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.