I have always been a traveller. The thought of exploring new places and experiencing different cultures excites me. So when an opportunity arose with Challenges Abroad to work on a Needs Assessment in a remote northern hill-tribe village Thailand it was something I could not refuse. Having been to Thailand twice before and backpacked through South-East Asia for four months, the travelling bug was instilled in me, but alas this trip was to be different. I was going to a remote village, where tourists do not travel, to work with the community to develop an understanding of their food safety and hygiene practices, and establish the main health concerns within this ethnic minority. To top it all off, I was going with five other students –some who I knew and others who’s faces seemed familiar from university but had never said a word to. We would be spending everyday together for a solid three weeks, sleeping next to each other on a mattress on the floor, with basic amenities and no place to run. I had no idea if any had travelled, how they would be dealing with the culture shock or how we would work together as a group. The group dynamic could have gone either way and the thought of that terrified me more than developing a stomach bug in an isolated village with only a squat toilet and no running water.
Upon arrival however the group instantly clicked. It could not have worked out better if a bunch of psychologists brainstormed together and did a personality analysis of us all and specifically chose us for this trip. Okay so maybe it was not that amazing but it was pretty damn close and I was definitely excited about what the next few weeks had in store for us, particularly up in Pa Pae village.
My experiences up in Pa Pae village were nothing short of amazing, I learnt so much about myself and realised how much of a hill-tribe lady I am –who would have thought the best sleeps I had in Thailand were on a thin mattress on a cement floor with a brick for a pillow. It was definitely a once in a life time opportunity to live and immerse yourself into the hill-tribe way of life and speak to the locals about their lifestyles, needs and also about their concerns and visions for their future. It really hit home that if we got this right it could be the building block for future life-changing projects. This is such a rewarding feeling and it’s something I could only ever dreamed of before going on this trip. The people of Pa Pae are such warm and inviting people who I have learned a lot from. Some memorable moments were had because of this such as karaoke with the teachers -who absolutely crushed us, rice whisky, hill-tribe candy –a weird tasting sour berry that I was really unsure if I liked so I tried it at least ten times and raw pork “Larb” –hand minced pork, clotted blood and mixed herbs and spices which tasted incredibly amazing -I will deal with the possibility of a stomach parasite later –no regrets.
I recommend if you get the chance to do something like this in your life to do it, it will change you for the better in more ways than one.
Thank you Sophie, Nid, David, James and the rest of Challenges Abroad – you definitely will all be missed.