Dear future intern,
You cannot begin to imagine how special the community at KSDC is. You will be welcomed with kind faces, music, food, animals, and 30 students who will do whatever they can to make you feel at home in their community. I hope you are ready! You don’t need to be fully ready to teach English classes, eat 5 chillis with every meal, or walk to town in 35-degree heat but you definitely need to be ready to try new things and step outside of your comfort zone. KSDC is not like the other CAPI placements. You do not have a pharmacy, grocery shop, and convenience store down the road. There is no AC to cool off in and no “downtown city” to explore on your weekends. When you arrive at SDC what you see is what you have. There is a river, a kitchen, 2 classrooms, lizards, lots of chickens, a printer, a garden, and some hammocks. But if you are ready to settle into it and slow down the pace of your life, KSDC is just the place.
From my time at KSDC – As calm as it is out here, it is never quiet. There are many animals, many students, “quiet mornings” do not exist at KSDC. Be ready to wake up to singing. Life is slow but for me, but the days go by faster than I have ever experienced. So, savour everything.
Read, there are some good books on the SDC bookshelf
Be Present and Savour it, the time really does go by fast.
Try New Things, they might cook some interesting things but try them! I ate snake, snails, tree bark… You can try playing caneball with the boys, try bathing in a longyi. Try everything!
Join the Students for Celebration in Nai Soi, even if its early in the morning it will be fun and it means a lot when you join them.
Hangout during Homework Time, (6-9pm) this is the best time to build relationships and make friends.
Bathe in the River, it was my favorite part for a long time, in rainy season the river will be too fast and muddy to bathe in. If you are unsure about how to bathe in the river, one of the girls/boys will happily show you.
Drink Lots of Water, it gets very hot and very sweaty. Drink lots of water and even throw in some electrolytes. During classes on hot days give water/ stretch breaks.
Mae Hong Son has everything you need (almost) Mae Hong Son may look small and empty when you first arrive from Chiang Mai or Bangkok but MHS has everything. All the restaurants are great there are tons of stationary shops, thrift shops, the market, pharmacies, cafes… It is missing a bookshop though. (email me for MHS recommendations) I also loved buying the students snacks from 711 when I would go into town, drink mixes, candy, chips… it will disappear in minutes.
Don’t Feel Bad Leaving Food (someone will happily eat it), the students will cook 2-5 dishes for you every meal, do not feel bad about leaving stuff in the bowls. Let other students know they can eat it and it will get eaten.
Laundry & Clothes, if your clothes don’t dry properly, everything will go moldy. If things are in bins, they will go moldy. It is humid and in rainy season everything gets wet. If things go moldy, a vinegar soak and some sun will hopefully help. For packing, I wanted to bring my favorite clothes for my 6 months abroad. This was a huge mistake. Most of what I brought is being thrown out. I would suggest bringing some things you like and are comfortable but you won’t mind leaving behind. Modest clothing is also a must. Mold and sun bleaching is real. There are also a ton of cheap thrift shops in Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai.
Play Games in Class, the students love playing games! We played so many fun games (email me if you want suggestions) and on hot days when energy is low some 1 baht popsicles and games is always the right move.
Don’t Worry about the Bugs, wear mosquito repellent if you’re downstairs in the evenings. There are a ton of bugs, SDC is a very open building, (my room had many holes) bugs will get in. You will become less spooked by them but if you need help the students are fearless.
Spend as Much Time as you can with the Students, speak slowly, take the time to listen to them, ask them about their families and their homes. They will be so happy to share with you.
These are some of the key things I want to share with you. I cannot explain what an amazing and heart opening experience this can be if you are ready to engage in it. I am now writing this last part from Uvic, I have been home for a month today. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t missed my KSDC friends and wished I was still there.
If you are reading this as a future intern of KSDC please reach out to me with questions or just to chat about the place, people, and environment. I will always be happy to talk about SDC and the Karenni people.