We have had two more academic lectures this week - one on Thai history and one on human rights, mainly focusing on SE Asia and Thailand. In addition, we have had some Thai classes, and are now preparing for our Thai midterm on Sunday! It is kind of weird to have a midterm not even 4 weeks into the program, but as we progress throughout the months, we have less and less Thai classes, so it is proportional. The Thai history class was really interesting to learn about, especially when talking about the important role of the King and the Les Magistrate law. In addition, we talked about Buddhism and cultural values in the country and how they have been influenced by different regimes.
Occasionally for Thai class, we have a thing called "Thai Fun Activity." These are amazing - the first one was spent drinking and learning numbers with our Ajaans (professors), the second was learning songs and body parts with children during our second homestay, and our third (which happened yesterday) included a scavenger hunt in downtown Khon Kaen. All of the items that we had to purchase were written in Thai, so we had to come up with their translation in English, and then get all of the items within 45 minutes. For example, one of the requirements was to get a signature and a photograph with a policeman. Another was to buy a yellow shirt. We have been learning how to read and write Thai in class, but it was still hard to figure out what the clues actually were, let alone find them in 45 minutes. The winning team (which I was not on, unfortunately) got a free dinner with the Ajaans. Our Thai Ajaans (there are 3 of them) are all really funny and friendly, so a lot of us were jealous that people got to have dinner with them!
This week has been tough for a lot of people, because it is our last week of orientation. Since we have all been here for 3 weeks now, there is a general consensus that we want to get out into the communities and learn more about the issues pertaining to NE Thailand. So orientation activities on group building and goal setting can be a bit long, but all of us are psyched to be here and can't wait to start our first unit next week. Our first unit is focused on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Rural and Urban Trends. We are doing exchanges with Green Market Organizers, and doing a homestay as well, so I am really looking forward to get that going.
One thing that did go really well this week was our first meeting with our peer tutors. These are students from Khon Kaen University, who are paid to come in and basically just have conversations with us. Going into the tutoring section, I was really nervous and kind of just didn't want to be there, because we had been in class for more than 8 hours that day, and we were doing the session from 6-8 pm. But my tutor was AMAZING. She was hilarious and really honest with me the entire time. She helped me a lot with my tones, in addition to getting my phone number so that I can go out with her and her friends this weekend. I met a couple of her friends, who are also peer tutors, and they were very interested in getting all of us to "try out Thai guys." Kind of funny, but really in line with how American girls are perceived here. We are thought to be extremely easy, which is difficult to deal with sometimes. It is just weird to not be able to walk around alone after 7, or to not be able to talk to guys, without people thinking that you want to sleep with them. Kind of different than the US!
We are about to head over to an "International Night," where a bunch of us are performing Michael Jackson's "Thriller" dance. Should be hilarious, and I am really excited to see what people's reactions are!