Vol. VIII No. 15 - Tuesday
April 14 - April 20, 2009

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by Saichon Paewsoongnern

Chiang Mai FeMail 
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

An unforgettable volunteer experience ..the Children’s Shelter, Northern Mountains

What have they done to deserve this?

Answers to those awkward questions!


An unforgettable volunteer experience ..the Children’s Shelter, Northern Mountains

Audra Hoffman
On April 24, the deaf and disabled children resident in the Children’s Shelter are going on a trip to Sukothai, to the Lampang Elephant Park, to Cha Am, and to visit two Hill Tribe villages. The aim of the trip is for the mostly Hill Tribe kids to learn about Thai culture. If any reader would like to make a donation to be put towards the cost of the trip, please do contact Joy by email on [email protected]
I arrive at the farm under a huge moon after my visa run to Burma. Mountain silhouettes. The smell of smoke. I’m welcomed with “Kru Ja!” That’s my new name. There is no’d-r’combination in Thai which renders ‘Audra’ unpronounceable. ‘Kru’, (pronounced crew), means teacher and ‘Ja’ (pronounced Jah) means ‘sweet lady’, so I’ve got that going for me.

Pictured are two irresistible little kids, both resident at the Children’s Shelter.
My room is concrete and has a light and a bathroom with more than 50 daddy longlegs in residence. I stopped counting. I love those spidery things. They remind me of being little and watching this crazy bug crawl all over me and not even being scared. They tickle and they don’t bite, which everyone knows is the best way to be.
It’s 9:30pm. I’ve been on buses for so long that I decide to take a walk around the farm. The night is bright and cool. It’s so quiet here. Only crickets and the spaces in between. Such a stark contrast to Chiang Mai with it’s endless karaoke and motorbikes and fireworks. The moon reflects off the banana trees. My new canine friends come to check me out and then decide to stroll around with me. The gardens
are laid out beautifully in rows and patches; the dark earth in between makes it easy to navigate. I return to my room and climb onto my bed which is a mat on the floor.
I sleep great.
I awake at 6:30am to the sounds of two little Thai girls singing. Not all the kids are deaf, some are just orphans and some have other disabilities. All were already up and doing chores around the farm. Watering plants, raking leaves, sweeping, etc. I walk by a deaf 5 yr old busily sweeping a raised bamboo hut and sign to him.
“Good morning! You are already hard at work!” He puts down his broom and wai’s deeply, then signs back “Not working, only making ready the day!” Nice attitude, kid!
Today, a bunch of kids from an international school in Chiang Mai are coming up to spend a few days learning about the farm and school here. They all speak English. When they arrive they are greeted by all the kids, giving them flowers—then they climb thru a tunnel built of palm fronds and banana leaves and at the other end their faces are painted with a paste used by the hill people. It smells like 1000 flowers and herbs. It looks like fun! I opt to have mine painted, too.
We spend the morning showing them around and explaining the mission of the farm. Sustainable agriculture, life skills, etc. We have a beautiful Thai buffet. Kru Dang, (the teacher who is deaf from birth), and I sit together—he helps me figure out some of the Thai signs I don’t have exactly right. It seems the deaf school in Chiang Mai uses more strongly ASL based signs and I will need to adjust to a more strictly
Thai version. He is patient and wears a big grin.
In the afternoon we walk to the hot springs 3 km away. On the way, we pass by many orchards and I am given the Thai names and signs for each tree, alternately, as different kids want to help explain in the way they can. We all enjoy a Thai version of a honeysuckle, which looks to me more like an orchid, but tastes just the same. We put on sarongs and the kids have a ball throwing hot water at each other. Dinner is another big Thai feast—then we sit around the campfire in the light of the moon for a couple of hours. The visiting kids have learned about a dozen sign sentences and are showing off their new
skills to the delight of everyone. Deaf kids love it when people are excited about learning their language. Everybody laughs and applauds. We put out the fire and I walk back down the path to my room. The moon is so bright I can see the colour of the flowers as I pass by.
The next morning I wake up at 6 a.m. We start the day with what they call ‘Bamboo Healthy Dance’. We all meet in a big dew-covered field with 6 foot sticks of bamboo and do yoga with them. After breakfast we go on a 5 hour trek thru the jungle, teaching the kids about the life cycle of the different insects who live there, what they eat and how they make their homes. We teach the signs for things we see along the way. As the jungle opens up to a clearing we see a farmer walking with 10 white cows. Around their necks hang bells made of wood. They are rectangular and all slightly different sizes so the group sounds like a pleasant wooden xylophone as they saunter along. We make our way down to the creek for a picnic and explain to the visiting kids about the irrigation of the farm. We build an earthen dam to help with the water needs of the farm. We all help, but the majority of the heavy lifting is done by the 13-16 yr old hill tribe boys who live on the farm. You can’t beat a farm boy when it comes to hard work. When we are finished we have spanned the 20 foot creek bed with a 3 foot high dam.
After a nap, we all go out to pick the vegetables for dinner. While we pick, we munch on the tamarind fruit off the trees. We point out the ones we want and the farm kids climb the trees with the ease of monkeys, and drop them into our hands. It is dark and sweet and gooey. We march our little sticky, dirty tribe back up to the rooms to shower and get ready for dinner
Next week…a visit to the kids’ home villages.


What have they done to deserve this?

Karin Hawelka,
Care for Dogs.

Last week we were called to see 3 dogs being kept in cages that were not just small and filthy but inhumane. In most other countries, this would immediately activate legal action against the keeper on grounds of cruelty to the dogs. However, laws in Thailand do not prohibit such practices and only through committed endeavours and consultation are results achieved, sometimes with compromise and sometimes with success.
Today was a mixed result.

A happy little ‘Wriggly Fluffy’, safe at home in the Care for Dogs shelter, being cuddled by Karin.

After very careful discussions with the keeper of the dogs we managed to release one of the caged dogs into our care, apparently after being in the cage for nearly 4 years, with only very occasional release. She was very excited and, once in the careful hands of Khun Nod, she turned from an angry caged monster, pacing from side to side on rotting faeces and shed hair that formed a thick mass under the cage, to a cuddly and affectionate bundle of fluff.
The keeper of the dogs then agreed to open the door of the black Labrador’s cage. Once out, he immediately ran around, showing his happiness at being free from his evil cell for a while. He rolled over very submissively to each of us, a worrying sign, but looked in excellent condition. However, due to his excitement, his penis grew to amazing size, with the bulbus glandis swelling, and his corona so enlarged, that we were not quite sure whether he has TvT. With the head of his penis being so gorged with blood and not smooth at all, we were a little concerned. We will try to get him to our vet soon, after we have gained more of the keeper’s trust.
The other reward we scored today was to be allowed to take away the mother of the puppies—next week we shall have her sterilised, after which we shall return her and then sterilise her pups when they are old enough.
The 3rd dog, the Rottie mix, we found to be still locked in her prison cell in another area of the wood-working factory. Poor girl—she looked so depressed, and her cage was in an even worse condition than the fluffy bundle’s cage. This girl was actually laying on dirt & faeces, and the cage was far too small and inadequate for a dog of her size. On approach, she seemed extremely submissive and looked a very sorry sight. As we left, she made a desperate attempt to appear angry and menacing.
The keeper of these poor dogs has agreed to come to the shelter to visit his released bundle of fluff and, after quite a long and controlled discussion about animal welfare, we believe we have introduced the first seeds of awareness which we plan to nurture and help to grow. There are still dogs at risk here from human ignorance & neglect; we will try to make a difference to their lives as best as we can.

Answers to those awkward questions!

Q: Where can men over the age of 60 find younger, sexy women who are interested in them?
: Try a bookstore... under fiction.

Q: What can a man do while his wife is going through menopause?
: Keep busy. If you’re handy with tools, you can finish the basement. When you are done you will have a place to live.

: Someone has told me that menopause is mentioned in the Bible. Is that true? Where can it be found?

: Yes. Matthew 14:92: ‘And Mary rode Joseph’s ass all the way to Egypt.’

: How can you increase the heart rate of your 60+ year old husband?

: Tell him you’re pregnant.

Q: How can you avoid that terrible curse of the elderly... wrinkles?
: Take off your glasses 

: Seriously! What can I do for these crow’s feet and all those wrinkles on my face?

: Go braless. It will usually pull them out.

: Why should 60+ year old people use valet parking?

: Valets don’t forget where they park your car.

: Is it common for 60+ year olds to have problems with short term memory storage?

: Storing memory is not a problem, retrieving it is a problem.

: As people age, do they sleep more soundly?

: Yes, but usually in the afternoon.

: Where should 60+ year olds look for eye glasses?

A: On their foreheads.

: What is the most common remark made by 60+ year olds when they enter antique stores?

: ‘Gosh, I remember these.’

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