L. J. Karlson
2011-12 Outbound to Thailand

Hometown: Fleming Island, Florida
School: Fleming Island High School
Sponsor: Fleming Island Rotary Club, District 6970, Florida
Host: Rotary Club of Plutaluang, District 3340, Thailand

LJ's Bio

My name is  LJ Karlson and I am Rotary Youth Exchange student who will be spending the next year in Thailand. I am a sophomore at Fleming Island High School but will be a junior by the time I leave for Thailand. Ever since my best friend's older brother went on an exchange to the Czech Republic and told me how much fun it was I have wanted to go. I have lived in  and visited  other countries but nothing like Thailand.

I have two siblings, an older sister who is a senior at Fleming Island  High and a little brother who is in eighth grade. I love to play soccer, sail, listen to music, and to travel. I have a job were I am a referee for soccer and also have my own little lawn mowing business.

My biggest fear going to Thailand is the language. Thai is a language much different than English. It is a completely different and much bigger alphabet and they have so many words that look the same but are just pronounced differently. Its really hard to learn by my self especial because I don't know if I am saying it right, but once I am in Thailand I think it will be allot easier to learn.

I had not really even thought much about going to Thailand until I heard that's were I was going. At first I was pretty nervous about it, but once I started researching it I got really excited.  The best thing I like about it is that its a completely different culture than America. There are many sights you could see every day that you could never see any where else.

I am very excited and also very thankful for the Rotary to grant me this once in a life time opportunity.

LJ's Journals

September 23, 2011

My first month in Thailand has been amazing. I have done more this month than I usually do in 2 or 3 back home.

I have had the privilege to meet all my host family's many times and they are all really nice. My first family lives on a huge farm with about 100 cows, 10 dogs and many other random animals. I live by my self up at the top of the farm in a very nice little house with everything I need in it and my host family lives down in there main house.

My second host mom has a trip planned for me and the other Rye from Mexico every weekend so we get the chance to visit allot of the country. I've gone to Bangkok about 3 times and am going one more time this month to visit the US Embassy to here a speech on P.O.W and M.I.A and their work that they do in Vietnam and about the Vietnam war.

I have also visited Pattaya many times and has many foreigners in it. I have about one week left of school and then I am on break for about a month. During this month I will be doing allot of traveling with my family. My Family Has planned a trip for me to go to Singapore. We will go in December from the 19 to the 26 or 27 so I will get to spend Christmas there.

My school is extremely small and old and is not very academic but I have made allot of good Friends. Every day after school we usually go to the gym for about 2 to 3 hours to play soccer and Badminton. I have a really good cousin who loves to teach me Thai and helps me every day. I can now introduce my self and say many other useful phrases.

My Rotary club here is very involved in the community and sponsor many activities. The third day I came here they made me run a 10k that I was not at all prepared for. I have visited 2 other Rotary clubs and both of them were very friendly and welcoming. My first month has been amazing and I'm thinking that it will only get better with time.

January 16, 2012

My first five months here in Thailand have been beyond amazing. I can already notice my self growing in so many ways. After having to give a speech in Thai in front of my whole school the first week was here, I am no longer shy to speak out loud or in front of crowds. Last week we had to go to Pattaya to march in a parade and then do a performance on stage for the people in order to raise money to donate to the flood victims. During this, my job was the MC who was in charge of introducing the people and there routines, if this had been the old me back in America I would have been freaking out and had no confidence to do it but since I have gained the confidence I was able to do it with ease. School here is getting a lot better even tho its still crazy long.

I have got my self very involved with my school and now have just about a full schedule every day. Every Tuesday I have sport day were I get to play futsal and badmittion with my friends. Every Wednesday, my two favorite teachers take me out of school for a class called Thai culture. This class is a blast because the teachers, even no they don't speak English, have great personalities and a great sense of humor, and the best part about it is that they take me to really cool places, two weeks ago we went to the national Sea Turtle conservation center were we were able to see hundreds of turtles and learn about the type they were and what these people are doing to preserve them. Last week we visited the temple were the Head monk, equivalent to the pope, Lived and worshiped for most of his life. It was a beautiful temple and it also had a room with a giant cage that contained a piece of the Buddhas body which I thought was really interesting. This week we went to a Chinese museum were we got to see hundreds and hundreds of artifacts dating back to the A.D. Times.

I am also very involved with my Rotary. I go to the meetings every single week and join in every fundraiser or activities that they have. Tomorrow I will be join them in going to Bangkok for the whole day to help provide support to the flood victims by giving out food and water or helping them stack sand bags. I have also put on 7 kilos which I am desperately trying to lose. I have got a new work out system that I created so hopefully that should do the trick. The other exchange students are very friendly and its all ways nice to see Annie and Rachel who are my fellow Americans.

Eight weeks ago we had our first trip which was to a mountain called Phu Kradung which is located in the north of Thailand about 16 hours away from where I live. We Started off the trip having a big party with the natives to celebrate Loy Kratong which a huge festival were people light these balloon like things on fire and release them into the air. All in all the festival was a blast and it gave us an opportunity to relax before our big week we had in front of us. The following day we had to wake up at 5:30 am to begin our 12 km mountain climb and when I say climb I mean climb. We were Constantly having to pull our self over rocks and other objects and helping each other out any way we could. For my group it took us 3 painful hours to reach the summit or the top but man was it rewarding. The rest of the week was spent wandering around the 27 kilo plateau that laid on top and visiting its many beautiful water falls. I also had my first in-counter of leeches which I must add are the most disgusting creatures ever.

I Have adjusted my self pretty well tho Thailand and its culture. Some things it only take you one time to learn like for example BRING TOILET PAPER EVERY WHERE YOU GO! I can not emphasize this enough for the Future outbounds to Thailand. Most places let alone even have a really toilet let alone paper. Its more of just a hole in the ground with a bucket and a hose next to it that your supposed to use instead of the paper. I can truly say that never in my life will I be ungratefully for any real toilet that has paper.

One big thing that I haven't quite got used to is Thai time. In Florida the Rotarian's emphasize being on time like crazy which I think is great because it gets us very prepared. In Florida when they say it starts and 7:30 that means you must be there at last 5 to 10 minutes early or else your considered late but here in Thailand its the complete opposite. If they say 7:30 You might be lucky if its starts at 7:45 or even 8. In Thailand there is really no sense of emergence to do really an thing.

My Thai has increased greatly within the past two months. I can now have a pretty good conversation and I can defiantly make it by on my own if I had to. As I'm typing this I am on a plane on my way back from Singapore. I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to spend a week there with my host moms sister and my Thai sister. Singapore is a great country and a great place to spend a week, but I must say that I am re-leaved to be on may way home. Due to the fact that my host sister doesn't speak English I was her translator for the week and to my surprise I was able to translate just about every thing she wanted me to. I have never felt so accomplished I'm my life as I did then. To know that I can now comfortably speak Thai and also translate it for people was the most rewarding feeling ever.

My Christmas is one that I'll never forget, mainly because it the first year in my life I was away from my family during the holiday and that I did even celebrate it. I have noticed now that when ever I do allot of traveling I feel my self start to think about going home and crawling into my own bed, and by own bed I mean my Thai bed.

I feel so at home and part of most host family its crazy. I am able to do comfortably joke around and walk around my house like I've been there my entire life. I will be switching to my second host family soon. My current host mom told me that she wishes I could stay with them the whole year because she doesn't know what she is going to do when I leave because the house will be so quite. My host dad also said something along those lines, he told me I had made a permanent family and that I am truly his son and that I will all ways have a room in his house. To know that the impact I have made on them is almost the same impact they have made on me. There is nothing nicer in this world to know that your have met people that now love you and that are just as upset that your switching host family's as you are. Due to the fact I feel like I am with my real family here in Thailand I haven't been home sick a single day and I'm starting to think that ill be extremely lucky and wont get home sick at all. Even tho I'm sad that I'm leaving my family I'm excited to move in to my new moms house. She is a very emotional person and has already fallen in love with me and the other exchange students. Each of my family's also introduce me as their son which makes me very happy. My second host mom loves to travel and she invites me every time, thanks to a mixture of both my family I have seen so much of Thailand .

I realized that I only have about another 170 something days. Time is flying to fast for me. I am dreading having to leave Thailand. My life is at an all time high at the current moment and I'm not expecting it to go down any time soon.