The general daily routine at the IHF centre in Chiang Rai consists of the teenage children waking up at around midday, cooking and then relaxing until the evening. The younger children are more active, jumping, screaming, laughing and generally having a good time from as early as 7. On the occasion that the teenagers wake early, like on our second day at the centre, the itinerary involved a trip into their hillside village. A vast landscape of deforested fields, red earth and scorching hot sun. Their parents greeted us with ice cold water, a spicy and yet delicious meal that left us sweating and almost in tears. I heard the children call me “farang dong” as I sat sweating through my shirt, a word describing a European or a foreigner.
Hitching a lift on a pick-up truck, we painfully made our way on the bumpy, dusty countryside road towards the busy main road where we caught a bus back home. The monsoon season has greeted us with thunderstorms, the wind ripping up front gates, sending mangoes flying through the lit up sky and uprooting trees. Hail the size of marbles fell over the entire centre, but luckily nobody was hurt. The rain tore a hole through the roof of our kitchen but the children put a bucket under it and laughed. That is the mood here, there are no problems. During the day a simple 5 minute bike ride into the neighboring forest can bring handfuls of fresh and juicy pineapples, mangoes and papayas. The nearby “beech”, or riverside, is a great attraction for the kids, and for us. A massive forested cliff shades a part of the Kok River and with sandy riversides, boiling water and shallow enough for kids to play in, it is one of Chiang Rai’s attractions. Such is the life here in Chiang Rai, everyday goes incredibly quickly, a sign that there is always something to do, some excitement like accidentally spilling sewage water on a potential herb garden.