For my GCW trip I traveled up to Maekok, located in Chiang Rai of Northern Thailand.  Having not been in northern Thailand, or even out of Bangkok for a while, I was grateful to be able to escape the chaos of the metropolitan Bangkok area to a more tranquil and natural surrounding.  From the instant I arrived, I noticed how unique the culture of the area was.  Given its geographical location, the culture there was more an amalgam of Chinese, Burmese and Thai culture/ norms rather than any specific one.

Though it is true that the diversity in culture of the region proved to be a fascinating aspect for tourists and outsiders like myself, it is also true that this cultural diversity has become an obstacle for many of the natives of that region.  Firstly, it could be seen that the majority of the hill tribe people are not of Thai decent but rather immigrants of bordering nations.  Though true, to us this is a unique opportunity to explore the clash of cultures, but to them, it proves to be a huge impediment to development.  Not being of Thai decent means they are not officially registered as Thai citizens, and thus they do not receive any of the funding granted to Thais.  This in turn becomes a major hindrance to the individual’s quality of life for now they must rely solely on themselves for all essentials of life; namely food, shelter, and clothing.

Another aspect regarding this situation that has been brought to light through this trip is the obstacle the difference in culture brings to education.  Due to the different cultural backgrounds the children have been brought up in, they are capable of speaking various languages; ranging from Thai to Burmese to Chinese to English.  Once again, to us this aspect was deemed to be unique and wonderful (as I recalled someone on the trip saying, “being able to speak Thai, Chinese, and English, these children have the ability to get any job they want.”).  However, on further analysis of the situation, I found that in fact many of the students were only capable of speaking a mere one or two languages of the four stated above.  Though the capability of speaking two languages is still great, it becomes extremely problematic when Thai or English is not one of the two languages spoken.  This is because the teachers, alike ourselves, are only capable of speaking Thai and English, this then creates a huge language barrier between the children and teachers further hindering their education.

On a more optimistic note, this trip to me has been more than just a school trip to fulfill my community service hours.  It as been nothing but inspiring and captivating as I am sure it was for the children there as well.  Though I am still aware that the problems surrounding them will still prevail and are beyond any one us, I know that this trip has made an impact on me, as I am know it did on the children at Maesalak school.  In the end I am grateful to be part of this trip, and to be given this amazing opportunity, furthermore I feel that this trip has inspired me to go back and visit Maekok Village again in the near future.