I'm sitting in a most peculiar cafe, just down the road from the DR office; it's delightfully retro, with a big Astroboy in the corner and fantastic thin-limbed leather chairs with funky cushions. There are kewpie dolls and gumball machines on display, and Bebel Gilberto is drifting through the ancient speakers. I just inhaled a gorgeous piece of coconut cake and a very good coffee: so good that I might have another. However, what makes the whole setup peculiar is the requisite portrait of the bespectacled Thai king on the whitewashed wall, and also the tropical downpour that began several minutes ago: this isn't, in fact, inner city Melbourne. My arm is resting on my motorbike helmet, since Bess dropped me off and is likely to pick me up again. Being chauffeured on the back of a motorcycle is a pretty decent way of getting around - I'll miss it.
I do like Chiang Rai. I like my sister, too. But I'll be leaving it, and her, tomorrow - yoicks. Yet another transition, yet another goodbye. So many in the last three months - and it hasn't gotten easier with practice.
I began my sponsorship of a DR rescued girl this morning. It was too good an opportunity to pass up. She's one of Bess's cafe trainees: she's sixteen, understands enough English to have a conversation, and is a cheerful, keen learner. Her name is Sunsanee and her story is both typical and tragic. Here's what I know: both her parents are farmers. Her father is sick with tubercolosis and is an alcoholic. She has nine siblings. She moved to Chiang Rai to find a job to pay off a large debt incurred by her parents, and ended up working in a bar, becoming exposed to the sex trade. Before being rescued by a DR team, she experienced things no child should ever encounter.
Now, she lives in one of the DR homes, where she's learning English, training to work in the cafe, and discovering what it's like to be loved unconditionally. She's acquiring skills and community for life. I get to help finance that - what could be better? Yes, I know I'm living on a minimal wage that is provided by my supporters - but I don't think they're the kind of people who will begrudge this small expenditure.
You'll see a link to Destiny Rescue on the right of the page. There are lots of girls (and a few boys) who need sponsoring, both in Thailand and elsewhere. I've seen firsthand how donated money is used: all foreign workers here are volunteers and self-funded, which means that 100% of your money goes directly to the welfare of the child, rather than administrative costs. This is a grassroots Christian organisation with great accountability and integrity. They make it easy to sponsor kids. Check them out!
Big, fat, bucketing rain - I might not be going anywhere for a while.