including a very impressive tuk-tuk duet by me and Jessica (AKA The Beatles 2), we hopped in our education spaceship and blasted over to Thailand. I’m gonna miss Cambodia, but let me tell ya, eating Pad Thai and drinking Thai iced tea that first night in Chiang May felt oh-so-right.

During our brief stay at the Sarah hostel we encountered a painfully cute K9, and I saw more flying ants than I ever thought existed on this Earth. And rooming with Elena I learned that she is always right and can sleep with her eyes open.

The second day our cunning group leaders arranged a sequel scavenger hunt and Lloida told me crazy stories about her life while we got acquainted to a new Country. At a Wat in the mid city, some of our crew had a long conversation with a monk, who liked Paw Klu so much he wanted her to go volunteer there.

That night, Topher and Anya took us to bowling and karaoke in a mostly abandoned shopping mall, Anya kicked everyone’s ass in bowling and during karaoke I discovered Roselin’s impressive beat-boxing skills.

Phew! Okay, back to Mae Rim, we’re all enjoying the slow calm village life, learning Thai from Ajan Petchera, and hanging out with our wonderful host families. The other night we learned about buddhism from Ajan Pnom and experienced the discipline required to be a monk when we sat on the floor of a Wat for over an hour for chanting and meditation.

The next day we hiked to some beautiful waterfalls and swam and relaxed. Some of us looked at and took pictures of the falls, while some of us (Topher) sat directly underneath them. Later that night, Paw Klu, Davineekaht, Loida and I joined the nightly dance group and struggled to keep up with the women three times our age.

We’re all eating well, healthy, learning, pushing our comfort zones, and most importantly having a great time.

This is Nolan Slay with Carpe Mundi news, signing off.















Paw Klu

Paw Klu





Our First Week in Cambodia by Jessica Soto


This week our cohort learned about the sad and dark history of Cambodia known as the Khmer Rouge genocide - a genocide that took the lives of 1.8 million people. This took place during the Vietnam war, in April 17, 1975. In this time, dictator Pol Pot seized control of Cambodia and lead an army of country side Cambodians, who mainly were farmers and young people. This group known as Khmer Rouge, were easily manipulated into Pol's plan to turn Cambodia into a communist society. Phnom Penh was the first strike were Khmer Rouge tricked people into thinking Phnom Penh was going to be bombed by the U.S and were being sent to "safe homes" away from the war but were secretly being sent to killing camps where they were executed. People who were seen as "intellectual" so doctors, teachers, government workers, people who wore glasses and the families of suspects were sent to these camps with no mercy. Once victims arrived to camp they were striped of personal belonging, were banned of western influence which included medicine, were malnourished, separated from families, tortured and forced to work 12+ hours. Many died on the journey to the "safe homes" along with hard labor, starvation, disease, execution and by being tortured. This event has impacted Cambodia forever. We were all given the opportunity to visit the Killing Fields and S21 camps.


Earlier this week we worked with a local organization located in Kampot that focuses on mangrove restoration and preservation. Our group learned about the mangrove project in which students helped the organization plant mangroves in the ocean. Mangroves prevent erosion, create habitat for wildlife and acts like a filter for water.


In Phnom Penh we also worked with Friends International which is an international organization that promotes child empowerment. They help children and families at risk by providing schooling, education, employment training along with mental and physical health resources.

We are currently in Siem Reap, Cambodia soon to be leaving to Thailand in two days! Overall, the group has been able to overcome language barriers by communicating with hand signals and body language. We are all doing very well as friends and peers. 

Be sure to follow along with our travels on facebook at and on instagram @carpemundipdx for more pictures and updates.

Our first days in Cambodia by Elena, Jessica, and Loida

These first few days in Cambodia have been some fun. It has taken us a bit of time to adjust from the long airplane rides also from being away from home and this very hot sun. But we have managed to have fun by being able to go explore the towns, cool off in the swimming pool, and try new delicious food. 


Our first days in Kampot, Cambodia have also been orientation. In the orientation we have learned how to stay safe and to be smart travelers. We really enjoy going out towards the evenings and looking at all the shops. 

The hostel we are staying at has been a great place to get to know each other and provide support for each other. Its also a great place to take a swim and cool off from the hot sun. We are really excited to continue our journey!


Leum Dtaa has arrived safely in Phnom Penh, Cambodia!

Dear Friends and Family,

It is with a smiling heart that I say “Leum Dtaa has arrived!”. The group is safe and sound in Phnom Penh, and are settling into their hostel for the night. They’ll be heading to Kampot tomorrow to begin their orientation and start their semester. They are a bit road weary from an incredibly long flight, yet so excited at the adventures that lie ahead!

We hope that their travels are filled with the magic, education, and beauty!

Stay tuned in the coming week for blog updates from the students.

Here’s to a fantastic journey!

Meet the 2019 Carpe Mundi Southeast Asia Leader Team!

Hi Carpe Mundi friends and family!

Today we had our last cohort meeting with our Luem Dtaa students. Luem Dtaa means to open the eyes in Thai. We are so excited to support our students as they open their eyes to the world of experiences that awaits us in Southeast Asia! During our cohort meeting we watched a movie about a Thai boxer and played some games to help us get to know each other a little better. We also went over last minute questions to ensure that everyone is feeling good about packing and prepared to leave soon.  

Topher and Anya are very excited about leading the Luem Dtaa cohort for 2 months in SE Asia! Topher is leading his 4th Southeast Asia semester program and this is his 3rd year working directly with the PDXchange program. Anya has been leading programs in Southeast Asia for about 5 years and has spent time living in Thailand. We are both super excited to be going back to the region we love so much and continue exploring and learning. 

Here are a few fun facts about Topher and Anya: 

Topher not only plays the guitar, but also the ukulele. He's had his Toyota truck for 16 years and they've been through a lot together. His favorite book in 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. 

Anya recently spent 7 days on a 30 foot boat with 12 people. Her mom is one of her most inspiring people in her life and Anya is passionate about dance (she's got some pretty sweet dance moves). 

Together we hope to make this trip to Cambodia and Thailand the adventure of a lifetime!

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Sierra and Elena's Blog





This trip is all about...

I feel like I learned more on this trip than I did in 4 years of high school (granted if high school involved hiking with elephants in a tropical forrest, I probably would have paid more attention.) During our student directed travel I was tuk tuk which will teach you a lot of things. It will teach you that tuk tuk drivers will scam you harder than Joanne the scammer. It will teach you that bargaining is a skill, but a skill that can be learned and even mastered. 



Our first day of student directed travel we went zip lining. We left the hostel early and drove up a really windy road to reach our destination. By the time we got off the bus, multiple people were care sick and I was pretty sure Denis was going to throw up and pass out. But within a few minutes we were able to pull our shit together and get geared up. Our zip lining instructors were really fun and made sure we were laughing the whole time. After we went to watch a live Thai boxing match where a bidding pool began (is this allowed) but it was all fun and games. About halfway through the fights there was a “special fight” There was a group of 6 guys put into the ring trying to blindly fight each other. At one point a fighter tried to punch the ref and the ref surprised us all by ninja kicking the fighter. 


The next day we took an overnight train to Bangkok. The ride was full of deep talks between certain individuals and moments where we all squeezed into one bed and ate snacks together while sharing stories and looking out the window. 


After a total of 26 hours of traveling we finally made it to Lonely Beach of Koh Chang island.  The beach had white sand and warm blue water. As we waded further into the ocean we could look back and see the tropical forest against the sun filled sky. 



Our time at the island was spent buying over priced food and burning in the sun, but we enjoyed all of it. 

We also got to watch a fire show. The girls and I really enjoyed seeing the mans oil covered muscles glisten in the fire light. 

We also got to go clubbing 2 times while there. Both times there was nobody dancing until our group showed up and started the whole party. 

I went on a trip to Thailand with 11 strangers and by the end of the trip i would have taken a bullet for any one of them

Chiang Rai and Mirror Foundation by Lena Tran


Sawadee kha from Lena reporting for the Haithai cohort! Last week, we were staying in Chiang Rai at a nice hostel which was provided by the Mirror Foundation, a non-profit organization that focuses on ethnic minorities from the region of Chiang Rai. It’s mostly an organization that helps people who are stateless provide jobs and gaining citizenships which is a long and slow process.

The Haithai cohort helped build a fence and a flag pole for the kiddos from a Tai Yai comunity which was a success. The cohort spent long work days and fun times chopping bamboo sticks and shaving them in order to build the fence and flagpole, pretty fascinating don’t you think?

The first day of arriving at the village, right away I was excited to meet my homestay family. I actually took my first pooping experience on a squat toilet that was in the restroom floor, it was a weird but good experience in my opinion. Every morning, we would meet up, eat breakfast, and go see the kids at the daycare center near the village and spend time with them before heading out to work on the fence for the new school. Overall, my favorite part of the experience was seeing the kids, eating many traditional Thai food being served by my homestay mom, and meeting Chetah, who was a student and intern for Mirror foundation.


The day before we left, in the evening we all had to get ready for the string ceremony. Where we ate dinner on the ground laid out by a plastic mat for everyone to sit on and enjoy the night. Some kids in the village performed a dance for everyone to see and it was just a cute and amazing performance. After dinner, we offered the villagers a gift which was when the string ceremony began. There were nine villagers sitting in a circle and each one of the cohort members would sit in front of one and let the nine villagers bless all of us with a piece of string which have been said to wish for good luck, good health and other good things as well.

During our time with Mirror Foundation, we gave a huge thanks to Pi Manop who was our guide and a good friend/brother. Pi Manop helped us with everything, from getting us sleeping bags and mosquito nets for the night to serving us ginger tea and shared laughs.  He is a good hearted person who treated all of us like family. Our time with Pi Manop and the families in the village reminds me of a saying from Lilo and Stitch which is “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” We ended our goodbyes with a cute funny video of all of us on the first day of arriving at Mirror Foundation and being recored for all the hilarious moments that were captured. When we said our goodbyes, it made me realized what an amazing experience I had with Mirror Foundation and that I would come back and volunteer with them more in the future and am blessed to meet each person who was apart of the organization. 

Mirror Foundation by Cynthia Rodriguez

 Note: this blog was written on 3/29/18

This is Cynthia reporting from Bangkok at 10:10pm. Last week we stayed in a village for almost a whole week. A village where we were all welcomed into their homes. We had fun, exiting, and sad moments. We were fortunate to work with the Mirrior Foundation. The mirror Foundation is a program who helps the people who don’t have citizenship. They help people who in society are called “no identity”. They help them by finding them homes and jobs. They also fight to help them get citizenship.



So what we did was build a fence for the new school that was built for the children who’s parents worked at the orange farm. We worked on the fence everyday. We separated into different groups some of us would be shaving bamboo, others would cut them in halfs, put up the fence and the last group worked on the flag pole, it was a daily routine. after working for a few hours we would get a long relaxing break where we would get fed some yummy food.



Before going to work we would stop at the daycare near the village where we interacted with the kids for an hour. We sang songs, played games and played with them. My favorite part was seeing the kids smile and hear their laughter when they would see us.



Every evening we would go back to our home stays and eat dinner with them. Our mother Mae Jeene was a good cook, all of our dinner meals where delicious and spicy. We had several laughs and good moments in our homestay with my girls Ana, Elena, and Sierra. The first night we were a bit confused, we didn’t know where to brush our teeth, since there was no sink in the bathroom. So we got the idea of spitting it out in the squad toilet, until we realize the next day that we were supposed to brush our teeth outside. We got to experience bucket showering but the water was super cold and we were sharing the bathroom with a huge spider which no one wanted to kill because we were scared until the last day in our homestay we notice it was dead.



Even though sometimes it could be difficult we manage to get through them and had fun. One of many funny memories I will always remember about our homestay, was that the last day in our homestay we were picking up the blankets from the floor since we slept in the floor with mosquitos net and sleeping bags but as we folded them Sierra saw a cockroach running away from under her blankets, so we figured it was probably under blankets all these days but the funny part was she screamed as the cockroach run away and she said “guys looks its pitter patting” we just started cracking up. There was one evening where i wasn’t feeling good so I went to play pickup soccer with Mai Mao, the kids, and some adults from the village in a bumpy grass area with no shoes. It was so much fun and a pretty good competitive game. It reminded me so much of my childhood.


The day before we left we only worked half day, after we went to a museum and to Laos. It was a pretty good day so far but it got even better during the evening. In the evening we got ready and dressed up for the string ceremony. We ate dinner “more like a feast” with the people from the village. During dinner the kids performed a dance for us. After we offered he villagers a gift and then the string ceremony began. There was nine villagers in a circle with white string and we all sat down in front of a villager. We all routated until all of us got to each person. They tighted the white string in our wrist while saying a blessing. The string are sed to be for good luck, good health, and other good things.


The final morning we got to give a huge thank you to Pee Manop who helped us with everything you could think of. He is a good and kind soul, who helped us, took care of us, and treated us like family. As we said our good bye to everyone , i realize how amazing it was to be part of the Mirror Foundation and part of the village. I will always remember every single kind and caring soul I met in this program and village. 


Introduction to Pun Pun by Cecilia Franklin-Knapp


Pun Pun is a piece of land that lives up to its name- "One Thousand Varieties". While the title is focused on seed variety, it goes much farther into enormous variety in any aspect of the land. It’s a place to volunteer, one of the many things Hathai cohort did there. Upon an afternoon arrival and an hour of settling in we were given four options of community chores. That day I watered the garden. We helped a woman named Tip water her garden and she told us about her no dig method. This method includes a lack of planting as well, instead the seeds are tossed in a healthier spot of her plot in the community garden. She told us many people don’t till either way as tilling only pulls up more dry soil. This community practices not digging into the land but building onto it. 


To build a garden bed:

*note* preparation time 50 minutes plus three to six months digestion


                              leaves          manure   

                      white mold          effective micro-organism (EM)

                               water          tarp

                    a rake or hoe        heat (the tarp traps just enough heat!)


I if you want your new soil ready for March planting start in September/October. If you want your soil to digest in 4 months start in April/May.  

Step one: leaves               Lay down a layer of leaves 

in the shape of a long rectangle, outside. One reason to start in the fall is that leaves are more readily available. 

Step two: manure             Add a layer of sun-dried manure.

The importance of manure is around the white mold, this mold cultivates its self on manure and is a worth it component that expedites the digestion of your leaves. Manure is not so accessible unless you have cows, horses or somehow elephants. Just get creative, everybody poops. 


Step three: effective micro organism (EF).   

The EF is another worth it component to digest your leaf material and it can be cultivated easily enough. See it comes from the air, it’s attracted to moisture and other living things.

We were spoken to you also about the effective micro organism (EM) it is another component for digestion. You can usually cultivate this by letting moss form in a tub of water. Once you have your moss probably you have EM because it comes from the air. Than cover your tub to reduce the chance of contamination.

There’s a way of leadership at Pun Pun, self direction. There is no one leader instead each individual relies on their own common sense. Many people progress on their own projects of course with a willingness to ask for help and in other cases lend a helping hand. The key at Pun Pun is to help and work with the land and earth so it can better support you. When you build on the earth to support its health it is healthy enough that when the papaya falls a second tree will grow.


Pun Pun Farm- by Denis Eckert


This is Denis Eckert logging at 11:30am Earth date 12th of March 2018. Today was our last day at Pun Pun. I had really enjoyed my days on this beautiful land with wonderful people. All the buildings were made with natural materials around the land that the earth provided us. Some of them with unique arts on them. They also have a massive collection of plants in their gardens. Pun Pun focuses on seed saving.


As a cohort, we helped build walls on the second floor of a community house for the first three days. We were in mud and enjoying our time with others. To cool off we would jump in the pond that’s right next to the house. The rest of the time we helped out around by gardening, feeding the chicken and cows, milking the cows and cooking. I also found an easy bread recipe. Thank you, Lisa, for the recipe.


During my time at Pun Pun, I discovered something about myself that I never would have at home.  Now, I am working on what I want to change about myself...but I’ll keep that to myself.

 Hathai cohort will miss Pun Pun and a few of us are planning on coming back in the future as I know I will.

To all of you on the other side of the internet:

Denis signing off.


Visiting an Elephant Sanctuary- by Najma Abdirahman aka “Maya”


We went to an elephant sanctuary which was really cool. The elephants are treated well here, I mean humanely. They are not caged or beaten, they eat a lot and they are free to take baths in the river or eat most of the time. They can sit in the shade and be with their kids. They go to school to learn a couple of words like go, let’s go, sit, kiss, hug, open up high (they will put their trunk high enough so the you can put banana in the mouth, you get to see and touch their tongue) and a couple others. The baby elephants get to be with their mothers until five to six years of age. We fed the elephants bananas and coconuts, they chewed the whole coconut shells. We went on a hike with them, we gave them baths-they liked the sand baths because it scratches their itchy skin and cools they in the heat. We got some pictures with them and we got lots of water splashes and kisses and hugs.



We rode on a raft for 40 minutes down a river, it was so peaceful and you could hear the sounds of nature-birds singing, insects chirping, and the most beautiful sound of the whole ride the water splashing every time we took a turn. It was like you are in a really great spa and just enjoying yourself and you don’t want it to end. The feeling of the bamboo raft against your skin when it goes through some rocks was priceless, cool water just brushing you. The raft guides where so familiar with the path that they knew every turn to take. They rode through the river so many times that it was like their path to work.


We went to a camp for the night after the elephant sanctuary. We passed a Karen village on the way to the camp. The village was beautiful and kind of vintage because it had houses built out of bamboo like the old days before concrete. The camp was right next to a waterfall and the group swam there when we arrived. The rooms where built of bamboo too. They had mosquito nets- since it was close to a water sources it had lots of mosquitos. You could see the water moving in front of you room and the sound of waterfall moving was my lullaby that night.


We played soccer in the little space we had and the ball went into in the water a few times. After dinner, we had a bonfire right in front of the camp. Everyone was communicating and two people played the guitar. You could feel the connection between everyone, the people that run the camp the Carpe Mundi students and some other guests, they were all enjoying themselves and being in the moment.


Homestays in Mae Rim- by Ana Basaldua

Ana and Elena with their homestay moms

Ana and Elena with their homestay moms

Last week the Hathai Cohort met our homestay families. We were all really nervous at first but ended up sharing the best moments with some of the kindest people. I had a mom and an older brother. The first day I met my mom, she took me on walk and held my hand as she showed me off to all her neighbors. She’s so sweet! She fed me insane amounts of bomb-ass food and would then walk me over to her friend’s house, who would then feed me some more bomb-ass food. I kept saying “eem, eem, eem” (which means “I’m full” in Thai) but still continued to receive more plates of food. The good thing is that Thai food is really healthy. My host brother was cool, he always went on snack runs and came home with chips and cookies for me.


Hathai cohort dressed to the nines in traditional northern Thai attire

Hathai cohort dressed to the nines in traditional northern Thai attire

Our cohort and I received bikes so that we’d be able to bike to and from our Thai language school. I picked out the pink one.  School was in the same village that we lived in. ‘Twas great. At school, we learned Thai language and how to cook fried rice, kaoo soi, mango sticky rice, lapb and papaya salad. We were also learning a traditional northern fingernail dance and a sword dance which we were all really terrible at but perfected towards the end. I loved school. Learning had never been this fun and productive. At this point our cohort was becoming closer. During our lunch break my girlfriends and I would bike to the same stand every day. It was run by 2 cute boys who sold the best iced cocoa. We didn’t know which of the two was better, the ice coco or the boys. Lol. We ended the week by having a goodbye ceremony at school with our teachers and families. It was “SUAY” (beautiful). Our parents gave us a blessing by tying a bracelet around our wrist. The boys in our cohort performed the sword dance and the girls in our cohort performed the fingernail dance while wearing super long boujee fingernails. Our mommies joined us girls in our dance. Eventually students, teachers, parents, and siblings were all dancing the night away. We all enjoyed every minute of it and were so thankful for everything our homestay families did for us.

Cynthia, Ana, and Lena holding Loi Kratong lantern boats at the village farewell gathering.

Cynthia, Ana, and Lena holding Loi Kratong lantern boats at the village farewell gathering.

Hathai boys show off their sword dance moves

Hathai boys show off their sword dance moves