Jake Mason

Thailand

Hometown: Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
School: Ponte Vedra High School
Sponsor District : District 6970
Sponsor Club: Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Host District: District 3340

Host Club: The Rotary Club of Chum Phae

 

My Bio


สวัสดีครับ. (sawatdee khrap). Hello, my name is Jake Mason and those who know what is said can guess that I am going to be spending the next year of my life in Thailand. Words cant describe how excited and nervous i am for this experience. First of all, I only really know a few things about Thailand like where it is located. The language is a whole different story as well. It is nothing like I've ever seen or studied. After getting that nervous stuff out of the way, I am very excited for this trip because it is a life changing experience and I have been wanting to be a part of this program for almost 2 years. Now on to some more stuff about me. As I said already, my name is Jake Mason and I am a junior at Ponte Vedra High School. One huge aspect of my life is soccer. I love soccer and have been playing it for all my life. I play center mid and I play for a club called JFC. My favorite subjects is school are AP Chemistry and Chinese. I have been out of the country before, China for 2 and a half weeks, but this is WAY different. I also enjoy hanging out with friends. That is pretty much me in a nutshell. I look forward to writing more for everyone to read but for now goodbye!

First Rotary Meeting!

First Rotary Meeting!

Issan Scarf at School

Issan Scarf at School

Beautiful Mountains

Beautiful Mountains

Beautiful Mountains

Beautiful Mountains

Temple inside Mountain

Temple inside Mountain

Temple inside Mountain

Temple inside Mountain

Temple inside Mountain

Temple inside Mountain

Exchange Students with a Tiger

Exchange Students with a Tiger

Beautiful Temple in the North of Thailand

Beautiful Temple in the North of Thailand

Beautiful Church in Chanthaburi

Beautiful Church in Chanthaburi

My Thai class on the way to Korat Zoo

My Thai class on the way to Korat Zoo

Playing Futsal/Football on the water with locals from a Muslim Fishing Village

Playing Futsal/Football on the water with locals from a Muslim Fishing Village

Going between islands in the beautiful Southern Thailand

Going between islands in the beautiful Southern Thailand

Group Exchange Student picture in Phuket

Group Exchange Student picture in Phuket

Group Flag picture in Phuket

Group Flag picture in Phuket

Picking up my dad from the airport!

Picking up my dad from the airport!

Flag Picture during the sunset in Phuket

Flag Picture during the sunset in Phuket

Beach sunset during the South Trip

Beach sunset during the South Trip

My host family and Dana, the other exchange student in my town, right before Songkran

My host family and Dana, the other exchange student in my town, right before Songkran

Going around Bangkok on the boat

Going around Bangkok on the boat

My best friends before the ropes course

My best friends before the ropes course

Journals: Jake - Thailand

  • Jake, outbound to Thailand

    1 month left in Thailand… now that is something I can’t get my head around.

    Well it is official, today marks one month left of my exchange life here in Thailand. The first thing that I want to say is that I can’t thank Rotary enough for this opportunity. This year has been the best year of my life and I wouldn’t change any part of it. All of the support the Rotarians in Florida and in Thailand have given me is amazing and I am forever thankful for that. Usually in the journals I talk about all amazing things I am doing in Thailand, all the trips I am taking and all of the fun I am having, but that isn’t really the case for this one. These past couple months have been both fun and hard.

    To start things off was our very last Rotary trip. This was probably my favorite trip out of all 3. I have written about all of them in previous journals. The first one we hiked a mountain and stayed up there for about 5 days. We went on walks and saw beautiful waterfalls, scenery, etc. The second trip was a trip to the tropical south of Thailand. We went swimming, snorkeled on coral reefs, and even were doing flips off of the boat when visiting all of the different islands. The last trip we went on was to a province to the north of Bangkok called Kanchanaburi, and we finished the trip in Bangkok. In Kanchanaburi we did some fun things like a ropes course.

    The resort we stayed at had a hot spring and at night all of the exchange students went to the hot spring and just relaxed in there. The coolest part about it was about 10 minutes after we got there all of the lights turned out and we were sitting there in the dark. Then someone shouted “OH MY GOD, LOOK UP!” which we all did and the sky was full of stars. Sitting under the stars in a hot spring with my best friends from around the world, now that was one of my favorite memories of being here so far.

    We all had to give goodbye speeches at the resort as well. This proved to be one of the saddest things. While I still had a long time left in Thailand, I probably wasn’t going to see most of the exchange students again before I left. The day after the goodbye speeches we went to Bangkok. That night we had an international buffet on a really big boat going around the city. The food was so good!! All of the exchange students were in heaven. My favorite was probably the Japanese food. The day after that we all had to say goodbye for real, and trust me there were a lot of tears. We all headed off in our own directions, going back to our cities knowing that there was a chance we wouldn’t see our best friends again for a very long time, if not our entire lives.

    Other than the trip I haven’t gone on any major vacations. School started again, seeing my friends again has been really nice. I’ve been going to temples some mornings with my family; we actually just went to one yesterday. What really sucks the most though is saying goodbye to more exchange students. I live in a small town called Chum Phae. About an hour away is a city called Khon Kaen. 4 exchange students live there. So the other exchange student in Chum Phae and I go there often to see them and hang out with them. The 6 of us have really gotten to be some of the best friends I have ever had in my life. I love them all so much. As it stands now, 3 of them have already left to go back to their countries.

    For a person’s last day, all of us come together and agree that we will do whatever the person wants to do. So for each of them we all let them do whatever they wanted on their last day in Thailand. I won’t really have that considering I am the last one to leave, but I don’t really mind. Spending the last day with all of these people and having to say goodbye to them is one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life. We all have been there for each other this past year, any problem one of them had we all helped with. They have been my best friends. Every time we had to say goodbye to them, everyone was crying. Tomorrow, the other exchange student in my town and I will go to Khon Kaen to spend the day with Rodrigo. It isn’t his last, but it is one of his last days before he will return home to Mexico. Then they will all be gone.

    As you can see, this past month really has been pretty hard. Not with language struggles or homesickness, but with saying goodbye to people you have really grown to love the past year. This is something that I expected, but wasn’t expecting to be as hard as it was. Rotary in the orientations prepared us for the language struggles, problems with your host family, etc. Although it has been hard, it has also been really fun. The other exchange students and I have been spending a lot of time together and doing really fun things. It has been a really bittersweet time.

    I come home July 1, then my exchange will be over. Any future outbound or anyone who is thinking about being an exchange student, feel free to contact me if you have questions about anything. This will probably be my last journal, considering I leave in a month. I want to end this journal the same way I started it, by thanking Rotary.

    The year I have had here has been the best year in my life. All of the struggles I’ve have gone through and living in another country has really made me a better person, and I have learned a lot about myself. Without Rotary this wouldn’t have been possible and I feel my time here wouldn’t have gone the same. I am forever thankful.


  • Jake, outbound to Thailand

    So much to talk about! It has been way too long since I have written a journal; I would like to apologize for that. But I do have a lot to talk about in this journal!

    THE SOUTH TRIP!!! In the middle of March all of the amazing exchange students in district 3340 began our trip to the south of Thailand. Before we began the trip we went to our district conference in a city called Pattaya. The conference was in a hotel right on the beach, so that was really nice. It was a great experience to see all of the exchange students before we got explored the tropical south together. The last day of the conference there was a dinner in which people were going to be going on stage and giving performances, singing, dancing, etc. I was one of those people… The other inbound in my city, Dana, and the 4 outbound girls in my city were going to be doing a Thai dance right 4 other inbounds from a nearby city did a Muay Thai performance. Not an actual fight, just a dance. After the dance was finally over, the other exchange students took videos and had an amazing time making fun of all of us. It was all in good fun, though.

    The next day we ended up packing all of our stuff up and heading on a very long bus ride to the South. You future exchange students reading, get ready for bus trips. They are probably some of the best and funniest times you will ever have on your exchange. Sitting on a bus with 20+ of your best friends from around the world for hours leads to some of the best times. Just writing this is making me miss being on an 18 hour bus ride.

    The first day of the trip we spent hanging out on the beach all day, swimming, lying in the sun, playing Ultimate Frisbee, hacky sacking, and witnessed a beautiful sunset. Rotary gave the whole day to us just to relax after the long bus ride and have a chill day. We even wandered on the beach a little at night and found a fire show!

    The next day on the trip was probably my favorite despite what ended up happening to me. We went on a trip out to the 4 islands where we went kayaking, snorkeling at coral reefs, and swimming. Other exchange students and I were doing flips off the boat with our GoPros. It was a really hot day so I remembered to put on sunscreen 3 times that day. Apparently the sunscreen didn't really help and I ended up the day with the worst sunburn I have ever had in my life. My entire body was so red I can’t even explain. The day was 100% worth it, though.

    The coral reefs were beautiful, kayaking around the islands was beautiful, and swimming in clear water is always fun. They would let us take bread into the water to give to all the fish around us, but I didn’t realize how much they wanted the bread. Normally you wouldn't take that much in or you would get swarmed by so many fish, but my amazing friends didn't tell me that and gave me a big piece and told me to jump in. I ended up doing a backflip into the water with my GoPro and then got swarmed and attacked by so many fish. I threw the bread and then swam up to the surface of the water to see everyone laughing at me.

    After getting back to the hotel after a very long day traveling between the islands and seeing the beauty the south has to offer, we headed back to the hotel. After getting to the hotel we went right to the beach and hung out there some more. At night we all played cards and just hung out in one exchange student’s hotel room. It was a perfect day. After sleeping for probably an hour we got up the next day at 6 am, got on the bus, and traveled to another island to stay there for a couple days. The trip wasn’t long and that day we ended up getting to the hotel very quickly. Later that day we got on boats and went traveling to a place called James Bond Rock. Why it is called that, I don’t know. The trip to the rock was absolutely gorgeous. Picture a typical tropical post card that you would send to someone and that’s what this looked like.

    On the way we say drawings on cave walls that were written by native people so long ago and stopped at a Muslim fishing village. At the Muslim fishing village, we walked around and while most of the exchange students went shopping, an exchange student named Andrew and I went to the school and found that they had a Futsal court. We found a ball and went out there and started passing to each other and soon found ourselves getting invited to play with islands futsal team. We played for about 20-30 minutes and we won 2-1, both goals scored by me!

    We then headed back to the hotel, ate dinner, and hung out there all night. The rest of the trip flew by with us going to more beaches, getting lost in Phuket and eventually getting on an 18 hour bus ride home. We got home so tired, but the whole trip was one of the most fun times I have had on my entire exchange.

    Funny enough, right after we got back from the South trip, 6 exchange students including myself who live in our province got invited to go on a trip to Bangkok and Huahin with my friends host dad. Only 5 of us ended up going, but they are all some of the exchange students I am closest with, because we live near each other. In Bangkok we ended up just hanging out there for a couple days, going to markets and doing some other touristy stuff.

    When we went to Huahin, we already knew we were going to a crazy waterpark. I have heard about this waterpark a lot since I got to Thailand so I was really excited to finally go there. It didn’t disappoint me either. When we got there we went all almost all the rides because of all the lines. My favorite ride there was a slide where you get in a little tube standing up, and then the floor opens up from under you and you fall, do a loop, and finally get to the bottom. On the way up we heard people screaming down the slide and everyone laughing at them, so we all had to one up them and we all picked out things to scream.

    For example, Eric screamed “TO THE BAT CAVE!!!!” on the way down and everyone was laughing. When it was my turn, I wasn’t very nervous and the ride was over really quickly, but it was still a really fun time. After a really fun day at the waterpark, we headed back to the hotel and hung out there all night. The next day we got up early and drove back to Bangkok to stay the night there. We had a delicious dinner there that night and drove back to Khon Kaen the next morning. The drive from Khon Kaen to Bangkok is about 8 hours. I think with all of the traveling I did in March I was with my host family for about 6 or 7 days. By the end of March I had gotten sick twice and was so tired, but all the traveling was definitely worth it.

    The last really major thing that happened during this little period of time was my dad visiting! He actually just left a few days ago. He came up to the rural Issan, Northeast, region of Thailand and we had so much fun during Songkran. If you don’t know what Songkran is be prepared to want to come to Thailand next year. Picture everyone in a city just stops what they are doing and has a major water fight in the streets. A whole street just packed full of people soaking wet and dancing with music blaring, all night. The only thing that makes this better is that it’s for 3 days.

    There were people riding in the beds of trucks with buckets of water throwing them all over people. Some people were really mean and bought ice to make their water so cold that it burned when it hit your skin. The whole festival was insane and I was happy that I got to share it with my friends and Dad. One exchange student didn’t get to experience all of Songkran though because on the first night we were walking back to his house and he tripped, fell on broken glass, and severed a tendon in his hand. He was in the hospital for 3 days so for the next nights of Songkran we slept in the hospital with him.

    The fun part about my dad coming was messing with him and making him eat crazy food like little shrimp that were still alive and ant eggs. I took him to some beautiful temples we had an amazing time in the Northeast. We then went to Bangkok and I took him to one of the biggest markets in the world, along with the temple of the Emerald Buddha. He had an amazing time in Thailand and we were both so happy he came.

    Tomorrow I am going to help out with a language camp for the upcoming outbounds in my district. I am excited because I will get to hang out with my exchange student friends, along with the Thai Rotex and future outbounds. I already know and am friends with a lot of them so it should be a fun 3 days.

    When I sit back and think about my Rotary orientations and what Rotary Florida told me, it’s funny to think how right they were about everything. For example, about going through a bunch of different phases, like being homesick, throughout my exchange. I now am enjoying my time in Thailand so much because I am much more confident in my language skills and can communicate fairly easily. The thought of going home right now kills me but I think it is important to realize and face the fact that it is going to happen so right now I am trying to do as much as I can before I go back. I will be sure to write another journal soon to let you know about the stuff I’m doing before I eventually make my return trip to the United States.


  • Jake, outbound to Thailand

    So much to talk about! It has been way too long since I have written a journal; I would like to apologize for that. But I do have a lot to talk about in this journal!

    THE SOUTH TRIP!!! In the middle of March all of the amazing exchange students in district 3340 began our trip to the south of Thailand. Before we began the trip we went to our district conference in a city called Pattaya. The conference was in a hotel right on the beach, so that was really nice. It was a great experience to see all of the exchange students before we got explored the tropical south together. The last day of the conference there was a dinner in which people were going to be going on stage and giving performances, singing, dancing, etc. I was one of those people… The other inbound in my city, Dana, and the 4 outbound girls in my city were going to be doing a Thai dance right 4 other inbounds from a nearby city did a Muay Thai performance. Not an actual fight, just a dance. After the dance was finally over, the other exchange students took videos and had an amazing time making fun of all of us. It was all in good fun, though.

    The next day we ended up packing all of our stuff up and heading on a very long bus ride to the South. You future exchange students reading, get ready for bus trips. They are probably some of the best and funniest times you will ever have on your exchange. Sitting on a bus with 20+ of your best friends from around the world for hours leads to some of the best times. Just writing this is making me miss being on an 18 hour bus ride.

    The first day of the trip we spent hanging out on the beach all day, swimming, lying in the sun, playing Ultimate Frisbee, hacky sacking, and witnessed a beautiful sunset. Rotary gave the whole day to us just to relax after the long bus ride and have a chill day. We even wandered on the beach a little at night and found a fire show!

    The next day on the trip was probably my favorite despite what ended up happening to me. We went on a trip out to the 4 islands where we went kayaking, snorkeling at coral reefs, and swimming. Other exchange students and I were doing flips off the boat with our GoPros. It was a really hot day so I remembered to put on sunscreen 3 times that day. Apparently the sunscreen didn't really help and I ended up the day with the worst sunburn I have ever had in my life. My entire body was so red I can’t even explain. The day was 100% worth it, though.

    The coral reefs were beautiful, kayaking around the islands was beautiful, and swimming in clear water is always fun. They would let us take bread into the water to give to all the fish around us, but I didn’t realize how much they wanted the bread. Normally you wouldn't take that much in or you would get swarmed by so many fish, but my amazing friends didn't tell me that and gave me a big piece and told me to jump in. I ended up doing a backflip into the water with my GoPro and then got swarmed and attacked by so many fish. I threw the bread and then swam up to the surface of the water to see everyone laughing at me.

    After getting back to the hotel after a very long day traveling between the islands and seeing the beauty the south has to offer, we headed back to the hotel. After getting to the hotel we went right to the beach and hung out there some more. At night we all played cards and just hung out in one exchange student’s hotel room. It was a perfect day. After sleeping for probably an hour we got up the next day at 6 am, got on the bus, and traveled to another island to stay there for a couple days. The trip wasn’t long and that day we ended up getting to the hotel very quickly. Later that day we got on boats and went traveling to a place called James Bond Rock. Why it is called that, I don’t know. The trip to the rock was absolutely gorgeous. Picture a typical tropical post card that you would send to someone and that’s what this looked like.

    On the way we say drawings on cave walls that were written by native people so long ago and stopped at a Muslim fishing village. At the Muslim fishing village, we walked around and while most of the exchange students went shopping, an exchange student named Andrew and I went to the school and found that they had a Futsal court. We found a ball and went out there and started passing to each other and soon found ourselves getting invited to play with islands futsal team. We played for about 20-30 minutes and we won 2-1, both goals scored by me!

    We then headed back to the hotel, ate dinner, and hung out there all night. The rest of the trip flew by with us going to more beaches, getting lost in Phuket and eventually getting on an 18 hour bus ride home. We got home so tired, but the whole trip was one of the most fun times I have had on my entire exchange.

    Funny enough, right after we got back from the South trip, 6 exchange students including myself who live in our province got invited to go on a trip to Bangkok and Huahin with my friends host dad. Only 5 of us ended up going, but they are all some of the exchange students I am closest with, because we live near each other. In Bangkok we ended up just hanging out there for a couple days, going to markets and doing some other touristy stuff.

    When we went to Huahin, we already knew we were going to a crazy waterpark. I have heard about this waterpark a lot since I got to Thailand so I was really excited to finally go there. It didn’t disappoint me either. When we got there we went all almost all the rides because of all the lines. My favorite ride there was a slide where you get in a little tube standing up, and then the floor opens up from under you and you fall, do a loop, and finally get to the bottom. On the way up we heard people screaming down the slide and everyone laughing at them, so we all had to one up them and we all picked out things to scream.

    For example, Eric screamed “TO THE BAT CAVE!!!!” on the way down and everyone was laughing. When it was my turn, I wasn’t very nervous and the ride was over really quickly, but it was still a really fun time. After a really fun day at the waterpark, we headed back to the hotel and hung out there all night. The next day we got up early and drove back to Bangkok to stay the night there. We had a delicious dinner there that night and drove back to Khon Kaen the next morning. The drive from Khon Kaen to Bangkok is about 8 hours. I think with all of the traveling I did in March I was with my host family for about 6 or 7 days. By the end of March I had gotten sick twice and was so tired, but all the traveling was definitely worth it.

    The last really major thing that happened during this little period of time was my dad visiting! He actually just left a few days ago. He came up to the rural Issan, Northeast, region of Thailand and we had so much fun during Songkran. If you don’t know what Songkran is be prepared to want to come to Thailand next year. Picture everyone in a city just stops what they are doing and has a major water fight in the streets. A whole street just packed full of people soaking wet and dancing with music blaring, all night. The only thing that makes this better is that it’s for 3 days.

    There were people riding in the beds of trucks with buckets of water throwing them all over people. Some people were really mean and bought ice to make their water so cold that it burned when it hit your skin. The whole festival was insane and I was happy that I got to share it with my friends and Dad. One exchange student didn’t get to experience all of Songkran though because on the first night we were walking back to his house and he tripped, fell on broken glass, and severed a tendon in his hand. He was in the hospital for 3 days so for the next nights of Songkran we slept in the hospital with him.

    The fun part about my dad coming was messing with him and making him eat crazy food like little shrimp that were still alive and ant eggs. I took him to some beautiful temples we had an amazing time in the Northeast. We then went to Bangkok and I took him to one of the biggest markets in the world, along with the temple of the Emerald Buddha. He had an amazing time in Thailand and we were both so happy he came.

    Tomorrow I am going to help out with a language camp for the upcoming outbounds in my district. I am excited because I will get to hang out with my exchange student friends, along with the Thai Rotex and future outbounds. I already know and am friends with a lot of them so it should be a fun 3 days.

    When I sit back and think about my Rotary orientations and what Rotary Florida told me, it’s funny to think how right they were about everything. For example, about going through a bunch of different phases, like being homesick, throughout my exchange. I now am enjoying my time in Thailand so much because I am much more confident in my language skills and can communicate fairly easily. The thought of going home right now kills me but I think it is important to realize and face the fact that it is going to happen so right now I am trying to do as much as I can before I go back. I will be sure to write another journal soon to let you know about the stuff I’m doing before I eventually make my return trip to the United States.


  • Jake, outbound to Thailand

    Half-way through my exchange already… I don’t really like the sound of that. I can honestly still remember my first day here in Thailand very clearly, stepping off the airplane in Khon Kaen and going to the mall with my family to get some food. At that meal they started calling me a baby because I couldn’t eat spicy food and I was practically dying through the entire meal (no kidding it was so painful haha). That was a different time though and I can definitely say I have grown, matured, and learned so much from that point.

    The last time I wrote to you I had so much to talk about. Since then I haven’t been doing as much traveling and life has just kind of gone to normal. However, that doesn’t mean life hasn’t been fun, my life over here is the most fun it has been possibly in my entire life. In this journal I will just talk about what I have been up to for the past couple months.

    The first major thing that happened last week is….. SCHOOL ENDED!!!! High school in Thailand starts in May, and ends in March. When I was told that maybe a month before school ended, I was so excited. All my friends in the USA are getting ready for AP Exams and Finals, my friends on exchange also have to get ready for exams and I get to relax and travel for a few months. Speaking of traveling, my second Rotary trip starts on the 15th! School ends and then I get to travel around Thailand with my best friends from around the world, I don’t know if you can guess how excited I actually am.

    That actually takes me to my next topic which is the second Rotary Trip! We are going to the tropical South of Thailand. The area we are going to is called กระบี่ or Krabi in English. All the exchange students have really been looking forward to this trip because as much as we love climbing up leech infested mountains while getting HEAVY rain poured on us (see my last journal), we also love to hang out at the beach go explore the tropical areas of Thailand. Whenever I ask my Thai friends about Krabi, they are always so jealous of me and say it is so beautiful and that most of them have never been. The ones that have been though, tell me that there are so many tourists there.

    Living in a small town in the Northeast of Thailand, tourists usually don’t come here much. They usually just don’t come to the Northeast because the northeast region is very rural. So when I go to places with a lot of tourists on vacations with my exchange student friends it is always a weird experience. My favorite thing about it is no one looks at me like I am from another planet! It is so nice not to have so many eyes on you at all time.

    One of the funniest things that has happened to me here was in Bangkok. I was at the King's Temple in Bangkok, Home of the Emerald Buddha. I was sitting in the shade and a tourist group came up to me also wanting to sit in the shade. I started overhearing what they were saying and could tell they were speaking Chinese. So one of them saw me and pulled out his phone to say something to me, but had to translate it from Chinese to English first. He typed it in on his phone and before he translated it I saw what he was trying to translate and just said it to him in Chinese. I was shocked at this point because I thought I forgot almost all of the Chinese that I have learned but it’s still there! He, however, was a lot more shocked and did the biggest double take on me I have ever seen, he was just speechless. Then they all started talking to me in rapid Chinese and I did my best to communicate in the little Chinese I remember. Shortly after their tour guide came and started speaking Thai with me which was a lot easier and they just didn’t know what to think of me I guess. At that point my friends came up to me and then we went and explored the temple which is beautiful by the way! It was my second time going and I think I have already written about it in a past journal.

    Along with all the crazy stuff I have just talked about, I went on two vacations in the past couple months. One was to จันทบุรี (Chanthaburi) and Bangkok. The story I just told was on this vacation. I went with two other exchange students and one of their host dads. It was for 5 days and was very very fun! Anytime you can travel with another exchange student you always know it is going to be a good time. In Chanthaburi we saw another exchange student, Shayna, who lives there. She showed us around her city and saw one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen in my life. I will add a picture of it to the journal. After that we went on to Bangkok.

    The city of Bangkok is one of the craziest and liveliest places I have ever been to in my life. I don’t know if I could ever live in a city like it. The traffic there is always bad and people drive really crazy. In Bangkok we went to see beautiful temples, the house of one of the former Kings, and we also went to some of the biggest malls I have ever been to in my life. There are three malls all connected by a sky walk so you don’t have to worry about crossing the street to get to the other one. There is also a train if you want to pay and are too lazy to walk.

    In the mall I met up with Stephanie, one of the other exchange students from Florida to Thailand! I texted her telling her I would be in Bangkok and she said she was too! So we met up at one of the really big malls. Our time in Bangkok flew by and soon enough we were on the 8 hour drive back to my little town. After arriving at like 11pm I went straight to bed because I had to get up at 5 am for my second “vacation” which was the next day. I put “vacation” like this because it was a school field trip with my Thai class to the zoo of a nearby city. I got up really early and met up with my Thai class in front of the school. Everyone was really tired but I was about to fall asleep at any point . As soon as we got on the bus I put my head down and remember waking up at the zoo.

    My class had already taken a bunch of pictures of me while I was asleep so that was fun. We walked around the zoo for a few hours and before I knew it we had to go home. It was only a day trip so we couldn’t stay for that long. As we got on the bus I assumed it was going to be like a school bus in the USA where we can talk but we just sit down the whole time. If I only knew how wrong I was. When we started leaving music blared through the speakers on the bus and everyone just got up and started dancing in the isle. It was a huge dance fest the entire way back to School.

    If you are asking, yes I danced too! Rotary taught us well at the orientations (outbounds will know what I mean). I keep wanting to write how this was one of the funniest or best moments of my exchange, but I find myself saying it way too much. This is because all of the times I have over here are just amazing and I find them all to be some of the best times of my exchange.

    I will write another journal really soon after my trip and another big national holiday coming up, Songkran!!! I recently had to choose a return date home, which makes me realize that my time in Thailand is coming to an end and I need to make every moment and experience here count.

     

  • Jake, outbound to Thailand

    Almost 5 months in Thailand has gone by so fast!! I am writing my second journal and I can’t even believe I have lived here for that long.

    I will talk about some of the major things I have done since I wrote my last journal.

    MY FIRST ROTARY TRIP!! Going to a 6 hour climb up a mountain to some of the most beautiful scenery in Thailand?? Count me in! I was so excited going in to the first because I would have a chance to see all of the exchange students again and go explore Thailand with them and Rotary. When you are on exchange, other exchange students become your best friends. They can relate to you and understand what you are going through with homesickness and difficulty adapting or learning the language, because they are going through the same thing too. So getting all exchange students together in one place is always an amazing time.

    The mountain we went to was called Phukradeung National Park and let me tell you, it was beautiful. Beautiful isn’t even a good enough word to describe it. The long walk up the mountain was difficult, but over very quickly. I walked up with two other exchange students and we were the first of all the exchange students to make it to the top. When you hit the top there is a big sign in Thai and English, but reading the Thai is cooler, that says “CONGRATS PHUKRADEUNG CONQUEROR!” Then after waiting for all the other exchange students we all headed toward our camp site and went to go get food.

    The next few days on the trip consisted of 20km walks around the top of the mountain visiting the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen in my life, getting close with all the exchange students, and getting eaten alive by all of the wildlife on top of the mountain. The worst thing about Phukradeung was the leeches. Leeches were everywhere. EVERYWHERE! We had to constantly be checking our socks and shoes to see if we had leeches on our feet. Thankfully one previous exchange student told an exchange student in our class how to stop the leeches from getting into our rooms, which was by putting salt around all the doors. After perfecting our leech flicking technique, staying up really late playing cards and just talking with the exch ange students, and seeing the most beautiful views, it was time to head back down the mountain and go home. I absolutely loved the trip and I am very excited for the next one where we will go to the beaches and tropical areas in the south of Thailand.

    The Loy Krathong festival was another amazing part of the time I have been having. Right before the first trip started Rotary got all the exchange students together at the bottom of the mountain to celebrate the festival. To celebrate the festival people float Krathongs (little boats) in a river and lifting lanterns in the sky. It is so beautiful to see in person. There was also the Loy Krathong beauty pageant and festival part to talk about. The other exchange student in my small town, Dana, was chosen by Rotary to enter the Loy Krathong beauty Pageant on behalf of all the exchange students. She was late to see all the exchange students because she was getting makeup done, but she got to see them after the pageant. When it was her turn to go on stage she did a really funny dance and then all the exchange students jumped up and danced with her. Then after we all went to a festival and ran into a few friends from school. After we went back to the hotel with the exchange students we all just hung around outside of the hotel and talked. Then rotary came out with the lanterns and we floated them up into the sky. All in all, one of the most fun nights of my life.

    Probably one of my favorite trips I have ever taken in Thailand was going to Chiang Khan for the second time. The first time we went to Chiang Khan I think I wrote about in my other journal. Chiang Khan is a city on the border between Thailand and Laos. When you go to walking street in Chaing Khan you can look to your left and see the river that divides the two countries, and then Laos on the other side. Chiang Khan has one of the biggest Walking Streets in all of Thailand and one of the most beautiful. However when we went the second time, I got to see a whole new side of Chiang Khan. Dana and I got an offer by a friend of Dana’s host mom to take us to Chiang Khan for his family reunion that he was having. Of course, knowing the Rotary way, we said a huge Yes!

    After thanking him a lot, we went to pack our stuff as we were leaving the next day. We would only be there for a few days but these few days ended up being one of the happiest times for me in all of my exchange. The cool part about this time was we weren’t staying in a fancy hotel, we weren’t staying with people who spoke English, we weren’t getting the side of Thailand that most foreigners come to see. We were staying in a very small community, one that everyone knew everyone and we were living in a small house with no air conditioning.

    Yes, going to see places and staying in hotels and only seen the wealthy areas are nice, but that’s not the only thing I wanted to see coming to Thailand. I wanted to experience both side of it. The people in this community were so loving and caring (almost all Thai people are though) and they were AMAZING cooks!

    I remember one night we were getting ready for bed around 10 and the person who brought us there told us he was going to a friend’s house if we wanted to come. We went and just sat and talked with these people in a foreign language and looked at the stars. This was one of the coolest moments of my exchange. We stayed there for about 4 or 5 hours. The next morning we got up and went to the local temple. I honestly don’t know why but everyone started dancing around the temple so of course I joined in and danced around the temple with everyone.

    That happens a lot on exchange and any future outbounds reading this be ready for it. You aren’t going to know why something is happening but if everyone is doing you might as well join in. Not only does this go for dancing but it goes for many cultural things as well. Every day in Thailand the national anthem plays twice. You are supposed to stop what you are doing and stand up to show respect and I have seen foreigners just not do it and it’s considered disrespectful.

    The last trip I will tell you about is one that I took very recently. It was to the north of Thailand. Rotary didn’t have a trip planned for us to go up to the north so a host parent in Khon Kaen, the nearest city to me, invited a bunch of exchange students to go to the north with him and his family. I jumped on this opportunity very fast and about a month later I was flying up to the north with 6 other exchange students. During the trip we were going to go to Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, two of the biggest cities in the north. While we were there we did all the touristy stuff really. We went to an amazing temple with a view over the city of Chiang Mai. In Chiang Rai we also went to one of the most famous temples in Thailand. The exchange students and I kept forgetting the name so we kept calling it the White temple. You will see why from the picture I attach.

    The funniest part about the White temple was on the outside it is a beautiful temple, the detail on it was amazing, and then on the inside you go in and look at the walls and see pictures of batman, harry potter, superman, and all of these random people. It made no sense at all.

    We also went on elephant rides, I got to pet a Tiger, and we went to see Pandas, which was my favorite by far! The pandas were so funny because they didn’t do anything, all they did was eat. The only time they moved was to go get more food or to change to a comfier position to eat.

    Our last night in Chiang Mai we went to walking street. I had never seen a walking street so big. The funniest thing about the north is all the foreigners. In my small town, Chum Phae, if you see another Farang, Thai word for foreigner, you are surprised because you thought you were the only one. When a Thai person sees you on the street, they will stare at you and you can hear them talking about you as you go by, because they assume you don’t understand any Thai. In Chiang Mai no one looked at us because there are so many foreigners there. This actually felt kind of nice not being looked at and talked about all the time. The trip was an amazing experience and you can expect me to return back to the north.

    These are just the big trips I am going on, every day I find out more about my city, I go to more local places just for a day trip. Yesterday I went to a friend from school’s farm and we just explored around there for a few hours. So far on this exchange I have learned so much about myself and grown as a person. I have done things I didn’t think possible for me to do. I am living in a foreign country with a family that I have never met before coming here and loving every minute of it. I am speaking a foreign language I didn’t know a word of before I was told I was going to come to Thailand and I love the language. I have Rotary to thank for this.

    For you new outbounds, if you are reading this and you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask me. I am positive the other outbounds and I would be happy to answer your questions. I will try to write a journal quicker next time. Until then, Goodbye!!


  • Jake, outbound to Thailand

    My first month and a half in Thailand!! 

    A month and half in Thailand?! EXCHANGE SLOW DOWN PLEASE!!!!!!!

    In the weeks leading to my departure I was kind of nervous but the excitement was making the nerves not so bad. The whole journey started in the Jacksonville International Airport on August 10th. Saying goodbye to friends and family was really tough and I already miss all of them. Flying over with another outbound to Thailand, Stephanie definitely made it better, though. But with that said the sad parts are over and we can go into the amazing time I am having here.

    The first flight to Atlanta was under an hour so it Stephanie and I just talked the whole time. Arriving in Atlanta I thought the airport was huge! Stephanie and I had a plan to find out next gate ASAP so we wouldn’t have to try and find it at the last minute. We were hoping it wasn’t going to be impossible to find. Luckily when we walked out of the plane there were those big boards will all of the connecting flights so we found ours very easily.

    After our layover we boarded the flight to Tokyo/Narita airport. That flight was quite terrible just because of the length and airplane food isn’t the best but 14 hours later we arrived in Tokyo. One more flight to go I thought, just one more. Again we found our gate fairly easily and before I knew it we were in the air flying to Bangkok, Thailand. I slept for the whole flight so all I remember is waking up and see us descending into Bangkok at night and the city looked incredibly beautiful.

    When we landed we went through customs, found our baggage claim, and headed toward the meeting areas of the airport. I had a connecting flight to Khon Kaen the next morning so my host family wasn’t there to pick me up, but a District 3340 representative was. When we arrived at the meeting area we could see a poster with Stephanie’s picture on it and then the representative was there for me. I said one last goodbye to Stephanie, we hugged, and that was it. Saying goodbye to her wasn’t as hard because of the excitement we both felt to finally be in Thailand. After a night in a hotel and a very short flight in the morning I landed in Khon Kaen, got my bags, and saw my host family with a big “WELCOME!!” sign with my face on it.

    After being picked up from the airport we took A LOT of pictures, which would become a very common thing, and then we went to the mall in Khon Kaen to get some food. The Khon Kaen mall is pretty big, 5 stories, with a movie theater, a grocery store, etc. I remember them asking me if I can eat spicy food and me telling them I can eat food that is kind of spicy. They all laughed at me and then called me a baby. The food here is amazing. Let me repeat that… THE FOOD HERE IS AMAZING!! Authentic Thai food is so good I can’t even explain it. After eating our meal and walking around the mall for an hour or two, we headed off to my town, Chum Phae, which was only about a 45 minute drive. I can remember thinking as we were driving about all the people telling me this was going to be the best year of my life. On that car ride, I was beyond excited.

    I started school 2 days after I arrived in Thailand. My first day in Chum Phae consisted of me going to get my school uniform and many other things needed for school. The day before school I was actually really nervous, always flooding my head with things that could go wrong. When I got up for my first day of school, I was so excited. My host mom and I met the other exchange student and our Rotary counselor that morning at school. We took about a thousand pictures, met the director of our school, and then met a few of the students I would be taking classes with. After we said goodbye to our parents and counselor, we headed off to our class.

    To say I got swarmed at school would be an understatement. Right after leaving my host mom I was surrounded by at least 20 people and they all held hands and did a chant which was welcoming me to their school. That whole day everyone wanted to meet me. Everywhere I went I was being watched. People would walk up to me and say hello and tell me there name and then walk away and expect me to remember it. I am still having trouble with names and I’ve been here for so long.

    So far at school I have met many amazing people who I know I will be friends with for a long, long time. In Thai school, you stay with one class the whole time. So far, I love my class. Everyone is so nice and we all joke around the whole time. I try to understand what my teachers are saying, but it is very hard to understand because they talk about a million miles per hour. On top of that, most of my class just talks to each other the whole time and doesn’t pay attention, so that makes paying attention a lot harder.

    Since being here I have done so many amazing things. Thailand is one of the most beautiful places in the world. One very memorable experience was going to a temple inside a mountain. When you walk up the mountain you can see on the top of it a huge Buddha sitting on top of the mountain. After walking up you go into a room with the monks and offer them gifts. My host mom brought me to a room behind the monks and when I walked in I was in awe. The room was massive and at the end of the room you could see a huge Buddha. My host mom and I walked through the room and prayed to the Buddha then I just sat back and enjoyed the scenery of the room.

    The room was inside a cliff so rocks were on all sides of us. I could see the room went higher, but that area was roped off. There were decorations on the walls that made the room even more beautiful. The same day we drove about 2 hours another temple, but we didn’t pray to Buddha at this one. We walked into a house, and went upstairs to the second floor. When we walked outside I was, again, in awe by the view. The biggest thing you could see was an inactive volcano, and all around it were mountains. Trees and a few rivers let up to the volcano. It was possibly the most beautiful view I’ve ever seen. I will attach a picture to this journal but it will not do it justice at all.

    I have already had my inbound orientation, which was very fun meeting all the other exchange students. The orientation didn’t last that long and pretty much just told me everything RYE Florida told us before we left, so that part was kind of boring. After the orientation all the exchange students went to the mall in Khon Kaen and we hung out there for the day. The other exchange student in my town and I learned that there are some exchange students in Khon Kaen, so we will go hang out with them every once in a while now. I find myself going to Khon Kaen a lot because there is so much more to do.

    This journal was a quick summary of what I’ve been up to since I’ve been here, and I promise it won’t take me as long to put out my second. I can’t thank Rotary enough for this opportunity, it has already been one of the best months I’ve ever had.


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