Natalie Cataldo
Natalie Cataldo
Thailand 2018 - 2019
Sawadee Ka! My name is Natalie Cataldo, and I am in Thailand serving as a grant writer for the Wildflower Home in Chiang Mai and the Good Shepherd Youth Center in Chiang Rai. The sister organizations provide free long-term housing, education, recovery programs, and legal assistance for young women and single mothers who have sought help from dishonorable treatment (i.e. racial discrimination, domestic violence, etc.). I am truly honored to be given the opportunity to work with these organizations! Read More About Natalie →

Believer – Emily King

Hey friends and fam!

I hope things are going well for you. It’s been a crazy few weeks here in Thailand, and to be honest.. it’s been kind of tough. I’ve uncovered that some of the practices of my organization are not what anyone would hope for them to be, and I am saddened by the reality that this is not known to many. Before I go on, let me say that I am 100% thankful to be here; 100% thankful to be learning so much; 100% grateful for the chance to be within a culture I knew so little about. Truly. I could start writing essays about everything that I am seeing and learning (in fact, I will be). I have a lot of stories that I feel will be useful to look back on (maybe during my masters/PhD program or after as… Dr. Cataldo heh). But as an outsider, young person, and a person raised under different cultural values, my voice is not significant here. And it is hushed a lot of the time. I spend a lot of my time away from work processing the challenges and issues that I am seeing with those who are wiser than me (and those who believe I do have a voice worthy of attention). But I don’t want to hide this information from those who are tuning into my journey here in Thailand from afar or maybe looking back on my writing in the future (looking at you future Lumos travelers!). My blogs for this Lumos page are going to take a new direction, and I *to my best ability* will outline some of the things I am seeing that can be incredibly destructive in a working environment, especially one where peoples emotions are irrevocably attached to serve a vulnerable population. 

In a vague manner, I’ll be sharing some of my personal experiences that are changing – or maybe strengthening –  my perspective on how an organization should conduct itself. After this post, my blogs will give more attention into the rainy days happening here than just the rainbows. I’ll be compiling and organizing my thoughts/stories for the next post. Until then, here is a more cut and dry layout of the last few weeks. 

Getting to be in Chiang Mai during Loi Krathong and Yee Ping was really special. Loi Krathong is a Buddhist holiday that gives respect to the water spirits that have blessed the people of Thailand in the past rainy season. The holiday is also a time for people to give away any anger, hatred, or frustrations they may have been holding on to by symbolically letting a krathong (a small boat made out of leaves) float away in the Ping River or by cutting a piece of their hair and putting that into the river. In the pictures I posted you will see some of the thousands of lanterns that are lit to celebrate Yee Ping. This festival, which is held following Loi Krathong, has the same premise of one ridding themselves of their past ills, misfortunes, frustrations. When a Buddhist person releases the lantern while simultaneously making a wish, it is believed that the wish may come true based on the merit the said Buddhist has achieved in the past year. Most of my friends were not Buddhist, so we decided to watch everyone give away their lanterns (and dodge the hot wax that drips from them). 

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Opening ceremony at the Loi Krathong Festival!

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The best crew! I am so thankful to have made friends with some awesome Thai’s- View, Nat, Mim, and Pi Nouar. They have taught me so much and they are really kind to us.

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Loi Krathong/Yee Ping

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Hundreds of thousands of lanterns are lit during two nights of the holiday. During this time, no planes are coming in or out of the major cities to prevent the lanterns from getting in their way (this has happened before). They go really high!

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My family will be here for the Holidays, and I am so excited to be with them. I recently discovered that I’m not great at getting out of “work mode.” All throughout my education, I would procrastinate completing assignments until the very last hours of the weekend, or I would discuss tasks that were pressurizing or tedious to my peers if I came across them outside of school. In some ways, these tendencies have transferred into my work life (I guess you could call it volunteer life, but I would argue that my position goes a lot deeper). During a recent video chat with Thandi, spokesperson for the Lumos Committee and Director of Global Education at Belmont, she shared with me that it was easy to detect I was carrying around a lot of stress and frustration from work into my personal life. In a wise and gracious manner, she shared with me a few tips on how to preserve my personal life in a time when my work life feels so heavy and complicated. For example, not talking about work outside of work (at least in large increments). Doing that puts me right back into my desk chair. Another tip was to plan out ways to fulfill the rest, adventure, and learning that makes my heart feel whole (in accordance to serving others).I know that I will be able to fully unplug when I am with my family. Counting down the days!

Surprisingly, I haven’t gotten sick from the food here in Thailand yet. I’ve heard all sorts of horror stories from friends who live here or have traveled in Thailand about food poisoning or stomach issues they had while here. Although I haven’t come dealt with food poisoning, I have had my fair share of other sicknesses. I currently have a cold and no voice, and last week I showed up at the hospital looking all cute with one kankle from a bug-bite that became infected. My immune system has definitely been off-balance since I arrived, and I will now focus a good portion of my time away from work to build up my immune system here. I know my last post said “Somebody send me their halloween candy,” but now I beg of you DON’T. Don’t do it! Even if you weren’t thinking about it  beforehand, stop thinking about it now! I can’t eat it because I am weak and anymore sugar will compromise my immune system more!  STAHHP!!

The new home for the mothers will be finished ahead of schedule! Maybe March now?

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Inside one of the two mushroom houses on the property. We grow mushrooms to sell in markets and to provide food for our home. They give our meals a surplus of nutrition, and this is one way the WFH teaches the women about running an agricultural operation. The mushrooms grow out of these starter bags filled with sand, nutrients, and more (that I don’t know).

A look inside the Chapel at the Wildflower Home.

A look inside the Chapel at the Wildflower Home.

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Where history was made. I learned how to cook.....

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TOM YUM SOUP

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CHICKEN PAD THAI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading and caring! I will write soon.

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2 thoughts on “Believer – Emily King”

  1. YES NAT!!!
    Your pictures are AMAZING! I especially love the lantern ones, the photo of the chapel, and the ones of the food;)

    Also, love your honesty in this post. Can’t wait to hear more about your journey.

    love love love you and miss you much

  2. Your blogs give us insights into the challenges of going to another country as a worker versus a traveller, with a mission to serve rather than be served. Thank you for sharing the rain and the rainbows !
    Love that you are acquiring language and cooking skills! Can’t wait to witness those skills in one week!!

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