Tattooing is the most misunderstood art form in Japan today. Looked down upon for centuries and rarely discussed in social circles, people with tattoos are outcasts in this country, banned from most public spaces such as beaches, bathhouses, and even gyms. Tattoos have an extensive history in Japan, and to truly understand the stigma behind them it is essential to be aware of their significance. The first records of tattoos...Read More
Maya, a class of 2015 student from Sweden, reflects on a recent weXplore opportunity to visit the Palong hill tribe in Chiang Dao, Thailand.
THE FIRST THING WE SAW of the community was a bridge. A home-built, rough bridge made of thick trunks and tree planks. It was one of those bridges you don’t really know what to expect from, but as you walk on it is surprisingly stable. I feel like this bridge mirrored the village and its inhabitants well. I didn’t know what to expect from them at first, but when we started working, they helped and made the day so much better- especially the kids. It was amazing to see how these small 6-year-olds would just grab a hoe from one of us and start digging, or join our chain and pass heavy buckets of cement or dirt to the next person. I felt like they were truly grateful for our help, and they wanted to thank us with more than words. It might not be true, but that is how they made me feel.
I don’t know how I’d feel about the visit without the kids there. I would’ve gotten a great experience, but I’d probably not remember it as fun, and as a place I’d want to go back to. Working with smiles and laughter surrounding you makes any labor a thousand times better. When two kids come running towards you and start tickling you with broad grins on their faces, it enchants your day. The language barrier didn’t matter, but lucky as I am, we had Yada in our group. She could pass on information like the fact that I apparently have ‘a giant’s teeth.’
I have not only learned how to build a bathroom, make a barbwire-bamboo fence, or how to make concrete (I still remember the proportions of one sack of cement, fourteen buckets of sand, twenty buckets of gravel etc.), but I’ve learned a lot about my fellow TGS friends. I though that after three months with them, I’d know almost everything about them. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Now I’ve seen people I never would have imagined being the center of attention, and it was due to the children being involved. I’ve also seen people I never envisioned doing dirty jobs build a barbwire fence while stepping in ‘human waste’. Also, I’ve learned more about myself. Apparently, I’m deadly scared of a Swedish lullaby as Alice kindly reminded me about. I’m also awfully bad at remembering Thai names, and I can actually sleep on rock-hard pillows.
This is a trip I’ll remember forever. At first I didn’t think it would top the Chimborazo visit. I thought it would be the same, hard work with TGS and fun nights. I was right about the hard work and the fun nights, but it was so much more than that. Instead of working in the Hill Tribe, we worked with them.