Greetings from Tacome Pai, an organic farm in northern Thailand, just outside the very touristy town of Pai (which I have not yet ventured into) and four hours north of Chiang Mai (which, yes, I finally left—at least temporarily).

Here on the farm (which is also a guest house) we cook our food outside on fires, sleep in huts, husk rice (it was just harvested and we came specifically for the harvest festival, which ended last night and featured lots of great music), drink homemade (not by me!) rice whiskey and, yes, have wireless access (though I am the only one traveling with a laptop).
Many of the others staying at the farm are helping out with work and cleanup from the festival today but I am loafing a bit (OK, completely), as I am finally getting to work on finishing all the half-written (OK, barely-written) blog posts I started earlier in the trip.

So I hope to post those soon. This one is just an update since I haven’t posted anything but photos in so long. Part of the reason for my lack of written communication was that I did a two-week course in Thai massage at the Old Medicine Hospital in Chiang Mai, which was actually quite hard work.

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We learned how to make herbal compresses on our last day of massage school.

I passed all my tests and now have a certificate but can guarantee you this does not mean I am actually qualified to do anything. Everyone passes. And the standards for the foreigners are clearly much lower, I think, because a) they assume we will not be working as masseuses and masseurs in Thailand (where the profession is regulated by the government) and b) none of the teachers’ English is really good enough to grade the essay questions on our exams. In fact, one French guy (who spoke less English than the Thai instructors) wrote his in French—which I thought was fine since, as I said, I am convinced they don’t actually read them anyway.
 

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Thai massage school graduation ceremony: dot on forehead, string on wrist, certificate in hand. Actual skills? Not so much.

We don’t know if they did read them and presumably never will (though we do know they didn’t actually read the homework we had to bring in and get stamped every day). But we all graduated and got certificates and celebrated on Friday. Then I came up here to the farm for the festival with three other farang (foreigners, ie me and all the other non-Thais) from my class (we had both locals and farang in our class, whereas some of the other schools are pretty much all farang).

It’s been fun and relaxing (except for the foot-powered rice husking machine, which I personally found to be a bit of a workout, though everyone else complained only of the monotony).

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Children from some of the local hill tribes performed traditional dances at the festival.

Not sure how long I will stay, but as a potentially-needed forewarning, I will just mention the cases of two people I’ve met here: 1) a Korean woman who planned to stay a week or two and has been here three months and 2) a German guy who planned to stay one month and has been here four.

Anyway, as some of you who’ve asked or checked the blog on your own know, I’ve been posting ‘photos of the day’ on a semi-regular basis. I only post one at a time so as not to crowd the homepage, so if you are interested, you can check the archive by clicking above or here miandering.com/photo-of-the-day.

That’s all for now. Hope you are enjoying the holiday season!

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