Wildflowers in Thailand
I have always perceived plants to be an absolutely fascinating force of nature! The fact that something living without a brain maintains the instincts to grow, reproduce, wrap around a fence, heal, have texture, produce scent, change colors, and even move is incredible! But what I love the most are flowers, especially the wildflowers; the flowers you see growing in the ditches along side of the interstates or in the cracks of the asphalt of a grocery store parking lot.
What Makes a Wildflower a Wildflower Anyway?
1. a flower of an uncultivated variety or a flower growing freely without human intervention.
ex./ "fields of wild flowers"
So essentially, a "wildflower" is a flower that grows in the wild, meaning it was not intentionally seeded or planted; like a dandelion you'd find in a cow pasture or morning glories growing around the iron fence of an abandoned house down the road. They are the flowers that have adapted to continue growing in an environment that's constantly changing around them without an external force helping them. They can overcome anything that blows their way. When they're stepped on, they heal. They share their beauty through the seeds that leave behind.
While in Thailand, I was fortunate to have encountered a whole new meaning for "wildflower."
This February, I found myself in wildflower heaven when I walked down the streets of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Fruits, trees, vines, and flowers were growing everywhere! Oh. My. Goodness. I was like a 6 year old in a candy shop. So many colors, textures, and smells. Talk about sensory overload!
Just as I used to do while walking around my grandmother's garden, I would instinctively ask, “what’s the name of this one?” Or “wait, let me Google this real quick.” But after a while, I realized it didn’t matter what the name of each flower was. They were all special and unique wildflowers.
And, I quickly discovered that so were the people I was surrounded by; especially those I met through my opportunity to volunteer at The Wildflower Home.
The Wildflower Home
Located 30 minutes outside of Chiang Mai, the Wildflower Home is essentially a place of refuge for women "who are either pregnant or have very young children, and come from crisis situations such as pregnancy out of wedlock, domestic abuse, and severe poverty." This home is unique in the way that they care for the mothers and children who seek refuge by allowing them to stay for as long as they need to learn the skills needed to grow strong enough to live and support her family on their own. The home is volunteer based with people coming and going all of the time helping out in areas of childcare, organic farming, teaching vocational skills, cooking, and really anything that could help the mothers prepare them for self-sustainability.
Planting My Own Seeds
As a volunteer at Wildflower Home I had the privilege of teaching the mothers some vocational skills. I was asked to present a craft or skill that was low cost in materials and that preferably incorporated some form of recycled materials. I had several great ideas, but the one that made the most sense was demonstrating the craft of making textured paper out of recycle scraps of newspapers, magazines, leaves, and other fibers. Essentially, I wanted to open the doors for understanding the possibilities of taking something that has been used and turning it into something even more beautiful.
Coincidentally, when I arrived to teach my craft, there was another visiting volunteer there who was teaching the mothers how to bind books for note books. How perfect was the timing to connect these two ideas?
By teaching these two vocational skills around the same time, the mothers are now able to adapt and combine the new concepts of book binding and paper making. With practice, some personal touches or modifications, and follow through, this could lead to a longterm business for them and their family.
These Woman Are the Real Wildflowers
I fell in love with this place and the people connected to The Wildflower Home. When I arrived to teach my craft, I knew in advance that these women could speak little to no English. My brief workshop was purely demonstration based. I was honestly a bit nervous. However, the mothers I taught that day impressed me far beyond belief. They picked up on everything I showed them very quickly after the first demo with very few questions. What impressed me even further, though, was that each of these mothers were holding, feeding, soothing, and entertaining their children throughout the whole workshop. Talk about multitasking!
These women came from extremely difficult backgrounds where they were knocked over and trampled on. It was all them that decided to stand back up, search for a better life, adapt to their surroundings, and work toward positive growth. Very much like a wildflower! In fact, as any real wildflower, no storm could destroy them.
A Few Extra Seeds
This experience at the Wildflower Home inspired me to do more. In the last week of my stay in Thailand, I decided to paint a mural on one of the walls in the children’s outdoor daycare area.
I created a beautiful design in Photoshop ready to project onto the wall. But, as we all know by now, nothing goes according to plan. There was no power source strong enough to power up the projector in the location of the daycare. I was faced with the decision to either give up on the project or challenge myself to a free-hand painted mural. Of course I went with the latter! With a few helping hands from my Remote Year family, we knocked it out in just 2.5 days.
There was something so incredibly liberating about creating something from scratch. My imagination was free to wander where it wanted, with no preconceived boundaries or lines to trace. The process of painting this free-handed mural was a wildflower project nonetheless. I exercised the exact definition of what a wildflower is. Plus, the painting was full of wildflower imagery! Can someone say wildflower inception???
Reflecting on my experiences at the Wildflower Home and even my whole month in Thailand, many lessons and ideas resonated with me. What stood out the most is the idea that, in some ways, each of us on Remote Year are like wild flowers. We all come from a difficult background; some more broken than others. We all came on Remote Year for a reason: searching for change. Each of us had encountered tornadoes, hurricanes, and the occasional summer storm. But, no matter how strong the wind was, how many times we were trampled on, how deep we were flooded over by the rains, each of us has been strong enough to choose to rise up, flourish, and grow.
As we, Remote Year wildflowers, travel the world, our souls are scattered by the wind. We’re wild and free. We tend to grow between the cracks of cobblestone in each city we encounter. Our leaves and petals may fall, but they’re only seeds of remembrance being left behind; encouraging us to move forward, grow taller, and dream harder. Each of us on Remote Year are wild, difficult to find, and impossible to forget. We each have our own plans to make everything beautiful. We are beautiful wildflowers.