Sunday, February 1, 2009

Back in Khon Kaen

I am now ending my second "personal" day of the program, and I feel like there is so much to say since I last posted! My homestay this past week was amazing. I had a little sister named Bem, and I went to school with her every day this week. Her family was really large, compared to my experiences in the US. She had two older brothers, one older sister, mom, dad, and the moms parents all living in the same house. The house was converted into a convenient store, with a screen between the store and the living space, so that is where I spent most of my time. She was really shy, and couldn't speak much English, but she was the cutest girl EVER, and we became pretty close over the week. We slept in the same bed together (ie mat on the floor), and she helped me learn and study Thai. The family was so incredibly warm and friendly, and we spent the majority of the week laughing at our inability to communicate. It was so refreshing to not have any control over what I was doing as well. Since I couldn't understand almost anything they were saying, I just had to go with the flow and go on bike/motorcycle rides without really knowing the destination. It was amazing!

There a couple of things that stood out during the week. First was a night when I was playing outside of the store with Bem. We were just hanging out, and then two of the girls from my program rode by in a song-taew (which my friend Melissa's host dad drove for his job) and they stopped when we saw each other. Melissa's host dad called out if Bem and I wanted to go to "Big C" and my host mom just went "Ka! Ka!" (yes! yes!), and we piled in the back. Song-taews are basically pick up trucks with benches in the back, so they are completely open-air, like most transportation here. Our host kids were SO excited to go to Big C, and kept screaming the  name for the entire car ride there, so we were trying to guess what it was. Turns out it was their version of Walmart. Except it has a ton of fresh food and free samples, which Bem decided that I should try. So she ran to every stand with a free sample, and by the end of our tour through Big C, I had two handfuls of free samples, ranging from squid bites, to bread, to dried up papayas. It was a good meal!

The next night I went bike riding with Bem, and ended up at Melissa's home stay house, picked them up and then rode to the school we all went to during the day. At the school we did two-by-two bike races in the lawn of the school, which was hilarious and completely terrifying. The kids would ride the bikes, and Melissa and I were standing up on the back wheels, trying to hold on as our kids raced down the rocky terrain. Then, we got back to our houses, where I was told we were going to a "Soy Festival," but instead ended up at the agricultural fair again! It was awesome to experience the fair in a completely different way than the first time. This time, my host mom and sister brought me to certain parts of the fair, and taught me Thai names for things. At one point we walked past the insect stand, where I ate the cockroach before. Melissa and I were trying to explain that we had eaten the insects before, by my mom thought that we wanted them, so a half an hour later she showed up with a bag of cockroaches, scorpions, and crickets. Since it is incredibly rude to refuse food here, we ate them all again! It was also funny to see our host siblings, who ate an entire bag of crickets as a snack. I now think that I have satisfied my bug appetite for awhile!

During the week, I walked to school with Bem, and then had Thai class at her elementary school with the other CIEE students who were at the same school. Our study abroad group was split up between two schools outside of Khon Kaen (where my dorm also is) - Nong Waeng, and Nonchai. Nong Waeng, where I was staying, was lower class and only had 10 students staying in host families, while the other school catered to more upper class students, and the other 20 CIEE students went there. It was weird to compare our experiences at our school to those of the students at the other school, because of the socioeconomic differences. They got huge presents from their families, and had more western appliances, while our homestays were more like the first homestay that we all went on. All in all, I am really happy that I was at Nong Waeng, because my sister was so friendly and her family was incredible. At the end of my stay with the family, they told me that I could come back for dinner or for a night of sleep whenever I wanted to, so I will prob go back and visit soon!!

Although I really loved the homestay, I am happy to be back in my room at Khon Kaen, where we will have a week and a couple of days before heading off to another homestay. We went out the first night back to downtown Khon Kaen, which was a lot of fun. We went dancing at a bar around 6 pm, then had dinner, then went to another bar, and then went to a club, where they had random American Top 40 hits, which were kind of funny to hear. Then last night we went to a Khon Kaen University production of West Side Story. It was maybe the funniest thing I have ever experienced. The girls in it were really good (one of my friend's roommates was Anita), but overall it was just hilarious. It was all in English, and they tried to mimic American mannerisms, mostly just having the girls act really ditzy and stupid. Also, the singing was kind of intense and one of the actors kept making eyes at audience members. It was put on in a classroom, and our CIEE student group was the core of the audience, which made it even more amusing. Some of the parts were really good, but it was completely over-the-top which made me laugh A LOT. 

Today was our free day, which I used to visit Melissa in the hospital, since she has Salmonella and is staying there. Getting to the hospital took a lot of time, since our tuk tuk never came. So three of us wandered around to find a Song-taew, which we took downtown, and saw a hospital (which we thought was the one she was at) and got off. Turns out it wasn't her hospital, so we found another song-taew until we saw a tuk tuk, and got on that. I feel like I am always having crazy adventures to accomplish basic tasks, which makes this trip all the more exciting and funny to express in words. My friends and I are going to go back to the agricultural fair again (for the 3rd time!!) for dinner, since it is the last night of the fair, and then going to go out because our friend Justin turns 21 tomorrow! I will write soon with more updates!!

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