Education City Students in Thailand

 Looking back at the very first pre-trip group meeting we had, I recall how the lack of familiar faces made me extremely skeptical. I thought it would be extremely difficult for me to work as a team with those around me, and as a result, the thought of having ‘fun’ with these people never even crossed my mind. Three exhausting flights and eighteen hours after we left Doha, we reached Chiang Mai and so far my theory of ‘fun’ being non-existent was holding out. At the airport, we were greeted by the smell of Thai food (rice in particular) and our tour guide Mr. Kim who turned out to be one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met in my life.




We headed to the resort where we were going to stay on our first night and after a quick and simple, yet amazingly delicious lunch, we started with a series of team building activities. However, even after they were over, most of us were sticking to people we knew before the trip or people of the same gender



The following day, we left for the Cave Lodge and that was to be our home for the next four days. The trip to the Cave Lodge was tedious yet amazing and if Adele were dead, our renditions of ‘Rolling in the Deep’ would have had her rolling in her grave. Cave Lodge was everything I hadn’t imagined it to be: we lived in a hut on a cliff, by a river and the view was absolutely breathtaking. So far everything had exceeded our expectations and we were really motivated for the remaining days, which were going to full of service and adventure elements.



The Wall



The third and fifth days of our trip were the ones when we engaged in service. As our guide Mr. Kim put it, “The best part about service/adventure trips is the sheer unpredictability” and a change of plans saw us helping complete the boundary wall of the school as opposed to completing the library as originally planned. We divided into sub-groups and completed different tasks such as mixing the cement, transporting concrete blocks by making a human conveyor belt (my personal favorite) etc. Once we had all the material in place, half of us started building the wall, which was a seemingly simple task but in reality, needed a lot of technique. I realized this the hard way when a section of the wall that I was working on had to be brought down because it wasn’t completely straight. While some of us carried on building the wall, the rest of us plastered the sections that were in place before we had arrived.  It was during these hours of hard labor that we finally started coming together as a group and on the rare occasion when someone got frustrated, the others would try to raise the spirits. We sang, we counted the concrete blocks in English, Urdu, Arabic and Punjabi, taught each other songs in different languages and simply kept on motivating each other.



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Over the course of these two days, we completed a long section of the wall, plastered most of it and painted the part of the wall that was constructed prior to our arrival. The crowning moment came at the end of the first day of service when all of us collectively placed the last block of concrete in the last section of the wall.



Although many of my colleagues felt proud and happy because we helped make a difference in someone’s lives, I personally felt blessed at having the opportunity to work for such simple, down to earth and amazing people. This trip helped all of us in letting go of our individualistic mindsets and worry about someone other than ourselves



Confronting Acro, Ophidio, Arachneand Entomo phobias



Fear of heights, snakes, spiders and insects. We were lucky that there was a lot of play squeezed between and around our days of work. Between the two days of service, we went for kayaking. Those four hours in the river were full of screams, frustration, kayaks capsizing, people excitedly anticipating someone’s fall into the water, hitting oars on our partners’ heads and the futile attempts to the stop the kayaks from hitting the river bank and going through vines that were full insects of all kinds and sizes. At the start of the kayaking trip, most of us freaked out if there were was a spider on the boat; towards the end, some of us were simply picking them off our bodies and throwing them away. The highlight of the day, and one of the highlights of the entire trip was when Howdy (Hassan Asif) and Saifee (Saif Mujahid) were somehow able to navigate through a rapid and instead of going forward, they stopped and waited for Nat and myself to fall into the water. We did fall but at the same time, their boat was creeping towards a log and soon both of them were in the water, their kayak and oars going downstream. Howdy doesn’t know how to swim and in his own words, as he hung on to a log yelling “Saif !Saif!” he felt as if he was Mufasa from the Lion King, trying to hang on to dear life.


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On our way back from the Cave Lodge, we stopped at the Mae Rim snake farm to watch a snake show. Before the show, some of us put snakes on our heads, even Maryam who has a great fear of snakes  (although she did this on the condition that if she puts a snake on her head, I would get a makeover in the Student Center :p ) During the snake show, I felt stupidly courageous and walked up as a volunteer and soon I head three snake heads near my face. To make things worse, none of the people with cameras had any memory card or shaky-hand issues and almost everyone got a picture of me seemingly crying (which I wasn’t)



On our last day in Thailand, we went for zip lining and rock climbing and it was another day of learning and unforgettable experiences. I learnt that heights completely freak me out and zip lining across the cave was the scariest experience of my life. During the same day, our doubts about Alisher possessing reptilian traits were confirmed when we saw him effortlessly scale even the most difficult sections of the rock-climbing wall.


Football, a language among nations

During the small breaks we took between work and after lunch on our days of service, Hamzah, Howdy, Saifee, Seif T. and I used to play football with the school children. Playing with the children was my main high and low of the entire trip. The way we communicated with the children showed why football is truly a global language. We divided the children on the basis of their shirt color and communicated with them by making ‘sounds’. We didn’t know their names so we gave them the names of real life footballers such as Ronaldo, Messi, and Ballack etc. What surprised us was how some of the kids were so good for their age. At the same time, the realization of the fact that many of these kids won’t be able to leave their village and fulfill their true potential was something that greatly saddened us.



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Leaving it all behind

After a week of adventure and service, we were about to head back to Doha, although none of us wanted to go back. After a series of emotional goodbyes to our drivers and Mr. Kim, we were ready to leave Chiang Mai. As we got closer to Doha and I reflected on my time back, I the realized how lucky I was to be able to live the life I’m currently living. As we landed in Doha and I looked at the famous Doha skyline, I could not help but think about the time and effort it must have taken the hard working laborers to just build the walls of these mega-structures and my feeling of thankfulness increased tenfold.



At the end of the trip, the theory that I had about the trip being dull and the team being difficult to work with was completely blown away and I was thankful for being able work with such a diverse group of people. Most of my close friends know that I can be super competitive and subsequently act as a sore loser and that I have an obsessive need to be correct most of the time. However for once in my life, I was happy to have been proved wrong. =)

by Syed Mubashar Ali  Mar 29th, 2012
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