Julie Ann Blog #3
January 8, 2014
Yesterday, we spent the day and night at Mae Kam Pong Homestay. This was an incredible experience and one of my favorite parts of the trip so far. The village is up in the mountains and is home to a community of “forest people” who are northern Thai people. The houses we stayed in reminded me of cabins in the woods. Most of them had open porches and old cabin smells. The host families were all so hospitable and kind. I attached a picture of the woman who hosted me and a picture of me standing on my host family’s porch.
The entire village was so beautiful and is placed along a stream. All of the village houses run up a long hill split by the street. Then on both sides of the street there are paths to go down to the stream where there are gazebos and temples. I felt like the whole village was an open zoo because there were many different kinds of animals openly walking around. There were roosters, chickens, peacocks, turkeys, dogs, and cats all roaming throughout the village and along the paths. At one point, a few of us were chased by some of the turkeys, which was a little scary but also pretty funny!
On the night of this homestay, we had a conversation with the leader of the village. As I was listening to him speak, I found many connections between the Mae Kam Pong village and kibbutzim. The leader was explaining how all of the families stay in the village to work. They are their own community who budget together, farm together, and are in the process of becoming more eco-friendly. They grow all of their own food and have committees that monitor the systems and structures within the village. This communal living is very similar to the lifestyle on a kibbutz. In most kibbutzim, people also grow their own food, pool their money together to budget costs, and work within the kibbutz. I have visited kibbutzim on my trips to Israel, and the feelings around family and the values around relationships and simplicity is also similar among both lifestyles.
It is interesting that you can be half way around the world but still find aspects of the cultures and lifestyles that are so familiar. Another example of this is the tradition that Thai people do on New Years Eve. The tradition is to light a lantern and let it go in the sky. This symbolizes letting go of bad things from the old year into the universe. It is also tradition to buy a bag of live fish and then release them in the water for good luck. In Judaism, we celebrate the Jewish New Year called Rosh Hashanah. One of the traditions of this holiday is to throw bread into flowing water. This tradition is called Tashlikh, which means “casting off.” Throwing the bread in the flowing water symbolizes casting off the previous year’s sins before the New Year begins. While letting go of my lantern into the night sky on New Years Eve, I thought of this similarity and how cool it was to be partaking in a tradition of a new culture but still feel connections to my own.