It was a wonderful experience working with the students. Getting to know each student individually. I also had great rapport with most of the students which enabled us to have touching conversations and share stories.
The misty northern mountains of Chiang Mai “wai” you a hello and a smile to wherever you currently are in this wide world. From our jungle farmland resort home base, the rain gently dimples the surface of the Ping River and the ever present flock of ducks waddle throughout the property. We went through a lot and experienced so many things during our two weeks together in Thailand, many of which pushed us to mature, think about our decisions and actions, and open our minds to other ways of living and interacting with the world. We will no doubt be telling stories and memories of our time with GLA for years to come, so here are some summer snippets to help you reflect and remember your time in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Two weeks in Thailand may have seemed long before you came out here, but it really is not much time to pack in all that Thailand has to offer, though I think we did a really good job trying! We took on the city with some visits to local, iconic temples and were even so lucky as to be present at Wat Chedi Luang when hundreds of monks were all chanting a birthday blessing to the King of Thailand. That was the only time the whole summer we got to witness such a beautiful event and one that should be specially recognized!
We tackled the local famer’s market and picked the products that we later used in our home made Thai dishes, taught to us by a charismatic family who have turned their home into a Thai Cooking School. In continuing with our culinary curiosities we went to go visit the oldest market in Chiang Mai’s China Town, Warorot Market or Kad Luang. We sampled some fried worms, tempted fate by tasting the intimidating durian, and enjoyed a sampling of Thai sweets and treats to wash down as a well deserved desert. Niti, the Akha woman, took us on a tour of her Akha hill tribe village in the mountains outside of the city.
Learning about the Akha’s way of living, using all that they have available to them and wasting as little as possible, Niti pushed some of us to embrace cultural traditions that initially may have repulsed us. Part of our challenge in this adventure to Thailand was to be pushed outside our normal reality, to be open to different ways of living, and to forge confidence in our abilities to handle a range of situations. We finished up our first week of adventuring with the ultimate zip lining course at Eagle Track Zip line. While there was some apprehension by some students who were not sure they could complete the entire course, everyone who started the zip line course, finished the zip line course!
Then came the really challenging and rewarding part of the journey to Thailand, the service of teaching English to the Thai elementary school students. It proved to be quite the task to engage and communicate with the Thai students in the beginning. Intended plans didn’t always pan out but over the course of the week we all found our own ways to employ our new teaching skills and bond with the students in ways that will touch all of our hearts forever. While some kids certainly liked to try and have a good laugh at the foreigner’s expense, seeing the drumming and dancing they performed at the closing ceremony was truly a thankful offering to you all for taking the time and effort to reach out to these Thai students and give them a once in a lifetime experience.
To close off the last few days of your time in Thailand we went to go spend the day with the gentlest of giant, the elephants! We got to know our elephants well, even if we could never remember their Thai names, and giggled when feeling the belly of a few of the females who were pregnant! After a hike into the mountains we were rewarded with a lunch of pad Thai wrapped in a banana leaf and a mud bath of epic proportions. We covered both our bodies and the bodies of our big buddies with the healing mineral clay. Rinsing off in the free flowing river back near the camp, we got tickled by elephant kisses on our cheeks, or hoisted into the air by one of their massive trunks, or did flips off their backs into the cool water. While entertaining it was also a place to learn of conservation and protection and we capped off the day by planting a tree in the forest.
Whether we were getting hot in Muey Thai class, getting artistically confused with our paper umbrella painting in the Borsang Umbrella Village, or needing an extra photographer at the 3-D Museum our local Thai staff of Ice, King, and Wa worked hard to be sure we always had all our needs met. Does anybody remember the Thai they taught us? How are you? Sabai dii mai ka/krap? Try and hold on to the language you already know so you can use it again next time you’re back in Thailand! The Thai people and their generosity and friendliness, Thai cuisine and the endless variety of tastes that can be put together, and the endless forms of beauty that can be experienced in this small Southeast Asian country will hopefully have you back before long. May this GLA 2017 adventure to Thailand be a spring board for your further travel adventures throughout the world and inspire you to peak around the next corner with curiosity and honesty, without self doubt and fear. Thanks for a wonderful summer!
Special moments from our trip:
-Learning how to make Pad Thai, gaeng kiow wan, and thom kha gai with a local family’s cooking school and trying to leave room for sweet coconut sticky rice and mango!
-Trying to blow bubbles from the snapped neck of the soap leaf in the Akha village with Niti.
-Riding elephants bareback across the river while bamboo rafts floated down stream to a misty jungle backdrop.
-Playing endless games of duck-duck-goose and “flower” hangman with the Thai students.
-Getting our fortunes read at Wat Doi Suthep, and sometimes not entirely sure we want our fortunes! Thanks to Wa for translating. ☺
-Squat toilets and the bum gun!
-Exuberant karaoke parties in the vans going to and from excursions.
-Sweating and getting rid of pent up energy in Muey Thai kickboxing class.
-Fist bumps and high fives with our Thai students.
-The seatbelt song!
-Learning Thai instruments with fellow Thai students during the cultural exchange at Wachirawit School.
-Fine tuning our friendly bartering skills for the epic shopping trips to Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar and the night markets.
-Discovering new sore and ticklish spots during our authentic Thai massage.
-Learning to live with our gecko roommates and their continuous chirps!
-Speaking about Buddhist philosophy and the origins (or non origins) of the universe with a Buddhist monk at Wat Suan Dok, the royal cemetery temple.
We were at Tianna enjoying the sunset along the Ping river not that long ago. It feels like the spicy food we had has just started to leave our palettes of the delicious burn from all the amazing Thai dishes we had. Hopefully you have not forgotten the lotus pose and caught yourself wai – ing from time to time. Speaking of Wa, our Thai staff is missing you extremely as are we all. You must be in school or even college for some of you. Let this letter be something to remind you of all the fun time you had at GLA Thailand.
Session two was a whirlwind of delight and excitement! Starting with week one of amazing insightful cultural activities that started with a city tour and ending with playing in the jungle with majestic elephants. Then week two, you all taught the adorable Thai students at our schools. What an exemplary job you all did. Those students will never forget the experience you gave them. Hopefully you can look back on those lessons with the fondness of memories and use it as a lesson for your futures, spring boarding you to great heights in life.
Ideally you are in your nice and cozy elephant pants reading this letter in a cool dry place. The weather was always a challenge for us, being rain or the unrelenting heat, it made us stronger as a group. The memories you should look back on with fondness will always be yours to cherish. Be it singing in the vans or late night talks at bed checks, those will always be yours to look back upon. May a smile be close by when you thinking about our time together in Chiang Mai.
Making spring rolls and kai soi at the cooking school our very first full day together.
The elephants! The Elephants! THE ELEPHANTS!
Remember the crazy long walking street market with countless stands to buy our amazing souvenirs and gifts for our loved ones.
Tianna in all its glory, from the pool to the dining area, our little oasis in the middle of the jungle. Eating breakfast and dinner next to the Ping river.
Ziplining through the jungle.
Teaching those adorable little students.
From all of your GLA Staff members,
Thank you for such a memorable Session!!
Important : One should read the following in one’s poshest English accent.
I hope you are all well and, wherever you may be in the world and whatever you might be doing, you are happy and enjoying life.
I am writing this little reflection on our time together sat in a coffee shop in Chiang Mai, a couple of days after we said our goodbyes at the airport. Tianna is quiet, and a little sad, without you all.
Looking back over the last two weeks and remembering …
The tired and some slightly apprehensive faces arriving at Tianna on the first day, yet still, Sam with her beautiful, beaming smile and Phoebe looking completely knackered, but still so very enthusiastic about the adventures to come.
The van journeys … those long rides to and from school made somewhat longer by Zac talking about … Zac; Crystal doing the instrumentals breaks in the songs; the songs … the Ice man and his moves to ‘It’s Raining Men’, Jack warbling ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’, Olivia’s Abba skills, Under the Boardwalk, Boardwalk! Thank you for the many beautiful voices (Rhi, I will always remember Stay), and the others like Gianna, who despite lacking any noticeable singing skills, tried nonetheless.
I’m sure the experience of those five days at school will be something that you will always remember. I saw some great work in the classroom and was particularly impressed by the progress made in your teaching skills as you grew in confidence over the week. Working with children is a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions, there are ups and downs, good days and bad days. I hope you all enjoyed the experience, perhaps it has inspired you to work with children in the future and try to make a positive difference in their lives.
Unfortunately, the memory that may live with me the longest is of the day a lovely, little birdy came to visit the classroom. Sat at the back and seeing the reactions on the faces of Maggie and Zac, I wondered if a decapitated zombie had crawled in. Maggie shrieked and ran, Zac jumped onto a chair pushing away any sweet, innocent children that were in his way, only to grab them once again when he was on the chair and use them as human shields. Even the poor, cute birdy, seeing Zac and Maggie react as they did, thought there must be some big, scary creature behind it and took cover in the classroom. I think it was probably as puzzled, but not as amused as the rest of us when it realised the truth of the matter. It was last seen strolling out of the classroom muttering something about how we were all doomed if these were indeed the leaders of tomorrow!
Spending the day with the elephants was a brilliant experience, even with Rhi taking particular pleasure in rubbing elephant poo and pee into my face. Not quite so sure about Flora attempting a full on snog with the elephant when the mahouts asked the elephant to kiss her. Somewhat inappropriate, and a little embarrassing if I’m honest Flora.
The Cultural Exchange was a fantastic afternoon. The boys in particular seemed to enjoy it, wonder why! Well done all of you, particularly Sam and Kendall.
Thank you to Phoebe for teaching me about her unique accent – that would be Phoebe from Chicago, or as she constantly kept correcting me, F-wee-bee from Chick-ar-go (don’t forget to jerk your head from side-to-side in order to achieve the genuine Phoebe look).
A note for those who chose to bully me throughout the two weeks, you know who you are. I am sure my cuts and bruises will heal soon, though the mental scars and trauma may take a little bit longer, but remember … you are on THE LIST and some where, some time, your comeuppance awaits!
Thank you to all of you for making it such a wonderful experience. Always remember the friendly Thai staff and people, what we learned about Thailand, what we learned about ourselves, the fun, the laughs, the banter, happy days, happy memories.
Peace, love and happiness always,
Sa Wah Dee Kap!!
It is now Thursday, August 4th and it so strange not to not have you all here. I actually miss the pirate talk echoing down the halls or the elated cries of Bing Bong booming through the air. From our first meeting at the airport to our last dinner on the river, it is amazing just how much you all grew in these past 21 days. We kept you so busy but you took it all with a smile. Even when we had unplanned bumps in the road you were still able to maintain a positive attitude. I am so impressed by your tenacity, perseverance, and overall awesomeness.
We entered the program as individuals with very little idea of what was in store for us. Over the past three weeks we laughed together, cried together, sang together, sweated together, but most of all grew as a family…together. In service, we accomplished so much as a group and learned just how much of an impact that small gestures can make in the world; if everybody does just a little bit…nobody will have to do a lot.
We learned the importance of approaching every situation with flexibility because the reality of life is that it is uncertain and things constantly change. Remember: “To bend like a reed in the wind, that is true strength”. We demonstrated amazing courage by facing our fears head on regardless of the outcomes. It is in those moments that true greatness is born because we learn the most important lesson of failure: learning to pick ourselves back up.
As we resettle back into our lives let us remember the lessons we learned and the lifelong bonds we made this summer. Until next time…
-Julie, Chris, Dee