Over the past few days we have done a couple really cool things while here, both with SAW and by ourselves. On August 5th we went to a Thai Public school and talked to its headmaster. This particular school is for children grades k-8 and serves those in Thailand who have the correct documents (this could mean that they have citizenship or they were born in the country of Thailand to undocumented Burmese migrants). SAW brings about 20 students every day so that they can get a proper education. For the most part I felt like it was what I had expected in regards to what they taught or how strict the school was as it all seemed similar to a school in the states; however, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the students there had music lessons. They had a small drum line and the other students were playing on a wind synthesizer type instrument. Personally music is a very big part of my life and I see a lot of value in learning some sort of music. For me music is a way to unwind and express myself, but I realized that for them it is also a means to stay in touch with their culture. Many of the Burmese children in this school had to leave Burma with no idea of when, or if, they would ever go back. Some of them may never go back to their home country. For these people, music acts as more than just a way to unwind. They can use music to stay in touch with their culture by learning Burmese songs to play and then sharing that aspect of culture with others in order to keep their sense of culture alive. It's a truly beautiful thing that I feel lucky enough to have experienced when these children stood in front of the team and played about 15 minutes of music, both Thai and Western.
Another event from the past few days that really sticks out to me was a Meuy Thai fight that our team and a bunch of ATL's friends went to on Friday night. If you don't know what Meuy Thai is, it's a style of fighting where the fighters and use their hands and feet to attack their opponent. Kicking is allowed and often used. Punches to the face are common. Fighters leave the ring beaten and bruised, regardless if they win. It's a very intense fighting sport. However, I was most surprised when I saw the first two boys step in the ring. And when I say "boys", I mean 10 year old children who then proceeded to beat the crap out of each other. At first this was weird to watch but I soon realized how normal it really was in this culture. Fighting is one of the biggest sports here and it seems like it was an honor for those two boys to prove themselves in front of that massive audience. From this I was reminded the importance of being open to new experiences at every moment. Every culture has different norms that we may not be familiar with and something that seemed very weird to me at first proved to be super normal and ended up being extremely fun and exciting. From this I was reminded not to jump to conclusions when experiencing something new. There is something to learn from every new experience. I think this lesson also goes along with the reason that the GROW team came to Mae Sot: to learn about a different culture and gain a glimpse into the lives of a different people. By U.S. Maintaining this mindset that we need to fully experience something and see it from all angles before we judge it, I think we will be able to better bring back our experiences to our community.
These experiences thus far have been amazing and one of a kind. I've learned a lot so far and am excited to learn more in these last few days in Mae Sot. While the school and the fights are the only two things I talked about in this post, we did many other things in the past days that have proved to be amazing lessons. I want to leave you all with a quote that describes my mindset for this whole trip: "life begins at the end of your comfort zone."