What I like most about GCN? – the teachers. They are native speakers and so qualified to not only teach but to bring a special life to the language through occasional personal stories and perspectives that immeasurably enhance the experience. From time to time, my first teacher shared personal moments in her life, reflecting the culture of Mexico. My current teacher, (who brings the interesting perspective of a lawyer), sometimes uses YouTube videos of events from his home –Columbia, to make points about language in a way that is quite fascinating.
"We were exposed to something few of us get to experience. Most often we simply pass through communities to the well known tourist sites. This time we got to meet and really get to know people, and they were so generous. We got far more out of the experience than we gave." —GCN trip participant
The GCN team will be living and working with the Hill Tribes located in the far northern part of Thailand. Chiang Rai is known as the "Gateway to the Golden Triangle" - the meeting point of Thailand, Burma and Laos. GCN’s partner in Thailand is a non-governmental organization called the Mirror Foundation, which is run by Thai and Hill Tribe staff, working for the social development of the community. The Hill Tribes are people who migrated to Thailand after being pushed out of their native homes in Tibet, Burma and China by civil war and political pressures. Each of the ethnic groups has its own distinct language, heritage, clothing, religion and culture. The Mirror Foundation has invited GCN to collaborate directly with the many Hill Tribe communities on projects of the villagers’ own direction. Past projects have included building a piping system to bring water to a local school, building a bridge across a river and mapping terrain to support eco-tourism in the region.
Team members will meet together in bustling Bangkok, the capital of Thailand where they will stay the first night, getting a feel of the cosmopolitan life. The next day, they will travel together to Chiang Rai by air where they will see a vastly different landscape of Thailand. Chiang Rai lies flat between the majestic mountain ranges of the Daen Lao and the Phi Pan Nam along the Mae Kok River. Upon arrival, the team will meet with the Mirror Foundation to plan out the week’s project and get settled into their accommodations.
A Day in Community
The morning starts with a chorus of roosters, children and music, as team members enjoy a breakfast of rice, meat, and soup with their host families. Outside, goats, cows and bulls are herded through the path in front of the houses. After breakfast, team members travel a short distance to the project site where a community center is being built. Some tasks include concrete work, painting, and collecting supplies. Team members take a break for a lunch of soup, sausage, rice, and sweet pineapple with the community. The afternoon brings more work on the community project, playing cards and dominos with the kids in the community or trips into town. At night the team members eat a dinner of soup, chicken, and eggs, while the nearby river’s waterfall provides the constant sound of peace to serenade them to sleep.
Nearest Hospital: Chiang Rai Clinic
Altitude: Bangkok- 10 ft. above sea level, Chiang Rai- 1,280 ft. above sea level
Program fees cover on-site accommodations (lodging and meals), in-country transportation, orientation materials, a donation to the project, emergency medical and evacuation insurance, and a team leader to manage logistics and facilitate your cultural immersion experience. Airfare to/from Bangkok and costs relating to activities outside of the village are an additional responsibility of the individual participant.