Hello everyone and welcome to my blog!

This coming week marks one month of working and living at the Karenni Social Development Centre in Mae Hong Son province, Thailand. In many ways, almost paradoxically, it feels as though I’ve been here both for ages and for seemingly no time at all. Time is an interesting concept, isn’t it? Although, in the broad scheme of things, a month may not seem like much, I already have so much to reflect on, to discuss, and to share with all of you lovely folks. From amazing experiences, to joyful new relationships, to meaningful and engaged learning, the list is long and is progressively growing longer almost every day. In sum, life here at SDC is nothing short of remarkable. As such, to put it truthfully, I’ve been struggling a bit with how to best go about portraying the vibrant theatre that is SDC in a manner that will do it adequate justice (not an easy feat, might I add). I hope these blogs and podcast records will be able to do so, at least to some extent.

The squad.

One month in, perhaps the most striking aspect of life here at SDC relates to my experiences surrounding the notion of “community”. Community has long played a very central role in my life. This is part of the reason why SDC seemed so interesting and enchanting to me in the first place, even before I knew much about the place. Coming in, I knew the community of students and teachers was very tight-knit, but, in reality, the degree of this has really blown me away (in such a fantastic way!). To this day, I still quite regularly find myself awe struck over just how cohesive everything truly is. Everything is shared. Everything is worked on together. Everything functions as a unit. It’s beautiful. Very rarely in my life have I ever experienced such an incredibly profound sense of community, one that is both highly supportive and wholly welcoming to all. From the moment I arrived on site, the students – many of whom have come from Refugee Camp #1 and others who have come from Karenni State in Myanmar – have welcomed me with open arms and gracious smiles. Given the hardships that many of the students have faced throughout their lives as refugees, they are all very grateful to be here at SDC and are so eager to learn. For them, the ability to further their education as a means to better help their community represents an invaluable asset, due largely in part to the central and imperative role that community occupies in Karenni culture.

Two dudes being dudes.

“Hurry up and wait” is a phrase that I’ve found poignantly encapsulates the rhythm of things here at SDC. Since I was a young, my dad has used this phrase, and man, is it ever relevant, both with regards to travel and to life in general.

To expand upon this, flexibility stands as a main facet of life for all of us members of the SDC community. No matter what may be organized for the coming week, plans have a tendency to change on a whim, often quite rapidly and with very little notice. For example, last week we only ended up having class on Monday due to celebrations for Karenni National Day (see picture and youtube link below!) and World Refugee Day, both of which the students had to return to camp for. Furthermore, as life here is so communal, expectations, deadlines, and even class structures all represent shared elements of the community, seldom fixed nor set in stone. Personally, given both my personality and my background, I quite enjoy this flexibility. Though it may result in some difficulties with regards to planning and scheduling, I’ve found that such a non-structured environment can provide wonderful opportunities for both personal and communal growth. This really excites me. So much potential in the unknown

Our students at the 142nd annual celebration of Karenni National Day. On this day, in 1875, the Burmese minister of foreign affairs, Kin Woon Mingyi and Sir Douglas Forsyth, a representative of the British viceroy, signed a treaty recognizing Karenni independence. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wnXUIPAowg (video of last year’s celebrations)

The last thing I would like to talk about in this post has to do with the idea of finding beauty in simplicity. For me, this involves taking the time to find joy in the little things. As mentioned prior, SDC is a truly remarkable place, and I’ve come to realize that it’s these little things, the simplistic beauty, that make it so unlike any other. Most of everything is quite simple here. From the simplicity of the accommodations, to the simple but amazing joy in the always present smiles of the students, to the beautifully relaxed structure of teaching, to the stunning natural environment of North-west Thailand, and everything in between. There is beauty everywhere! SDC is a very sensory place, with things happening around you at all times of day. Smells, sounds, sights, tastes, and textures. As long as you take the time to soak all of these little sensory experiences in, as I am learning to do myself, the true nature of SDC, with all of its colourful intricacies, shines through brilliantly. I’m beginning to believe that this simplistic beauty is truly evocative of what SDC represents. For this, I am grateful.

“There is a beauty and clarity that comes from simplicity that we sometimes do not appreciate in our thirst for intricate solutions”

– Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Until next time,