Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chit te... mak mak!

There are no words to describe how happy I am with my life right now, and I definitely owe a lot of that to these kids. How could you not love life when you're surrounded by picture perfect places, kids like these, and more love than you know what to do with?

The way she shines somehow even makes the garbage look beautiful...

Looking across the river to Burma.

Their smiles make me melt!

Playing tag as the sun sets over the Thai-Burmese border... nothing beats this!

Thailand on the left, Burma on the right.

I didn't even think twice before hopping on the back of this bike...

Like I said: picture perfect!

Happy kids =)

Love, love, LOVE <3

There's nothing in the world that could make me happier right now... what else could I possibly want!?!

Suk san wan Songkran!

Songkran- the Thai New Year- has been going on for the past few days and I'm lucky enough to have spent it with my favorite people in the world! I'm in Mae Sot for a few weeks spending the school holidays at Future Light. Songkran is a nation-wide water fight... EVERYONE in the country participates by throwing water and powder on everyone that they see, which means that I've been soaking wet for 4 days straight now! People ride around in the back of pick up trucks with water guns and buckets of water (some iced... brr!) and it's one big party with singing and dancing in the streets. It's definitely been fun and interesting, to say the least, but I'm about ready to be dry!

When I got to Future Light on the first day of Songkran, I was greeted by 30 ecstatic kids and a few gallons of water. We spent the day (and the next day and the next day) having our own water fight in the street outside of the home and soaking any person who dared cross our path.

What could be better than a water fight with your 30 brothers and sisters?

All of the kids wore their best clothes for the occasion just to get wet and muddy and have to change.

Ready, aim, FIRE!

Not enough water being thrown around? Then why not jump right into the bucket of water itself.

Out of ammo...

Paybacks for all of the ice water he poured on us!

A hole in the hose? No problem, that just makes it even more fun!

Getting serious and hunkering down...

Clean, dry, and TIRED after a long day of playing.

Re-energizing for day 2 of Songkran!

Cold and tired after a long day.

There's nothing like a nice, hearty meal after a hard day's work!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Exploring Ho Chi Minh City and the Cu Chi Tunnels

I've been sick and stuck on the couch all day, so I figured I would put the time to good use and give you a (drumroll, please...) DOUBLE BLOG POST! Here's a peak at my time exploring Ho Chi Minh City and the Cu Chi Tunnels...

Communism in Vietnam is advertised all over the streets...

... and all of the history museums.

I wonder who the few lucky people to get postcards are... =)

Red, red, red!

As one of the only cathedrals in Southeast Asia, Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica was a nice reminder of Western life.

Ho Chi Minh City is basically just a sea of motorbikes!

A Vietnamese man selling lottery tickets on the side of the road.

The streets of Saigon...

A police officer's hat sitting on top of a vendor's stand. I got yelled at for taking a picture of a police car, so this is as close as I could get...

So much history, so little time.

I spent a few hours feeling sick to my stomach at the war museum in Ho Chi Minh. It was definitely eye opening to get such a different perspective on the Vietnam War and to be exposed to all of the things they'd never show in America. I'll spare you the rest of the horrible, graphic images, but just so you can get an idea (yes, that's what's left of a person after being hit by a bomb)...

On our way to see the Cu Chi Tunnels, we made a pit stop at a Handicapped Handcraft Factory. All of the workers there are handicapped and they make beautiful, handmade handicrafts including dishes, paintings, and statues. It was pretty interesting to see the crafts go down the assembly line and then to see the finished product.

The Cu Chi Tunnels are the underground tunnel system used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. Before going through the actual tunnels (which are about 3 feet tall, a foot and half wide, and pitch black) we were able to see the Viet Cong's weapons, bunkers, etc. Here's Erin in a (teeny tiny) sniper hole!

They also have a shooting range where you can try your hand at any of the guns used in the war...

... when else would I get the chance to shoot an AK 47 in the exact spot so many soldiers fired their own guns during a war??

We may have saved the best day for last, exploring Vietnam and the Mekong Delta by boat. It was absolutely beautiful, and you can see for yourself tomorrow!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

After spending two days in Siem Reap we hopped on a bus and moved on to Phnom Penh, where we visited the Killing Fields and the genocide museum. I'll admit it was a rather depressing time considering the subject matter, but everything was so interesting and eye opening that it was well worth it.

The bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh took us through very rural Cambodia, which was awesome. It was so picturesque and exactly how I've always pictured typical Southeast Asia.

Houses like this lined the streets on the way to Phnom Penh.

The Killing Fields are where the Khmer Rouge brought their prisoners to be killed. Mass graves dot the fields and you can still see bones, teeth, and clothes coming out from underground. There's a memorial built to honor the victims of the massacre. It's filled with skulls, clothes, and other bones. I still can't comprehend the fact that I could reach out and touch the skulls of real people who were brutally murdered.

It was nauseating to see so many skulls and to be able to tell exactly how each person was killed. This one was beaten with a pointed weapon...

Some of the prisoners did not die right away...

Barbed wire still lines the fences surrounding the fields.

Picture perfect Cambodia...

As if the killing fields weren't depressing enough, our next stop was the genocide museum. It's been converted from one of the main prisons used by the Khmer Rouge. 17,000 innocent Cambodians went through the prison, and only 7 survived.

We were able to explore the cells and get an idea of the harsh conditions the prisoners were forced to live in. Those who were held in the large mass cells (like this one) were collectively shackled to long pieces of iron bar. The shackles were fixed to alternating bars; the prisoners slept with their heads in opposite directions.

Prisoners were tortured in ways I would never have been able to imagine.

6. While getting lashes or electrification you must not cry at all.

Each person who went through the prison was photographed upon entering. An artist has re-interpreted these photos and his work is on display in a few of the empty cells.

I promise the next post will be a happier one! Up next is my first day in Vietnam.