Sa was dee krub! ‘Hello’ in Thai. The 2009 international build in Chiang Mai, Thailand, is off to a great start. We have a very strong contingent for this year’s Habitat for Humanity project. Joining me this year are more than 65 employees from various functions, departments, cities and countries along with one very special customer and his guest.
Our first day in Chiang Mai was spent enjoying a true Thai experience at Maesa Elephant Camp about 30 minutes outside of the city. The elephants were amazing. They are highly trained and engaging to the audience. The elephants performed a detailed show for us—including painting portraits, throwing darts, playing socceer and more. The best part of the camp was a 30 minute elephant ride around the site, going up and down hills, crossing streams. My partner on the ride was flight attendant from TAM–Ann. Ann and I had a great time on our 22 year female elephant.
After the elephant camp, we had a police escort to the official Mekong Build Opening ceremony at Royal Flora palace. The Royal Flora palace is breath-taking and immaculate with a lot of flowers, plants, shrubs and art work. The opening ceremony was held for all of the 2,000 plus volunteers from around the world, with the largest representation from the United States.
Our wonderful host kicked off the ceremony with a taste of Thailand in an open area market featuring local appetizers, dessert, and drinks. The food was delicious. My personal favorites were rice fried dough nuts and grilled rice cakes.
The opening ceremony included an up close and personal fireworks show featuring 82 fireworks to honor the King’s 82nd birthday on December 5. The evening’s highlight was a welcome by President Jimmy Carter. President Carter gave a great speech on the importance of service and giving back to others. The President acknowledged Delta Air Lines’ generous support and the volunteers in the audience. Needless to say, we cheered the President for his personal “shout out”.
The evening ended with a wonderful show of local songs and dances. The week definitely started off with a bang. Now, its time for sleep and the great work ahead of us –building six homes in 5 days!
Director Finance DGS