Monday, July 17, 2017

REI's Last 36 Hours - Hill Tribes, Trees, and a little scare to strengthen our "family"

We were awakened by the smell of breakfast in our home stay.  Eggs, Toast (with pineapple jam), fruit…and a traditional breakfast soup of broth, pork calls, rice, cabbage, carrots…and of course local coffee.  We all bid our farewells to Mae Noi and her family and were on our way for our last full day with REI.

Our first stop was at the Lisu hill tribe.  This tribe has less than 200 at this location and is led by a local Shaman we were going to meet.  He was determined to be the village Shaman because after the last one passed he performed some feat showing he held some special something, like healing someone ill.  When we arrived the Shaman was no where to be found.  His wife finally showed up and served us very hot tea in coconut cups.  One of our guides was not so sure about it, so told especially the kids to just take a sip.  Finally they found the Shaman, but their dialect was so difficult to understand our guides only understood about 15%, but what they did understand is we had been invited to a village party because the Shaman apparently had healed an ill man.  So we followed him through the village to a group of homes.  Under one awning were a group of women chopping raw pork into a paste with herbs…and eating it raw.  Under the awning of another home were all the men sitting in a circle drinking and eating.  Apparently they were drinking the local corn liqueur that was 80 proof.  And we were invited to partake.  We did not want to offend, so we took a shot.  What we quickly learned though if our glass was empty our host refilled.  So when he started filling with a beer chaser we stopped.  Back through town we bought some handicraft, a purse and a crazy hat for my Dad. (This paragraph written by Avis)

Next we visited the Akha tribe.  Here we just walked with our guides through the village.  This tribe is known for their excellent hunting skills especially with the bow as well as their silversmith handiskills.  There were lots of ladies in their traditional headdress pushing sales from their little stalls.  Mom was very disappointed when one of our guides asked the ladies if they had any real silver.  Mom was looking for a charm for her travel necklace, but everyone laughed when the lady kind of laughed and replied back in her dialect…"no, silver is too expensive."  So much for her charm.

Reforestation Project
Alec planting with lead guide, Anon
Our lunch today involved climbing in the back of a pick-up due to the rains and going up the hill to a restaurant with a little camp around it.  There we met a man everyone called “Uncle” who had launched a reforestation project in the Mae Taeng District.  Reforestation is one of the royal projects of King Rama IX’s wife and this man after being big in business wanted to give back and is reforesting areas devastated by slash and burn agriculture and teak poachers.  After a lunch, which included a new soup made of young bamboo my parents loved, we went out into the forest and planted trees ourselves.

Back down the hill we continued on to the Hmong Hill Tribe Lodge.  It was raining like crazy, but we still talked Dad into letting us swim in the pool before dinner.  Mom stayed in and listened to the rain and drank coffee.  This area gets a lot of rain in the mountains and Ally quickly learned these wet, rich rain forest covered mountains meant leeches.  Before our trip was over she would get 2, Mom would get one, and another on our trip got one.  This evening was our last dinner together and the kids were very excited to have a pasta bar.  After dinner we went into a large room where several girls about Ally’s age and an older gentleman and young man from the tribe performed for us.  The Hmnog are immigrants from Laos.  Several dances as well as this amazing pipe instrument, but the one we enjoyed the most was the last one where they showed us a game they play with large wooden tops.  We all got to play too and it was a lot of fun.
Alec and Hmong elder

Amazing catepillar, which would become their version of a firefly

Hard to believe one more hike tomorrow morning and it would all come to an end.

FYI…the next morning’s hike was cut short and Andy and Ally as Ally got leech #2 and Alec had some mysterious reaction that morning.  We still aren’t sure what happened when he nearly collapsed in the dining area complaining he had a short breath and his chest hurt.  To be on the safe side we gave him 2 doses of Benadryl, then about 30 minutes later while Andy and Ally were starting their hike he started shaking uncontrollably.  Our guide, Vicky, was amazing rubbing his feet (Thai believe very much in acupressure and health being tied to your feet).  Alec said he was scared and she called the drivers to retrieve Andy and Ally after Alec said he just wanted his family together.  When Andy arrived and we laid him in his arms his little body relaxed and the shaking stopped and he has been fine ever since. (This paragraph by Avis)

Tears flowed at the airport…it was an incredible trip with three other wonderful families and three wonderful guides.  Over the last 11 days we had definitely become as Anon our lead guide said… “One Family…the REI Family.”


Unknown said...

Alec, so Glad you're OK. We had a pond when I was little and I got a leech. Dad treated it with something and I never got another
I'm glad you got to plant, too. Love, Nana

Unknown said...

Alec, so Glad you're OK. We had a pond when I was little and I got a leech. Dad treated it with something and I never got another
I'm glad you got to plant, too. Love, Nana

Ann Van De Water said...

Hi Jolly family!
Thanks for another interesting update! Great photos too.
Glad you are doing well now, Alec.

Koen M said...

Hi Alec, it's Koen. Ok so I really liked your blog although I didn't like the pork cause pigs are cute, so yeah. But your blog was cool and you did a great job especially your mum and dad and you're trip sounds cool and it is also fun except for when you got sick or something, because your parents said it was like you were short of breath. That was scary but at least you're ok!

Koen M said...

Koen again. Kellan said he liked the elephants and he says hello even though he can't talk that well. But still, Hello!

Unknown said...

What an amazing pat of your journey.

A. Jolly said...

Thank you Koen, I can wait to see you again.