An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Mia T. '20

This month, Lakeside Upper School students are at six locations around the world, developing their understanding of and respect for different countries and cultures, as well as the common issues that face us globally. Read their blogs for their thoughts, and learn more about our Global Service Learning program. 

It has been a long journey: from Seattle to Taipei, then Bangkok, then Chiang Mai. I think I speak for all of us when I say that we were ready to reach our homes-away-from-home. We arrived in the village yesterday in two buses and were welcomed by about ten Lahu women and twenty dogs (of course, we all steered clear!).  After a small welcoming ceremony, we all utilized our small Thai vocabulary to find each of our host parents. I learned that my mother, Nasaii, has two children, Natepoii and Vishu, who are two of the many children in in the village. Already, we have all spent hours playing with the children—chase, tickle fights, thumb wars—the kids are so full of life and so playful. They are one of the most fun aspects of the village so far.
After we met our families, they eagerly led us back to our houses. To give a brief idea: in most of the houses, the Lakesiders have their own room or space cleared out for them. Our host families sleep in a separate room, or in the kitchen, which is usually separate from the main house building. These houses are where we spend a fair amount of time eating meals, spending time with our families, or perhaps playing with our siblings. It’s touching how nicely our areas are arranged; clearly, a lot of thought was put into our arrival and stay. Also, our families are heartwarmingly kind and welcoming. I know that all of my peers feel this way as well; we all feel truly welcome and at home here.
After we all got settled into our houses, the villagers began a ceremony in our honor. They began by blessing our stays by tying bracelets around our wrists. The ceremony continued with the slaughtering of a pig, followed by dinner and a dance. The dance, held in the jakuku, was unlike anything I’ve experienced in the U.S., but I think that it was possibly one of the most authentic shows of Lahu culture. Music was played on large flute-like instruments while men, women, and children danced around a flame wearing traditional Lahu clothing. My clothes, loaned to me by my mother, were bright orange and beautifully embroidered. As I learned from her, they were also homemade by our neighbor. After the dance died down, we were led back to the chief’s house for a second dinner. Yes, a second dinner! One thing I think we were all a bit nervous about was the food, at least in some regard. That fear was gone without a trace by the end of the first night.
We are served three meals a day, and each one is delicious in ways I could not have imagined before, and now, cannot describe. Although I find comfort in the similarities between Lahu and American food, I am also happy and excited to embrace the differences. Everyone eats breakfast and dinner with their families and lunch, which is packed by their families, with the Lakeside group. My breakfast this morning was, first of all, absolutely delicious, and second, about five times bigger than my usual breakfasts. I piled eggs, rice, pork, vegetables, mochi, and sauces onto my plate, wanting to try everything and then some. In summation, I couldn’t be happier with the food. There are many things in Thailand that I feel that way about, and I don’t have nearly enough space or time to write about all of them here (although I am up to page 40 in my journal!). My family, the food, the kids, and even the work (also the number of bug bites I have collected on my ankles) have exceeded my expectations, and it is only day two here in the village. I can hardly wait to experience the next month.