Greetings from Chiang Mai, Thailand! After making their way around the world on many very long flights, all of our June 14th arrivals have safely made it to Thailand. Four GLA students arrived earlier in the day and a big group of 18 more GLA students arrived via Seoul, South Korea just after 10:30pm local time. After driving back to Joy’s House (our GLA Home Base and our home away from home for the next two weeks) students tried a few small snacks and some fruit before settling in to their rooms for some much needed rest.
The GLA team at Joy’s House 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 to have everyone here with us now. We will be going through an Orientation tomorrow morning after breakfast 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!). After our orientation, we will be heading to the Sriri Panna Hotel for a brunch full of delicious Thai food, which should be a fantastic introduction to the culinary delights Thailand has to offer.
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)
Added Posts by Student Blogger Aryana Barudin:
Day 1- Arrival Day
Today my group landed in Chiang Mai, Thailand’s airport. All of us are drowsy from flying. Yet, past the drowsy eyes, and aching bones we have contracted through flying. I feel a bursting excitement around me, and within me. These next two weeks seem to already hold such amazing stories waiting to unfold.
Still feeling jet lagged the crew woke up and we had an amazing Thai breakfast on homebase . We left homebase and visited majestic city temples. The swirls of gold, and the bright painting’s of the temples felt like a dream swirling to life. After the temples we went to a market and learned about Thai food ingredients. Afterwards, we all were taught to make 4 different Thai cuisines. The food was delicious and as laughter almost covered the loud smacking of lips. We returned to homebase and played fun leadership activities. Heading to our beds everyone’s exhausted and ready for a good nights sleep.
Today at breakfast everyone seemed to be jumping out of their chairs with excitement over the planned activities. Today after breakfast we load up into our vans and head to the Elephant camp. At first we rode the elephants with saddles as the rest of the tourist did. Bursts of uneasy excited laughter erupted each step the elephant’s massive legs took. When the rest of the tourist left we received VIP access to ride and get an even more up close and personal with the elephants. They allowed us to ride the elephants into the water bareback. once in baby elephants would splash us, and the mother elephants would relax in the water beside them. While swimming and washing the elephants everyone’s faces lit up and a connection to these elephants grew. As the current ran through the river, the connection between us grew, built by laughs and splashes of elephants. Today was a good once in the lifetime opportunity given to us by GLA, that we will all carry with us in life.
Our first adventure today was meeting the community leader and walking around the community within Chiang Mai. We really were given a taste of how Chiang Mai as a whole has smaller parts that give Chiang Mai it’s allure and wealth. The community we visited today was completely self sustaining, and the King had acknowledge the community as a whole for being so efficient. Afterwards we became Muay Thai boxers for a day. We visited the Muay Thai boxing facility and were taught a few new attacking skills. Afterwards one student and one teacher faced off in the ring. Our group and our mentors really became closer and more of a family after Muay Thai boxing. Jokes were freely bouncing around the vans back home after Muay Thai boxing, and the laughs never stopped.
Title: The First Step of Our Journey
To start off our journey through the majestic culture of Chiang Mai, Thailand, we were oriented by Thai natives in the staff in order to familiarize ourselves with the culture. Being a group of enthusiastic and puberty-stricken teenagers, cuisine is constantly buzzing around our mind. Luckily we were introduced to the tantalizing culinary majesty of Thailand with an exquisite buffet. Everything from common stir-fried noodles, to strange creations such as “Pink Milk”. After a gut stuffing few hours we exited our Western Civilization state of mind and entered the Thailand culture through a historical shock. We journeyed to two specific Thai Buddhist temples in particular: Wat Chiang Mun, and Wat Chedi Luang. We were then taught the history of these temples along with the teachings of Buddha and his followers. It was very awakening to be aware of the culture and religion that we are surrounded by.
After a very educational, but excruciatingly humid tour, we were then re-introduced to the decadent and mouthwatering food of Chiang Mai. We were taught a cooking course after some prior instruction at a local market. We were the chefs behind dishes such as: Tom Yam Gung, Pad Thai, and green curry. Even with all of these culinary delights in our now bulging bellies, we couldn’t resist the subtle and palate pleasing sweet sticky rice with mango. A long, vigorous, and exciting day to start off a long, vigorous and exciting journey. Sorry to say with the lack of sleep and minor jetlag, some students were tired and most likely there were no revelatory or life altering thoughts or experiences. Yet needless to say, the day was, to state it plainly, fun. After a day like this many students will be looking forward to a long night of rest, and the remainder of innovative and educational experience.
– Dylan Helkey and Ryan Poon
Today our group ventured into the mysterious elephant camp of Chiang Mai. Everyone was a bit unsure of what to expect, but it ended up being a fantastic day. We began by meeting and riding the elephants throughout the jungle guided by the elephant trainers (Mahouts). After the scenic ride which felt as bumpy as a roller coaster, we went on a bamboo river raft ride which was very peaceful. Just as the heat was kicking in, a wonderful rainfall cooled us off. We then ate lunch which consisted of a delicious buffet of rice, noodles, chicken, and other various types of Thai food. An interesting point of the day was when we were taught how to make paper out of elephant poop. After making the paper, we took a photo-shoot with the lovely elephants and rode them down to the river where we had the opportunity to bathe them. The mahouts helped us ride them in the water and joined in on the fun by starting water fights.
After our long day with the elephants we sadly said goodbye and went to a dinner at the host’s restaurant. There we were served a wonderful Thai dinner with coconut milk soup, spring rolls, and noodles. We were surprised with music by a boy band and met many students living in Joy’s house. We played funny dancing games with the students and connected with them through music and dance. After dinner we were taught a lesson by our school director Todd on how to teach the classes in our upcoming week. Thankfully we were surprised at the end of the long lesson with special American bakery treats. It was an amazing day filled with excitement, surprises, and love. Connecting with students our age was an amazing experience that we will all remember forever.
– Tara O’Malley, Joelle Chiu
Getting to Know the Community
Today we were full of excitement as we visited the beautiful community center of Chiang Mai. The Community leader welcomed us with a video about Thailand and a speech that invited us into the Thai family. We also got a tour of the community center and got to see goats, pigs, chickens, and thousands of Thai catfish. Community members also taught us how to make special crafts out of paper and leaves. Every step of the way, these community members guided us with kindness and reassurance as we made the intricate crafts. Even though there was a bit of a language barrier at some moments, that didn’t stop the community and the GLA kids from sharing smiles and laughter.
After the wonderful craft making, we got in the vans and went to a Muay Thai training center. We got to learn special Muay Thai moves by the trainers. Punches, kicks, sit ups, and push-ups were all incorporated as we trained. We even got to partner up and fight using our new Muay Thai boxing skills. The trainers also showed us a traditional match and way of training in the ring. We were all very fascinated by the amount of focus and strength that the trainers put into each punch or kick. They also showed nothing but kindness as we sometimes struggled to do the right moves.
Overall today we realized that there is a current theme in Thailand. Kindness and respect was shown throughout the day by everyone we met. Whether it was craft making or fighting, the welcoming feeling surrounded us for the whole day.
– Carmen Hall and Autumn Johnson
Title: Teachers, Temples, and Thailand-Oh My!
As the alarms resounded earlier than usual this morning, we enjoyed a filling breakfast of watermelon, toast, and fresh vegetables with rice. Donned in our formal attire, our mentor groups rode buses to the designated school where we will be teaching English next week. The children were thrilled to greet their new, strange visitors and performed a traditional flag raising ceremony in our presence. The schools were very colorful and provided a cheerful environment that we are looking forward to being a part of. From there, we started our lesson plans for the English classes before heading off to lunch at our beloved Thai staff P.A.’s family restaurant. We devoured their signature dish, Khow Soi, a tasty Thai soup which P.A.’s grandmother invented. This dish is so renowned that Thai celebrities flock to the restaurant, and pictures of their visits adorn the walls. With satisfied stomachs, our group was led to a local temple and meditation center to fill our minds with wisdom from a Buddhist monk. We asked many questions about his life and learned about how this religion is instilled in all parts of Thai life. He then toured us around a large, royal temple, which has served the Chiang Mai community for over one thousand years. From the temple, we were whisked away to a vivid fruit market located alongside a gorgeously lush local park. Students tried many foreign fruits such as the controversial durian and the sweet rambutan while watching joggers dash through the scenic park. We then returned to Home Base and enjoyed a hearty meal after the busy, culturally enriching day. We are ecstatic about our day tomorrow where we will be visiting an even older temple than the one toured today, exploring local markets, and finishing with a refreshing pool party after another hot, hazy day in Thailand. Sawadee Ka and goodnight!
– Sydney Tinker and Emma Rylander
Title: Busy Bees in Thailand 😛
Thankfully today we got to have an hour of extra sleep. We started off our day going to the Umbrella Factory Center and learning step by step how to make an umbrella. We had the privilege of decorating our own umbrellas. A very popular activity was getting your phone painted by one of the umbrella artists. As it approached noon we headed down to lunch at Sekasin Restaurant and had bomb (good) Thai food as always. Next, we went to the Ban Jaang Nak, an elephant sculpture museum. There were sculptures in all shapes and sizes and were beautifully painted. We left and went back to the home base to finish up our lesson plans for the four days of teaching and got ready for the Sunday Walking Street. The Sunday Walking Street Market seemed to be everyone’s favorite part of the day. We had three hours to look and shop around, which turned out to be not enough time to explore this huge market. For tonight’s dinner we had the opportunity to buy our own food which ranged from corn on a stick to banana crepes. The market was very exhausting but super fun and a great experience. We all ended the day with going to bed early to wake up for an exciting new day in Thailand!!
– Caylin Boardwine and Mackie Nelson
Title: Teachers, Temples, and Tribes
Today we took on the challenge of teaching young Thai students English. Each GLA student paired up to teach different classes and organized their own lesson plans. We engaged students in fun games while simultaneously encouraging them to practice speaking English. After a full day of teaching different grade levels, the GLA group headed to the mountains for some good old-fashioned exercise and reached a sacred temple at the top of a 200-step slope. At the top, the group explored the majestic gold temple and foresaw their futures through Buddhist prophecies. At the temple the students were able to see an unbelievable view of Chiang Mai from the mountain top. We left the temple for a short ride to see a hill tribe and how they lived in the mountains. The group was able to shoot cross-bows and walk through luscious gardens. After a quick stop at the community coffee shop, the group headed back to home base to play more team leadership games and reflect on the day. The night was filled with laughs and a night time cha-cha slide rehearsal.
– Michelle Temby, Aryana Barudin
Title: A Taste of Home
Our day began back at the schools with the students teaching the Thai students English. From games to songs, we were able to interact more with each student and further understand their culture. We joined them for lunch after we were finished teaching and made some new friends. After school, we traveled to a Modern Art 3D Museum where we spent our time taking tons of pictures while appreciating the art. After a short amount of time, we got back on the bus and made our way to get Thai Massages. Although, the massages weren’t the typical American massage, everyone seemed to enjoy it. Finally, the moment we were all waiting for had come-American Food. We went into the heart of Chiang Mai to a restaurant called The Duke’s to get a taste of home. From chicken wings to ribs, salad, and pizza, we left the restaurant very satisfied. For the remainder of the night, we walked the Night Bazaar, got to shop, and learned how to bargain with the locals. Our action packed day left most of the students tired and ready to return back to Joy’s house where we met with our mentor groups and finally went to bed.
– Stella Kleynerman and Jessika Zanotti
Title: School, School, and More School!
Today was the third day that we taught at our schools in Thailand. Like the other days, we woke up getting prepared for the lesson plans ahead. By today, we had a better understanding and insight of how to teach the students because of the experience we gained from the other days. As a result of this experience, we were able to efficiently teach and proceed with our lessons. Some GLA students simulated a fake market in which the school students were able to communicate with effective dialogue, while also having a great time. Some of the GLA students were so liked that the school students swarmed them with hugs and affection. We look forward to continue teaching these students and growing as leaders in the next few days.
The next main activity that we did was, you guessed it, go to another school. But it wasn’t as mundane as it sounds. We were granted the opportunity to engage with students of our own age that attend school in Thailand. They performed their cultural dance and prepared their games and activities. We were also able to take part in this cultural exchange by giving our own cultural dance, otherwise known as the “Cha Cha Slide”. Along with teaching the dance to the students, we sang the national anthem and answered some of the questions that the Thai students have prepared. This cultural exchange gave us a better insight on the overall culture and education outside of America. We ended this day exhausted yet happy to have made international Facebook friends.
Authors: Abigail Craig and Davin Lee
Title: A Last Good-Bye to Our Thai Students
On our final Thursday here in Thailand, we woke up bright and early for our last day of teaching English to our favorite little Thai students. Although we were sad about the fact that our childhood dreams of playing teacher were coming to an end, I think we were all a little bit happy to not have to go through the stress of planning another hour-long lesson. After another delicious lunch at school, we played one last game of soccer with the kids and then headed back to the home base where we got to enjoy a peaceful hour of relaxation before jumping into planning for tomorrow’s all day English camp at our schools. We split up by mentor groups and then within the groups, split up based on what topics we were interested in sharing. The topics included: Western culture/ holidays, colors and shapes, animals, cooking, and song and dance. We planned different activities for each topic, as we will be teaching grades P3- P6 (3rd- 6th grade) in four different groups. Our mentors had us play games to give us inspiration for the kids, and then we were off scribbling in our journals and spilling out ideas. After about an hour and a half of planning, our ideas turned into concrete actions. Once we felt that we had a solid plan, we headed off to our last dinner at Joy’s House where we enjoyed yummy curry and rice with some juicy lychee fruit for dessert. After stuffing ourselves, we strolled back to the library where we enjoyed watching a few inspirational clips and ended on watching a funny movie in blanket forts while topping off our full bellies with our favorite snacks from 7/11!
Authors: Kat Krautheim and Melanie Foreman
We woke up to the sound of rain outside our rooms on the morning of English Camp. While we were all eager to see the kids, many of us found ourselves unprepared for the day ahead. But with the help of our GLA Thai staff everyone was able to get the supplies they needed and we drove off to the schools. We worked five stations at each school at which we would teach the kids a different aspect of American culture in a fun and engaging way. The lessons were very tiring and seemed long at times, but the effort was worth the reward. Both groups received a ceremonial sendoff that was as bitter-sweet as the food. The many thanks and pictures that were exchanged between the students and teachers left a lasting impression on us. We’ll surely miss them. Our last evening together concluded with dinner and a lot of pictures!
It’s difficult for us to write this blog without being reminded of all the great moments that we have shared with our fellow GLA students and staff alike. The two weeks really have gone by fast and we are sure it is going to take a while for all of us to readjust once we are home. The only recap that is suitable for a trip this large is a look back through our journals and blogs which will most likely remind us of many great stories that we would have neglected otherwise. While the trip may be over, we have all made friends and memories that will transcend our stay here.
Authors: Austin Bryan and Kelsey Halvorsen
Thanks for a great two weeks!
Thanks again to everyone for what turned out to be a fantastic two week session. GLA staff all really enjoyed the time we got to spend together with you and we are all grateful that we had such an awesome group. Hopefully most of you were able to actually make it home on time (despite the sign that was put up at Joy’s House). We hope you guys are all back home sharing the experiences you had here in Thailand with friends and family, and we hope everyone enjoys the rest of their summer!
Authors: Keith Wingeard, Martyna Skura, and Ryan Pringle