Busy, busy being creative..!

Saturday 17 May 2014

My first week with Art Relief International in Chiang Mai

The week has flown by and it’s been a pretty busy one.

So what have I been up to so far?

Here’s a run down of what’s happened this week:


I had a welcome induction with Emma (Cultural Canvas Thailand) and Sarah – who is the Art Director for ARI (both lovey)  Ran a workshop at Wildflower home, A really beautiful place outside Chiang Mai for single mothers who come from difficult situations – you can read about that workshop here.
Wildflower Home

Met the rest of the team – Wad, Pepo & Clo. Wad is the Director of Art Relief and also one of the founding members. Pepo is the Arts Co-ordinater and translator. Clo is the driver who takes us to the office each day and also to all the workshops. Everyone has been so helpful and welcoming. Thank you. ;-)

First Thai lesson! Which was fun and hard at the same time. The words for ride and shit are the same. Kee. It’s only the ‘tone’ that you use to say them (High, Low, Rising, Falling) that makes the difference. Easy to get yourself in a pickle with the wrong pronunciation here!!

It rained. Hard. Power went out. I knew where the candles were. All ok. Power came back on after about 30 mins or so. Quite exciting!

The bugs here seem to like me. A lot. 


HOLIDAY! Vesak Day which is Buddha’s Birthday. So the office was closed and we had a day off. I was invited to go to visit a lake and go trekking but as I’m not a moped rider, was feeling pretty tired and didn’t actually fancy trekking in this heat decided to take it easy and only went out in the late afternoon/evening in search of some traditional celebration ceremonies at some of the many Wats (Temples). You know I think I am 'Watted' out already!
Riverside - cleaning up after the rain
Hurrah for ponchos. I deliberately went out in the rain. it was AWESOME.

ps there is a geko in da house!! Well there are actually MANY gekos in da house.


Not sleeping very well and keep waking up in the night ;-( Still being bitten even though I am spraying myself and covering myself up.

Ran two workshops on today. One at Hope home. I found this personally challenging as I didn't know how to relate to the children there as they all have special needs. I couldn't take any pictures here - but there will be a blog post about it on the Art Relief Blog soon

The second was at Starfish Country Home. Starfish aims to provide a quality education and living environment for children so that they can lead happy and productive lives. The Chiangmai Starfish Home currently has 31 resident children and about 40 day care children with some of these children whose mothers are in prison for various crimes, most of which are related to drug trafficking. Several other resident children come from desperate family situations. 

I enjoyed this a lot actually and the kids there were very smart and already had a pretty good grasp of English. They were aged 5-6. And sooo sweet! We made rainbow pictures. Again I couldn't take any photos here but there will be some on the ARI blog.  They also gave us some mango and sticky rice (another tick in the box of things to try whilst I’m here) it was delicious.

On Wednesday evenings it is a tradition to have a 'Family Dinner' at the volunteer house where the ARI and Cultural Canvas Team come over for dinner. It was really lovely thing for them to do. A really great way to get to know the team better and also an opportunity to ask any other questions that might come up. I’m already looking forward to the next one!


Thursday was Susie’s last day. Susie is from Norway and has been a volunteer with ARI for 12 weeks. We've been sharing the volunteer house for the past week. I felt sad even though I've only know her a few days. I think given the chance Susie would have happily stayed here as being here for three months she had really set up a life here.

One workshop today at Urban Light - a foundation which empowers boys to live a life outside the grasp of exploitation and trafficking, 
to continue a PiƱata making workshop. Each place we have been to so far we are welcomed with joy, smiles and enthusiasm. No matter how difficult their situations. 

Although I have been reading that this is the way in Thailand and to openly show feelings of upset isn't really the norm. That doesn't been to say they don’t feel anger, fear, sadness, depression and all other emotions. It just means It can be harder to see that inside they are suffering. Putting on a brave face. I guess a lot like in the UK really. I think that’s what’s been so great about what I've seen in the workshops so far. The opportunity to express these feelings in a safe way.

Was feeling rather light headed so have been taking electrolytes in my water. That has been helping, although I did wonder if I’d feel perky enough for my next Thai lesson and then good bye drinks with Susie.


The Thai lesson with my teacher Lah was again a fun and  a slightly crazy experience. She is such a character! I also learnt some Buddha stories and asked what The Creative Adventurer is in Thai. It is: Gaan awkbaep bpen sing taataai (there are high and low tones here but don’t know how to add in the lines to show that!)

Drinks at Bus Bar. Was  really lovely and a bit sad, evening at the rather groovy bar. Reminded me of a trip I took to Paris many years a go with my good friend Cress. Farewell for now Susie! Hope to see you in London!

L-R Clo, Susie, Pepo, Sarah & Me.

Skyping from here is better quality than from home! (hmmmm BT!)


BUSY! Mainly as there was a fundraiser this evening so there were some things to do for that. In the morning though I was preparing for my first solo (well not really as Pepo and Sarah were there thankfully!) workshop.

Had a very interesting meeting with Steve and Golf from Forru. Which is an organisation replanting the Chiang Mai forest. I found this particularly interesting due to my links with Trees For Life in The Caledonian Forest, Scotland. 

Today’s workshop was at BEAM - (Bridging Educational Access to Migrants) was founded to help meet the needs of Burmese migrant students who wanted higher‐level college preparation courses and advanced vocational skills training. Most students at the school also work at difficult full‐time jobs in order to make ends meet and are therefore engaged in high levels of study in addition to their workloads. 

These students have been looking at Art History. We choose Pop Art as the theme for today. I created an example and researched the topic to produce some background information. The students at BEAM have a good understanding of English – although it was still helpful to keep the content simple.

Pop Art. Theme for the BEAM workshop. Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait 

They created some great works and seemed to enjoy it. There are some very talented artists there.

Quick dash back to the volunteer house for me to change and eat before going to Small House Kafe for the evenings fundraiser. 

ARI run regular events like this for a couple of reasons, raising awareness of what they do, keeping their name known in the area and fundraising for a particular something they might need. In this case it was to help cover the costs of the exhibition space they are hiring in October for their big annual exhibition.

It was a fun evening although I did feel a bit overwhelmed at times when it started to get really busy.  Maybe I'm an introvert after all?

It was a place mainly visited by ‘Farang’ The Thai name for westerners and I met some really interesting people. One being a journalist (who’s name I can’t remember) who is actually from Turo, Cornwall and who works for a Burmese paper. She has lived in Chiang Mai for about two years.

The Chiang Mai City News photographer also paid a visit, some things were sold, faces were painted and people made donations. I don’t know how much was raised in the end but it had a relaxed vibe about it and raised awareness.

The DJ was mixing some tunes on a very cool piece of kit and I went to ask if he could mix in Pharrell‘s tune Happy. Was politely informed that it was cheesy and the DJ didn't like it. So I am officially ‘Un Cool’ hee hee. ;-0!

There are a couple of things I'm struggling with. Nothing massive but mainly - the heat, the bites (am covered in bites ;-( and having to constantly take my shoes on and off. It's not that I don't actually like this - I do. 

What frustrates me is that due to the fact I need to wear shoes with a strap or lace I'm so much slower then everyone else! (Tortoise and the Hare maybe I need to think about here?) I guess it just makes me feel awkward. 

I'm LOVING the fresh fruit, the friendly welcomes and the food and excited about what next week will bring. ;-) I am feeling like I am being well looked after by the team here.

Here's the ARI blog Link if you want to sign up to follow that blog too ;-)

Art Materials from Great Art - Thank you!

So nearly a week has passed already. Before I get into that though (I'm crafting a post about that now) I wanted to post a picture of Pepo - The Arts Coordinator and Translator at Art Relief International receiving the art materials so kindly donated by Great Art

Handing over the donated art materials to Pepo at Art Relief International
They were so grateful for these materials as although a lot of things are cheaper to buy here in Chiang Mai, getting good quality brushes like these and watercolour paint sets are expensive. They were VERY excited to be given them. 

UK company, Great Art donated 10 sets of brush sets and 20 watercolour tins to Art Relief International.

Am really looking forward to using these in some of the workshops. 

Thank you Great Art for being so generous. ;-) You can read about Pepo's role here

The office is pretty groovy and inspiring too..

Thursday 8 May 2014

I am here! In Chiang Mai!

I'm sitting in my guest house as I write this with the sound of crickets (and the occasional dog barking) in the background. I'm tucked away enough from the main street that I can't actually hear any traffic.

So I've made it (along with my luggage) and now the next part of the adventure begins. 
Here's a couple of photos and things that have happened so far...

And I'm off! Early start at Heathrow
At Heathrow Airport super early in the morning! (left home at 04.30am eek)

Went through security really quickly, thought it was going to be much busier

Was wondering if my hand luggage was heavier than the allowed 7kg when the lady at the check in desk said - hmm that's rather heavy - do you have a laptop in there? Yep. OK then that's fine. Off you go. *phew*

Having a loop on my hat would be useful so I could attached it to my bag (will sew one on while I'm here)

The flight to Abu Dhabi was pretty empty so I had a whole area to myself. Which was good as I watched The Lego Movie and there were lots of laugh out loud moments. Everything is Awesome!! la la la la. Had a great seat by the wing though and saw the slipstream over the wing for the first time. That was pretty cool.

When I booked the flight I some how booked myself a special Oriental vegetarian meal option - not quite sure how I did that - so it was a surprise when I was served first with this. 

Can't say it was very good though ;-( However, can't fault the service on the flight. I flew with Etihad Airways and they were very good.

But getting my food before everyone else was actually a bit of a treat on the next flight (I took three in total) as the flight was PACKED! I was seated between some young loves and on the other side a young girl of screaming age. I was grateful for my earplugs and sleep mask! Hurrah!

Had to hang about in Abu Dhabi airport for a bit to wait for my flight to Bangkok. The place was eerily quiet. Where is everybody? Interesting building though.

Waiting at Abu Dhabi airport
The flight was delayed. I couldn't quite understand why, wasn't very clear. We eventually set off. Was an ok flight - as I mentioned above thanks to the earplugs and eye mask!! 

I did get woken up by a lady speaking to me in Spanish and holding the plastic bag the airline blankets are supplied in. 

Having being woken up, I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I guessed she wanted the plastic bag? So just said fine. But really? To wake me up for that! Felt rather disorientated so must have been proper asleep. Hmm probably snoring too..maybe that's why she woke me! ;-0 Anyway, upshot was I missed the connecting flight to Chiang Mai.

Wasn't worried though, as long as I could let Emma know I'd be on a different flight. I was issued with a new ticket for a later flight then went in search of wifi and money exchange. Both sorted then it was time for my next flight. This time with Bangkok Air as it was a domestic flight. Again was pretty empty.

I'm the only one collecting luggage. Empty Chiang Mai airport
Arrive at Chiang Mai airport and I am the only one to collect international luggage. I had a sticker!

I get escorted to the collecting bay

There was no one else around

They turn on the conveyor belt

Nothing happens


A solitary bag appears...
and it's mine. 

*Hurrah* I do a little dance. 

The chap who escorted me to the baggage claim area gives me a funny look.

Emma from Art Relief is there to meet me. Another hurrah! And then she drops me at the guest house I'm staying at until I move to the volunteer house on Sunday

*phew* I'm here.

I check in, have a shower then go to sleep for a few hours.

Feeling perky get up around 16.00 local time (6 hrs ahead here) and go to explore where I'm staying. Thinking it's time for a cuppa.

This is the view of the Ping river from the guest house garden. Reminds me of Bristol. The water is the same colour. Bit hotter here though. Thank you to Andrea Jordan for recommending it. All good so far. Clean, simple, good location and very good price at £14 a night.

Decide to have some food too so ordered a Red Curry. DELICIOUS. Cost for the curry and a fresh lemon juice 120 baht. That's about £2.

Have been for a little explore up the road to check out where the markets are and the old city, but it started to get dark and seeing as my sense of direction isn't great at night figured it best to head back then have a proper day of exploring tomorrow. 

Looks like there are some interesting art exhibitions on to so will have plenty to see while I'm here. Oh yes and there's the place that makes paper from elephant poo. Gotta go there.

Bye for now!

PS You can still sponsor me. In fact I'd love it if you could. I'm nearly at 50% of my target!
PPS My security/criminal background check from Disclosure Scotland arrived in the post yesterday when I was already on my way! Grateful for scanners and email so Rich could send me a copy! Another *phew*

Wednesday 7 May 2014


Today I'm heading off to Thailand to spend 4 weeks volunteering with Art Relief International. 


I feel nervous

I feel excited

I feel tired - packing took way longer than I expected!!

All packed and ready to go!
OK - I haven't reached my target. Yet.  So will continue fundraising efforts while I'm away...;-)

Current amount raised £1,217 of my £2,500 target which is AWESOME! Thank you SO much to each and everyone who has supported me. You are AMAZING. xx

See you in Chiang Mai!