Friday, January 30, 2015

Change is Afoot at CCT

Cultural Canvas Thailand and Art Relief International recently bid a sad farewell to its Art Director (ARI) of the last two years, Sarah Lovett. Sarah has been a much loved member of the CCT team and has brought lots of passion, enthusiasm and creativity to the ARI program, not to mention structure and strategy. CCT has been lucky to have her, and we wish her well in her return home to the USA to continue work on her own arts outreach NGO, Paint The World ( We'll miss you Sarah!

But with sad endings comes new beginnings, and CCT is very excited to introduce its two newest members of the team, Emma and Dan, in the respective roles of Art Director (ARI) and Assistant Director (CCT). Here's a little bit more about them...

Dan Hales

Hi! I'm Dan, from Adelaide, Australia.

I originally completed a Bachelor of Social Work in 2004, before undertaking roles in community development and counselling, predominantly with young people, the LGBTQ community and within HIV Prevention.

Having completed a Graduate Certificate in Tourism (Festival and Event Design and Management) in 2009, I have more recently been working as a Project Coordinator within the arts, festival and community cultural sector.

I am also a qualified Yoga Teacher and a trained dancer.

I volunteered for three months with Art Relief International in 2014, after falling in love with Chiang Mai during previous visits. I enjoyed my time so much I couldn't help but apply for this position when I saw it advertised.

I am extremely passionate about social justice and human rights, and I plan to continue to forge a career in community cultural development and theatre outreach. I also love travelling, the beach and macadamia ice cream!

Emma Gabriel   

Hello, my name is Emma Gabriel and I am the new Art Director for Cultural Canvas Thailand's Art Relief program. I come from Newfoundland, a small island in Eastern Canada, and am happy to call Chiang Mai my new home.

Making the decision to move here has been exciting, as I love to travel and adapt to new settings, learn new cultures, and meet new people!

I have a background in languages and visual art, focusing on an array of media throughout my studies, though my favourite being stained glass and pen and ink drawing. I also love experimenting with new media and have a current fascination with street art, stencils and spray paint.

The other aspect of this position that I love is the ability to help people in using art as therapy. It feels so amazing to create a sense of inclusion and community and to empower, inspire, and educate through art. I couldn't be happier to be a part of this team!

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Brazilian in Chiang Mai

 Hello there! 

My name is Jessica, I am 19 years old and I’m from Brazil. I arrived in Chiang Mai on January 10th and right from the start, the wonderful staff from Cultural Canvas and the other volunteers made me feel very welcome. 

I am staying at a guest-house 10 mins away from the volunteer home-base, but I just spend most of my time at the house along with the rest of the girls.  My day usually starts at 7am when I go to the volunteer home-base to eat breakfast and get picked up at 8am. I get to the Wat Kuang Singha School, where I teach English, usually about 8:30am.  At 9 am the classes start and I usually have to teach three 1h classes per day, so from 9 to 3:45 I spend my time teaching, planning my future classes, and just talking to the other teachers at the school. 

Everyone in the school is so wonderful, they are always asking me about my life in Brazil and are very interested to know my future plans even though they don’t speak English very well. Aside from the teachers at the school, the kids are also amazing and VERY special.  Whenever I get to a class, the students stand up and say altogether “Good Morning teacher” and whenever I’m leaving a class they stand up and say “Thank you teacher, goodbye” and always do the “wai” for me whenever they see me. 

I teach 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10 year-olds, so I definitely need a different lesson plan for all these classes. The 4 and 5 year-olds are a bit crazy, they just want to play the whole time and they definitely need something in their hands all the time. As they get older they really learn to appreciate their teacher and my classes with the 10 year olds are always so mature and insightful. They don’t always understand what I say, but try their hardest to figure it out. It’s really hard teaching kids a completely different language when you don’t even know how to speak Thai to explain what each word means, so I do a lot of pointing, drawing, dancing and singing (thank god for Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes). 

On the weekends I just visit the city and hang out with the rest of the volunteers. Doi Suthep is definitely a “must see”, and the Sunday Walking Street Market is also a good place to visit.  

It’s incredible how the Thai culture is so different from most of Western cultures. Simple things like touching someone’s head is seen as a “bad” gesture, or the different types of Wai they do for the different types of people. Even the transportation here is different; we usually take Red Trucks to get around, it’s very cheap (20 baht), or the tuk-tuk which is a type of taxi. The food is also so different, since I got here I haven’t eaten pizza, fries, red meat or basically any western food, I just eat a lot of curry, pad thai, and spring rolls. It’s so delicious. 

I’ve only been here for 2 weeks, but I really love it! The Thai culture is wonderful, along with its food, extremely kind people, amazing views and temples, and its cheap prices. Being here really made me appreciate simple things from home, like hot showers, my comfy bed, and even the food. Seeing how the Thai people live a simple life and are just so happy, makes me appreciate everything. I’m loving this experience, you learn so much from it and from the people you spend time with, it’s crazy.

Thanks for reading xx

Friday, January 23, 2015

The City of Chiang Mai

I don´t think I have wrote a word about Chiang Mai so far, the city which has become my home in the past three month. Maybe because this place is already so familiar to me, that I don´t realize its extraordinary beauty anymore.

First of all, Chiang Mai is not only the destination for thousands of travellers every year, but also the economic centre in northern Thailand. In fact, the wealth of the city has grown fast in the last years – I found some old travel guides in the volunteer house and it´s very interesting to compare the Chiang Mai they describe with the one I experience. Chiang Mai isn´t a city where you have to miss anything, maybe that´s why a lot of western people mad it their home.

 Chiang Mai is not as hectic as a big metropolis but has all comfort of city life.  Don´t get me wrong, it´s definitely a busy place, the traffic is always a nightmare and no matter what time, you´ll find always an open bar or street food stable. But there is something about this city, that makes me relax, makes me smile.

Maybe it´s because of all this cosy cafes where you can drink a lot of coffee and where your office work seems to be a little bit easier than home. Maybe it´s because of the small galleries all over the place, showing works of local artists. Seeing their view of Thai society, their thoughts about developments – both positive and negative, I remember works to the invasion on western deserts – their dreams for their country expressed in art impressed me very much. Of course not all art is about social or political issues, it´s just the part that interests me the most. You´ll find a lot of landscapes, self-portraits or abstract sculptures, too. In fact, Chiang Mai´s art scene is much to diverse to describe it in one blog post – it´s a city of art!


I Heart Pai

Last week I wrote a lot about work, this time it is all about the so called "rest". I might be the wrong one to tell you much about the nightlife of Chiang Mai, mud shipping and taking care of toddlers makes you tired. But enough about work! Yesterday a few volunteers went to sticky waterfalls. This is a quite popular place, well known, because the stones in the falls are not slippery at all. You can climb up the falls, which isn´t too difficult. The whole setting is set in between huge jungle trees, so that you can overview an ocean of green tree crowns from the very top – a stunning view. I could have sat there for ages, just watching the forest with the water all around me. Life can be so easy. The falls itself are from such beauty, that I couldn´t get rid of the thought, someone must have planned this. It´s too perfect to be just there, without purpose, without plan.

Pai- more a promise than a name, more mythos than reality. Who hasn´t heart lots of stories about legendary nights in Pai?Most travelers in Chiang Mai are either just coming from or about to leave to Pai. What is it about this small village, that drives people crazy? My travel guide says, Pai is somewhere in between hippie heaven and commerce, a tightrope walk, sometimes working out, sometimes not.

First, the bus drive form Chiang Mai is not as bad as everyone tells you. I slept in both directions nearly the entire time. Pai itself is truly a pearl, surrounded by mountains and forests offers everything that lets a nature lovers heart beat faster. Waterfalls, hot springs, breathtaking views, even a so called canyon. Reasons enough to visit Pai.

It is truth, nights in Pai are magical. Maybe because of the promise, that everything is possible as soon as the sun disappears, maybe because everyone is your friend for the night, maybe it´s the beautiful setting or just the fact, that you cannot be further away from any duties. There are this moments, where Pai seems to keep every promise. You turn around – just for a few seconds and suddenly your friends´ faces are hidden behind layers of paint. Someone starts in the early morning hours an awesome fire show right at the river in the light of the full moon.

Before I left, a Thai friend told me, Pai wouldn´t be a path of Thailand. I can understand why, Pai could be everywhere, especially because the majority are red-white tall Westerners. For me, Pai was a sort of vacation from Thailand, a place where I could stretch my feet, . I didn´t feel a need for a time off the time I left, nevertheless it was very  restorative. But that was definitely enough for me and it feels good to be back to reality, back in Chaing Mai, Thailand, back at work.Pai, that´s a double-edged sword to me. It´s like walking on a small mountain track- it´s all about your balance.


Overnight Trip to Lampang

Last week I had to stay for one night in Lampang. It's a city two hours away from Chiang Mai. FORRU owns plots there so we had to monitor them. Monitoring means measuring all the trees and valuing their health, shade and weeds. Masters students from Chiang Mai University helped us. 

Maybe you are wondering why FORRU has plots in Lampang. Actually SCG (big cement company in Lampang) tried to plant trees in their quarries, but it didn't work. So they asked FORRU for help. I have to say I was really surprised when I saw the trees. I mean the plots are in a quarry so I didn't expect anything. But the trees were so huge and healthy. 
This week we were in Lampang again but just for a meeting. SCG want to try to plant more trees and FORRU needs to explain everything. It was interesting to see a meeting between the environment and economy sector.

The other days I had to work in the office because we had to collect and analyze the data from our fieldtrips, and we have had many fieldtrips recently.

Last week my friends and I rented motorbikes so we did a lot of things. Just a few impressions: We visited a Thai Boxing fight and a lake, we watched a really nice movie at Documentary Arts Asia (a kind of cabaret movie) and we orbited Chiang Mai with the bikes. There is a really nice loop road in the mountains, it was amazing!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Winter at Wildflower Home

Last blog was about the Christmas celebration at Wildflower Home and this time I will tell you a bit about winter here. In Europe, Christmas and winter are almost synonyms, it has to be cold outside, nice and cozy at the fireplace inside. It is the time of hot chocolate, candles, early sunset, needle trees, salty roads, gloves, bonnet, icicle and -if you are luck-, of snow. Winter in Thailand is slightly different, less cold in the first place. Surprisingly, it can still be very freezing. The women at Wildflower Home are often wearing gloves and coats in the mornings and my skiing socks have become my new best friends. There is now infrastructure for cold nights, no insulated walls, no double glazing, often not even closing windows. Maybe worse is, that you are not prepared for the cold, too. Even with two blankets and a warm pyjama's is a temperature drop from 32 °C to 8 °C degrees nothing your body likes. As a result, all of our infants have running noses, colds and look rather unhappy. Nothing too serious, thank god.

The days are still as hot as always and it feels wrong having a cold while the sun burns on your face, but that might be stupid European problems. But the heat is different than in August, not as standing as it has been. The shadow is therefore often very chilled and it might be the only time in the year,  everyone at Wildflower Home sits after lunch in the sun to get warm again.


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Plans may be changed (Marie Eberwein)

I told you I want to spend Christmas and New Year in Cambodia. But one day before departure all my travelling plans were canceled by myself. But that is a long story...
Nonetheless I left Chiang Mai and I set out for Southern Thailand. After 20 hours bus ride, 13 hours stay in Bangkok and 2 hours passage I finally arrived in Koh Samui. What can I say? I´m sorry, but this island will never see me again! There are only tourists and young people making party-awful! And it wasn´t possible to find good Thai food and it rained every day! Nevertheless I tried to take time by the forelock. In my hostel I met a nice girl from Sweden. Together we explored Koh Samui. On one day we made a tourist tour and visited the most important places in Koh Samui. For example: Big Buddha, Grandfather Rock, Namuang Waterfall, Tarnim magic Garden, Wat Plai Laem.

On Christmas we rented motorbikes and explored the island by ourselves. It was such amazing trip, because we had so much fun and we could visited places we wanted to see. We saw places outside of tourism. That was great! After that we had a nice Christmas dinner (Pad Thai and Springrolls, the most Thai food we could get). In the evening we went out with other people from our hostel.
Next day we relaxed and gave ourselves a Christmas present: A Thai massage! I have to say it was my first Thai massage and it was so good. It takes getting used to because the masseur touch every part of your body and sometimes your bones creak. But after the massage you feel so good, it was great.
That´s all I could talk about. Finally I have to say I had a lot of fun and I met so many nice people from all over the world. But it feels like I wasn´t in Thailand. A fortiori I´m happy to be back in Chiang Mai.
Because I can´t spend New Year in Cambodia I´ll go with the other volunteers to Pai. I hope it will be great :)

All the best!

Christmas at Wildflower Home

Christmas is a really big deal here for that it is a Christian organization. Weeks before the big celebration day the dining area was decorated with reindeers and small Christmas tree images and small snow globes hang from the roof. Three “real” trees completed the scenery and making small tags for them was a lot of fun for both, mothers and children. From time to time you could hear someone singing “We wish you a merry Christmas” the women were practicing the song for our Christmas party and within the weeks, Christmas was all over the place. A nativity scene, a lot of big stars and glitter were added around the pond and it took us a long time to make all our handmade Christmas cards for donators and friends abroad ready. – Yes, Christmas is big at Wildflower Home!

The menu for the party was planed long before and it took us all day before to prepare the food, we even killed one of our pigs. The party was great and –of course- the food was very delicious. It was so good to see the women getting out of their daily routine, wearing their best dresses and just enjoying their self’s talking, laughing, making fun with their kids. It was a truly a great day for everyone at Wildflower Home and we hope, for our guest too.