Chiang Dao Caves in Thailand

Mom, Dad and I rented a car and drove from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai, Thailand. On the way we stopped at the Chiang Dao Caves and hired a guide with a lantern to walk us around. There are 100 cave passage ways but only 5 of them are open for people to see. The Chiang Dao caves go on for 8 miles but people can only go 1 mile into the mountain.

We walked through pitch black rocky terrain with only a gas lantern to see where we were going. We had to duck down many times in order for us to not hit our heads on hanging rocks. We also had to crawl on our hands and knees through small passage ways. We got very dusty and saw over 100 bats! Some rocks were very wet and slippery so we had to be careful not to slip.

 

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The Black House Temple and the White Temple

Mom, Dad and I went to the Baandam Temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand. In English it is called the Black House Temple because it was all black. The Black House was very interesting. It was created by a famous local artist named Thawan Duchanee. Inside, we saw animal skins, horns, paintings, sculptures and lots of carved wood. My favorite animal skin was the crocodile. It looked so rough and heavy. I imagined it turning its head and opening its jaw to try to eat me. Crocodiles can live from 70 to 100 years and are very dangerous to humans because they will come at you before you can react to them. There was lots to see in the temple and the carvings were fascinating. They had so much detail. It probably took weeks to carve 1 little piece of wood.

We also went to another temple called Wat Rong Khun. In English it’s called The White Temple and it was spectacular! It was a temple that was all white. It was made by another local artist named Chalermchai Kositpipat. He was the student of the man who made the Black House Temple. There was so much detail in the White Temple. I loved admiring the work and all the little details that made it so amazing.

 

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Getting to Asia and Meeting Kim Phuc

Mom, Dad and I made it safely to Southeast Asia after a 2–week pit stop back home. Getting there was hard because we had a 3-hour delay in Detroit, so we missed our connection flight. We were stranded in Seoul, Korea for the night, which was not all bad because we had a great breakfast at a cool hotel. Then we took a morning flight to Malaysia and got to our hotel. Mom and Dad had a 4 day trade show there for Youth Frontiers. I helped at the booth a lot and it was great!

At the trade show, I met Kim Phuc. She is famous from her picture when she was 9 years old running from napalm bombs in the Vietnam War. She was in the middle of the four napalm bombs that dropped on her village. Her clothes were burned off with most of her skin. Just heard her speak about forgiveness, faith and courage. The 3rd picture is her famous one and she is in the middle.

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Kruger National Park Safari

The last 4 days of the trip, Arm in Arm in Africa went to Kruger National Park in South Africa for a safari. We got to see all kinds of animals really close up! The jeep we were in had no roof and had a chair that stuck out in the front of the car – that’s where the tracker sat. The tracker is a guide that sits in the front of the car with his feet hanging down. He looks for animals and their tracks. The driver is also looking, but the tracker has a better view point because he can see everything and he’s not driving. I thought it was amazing how some of the animals walked right under the tracker’s feet and then he just sat and watched them. I thought it was so cool when the tracker would get out of his chair and start walking around looking for animals. The tracker followed the animals until he was like 5 feet away from them on foot! Then he would call our jeep with his walkie talkie and say exactly where they were.

One of my favorite animals I saw was a rhinoceros. We saw 3 of them in the woods and then they came out right by our car! They had such tiny eyes that were just sticking out of their heads! They were very stunning and their horns were unbelievable. The horns were so pointy and looked so sharp. I’m very glad we saw rhinos because they are very rare to see.

I also loved seeing leopards. They were magnificent! Their spots are different from cheetahs’ spots. A cheetah has circular spots and a leopard’s spots look like a half moon – they’re called “rosettes.” We saw about 8 leopards in all the days we were there and they came so close to our car!

I also loved the elephants and lions. The elephants got so close – a family walked 3 feet from our car!!! Then one of the baby elephants came right up to me and was 6 inches from me! I loved looking at it! We saw many lions, but my favorite part was when we were heading back for the day and saw 5 lions in a group! (a dad, a mom and 3 cubs) It is called a “pride” of lions. We watched them for awhile and then the male lion got up and started to walk away. We followed it and then it started to roar!!! The roar was so different than I thought. I thought it was going to be like the roar of the lion before some movies, but it was definitely not like that. It was more like when you have a scruffy voice and you clear your throat, except 100 times louder.

We saw lots of African buffalos, most of them were sitting in the mud keeping cool. African buffalos are one of the most dangerous animals in Africa – more dangerous than the lion or leopard because they attack you without any warning. The lion and leopard will always give you a warning, like growl or roar, before attacking. The African buffalo will just charge whenever it feels like it.

I loved this safari very much. It was a great way to end our time in Africa and I loved having the Arm in Arm in Africa group with us!

 

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Arm in Arm in Africa and Malungeni

After about two weeks in Cape Town, a group of people from our church came down to do mission work. The organization was called Arm in Arm in Africa. We joined them and went to work at a town called Gugulethu. We worked at a church called JL Zwane. The first day we went, we unloaded bags of food from a truck. We gave out the food to the elders in the town. I thought it was amazing how these 80-90 year-old grandmas could carry six big bags of food on their head all the way home. They all act so strong on the outside, but deep down I believe that they were weeping for their families. They were worried that their children and grandchildren would grow up hungry and not smart because they don’t have enough food.

I think one of the reasons that Arm in Arm gives the food to the grandmothers instead of anyone else in the family, is so the grandmas can feel good about themselves – that they can help their family. I loved seeing the look on the grandmothers’ faces when they took the bags home – full of confidence and happiness. On Sunday Arm in Arm went to church at JL Zwane and when we got there, the room was packed!!! We all watched the service, but I would not call the service “church,” I would call it a party! Everyone was singing and dancing. It was very loud and fun. I loved the people with all their smiles, happy faces, and laughter. It was so wonderful!!!

Two weeks later, Arm in Arm went on a road trip for 1000 miles into a town called Malungeni. The drive was so beautiful and I loved being with the Arm in Arm group! Everyone was so kind and fun, and I was the youngest! Arm in Arm has 14 people including my family. The group was awesome and I could never get enough of them! I love them so much.

Malungeni is a very poor small town far from any city. When we got to the town, we pulled up to this beautiful campus. Everyone in Arm in Arm stayed in a separate dorm room and shared a kitchen and living room. It was simple, but it was everything we needed. The campus we stayed at was a community center, so in the day, people from the town came and hung out in a beautiful space. The cooks were amazing and the staff was so kind.

On the day when people from Malungeni came, the campus was very crowded. There were lots of children there, and I loved to play with them! We played soccer, monkey in the middle, keep away, and tons of other fun games! I thought it was so amazing how these kids had literally nothing and they were so happy! In America we think we need all this stuff. The kids were always so energetic and always smiling! Throughout the day we gave out food parcels, dresses, scarves and hats to the community and served a hot meal every night. Every family in the campus got 6 bags of food: flour, pasta, wheat, cooking oil, beans and chicken. We also had a spa day for the older women and gave them foot massages and painted their nails! The women loved it! They were all so appreciative and excited!!!

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Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa is where Mom, Dad and I spent one month. Cape Town is at the southern tip of Africa. Cape Town is one most beautiful city I’ve ever seen. Everywhere you look you see beautiful buildings and palm trees lining the streets. Cape Town is also where the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean meet. It has incredible views of water. Behind it you could see Table Mountain. Table Mountain is one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. There is more plant life species on top of Table Mountain than in the entire country of Sweden! I loved being in Cape Town so much. It was so beautiful and there was so much to do! Mom, Dad and I loved going to museums, the beach and the Waterfront. We also went to a magic show, high tea, and Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, was imprisoned for 18 years. Cape Town is a wonderful city. It’s small enough to get around easily but big enough to have lots of places to go and things to do.

Hadza Tribe

Mom, Dad and I spent 3 days with the Hadza tribe in northern Tanzania. The Hadza tribe are people that live by hunting and gathering, like the very first humans. There are about 1000 Hadza left. Their language uses clicks and is very different from any other language. The Hadza people live in grass huts that they build. The houses are about three yards long and 1 yard wide. They live in camps that have 3 to 10 huts.

The men hunt animals – all sizes – from little rodents all the way up to giraffes. They go out in the morning with their hand-carved bows and arrows to hunt. Some days they go hunting and come back late in the afternoon without catching a thing. Every day, the women go and collect tubers, berries and fruits from trees. Tubers grow in the ground as roots. Some people think they taste like potatoes, but I didn’t think so at all! I’m not sure what they tasted like. When the women get home, they roast the tubers over their hand-made fire and eat the food they collected. If the men don’t find any meat that day, they only have the food that the women brought back.

When we stayed with them, we stayed in a tent about 1/2 mile away from the nearest camp where the Hadza people lived. One day 4 Hadza hunters came and made arrows with us! We took knives and started to carve the sticks so they were straight and all the knots on the sticks were gone. When they were straight, the hunters took nails that our guide Mika brought for them and put them on top of a rock. With a hammer that they got from tourists, they started to pound the top of the nail for about 3 minutes and the nail slowly flattened out. They put the nail onto the tip of the arrow I made and the arrow was almost done! They put bird feathers on the other end and carved in the arrow, so when they shot the arrow they would know whose arrow it was. They gave all of us the arrows we made and we got to keep them!

The next day, we left to go hunting early in the morning. Mom, Dad and I each went with a different hunter to go and hunt for animals! I went with a hunter named Boki, and he kept on calling me ‘Tss,’ not pronouncing the ‘e.’ It was funny! Mom went out with a hunter named Shingee and Dad went out with Muapo. We all went different directions to find food for the day. Boki and I walked around and he shot his bow a number of times, but never caught anything. One animal he spotted was a hyrax. It looked like a big fat weasel but Boki missed and the hyrax ran into a pile of rocks. Boki looked for it, but could not find it. About four times Boki motioned for  me to stay where I was and he would walk off and look for something and come back ten minutes later.

It was a bit weird being all alone in Africa with someone who could not speak English -especially when he left me sitting on a rock for 10 minutes. We had to use hand signals to communicate. We walked for a long time and finally went back to camp and met up with the others. Nobody caught anything, but we still had an amazing experience just being with them. (I’m a little glad we did not catch anything because that would have been sad.) It was amazing to experience how hard they work to get their food everyday. It would be like going to Super Target to buy food and spending half your day there and coming home and saying, “Sorry, Target did not have any food.”

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