Kathy and I love Chiang Mai! It’s affordable, the Thai people are wonderful and welcoming, the food is delicious and we’ve found a wonderful community of POC ex pats. However, there are some challenges to living here full time as ex pats.
We’ve been talking a lot about those challenges lately and whether we should stay or go. We’ve decided to leave for a few months. Here are two main reasons why.
Every year for the months of February through April the air quality in Chiang Mai is some of the worst in the world. I’ve heard it compared to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day! My understanding is that this is due to the traditional practice of crop burning. I believe it is also caused by the amount of cars on the road and by industrial farming practices. In any event, the air is already becoming bad. It’s January 12 and today’s reading was already”unhealthy”.
Chiang Mai kind of snagged us. We love it so much and got really comfortable here. But our intention is to travel the world. We’ve decided we’ve been here long enough (this time) and we are excited to be embarking on some more adventures. We’ll be in Vietnam in early February and who knows where we will end up after that. Suggestions? Follow us to see.
On January 5, 2015 we set the ashes of my mother, Muriel Crowe adrift at sea. It’s over 5 years since she died and I think about her and miss her every day. Mom was a strong and courageous woman: a communist at the height of McCarthyism, a white single mother of a black child in the 1950s and a fierce anti-facist, trade unionist and civil rights activist. My earliest memories are of picket lines, protest rallies and poker games (where the talk was more about politics than cards). Almost until the end of her life she read the paper daily and kept abreast (and appalled by) the state of the world. We shared a love of reading, the ocean and swimming.
She was my first and finest example of living life on your own terms. I’m so grateful that she’s my mother! This quote was read at her memorial service.
Kwanzaa is an African-Americans celebration of life from 26 December to 1 January. Dr. Maulana Karenga introduced the festival in 1966 to the United States as a ritual to welcome the first harvests to the home.
I have celebrated Kwanzaa for over 30 years and Kathy and I have celebrated together for the past 14 years.
Kwanzaa is a holiday rich in symbolism and culture. I love it’s rituals, principles and lack of materialism.
This year we celebrated Kwanzaa in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We hope this will be an annual event.
Kwanzaa has seven core symbols:
1. Mazao: Crops – Mazao symbolizes the fruits of collective planning and work, and the resulting joy, sharing, unity and thanksgiving part of African harvest festivals. To demonstrate mazao, people place nuts, fruits, and vegetables, representing work, on the mkeka.
2. Mkeka: Place Mat – Just as the crops stand on the mkeka, the present day stands on the past. The mkeka symbolizes the historical and traditional foundation for people to stand on and build their lives.
3. Muhindi: Ear of Corn – The stalk of corn represents fertility and the idea that through children, the future hopes of the family are brought to life. One vibunzi is placed on the mat for every child in the family.
4. Mishumaa Saba: The Seven Candles – Candles are ceremonial objects that serve to symbolically re-create the sun’s power, as well as to provide light. There are three red candles, three green candles, and one black candle that are placed on the kinara.
5. Kinara: The Candleholder – The kinara represents our ancestry, and the original stalk from which we came.
6. Kikombe Cha Umoja: The Unity Cup – On the sixth day of Kwanzaa, the libation ritual is performed to honor the ancestors. Every family member and guest will take a drink together as a sign of unity and remembrance.
7. Zawadi: Gifts – On the seventh day of Kwanzaa, gifts are given to encourage growth, achievement, and success. Handmade gifts are encouraged to promote self-determination, purpose, and creativity.
Kwanzaa celebrates what Doctor Karenga calls the Nguzo Saba (the seven principlesl. These seven principles comprise Kawaida, Swahili word meaning “common”. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles.
Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.
Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.
Chiang Rai is known for its colorful edifices. Our lovely group of 10 set off from Chiang Mai to explore the Blue and White Temples and the Black House. We left at 6 am for the 4 hour drive to Chiang Rai in a comfortable air conditioned van. Our driver, Pituk, was friendly and helpful. We made one stop half way there at a local hot springs. There we had a restroom break and were able to purchase some local fruits, goodies and clothes.
Today BOLT walked and ran for women’s rights and other social justice issues. It was a wonderful experience at beautiful Huey Tueng Tao Lake in Chiang Mai with over 800 people!
The event was sponsored by BABSEACLE. According to their website “BABSEACLE collaborates globally in the development of justice education and access to justice initiatives while simultaneously fostering generations of pro bono minded champions. BABSEACLE’s mission is to help establish, strengthen and support Access to Justice and Rule of Law in Asia and globally through justice education, including a core focus on legal ethics, professional responsibility and pro bono awareness raising.”
We hope you enjoy these photos of what we saw on this lovely morning!
Early in November I got an email from GirlTrek.org. They inspired me to start a new tradition, right here in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Today, Friday, November 29 we gathered at a local park and got our walks/runs on. It was a wonderful way to work off our big Thanksgiving meals, talk and get to know each other better. The Brothers and Sisters of Chiang Mai were well represented! From Northern and Southern California; Louisville, KY; Washington, DC; Atlanta, GA, Chicago, IL, Philadelphia, PA, the Cayman Islands; Eritrea; Little Rock, AK; and Lampang, Thailand we showed up and out!
Hope you enjoy the pictures from this glorious day and of these amazing folks!