Greetings from Whitman’s GlobeMed GROW Team! Paal, Anu, Haley, and I (Rebecca), safely arrived in the beautiful, bustling, baking hot metropolis of Chiang Mai, Thailand last Thursday. After a week of gallivanting inside and out of the city walls, we’ve become pretty well acclimated¹ to the time change, the abundant pad thai, the tuk-tuks, and the 75% humidity (or rather, the perpetual sensation of being just a bit sticky.)
For those who don’t know, GlobeMed is an organization that pairs up chapters of undergraduate students with grassroots non-governmental organizations focused on health equity. GlobeMed aims to build sustainable, long term partnerships between students and communities, fostering collaboration to tackle today’s complex global health challenges.
We (GlobeMed @Whitman) are partnered with the Burma Humanitarian Mission in Mae Sot, Thailand. BHM supports community-based health and education services for people of Burma who have been displaced by the violent military regime. The organization works closely with the Mae Tao Clinic and Minmahaw School. For the last two years, GlobeMed at Whitman has been supporting BHM, raising over $14,000 to support their projects.
This summer, Whitman’s GrassRoots Onsite Work (GROW) team has been invited to Mae Sot to evaluate their health class and conduct interviews to share the stories of refugees, health workers, and Minmahaw students and administrators. In our 6 weeks there, we will also be teaching our own health class, an English class, and a music elective.
More details to come as our projects takes shape over the next few weeks. (This blog will be updated about once a week, depending on how quickly we acclimate and how busy we are with Minmahaw.)
So, what are we doing in Chiang Mai? We decided to spend a week here to, you know, acclimate before heading up to Mae Sot. I, for one, have been grateful for time to settle into Thai-everything with the comfort of a 7-Eleven down the street. Paal, Haley, and Anu, all pre-med students, have taken time to map out the health class curriculum. (I’ve spent that time playing uke and writing this blog.) We’ve also eagerly jumped into the tourism: we spent a day at an ethical elephant park, hiked up the grueling but gratifying trail to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, drank a variety of tropical fruit smoothies, learned a little Thai², and even tried our hand at Trivia Night at an expat-run Irish Restaurant³ . The other day we met up with Emory University’s GROW Team for dinner, and tonight we plan to soak up our final time in the city at the North Gate Jazz Co-op.
This week has been a blast, but I think I speak for us all when I say that we’re ready to leave the city of elephant-pant-clad tourists and get to work in rural Mae Sot. Early tomorrow morning, we’ll take a 5 hour bus ride out of here. We’re anxious to get started hearing people’s stories, building relationships, and strengthening our partnership with BHM and Minmahaw. It’s been quite the ride already, and we’re really only on the brink of our journey.
Onwards we go!
1. To acclimate is to “become accustomed to new conditions or climates.” It’s our new favorite word and favorite excuse. It’s exceedingly relevant/useful for travel: eg, “Do you really need more caffeine?” “Yes, I’m still acclimating!” Also highly convenient for travel are our 2nd and 3rd new favorite expressions: GFI, Anu-speak for “Go for it,” and FISHY, Paal-slang acronym for “Screw It, Crap Happens, Yo”
2. My Thai really hasn’t impressed any of the native speakers, but it’s impressed Haley, Paal and Anu…that counts for something, right?
3. Trivia night was great fun – snaps to Anu for knowing Hedwig, Scabbers and Crookshanks. However, up against a crowd of middle aged white tourists, when it came down to knowing TV theme songs from the 60s, we didn’t stand a chance.