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.