As I begin to reflect on my first month at KSDC, the overpowering thought is “How has it already been a month?!” Before arriving, I was expecting that each day here at KSDC would pass by more slowly than my days in Victoria but that is not the case. In Victoria, I am surrounded by activities, cafes, restaurants, shops, friends, and entertainment. Unlike the other interns settling into Asian mega cities like Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, or Jakarta, surrounded by more life, traffic, shops, people, and city bustle then we are used to in Victoria, I am not. Here, I am surrounded only by the students, cats, chickens, lizards, bugs, and the jungle. I thought that isolation would be boring. I thought the long days would feel like an eternity and I would have to search for things to do. It is completely the opposite. Even with hours and hours of extra time on my hands when I remove the time in Victoria spent in transit, in school, cooking, hanging out with friends, watching tv, waking up late, or using the art supplies I have at home, I thought I would have “too much time” in a day here. However, I spend my time reading, talking with the students, walking around the neighbourhood, taking the motorbike into town for a cold drink or snack, doing yoga, or taking my daily bath in the river. Life here is the opposite of boring, it is slow, it is both quiet and loud, it is hot, it is yummy and it is beautiful. To expand on life here I will explore my life at KSDC through each of my senses.
KSDC is never quiet. There is a constant buzz of the bugs, the babble of the river, the birds, the students speaking Burmese, Karenni or another dialect and laughing, guitar music and singing. As soon as I open my door in the morning my KSDC cat roommates are outside of my door meowing for breakfast. There are many cats and dogs that live around KSDC in the village of Dokita. The dogs in Dokita and the village of Nai Soi roam freely as they please. Sometimes when “outsider” dogs come into the school in small packs, the school dog Pako will bark for what seems like an eternity. The sounds of the day such as the chickens, birds, and bugs are replaced by the tokay lizards, crickets and circadas as night falls. When the rain comes it comes fast and heavy. The sound is loud and strong crashing against my tin roof and pouring down into the river, onto KSDC, and the plants. So while it is never ever silent, the noises at KSDC are comforting and natural. I definitely do not miss sirens and construction, cars honking or peoples’ yard work machines. Everything here sings together in a rhythmic jungle orchestra.
KSDC has many smells. Some are definitely better than others. There are many animals that live with us here and they all come with their smells and stinks. There are also many smells that are completely new and unknown to me. The kitchen is located directly below my room and sometimes it fills the upstairs with smells of yummy food being cooked. Sometimes, when using the fire to cook the building and area is filled with a smoky smell, not necessarily good or bad. In the morning, Josh making his pour over coffee fills our building with the comforting smell of strong beans. Or if we’ve bought some ripe mangos our living area is filled with the sweet smell of mango. My favourite smell though is the smell of the jungle earth after a heavy rain. The plants and earth soaking up the moisture fills the air with the sweetest rain smell ever.
The students at KSDC take turns cooking all the meals for everyone. Every day I look forward to seeing what new dish we get to try. A few things are for certain, there will always be rice, vegetables, and it will always be spicy – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We know dinner time is approaching when we hear the bang bang bang of the mortar and pestle as the students crush up dozens and dozens of fresh chillies. I was a bit concerned about the food before starting the internship. I thought never having a say in what I eat might be difficult, I thought I would miss my comfort foods from home or find it difficult to eat hot and spicy food in blazing heat. None of this is true, every day I am so amazed by how wonderful the food is. My diet has been changed so drastically and it feels and tastes wonderful and spicy.
Every morning I start my day by sliding out from under my mosquito net and opening my glassless window. The lush jungle green floods into my room as I adjust to the light of day. The morning weather is no indication of how the day will go, a blazing hot sun will turn into pouring rain in a matter of seconds. My room and the building/school where I live is built from wood, tin, and woven bamboo. The wooden beams of the walls have small cracks which allow light to seep in through the walls. I love the wooden floors, walls and ceilings. The 3 buildings that make up the KSDC school and housing for the students are surrounded by lush green jungle, bamboo, palm trees, jackfruit trees, tamarind trees, mango trees, papaya trees and all types of short plants, bushes, and flowers. Along with the diverse vegetation come a vast array of butterflies, dragon flies, and so many insects. At all points in my day there is an insect in view. I’ve seen hundreds of butterflies and dragon flies, too many mosquitos, ants, centipedes, and big spiders, iridescent beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, fireflies, a praying mantis, and bugs I have never seen before. To keep the insects under control there are also many, many lizards hanging out on the walls and ceilings, everywhere. Then there are the chickens that roam freely around KSDC, and in KSDC, sometimes they venture into the classrooms during class but mainly they like to hangout in the kitchen, all over the kitchen. Countertops, shelves, the sink, and inside of pots. Aside from the jungle and the animals, KSDC looks like beautiful students sitting together, supporting each other, singing together, studying together, cooking together, bathing together, eating together, gardening together, building together, and playing together. Everything and everyone together, all the time.
It feels hot. It feels so hot. Without AC I am at the mercy of the weather. On overcast and rainy days, the relief from the heat is heavenly. On cloudless days when the sun is beating down and I am covered in sweat for hours, not so heavenly, it’s quite the opposite. The river is my only escape on days like that. At KSDC there is no shower, in the bathroom there is a bucket and water bin for when the river runs too strong in rainy season. I will be sad when I cannot bathe in the river anymore. But, for now, every day I count down the hours until my river bath. The river is sometimes not cold enough to be a truly satisfying cool off. But I am a month in, and I am already becoming more accustomed to the temperature. Transitioning the sense of touch to feeling, KSDC feels like community, it feels like being surrounded by the most kind-hearted and motivated young adults I have ever met. It feels like deep breaths and daily stretches, cat rubs, and happy feet from being only barefoot or in flip flops. It feels like peace and joy, love and bliss.
Josh and our noisy cat Abu