Alex- Outbound to Thailand
October 14, 2012
Sawatdee ka, I have now been in Thailand for two months. Looking back I
have done so much, even if it doesn't seem like it because everything just
seems normal now. It is really strange to be writing this Journal. Before I
became an exchange student I used to read all of the exchange student's
journals. Once I was accepted an a RYE student I read them even more because
I was amazed at all the thing people where doing. Well now I am writing my
first Journal and while there have been plenty of times I have just had
normal days to day life, I have gotten to do some pretty cool stuff, too.
When I first got to the Bangkok airport it was dark so my grand idea of
seeing the city, didn't happen. What did happen was my I said bye to the
other exchange students from Florida who were on the flight with me, and me
and my host family headed out to get some food at McDonalds. After that I
fell asleep in the car and missed the 3 hour drive to my small city of
The next day I woke up reasonable early at 9 am, considering I had not
really slept most of my travel time, it started a pattern that I still
haven't been able to break, I can't sleep-in in Thailand. Oh well it worked
out because me and my host family got in the car and drove out of Nakhon
Sawan to the country. There we visited a school, to check on a clean water
filter Rotary had donated, so all the students could have clean water to
drink. The next two days where very similar we went to a total of 3 schools,
with a group of Rotarians,and checked on water filters, handed out backpacks
and donated books. The backpacks we handed out were stuffed with soap, a
towel, a dictionary, etc. packed full for many of the students who were
affected by the massive floods in Thailand last year. My area of central
Thailand was hit especially hard, in fact my host families house was flooded
by several feet of water. My host mom in particular helps a lot with
promoting literacy in Thailand by providing books to rural schools. It was
really cool to visit all of these school, a few even performed traditional
Thai dances for us!
Then on Wednesday, five days since I arrived in Thailand, I started
school. I was told to prepare a speech in English to give for a little
presentation at my school, and was there bright and early at 7:30 ready to
give it. Only right before I got up on the stage a teacher came up to me and
said don't say your speech just introduce your self in Thai. *So this is to
any future exchange students* actually write and memorize a small
introduction in your host language, you never know when you will have to
give a speech in front of your school of 4,000 without any warning. This
also happened to me at all three of the rural schools we visited.
After wards I was shown to my class and got a very loud cheer from everyone.
All the students were so happy I was in their class and everyone wanted to
know all about me or as much as their English skills would allow. The rest
of the day I just sat in class and answered my classmates questions. (In
Thai schools, you stay in the same class and the teachers switch
classrooms). Now to be totally honest I hated school that first week, I got
hit with horrible homesickness, the school day lasted forever, everyone was
very nice but I could only speak to one person who was good in English. I
really really could not stand it. Since then I really started to enjoy
school, but it took time, this was one thing I was not expecting about being
an exchange student. After about two weeks I got my own schedule and it got
much better. Even though I could recognize some math and science topics, it
became pretty clear I couldn't follow along with the rest of the class, so I
now take some other classes and can go to the library for any period I don't
want to join (say Biology or Pre-Calculus). I still go to my normal class on
occasion, I eat lunch with them, line up with them during announcements and
I always help out the teacher in English class. In English class mostly I
just sit there and explain English or American words, ideas, and answer
their questions. These can be very random and are really pretty hard to
explain, these include: "what is the difference between nice and
beautiful?", "what is surfing and why is it popular in Australia" (based on
a section in the textbook), "are you sure there are 50 states in America and
not 56" (I have no idea about this question, I guess they included
territories?), and the strangest was "what is the dispute over Marijuana in
California?" (this question was posed by the teacher based on a practice
test in the textbook so I had to explain to the class what Marijuana was and
why people in California are arguing about it). The list goes on and on, so
be ready for some really random questions!
I also take a few art classes, a Chinese class, help with the elementary
aged English classes, and I even got the special privilege of getting a
private flower arranging class given by the head of the department, and
received the honorary name Bua meaning lotus. By honorary name Bua I of
course mean no one can pronounce the name Alex so they decided to call me
Bua instead, and by private flower class I mean I have the head lunch lady
teach me how to make flower arrangements in the back of the cafeteria.
Actually, my teacher is very good at it and we make a lot really cool stuff.
After about a week things started to get into a routine and I started to
like school more and more. Though I still do not like the Thai school system
and here is why: first it is very inefficient, school lasts most of the day
7:45 until 4 and many students take extra classes after wards, then they
spend a good portion of time doing homework and studying for the one big
university exam that determine whether or not they get into a good college;
second, a lot of kids don't pay attention in class, they talk, eat, draw
pictures, one day I counted 8 kids sleeping. I could go on and on but it
easiest to say they system could be improved.
I do meet and hang out with the other exchange students in my town
sometimes. I am the only exchange student at my school (so I get stared at a
lot there, and people shout good afternoon a lot too, no mater what time of
day it is because its all they can say in English), but I hang out with them
on the weekends or after school, when my Thai friends are studying. I used
to think spending so much time with other exchange students defeated the
purpose of coming all the way to Thailand, but I realized even when we hang
out we still are speaking Thai to buy a snack, or hang out at places where
Thais hang out.
So I was planning on this being short but since it is already so long, I
will save you some time and just make a few bullet points about things I
have noticed and thought were strange or different in Thailand. I am also
doing this because there is no possible way for me to explain everything I
have done and felt since arriving, just know that if you become an exchange
student you will have to do a lot of smiling and you will have no idea what
is going on 99% of the time.
There are motorcycles everywhere! and most road rules are taken
suggestions, even wearing a seat belt, so streets in Thailand can be kind of
Thai teenagers love cartoons and Facebook, if you come to Thailand be
ready to get all sorts of friends requests and see a lot of animated
drawings or song quotes. On that note, you will never escape American Pop
songs, they love it here, along with K Pop.
For girls, hair must be kept short(chin length) or worn in braids at Thai
school. Fingernails must be kept short too, otherwise the teacher will cut
They love Disney! I have yet to see any of my classes physics note with
out at least five pictures of Mickey Mouse on them.
On Thursdays (for me it varies by school) we have scout day where we wear
special uniforms that look like old fashion Girl Scout uniforms and do
different activities. Most of the guys then go to military training, once
they are old enough.
McDonalds and KFC deliver here.
They have the most intense fly-swaters. They look like small tennis
rackets and when you push button they get a surge of electricity so flies do
not stand a chance. Still it doesn't even put a dent in the fly population
If you thick school buses in America are crowed you have never ridden on
a Song-taow. They are covered pick-up trucks with two parallel benches in
Tuk tuks are fun! They are like a motorcycle with a bench in the back
that is covered and used like Taxis. Thailand still has taxis (which come in
all sorts of colors) but Tuk tuks are less expensive and more fun, if its
They are defiantly more conservative with clothing here.
Everything is super cheap, except electronics. I can buy a can of
coke-cola for 6 Baht or about 20 cents and a basic lunch at school (a dish
of noodles and a drink) costs about 28 Baht or roughly 1 US dollar.
Even so you will defiantly get ripped-off if you ever visit Thailand, its
perfectly legal to charge more to tourists, or farangs (white people)
Coffee makes you white and skinny here (or so they claim they have no
real regulation on it). It is advertised all the time on TV and is sold
health stores. Last week we had an inbound "camp" because there is no school
in October and all the exchange students were drinking coffee in the
morning. My host mom who organized it, kept telling me how strange it was
the boys where drinking coffee, it is for girls only she said.
Yes, Thailand is sexist, and will treat you differently if you are
foreign, its just a part of their culture.
Thai people will never flat out tell you if you are doing something wrong
or something that is considered impolite, you just have to pick up little
subtle hints or notice when your host family acts differently. It gets very
confusing but Thais will often give you slack if because you are foreign and
they rules are very... complicated.
Buddhism is the main religion here so Wats (temples) are everywhere, they
are all gorgeous and very ornate. When you visit one, though, you can not
show much skin or they will give you a cloth to cover yourself with.
They wai here all the time. It is comparable to shaking hands but done
much more often, to basically anyone you meet. It is for respect so younger
people wai to older people, students to teachers, etc.
To wai you place both hands about chest level and the bend your head to
tough your hands. How far you go down depends on how senior the person is,
with friends it is maybe chin level, teachers about nose level, and monks
forehead level so you are almost making a right angle.
At some point you will have to use a squat toilet, they are very common
here and sometimes they even have signs on regular western style toilets
telling people not to stand on the seat because they are not used to them.
But most houses do have regular toilets
You might have a hard time finding toilet pepper in public bathrooms here
often Thais will use a water hose, just make sure you always have an extra
stash of toilet paper and hand-sanitizer every time you go out.
Even so toilet paper is still very common but here people use it as
tissues. They literally take out the middle cardboard center of toilet paper
and put the roll in a tissue box.
I am making Vlogs as well on youtube under the name alexocean121, I am
not the best video editor in the world, but I think it has some helpful
This is a small shrine at a waterfall about 2 hours from my city.
Shrines are very common in Thailand and are found everywhere from
waterfalls in the middle of no where to shopping malls.
Just a typical street corner in Nakhon Sawan
My host sister, Ball, and me in our school uniform.
Just a typical street corner in Nakhon Sawan