Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Our Wonderful Homestay Families

At the GVI Thai Elephant Project volunteers live and eat with local families. Most volunteers are not sure what to expect at first but after a few days of getting to know their homestay family they feel comfortable with them and really enjoy being immersed in the local community and culture. We have seven homestay families that welcome volunteers into their homes and share their family with them. While their houses are more basic than what most volunteers are used to, it is a great experience to learn about a different way of life. Homestay families have set aside a room in their house for volunteers to sleep and also make their lunches and dinners. Each homestay is different; some of the volunteer’s rooms are part of the family’s house, while others are detached huts made of either bamboo or wood harvested from the local community forest. They are simple and homestay families provide volunteers with a mattress on the floor, a mosquito net, bedding and pillows, water, and toilet paper.

Pa Luang, the chief of the village, is one of the homestay families and he lives with his wife and his three adult children who live at home. It is a very social house and there are always village meetings and small gatherings that make this house a great place to get to know many villagers and learn Pakinyow (the local language) quickly.

Chat’s house is just across the street from Pa Luang’s and he lives with his wife, sister, and mother. Chat worked as a chef in Chiang Mai for several years so volunteers love his cooking.

Down the road from Chat’s is Sumchai’s house, where he lives with his friendly wife Vipaw. They own a small shop that is great for buying snacks and the homestay room there is a cute detached hut with a private bathroom and great sunset views.

Down the hill from Sumchai’s is Root’s house, and he lives in a bustling house with his wife and her parents, along with his four playful children. Root is a hunter, an amazing chef, and an innovative farmer who is beginning to plant coffee. This is a great house for volunteers that love children because his kids are very outgoing and love playing with volunteers.

On the opposite end of the village is Ahree’s house, where she lives with her husband, sister, and her sister’s children. They boast one of the nicer houses in the village with a flush toilet and proper shower head. Ahree also owns a small shop and makes delicious smoothies.

Down the hill from there is Napol’s house, which is our newest homestay. The volunteers room is a detached hut with an amazing porch and benches for afternoon relaxation. Napol’s house is very social and there are always rambunctious children running around.
Up a path from Napol’s is Daw’s house and she lives with her parents and younger siblings. Daw works up at the village school helping out with the youngest class. At Daw’s house volunteers eat on their giant porch which is decorated with orchids and has a great sunset view.

And last but not least is Jaree’s house, which is her, her parents’, and all her animals’. Jaree is an animal lover and is also working hard to learn English although she is often too shy to use it. The volunteers who stay there have their own detached hut built out of bamboo with a leaf roof.

Those are our amazing homestay families; they help make the experience of living in a remote Karen village and learning about another culture complete.