My apologies for taking so long to update. This will be one of the longest post I will have to write, but please bear with me as I try to keep it as short, simple, and reflective as I can.
In late January, I did a surprise exchange teaching with a fellow Fulbright colleague, Hoang aka Kruu Kay. We swapped places for a day where I taught his M6 students (12th graders) and met his colleagues while he taught and met mine. We swapped on a Monday, which was unfortunate for Hoang because he had to teach three of my most chaotic M1 classes (7th graders). [Sorry Hoang]. Teaching rowdy 7th grade students at the start of every week was something I had to grow accustomed to. On a good note, praise God he survived that day! I would have gone mad if I was him. Super pleased at how cool, calm, and collected Hoang remained after a crazy day of exchange teaching. As for me, I LOVED his M6 students. Majority of Hoang’s M6 students were really passionate about learning–especially when it came to English, which was something I was really surprised about. After I finished teaching his M6/6 class, they asked me to teach them for another hour because they had nothing to do next period. I’ve never seen Thai students this excited to learn, especially when it came to a subject as difficult as English! Usually this subject is frowned upon when students hear of it. It’s definitely something my own students would NOT take if English were to be an optional course.
If I haven’t mentioned this already, my first semester of teaching started when Thai students are in their second semester of school. I finished my first term of teaching at the end of February and began my 6-weeks internship in Chiang Mai (a required component of the Fulbright grant in Thailand). I interned for an NGO/humanitarian organization called Borderless Friendship Foundation (BFF). They work to improve the lives and well-being of hill-tribe groups in northern Thailand. Most of these groups possess no form of identification, which means in the government eye–they are nonexistent. Can you imagine not being able to seek help because of the fact that you just don’t exist?? It’s disheartening. A lot of the hill-tribe individuals I met and worked with had little to no access to basic education and human/social services because of this issue. During this one month internship, I learned about the tedious and complex process of applying to be “identified” as a Thai citizen. A 50-year old Lahu woman who I met and worked with at a Lahu orphanage center was granted identification after 20 years of waiting. 20 years?! What?! This insane and can’t be real!?! I was two years of age when she submitted her application. If you’re someone who knows me well, you can probably imagine the anger I had at that moment. I was more angry at the fact that I couldn’t do anything about it. Oh, and did I mention the monetary cost of what it takes to get applications considered? It’s insane how applications get prioritized here. The more money a person pays the government, the greater the priority the application has, and the more likely it’s going to get approved first. Anyhow, let’s stop this topic here for now; this post will become a huge rant than a reflection of my experiential learning and engagement. On a positive note though, because the 50-year old Lahu woman was granted identification, her children and grandchildren received automatic citizenship. Her 15-year old granddaughter’s dream of attending school was finally realized. God is good.
If there’s anything I took away from this internship experience besides the skills I gained, it’s that we don’t see how fortunate and privileged we are until we witness the immense adversity others go through. Had my parents decide not to immigrate to the United States after the Vietnam War/Secret War in Laos, my family could have been in this same situation as the 50-year old Lahu woman and her family–yep, all nine members and the generation after us. I probably would have been trafficked into prostitution at a young age and/or could never attained proper education, which you may or may not know are some of the realities that young hill-tribe people face and go through.
For those of us who live in a world where we have food on our tables, roofs over our heads, privilege to attend school, stable jobs to provide care for our families, let us continuously remind ourselves to be humble and grateful for these basic necessities. May we have the courage and heart to extend a helping hand to those who don’t share the same life benefits as we do.