By Seth Teske (1 week volunteer)
As we pull up to the Pakinyaw (Karen) village we are greeted by the neighbourhood dogs, many of which are recently born, adorable puppies. Chickens roam free followed closely buy a line of squeaking chicks. Elaborately coloured roosters strut around, and one house has black and white ducks with red spots around their eyes, a style I’ve never seen before. Piglets dart between the homes and squeal as you approach them. Every few huts have cows hanging out, and water buffalo chill a few huts down. The buffalo’s lower jaw swings from side to side as they chew in hilarious fashion. If you enter one of the homes, you are greeted by cats that seem to mostly be worried about staying cool and waiting for after-meal scraps. The dogs chase the chickens around and play with each other and some how all the different species live in harmony with each other. This place is wild!
The villagers do everything for themselves. They build their huts, farm the land, and care for their animals, elephants included. They fish the river and recently started a garden with the help from the staff at Kindred Spirit. Some of the older woman can be seen working a loom constructing the beautiful, intricate skirts they wear. The men weave baskets, some of which are small for use around the house, while others are large for the work in the fields. The Pakinyaw people are quick to laugh and genuinely seem to enjoy having us around. We are the funny “golas” or “foreigners.”
We eat dinner with our host families. One of the young women named Moo-too has the cooking fire started as we arrive. She presents us with a large platter of veggies, and asks us what do we want to eat? We choose green peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes. We help to cook and mix all the veggies in a large fry pan and then add all the spices that Moo-too had broken up with mortar and pestle. We stir in sauces while we cook until the smell is too good to take and it’s time to eat. You have rice with every meal in the village, so we receive a large portion and layer the veggies on top. The food here is SO good, and it isn’t difficult to cook. You just need fresh ingredients, the right spices, and the right sauces. And can I just say, the tomatoes are the best I’ve ever had. The villagers always say, “oh ah ah” or “eat more.” They are very keen on making sure we are happy, and in the village that starts with a full belly. We eat until we can’t eat anymore, and then the language lessons begin.
We work on our Pakinyaw and Moo-too and her cousin Chanida practice English. Pronunciation for both of us is very difficult. Even one-syllable sounds in Pakinyaw are extremely difficult for me, and the children laugh as I butcher the words. They have the same struggle for English. Words that come so natural to me are so foreign to them. We giggle together and enjoy the interaction. All of my meals here have been a treat.
I came to Kindred Spirit to see elephants, and then fell in love with the whole place and the project. My heart feels recharged and the whole world seems a little more in perspective after a week in the village. It has been a once in a life-time opportunity…until I come back next year!