Hello, dear family and friends! We’ve been in Chiang Mai for 17 days and we will be here for 17 more until we leave for Phuket, Thailand, to visit the beautiful seaside and support Katie in her Freediving competition. Then we will be off to the jungle to teach.
The other thing we have started doing is teaching English at Thai Freedom House, a volunteer community center for Shan refugees in Chiang Mai. There is currently fighting going on in Shan State, Burma, which is right across the border from Chiang Mai. There are many Shan refugees in our city because of our proximity to Shan state. Chiang Mai is also very close to Laos and Yunnan Province, China, both places we hope to visit while we are here:
At Thai Freedom House, students can take classes for free: English in order to get a tourist industry job, Thai to live in Thailand, Shan in order to return home someday, Burmese in order to return to their home country for school or work, or Chinese which is also a large ethnic and tourist group in Northern Southeast Asia. The students can also choose to take art, music, or traditional Shan dance for cultural preservation and enrichment.
Thai Freedom House is very full– I teach 20 intermediate English speakers and Noel and Katie teach 25 beginning English speakers. The school didn’t take any new students this term because our space is quite full. We are developing a phonics curriculum for English as a second language. Our experiments seem to be working well so far! Our students struggle mostly with pronunciation and hearing the sounds made by native English speakers, which are quite different from their own.
There are so many refugees from Burma/Myanmar in Thailand. Many of them struggle quite profoundly from poverty, racism, and lack of rights. It is difficult to have access to education and basic legal rights in Thailand for a poor person who doesn’t have an ID card proving their Thai ethnicity. Non-Thais can’t go to college and usually have to work in either a construction camp– subjecting their family to poor living conditions and inflated food prices which cause them to go into debt to their employer– or work in the sex industry, making them susceptible to trafficking because they have no standing legally if they are kidnapped or moved to another province.
Please pray that we would find ways to be effective in helping these people set up a livelihood for themselves in a foreign land, and for the fighting to stop so they can go home.
Noel and I are students ourselves. We have a Thai tutor every day for about an hour and a half. So far we have been exposed to a lot of the language, but still have a hard time hearing and reproducing the sounds and tones.
Noel is also getting pretty good at driving me around on the back of the motorbike. I don’t drive very much. I took it out yesterday and only got a little lost, but I’m gonna keep practicing.
We also went on a great hike last week from the city to the top of the mountain outside Chiang Mai. On the top of the mountain is the famous Doi Su Thep buddhist temple.
We miss you all so much. Lots of love!