Abot Kamay

On February 14, 20 ASIJers hopped on a bus and drove to Haneda Airport. After 3 different flights (Haneda to Osaka, Osaka to Bangkok, Bangkok to Chang Mai), we arrived at the Prem Center, an international campus for students studying abroad and service trips like ours. The Prem Center was our home base for the duration of the trip.

Our first day in Thailand was beautifully hot. We ate delicious Thai food and explored the Sunday Walking Market. Although bargaining wasn’t really allowed, we got lots of cute, cheap items. The culture was rich too. Sarah ate a silkworm! After a long day of shopping, we had the first of many bonding nights.

Early the next morning, we left for the village in 3 vans. After 4 ½ hours of smooth roads, we transferred to two small open pick-up trucks. Crammed and hot, we ventured a bumpy hour to the hill tribe, singing songs and getting sprayed by water. Once we got there, we toured the village and tried on cultural clothing. That night, we exchanged cultures with the village, learning their pastimes and joining in their campfire. With rounds of hot chocolate for all, we settled down to the nightly tradition of Mafia.

After a long, cold night of tossing and turning on hard concrete, we awoke at 3:00 am to a very time-confused rooster, who had managed to get into the room. Trying to stay warm and fall asleep, 7:00 am came around too fast. Breakfast was served around the smoldering fire pit and jobs were assigned for the day. Our first full day of work was EXHAUSTING. We shoveled stones into small buckets to be carried up a very steep hill with a broken shovel, gathered rocks and sand from the nearby river (aka stream), and formed numerous assembly lines to get the job done. It was eye-opening to see the cooperation in the village and the strength of the 7-year-olds (who knew they could carry 3 times the weight we could?). That afternoon, we taught some basic English to the kids. When asked “How old are you?” they would respond, “How old are you?” Needless to say, it was absolutely adorable watching them learn hand games and simple phrases. We also broke into groups, one laying the foundations of our school and the other collecting sand from a creek (later turning into a full-blown water fight). It was wonderful to get to know the kids, especially “Boss” the leader of the gang, who single-handedly owned every single one of us.

Following rough night after rough night, we woke to long days of hard work. More assembly lines, cement mixing, and building walls were the major projects for the rest of the week.  Although some fell down, we made progress, helping the village in any way possible. At the end of the week, our school was floored, had walls, a ceiling, and a door. We made our impact in Thailand, symbolized by our handprints on the cement flooring. We also painted a gorgeous mural on one of the walls, representing the shared cultures of Tokyo, America, and Thailand.

One of the most adventurous moments of the trip was the WATERFALL, or lack of. Building up our hopes for a shower in a natural spring in Thailand, the village told us it was a short bus ride and a quick walk. Well, a bus ride included the entire village, plus the 20 of us, dogging trees in the back of a pickup truck. There was a learning curve. After this cramped ride (about 15 minutes), we sat and waited for the other truckload of people to arrive. An hour later, they showed up with drained water bottles and people ready for a cool shower. The villagers took the lead and were in WAY better shape than us. After a 3 mile hike, along rocks, cow fields, and tree-covered cliffs, we arrived at the “waterfall”, a flow of water down a rock. Not worth risking your life for, but it was a nice place to cool off and we experienced the daily lives of the village. The trek back wasn’t easier, but the locals lent a helping hand. Never again will we take a shower for granted.

On our last night, we had finished the school, made little friends, and helped the lives many. A Thai tradition of letting lanterns go was how we said good bye. That night we all laid on the ground as a family and star gazing a reward for all of our hard work, we saw many shooting stars!

On the way back to home, it included 4 flights, Chang Mai to Bangkok, Bangkok to Manila, Manila to Osaka, Osaka to Haneda!  We were all happy to be back home, but sad to leave Thailand. We were all ready for nice warm showers, our heated toilet seats, and our bed. Coming back to school on Monday, we all had realized how much we had done for them and wished that we could do more.

Abot Kamay was a wonderful experience that we can’t wait to go on again next year. Helping kids that are less fortunate that you, puts a smile on their face and yours.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Dawn
    May 11, 2010 @ 18:13:04

    Hey Olivers! How are all of you???? Sara is going to a theater camp in NY and we\’ll be flying through Hartford. Any chance you guys are going to be in CT this summer? We\’ll be there June 19th and again July 11th. Would love to catch up and see you guys. I\’ve read some blogs. You\’re experience is unbelievable! We would move back overseas in a heartbeat. our email is djdobish@tampabay.rr.com also on facebook.


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