30.01.2015 - 30.01.2015 31 °C
We met two more amazing women today in Chiang Mai who have made tremendous contributions to the people and society of Northern Thailand!
Patricia Cheesman's life's work has been to research and maintain indigenous Lao and Thai weaving techniques, so we learned a great deal when we visited her Naenna Studio in Chiang Mai [www.studio-naenna.com] for a tie-dyeing workshop (really fun!) and demonstration of traditional loom weaving by one of her Karen women weavers (really humbling!). Patricia's shop provides an outlet for local weavers to market their works at fair trade prices (still low by North American standards). Naturally our group made many purchases (!!) in the textile and clothing boutique they run to support their ongoing work. Patricia was born, raised and has spent her life in SE Asia, and also teaches at Chiang Mai University.
Lisa Nesser is the founder of Thai Freedom House [thaifreedomhouse.org] in Chiang Mai, a non-profit that helps Burmese refugees gain skills that will help them make their way in Thailand. Lisa is from Missouri USA and came to Thailand to recover from cholera after working for 3 years in a Tibetan refugee camp in India. She was on her way home to the US, but decided to stay in Chiang Mai (she has been here now for 10 years!) when she saw the plight of the Burmese fleeing across the Thai border from the repressive regime in their own country. She and a local Burmese/Thai assistant, with the help of many volunteers, now run a huge array of language, arts and crafts, and other educational programs for about 50 Burmese people, ages 8 to 50, to help them have a better life in Northern Thailand. Her salary is only 10,000 baht/month (about $400 CAD) and Thai Freedom House is very basic, but extremely well-used, so this is a project with very little overhead. They are funded by the proceeds from a thrift shop and restaurant on the 1st floor (Free Bird Cafe, where we had lunch), and of course by donations.
Catriona and I later enjoyed a 1-hour full-body Thai massage at Naruncha Beauty & Massage, with the practitioners we had taken the course with yesterday - it was wonderful! After dinner a walk through the night market capped off another great day in Chiang Mai!
Tomorrow we head for Mae Kampong (50km east of Chiang Mai at 1300m) and a homestay with the hill tribe in that area, so our next post will probably be on Feb 1 when we return to Chiang Mai and are back in WiFi range again.