December 5, 1997


U of A and Thailand university share expertise

While visitors from Maejo University in Thailand visited the U of A last week to discuss a possible extension to their three-year collaboration, U of A students wrote home to share their Thai experiences.

Experiencing that famous Thai smile

MSc student in the Department of Physical Education and Recreation

Having lunch with villager after
harvesting rice. The owner of
the land prepared lunch.

Sawasdee-ka! This is the traditional greeting in Thailand. It was the first and the most important word I learned in this country. The Thai culture is one based very much on order, respect and of course, the famous Thai smile.

I am currently in Thailand researching the impact of hill tribe trekking on the culture of the Karen people in a northern village called Raummit. It is located on the Mae Kok River, and the attractions of the place and people are easy to appreciate. Each morning I wake up to sounds of elephants making their way across the river and the smell of dew on the trees. Each day brings me a wonder of new challenges and rewards. The other morning I found a dead rat in the squatter (toilet). My immediate reaction was, `What the heck am I doing here?' But, later that day, when I was playing with the children and observing the interactions between them and the tourists, it all became clear again.

As I fall asleep each night, I run all the memories of the day through my head and I cannot help but wonder who I am learning more about, the Karen people, the tourists, or myself. But, that is, I suppose, the purpose of this educational journey upon which I have embarked.

Cutting rice stalks builds enduring memories

MS student in rural sociology, Department of Rural Economy

Furuyama cutting rice stalks.

As a masters student in rural sociology, the purpose of my research in Northern Thailand is to describe how village leaders influence villagers to participate in an agricultural extension project. To achieve this purpose I am collecting information about a potato-growing project in the Ban Klang Pattana village just 15 km north east of Chiang Mai. My research entails attending farmer meetings, conducting interviews with various leaders and farmers, and observing the relationship between villagers and village leaders.

Is this a village? This was my first question as I walked into the so-called village. I could not see any huts or 'primitive' lifestyles. The village was bigger and far more than I expected. However, once I became settled in my village rental house, I felt like I was living in a more natural village environment; rats, lizards, hairy spiders, huge mosquitoes, and ants routinely crawl on my bed. Rats are making a nest just above my head and are active at night. Mornings become active for the villagers very early. Roosters wake me up before dawn. There is no fridge, no phone, and no shower in this simple cement tenant home. I have been tempted to return to the comfortable student flat that I originally stayed in when I arrived at Maejo University, but the 15 km drive and the warmth of the villagers makes me want to stay here. As time goes on, the villagers' friendliness, smiles, and kindness make me feel at home. I have been able to participate in rice harvesting and I can assure you, cutting rice stalks with a scythe is not easy work! Twelve women, including myself, harvested three rais (0.48 ha) within four hours. The owner of the land prepared lunch for us.

The longer I live here, the harder it will be to leave. I hope I can remember the village life the way I know it now once I return to Canada.

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