Brooke Colon
2010-11 Outbound to Thailand

Hometown: Pompano Beach, Florida
School: Pompano Beach High School
Sponsor: Pompano Beach Rotary Club, District 6990, Florida
Host: Nongkhaem Rotary Club, District 3350, Thailand

Brooke's Bio

Hello my name is Brooke Colon and I am a 15 year old sophomore at Pompano Beach High School. I will be a junior though when I am off on the journey of a lifetime, and I will be most fluent in the language and know the culture of my outbound country. This happens to be Thailand! I don’t even think that it has sunk in yet that I’m going to travel almost across half the world to live and learn for about 10 months!

Well I’m the baby on my mom’s side of the family and the middle child on my dad’s side, but all together I have three sisters and one brother. One thing I like to do is hang out with family and have a good time even if it’s just sitting and talking about different topics whilst forgetting that a movie is still on in the living room, lol. When the opportunity arose that I could travel somewhere and learn a language, culture, and create even more ties with others I said to myself that it wasn’t something I could just let pass me by. Of course I thought about what they said about the homesickness and leaving behind your friends, but I knew that I’d be okay. I will miss them and some of the moments we have, but I know that there are more to be had later on.

One thing I know that I am is an open person. I don’t go against people’s personal preferences or beliefs. To me I like to keep one rule. Do what makes you happy as long as it does not harm others (physically or mentally). I believe that life is too short to not live, so I don’t try to limit myself by saying I can’t do this or that, I strive for what I want and try as hard as I possibly can. Some of the things I like to do are drawing, dancing, singing, exercising, and sports. I like to try a bit of everything so I don’t miss out I guess, lol. Oh! One thing as well, I like to collect manga (Japanese comics). It’s a hobby of mine and I love the mangaka’s art.

Well that is my spiel on the overview of my life. Rotary really opened up a part of me that is usually quiet and kept to myself, but I felt it was time to get out of the box and experience something that could expand my knowledge and views on different kinds of peoples. Plus experiencing it first hand and not in a text book or from another person is another matter entirely. I thank my parents for all that they put in and for letting me head out on this journey. I also thank my family and friends for being supportive and helping me along the way. And not to forget the RYE that accepted me to begin with. Thanks everyone.

Brooke's Journal

September 27

Hey!!!! This is my first post OMG! So much to tell! Wow, yea now I understand the importance of writing these things as soon as you can. Alright, well, my flight to Thailand consisted of 3 separate flights from Florida to Chicago, Chicago to Japan, and Japan to Bangkok. Getting up early and going to the Miami airport wasn’t really a problem, but when it came time to go through security and leave my mom and Rick I guess I could say I felt a little uneasy, especially when my mom started crying. Of course Rick didn’t because he’s a MACHO MAN! But anyway, I hugged them and walked through security to my gate.

On the flight to Chicago I think I might have been the only one not sleeping. Usually, dark, quiet areas are a good environment for sleeping, but when you wake up at about 3 or 4 in the morning and you’re heading out on an adventure of a lifetime, you don’t really feel compelled to sleep. So the flight in itself was very boring. When I arrived in Chicago, I called my mom and sister just to let them know that I was fine, and I checked which gate I was supposed to depart from. Once I knew, I got something from Quiznos and took a seat. Little did I know that Emily, also from Florida and heading to Thailand was sitting right behind meJ. After talking for a little bit I spotted some kids in blazers walking around that looked like they had no clue where to go. I hurried and grabbed them and brought them to where Emily and I had been sitting. We talked about our schools and our Rotary orientations as well as some things that were on the TV at the time. About a half hour before our flight a girl sitting across from me asked if I was going to Thailand. Before she asked, in my head I was like this girl must know something because she keeps looking at us lol. We then found out that she was an inbound in Florida from Thailand and her name was Yin. We also found 2 other inbounds from Japan.

The flight to Japan was surprisingly alright for a 12-13 hr flight. Unfortunately we couldn’t sit together because we had assigned seats, but I got to set next to 2 Koreans going on a trip around Asia. I don’t know if its just Asians but almost all of them were sleeping on that flight lol. I slept for maybe an hour, but they slept almost the entire time. A couple movies were showing so they kept me from being completely bored out of my mind. In Japan everything was really cool, and CLEAN!!! That airport had sections to it that you’d probably find in a homeowners magazine. I wanted to lay down on the couches, but I was too busy trying to find a way to call back home. OMG, using a Japanese payphone is so ridiculous its funny. Zane and I had to exchange our American money for yen and then spent the next hour trying to figure out how to use the thing, a when we asked the people at the help desk, they couldn’t really help us either lol, lack of language. But we eventually figured it out and made our calls. Oh and they have free wifi!!!

The flight to Bangkok was ok, and again, had an Asian sitting next to me and they slept for most of the flight. When we arrived in Bangkok, I realized that we actually had to fill out those immigration cards and had to get another one lol. I know your rolling your eyes, but whatever. We arrived in one of Bangkok’s largest airports and man was it huge. If we didn’t have Yin with us we wouldn’t have known where to go. We went through immigration and looked for our bags. One of the YE’s bags was missing so we had to wait. Abeth and I were messing around with the carts trying to figure out how they work. Apparently you don’t just push them around. You have to push down on the lever to release the clutch on the wheels so that they can move.

After everything was settled we headed out to meet our host families. There was a crowd of people with so many signs and I didn’t know where or whom to go to. I was so nervous. As I was walking through a man next to me said my name and asked me if I was Brooke, and when I said yes he went ecstatic and called over some people. That was when I met my host family and some other people whom I still don’t know who they are. At that time my mind was kind of dazed and I didn’t really know what to do. They took pictures of everyone and I just went with it. Then my host brother came up to me and we started talking and I was like OMG HE CAN SPEAK ENGLISH!!! He was an exchange student to Australia a couple years back so that’s how he learned.

When everything had calmed down a bit we started to make our way towards the car. My host sister and host mom don’t speak as much English as my host brother and dad but I could still get the jist of what they were saying, and I totally don’t believe that my host sister is 17. She literally looks like a 12 year old! In the car we talked about random things between school, what time to be home by, and anime. They drive on the left hand side and the steering wheel of the car is on the right hand side. Also, people drive insanely fast here. I mean between 80 and 120 mph. I was a little worried so I made sure I put my seatbelt on lol. Apparently there is a law here that says people in the front seat must wear a seatbelt but people in the back don’t have to. I wasn’t taking any chances lol. Oh, and we stopped at a gas station called Jiffy (hehe) to pick up some cornflakes and milk for me to eat that next day. Yay!

By the time we got home it was late Aug.9 and everyone was pretty tired. Kunmee (host mom), Tarn (host sis), and Thon (host bro) showed me my room, which was Tarn’s room, and the bathroom. It’s pretty big and it’s on the second floor. It has 2 beds, a book shelf, a computer desk, 2 fans (because the air conditioning isn’t working), 2 windows, and a small night stand in the corner. When things got settled I called my mom on the Magic Jack and told her everything was fine. Finally after all the days and 1/2’s events I finally got some sleep.

The next day was just new. Thon had to go to school and Tarn stayed home because she is also an outbound from Thailand going to California. So she wasn’t going to school of course. Kunpaa and Kunmee were working as usual that day and so Tarn and her friend Mai decided to take me to the Crocodile Farm. Kunmee dropped us off and we were on our own. It was so cool. Elephants kind of just walk around of their own accord. Nothing is really in a cage, except for the monkeys, which I understand why because one little monkey splashed water on Mai and Tarn lol. We saw the Crocodile show, which had two guys messing around with crocodiles dragging them wherever by their tails and sticking their heads in their mouths. Then Mai and I went in a small boat around the river that winds through the park and fed the enormously large cat fish. After that we saw the Elephant show, which was too funny. They had elephants playing games and soccer as well as a little play about the history of elephants in Thailand. By that time we had to head back home but apparently Kunmee wasn’t picking us up so I was like ooooooook. Then Tarn, Mai, and I walked out to the main street and took a songteo. This is like a pickup truck with a benches and a cover on the back. It is about 6 baht. Very new for me lol. Once we got off we crossed over to the other side of the street and stopped by the motorcycle taxis. Never did I think I would travel by this, but Tarn told the guy where to go and he dropped me back home. Luckily Kunpaa was there so he paid the guy because I had no clue what he was saying. Tarn and Mai showed up a minute later the same way.

Later that day Kunmee made dinner and we had Patthai. It is one of the dishes of Thailand and it is so good. Kunpaa was a little shocked by how little rice I took. I don’t normally eat a lot of rice, but he filled over half his plate with it. Then because it was Tuesday there was a Rotary meeting, so I had to go to that. And that is where I met Susan, another YE from Canada although you would never think it because she is Vietnamese. She’s awesome and we were just talking the whole time we were there. We also had to introduce ourselves to the other rotary members of the club. We got Buddha pins from the club and took pictures.

For that whole week things were kind of random. I went to Tesco Lotus with Kunpaa, Kunmee, and Tarn to pick up some food one day. It has a small food court with a Swensens (an ice cream restaurant), and small shops on the 1st floor and a shopping center on the 2nd. I was amazed by the escalators lol. They aren’t like stairs, but they are flat and slanted and when you put a shopping cart on it it magnetizes to the escalator so that it doesn’t roll down. Also a couple more of Tarn’s friends came to the house to see her. Om and Mine are really funny and can speak some English. They took some pictures and gave Tarn some presents for her trip. And later, Tarn, Thon and I did karaoke. Although most of the songs are pretty old and the spelling of the words is not all that correct lol.

Not long after my arrival, Tarn had to leave to go to California. I went with them to see her off. I didn’t get many pictures of the airport on my way out so I got more on the way in hehe. Afterwards it was just me and Thon at the house because it was mother’s day weekend and he was off from school. I gave Kunmee one of the necklaces I brought from Florida for Mother’s day. And I had given Tarn one as well before she left. That weekend I didn’t really do much. I went with Kunmee to her mushroom factory and she showed how they grew the mushrooms. The only thing I could say was that I have never seen anyone grow mushrooms before!

The next week I went to go see my school and my administrator. Mai showed me around and introduced me to some of her friends and teachers. There is one girl who almost has the same Thai name as me, which by the way is Buachompoo. It means Pink Lotus. For those who are reading this and know me very well this is kind of ironic. But anyway, Kunmee, Mai and I went around making mushroom deliveries. When we stopped to get something to eat was when I tried Somtam for the first time. A spicy papaya salad with peanuts. It is good once your tongue has gotten used to the feeling of nearly burning to a crisp.

I started school on Tuesday and it was a day filled with so many new experiences. When I got to my class they were in Math at the time and they just stopped what they were doing to talk with me. I was so nervous, and somehow by the grace of whatever power I was put smack dab in the middle of the class. They speak English pretty well and they were all trying to see if I understood them. Oh, and not even 5 minutes into my first day in my new class they asked me to sing the lyrics they had for Telephone by Lady Gaga. OMG, they went hysterical. It was so funny. When we went to computer class I was surprised to find that people had their cell phones and music players in full view and were using them as well as going on to  Face book and email. Normally all that stuff is either taken once seen or blocked on the internet, but here they are like, you can use them as long as you pay attention. I was like, awesome. Lunch was a little daunting because I have never seen so many lunch lines, let alone almost over 1000 people staring at me as I went from line to line. Thank God I had friends with me so I didn’t look completely lost. Unfortunately at school they don’t use chop sticks; only in outside restaurants. Here they just use a fork and a spoon. Oh and no one uses a knife; not even to cut with. They use the fork and spoon to do everything, and my friends tried to show me how to use them when we were eating. You use the fork to put the food in the spoon and the spoon to eat. Of course my American mind was thinking “Why not just eat with the fork,” but after you eat for a while you start to realize that their way is faster.  Try it and you’ll see.

There are a lot of foreign teachers at school, but whether Thai, Philippine, American, Japanese, or Chinese, they all speak a little English. My physics teacher (Ajan Desha) is too funny. Even though he can’t speak much English he is still hilarious. He kind of just goes crazy and plays around with the students and their games. I have him speak English to me because his reaction is funny. Whenever he can’t figure out a word he speaks in Thai really fast, goes aaaaah, messes up his hair and then goes on google for the translator, lol. I have to admit that when I first met him I thought he was a student because he looks so young. But turns out he’s the most recent teacher there; only been there a couple years.  Thai people look insanely young. People my age look like 10 year olds.

Anyway, my schedule is a little spread out. I have English, Thai, Japanese, math, physics, chemistry, social science, Thai music, music, cooking, handicraft, muay thai, and Buddhism. My favorite class is cooking. A little while ago we made galli bpub, which is their pronunciation of curry puff, lol. It was so delicious. It is cooked chicken, potato, and onion inside dough we make from flour, water, and sugar. Simple and delicious, exactly how I like itJ. Buddhism is okay after the first time you are in the class. I don’t think there is any other religion in the world with prayers as long as theirs. I thought I didn’t have legs anymore when it was time to get up. Girls have to sit sideways when we pray. But it is kind of funny; most of the kids in the back aren’t really paying attention. They are listening to music, talking, or sleeping, lol. I guess some things don’t change no matter how far from home you go, lol.

School ends at about 3:20, but if you have another class you end at 4:10 and all the buses whether you have another class or not leave after 4, but for my first day Kunmee picked me up. Now I take a van to school at 6:10 am and take it back home and take a motorcycle taxi for the rest of the way. The van is so tripped out. It has karaoke, an awesome base, lay back chairs, a video screen, and it’s clean! Sorry people, I like things that are clean.

Well since I have been here school has been steady. I’ve been adjusting to everyone and everything. Some days are the same and some days are completely out of my imagination. Like one day the school set up at stage to have some kids from grade 12 in a band play and sing. It was a mini concert and I got a video on my camera. Of course the girls were crazy and screaming lol. And another day, I was wondering why my class wasn’t going to our normal classes. It turns out they were preparing something for the monks where we had to get small trees planted in a bucket of rice. Then we had to glue colored paper on the branches and hang little ornaments on them. I have to say that my group’s looked the prettiest hehe. Oh and some days I am a little confused when the teachers don’t come to class. I’m like are we learning today and then they tell me “Oh, teacher not teach this period.” When that happened at P.E. we all just got a ball and start playing volleyball. I just stick with my philosophy: go with the flow.

Well, this is only some of things that have happened since have been here in this wonderful country. I will have to post more and shorter messages or my family, friends and future outbounds to get the full picture. Sorry about how long the message is. I just can’t leave anything out. Everything is amazing here. I will talk to you again soon. I send my love to my family and friends and I thank them for supporting me and helping me. And thanks Rotary for granting me this opportunity.

October 17

Hi again. Okay, there is no possible way to get everything so I will try to get the main points without going overboard. So from what I can see, in my last journal I told you mainly about what was going on in school. I will only step on that subject a little bit to finish off. There is something called “Sports Day” and its where the whole student body is divided into 4 colors and they compete against each other in sports of course. So far we have had little get togethers, or I shouldn’t say little, where all the colors cheer and dance. It’s really funny when some people do the crazy dance; literally a crazy dance, hehe.

Okay, away from school, two of my Thai friends were really nice and decided to take me on a little trip to Wa Pra Kaeo, in English, The Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It is huge and beautiful. In all seriousness though, people rave about the Sistine Chapel, which has nothing on the inside of an old temple in Thailand. Unfortunately we can’t take pictures inside, but it is worth seeing. To get there we had to travel across the Jao Paya River, the largest river in Thailand, on a boat which we accidentally got off too early and decided to walk to rest of the way, lol. We also went to a little side alley market where I bought an “I love Thailand” t-shirt. It was really fun.

Okay, this is for the exchange students, I’m not gonna lie there are going to be times where you get extremely bored because you can’t go anywhere either because you don’t know where or how to go, Thai students are studying or doing exams, or other people have stuff to do. This is how it was on some weekends for me and for the week of exams in Thailand. You live through it. There is so much fun to be had later on. The week after exams I had to start Thai lessons in Bangkok. Ok, now before I even go into that let’s talk about my traveling experiences.

Of course my host brother had to show me how to get to both the lesson sites and that was the first 2 days because they switch areas. My family lives the farthest from everyone and so it takes a little longer to get to Bangkok. I have to walk to the main road and catch a bus that takes about an hour and a half to get to the BTS sky train, and take that to the site. Sometimes I might have to take the MRT (subway) as well. And of course, a lot of walking is involved, but I don’t mind, I like it. So that is how I get to Bangkok and back. Now mind you, I have gotten lost about 2 times, lol. One time was because I was given the wrong bus number so I was riding in the wrong direction for over an hour and he second was because I got on the right number but the wrong color. There are two 84s and I got on the red one because it’s cheaper. The blue one has air conditioning, but at the speeds they’re traveling it’s like you have air conditioning on the red one anyway. My host brother failed to mention to me that the red on stops short of my destination a few kilometers and so I thought I could walk the rest of the way. Yea… not likely. When it started getting dark I was like “How far am I?” Eventually when I bought a phone card and could call my brother he told me what the problem was and I took a song teo back home. Could have been home nearly 2 hours earlier if I just got on the blue one.

Anyway, besides that, I’ve been going back and forth between Bangkok and home for Thai lessons, and those are pretty funny. Some Thai kids from the university help out and make games for us. After we are done, sometimes the exchange students will go to Peragon to watch a movie, shop, or walk around. I tag along sometimes either because I want to or because I figure that I spend a lot of time coming here so I might as well do something. Shopping is fun, but it’s better to go to Central World than Peragon, less expensive and more of a selection, and Peragon is already huge. Movies here are in both English and Thai. If it is a Thai movie it will have English subtitles, yay. On one weekend in Peragon they were having an Anime Fest, and my host brother was participating in the video game competition. He managed to get second and got 3,000 baht. And another day at the university where we have Thai lessons they were having a cosplay competition, so I got to see a lot of Thai people dress up as my favorite anime characters.

Oh, recently it was my birthday and I have to admit, it was a very surprising day. When I went to my Thai lessons, 2 of my friends started dragging me and singing happy birthday letting everyone know it was my birthday, yea. When I came back a couple other friends got me a small cake from around the corner with a number 8 candle on it, lol. No I am not 8 years old for those of you going huh. I was turning 16 but they couldn’t afford both the 1 and the 6, lol. Everyone sang happy birthday and took pictures. Afterwards, me and a couple friends walked around Peragon and went into a large booth where you can take pictures and make them into stickers. Then, we went to a Pizza place and Swensens to eat. My friends go an ice cream cake for me and sang happy birthday to me again lol. And a guy took a picture of us as a Swensens b-day gift. When I got home, I didn’t even know that they knew it was my birthday. Kunmee made all my favorite Thai foods and she and Tony got me another ice cream cake from Swensens as well as a small gift. It was a really good day. Also, I saw for the first time the miracle of dry ice. Yea, for most of you you are saying what, but whatever it was soooooo cool. When you put it in water it starts bubbling and smoking like a cool effect from a movie; awesome.

The Rotary program had a trip for us recently and it was to 2 temples, a clay pottery factory, and the floating market. On the boat we had karaoke and we learned Thai dancing, a quick version, and we were dancing around a table, lol. I didn’t really know there were female monks, but there are, and they don’t dress in orange, they dress in white. Also, I was a little surprised at the leniency with monks. A couple times I’ve seen monks smoke, have a tattoo, or ride a motorcycle taxi. I still wonder about that, but I keep forgetting to ask lol. But, besides that, the floating market is really cool. Food is sold on small boats and clothes in small shops nearby raised from the water. The pottery factory was just, wow. Rows and rows of pots and giant bowls. We saw how they were made and the guy literally makes them in about 2 to 3 minutes. You wonder why it takes you a whole class period to make a messed up misshapen pot or bowl in class when he does it perfectly and easily in less than 30 seconds, ouch. It was a day filled with laughter and a lot of pictures. Oh and we all bought little key chains from the pottery factory to put on our jackets, hehe.

Yea, so as you can see everything is going really well here, and there is a lot of fun to be had. Future exchange students just have to wait it out, it doesn’t last that long. It only seems like a long time because at the time you’re not doing anything. But anyway, again thanks Rotary for giving me a chance to experience all this. And to my family I love you guys and miss your craziness. Thai people are crazy, but not as crazy as you P.S. I just can’t get over the whole shrimp thing here. They don’t take off the head or the legs. I just can’t do it.

December 25

I know it’s been a while since my last, but that only shows how much fun I’m having here. But anyway, down to business. Lots of stuff has happened. I think I’ll try and start from where I left off.

After Thai lessons, which were okay in my opinion, school started back up again, but it was a new semester. Some classes were kept and others were changed. But everyone was still in the same group. Its like you choose your major and that’s it. Everyone who chooses that major gets the same classes that come with it. But of course because I can’t understand it I get my own special schedule, but that took a while because of the scheduling for all the other classes and teachers. The teachers as well as the students move around so its more complicated. But its alright. But when we got back people weren’t really focused on school. Sure they went to their classes but each day was preparation for Giraci- Sports Day. For about all of November there were matches between the different colors. There are green, blue, pink and yellow and there’s volleyball, basketball, some sport similar to volleyball but you play with your feet, and others that we play on actual sports day. Every day we practiced our cheers at the stands with the drums and dancers. The screams echoed off the sides of the school which was pretty far away from where we were. T-shirts were bought, decorations were made, and there were so many costumes. When sports day came and went into the room where my color was, which by the way was green, they looked so cool and I was so surprised that no adults help them. Its completely run by the 11th graders. After everything was set we went to the stands and got everything together. The parade was great and it was fascinating to see what the each color put together.

The first day was mainly volleyball, basketball and a couple soccer matches as well as a couple of other games. They have a game similar to a 3-legged race, but instead of 2 people there are 10, and they all have to walk together. It was really funny because the string kept breaking. The second day we had the cheerleaders do their dances. That’s was really cool. And no, cheerleaders in Thailand aren’t the same as cheerleaders in America. If they ask you if you want to be one and you have a little skill say yes! But be aware you might have to do the crazy dance. It means what it says. But they were so pretty. Of course the guys are gay but they look and dance better than the girls most of the time. After each color went we had races. I ran one round and surprisingly won even though I was wearing white and everyone’s like “who’s that?” But because it was a 4 people run we lost as a team, but it was alright. And at the end of the day we had all the English teachers play soccer with some famous people from channel 3. I don’t know who they were but everyone rushed from the stand for a picture. And that’s a lot of people.

All in all Sports Day was a success, except for when Green cried because they got 2nd in the cheerleaders competition. This was the first time they lost. But they were fine the next week. After that everything settled and went back to normal in school. Oh I almost forgot. My class went to Wat Pra Keo, a zoo, and Parliament for a fieldtrip one day. That was pretty good. We had the most fun in the zoo, when we rode around the river in the little boats. Two of my friends were so afraid of these things that looked like Minnie crocodiles in the river that are about over a meter long. There was a good amount of them in the water. They kept screaming. I couldn’t stop laughing. I drove me and my friend under the fountain and we got soaked. Need I mention we were in our school uniforms? But that was fun. So school is going okay.

With the Rotary program we’ve celebrated Loy Kratong where they send boats of flowers and candles down Jao Praya River, float candles in the sky, and have fireworks. That was cool to see. And recently the Rotex had a Christmas party for us, although, not many people got the memo that it was supposed to be a black and white party. We had to buy gifts to exchange, so naturally I got something that represented Thailand, the Elephant. In return I got a model of a Tuk Tuk. A cool looking taxi that’s half carriage half motorcycle. That went pretty well. Also the King’s Birthday was December 5th and a lot of people went to Jao Praya River to celebrate it. There were large boats shooting fireworks and lights along the river. And we, my host family and I lit candles in our house because if we went we probably wouldn’t have gotten home till after 1 because of the traffic. It was fun. And because of was the month of the King’s Birthday, Rotary had us go to the hospital where the king is staying to sign a book that thousands of people sign from day to day. Just to mention, the hospital is actually not that far from places I normally go in Bangkok, so I can just take a bus there if I wanted. But yea to sum up everything, things are going pretty well here and learning the culture and language proves to be fun although difficult at times. Well that’s all for this report. There are some pictures for you to see some of the things I was talking about. For those who are coming it’ll be fun for you, and for family and friends, I miss and love you and for Rotary thanks for the opportunity. Ja.

P.S. One weekend I and a couple friends wet ice skating in Central World. That was really funny.  They have a small rink out in the open in the mall. That’s probably the closest we are going to get to cold weather.

February 1

This is my journal for January, there wasn't much going on so thought ide wait a bit

Hi guys, I figured I would send this after January was finished since my last one was a little late and nothing much happened since. Well things are slowing down now that my exchange is half over. Unfortunately some people have gone home already for various reasons and it sucks to see them go, but nothing you can do about it, just gotta keep going.

Well since last time this is what's been going on. New Years was alright, it honestly could have been better but as no one was really available because it was New Years I had to spend it with my rotary club. Now mind you I never really stay up for New Years but because I wasn’t anywhere near home I couldn’t really do anything but stay up and listen to then sing karaoke all night. One thing is for sure, if you are ever celebrating in Thailand, karaoke is everywhere, in every home and facility, and they don’t just stop after 5 or 10 songs.

Since then I have just been going to school and hanging out with a couple friends now and again. This is the time when you have a lot of time to yourself and you start to wonder about a lot of different things, both pragmatic and ideological. But it’s a time when you start to think about yourself, where you were, where you are, and where you are going. Sometimes you’ll be like, what did I do today? I cant even remember what I did yesterday. Sometimes the days just mesh together and then your going to be like what, January 1st was a month ago? Yea.

At my school we had open house. It was a 2-day thing where certain groups set up booths or areas where the kids that come in could play games and stuff. Our theme was rubber and so we made our area look like an army training area. The day before I helped paint a green tarp with black and brown paint. It took longer to get the paint off our hands than to put the paint on the tarp. And the cool thing was that what was supposed to look like lines that army men crawl under when training was made out of rubber bangs tied together. We also had tires staggered around and a balloon shooting game. You know how at carnivals you take the dart and throw them at the balloons, yea that one. It was good. And for entertainment we had another school’s band and singers come in and perform. All I can say is that they were awesome. A lot of the gay guys were having a good time dancing and acting crazy, but it’s all good; funny too.

But besides that. I recently went to another province with my rotary club and it was pretty cool. We went to a house blessing for this military guy and he invited a lot of people to dinner and shopping the next day. Oh, just thought I would point this out since there is no one American here. In the hotel room I saw Inception on tv, in Thai of course, but I’m wondering, I saw that 5 months ago, like right before I left, why is it out on television??? Anyway, aside from my meandering, the market we went to the next day is AWESOME. Everything is so cheap and its huge, I got a pair of jeans for 130 baht. That is a steal and I had to ask the lady twice if she said 130. I am definitely planning to go back there before I leave, hehe. Also we went to a historical temple that is apparently over 1,000 years old and still standing. It is literally on the border of Thailand and Cambodia. When I saw a guy all the way up ahead through the trees I thought he was part of the group and started wondering why he was so far away. Then one of the members told me that he was one of the Cambodian soldiers standing guard at the border. Whooo, danger zone hehe. Right now there is a little spat going on between Thailand and Cambodia so things were a little shaky for us, but my counselor said not to worry because I am American and Cambodia wouldn’t take me as a hostage because they are afraid of America….. yea.

But that’s all that has really happened in January. February should be a little more exciting since we have Thai dance lessons and cooking coming up. I will let you guys in on all the drama later, but for now ta-ta and I will chat with you later. Again, thanks everyone for your support and love, miss ya.

 May 16

Hey guys. I know it has certainly been a while. I would like to apologize for the severe lateness, but what is done is done and I'm here to share some of the things that have happened here with you. For one thing I would like to point out to everyone, not just exchangers but anyone, is that change will inevitably happen. What kind of change will happen is based around the actions taken and how you view it all; what is happening around you and within you as well; what you will take home with you every day and leave behind somewhere else.

Well I will get back to the mushy stuff later. For now since the last I have talked I have been on 2 trips with Rotary. The South and the North Trips. The South Trip was originally supposed to be 7 days but it got shortened because of how expensive the South is, but we got compensated by spending more time on the North trip so it was all okay. On the South trip we mainly went to a Province called Phuket. It is supposed to be one of the cleanest and beautiful beaches in Thailand. But unfortunately we had the worst of luck with the weather being kind of crappy at the time. Can't do anything about Mother Nature can we?

Among the main things that we did we went snorkeling near some humungous rocks that looked like they were carved from caves but are just standing up in the middle of the ocean like a sky scraper in the middle of a cornfield. Of course we didn't get too close because that would mean getting slammed on them by the waves, so obvious no no. But the fish were awesome. Not too big not too small. The Thai people with us thought it would be funny to see us screaming and flailing in the water as they threw bread into the water near where we were swimming so that the fish could get something to eat. Which i have to admit was funny since I did the watching and not the screaming, lol. At the top it looked fine seeing fish swarm around them trying to get at the bread but underneath.... man that looks kind of scary. Looks like your body became a planet for the fish. Besides the snorkeling we went to an island that had a little side cave with a shrine built in for a goddess; very nice. Along that thought, we also swam to this cliff opposite the island and did our signature dives. Of course mine was a cannonball, completely original.

We also saw a seashell graveyard, went to James Bond Island, and went to a school to participate in activities with the kids there. My group read stories in English and Thai and played something close to freeze tag while smearing each other's faces with powder. It was really fun. On our last night we had a party, did karaoke, and played volleyball on the beach. We wished we could have stayed longer but it was for the best that we left when we did, because two days later the whole area was flooded and no one could really get around. Talk about karma. But this was not long after the tsunami in Japan, so i guess the flood wasn't too far off. But we pray for those in Japan as well for the exchangers there and for the families of the Japanese exchangers here with us now.

After the South Trip there was just a week or so before we left on the North Trip. This trip included not just the inbounds but also the future outbounds that were going to America. The two buses were split half and half. Half Thai and half foreigners in each bus. Just pointing this out to any exchangers coming to Thailand. I'm pretty sure that I have talked about 7-11 being the Starbucks of Thailand. They're everywhere. Well, when you go on trips with Thai's no matter how far the place is, be prepared to stop at nearly every 7-11 on the way.

On the North Trip we mainly went to a lot of Temples. At least one or two temples a day I'm pretty sure, but some of them are pretty cool. For example, there is a completely white temple that looks like something in between Narnia's Wicked Witch's castle and the elephant graveyard of Lion King. But it was awesome. The entrance is a walkway in between skulls, desperate hands, and bodies. Ok, yea i sound like something out of one of my fantasy books but it’s seriously what it looks like. If I remember correctly the guy that designed it was trying to let everyone know what hell looked like, and on the inside he showed exactly who was in hell. And get this, guess who’s in there. Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Starwars.... Yea. I don’t remember the reasons why but I wished I could have taken a picture. I guess you're just going to have to go see it for yourself. Also on the outside in the front is the Predator from AVP & Predator. I seriously wish I could discuss ideologies with the designer because that temple was sick. LOL.

Another temple that we went to was the Queen's and King's temples. They are both on top of a mountain and you have to walk up a long walkway to get to them. The Queen's temple is purple!! That scored major points with me. But they were both nice and because they are so high, there is a fog that wraps around the whole area that looks awesome. We also went to the highest point in Thailand, an enormous flower garden (I mean HUGE), a waterfall, and a geyser. Those were all really fun. A lot of firsts for me . Oh, and we went to an Opium Museum. It was a major trade and lifestyle here before the Queen started a project for it. Thailand is not to keen on drugs.

Now onto the major event during the North Trip, Songkran Day. It is the water festival in Thailand that lasts for about 3 days. Everyone just goes around spraying people with water. People don't care what you're wearing. If you're within range you're going to get wet. Because I didn't want to have to bring a huge water gun back home with me I just bought a bucket. Easier to fill and use. Along the roads there a fill up stations where of course, you can fill up your bucket or water gun with the available water. Along the roads there are people with trucks driving by with large barrels of water that they throw onto you. Beware; sometimes the water is not warm or even mildly cold. Sometimes people make it ice cold. And of course if you have a bucket (i.e. me) you have the availability of using water from the canal since they tie a plastic string around the handle for you to throw and pull up. The best part of all this was when i managed to fall in to the canal trying to get my shoe back that fell in. It was so hard to get out and a random Thai guy had to help me get out. I actually went in a second time because someone's bucket fell in. I mean hey, I fell in once it’s not like I couldn't go in again. Plus it was raining, so i was going to take a shower later for sure. But it was a lot of fun. Sometimes i felt bad for the people on motorcycles but come on its Songkran.

So in summary both the North and South trips were fun and I would like to go back someday. But after all the hype had cooled down from both and I was back home, it was time to change host families. My new home is nice. I'm not going to lie that I'm happy that it has air conditioning. If I didn't mention before, my previous house did not have air conditioning and was one of the only houses that didn't. I didn't mind, but sometimes, I thought i was going to die from the heat. The family is nice and another one of the exchange students lives at my Uncle's house one house over. So every now and then I walk over and hang out. My host cousins and brother are nice and are exchange students. There is a mall near my house that we hang out sometimes and go watch movies. One day I went with a couple of friends to another Province to meet a couple more friends and go to a waterfall. When we arrived in the Lotburi, I was so surprised to see monkeys running around everywhere. Honestly I couldn’t help laughing when my friend had some food and threw it down at a dead run to get away from the stalker monkey. They get fed from the locals and tourists and so they will go up and steal food from the people. Just a warning. I nearly fell to the ground laughing. So right now, things are pretty nice.

I'm going home in less than a month and I know I will miss Thailand and it's people but I know that I am also glad to go home and see my family and get back to the life I left there. There are things I realized here and I'm going to try and take what I've learned and do what I can with it. I will not try and tell you that I've changed immensely since I have been here like some other exchange students because that isn't what happened. Some people will change and some people won't. That’s how things work. I'm not glad or mad about it, it’s just what ended up happening. I learned many things about myself and will go on with life as I have: using what I have learned and forging my own path whatever may come of it. That’s all we can do. Nevertheless I love Thailand and I thank Rotary and my parents for granting me this opportunity, and all of my friends and family who supported me. Thank you everyone!