After 100 degree heat for a month straight and air clogged with haze from burning fires and fields it finally rained Sunday night. Phrao is beautiful again and it makes us very happy.
Over the past couple months I (Joelle) have been working on marketing the scarves that are made through the Warm Heart partnerships to the city of Chiang Mai. Right now, one of the best outlets for sales is to get the textiles into the hands of the masses of people that come through the second largest city in Thailand. So far, after doing some research and good old fashioned door to door canvassing of local businesses I have added three more shops to the two venues already established.
A work day to Chiang Mai starts with a bus ride for two hours in a hand me down Chinese bus from the 1960’s. I definitely wasn’t in Hong Kong in the 1960’s but I haven’t taken a photo here yet. I’m pretty sure the bus ran a lot better as pictured and I’m also guessing the doors probably closed when they were new too, but who needs a.c. when the lack of doors provides nice air flow?
Once I’m in Chiang Mai I work through sections of the city and neighborhoods with the help of Aom who translates and connects with the locals. Thais are so polite and sometimes they may appear to understand a little more English than in actuality! Right now we are working to distribute the cotton scarves which are made by weavers at a temple in Phrao. The goal is to add many more businesses that want to partner with Warm Heart not just to sell pretty scarves but to help write a different story for the futures of the families of the weavers!
I am looking forward to adding the beautiful Eri Silk scarves back into rotation but you need silk to make silk scarves and production is at a stand still for a few reasons including that the last batch of worms died mysteriously. We are still moving forward with some test batches of silk and will do some dying with natural materials in the next weeks.
It has been two and a half months since we arrived here in Phrao and began working with Warm Heart and I have come to realize that things have been so busy that we have not stopped long enough to explain in depth the projects and day to day work that goes on here in the organization.
This post is the first in a series that will try to fix that.
One of the first projects I have been working on and managing has been the build out of our new offices here on the Warm Heart campus. A part of that is managing the construction project plans to keep things on schedule so we can make the most of the dry season since there is a lot of infrastructure to build here. The three new buildings are built up with bamboo and mud brick made here on site.
The other part has been to spec out and build a new office network as all Warm Heart operations will now be in one place. The biggest challenge of that was coming up with a solution to run data cables from the point of entry in Michael and Evelind’s home 250+ feet to the new site. After much deliberation I decided that running them over head in a protective tube with a steel wire for support was more fixable in the future if something breaks and less work in the present than digging a four foot deep 200 foot long trench to the new site.
As of the end of this week we have a functioning network built and ready to support eight office staff on desktops and up to 20 users on the new wireless network. I feel very happy about this as it will enhance the operations of our organization and make collaboration easier on other development projects for the mountain tribes and the people of Phrao Valley. My temporary desk is below.
Where to start after five weeks into our living here in Phrao? Life has been busy and there have been more ups than downs. It all feels a bit daunting to finally get this website started so I guess there isn’t really another option than to start.
We have a 1 bedroom apartment in the town of Phrao that we have really enjoyed living in. We have gotten to know our neighbors and explored the surprising variety that even a small town like has to offer.
Coming up to speed on our projects with Warm Heart has really hit a stride for both Joelle and I. Currently I am managing and implementing our new office construction and network build out along with some construction planning for the dry season. Joelle is working hard on streamlining parts of the micro enterprise weaving projects and bringing in some new designs.
We are both learning Thai with relative success in some areas, it is a beautiful language but difficult for a Western ear with the five different tonal sounds that can change the meaning of a word that is spelled the same.
What to say about food? Those of you that know Joelle and I know that we love Southeast Asian cuisine and in particular Thai food. Let’s just say that the variety and quality of the food here is incredible and we feel really spoiled to have access to it every meal. My personal favorite Gai Yaang ( grilled chicken with sticky rice ) pictured below.
We have celebrated Joelle’s birthday with dinner and dancing in Chiang Mai and dinner last night with our team here in Phrao.
I am really excited for the next few weeks and will be committing to blogging regularly from here on out.