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Thailand

We are Braver and Stronger than we Know

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We are Braver and Stronger than we Know

After first hearing Nid’s life story, I couldn’t seem to shake it.  How different would I be if I had been forced to leave home at the age of 12 to make my way in the world?  My daughter Cierra, who has lived in Thailand for 3 years now, introduced me to Nid’s daughter, Khem, on my first visit to Thailand. She was a bright, friendly High School student who spoke English well. 

Cierra and Khem become good friends

Cierra and Khem become good friends

Cierra first met Nid when taking a long truck ride with Khem’s family to visit her home village in the northeast part of Thailand.  The village was remote and rustic with no department or grocery stores at which to buy food, clothing or household goods.  Most everything eaten was grown or raised locally, and most clothing was handmade.  Cierra’s white skin was a novelty to those who gathered to meet this foreigner; several pinched and stroked her arm to see what skin that pale felt like. 

Cierra visiting Nid's village in Northeast Thailand

Cierra visiting Nid's village in Northeast Thailand

Khem’s mother, Nid, grew up in this village, the oldest daughter of poor farmers.  She went to school as a child, but at the tender and vulnerable age of 12, her family sent her to the city to earn money instead. She found work in a factory, earning just enough to send money home every month while still covering her own expenses.  She continues to faithfully support her parents to this day, even after getting married and starting a family of her own.  Nid eventually found work in a leather factory and became a skilled artisan.  As time went on, she was proud to see Khem excel in school and become the first in her family to attend college.  In 2016, however, Nid and her husband (who also worked in the leather factory) lost their jobs due to downsizing. Nid’s father became ill, and she was asked to return home to care for him.  Always an obedient daughter, Nid returned to her home village.

Nid making jewelry by hand

Nid making jewelry by hand

Once Nid returned to her home village, there was no way to continue earning a living sufficient to pay for Khem’s education.  Even so, she was determined to do so.  It was at this point Khem remembered that Cierra’s mother worked with women artisans from developing countries.  Khem asked Cierra if I might be interested in helping Nid sell her leather jewelry in the US.  When I heard about the opportunity, I was thrilled, of course.  This is exactly why Elevat exists; to help women bring their handmade products to the US marketplace.  This past January, I brought Nid’s gorgeous leather bracelets back with me from Thailand.  I hope you can recognize the beauty and strength in these bracelets, qualities imparted by their maker, Nid.  I also hope you find strength in this story like I did.  We are braver and stronger than we realize.   These bracelets symbolize how women can reach out from miles away and give strength and endurance to one another.   Please join me in celebrating this beautiful and strong woman who has risen to the challenges life has given her and seeks to impart better opportunities for her children than she was given.

Khem and myself during my visit to Thailand in January 2018

Khem and myself during my visit to Thailand in January 2018

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The Beauty of Color and Diversity

I had recently returned from an international trip to a developing country when the POTUS made his ridiculous statement about “sh**thole” countries and wondered why we didn't receive more immigrants from Norway. As an American, I’d like to apologize to all those who have immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti or Africa. I also extend an apology to those still living in the countries the President mentioned who were offended by his comments. You have every right to be offended. Please don’t think every one in the U.S. shares his narrow minded opinion.

photo from recent trip to Thailand

photo from recent trip to Thailand

 

Just a few months ago, I was in Sweden for the first time. All around me was white skin as far as the eye could see. As I traveled to various sites in and around Stockholm and walked its city center, I wondered what it would be like to live in a place where nearly everyone looked and behaved like everyone else. The Swedes seemed pretty content yet I was happy to return to the Twin Cities in Minnesota where immigrants thrive and where numerous ethic heritages are preserved. I have been privileged to travel not only to Sweden, but to a multitude of places in our world. I have seen and experienced many different people groups and cultures and still marvel at how people, regardless their country of origin, are so much the same and yet so different at the same time.

Stockholm city center

Stockholm city center

 

Impressionist paintings have always been my favorite artistic genre. I love how the many shades and colors swirl together to  to create beauty. Can you imagine if artists painted only in white? What if God had created only white flowers? What if all birds were only white? That’s how I’d feel about a world of only white people.

Van Gogh's Starry Night

Van Gogh's Starry Night

 

I appreciate my Scandinavian heritage; how solid and stoic the northern Europeans often are in their approach to life. Nevertheless, I don’t want the entire world to look or act like that. What’s more, I certainly don’t want all my food to be white! Please, give me some colorful curries, spicy salsa and a colorful mix of salad greens and veggies. Our world is filled with an abundance of differing skin color, culture, and people. In the same way, there are no end of ways to show respect to others and participate in life's celebrations. The world is a beautiful blend of color, smell, and taste and experience. I want to see and learn as much of this world and its people as I possibly can in the years ahead. That includes experiencing even those places our President would dismiss as sh**hole countries. Everyone, including Hatians, Somalis, Nepalese, Guatamalans and a host of others, has something to offer and a new perspective to teach those of us willing to live with our eyes and hearts wide open.

Thailand Food Court

Thailand Food Court

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