Ascending, Maggie Adams
Looking out from the rock I stood on top of, this is the view I got to see.
Driving up the bumpy roads to the Huay Rahong community, I couldn’t help but gaze out of the windows of the van into a world of delicate mountain ranges. It reminded me of the endless Appalachian Mountains in Virginia. Our Paw’s (Dad’s) from the community homestay hop in the swanky vans and listen as we bust out into verse of popular American music hits. They laugh and stay quiet for the most part, we are unaware of the adventure we are about to embark on.
We pull up to a small gravel path, cross the street, and begin our journey up a path of the mountains. Spirits are high, my blood is flowing. They lead us higher and higher, and we begin to climb what seems is an endless staircase. As we get closer and closer to summit, there is a lull in the hike where you look out to see the beauty that is their daily life. It’s like something out of a movie. It’s not every day you get to go with Thai locals on a hike in the mountains they live in for their daily life. That’s the beauty of this program to me, experiencing what little other foreigners can even imagine. Speaking isn’t even necessary. Our trust is strong with these men, and wherever they lead, we want to follow.
Finally, reaching the top of the staircase we walk through a mound of weeds where a mass of boulders lay before us. My heart begins to race faster and faster. I wait for a space to pass and leap forward to find a handhold to climb to the top. Each move, I get closer and closer to the top. Finally, I grab my final hold and lob myself on top of the highest rock. My body chills with a sense of connection.
Looking out at the mountains made me realize how close I felt to these communities. When you think of something in nature, as just something pleasing to the eye, I think it’s less impactful. But, when you actually can look out at something so big and realize you are a part of it, something changes in you. That’s what’s so beautiful about this program. You don’t have to sit back and here from a tour guide about where all the other foreigners want to go, but you get a chance to first-hand experience it as a part of your life, as a part of their life.
It’s hard to be in a place you don’t always understand what people are saying. But in Huay Rahong, I realized that you don’t have to be fluent in the language. You just have to learn to adapt. We are all a part of something bigger. Taking a step back and looking at who is in front of you. Walking in their shoes, learning where they are from, learning what they see every day, learning how they eat and work; this is how you truly communicate with people.
After laughs from my Paw as I scurried up and down the rocks, all around the terrain, I looked at my Paw and he just gave me a simple smile. It was comforting. As we rode back in the vans, I already felt closer to him and the community.
I think this homestay is a real eye opener for me. Huay Rahong made me realize that I am not only here to learn from people and do what I can to help, but it made me realize that just being is as important as anything. It’s about being a part of a family, a community, land, and so much more.