by Jay Milbrandt (JD/MBA '08),
The streets are dirty and muddy. It rains here everyday. You would probably never
know the slum areas exist here in Chiang Mai--it's a resort town and the resort facade
is strong. I step cautiously through the mud to keep my balance as I approach one
of the homes. Some of the huts are bamboo with thatched roofs; some have patchwork
tin walls. None are in good shape. Everything inside was what I might expect in this
place--everything, that is, except my photo hanging on the wall. Definitely not what
I expected to find!
Behind the scenes in Chiang Mai's shanty areas.
I wasn't sure what my reception would be when I returned to Chiang Mai--particularly
on the street where I worked last year. However, it was a great homecoming. On Monday
night, after returning from the border, I passed the stoop where we used to hold children's
outreach. It was filled with Akha women and children. To my surprise, they remembered
me. Some of the mothers ran up to say hello in their native tongue and shake my hand.
I continued down the street, hoping to see some of the children that I missed. Suddenly,
about 10 feet in front of me was Amey--one of the kids I as closest to. I froze. Then
she froze. Then, she came sprinting and jumped into my arms. It was a great moment.
On Tuesday afternoon, Fern came to the Garden of Hope Drop-In-Center. I saw her walk
up to the gate and I ran out. Her mouth dropped and she came running.
It was good to be remembered and greeted with such enthusiasm from the children. It
makes all the effort to keep in touch with them very rewarding. It was even more rewarding
to see how the kids had progressed. They spoke more English, their conversation skills
improved, and were generally maturing very well.