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I hate the roosters around here. Okay, so I don’t like using the word hate, but I strongly, strongly dislike these particular roosters. Now I haven’t spent a heck of a lot of time around roosters, but to my knowledge, they start all their racket at sunrise. Not at 3 in the morning. It was as if the damn thing was circling our hut and taunting us. That, combined with the cold mountain air, and the constant wonder if a snake might try to crawl on in and warm up next to me, made for a restless sleep.

I crawled out of bed in the chilly dawn and met with Derek halfway up a path. He had just come back from helping a few local children fix the chains on their bicycles. We found Say and a small group of us went off into the fields below with black powder rifles looking for birds for the village. Once again, our hunting skills proved futile. Thank god we don’t have to hunt for our food on the regular or we might be vegetarians. A little practice and I’m sure we would be alright.

After we made it back, Say made everyone an egg and toast breakfast accompanied by fresh fruit. And while we ate he prepared a noodle lunch, which he wrapped in banana leaves so we could store them in our bags during the trek out. After breakfast was devoured, a few of us went and sat with Mama and a few other women from the village one last time. They gave us handmade bracelets which would become the first of many I would collect on my wrists. Then we went up to the school to give the children the puzzle we brought for them. They showed us that they could count up to ten in English and recite the alphabet. When we pulled out the puzzle they went mad and as soon as I opened the box it was all hands in for as many as their little paws could grab and off they went. I’m not quite sure they were at the age where sitting and putting together a puzzle is their idea of excitement but they did seem to just enjoy looking at all the individual pieces and trading the bits amongst themselves and just tossing them around. All of the children we see don’t have much, but that doesn’t stop them from romping around their playgrounds with giant smiles on their faces. It wouldn’t have been right unless we had one last taste of fresh happy water on the way out of town. So we did.

Then it was on to another 10km hike mostly downhill through deep woods and rice fields. Say made chopsticks from bamboo for our lunch and picked berries for us to eat along the way. We perched up in a small hut for lunch about halfway through that overlooked the wide valley below. These amazing views are becoming more frequent and I’m not opposed to it. As we came up the last hill we spotted our truck around the bend. The two English girls were waiting with the driver. They had to be lifted out of the village because of the injury to the one’s shin.

Next it was on to bamboo river rafting. We had two rafts so we split into groups of four. Shortly into it our guide bailed and Derek took over, manning the front, steering with a bamboo rod. I must have fell off the raft a dozen times on the way down. The water was shallow in some spots so a few times we had to abandon the raft and maneuver it to a more navigable path. Tons of falling and flipping and tips and turns and we reached the end with a few bruises. We picked up a couple victory beers and packed back into the truck and barreled back to Chiang Mai.

Upon our return the staff of our guest house met us with a cheer and some hugs. That night we went out to an area called Zoe’s for a few drinks, made some friends with a few Scottish and English, and called it a night. The past two days had been exhausting, but what an adventure it turned out to be. The next day we would get to do what I have looked forward to the most: roll around in a river with elephants. I had no idea what it would actually be like, but I like not knowing and finding out. Having things to look forward to and being excited for them, big or small, is what makes life go on. As Paulo Coelho put it, “When each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises.”

As Ever, J. Hart

“The world is built on smiling darlings. Every man could look grim. But as long as the women are smiling, so the globe spins.”