Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Christmas in Thailand - Thoughts

A quick shot while out exploring the Thai
It is hard to believe that Christmas has come and gone, and in a few short days it will be 2014. A lot has happened for me in 2013. And probably the biggest is learning about human trafficking, and then moving to Thailand to try to help do something about it.

It's been an exciting year, and looking back on it I wouldn't change anything. It is so much fun to be in Thailand and involved in things that are making a difference in the lives of people who are facing desperate situations.

I would encourage you to find ways to make a difference in the lives of others, if you don't already, because it is very rewarding not only for them, but also for you as well. Perhaps it can be a new year's resolution, that you actually follow through on.

Human Trafficking in 2013

There have been a lot of big strides in 2013, with many organizations involved in fighting modern slavery growing, and others (like Stone in Shoe), getting started.

I want o share a few resources I have found that came out this year and may be of interest to those who want to learn more about human trafficking.

The Walk Free Foundation released the Global Slavery Index 2013, which contains trafficking information and rankings for the majority of countries in the world. It is a very thorough index with a lot of information, but it is presented in a visually appealing way.

The Polaris Project created another valuable resource, compiling a rating of each state in the US on Human Trafficking Laws. This is a fascinating document to browse through as it provides a lot of information on each state and what laws they have or don't have for human trafficking. Perhaps you can take a look, and see how your state is doing.

Finally, the US government also put together a 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report with individual reports and information on many different countries around the world. Take a look, and see these detailed reports for yourself.

These resources provide a deeper look into the numbers and location information regarding human trafficking. While trafficking is much worse in some countries and regions, the sad fact is that it exists worldwide, in practically every country. But 2013 saw a big increase around the world in awareness, and even in arrests and other anti-trafficking efforts.

Back to Christmas in Thailand

Well, anyway, it's Christmas, and I hope everyone out there had a wonderful time, and hopefully enjoyed friends and family.

I enjoyed a fun Christmas afternoon hike with my housemates and some of their families, and managed to snap a few pictures of interesting things we found along the way.

We hiked up a dirt trail, up a mountain called Doi Suthep, and stumbled across a secluded temple sitting next to a small waterfall with a great view of Chiang Mai. It was a relaxing place, although it was impossible to miss the strange, and somewhat creepy, Buddhist statues and structures.

Hiked past this unique collection of structures that made up a temple and other buildings.

We eventually made it to the top of the mountain, where there were many shops and another temple. Apparently most people preferred to ride a motorcycle or drive a car to reach the top, rather than hike through the jungle.
Shops on the stairs that lead to the temple at the
top of the mountain.

It has been a unique experience being in Thailand for Christmas, because, while the stores and malls put up lots of holiday themed decorations, the Thai people don't really take the day off, and most business are open. It reminds me of Christmas in Japan, where many of the people like Christmas, and enjoy the decorations and gift giving, but have no idea what the holiday is about, or any traditions that go with it. It is a good reminder that not everyone in the world thinks the same, or celebrates the same things.

I am really looking forward to what 2014 holds, and I am confident that it will bring new adventures, challenges and fun. I am also excited for what can be accomplished in fighting human trafficking over the next 12 months.

Enjoy the last few days of 2013!

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Quick Drive into the Hills Around Chiang Mai

Thailand is Fun (And Different)

I took advantage of a quiet Saturday morning to drive out into the Thai countryside. It is a popular road that winds up and around some of the mountains that hang on the edge of Chiang Mai.

thailand countryside
Stopped on the side of the road to snap this picture
Some people take motorcycles, racing up and down the winding hills, while other highly motivated individuals challenge themselves by riding a bicycle. I just went on my moped, maintaining a leisurely pace and enjoying the the many interesting sights along the way.

thai cafe
A fun coffee shop along the road
It was incredibly refreshing, and not just because I was out of the city's usual dust and car fumes, but just taking the time to explore and enjoy some beautiful mountain views helped me remember how blessed I am to be able to live in Thailand and do what I do.

The road flows up and down over the hills, with jungle vegetation all around. At times you are riding though little valleys with houses and small shops along the road, and then you ride up another hill, and get a great view of other hills and quaint valleys tucked around. It seems like the perfect place for anyone who needs a few days of absolute peace and quite.

On the way back I also stopped at my new favorite coffee shop and happily sipped a latte, warming myself up from the ride (apparently it's winter here, and is getting down into the low 70's (sometimes 60's) at night and in the early morning!).

I've been reading some books lately on injustice which have helped me be reminded of how important it is to be involved.

Coffee shop thailand
A fun little coffee shop with great Latte's
One of the books, called The Exodus Road, gives a wife's perspective of what it is like for her husband to do undercover investigations into human trafficking in many of the countries in Southeast Asia. This book details the true events and situations that exist right now, and how some people are working to combat injustice, one victim at a time. I highly recommend it if you are willing to be challenged. If you do buy it and read it, I would enjoy talking about your thoughts, so send me an email or leave a comment.

I didn't quite expect to find Thailand so full of adventures and fun new things, but I'm trying to enjoy them all. I am thankful to be able to live in Thailand, and help fight injustice in the ways I can. But you don't have to go to Thailand to do that, you can fight for justice wherever you are.

I want to encourage everyone to take more opportunities to enjoy the fun and interesting things around you. And if you can't find any new or exciting things, why not move over to Thailand, where you will find plenty.

Thanks for stopping by and reading, and thanks everyone who made this adventure in Thailand possible. There are certainly challenges, but there are also so many things to enjoy and thank God for. I'll be sharing more about Stone in Shoe, the company I'm helping start, in the near future.

Leave a comment with any questions or thoughts!