Around a year ago, myself and seven other 2014 HSC graduates were just returning from a year spent abroad in Huay Tong, Thailand and Chuuk, Micronesia. For me, staying in the Karen village of Huay Tong with our host mother Maliwan, provided us with many unforgettable memories and experiences still with us after our first year studying at university.
Not having access to the luxuries and indeed basics such as a running shower, flushing toilets and clean water was initially very hard to get used to but something that has taught me to take less for granted, especially during the height of the dry season, where driving 30 minutes to the jungle waterfall became the best option for a proper shower. For a lot of families, food mostly was what they could find or what they had grown or cultivated themselves such as rice and eggs and whilst they had little, they were always extremely keen to have you over for dinner and make sure you left the house as well fed as humanely possible. For everyone, teaching in the schools left them with both positive and negative experiences but what was unquestionable was how much the students valued our presence as teachers and companions. However it’s also to important not to over romanticise the situation and acknowledge the unquestionably significant problems within Karen society in regards to alcohol and drug abuse and violence, which has left its scars on families in the village but which mustn’t be avoided but instead needs to be addressed and amended for healing to take place
In one village we visited, around four hours away allowed us to see exquisite mountain and jungle landscapes intertwined with beautifully carved rice terraces all the while being jolted by awfully bumpy dirt roads. In this incredibly isolated village, the vast majority of houses were without electricity, children have to find other ways to amuse themselves such as skipping stones down by the river, before heading off to help their parents work in the rice fields. I think one main lesson we drew from the year, was a greater appreciation of the simple things in life, to take pleasure in things we did such as rice farming, picking peach fruit in an orchard as the sun went down or just simply the cool mountain air whistling past whilst riding your motorbike. For me it’s something that I tend to forget, and I always have to remind myself to be more content with what I have, rather to become fixated and obsessed with what I don’t.
Finally I’d just like the highly recommend this journey for anyone who would like to delve a little deeper, and experience things that you would otherwise never be able to see as the Two Wolves programmes are certainly an unique and once in a lifetime opportunity which will provide you with unforgettable memories and lessons.
Hugo Vlachos (Service Year in Huay Tong 2015)