Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I have neglected my Blog for quite some time but here I start yet again.

I am back at The Mirror Foundation again for my third time round. I think I kinda like it here!! 555+ (hahaha)

I am on a program funded by the Australian Government, called VIDA (Volunteers for International Development Aid). My project is to stay at Mirror and work on one of their projects. The eBannok Handicrafts Project is directed by a dear friend of mine, P'Ao. I am placed here for 12 months, on this project, I am essentially a Marketing and Creative Officer for the eBannok Handicrafts Project.

The Project has been running for quite a few years, they basically hire local Hilltribe people to make their signature product, the Clay Bird Whistles as well as other handicrafts such as bags, pouches, laptop cases and clothing. The project at the moment is draining money from the foundation itself, so I have been brought in to basically develop the branding and start marketing the brand and gain more sales hopefully and get the project to start making a profit.

Recently we had a group of fantastic and enthusiastic consultants come from Australia. They included Emily (a previous volunteer and dear friend of mine), Jesse (he runs a fair trade business in Australia), Deb (a fashion designer and trainer) and Pedo (who was a documentor). This group came to Thailand to train six women how to make various new fashions which in the future be produced to sell to foreign market, essentially Australia, US and Canada. The foundation built a new building adjacent to the current eBannok Shop onsite, which would accommodate all the women and materials and machines for the next phase of the eBannok story.

So keep an eye out, as we will be loading up our new fashion story soon enough!


Friday, December 10, 2010

Childrens Day 2011

Here at the Mirror Foundation, we are preparing for Children’s Day 2011 and need your help!

Some of you may already know that Children’s Day is an annual event for the local hill tribe children living in the surrounding communities. We try our best to provide a great day for the children (about 3500 children plus their parents/guardians) and that everyone has as much fun as possible. We give the children toys, food, snack and great day out!

In order to do this we rely on donations given by both individuals and organizations. We are asking both past and future volunteers to help us as we need both toys and contributions towards the food costs for the festival.

If you have any unwanted toys that you are willing to donate please send them to us or if you are able to provide a monetary donation the hill tribe children will be most grateful.

If you are able to help please consider the following:

~ Shipping toys to us from your home may be expensive and a better option may be to bring them with you if you are due to volunteer soon or to give them to future volunteers who may live near you to bring

~ If you are able to cover the cost of shipments please send the donations to;
The Mirror Foundation (Children’s Day 2011
199/1-3 Moo 21 Singhaclai Road,
Wieng Muang,
Chiang Rai, Thailand 57000

If you can contribute some money please do so via Paypal at

We thank everyone for your ongoing support and look forward to seeing all the new volunteers who will arrive soon.

Z. and The Mirror Team

Eco-Tour Dinner

Ok so the other night we all went out for dinner, and by all I mean the 26 odd staff and their families. The staff all work on the Eco-Tour project. Colleagues also went, I am a colleague. We went to dinner at a BBQ place, vegetarianism went out the door (I am a confused vegetarian), never in my life have I eaten so much meat. I feel really bad saying that, but next year I will go back to normal. But I have been vegetarian for 9years so one year off, isn't too bad.

I sat with Surachai and his family (and my son), Stuart, P'Nu, Sakura, Rima, Tae and Win.

Surachai is the god of all farang (foreigners) and he looks after the Outdoor Program. Stuart our IT Guru for England, he also helps myself to look after the volunteers and support them. This is his family, he was off getting food when I had my camera out. But this is his 2 youngest sons and his wife. Arsaw is my son and I will be kidnapping him when I leave, he said he wanted to come to Australia... Arsaw is in the 2nd picture.

P'Nu run the Youth Project working mainly with teens from the local villages and he works on organising the schools and supporting the volunteers. Sakura and Rima are Japanese and Sakura runs the Japanese side of the Eco-Tour Project. Rima is like myself, she supports the volunteers and works on other projects as well. This is a picture of Rima and myself...

Tae is Akha (Hilltribe) works on a day-t0-day basis with the Outdoor Volunteers. He will also answer to Kha-dtoy... la la la

Win is Akha as well and works with the Japanese Volunteers, he takes them on their homestays and to schools etc. Below is Win, Sakura and Rima (L-R)

Overall it was such a fun night out, and good to see everyone of the Eco-Staff together. I actually didnt realise how many there is of us, and may next year we grow and prosper and better ourselves and the world.


Mirror, Mirror on the wall...

I know I've not done too much lately in keeping this updated but I will promise I will try to do better...

Mirror ATM.

As usual everyone is running around, we have Christmas coming up and New Years which is then followed closely by Children's Day. Currently we have only a few volunteers here, a small group but with a large intake coming in a week. Its Saturday here now and I have a Trekking Orientation that I will do with Stuart this morning, then off to do our normal work. Stuart is our IT Guru. You hear his name a lot especially if the Internet has gone down.

Today is a chilled day, the volunteers are currently playing games with the local youth who come from 3 main villages. They play for an hour and then our Indoor Program Volunteers teach English for an hour. Today they are focusing on Christmas. After that then the kids learn Japanese with the Japanese Volunteers.

The lunch! We had stick rice with custard for brekky this morning with thai donuts and 3 in 1 coffee. Can I just say that 3 in 1 coffee or milo or ovaltine is like the best invention ever. Its coffee, creamer and sugar all in one little convenient packet, perfect size for a cup! YUM!!

Anyway then the Outdoor Volunteers have there time in the spotlight with the kids for an hour. They usually do some type of craft thing with the kids. I think today they will be making Christmas Decorations. After the lessons are all done the volunteers can go get ready for town, and packing their bags...

Today is a sad day, we are losing 3 great volunteers, Patti, Melissa and Sean. They have been here for quite a long time and will be dearly missed after they leave. Melissa I think will come back and work on a Project as an Intern. Which would be awesome fun, as I will hopefully be back here next March, to work for Mirror under the Ebannok Handicrafts Project. I am so looking forward to coming back and working, I know I will be able to make a difference here.

Well that is today in kinda a nut shell, Stick Rice for brekky, teaching and trekking, leaving.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Home-Stay #13 Part 2

Part 2 aka Day 2-4

There is something about homestead that I just love, maybe its the chickens waking you up at 4am or the flutter they do before they wake you. Which ever I love homestay. We woke up and after doing my few things in the morning I went to help our host mother prepare breaky. I love homestay food! So delicious, not that our food at Mirror isn't good too, just something different.

I was so excited one of the kids brought me a fresh sunflower to eat the seeds. I eat a lot of sunflower seeds back home but had never tried them fresh like this, it tasted like peas or bean seeds. They were yum! Chekidek is what they call them in Turkish (Tys sorry on the spelling). Me with my sunflower, do I need to say more...

Off to work we went, the first day was a little slow as we are really just used for manual labor, unless a volunteer comes with some type of tradesmen skill. But not many do, so its more moving sand or buckets of stuff from one place to another and usually a few cement mixing sessions. Obviously everything has to be done by hand, buckets and a hoe with a bamboo handle. Just a quick note to say bamboo is one of the most amazing things ever in the world!! Some of the villagers who have not been far from the village have never seen white people before so we supplied them with some entrainment. Below is a shot of some of the villagers and the kids that go to the child care centre we were working at.

Our job essentially was to tear down a sala (open air structure made from bamboo) which was at the local Child care centre and rebuild a concrete, walled version. So first was the destruction, it took maybe 1 hour to tear the whole thing down. Its amazing how it is so easy to tear something down so quickly that took so long to build. It was a matter of preparing the foundation and then building the skeleton roof. There were so many villagers there to help (as the village was quite large) so we just did odd bits and pieces. We had some Indoor Program people with us who spent the days there teaching the children. Below is the before picture...

Some volunteers also had to go off site to get sand with a tractor looking vehicle. There was one villager who was a little intoxicated or rather quite a lot that was helping us out. The locals just laughed at him and we tried to avoid him. But no one can say that he didn't do anything, he helped with the sand quite a lot. And saying 'Thank you' in English a lot too.

It took us two days to finish the building, the second day for us was a lot more work that we could do like mixing the cement, cutting the bamboo, getting the sand used as a filler etc. Below is the finished product, we also added in paths.

Our last night we had a celebration and was able to do Lahu dancing, which is similar to line-dancing but you do it in a circle. I love it, its so much fun. And some of the women, including our host mum dressed up in traditional clothing.

We also donated blankets to the village, representatives from each family lined up to receive the blankets from the volunteers. In winter it gets really cold at night (ok not like in Canada) but the thing that gets them here is that the houses are made from wood, bamboo and grass roofs, there is no isolation to keep warmth in, but no warmth to make as there is no heating. They have a fire in the kitchen but they light that every morning and can not sustain it burning all night. In the local village near Mirror, from memory they have a few cases of people dying each year, purely freezing to death during the night. Here are some ladies with their new blankets, 2nd from the right is our host mother.

At the moment Mirror is co-ordinating a blanket and jacket/jumper donation project, to supply blankets to as many houses that they can for the coming winter. If you would like to help this cause please do not hesitate to contact myself or Mirror directly.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Home-Stay #13 Part 1

So it's been a while. Life just got in my way I guess.

Rainy season is basically over and now things are starting the heat up, prior to them cooling down for winter.

Mirror as usual has been pretty busy. Last week we had home-stay for the new volunteers and the outdoor program. We went to village about 2-3 hours away, we packed up into two cars the Eco and the white truck. Linda, Jim and myself were in the back of the eco car and headed off. Of course stopping at the petrol station 20 mins away to get a bucket load of snacks and drinks for our trip, not that we knew how far it was at the time, you know thai time is a little different. And of course who could forget the ice-cream. YUM!
Off we went and was nice to be able to put some time in on Pimslers (?) Thai audio tapes, i think i did like 15 mins then went to music. La la la Needed a bit of a pick me up. Tis all fun a games.

The home-stay was organised last minute as our original village's access point was compromised and we were afraid we could not get there with the
cars. So we went to another village, we met with another NGOs representative who lived at this village in a town near the village (30 mins away from the village). We followed him to our destination. Below is the track to the village.

The track to the village started to get really muddy. Someone popped up with 'how funny would it be if we got bogged'. That was the sign or jinx. The reps car got bogged trying to make it up the hill. We all jumped out to give a heave-ho (in thailand you get in the back of the ute and jump up and down, pretend your in a mosh pit thats elevated and moving so hold on tight!!) It was fun, then it started to rain and of course next the Eco car got stuck, we did the same and also had to push. Finally the white car had to come through, with Thellie at the wheel and a lot of muscle power they were able to make it through…. just. So we made it to our destination a little muddy, for some a lot muddy, and a few good laughs on the way. Below is Jayden who got a little muddy.

Our home-stay village was Lahu tribe, we spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out waiting for dinner and watching the village boys playing soccer, and one of the volunteers joined. All you could hear was 'galah' 'galah' which in Lahu is foreigner (not the bird). Jim played really well. And provided much entertainment to the locals I'm sure. Dinner was all together at one of the houses on top of the hill, after dinner we had a meeting where we got to learn a bit about the villages' history and traits. This is the view from the village, so beautiful.

After that we went to our host mothers house. I was roomed with Melissa, Caitlyn, Lydia. We set up our stuff in the house and sat down with the family, or rather the family sat there the entire time and watched us as if we where 'animals in a zoo'. We had to put up of mosquito nets and that was very comical for our hosts. They ended up getting string and hammering nails in their house for us. 'Thanks' Talk about being a inconvenience! All good though, I then just dropped my stuff and sat on the floor (no chairs I'm afraid). They spoke little thai or they couldn't understand me or just ignored my attempts at thai (I found out it was the later two). Which ever we sat there and stared at each other. They cut up a melon for us, eating casually as we could Ms. Lydia decides to drop a piece on the floor and picked it up to eat it. And shoved it quickly in her mouth, I started laughing which then everyone was laughing. They were having their Lahu/Thai convo and we were chatting in English. Can anyone say AWKWARD!

This is one of the local kids! So cute!
It was all good though I love homestays! Part 2 coming soon.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My new do... a No. 1

Big question why and a bigger answer...
I think many things pointed me to this point in my life, but here are a few of the reasons why. Sorry Mum!

Ok well as most of you know I'm buddhist and have been focusing on it more in the last few years, I am reading a book called 'The Tibetian Book of Living and Dying' its quite a famous book, not just for buddhists but anyone of any faith or of no faith. It talks about essentially a way to live in today's world and how to die. I bought it maybe 6 years ago and haven't really been able to read it and understand and comprehend the ideas til this year. So the chapter I was reading talks alot about the connections we have to various delusions and the way we value things in a our life and life itself over things that should be important but are never really considered regularly.

And talking to people (mainly Trina, an inspirational woman) while I was in laos, we got to talking about it and then I a realisation that I was more scared to shave my head (so completely attached to my outter appearances) than I was to get a tattoo as now these days I have quite a few, most are hidden from people. And the crazy thing is a tattoo is there til the day leave this body, where my hair would grow back in a few months. Trina who also has done it 4 times now. So she was a bit of a katalyst for it as well. She actually did the cutting at a bus station in Udon Thani, Thailand, with a pair of scissors I bought from a stationary store, then I went to a barber to get the rest done and cleaned up (in Chiang Rai, Thailand) the next morning.

I have always admired girls who could do it. I have always wanted to do it for years but never had the guts and was scared of how people would react to my birthmark on my head as I was always told but my mother to cover it up and never show anyone for the sack of appearances... My birthmark happened during my birth, I was moving too much during it so the doctors decided to sedate me, they aimed for my arm but I moved as they were injecting through the stomach. They instead got my on my head (leftside) now as the result, luckily I survived but I have a mark of a bald patch that will never grow hair.

One thing that my friend who had done it, said that it was amazing and almost enlightenling because you have nothing to hide behind anymore, no safety net and people truely see the person you are and what you are about. No pretence. No ambition. Take it or leave it. So yeah guess thats kinda the reasons why I shaved my head really, in a nutshell anyway...

It has been one of the most unfathomable experiences of my life. I hope other find it as inspirational as I do.