So it’s that time again. The time of year when I go up north with a bunch of teenagers and do some good. I get excited around this time. It gives me a chance to change up the daily grind and to educate the brilliant minds of the International School of Bangkok.

I arrived at the Lisu Lodge the night prior to the students arriving. I said hi to all the old crew and got my thoughts together about the upcoming week. Then I just chilled out inhaling nature and reading Tale of Two Cities. The Lisu Lodge is a tranquil beautiful place. I love Bangkok, it is my home, but coming up here really displays the stark contrast between country and city. Every time I get up here I question my choice of residence.

Once the kids arrived the following day we got right to work. We walked around the village and put up trash receptacles. These were made from bamboo poles and hand woven baskets; fully organic. It took the kids a bit of time to get going but they got the hang of it soon enough. We set up about ten receptacles around the village; hopefully they will be utilized. Trash is very apparent in the village; how apparent? Think of a Pattaya beach….I do mean actual trash, not a metaphor for people.  With a community like the Lisu Village, with a strong sense of togetherness, it is surprising to students and adults alike that no pride is taken in the overall clean up of the neighborhood.

Next we took the students for a tour of the village. First we went to the herbal garden which is a great teaching tool. In the world today we go to the pharmacy and buy pills. Most of us ignore the side effects and the additives and just swallow anything the doc recommends. But here they use natural plants and herbs to cure everything from headaches to diarrhea. The kids got a real laugh from the one herbal remedy the villagers call “elephant foot”; it’s a natural Viagra. Not surprising “elephant foot” was almost completely depleted with only a few plants remaining.

Up next was the silversmith. Now usually when we bring 19 students to a village in order to perform tasks beneficial to the village as a whole, locals and village committee members stay on a schedule; but not today. The silversmith was busy. So we then went to the music man’s house. Closed again. Apparently the silversmith and the music guy were out together. But when you are given lemons; make lemonade. Our tour guide brought us to a guy’s house who can play the traditional Lisu guitar. This was entertaining. The guy was sitting with friends and family; grandparents and toddlers present, moonshine was flowing as fast as the conversation. After it is explained why we are there; which is basically for a mini concert, he grins widely, dusts himself off and then plays us a tune. Now the guy is wasted, shirtless and playing in front of 23 white people. He was in heaven and the students loved it. Absolutely hilarious. I have pictures.

Then we saw the Shaman/Medicine Man. We all sat around and asked him questions about his daily life through a translator. It was pretty cool but most of us realize that although eating herbal remedies is cool, dancing around a sick person and killing a chicken is just stupid in terms of a cure. Thankfully the Shaman kind of admitted that his techniques are more mind over matter for the villagers and most people go to the hospital. Thank god.

Day 1 was a success. We learned about the local culture, learned a bit about ourselves and were happy to help clean up the village. We were tired, thankful and eager to get up to the Lahu Outpost. The Outpost is on the top of a mountain, which we have to walk up early in the morning on Day 2. The next article will discuss the Lahu Outpost, silver, and why Lahu people party like spring breakers.

To be continued..