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!!