I spent the weekend living with a Karen family. The home-stay was part of our culture/language training. The Karen are an ethnic minority whose traditional land is divided by the Thailand/Burma boarder. It was an exhausting, difficult, fun and rewarding weekend. I stayed with a man named Khun Watit (NOTE “khun is a prefix used before names, it doesn't have a perfect translation, but its kind of like saying “Sir/Ma'am” or “Mr./Ms.”). He works with an NGO, and he's a bit of a community leader. He's soft-spoken, knowledgeable and incredibly wise.
Khun Watit's house is traditional Karen style. Completely made out of wood/bamboo. The roof is made out of leaves that are folded and tied into shingles. I was amazed. It poured rain for a little while but not a drop made its way through the roof.
It was amazing how closely knit the community was. There was constantly friends, family and neighbours coming and going from the house. I never figured out how big his family was. By the end of the weekend I couldn't even tell who lived with Khun Watit and who would just visit often. I'd ask people how they knew Khun Watit and they would say, “he's my uncle!” I didn't know if that actually meant he was their uncle by blood relation though, or if it just meant he was their “uncle in a friendly way. Apparently Karen families are huge!
Probably the biggest thing I'll remember about that weekend though was - Oh sheesh y'all did they ever know how to party! We put back a considerable amount of Karen whisky, I play a lot a guitar with a few other people they who knew how to play, and despite the language barrier we had a lot of laughs. It was a pretty sweet weekend, but I was also happy to crash as soon as I got back to Chiang Mai.