Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Thinking Globally This Summer ; Young Americans Exchange Ideas - and Even Sports - with People from Thailand, Guatemala, and Japan

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Thinking Globally This Summer ; Young Americans Exchange Ideas - and Even Sports - with People from Thailand, Guatemala, and Japan

Article excerpt

In Thailand, players learn more than hoops

American college basketball teams have frequently been criticized for taking lavish summer jaunts on schools' expense accounts.

Hoopsters from Arizona, Connecticut, and other Division I schools have surfed in eastern Australia, toured the Middle East, and woken up in villas on the French Riviera.

The women's basketball team from Carleton College, a Division III school in Minnesota, decided to buck the trend. Their wake-up call on their trip this summer came from the grunts of pigs passing by as villagers in a hamlet in northern Thailand led them into nearby rice paddies.

In June, the team embarked on a summer journey to rural Thailand, a trip designed to help dispel the idea of spoiled college sports teams and to foster cross-cultural exchange.

"There is this image of college basketball players as big-time performers, little different from pampered professionals ... We wanted to show we're far from that," says team coach Tammy Metcalf- Filzen. "We're traveling to learn about a different place and to give whatever we can."

Along with many of their parents, 12 of the 13 players on the Carleton team made the journey, which was paid for by the players and civic organizations and led by Michael Leming, an anthropology professor knowledgeable about Thailand.

After spending a few days in Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai, the team made its way to a Karen village in Thailand's far north.

The Karen, an ethnic minority living along the Thai-Burmese border, are one of the more colorful and isolated groups in Thailand.

Converts to Christianity, the Karen traditionally wear stunning multihued clothes and strands of beads, reside in remote, hilly areas, attend church diligently, and still cultivate rice by hand, using water buffalo as pack mules.

"I had given the players a reading list on the Karen, but they were still shocked by how basic the village was," Professor Leming says.

Most Karen in the village rise early, plant rice in submerged paddies, tend pigs, and haul water from moutain streams. The village has no running water or electricity. …

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