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 ;-)


  1. Wow, so much has happened in a week. Can't quite believe you're over there on your own in that heat with temples and geckos. Well, not alone, with such lovely people around. Great to hear about all the workshops you're doing. Enjoy the mangos! xx

  2. I KNOW Richard! Has been a lot actually and no wonder am feeling a tad tired out! The mangos are sooo good! Hope to be able to share some more photos from the workshops soon xx

  3. So lovely to have an update! Sounds like such a good week - despite the insect bites; quite a challenge. The pics are great too - can you bring me back that gorgeous dog in photo 6?!
    Inspiring stuff. sending lots of love xx

  4. It's great to hear how it's all going. Well done on your first week. I expect the time is going to start going very quickly - enjoy it! Cress X

  5. Sounds like a nice variety - and some very colourful photos :) Mosquitoes are evil, I sympathise! (I can find them anywhere, even in countries they don't live). Enjoy week 2 :) Nina x

  6. Wow Morwhenna, what an action packed week! Have a great time this week and I hope the bites get better soon xxx

  7. Definitely an action-packed week, Morwhenna - and I love the picture of the dog amongst the meditating statues!

  8. Sounds a full, action packed week, loving all the blogs and the photos. Mossies love me too, so if you find any remedies, let me know! Enjoy your adventure week 2!!