I have been in Thailand for almost three months now but it does
not feel like nearly that long, most likely because there is still so much to
get used to here. Thailand is different from America in most every way.
I left Florida on July 5th from Orlando. Luckily my
parents and brother where also flying out to Detroit later that same day so
they were able to take me all the way to my gate. I waited and was the last
person to board the plane. I was on my first flight alone from Florida to
Detroit but it was not that long of a flight only about 2 and 1/2 hours.
When I arrived Detroit I found my gate and sat reading
while I waited for the other exchange students that I was told I would be
met by in Detroit. After waiting for quite a while the boy who had been
sitting behind me since I arrived at the gate walked over and asked if I was
a Rotary exchange student. It turns out he was one of the exchange students
I was waiting for, but he had not been wearing his jacket so I had not
noticed him. After a while longer two other exchange students showed up. Liz
and Sarah from New York. The four of us sat talking about our excitement for
our year in Thailand until the plane started to board. Right before it was
time for us to board I heard my name being called it was my cousin Heather
who had also flown to Detroit that day for my grandfatherís funeral. I
jumped up and hugged her and then saw her husband and my mother, father, and
brother running over to say goodbye again. We had not expected to see each
other at the airport because we thought my flight would have taken off
before theirs had landed. This goodbye was not so bad I had already cried
during the first flight and now I was with the other exchange students so I
boarded the plane to Narita happy that I had gotten another chance to see my
The flight to Narita Japan was about 13 hours, but it
wasn't as bad as I had expected it would be, since I hate flying. I had the
other exchange students to talk to and to play cards with. I attempted to
sleep but I think I got at most 3 hours of sleep over my 23 hours of flying.
After we landed in Narita and found our next gate we only had about 10
minutes before we had to start boarding again so we went quickly to a little
shop and each bought a matching pin, they are shaped like flags and have
Japanese characters on them, and then got our pictures taken together.
The flight from Narita to Bangkok was about 6 hours long.
We were all seated separately so I switched seats so I could sit next to
Devin, the other exchange student from New York, but both Sarah and Liz
decided to sit each by themselves.
When we landed in Bangkok we got through Customs very
quickly (they let us pass through when they saw that we were exchange
students) and went to pick up our bags. We then begin to look for Sarah and
Liz's host families. Almost immediacy we saw a Rotary sign and signs with
our names on them accompanied by a huge crowed of people. We were greeted by
everyone and given flower necklaces and then many, many pictures were taken.
Sarah and Liz were taken home from the airport by their
host families and Devin and I had to stay the night in Bangkok before flying
out the next morning to get to the cities in which we would be living. I was
brought to a hotel for the night and Devin stayed at one of the familyís
houses. At the hotel I had only time to sleep for about 2 hours before I had
to get up and get ready to leave for my last flight. The flight to Phuket
was a very short one, only about 1 hour and I was alone again for this last
flight. In Phuket, I was a little late getting out of the airport because
one of my bags had been misplaced by the airlines, once it was found I
headed for the exit and a man came running at me holding the front page of
my Rotary application upside down in my face and yelling "You? You? You?"
This turned out to be my host father. I was then introduced to my host
mother one of my host sisters and my second host family which is the
president of my host club, his wife and their daughter Gib 16 who had just
returned from her exchange to Virginia.
My House: My 1st host house was two stories with a
finished attic above where a Buddhist altar is located. The first floor has
a kitchen, living room, office, two changing rooms (with two showers a small
bathroom and a Jacuzzi tub inside), an entertainment room and a workout
room, the second floor has 5 bedrooms each with a balcony and bathroom. We
also have three cars, three car ports, a motorcycle, maidís quarters, two
guest houses and a pool. My host family who owns this house tells me that my
third host family has the really big house!!
My Family: My first Thai family consisted of my Thai
father kun paw (father in Thai), my Thai mother kun meh (mother in Thai), my
Thai sisters nung Fah age 10 and nung Fai age 14, and my host mothers'
sister. Fai and Fah are nicknames (most Thais go by a nickname). Fai was
named for fire, Fah was named for the sky, and my family called me pii Fon.
Pii means older sister and Fon means rain. (Nung means younger sister.)
I recently switched to my second Thai family. Now I live
with my new host parents who donít speak English and a 16 year old host
sister named Gib who was on exchange to Virginal last year. I am still just
getting to know this family but I think I will like them very much!
1st month: My first week here we spent a lot of time
shopping. My host family wanted to show me all the markets in Phuket as well
as all the malls. The most popular place to shop is Central Festival which
is the biggest mall here. It is bigger than most of the malls I have seen in
America. It has many of the same stores as American malls do plus others. It
also has a movie theater and a grocery store. However the most interesting
place to shop is the markets. At the markets they sell most everything from
clothes, to live seafood, to pets and everything is very cheap compared to
America, though I am told for Thailand it is very expensive!
Also in my first week my host mom took me to ride an
elephant! It was the first time that she had ridden one too. I really
enjoyed it as we rode through the mountains where you could see the ocean
below us. It was very pretty. My host mom however did not enjoy it because
riding an elephant is very bumpy.
Most of the rest of the month I went wherever my parents
went for business and when they had free time between stops they would show
me interesting places around Phuket such as Buddhist and Chinese temples.
Near the end of the month I started school at Satree
Phuket which means womanís school. It is no longer an all girl school
however. Though the majority of the school is still girls, 3000 girls and
only 200 boys! I am in M5 which is equivalent to 11th grade. I am in a class
with 17 other students. My first day in school the students in my class did
not know I was coming so they were very surprised. They got together and
planned an introduction for me! They are all very nice students and I get
along with them great. This semester which just ended I followed my class to
most of their classes which are Thai For the Thai student, Chinese, English
Reading and Writing, Core English, Graphic Design, Social Studies, Hand
Ball, Math, Business, Physics, Advice, Test Taking Skills for the English
Exam, and Music Theory. I also take a cooking class 2 hours a week and an
art class 1 hour a week with an M4 class. Next semester (which starts in
about a month) my classes will change so I will no longer have to take
Chinese or English classes. Instead I will take more cooking and art as well
as Thai music, Thai Dance and Thai language.
We go to school from 7:30 until 4:15 Monday through Friday
though my classes only last from 8:30 until 3:30. Every morning we have
assembly. For assembly every student in the school comes out to the front of
the school and lines up with their class. We then sing the national anthem
and then there is a Buddhist prayer. Then we all sit on the ground while
announcements are made.
My school is very strict. Last week at the M5 meeting we
had a sock check. Every student in M5 was required to come to the meeting.
After the teacher had finished speaking, she told us that there had been too
many people wearing the wrong type of socks to school and that she was going
to do a sock check. She had us leave the auditorium 5 at a time so that she
could look at our socks as we left. Those who were caught with any color on
their sock had to stay late for punishment. It took so long for all of us to
walk out in groups of 5 that I was over an hour late for pick up!
2nd month: In my second month here I had my first Rotary
orientation. There are twenty inbounds in my district: 6 Americans, 5
Brazilians, 1 Canadian, 2 Mexicans, 1 Japanese, 2 Taiwanese, 1 Finish and 2
Germans. We all became friends very fast. Our first day at orientation we
were taken to the caves. The caves were really fun and scary because at the
end we had to lie down flat in our boats and go through a part of the caves
where the top was so low it was only inches from out faces. One rock hit my
face and my friend on the other side of the boat almost got stuck on rock
that pushed against her side
The second day of orientation was mostly meeting where we
went over things such as rules, and language advice. In the evening we did
cultural presentations where students presented anything they wanted to
about any culture either by themselves or in a group. I was in a group with
Sarah from America, Heli from Finland, and Ana from Brasil. We did our
presentation on greetings and demonstrated how people greet in each of the
country that the students where from plus Thailand.
That evening me and a few of the other students watched a
meteor shower by the pool - it was exciting for me because I had never even
seen a shooting start before.
The last day we had speeches to listen to, then we all had
to say goodbye. In October all of the students are coming out to Phuket for
about four days so we can see the Vegetarian Festival, and In the middle of
November we have our first trip. It is to Northeast Thailand and into Laos!!
3rd Month: I switch families and houses this month so a
lot of time was spent packing, unpacking and getting used to a new family.
Yesterday I attended a Buddhist event at my school. It was similar to
vacation bible school in the US. Monks lead the class. Most of the time
there was a few hundred of us from M5 lined up by our classes sitting on the
floor of the auditorium while the Monks talked and had us do different
movements and prayers. The Monks made the class fun - they were making
everyone laugh the whole time and teasing many of the students. They had us
play Simon says except instead of saying ďSimon saysĒ he said "Nakrian"
which means student. We also watched music videos, had snacks, and watched
some videos that I still donít understand why we were watching. The first
videos were clips from America's Funniest Home Videos and the others were
videos of people eating live mice and lizards and slaughtering animals. The
class lasted about 8-9 hours. And it was very interesting to be a part of,
though I could not understand most of what was said.