Pessi, Outbound to Thailand

Sawaddii Krab,

It has been a while since the last time I wrote here. I have been busy with traveling and other things here in Thailand. During the past few months I have fallen in love with Thailand even more than before. I have traveled to almost every part of the country and I have seen things that I couldn’t even dream of: Ancient Hindu temples in the east (Buriram), beautiful islands, beaches and scuba diving in the south (Koh LIpe, Phi Phi Islands, Phuket, Krabi, Pattaya etc.), waterfalls and railway bridges in the west (Kanchanaburi), and beautiful sceneries, mountains, elephants, ziplines, and markets in the North (Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Sukothai). I have also traveled to nature parks, ancient cities, rivers etc. close to my home here in central Thailand. Even though the most famous parts in Thailand are far away from my house, one of my favorite trips was to a rice field not far away. I was wearing a traditional Thai farmer outfit and picked rice all day. I felt like I was a Thai person and my mind was at peace. However, this was only one of the hundreds of places I went to. There are simply too many trips to write about! I am very thankful to my host family for taking me to all these places.

In addition to all this, Rotary has organized multiple activities for us here in 3350. In the beginning of the year, we had a English camp where we taught English to little kids. We also had two bustrips, one to the North and one to the South, with all the inbounds and outbounds. Finally, we have had massage and meditation camps in Bankgkok.

On the bus trips, I got to spend time with all my friends and we learned a lot about each other. The first trip was to the South. We visited some of the most beautiful islands and beaches on the planet. We swam in hot springs and had a great time at the hotel swimming pool.

The second trip to northern Thailand was a little longer and very different from the South trip. In the north we visited the highest point of Thailand, the most beautiful white temple in Thailand, the Golden Triangle (where Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos meet) , the remains of the last kingdom in Thailand and much more. But the best thing was not visiting all these places. The best thing was to spend time with some of the most amazing people which I can now call my third family.

The meditation camp in Bangkok, organized by Rotary, was also an experience I will always remember. Together with my friends, I slept in a Wat Pho temple right next to the famous Grand Palace. Even though meditating with so many people around was much more difficult than in December when I ordained for a couple of weeks, I still learned a lot and had a good time with my friends. We all wore white uniforms and followed a monk around Bangkok. We visited multiple temples and even took a boat around the canals. In every place we visited, we practiced meditation.

In May my friends and I asked Rotary if it was possible to organize a massage camp to learn traditional Thai massage. Fortunately, Rotary said yes, and the next week we all spent more time in Bangkok together. I slept in the house of my Japanese friend Takumi. His family was really nice to us and I really appreciate their hospitality. Every day after the lessons ended, we traveled to Bangkok in a big group. We went to markets, restaurants etc.

District 3350 , together with the south district, had a district conference in Pattaya. At the conference, inbounds and outbounds had a dance performance. Every weekend before the conference we practiced and we were finally able to perform a 20-minute-long show built from many different parts and songs. Personally, I was impressed at how well our teachers were able to teach us, people with absolutely no background in performing. As I am one of the few exchange students who can speak Thai, I was asked to speak for all the exchange students in the district conference. However, my mom had booked a trip to the nearby island and I had to leave before the speech. Fortunately, my friend Henry was able to help out.

Last year, Rotary told the exchange students that we could start a charity project if we wanted to. In February, I started selling pizza to raise money and food for children from low income families. At first I only had a microwave size oven. After working all day and still getting nothing done, I figured that I need to build a bigger oven. I found some bricks and pieces of metal outside my house and I built a real Italian pizza oven. I followed Italian recipes and in four days I was able to make more than 50 pizzas by myself. I sold them for 200 baht (6.50 dollars) each and I was able to raise a lot of money. In addition, I sold bags of fried banana chips at the district conference. The day before the conference, I worked from 9 am to 2 am with my family to finish the snacks. Finally, we had about 450 bags of fried banana. At the district conference, almost every Rotarian bought a bag or two and I was able to sell all the bananas. The final amount of money I raised was 16,327.00 baht (520 dollars), and together with Rotary Club of Nongkhae, I will donate the money to Wad Kum Hak School here in my hometown Nongkhae.

My city is very small and there are not many Rotary families where I live. I only had one family over the whole year. This did not bother me at all because I was lucky and got the best family ever! However, I spent the first week of May in another family in Saraburi to get familiar with the lifestyle of multiple families in Thailand.

In Thailand, seasons don’t really exist. Here we only have the rainy season, hot season, and really hot season. Therefore, “summer holiday” also doesn’t exist. In Thailand the long two and a half month break from school is from the beginning of March to the middle of May. About three weeks ago school had started again. I enjoy school even more than before because my Thai language skills have improved during the break. Now I am able to communicate with my friends even better than before. In school I only get grades for classes that are easy for me. These classes are math, chemistry, music, English, PE, and individual studies; basically everything that does not require me to read books in Thai. Now I can read Thai, but back when I signed up for classes I couldn’t. Therefore, I have a lot of free time at school. I try to spend my time wisely. I have read books about things that I am interested in, I have learned a lot of Thai, started my own affiliate marketing business online, and studied for standardized tests for the coming year in high school. I have had time to do things that I like and that I am interested in, instead of studying what teacher tells me to study like back in the USA. I can say that in one year in Thailand I have gained much more useful knowledge than I ever gained in the USA or Finland.

I think now it is a good time for a little advertisement. I have bought a lot of elephant pants that I am planning to bring back home (to USA) for my family and friends. I am asking for 10 dollars per pair for the expenses and transportation. Let me know if you are interested! I will add pictures of the pants down below.

Now my exchange is coming to an end. I only have a month left until I return home on the 1st of July. It feels like it was only yesterday when I stepped out of the airplane. I already know that I will miss this place and the Thai people. However, I am very grateful for the opportunity and all the amazing memories that I got. I would like to thank the following people for everything:

Thank you to my biggest sponsor, my own family, for letting me do this.

Thank you to my host family Tulyanon for being so supportive and kind to me during the whole year.

Thank you to Michael Parks and everyone else for fighting for the program in Georgia district 6900. Without you none of us could have the best year of our lives!

Thank you to Rotary Club of North Fulton for sponsoring me.

Thank you to my host district 3350 for having me here and organizing all the events for us.

I have changed a lot as a person and experienced a completely different culture than the one that I am used to. I have made lifelong relationships with the Thai people. Yesterday I gave my final speech to the district and all the exchange students. I spoke about my charity project, my memories that I have from Thailand, and said goodbye to all my friends and families. Some of my friends have gone home already. It is time to say goodbye to all the people going home already, however, I still have a month or so left of my exchange. I will spend the last month like I have spent every month so far: taking every opportunity out of every day. I will travel to Phuket and western Thailand once more. I will have a field trip with my school to a beach. I will shop for things to bring back home for my family and friends. I have also promised to take my host family for a dinner to an expensive rooftop restaurant in Bankgkok to thank them for everything they have done for me.

I can now call Thailand my third home and I will for sure come back in the years to come.

I love you Thailand!

Sawaddiikrab, Khobkun Krab.

For the district here in Thailand I have to write a report on a given topic every month. Here are the reports from February to June:
February essay:
I am now halfway done with my exchange. So far everything has been great. I am enjoying every bit of my life here. I have an amazing host family, I could have never even imagined having a better one. They take me to travel a lot and help me with everything I need. Yesterday I counted how many provinces I have visited in Thailand and the final count was over 30!
Experiencing Thai school has been a great experience. Even though I still do not understand everything, I have been able to make many friends and learn about another education system. Also the school lunch is very delicious and cheap in my school.
I already speak Thai conversationally. It’s helpful when I need to plan things with my family or school. It also helps to make new friends and to communicate with them. To be honest the language is difficult but not impossible to learn. I still struggle with some vocabulary, reading, and writing yet I study every day.
Overall, I am enjoying Thai culture, and everything in Thailand. The 5 months have passed very quickly. Right now, I am looking forward to the bus trips and travelling to Chiang Mai with my host family.

March Essay
How have I adjusted to my new host family?
My second host is very busy with her restaurant startup, and therefore I have not been able to change families yet. I get along with my first host and I am fine with the situation. Nongkhae, the town that I live in, is very small, and there are not many host families available. In this host family, I have an amazing host brother, Ice, and we travel a lot. Every weekend, and sometimes during the week too, we travel to new and amazing places. The Tulyanon family has been better than I ever imagined my host family being. My host parents and Ice are very kind, flexible and understanding.
I also try to do my part in the family activities; I clean the floor every day after dinner and I talk and participate as much as I can. I help my family learn English while they teach me Thai. I feel that for everything they have done for me, this is the least that I can do for them.
I do hope to change families before the end of my exchange just because I wish to see life in another family. The ways of this family might not be how things are done in other Thai families and by changing families I wish to understand the Thai culture and “ordinary Thai family life” better than before. However, I have got time left before going back to the USA and at the moment the situation is perfectly fine with me.

April essay:
I had a great time on the bus trip to southern Thailand. I really loved every second of it. I have never seen such beautiful beaches and islands before. I have enjoyed swimming and snorkeling since I was very little and I was amazed how clear the water was. I also got some great pictures with my Go Pro. Spending five days with my exchange friends strengthened our friendships and I also made many friends from the outbound group. Together with some of the other inbounds I taught the outbounds about the European and American culture. The waterfall and springs that we traveled to see were also really beautiful. In Phuket I enjoyed the Show and food at Fantasea and the walking street at night. Overall, the trip exceeded my expectations and I just wish it did not go by so fast.

The north trip was also great. My favorite part was Song Kran day(Thai new year), of course. I have never seen anything like it! Thousands of people on the streets having a waterfight. I walked with my friends around Chiang Mai and we had a lot of fun together. I even swam in the river because I was already so wet!

I also liked all the temples and waterfalls we went to. It was amazing to visit the highest point of Thailand, the Golden triangle (the point where Thailand, Malaysia, and Laos meet) , Loi Ithanon, and the white temple. At the hotel I enjoyed being with inbounds and outbounds. I made a lot of new friends and I was able to help the outbounds with some questions about exchange

May essay:
How have I prepared for departure?
I am going home July 1st so I still have over a month left in Thailand. Even though the scary date is coming closer and closer, I still have not really thought about it. So far I have asked my parents in USA to send me a list of things that I need to bring back home. On the 26th of May I am going to Jajujak market to buy a lot of things. It is better to shop here than back home because Thailand is much cheaper than America. I also got a suit made in Bangkok for the same reason. I will need a new suit next year for high school graduation, prom, and other things, so I figured it would be better to get it from Thailand. Before I go home I am also planning to visit the temple where I ordained in December in Wangnamkiau province. To thank my host family for everything that they have done for me, I have promised to take them out to eat on a rooftop restaurant in Bangkok. Other than the things I mentioned, everything is still pretty normal. I travel with my host family a lot and sometimes I go to Saraburi to see my friends. My Italian friends in Saraburi (from AFS) are leaving next week and some of my Rotary friends have already gone home for school things. It is a little sad to say goodbye to everyone but I am sure that we will meet sometime in future.

June essay:
May was a busy month for me. Even though my exchange is coming to an end, I still travel a lot with my host family. I started the month at Eduardo’s house. I spent a week with him to get familiar with the life of families other than my host. After the week was finished my parents picked me up to go to Khao Jai nature park. We went to a waterfall and paddled on a lake. The next week, Rotary organized a meditation camp in Bangkok. I had a great time, even though meditating with lot of friends around was really difficult. When the camp ended I visited Grand Palace with my friends.
My family took me fruit picking. We picked mangos, jack fruits, and small orange fruits (I don’t remember the name). It was fun and I got some good pictures. Then, after a couple of days at school, we went to Kanchanaburi in western Thailand. The first day we visited one of the most beautiful temples that I have ever been to, a railway bridge, a massive tree, and finally we spent the night on a lake in a floating house. The next day I went to see seven beautiful waterfalls in a forest. The water was clean and I was even allowed to swim and jump.
Now, it was time to wrap up my pizza project. I fixed my old oven in the front of my house and spent one day making pizza. The final amount to be donated to a school in Nongkhae became 16,327.00 baht!
Henry and some of the inbounds, including myself, were interested in learning Thai massage. Fortunately, Rotary was able to organize a massage camp in Bangkok. During the camp I slept in Takumi’s house with Henry. It was great to spend little more time with my friends before our departure and learn an extremely useful skill. The final day of the camp I met my host family at Asiatique. My mom had booked an amazing dinner on a boat. The food was great and it was really beautiful to see Bankgkok, the river, and Grand Palace at night!
My family bought two puppies. I play with them every day when I return from school. After the break I have enjoyed school more than normal as I can now communicate more with my Thai friends.

Click HERE to read more about Pessi and all his blogs