Man donates time to GIVE

In May 2015, Tyler Hinton, 22, of Cortland traveled to Thailand and Laos with Growth International Volunteer Excursions — GIVE — of Seattle. He raised $3,500 toward his trip.

Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is an energetic city, Hinton said. He remembers bars with outdoor music and dancing. He and a friend visited “Tiger City,” where Tyler lay down with a well-sedated tiger and played with her cubs. They also went for a three-mile ride on an elephant at an Elephant Camp, where Tyler learned how to guide the elephant with a tap on the right ear to go right or on the left ear to go left.

After their week of sightseeing, Hinton and his friend met the rest of the GIVE group in Chaing Mai, Laos. There were 17 young people, 20 to 28 years of age, from various U.S. states. The group’s mission was to help a boarding school construct a dormitory and to tutor young children.

They taught elementary mathematics and beginning English. They lived in huts on the campus with wooden floors and mosquito netting in lieu of screens on the windows. Hinton said the children were well behaved and eager to learn.

Hinton said he found Laos to be cleaner and more scenic than Thailand. Chaing Mai, Laos, and Bangkok, Thailand, are about 1,000 miles north of the equator and he found Thailand to be very humid and warm. Laos, being at a higher elevation, was not as hot but there were rain showers every day.

“There was greenery all around you,” he said. Individual houses and businesses of Chaing Mai were interspersed among jungle trees, even in the town. “The Laotians are respectful of their environment.”

In a village where they stayed with local families, Hinton met the giant huntsman spider, which has a leg span about the size of a dinner plate. As he was going to bed one evening, Hinton saw one on the wall above him.

Wrapping his mosquito netting all around himself, he stood on his cot and called for help. Someone came and killed the intruder with a shoe, he said.

This village of about 700 people, Muang Ngoi, was reached by boat on the Mecong River. It was on the newly developing Laos power grid, and it had one light bulb, which was in the mayor’s house. He was the one who took care of the GIVE group, even cooking their meals for them.

The group saw many beautiful Buddhist temples, he said. The monks in their orange outfits were always silent. Hinton said he was blessed by a monk using a banana leaf dipped in oil.

All the food the monks ate for a week was donated by the villagers. The GIVE group joined villagers in the weekly Giving Ceremony, during which they knelt alongside the road with food. The monks silently walked by holding out sacks into which the people placed the food items.

“This experience made me appreciate what we have here in America and gave me a new perspective,” Hinton said of the trip. “There was satisfaction in knowing we had impacted over 100 children in a positive way. There was such a welcoming environment and the people of Laos were so friendly, I felt safer there than I do here at home and I’d go again in a heartbeat.”

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