Well, this time, it’s “the students sleep tonight”. Part one of our second unit, Land, takes place in villages that have had recent struggles with their land. Whether it is a protest village, a community that has recently returned to their land, or exchanging with the governmental agency that protects the forest, we are seeing all sides of land rights in Issan. The journey started with a six hour van ride to a village just north of Cambodia.
Our van slowed to a stop at a group of houses, but we were told this was not our village. We all loaded onto the back of a truck and headed into the jungle. The Suan Ba, or forest, was through deep woods and the land had flooded recently- our vans would not make it. Little did I understand flooding. After community members finished nailing wooden boards as two longs rows of seats, we loaded up. Thus began the most exciting hour long ride of my life. Somewhere between rollercoaster and safari, we found ourselves on a real life version of a Disney World ride.
The village only got better. It started with bananas hanging by a pole for us to eat at our leisure, then there was some wading through a river, an exchange, and then a slumber party of the whole group sleeping in the community “room”. There was a light bulb, but no other electricity. The exchangee was willing to answer all questions, so after our allotted time, questions were asked about Cambodia, the Vietnam War, and ended by talking about elephants. (We saw one while driving through the city, of all places, on the way home– just a baby walking on a leash led by a man down a busy street.)
We returned for the evening to meet the U.S. Ambassador, have finger food and mingle. So it’s a nice relaxing evening, and then off to the next village! It has become a trend that at all villages, our host parents like to feed us a lot, and so I am a bit nervous for Yom Kippur tomorrow. The Ajaans (teachers) know I am fasting, so they will explain it—hopefully it is understood as religious and not as an insult to their food, because village food is so delicious.