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Center for Global Justice Intern – Michael Aiello

Michael Aiello, 2L 
International Justice Mission, Thailand

Another couple of weeks have come and gone. I have done some pretty crazy things (riding an ostrich for one), and I can’t believe my time here is already halfway over.

A couple weekends ago the other interns and I went to a full day cooking class! It is really popular among foreigners and I can see why. The organization, Asia Scenic, picked us up and brought us to their city location where we chose our menu. I chose to cook pad thai, spring rolls, khao soi, tom yam, and mango sticky rice (I posted the recipe on the previous blog). They then brought us to a traditional market in Mae Rim to purchase some of the ingredients. I never knew there were so many different kinds of rice! Afterwards we drove to their organic farm. Situated in the front part of their property was the outdoor cooking pavilion. There were a couple of large dining tables, food prepping tables, and two cooking stations with seven stoves each. Everything was well organized and very clean. At the end of the day we all received a cook book in addition to some pretty good food. If anyone wants a recipe let me know!

Church life! Although less than 1% of Thailand’s population is Christian (the vast majority, 95ish%, is Buddhist), Northern Thailand has a vibrant church life. I’ve only been to two different churches, but the first one, the local Acts Church, left such a good impression on me that I’m calling it my church home for the summer. The congregation is predominately Thai, but there are enough ex-pats to warrant a simultaneous English broadcast. It is actually pretty cool. During the service, a guy sits in the back of the church and translates the sermon which is then broadcasted via a small radio transmitter. They hand out radios and headphones for people to tune in. Worship is sung in Thai and the lyrics are projected in both Thai and English. The service is two hours. The first 45 minutes is a western-style worship. Next comes announcements & testimonies. Then all the children go up front for a blessing before being dismissed for Sunday school. The pastor then leads us in Bible reading and delivers his sermon. So far he has been spot on. I really feel the spirit moving there. People sing with their arms raised and some of the children even dance in the aisles!

One of my side missions this summer is to discover the best coffee in town. My rules are simple. Drink it black and form an opinion. The best tasting coffee does not need to be masked behind sugar, cream, or artificial flavors. Its attributes must stand out on their own and be a pleasure to drink. So far I have been amazed by the coffee here.

Coffee is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Thailand, but it is the life blood of the north. I am not exaggerating when I say there is a cafe on almost every block. They are almost always privately owned and have a unique flare. One of my favorite coffee atmospheres is a cafe called Into the Woods. Any musical fan will absolutely love it. The entire place is based off the Stephen Sondheim’s production that mashed together all the classic western fairy tales.

If you are looking for the best tasting coffee, may I recommend either Hillkoff or Akah Ama. Both are produced by hill tribes and are completely organic. If you find yourself at Hillkoff, I recommend the Homlamai and Black Thai. Homlamai is a bold and complex yet surprisingly smooth peaberry. Black Thai is an expert balance of sweet, acidic, and bitter tastes with an initial subtle sour kiss. Akah Ama offers a wide variety of roasts and you cannot go wrong with any of them. That being said, my favorite thus far is grown by one of my coworkers! His family grows about 1,300 kilos of organic Arabica beans. Nothing complements doing law research quite as nicely as a fresh and great tasting cup of coffee.

Speaking of research I’m about neck deep in it now. I’m currently summarizing the Thai Penal Code on child sexual assault and hill tribe citizenship rights. I also got to attend a NGO meeting hosted by the US. Consulate Office that focused on the Trafficking in Persons Report. Some of you may know that Thailand was just downgraded to tier three—the lowest grade—by the U.S. State Department. That being said, I have to say the NGO community here is very professional and works well together.

Completely changing the topic and foregoing an elegant transitional sentence…I rode an ostrich last weekend. Yep! No joke. Don’t believe me, take a look at the picture. Try to photoshop that. There is an ostrich farm in Chiang Rai. They have a variety of animals and attractions, but the main event are the ostriches. For 150 Baht you can hop on an ostrich for about 5 minutes. In order to stay on you have to squeeze with your legs and hold on to its wings. My ostrich, KC, was a wee bit on the crazy side. She liked to run around in a circle and then come to an abrupt halt in front of the on lookers. Either she was trying to get me to fall flat on my 

face or just liked to be photographed. I think it was a little bit of both.