Sunday, January 25, 2009


I had an awesome time today, so i just thought I would write before it gets forgotten with the passing of the program! Today was our "free day," so I ended up sleeping in late (first time waking up past 6:30 am while i've been here!), washing my laundry (in the sink), going to an optional Thai class, going to a food market, and then going to this really cool agricultural fair on the KKU campus. This university is HUGE - it could take more than an hour to walk across the campus. We took a "cab" to the fair - which was us sitting in the back of a pick-up truck - and the whole thing was like state fairs at home, but Thai style. There were ostriches, a ton of really cute puppies for sale (only about 1 or 2 US dollars...tempting!), Buddha statues, crocodiles, a deer in a cage, really nice furniture, clothes, and OF COURSE, bugs to eat. i ate a cockroach, and it was disgusting. However, a couple of my friends and I made a pact at the beginning of the program that we would try anything that was presented to us. So, I tried it! It was crunchy and kind of tasted like a weird form of banana. But the thing that really got me was the legs sticking in my teeth. eewww. My group of friends also ate scorpions, crickets, and other bugs. Although this pact has led me to try really gross foods, it has made me eat things that I definitely wouldn't otherwise, so that is a good thing!!

That's basically it, I am off to bed soon and then I have to wake up early for KKU day, where we have to dress in our polite finest (skirts below knees, collared shirts, no sleeveless shirts, etc) and get our IDs for the university. Then we head off to our homestay! i am really excited because there is a kid in my family who is pretty young! The first homestay didn't have any young children - just a 15 year old boy who was really scared of us hah - so i am bringing coloring books, and clay to play with them. Alright off to sleep on my exceptionally firm mattress! Hope all is well with everyone!

sawatdee ka

I am now in Khon Kaen, which will be my homebase for the rest of the trip. Since I last wrote there have been many adventures, but I will highlight a few. First, during our orientation in the mountains, some of my friends and I decided to go into "town" when we heard music from our resort. We heard a drumbeat and folloed it over a fence, and down a road for 15 mintutes where we found a group of Thais singing kareoke and drinking. They were cleaning up the party when we got there, but as soon as we got there they yelled "FARANG!" (foreigner), and gave us beer. In true friendly Thai fashion, not only were we given beer, but as soon as we took a sip of it, they would come over and refill our glasses to the brim. It was one of those random spontaneous experiences that I know I will remember for the rest of my life. We danced with them (they kept doing the chicken dance - i think that's what they thought americans liked to do hahh), drank with them and they got us to do kareoke - a good mix of madonna, backstreet boys, and other classics. Then, after drinking and laughing at our lack of Thai language skills, they asked for our phone numbers (which we ddidn't have) and wanted us to come back and meet their families. Oh, and it turns out that one of the men we were talking with was the mayor of the province where we were. We didn't end up going with them, but it was a great time!!

Then, we went to our homestay, which was in an amazing community of about 40 - 50 people. This community, Nong jan, is illegally located in the national forest preserve. I guess what happened is that they had been living there forever, but the government decided that the land needed to be preserved, so they told the community that unless they could come up with legal documents proving that they had been there for more than 50 years, they would have to move. Of course this place, which doesn't have electricity or running water, does not have legal documents, so they are in a constant worry of whether they will have to move. This town was incredible - they are completely self-sustaining (raising cows and chickens, getting milk and eggs from that, large gardens providing vegetables, etc). It was so cool to see a place that is completely independent, but at the same time completely dependent on its members. I had a host mom who didn't speak any English, but she taught me how to cook som tam, a classic green papaya salad in Isaan (province in the North-East of Thailand), in addition to pig liver, fish-pepper paste, and other SPICY foods. we have learned that an important phrase is "mai pet" (not spicy), even though what they consider not spicy is probably spicier than any food at a Thai restaurant in the states. We also got to shower..A LOT. Thai women shower 2-3 times a day, so as soon as we arrived in the village we were told that we were dirty and needed to "AP NAM!" My host mom was so nice and so smart, and really welcomed me into the home fully. Having experiences like that makes you think about the hospitality in the states, and how we can be so cold to people. These men, women and children met us, and within 5 minutes were hugging us, teaching us how to cook, and asking us deep personal; questions about our lives. All in all, it was amazing homestay, anmd i wish we coul;d have stayed longer!

We got to Khon Kaen yesterday, and I met my rooommate, who is a French major at KKU (Khon Kaen University). She is really nice and shy, and doens't speak almost any English, so I will learn a lot of Thai! We went out to a bar with our roommates last night, which was a lot of fun. I love how in one night you meet 20-30 people here just because they are all so friendly! Tomorrow we leave for another homestay for the week, so I will write next weekend probably.

Hope everyone is enjoying the winter - it is "winter" here, and yet it is 80 degrees every day! But the Thais still wear winter coats! Alright, ill write soon!

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I am finally in Thailand! It is an amazing city, and really cool to look out of our hotel room and see temples and shrines, instead of only typical city buildings. I got here a day before my program started, and met up with a few of the people from my program who also decided to explore a little beforehand as well. There were about 8 of us there (my program has 30 people), and we spent the first day (Friday), walking around the city. The best part of the day was going on a boat ride through Bangkok, which went to a "floating market." We found out later that the floating market was closed that day, but we still got to tour around for 2 hours and see parts of Bangkok that are usually not seen by tourists. We also got to meet up with some of the program interns (people who went on this program in college, and are now working for CIEE after they graduated) and went out to dinner and a bar. One funny thing that happened at the bar was an interaction with a little boy (he looked about 8 or 9) who was selling roses. In the States, when people come up to you to sell stuff on city streets, they are usually just brushed away. But here, everyone was so friendly that it really took me aback. We talked to him for 5 minutes about where he is from, where he usually sells roses, etc. And then, when Tyler (the guy on my program who he was trying to sell to) said he didn't want a rose, the boy said that he would thumb wars him to see what happened. If the boy won Tyler would have to buy two roses, and if Tyler won the boy would give him two roses for free. Needless to say the boy won, which was pretty funny. .

Yesterday was the official start of the program, and was CRAZY busy. we started our orientation by doing name games (of course) and then did this game where you have to pile fifteen nails on top of one nail which is stuck in a piece of wood. My group came up with this way of piling the nails on top of each other to balance on top of the first nail, which came at a shock to our program director, since the game was supposed to be impossible and teach us about teamwork or something. But yeah he said that it had never been done before so we felt like champions for awhile hahah. We also went through the schedule of the program and we are SO BUSY. Our first"free day" is two weeks from now, so it is kind of overwhelming.

Tomorrow we leave for an orientation site in the mountains, where we dont have internet access or anything. Then, on friday, we head into a homestay for a couple of days. After that homestay, we go to Khon Kaen, where I will meet my Thai roommate and get settled into my room. However, we are only in Khon Kaen for a day, and then move into another homestay for a week. We also got told about the past programs, and it is really impressive what this CIEE Thailand program has accomplished. I guess they assisted the Thai government in coming up with the first human rights contract ever in the country. Program students have also helped set up a wide variety of NGOs in the Isaan region (where Khon Kaen is) relating to farming rights, HIV/AIDS education, etc. Basically this program is exactly what I am interested in, and I am so excited to really get involved in the community. The program director, who is hilarious and really cool, is really committed to getting us into the villages, and having us meet people, so I am pretty much psyched to get this semester started. The kids on my program are also really friendly and have similar interests as me...many of them are mini Mother Theresa's, which is kind of intimidating, but we are going to have a good time!

Sooo...that was a long tangent, but yesterday was a lot of fun and was highlighted by our night time fun. A bunch of us decided that, since we are in Bangkok, we had to go to the red light district just to explore. So we went last night, and ended up at a club playing 90's covers. It was a really fun night, and I can provide some pretty good stories later on if people want to hear them. Then today, we all went on a walking tour of Bangkok (most of the sites I had seen on my first day here), but we got to see a couple more markets, which was fun. We also went to the Grand Palace, which was AMAZING. We had a really funny tour guide, who showed us around for a couple of hours. Everything is covered in gold, diamonds, and jewels, and is absolutely beautiful. Although the King does not live there anymore, he still visits, so everything is constantly being renovated (they have to put new gold sheets on when they fade). I completely forgot to bring my camera, but I had friends take pictures for me so people can see then later in they would like.

Alright, that is a lot of writing for now, but I won't have internet for a week or so, so it will be a bit until I can write again! I am pretty bummed that I am going to miss the inaguration, but the interns are trying to figure out a way that we can see it when we are out in the mountains. On a side note, Obama is HUGE here. It is cool to see how much people are in support of America right now. Also, just to dim any worries, Bangkok/Thailand is completely safe, and everyone I have talked to here is really friendly. Everybody is always smiling and wanting to hear about who you are and where you are from. It is such a change from the States, and I love it! Alright I have to go, miss you all!!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Headed to Thailand

Alright, so I'm kind of new to this blogging thing, but I figure it will be a good way for people to see what I am up to. Sooo...enjoy!