Songwut’s shoulders sagged under his backpack as he approached his schoolhouse. Empty again. He’d have to join his father in the rice fields instead of learning from his teachers, who seldom showed up for work.
This wasn’t what 9-year-old Songwut’s father wanted for his son. “My dream is for my son to go to school and learn to be a mechanic,” he says. “Of course, if he doesn’t want to do that, I understand. But a father can have dreams for his son, right?”
But economics and geography threaten his dream for Songwut to leave their village of Kotah, Thailand, to study and return to become the village’s only mechanic. As the hot season changes to monsoon season, Kotah becomes difficult to reach from outside cities — where most teachers and doctors live. The rains begin to isolate the village by washing out its one long, winding dirt road. The mud traps any vehicles that try to pass. The best way to reach Kotah during this season is on an elephant. The other way is to walk, fighting the thick foliage and venomous snakes of the Umphang jungle.