Tag Archives: driving in thailand

Coffee Journey 2013

Last weekend the Lorensen family and I were given the pleasure of being part of Akha Ama‘s Annual Coffee Journey.

Lee, the visionary behind this Socially Empowered Enterprise, organizes an annual trip to his hometown–a very remote Akha village on the top of one of the mountains in Chiang Rai province–so that his coffee loving patrons can experience first hand the journey our coffee beans take from plant to cup.

We were given the opportunity to actually participate in the harvesting of the coffee cherries and then watch the process of de-husking, washing, drying and sorting out of the beans, after which they are sent down the mountain to be roasted, packaged and sold.

Though I’ve been working and participating in the coffee industry for the last 7 years, I have never felt so knowledgable about those little beans.

Here’s a closer look into our experiences:

1.  Getting there and back. We started the commute in the back of three song-teos and after 2 hours of we transitioned into 4 4×4 trucks.  With 42 people packed into the beds of these trucks and we started going up this mountain.

Up, up, up.  Never stopping–up.  Muddy, muddy, muddy–up. One wrong move and we’re dead–up.

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Things to notice:
1. Tracy’s truck is going sideways.
2. Sudden Death.
3. Mud.
4. Clouds.

This is real life guys.

Fortunately, against all odds, we made it to the clouds.  And the temperature dropped about 20 degrees and for the first time in my stay in Thailand, I was freezing.  Our breathe was able to be seen.  No amount of telling me, ‘It will be cold on the mountain’ could have prepared me for this.

2. Our host.  The group of 42 of us were heartily welcomed into the Akha villagers homes for the weekend, however, they did request a separation of male and female guests, meaning that the Lorensen family was separated for the weekend and I reaped the benefit of getting to be roommates with Tracy, Iris and three other ladies.

This village, being as remote as it is, doesn’t get many Western visitors, so naturally, everyone was very excited to see who was spending the weekend in their guest room.

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Things to notice:
1. The condoms that kept growing in number next to Tracy’s pillow.
2. The window that we could not shut with happy on lookers.
3. Our kind host, with her magic string to help Iris sleep nice and quietly.
4. Our pillows were made out of rocks.
5. Iris is crazy.

Between language barriers (the villagers speak Akha and only a little Thai), cultural differences and the freezing cold, all we could do was laugh.  And laugh.  And laugh.

3. Sleeping.

photo-32

Things to notice:
1. The Thai girls’ conversation about bowel movements that I was able to understand due to my advanced language ability.
2. The old man in the window.
3. The thin, thin blankets provided for the very, very cold night.
4. Carla, (ex-military,) trying to answer my sleep talking mumbles while using a mosquito net for extra warmth.

So many funny things happened as we were trying to sleep.  It was so cold.  The room we were staying in was build out of wood and attached to the main home.  I fully expected to wake up with snow surrounding me, it was that cold.  The window and the electricity were not controlled by us, which meant ‘on lookers’ and lights turning on and off at the home owners delight.

I also forgot to inform Carla that I am quite the sleep talker, so my mumbles kept her up all night as she was trying to respond to the sweet nothings I was whispering in her direction.

Never in my life had I thought freezing to death a possibility in Thailand.

I thought about it a lot that weekend.

4. Coffee drinking.  Aka, coffee rations.

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In case you can’t read it:
Lee (behind the table): “And this, my coffee loving friends, is how you make drip coffee–the pour over method! NOW…share this cup among the 42 of you! Enjoy!”
Thai girl (purple): “Wow! I’ve never seen coffee prepared so hipsterly!”
Thai girl (blue): “Yay! Coffee Rations!”
Thai man: “I’m so excited to wait 37 minutes to drink my 1/4 cup of not hot coffee!!”
Caleb: “I drink a whole pot of coffee a day. By myself…”
Samara: “I was supposed to bring a mug? Pout.”

This is probably my favorite part of the whole trip.

One must keep in mind that all the people who came on this trip are lovers of coffee and part of the excitement coming on this trip is that we get to drink lots and lots and lots of it.

Well, it was one of those expectations vs. reality situations.

Coffee was provided.  Yes.  But as we are in a remote mountain village where electricity can not be depended on, the method of preparing coffee was the one cup-pour over method.  So, cup at a time, they made us coffee and then would split the cup with four or five of us waiting patiently in the cold.

I somehow missed the memo that I was supposed to bring my own mug, so I waited for my friends to get their share and then used their cups.  By the time you were given your ration the coffee usually wasn’t hot anymore, but despite all this, everyone was super excited and happy and impressed.

While Caleb, Tracy and I were laughing over the absurdity of this situation (42 people waiting in line for their share…) everyone else was so eager and didn’t seem to think there was anything unusual about the situation.

Oh the hilarity.

***

After our morning coffee rations we went on about an hour hike further up the mountain and spent the afternoon working the coffee harvest.  The 42 of us were able to harvest the amount that one of the villagers does in a single day of work.  We were obviously very efficient.

We then hiked back down, ate dinner and got snug back into our beds.  We woke up the next morning, had our rations and hopped back into those trucks for our frightful decent back into the city and then to our warm home.  The journey is over.

Unforgettable.

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Woah! I just got hit by a car!

you: “What?”

me: “Yep.”

you: “Really?”

me: “Yes.”

I got hit by a car while driving [with a passenger] on my motorbike…in the rain.

***

My friend Amy Learn came to visit for a week.  She travelled around the world with me on the World Race and now is part of Iris Cambodia.  She took this week to come, catch up, and relax.

And relax we did.

Aside from the necessary elephant riding, we have kept her time here pretty low.

But, Friday–we were going to live large.  See the city, experience Chiang Mai.  And I was going to get a haircut!  Living large!

Haircuts, Thailand and Samara aren’t always the best of friends and so it has been since March that I have put my curly locks into the trust and care of another; but I was reasonably calm about the whole affair and even asked the stylist to blow dry my hair straight.

#straighthairdontcare

After the salon experience was done we walked the streets of the city and thought it only fitting to get a massage.  This was our day.  🙂

A couple hours later we start the decent home in the rain.  No big deal…I drive in the rain regularly.

But that’s when it all happened.  I saw it coming.  I was driving in the ‘motorbike lane’ as a black hatchback starts coming into my lane at a pretty good speed.

My first instinct was to just get to the left, but there was no more space between the curb and I.

Second thought was slam on those brakes…but, there wouldn’t have been enough time, we weren’t going at a reduced speed.  If I slammed the brakes, Amy would fly.

Next and final thought, just try to speed up and get in front of her.

I didn’t know what else to do.  So I went for it.  Unfortunately, she was faster than me and very determined to be in my lane.  Collision.

***

This is where it gets confusing.

Her car took a beating.  My bike is just fine.

The angle at which we were hit—should have cause my bike to fall to the left and hit the curb (potentially trapping our legs between the curb and bike, and causing more injury,) somehow…my bike fell to the right and just tipped over.

The speed at which she hit us, should have caused one (if not both) of us to fly.  There was no flying.

My bike really just tipped over to the right.

Of course, we were on the bike, so having it tip over is no fun and slightly terrifying as you’re laying on the wet pavement watching all the cars zoom by…but I knew at that moment, it could have been so much worse.

I was not strong enough to lift the bike off of us and the lady just sat in her car.

That’s when weird thing number two happened.

This Thai man comes and squats down next to me, asking if I’m ok.

“I’m fine.  I just can’t lift my bike,” I say…in English.  Then he lifts the bike off of me.  At this point my arm is really weak for taking the weight of the fall, and so I couldn’t prop myself up, he lifts me up.

The lady was still in her car…so he goes to talk to her and then moves my motorbike into the parking lot of the gas station and leaves.

Good Samaritan?  perhaps.

Angelic Visitor? perhaps.

I don’t know.  But, I do know that I haven’t been able to stop thinking of him and am very grateful to him.

***

It turned out that, though I was completely mortified by the events and in some decent pain due to the lack of skin on my right leg, that I was in a much calmer state of mind than the lady that hit us.

She was freaked out.

She had admittidly just recieved a phone call and was getting her phone out of her purse when she hit us, she knew she was at fault, apologized and didn’t try to play any games about it.

She went into the gas station purchased all sorts of first aid supplies and cleaned up our wounds and took us home as I was in no shape to drive the bike back, she also gave me her phone number in case I decide that I need to go to the hospital or have any problems.

***

So much for my awesome [straight] hair day.

This wasn’t a fun experience.

Nor something that I want to experience again.

But, despite the fear and feelings of shame (I was driving my friend and we got hit by a car….) this experience has left me with feelings of complete gratitude and awareness of the Lord’s protection.

He was there.  Someone stopped my bike from falling to the left even though she hit us on the right.  Someone kept us on our seats.  And Someone lifted that bike off of our bodies.

Thank you God.  Thank you for taking care of us.  Thank you for your protection.  Thank you for your goodness.

***

here are some awesome pictures:

ImageImage

I really like these two pictures because they really don’t capture any of the reality of what my leg and arm look like.  Instead it just looks like I’m whining about a scarped knee.

 

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