Read about the adventures of the Thailand Mini Students on their second week of program!
What a week it’s been! The majority of it was spent at the lovely, environmentally conscious organization, NatureMind-Ed. Our homebase was Spirit Mountain, a lush tropical garden directly adjacent to a massive jungle-covered limestone karst. NatureMind is a project that inspires environmental connection and social and cultural sustainability to improve human health and nurture the Earth’s resilience. It was founded by a French man named Pierre and is run by him, his wife, and their two adventurous daughters (seven and eleven) along with the rest of their knowledgeable and incredibly hospitable staff. On our first full day, while on a walk, Eliana and Avery ended up adding to this wonderful family in the form of two adorable kittens who popped out of the jungle and proceeded to follow them. Upon presenting them to the family, their cuteness (along with the timeliness of the eleven-year-old’s golden birthday) lured the parents into officially taking them in as their own.
In addition to finding the kittens our first day, we participated in workshops about eco-awareness and sustainable living in the forms of composting, eco-bricks, and creating adobe bricks by hand - and foot might we add! Squishing the combination of soil, sand, water, and straw in our bare hands and feet brought so much joy and transported us all back to our childhoods of playing in the mud. That night we had the opportunity for an impromptu volunteer event at Krabi’s local “Food Fest.” We assisted NatureMind in educating and helping festival goers sort their trash in an effort for a “zero waste” event. An added perk of volunteering was sampling some of the food and drink stalls, as well as a stunning Krabi sunset on the beach.
The next morning saw us visiting a mangrove restoration area where we learned about the ecological characteristics of mangroves, their key adaptations, and their significance to the local communities. In the afternoon, we furthered our understanding by visiting a seagrass research site where we learned how seagrass has an enormous importance for regional communities who rely on seagrass ecosystems as well as the marine life that depend on it to filter sediments, nutrients, and pollutants and provide a buffer against extreme weather events. At both the mangrove and seagrass sites we were able to take part in data collection to contribute to Pierre’s research. The evening concluded by our Captain at the time, Jack teaching us how to play poker! While it was a bit of a struggle teaching all us as newbies at first, it ended up being an incredibly fun night with Grace taking home all the winnings. Her prize you ask? In addition to a big pile of rocks as poker chips, was a mango smoothie on Jack!
On Sunday it was out to sea for a project we were all excited about - coral propagation! We boarded our first of many, longtail boats (an icon of the Thai islands). While on board we learned about coral restoration efforts and even got to try our hand at propagating the coral. The scuba crew on board would swim down and grab rocks and broken off pieces of coral, and then we would affix one coral to each rock. After managing to complete approximately 45 propagations as a team, we enjoyed a scenic lunch at one of the most beautiful coves.
For our last full day at NatureMind we were wide-eyed and awake at 3:30am (okay maybe some of us were not so wide-eyed) for a sunrise hike up the Dragon Crest Trail. After a two hour hike in our headlamps, the daybreak over countless limestone karsts, mist arising through the jungle, and the shoreline in the distance did not disappoint! One of Pierre's daughters accompanied us on the trek and was supported by our entire group, but special shout out to Prerna and Grace for answering her countless questions and rockstar role modeling all the way down! After a tiring morning, upon return to Spirit Mountain we were met with a singing bowl sound spa to ease us into an afternoon of rest and relaxation.
Tuesday meant a travel day! It was off to island living for the next five nights on the fishing island, Koh Mook. What a wonder this little slice of paradise this place is! After settling into our bungalows we completed our second core session on environmentalism to bridge what we learned at NatureMind. Everyone did their own “eco-footprint” calculation, and we had a great discussion about alternative and/or complementary cultural narratives (we specifically focused on indigenous ways of knowing) that will support a sustainable future.
On Wednesday we boarded another longtail boat for a day on the turquoise blue water. Little did she know, but today would be the day we would get to see our highly sought after Nemo and Marlin clown fish! And the cute little fish in their anemone sure did live up to the expectation! The entire group agreed today was the best day of snorkeling thus far - tons of sea life and the biggest and most colorful coral we have seen yet! As it stands, we are officially over the two week hump of our time together. As our Thai guide, Art so wonderfully says on the daily, “Everything jingle bell!”