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Thailand June finished their last day of work in the village. Accomplishment, exhilaration, and gratitude are common feelings usually experienced by this point. Although, when it comes time to say goodbye to community members who we have worked alongside so tirelessly, some individuals can’t help but feel entirely indebted. These relationships are truly life changing.
“DAY 9: Sensory overload! Perfect days are rare. Which is why everyone on our team will savor this one for a long, long time. Get ready, this will be a lengthy post with a lot of photos.
With all of our projects complete, it was time to celebrate. The women from the sewing classes wanted to show their gratitude by teaching us how to cook some of their traditional Karen dishes. So we split into four groups and proceeded to combine spices, form rice packets in banana leaves, pound rice into a sticky cake, and more. They also gifted us with delicate bamboo tea cups and their local strawberry jam.
Then it was time to head back to the school for the Fun Fair. Our Cultural Committee prepared seven stations with various games and activities: bean bag toss, temporary tattoos, jump rope, bubbles, face painting, playground parachute, and more.
The school kids had a blast running from station to station. And our team was stellar providing such a fun atmosphere and joining in.
After 90 minutes of all-out playing, it was time for the official closing ceremony. They called all the school kids into the newly renovated canteen where we worked so hard for the past week. The stage looked fantastic with the sparkling new tile and grand opening decorations. This was a big deal to the community, and we were excited to share the moment with them.
The school director started with a nice speech and thanked us for our efforts. We in turn thanked the school and the community for accepting us with open arms. At that point, the village leader asked all of us to come up front and ceremoniously presented each team member with a shoulder bag made from the specially woven fabric this area is famous for. It was a fantastic moment, and felt as if we were being given gold medals as we lowered our heads to accept this gift.
In return, our final gift to the school was a full inventory of balls and equipment to fill their athletic closet. This country is soccer crazy, and the older boys were thrilled as they saw the variety of balls ready for the next game.
To my surprise, the school director then had everyone in this huge room sing happy birthday to me. It was so great!
As the closing ceremony wrapped up, our team was able to say their final goodbyes to their new friends who so quickly captured their hearts. Hugs, tears, and more hugs. Nobody wanted it to end.
When it finally did, we decided to take the time right then for our final reflection meeting of the trip. We set up a circle in the canteen with the new stage as the backdrop. With those emotions so raw, it was the right moment to have everyone share their feelings about the day, and how they would carry this experience with them into the future.
Hearing the thoughts and feelings of everyone in that room was electric. These team members are fantastic individuals who are now even better than they were before. At the end of the meeting, we made sure they understood that these kind of good feelings don’t have to end. Now they know a formula for helping others, growing their circle of friends, and feeling more happiness.
If the day ended right then, it would have been really, really good. But it got even better.
After dinner, it was time to thank our team of translators for their great efforts. Without them, we couldn’t have had nearly the success we achieved. So we had different team members talk about each of the translators and present them with a special gift as a token of our thanks.
Then we presented the owners of our guest house with a special gift. They have done a stellar job of preparing healthy and delicious meals every morning and night. And they put up with all of our craziness as we hang out to talk, play cards, enjoy their smoothies, and more. We have basically taken over their entire hotel and restaurant for nine days.
At that point, we thought the evening was over. But our team of translators had one more amazing surprise up their sleeve. They ushered us across the street into an empty field and revealed about 15 big paper lanterns. We each wrote our names on the lanterns and made a wish as we lit the candles at the base, waited for them to fill with hot air, and then let them lift off into the night.
It was magical to watch the bright, shimmering lanterns float away, carrying a part of our hearts to forever stay in these beautiful mountains of Thailand.
Fireworks then started popping to add a huge exclamation point to the end of this perfect day.
Tomorrow morning we leave Bor Kaew for two days in Chiang Mai. I’m sure we’ll have fun. I’m also sure it can’t possibly top what we experienced today.”