Walking Through Baan Nam Khem...
Walking through Baan Nam Khem, I have slowly become accustomed to the quick passing and gentle hum of songtaus and samlors. The small town maintains a certain beauty and charm, completely foreign and unique, which can hardly be explained by description.
Looking in from the outside, it looks as if many homes have very few rooms; most consisting of just one large shared room for the family. The nicer homes have tile as opposed to the cement flooring – all homes are furnished with a few easy slip-on shoes located just outside. Many homes double as the workplace. The small restaurants and shop fronts usually are just located in the front room or right outside of the proprietors’ homes. Accustomed to a separate and distinct place of business in the US, the small shops are almost completely unrecognizable to me, although I am quickly learning to distinguish the different buildings.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Baan Nam Khem has been the kindness of the people. Everyone in Baan Nam Khem know the teacher farangs that volunteer in the town and are always extremely excited to talk to us, wave us in for a meal, or a whole variety of things that I had never expected. Just on our village tour, children would run out of homes to offer high-fives or frantically say, “Hello,” while the stray dogs followed us the whole way, one woman offered for us to come in to eat with her; someone even stopped in their truck to offer us some mangoes before continuing down the street only to soon find a few Thai children following us.
I am currently working under the umbrella of the conservation project, using the local GVI partnerships to support and run several different projects that are helpful and needed as determined by the Thai people themselves: sea turtle conservation, biodiversity surveys, beach cleans, English education for adults working for the national parks, and environmental education for young children.
On a normal weekday, we wake up to leave by 6:30 or 7:30, beating the major heat, drive an hour to our site and get to work. We return by lunch, and are back at base in the afternoon to input data or work on another project, followed by some free time to eat dinner together before our daily GVI-wide “debrief.”
One of my favorite projects is the biodiversity surveys. We drive out to Lampi National Forest and begin our 2-ish hour hike around the park in search of any and all wildlife. While the hiking is hot and the mosquitoes are plentiful, I love being able to see an environment so different from my New Mexico desert home. A highlight of this week was seeing a pit viper lurking in a small tree, a new species for this location. We take pictures of what we can, try to identify the species, and bring the data back to base for input or further identification. The hope is that this data can be given as a complete list to the national park to know exactly what wildlife exists in the forest.
I look forward to my remaining weeks so that I can experience all that GVI Phang Nga has to offer us volunteers
Written by Rachel Gallegos (America), 8 week Conservation volunteer, with Duke Engage
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