Friday, February 13, 2009

Life at Mirror (Volunteer in Thailand)

This is for anyone who is interested in the volunteer work that Tara and I are currently doing in Thailand. When we were searching for volunter groups we had a hard time finding reliable volunteer organizations. I can definitely recommend Mirror to anyone interested in doing volunteer work in Thailand.

I'll interrupt the memories of Myanmar today to tell you about our current life at
The Mirror Foundation. We have just finished up our 3rd week here, and have been living quite comfortably here. For the past few months we have been moving from town to town, country to country, always meeting new people. It has been relaxing to stay in one place for awhile and share our free time with some great people.

Mirror is a big, happy commune set in the middle of a mountain village outside ChiangRai, Thailand. There is a Thai chef here who makes us 3 great meals every weekday. During the daytime we do a variety of activities including classes for children ranging from 3 to around 14 years old, conversational classes for Thai adults (staff members of the Mirror Foundation), general cleaning and maintenance of our home here, and other manual labour projects.
There are around 25 volunteers living here currently, coming from Australia, the UK, Canada, America, and Japan. Since there are so many volunteers here right now we have a lot of free time during which we can plan lessons, help take care of the children living at the commune, help the chef prepare meals, or play games. Every day when the children from the surrounding village finish school they come here to play sports with us (I've been practicing soccer so I can impress Koji and Kris when I get back to Japan!).

The Mirror Foundation has a wide variety of projects aimed at helping the hilltribe people. Most of their problems stem from the fact that the Thai government does not recognize the hilltribe people as Thai citizens even though they have lived here for many generations. Thus, they are not entitled to citizenship rights such as education and healthcare. The volunteers here help run the free schools set up by Mirror, and help teach the Thai staff English so that they can better interact with people around the world to raise funds and educate people about the issues here.

If you have any more questions about the Mirror Foundation or volunteering here please check the websites below or just ask me!

Mirror Homepage (available in English, Thai, and Japanese):

The following links can be reached from the homepage, but if you want a shortcut...

History of the Mirror Foundation:

Current projects of the Mirror Foundation:

Friday, February 06, 2009

Burmese Days

AS PROMISED here are some highlights from our 3 weeks in Burma.
As you will soon see, Burma LOVES gold. It is the most devoutly religious country I've ever visited; this is apparent in the way the country is dotted with innumerable pagodas, many of which are gilded in gold leaf. The rest of the scenery in this season was very dry and dusty, so these tall gold spires shooting up to the sky really stand out.

The first stop on our trip was Rangoon/Yangon city. This is Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon. The city itself wasn't very attractive or interesting, but this site was definitely worth seeing. The marble floors are swept nightly before sunset, so the whole place has a warm, orange glow as the sun goes down.

After making your prayer you should ring the bell to let the gods know you've visited.

Our next stop was to Bago, a town popular with large Buddhas seeking wide open spaces for meditation and relaxation.

Tara and I in front of a reclining Buddha.

Hmmm...... I'm sleepy.

More golden pagodas!!!

Outside of Bago even the rocks are gold! Well, at least this one was.

Legend has it that the rock is held in place by one of Buddha's hairs. Of course YOU know that golden rock is supported by Ian's neck.

Next time: Ian shaves! And a boat trip on the incredibly beautiful Inle Lake!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

3 Weeks in Burma - Ups and Downs

Hello faithful readers.
I apologize for the long absence, I haven't been able to update this blog in the past few weeks. So where have we been? Well, we just finished the first week of our one month of volunteering in northern Thailand. Before that we spent 3 weeks traveling through Myanmar (Burma), which on the whole was a fantastic experience. The sightseeing was breathtaking and the people were smiley and helpful, however the food and transportation left much to be desired. On our second day in Yangon I ate a seafood hotpot that lead to one week with a horrible stomach parasite. I could barely eat or drink during that week, and let's just say that the things I did manage to eat didn't stay with me long. Fortunately Tara finally convinced me to go to a pharmacy and get some antibiotics which knocked out the parasite almost immediately. After that we were very cautious about what we ate.

It seemed that with buses in Burma we had some kind of jinx. Regardless of which seats we picked, we always had two (or more) people seated in front of us who insisted on reclining their seats as FAR AS POSSIBLE. On top of that, the roads were dry, dusty, and the bumpiest paths we've crossed since Cambodia. In summary, the things that were good about Burma were some of the highlights of the trip, but the things that were bad were the worst.

I prefer to remember the good things (though I won't soon forget that week with a parasite), so please come back soon to see some of my favourite sights.