Thursday, August 6, 2009

Volunteering in Thailand

If you are thinking of volunteering in Thailand..... a suggestion...

Do NOT go through not for profit organizations based in the USA! You can get a much better deal if you work through local organizations. I worked through a USA based organization to volunteer in 2009. The experience was okay..... but.... what I learned from that experience.....

Were I to do the experience over again, I would have gone directly to a local organization. For example, I found a fantastic local organization in Thailand, called Friends For Asia. Here is a link to their site ....

Friends for Asia provides a variety of volunteer opportunities in Thailand, has a great local staff that is very, very supportive.

If you want to spend time with elephants in Thailand .... I spent a week at the Thai Elephant Home and was very impressed with this small family owned business. At the Thai Elephant Home, I was taught how to be a "mahout." I spent hours directly working with an elephant at this "Home." The staff are fantastic! Here is their webside:

SOS Village, based in Austria, provides homes for orphans around the world. An incredible organization, with fantastic staff, dedicated to improving the lives of children. SOS Village has programs around the world. Check into this worthy organization and lend a helping hand... here is a link to SOS Villages ...

Think global and work local .... locally that is, work through and with a local organization in the country you wish to volunteer in. It can be so very rewarding....

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Lived in a mud hut in Africa

While stationed with VITA, in Burkina Faso, I lived in a mud hut with a grass roof. My humble hut was located about 10 miles outside of the capital city of Ouagadougou. Just enough room for a bed and a small table. A mosquito net kept most of the bugs out at night! No running water, but there was a pump... so cold showers! And a hole in the ground surrounded by a woven grass mat fence served as the bathroom.

No electricity either! So I used the light of a kerosine lamp to write in my journal. Was really very enjoyable for on the night of the full moon, the villages in the surrounding area were alive with the sound of drums and singing! And in the dark of the moon, the air was so clear and the stars seemed so close that it felt as though one could just reach out and touch them.

While living in Mali ..... I encountered....

A real fetisher .... or witch doctor! What was amazing about this picture, the sun had already set, so it was getting dark in the village. I snapped the picture .... no flash! I thought for sure, the picture would be so dark that the witch doctor would not ever be visible.

Someone worked some very special magic that night to make this photo come out the way it did! And it certainly was not me!

Imperial China

Dressed for a Minnesota winter, I climbed The Great Wall on a cold, rainy day in March 2008.

Using great care, I slowly pushed open the massive door leading to a place I was not to enter ...... The Forbidden City in Beijing.

Feeling like the Emperor himself, I strolled around the mystical grounds of The Forbidden City.

On a foggy morning, I slowly walked along the mote, that for centuries has been protecting The Forbidden City from common folk like me.

Been to La Grande Mosque in Djenne

The largest mud mosque in the world, originally built in the 13th century. In 1988 La Grande Mosque de Djenne, located in Mali, West Africa was designated a World Heritage Site.

The current structure was built in 1907.

While stationed in southern Mali as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I traveled to Dejenne and visited this incredible structure. That's me.... looking out from the highest turret of the mosque.

The town of Djenne is situated on an island in the Niger River. Legend has it that whenever someone tried to build on this island, floods or earthquakes would destroy the buildings. A witch doctor was consulted and advised the daughter of the Chief should be sacrificed. A wall was built around the island, and she was entombed alive in the wall. Above photo marks the location in the wall where the young girl was placed....

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A place of sorrow... the "Killing Fields"

While visiting Angkor Watt in Cambodia in 2006, I came across a couple of memorials to the Cambodian residents of Siem Reap who had been so brutally tortured and killed during the reign of the Khamer Rouge. A very deep sorrow hung in the air around each of the two memorials I visited. Haunting places .... that leaves one asking the question...."Why?"

Rows and rows of walls made up the "Killing Fields" Memorial Park .....

Each wall, made up of hundreds of individual plaques .... each plaque with a person's name who died under the Khamer rule.

A glassed monument in front of a Buddhist temple in Siam Reap, Cambodia .... holds the bones of some of the Cambodians who died under the Khamer rule.

Each one a life. Killed for what?

Sacred Fish in Mali

"Ask the fish a question, then toss food into the pond. If they eat the food, the answer is yes. If they do not, the answer is no."

"Do not touch the sacred fish! If you touch them .... you will die!"

As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sikasso, southern Mali, I visited these sacred fish one day. It was the dry season, so the river that normally ran through the pond had dried up. I was told, a huge cavern existed below the pond, so that if the water did dry up, the fish would escape down into the cavern.

The sacred fish were huge "cat fish." I'd guess maybe between 25 and 40 pounds each .... and maybe 20 to 30 lived in the pond. During the rainy season, when water gushed through this pond, why didn't the fish leave?

That was 40 years ago! Now I wonder.... did I toss food into the pond? And if I did, was it eaten? Another question in the mystery of life!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Thai Funeral and Cremation Rites

Buddhist monks chant at the home of the deceased whose body lay in a wooden casket, inside a special silver and black refrigerated unit.

Monks chanting and the passing of the string while daughter of the deceased makes special offering in honor of her father.

Removing the casket from the refrigerated unit on the hearse and carrying the casket to the crematorium.

Taking the top of the casket allowing for ceremonies that follow.

Monks pour coconut water over the body in an act of symbolically washing the corps.

The family of the deceased symbolically wash and bless their father's corps.

Monks lay a small bundle containing a stick of incense, a candle and matches, on the wooden casket, therein symbolically lighting the cremation fire.

For the final ceremony involving the scattering of the ashes, go to my July 2206 blog at: