Na Nong Bong Village - Written by Sierra Schweitzer
Our first few nights in the village were indescribable. Within our first couple hours in Na Nong Bong we had already traipsed through the rice patty fields, hiked through their rubber tree grove, and climbed the mountain next to the village that has suffered the most from gold mining. Everything new we tried was more extraordinary than the last, and eventually I found myself enraged by the fact mining was one by one destroying each one of these resources unique to the Isaan region of Thailand. My host mom, meh Rote, I learned is the leader of the Radical Grandma Collective and absolutely everything about her screams equity and activism. I think I saw her on only one occasion not wearing a t-shirt correlating to anti-mining or human rights causes. Although communicating was very frustrating, as we left Na Nong Bong this morning I couldn't help but read her eyes and feel that she knew of my admiration.
My peers and I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to see legal action first hand in Thailand, and I was one of two who actually sat in during their court hearing against the mining company. Not only was this experience awesome, but I feel like it did an incredible job helping me wrap my mind around the villagers' struggle for rights. It was the little things that I seemed to be captivated by in Na Nong Bong like the delicious eggs laid by chickens whom probably walked past me (seeing that they are entirely free ranged), or the feeling of love that I got from eating on the tiled floor with my host meh and new friends. Our last night my friends and I ran through the forest to the rice patty field as a dozen local kids chased after us. We ran through the fields as the sun was setting and took in as much as we possibly could: the green vegetation that was glowing gold, layers of overlapping mountains in the distance, and workers finishing up their harvest for the day. The village home stay was dramatically different from what we had gotten to know in Khon Kaen, but taught me to challenge misconceptions on privilege and poverty in developing countries.