Awww Chiang Mai. Oh how I have missed you so!
Finally, after 8 years since I, Kristen, lived here and worked at the Starfish Home Orphanage, I was able to make it back to my much loved city to eat at my favorite spots, walk down long forgotten streets, drink buckets at some of my favorite bars, see some of my kids again, and all with 3 of the most special people! How lucky am I?!
We flew in from Phuket late at night and only had a few days to rally, but I think we did well. It was much cooler up north compared to the sweltering heat in the south and it made it a bit easier to get around and sightsee. We ate a lot, enjoying mostly the street food which is so infamous here in Chiang Mai, and had thai massages for hours, wandered some street markets buying up gifts for friends, downed some buckets at a few of my favorite old hangouts and best of all, I was able to go back to Starfish Home and see some of the kids I lived with and taught.
We headed there on the second day, but everyone was gone back home to their hill tribe villages in which most of the kids from the orphanage come from. So we returned the next day once everyone was back from their home visits, and I was able to see some of my old kids as well as meet a hundred new kindergartners that had just arrived. It was a bit of a chaos! But one of the first kids I was able to reconnect with was Opal, then 10 and now 18, Opal has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair. She has impaired speech and has difficulty with her muscles tightening and restricting her movements, but is one of the sweetest, kindest, gentlest, and happiest kids I was working with. When we walked in the room, she instantly lit up and smiled and was SO happy to see me! I instantly began to cry, I couldn't help it. When I left the orphanage 8 years before, doctors had not given Opal long to live, and I had given her such a heartfelt "goodbye" believing I would not see her again likely on my future return. To see her there AND that she remembered me so well just made my heart sing! Her english was the best of all the kids and her and I were able to hug and chat and hug some more. It was a special moment I will not forget.
After, I was able to meet a handful of other teenagers which after looking into their faces, could tell exactly who they were. Just older. A few remembered me, but they were such little guys when I worked with them that I assumed they likely wouldn't remember. But a few of them did and then when I asked about one of the boys I worked with, one of the teenage boys stepped forwards and said, "I'm Gle" and it was just amazing to see how my kids had grown up to such mature young adults. Most of them were around 15 now and helping out a lot with the younger kids. It was pretty awesome to see and experience coming back to my old home all these years later and see how I had a part in helping them grow. That is true happiness in life. (Because of strict rules protecting the children, we were unable to take any photos of the kids, but their faces are burned into my heart, and the experience of being there was all I needed)
After 3 fun-filled days in Chiang Mai, we all hopped a place back to Bangkok and had a full day of relaxing poolside and gathering up the last of the gifts on Koh San Road before heading back to Oregon. We all sat down and had one last drink together before our send off and reflected on some pretty special times we have had together on this adventure in Thailand. Mindy, I am so happy you made it (especially after your trials and tribulations to get there) and were able to relax, recharge, laugh, enjoy and spend some time together. That's worth more than money. And JLo (Jordan), this has been a plan we have been making, to travel together, since you were in high school. After getting to backpack some of Europe with Lisa (our sister) a few years back, I had really wanted to be able to also travel with you. It was better than I had imagined it to be, getting to see you completely in your element of climbing, relaxing, meeting and getting to know new people, and smile was truly priceless. I hope the seed is planted and this is only the beginning of your travel experiences.
And Ville, thanks from the bottom of my heart, for such a wild ride! Not the typical honeymoon for sure, but the last 3 months of traveling through India, Nepal, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand has been pretty unforgettable and only adds to all the memories we have to look back on sitting on our porch and "swinging life away" together. You are my companjera and soul mate and the best travel buddy a girl could ask for. I love you and am excited for the next round of adventures.
Look out world, here we come!!
K.G. & Ville
In Huanaco, Peru. Battered, but still going south.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson
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