Time Capsule Letter – October 2016
A great big hello to Session 3 of Thailand: Cultural Kaleidoscope, Tianna Home Base, we hope you are all doing well!!! It is a little crazy to realize how quickly time has passed since we were fortunate enough to spend an incredibly memorable two weeks together in Chiang Mai. This ‘Time Capsule Letter’ is a great way to look back at the people we met, the places we saw, and the experiences we shared while in Thailand. Hopefully all of you are able to think back to your time walking through one of the many temples we visited, or one of the classes you taught at Sai Moon School or Don Pung School, or the relationships you built with the local community, the Thai school children, and each other, and you are able to smile, laugh, and appreciate what a unique opportunity we all shared together.
As the third and final group of the summer, we were looking forward to an energetic group that would allow us to finish the summer on a high note, and you guys did not disappoint! Despite all the chaotic schedule changes and flight delays that accompanied the Hong Kong typhoon, everyone came together to welcome the late arrivals and make the most of the time we did have during our time in Chiang Mai. We were incredibly fortunate to have such an interesting group of people that supported each other and got along so well, and we were impressed by how well everyone managed to overcome the challenges that came with such crazy start to our program. Your group in particular seemed to click from Day 1 (even if ‘Day 1’ for you was actually ‘Day 2’ or ‘Day 3’!) and it was amazing to see how the group interacted over the course of the two weeks together. You guys were all awesome and it made the experience so much more rewarding to have been able to share it with so many other great people. That’s not to say everything was wonderful all day, every day. There were mosquitos (lots of them); there were upset stomachs and other various illnesses; there were early mornings and late nights; there were schedule changes and long van rides and nightly curfew checks. But that’s all part of what makes traveling to new countries and experiencing new cultures such a rewarding experience: you never know exactly what you will get. It’s all about making the most of those experiences while you are there, and all of you are the ones that made that happen.
GLA programs can be exciting, a little overwhelming, and a whole lot of fun, but one thing GLA hopes to stress is how the experiences you have while in Thailand, Costa Rica, India, or wherever else you may travel with GLA can be an opportunity to learn about a new culture, become more informed about how interconnected the world has become, and reflect on ways you can make a positive impact on the world around you. In addition to being an opportunity to travel and learn about what life is like in a different place and culture, a GLA trip can also be a valuable opportunity to grow and learn more about yourself, about your strengths and values, and about what motivates you to be the best person you can be. So as you make your way through your high school classes, or as you settle in to your new surroundings on a college campus, or wherever life takes you this fall, winter, and beyond, remember to think back to your experiences and the relationships you built last summer in Chiang Mai, to cherish them, and to use them as a part of what makes each of you unique. And then go out there and keep being awesome!
Before we wrap this up, here are a few of our favorite memories from Session 3:
The crazy first few days with staggered arrivals thanks to a typhoon in Hong Kong
Funny faces during fish foot massages
The third “first” day when we finally all came together in our Tianna home base during our candle-lit ‘String Welcome Ceremony’
P’ Aey’s inspirational words of wisdom: “We are all here together for a reason”
Riley kicking butt at Muay Thai
Eating bamboo silk worms. Eating chicken Nam Tok (blood mold). Eating Chiang Mai spicy sausage. Eating durian on DAY 1! Basically, eating our way through Thailand.
Late nights dancing in the meeting room
Frankie’s huge shirts
Rose’s view of the world
Maya getting stepped on by an elephant
Ryan’s van listening to Jubel every day for 3 weeks
‘Hit the quan’ and successfully pulling off all of the dances at the cultural exchange
The wedding game during the cultural exchange
Paul getting lots of love from all the Thai girls and boys at the cultural exchange
Placing fragments of gold on the buddha statue to represent generosity; actions that simply cultivate joy, respect, and gain religious/spiritual merit
The “river crew” getting infiltrated by Ryan
Sophie’s amazing henna abilities
Paul’s henna tattoo. Paul getting his nails filed. Paul championing his actions while being the one male in a group of 34!
Abbie killing it at the chicken dance
Multiple attempts to explain and play the ‘wedding game’ to the Thai elementary students
The incredible dancing of the little Thai student, Kitima, at Sai Moon School!
Kaye, Lundon and crew sinking Ryan’s hat to the bottom of the pool
Everyone’s amazing teaching skills! You guys all rocked it!!!
Finally, from all of us that had the pleasure of meeting you this past summer – P’ Aey, Orn, Prae, Ton, Kaitlyn, Ryan, Chelsea, Kaye, and Keith – Thank you again for being such a great group and we wish you all the best in wherever your future takes you! You are all awesome!!!
Summer Blog Posts
Title: Arrival Day!
Greetings from Chiang Mai, Thailand! Unfortunately, we all learned a lot about the often chaotic nature of international travel. With typhoons basically shutting down Hong Kong, where 28 out of our total group of 34 students were originally scheduled to transit through, we spent much of the day in communication with GLA’s fantastic staff team over at Headquarters receiving updates and reworking plans. At this point, we are glad to share that 14 of our students for Session 3 at Tianna Garden Village Home Base (August 2 – August 15) were able to make their way through airports, flight changes, layovers, and many long hours of traveling, and we are looking forward to welcoming the remaining 20 students once they are able to safely travel to Thailand in the next day or two!
It has been a long day of making trips to and from the airport, and double checking the latest weather and itinerary details, but after taking some time to settle in to Tianna Garden Village (our GLA Home Base and our home away from home for the next two weeks) students were given their first taste of local Thai food, including fried cashew and chicken with rice and some exotic Thai fruit before heading to their rooms for some much needed rest.
The GLA staff team at Tianna Home Base has been working hard preparing for the students’ arrival and trying to fine tune our schedule for the next couple weeks, and we are all very excited for what we have in store going forward. With a large portion of our group still in transit, our GLA Thailand Orientation will be pushed back to tomorrow evening and Thursday morning, leaving tomorrow open for a Chiang Mai city tour, a lunch buffet at the Chiang Mai Grand View Hotel, a visit to a few notable temples in town, and our evening cooking class. Once we have the majority of our group here in Thailand, we will run through an orientation that will include an introduction to Thai culture, safety and security protocols, highlights of our service learning activities and adventure excursions, and a few other minor details (like staying hydrated in sunny Thailand!).
We’ll be getting an early start tomorrow morning so we’ll wrap up this first blog post here. Future blog posts will be authored by our student leaders and will include pictures from our busy days as well so be sure to check back often for updates on all the amazing adventures we are having together in the Land of Smiles! As they say here in Thailand, Khob Khun Krap!
Author: Keith Wingeard (International Director)
August 3, 2016
Title: Arrival Day, part 2
With all the delayed flights pushing back arrival day for a large portion of our students, we started our day with the 14 students that had already made it to Chiang Mai. After breakfast, we headed into the central part of Chiang Mai for a ‘city tour’ that included a stop at the Tha Pae gate where students had an opportunity to feed pigeons and fish in the moat around the old city and get their own feet nibbled on by small fish at the ‘foot fish spa’.
An additional group of six more students arrived earlier this morning and were able to stop by a separate city park before meeting up with the rest of the group for our buffet lunch. Everyone was able to fill up on a variety of delicious Thai food options before we got back into the vans to head over to a couple of Chiang Mai’s oldest and most revered temples. The sun was out and it was pretty hot, but students had an opportunity to duck inside one of the temples to receive a welcoming blessing from a local monk.
After our city and temple tour ended, the group headed over to a Thai cooking course. This began with an introduction to many of the ingredients used in Thai dishes and led to an opportunity for students to try their hand at mastering some of the most delicious Thai food options.
An additional group of students arrived in the early evening and met up with the larger group at our Tianna Home Base. These five students, Hannah Oliver, Lily Vaz, Taisa Graca, Paul Vu, and Nikki Macolino are not yet pictured since they arrived later in the day, but we can reassure you that they are all here in Chiang Mai with us now and will be pictured in future blog posts. Tomorrow we will go through more orientation type activities and will begin preparing for the service project at local schools, and we are very much looking forward to welcoming the remaining 9 students from our group that are still in transit to Thailand. Almost there!
With today still being relatively chaotic, this post was also written by GLA staff, but from here on out our blog posts will be written by our GLA students on this program, so be sure to check back here for more updates on our exciting schedule and many, many pictures from our busy days here in Chiang Mai!
Author: Keith Wingeard (International Director)
August 3, 2016
Title: Arrival Day, part 3, but fun!
To start our day, we had a delicious western breakfast! After, we had orientation with the GLA staff to review the code of conduct and created skits to model what not to do while in Thailand. Later, Todd, the local Thailand GLA administrator and school coordinator, came and spoke to us about proper ways to teach the Thai children English. We learned to speak clearly, loudly, correctly, and slowly when talking to the children.
Next, we took a 20 minute van ride to visit the Thai schools that we’d be teaching at. Each group toured one of two schools that GLA would help out at. Most students were introduced to the Thai students and were able to see how different schools are compared to schools back home.
For lunch, we ate at a restaurant owned by a GLA staff member, P’Aye, and his family. P’Aye’s grandmother invented the famous Thai dish known as Khow Soi. This dish is wildly popular across northern Thailand, and can even be found in the States!
With full bellies, we stopped at our first Thai Mall! We discovered Thai Tea with boba, which became extremely popular within our group. Finally, we headed back to home base and got to cool off in the pool. Around dinner time, thankfully, our last nine students arrived safely. We greeted them with open arms, and quickly bonded over a giant flying beetle in the common area (while we were having our first mentor group meeting).
Since we finally had everyone, we had a traditional Thai Welcoming Ceremony known as Lapnong (translated as “welcome younger brothers and sisters”). It involved linking all of us with a string and we each received a bracelet to keep us all connected. We are all looking forward to teaching in the schools tomorrow and an exciting lesson of Thai Boxing!
Author: Abbie Allhusen, Maya Martinez, Clara Dossetter
August 5, 2016
Title: First Impressions
We had an early start this morning, 6:30 Thai breakfast. At 7:30 we all got in the vans and headed to our schools to catch the flag raising ceremony. This was our first day of teaching, everyone was very excited. We taught age groups starting from 6 and up to 15, teaching various topics such as colors, numbers, and sentence structure in English. For some of us, this was our first time teaching, others not so much. Today was the day to evaluate the students’ abilities in the English language. It was a little stressful at the beginning adjusting to the language barrier, but the students caught on quickly and we adjusted to them as well. After everyone was done teaching, we had lunch which was prepared by the students. This was followed by some play time and non-academic interaction with the kids. After, we had to say goodbye until Monday and go back to the home base to prepare for the next activity!
Next, we had to prepare for our Muay Thai boxing class! This was a very sweaty adventure, let us tell you. First we all had our hands wrapped for extra support. Then, we watched a traditional ceremony that payed respect to past boxers. Then, we finally started to stretch to get ready for the real action. The masters taught us simple moves such as kicking, blocking, punching, and elbowing. After we mastered this, a few of us at a time moved into the ring. We practiced one on one with the instructors for about 10 minutes each. This is when it got really sweaty. But don’t worry we took long hot showers afterwards!
To finish the night after our great workout, we all met with our mentor groups to discuss the day. After, we had another yummy Thai dinner at the home base. Next, we had a group meeting to chit chat about the elephant home we will visit tomorrow. We are all looking forward to the weekend filled with many new adventures!
Authors: Sophie Celentano, Noe Abe, and Frankie Mendenhall
August 6, 2016
Title: Elephant Day
The day began with a different breakfast than usual; Thai pancakes. Their delicious vanilla flavor was a great way to jump into our adventure-filled day. After separating ourselves into our vans, we headed down the hour long road trip to what we would soon know to be the greatest experience of our lives. When we arrived at the Thai elephant home, we were warmly greeted by their kind staff. They provided us with useful information, like key elephant commands, a bottle of water, a Thai shoulder bag, and their amazing patience and support. The adventurers were split up into groups of three, and then were paired up with their personal elephant; which they would be spending the day with. Along with meeting the huge, yet majestic elephants, we met with their mahouts; their “parents”. These men knew their “long-nosed puppies” like the back of their hands. After meeting and feeding the elephants, we headed for the hills!
The mountain hike began with a lot of excitement and giggles. We all got the chance to touch their warm, rough skin, feel their powerful muscles, and stare into their intense hazel eyes. It was especially funny when the elephants would stop at every other tree, use their massive and strong trunks, and rip out a generous amount of leaves to snack on. The view was amazing- a vast forest with rice fields at the bottom, and beautiful cloudy mountains in the distance. However, it was tiring; going uphill made us all huff and puff! About halfway through the hike, the sweat began to wash way the bug repellent; the mosquitoes began to attack! Luckily, the mahouts kindly offered us some of their own spray. At the top of the mountain, we were welcomed by a delicious coconut rice wrapped in banana leaves and cute little cabanas where we could sit and rest. The hike down was a lot shorter and easier than the hike up.
By the time we got to the base, we were served with a yummy pad Thai and fruits for lunch, but the adventure was not finished! Afterwards, we reunited with our elephants and headed towards the river. The walk was very muddy, but refreshing. Once again, the view took our breath way. By the time we arrived, we were all relived to see cold water to cool down our sweaty bodies. We hopped in with the elephants and got a chance to ride them. One elephant in specific lifted us all on its trunk and let us pose for a picture. After saying our goodbyes and heading back into our vans, the day ended with a calm, quiet, and sleepy ride back.
Author: Alivia King, Taisa Graca, and Zoe Abronson
August 7, 2016
Title: Zipping through Thailand
Today we left at 8:15 for the bus to the Eagle Track zip lining site. Once we arrived there, we filled out some paperwork and waivers. After that, we put on our safety equipment and followed the trail to the first zip line. There were 35 zip line stations in total, and we got to successfully complete all of them! The overall view and scenery overlooking Thailand was breathtaking. Throughout the zip line tracks, there were several challenging rope courses. Once we neared toward the end, it started to drizzle and made things quite slippery. It stopped raining as we approached the last drop, which was 40 meters. We made our way back up to the lunch area, where we dined like kings and queens. We savaged through the meals like no tomorrow. We headed home after a long day of zipping through the forests of Chiang Mai. Once we boarded the buses back to Tianna Garden Resort, aka home base, we planned our lesson for the next day and met in our mentor groups. The last activity of the day was to head out to the Night Bazaar for 2-3 hours and shop there. Along with shopping, we got a chance to get a fish pedicure for 15 minutes, which was a once in a lifetime experience. After the long day of adventure and fun, we came back to home base and went to bed. Goodnight.
Author: Nicolette Macolino, Rose Caplan, and Paul Vu
August 8, 2016
Title: What an art-tastic day!
We started the day off going to our schools to continue the student’s English classes. We all enjoyed spending time with the students in their classrooms. They are all so welcoming and seem to enjoy their classes. After our classes we all enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared by the students and staff. After that we were able to bond with them during their recess as we joined them in their games. Then we went back to the home base for a quick change and broke into two groups for the next activities. One group went to get a relaxing Thai massage while the other went to the amazing 3D art museum, Art in Paradise. While the massage was a great way to relieve the stress of travel and lesson planning, the museum was a definite highlight. The many exhibits included an underwater adventure, Egyptian tomb, and giant kitty. The groups then switched and after their massage and tour we headed back to the home base to enjoy an appetizing dinner and quiet evening.
Author: Riley Asher-Stalbaum, Kiley Asher-Stalbaum, and Hannah Oliver
August 9, 2016
Title: Cultural Exchange Day and American Food
We started the day by waking up and going back to our two schools. After we taught the day’s lesson we got on the buses and went to a local high school. The reason we went was for a cultural exchange with the students. They welcomed us with open arms, lovely necklaces of jasmine and well written speeches by students. After we were settled our group got in front of everyone to present our part of the exchange.
The whole reason behind the cultural exchange was for the GLA students to share our culture, and the local Thai students share theirs. We went first and did a silly medley of The Cup Song, The Quan, Cotton Eyed Joe and finished by dancing with the Thai kids to the Wobble. We were all laughing and having a great time. The students from the school then preformed and taught us a traditional Thai dance. The kids were kind and patient while teaching which was much appreciated. We then had a break with delicious fruits and fun games.
After saying our goodbyes we took a short, yet hot, walk down to a temple. It was absolutely breathtaking. We walked around the grounds to see the amazing architecture and gardens. Some of us even had the chance to talk to a monk for a bit until we headed to an American restaurant for dinner called Dukes. Dinner came out plate after plate buffet style of onion rings, ribs, pizza and more! Some of us should have done a better job pacing ourselves, but the food was just too good. After that we headed back to home base for some much needed sleep after a long eventful day.
Authors: Helen Frazer, Lundon Mellen-Fontanelli, and Kayla Cabral
August 10, 2016
Title: Cultural Immersion and Teaching
As our time here in Chiang Mai is quickly coming to an end, GLA students soon found themselves teaching their students for the last time. It’s safe to say that every GLA student cherished the time spent in the schools! Due to such a positive experience, the Thai students have left us with an unbelievable sense of fulfillment. It was an unforgettable opportunity that we were lucky enough to have.
After our last official day of teaching came to a close, GLA students were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to learn traditional Thai dances. In addition we also got to become immersed the art of weaving, thanks to Baan Mon Fai’s excellent staff.
Authors: Lily Turner-Kipke, Emily Dorsey, Laura Swaim
Today was an eventful day at the school: not only was it Mother’s Day in Thailand, but it was also our last day teaching at the schools. We were instructed to get into groups and plan a fun, all-day, English activity for the Thai students. Some of us made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, while others taught the children English songs and dances. Although the day was long and tiring, it was worth it in the end to see the children smiling and having a blast. At the end of the day we were able to present the children with small gifts we brought from our home towns. After a tearful goodbye we went back to the home base to have a pool party complete with root beer floats.
Authors: Quinn Fox, Erin McCoy, Katherine Gring