Time Capsule Letter – October 2016
Hi everyone! To all of the fantastic individuals that made up our first Thailand: Cultural Kaleidoscope group at the Tianna Home Base, we hope you are all doing well! It is a little crazy to realize three months have already flown by 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 on the people we met, the places we saw, and the experiences we shared together. 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 Rongaor School or Pakoitai 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 wild ride we had together in Thailand.
As you all probably know, your group was the first of the summer for our Tianna staff team, and we couldn’t have been happier with how great it turned out! We were incredibly fortunate to have such an interesting group of people that supported each other and got along so well from the very beginning of our time 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, and it made our job that much easier. That’s not to say everything was wonderful sunshine and rainbows all day, every day. There were mosquitos (lots of them); there were cold showers; there were upset stomachs and other various illnesses; 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 you guys all did a great job of embodying that.
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, Ghana, Argentina 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 1:
At the airport: “Hi, my name is Astrid and I’m from Chicago.”
The chills we all received when Aria sang the national anthem for the first time in our meeting area – and every time after!
Dancing in the rain in our ponchos, taking photos, and being in the moment at Doi Suthep while everyone else was taking shelter
Everything about ROT SAAM!!!
Seeing all the students cheer and go wild, especially when they saw Sophia and Ahnna
Playing soccer or tag or playing on the little playground at Pakoitai School
The cupid shuffle!
Getting kissed by an elephant!
THE MUD FIGHT! — Instigated by sweet Ananya (of course)
‘Head shoulders knees and toes’ every day in Jack and Mackenzie’s classroom
Eating bugs with Chelsea, Olivia, and a few other brave souls
Singing/screaming in the vans and our incredibly patient van drivers allowing it
Root Beer floats
Tommy’s teary heartfelt good-byes
Cruising the Ping River in style and on a boat!
The greatest surprise Fourth of July firework show ever!!!
Finally, from all of us that had the pleasure of meeting you this past summer – P’ Aey, Orn, Prae, Ton, Kaitlyn, 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! We miss you and you are all superstars!!!
Summer Blog Posts
June 22, 2016 – Arrival Day!
Greetings from Chiang Mai, Thailand! After traveling from both near and far, all 31 of our students that were scheduled to arrive on June 22nd have arrived safely! It has been a long day of making trips to and from the airport, 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 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 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 lunch buffet full of more delicious Thai food, which should be a fantastic introduction to the culinary delights Thailand has to offer.
Also, a quick note: we have included a few pictures from our airport greetings, but three students are scheduled to arrive a day late on June 23rd and are not pictured. Newara Faltas, Erin O’Connor, and Jayden Kraizel will be arriving tomorrow afternoon and we will be sure to include their smiling faces in pictures from our next blog post tomorrow. We also want to reassure everyone that the first 31 students out of our group of 34 have in fact arrived and they are safe and sound, and we will be sure to post a full group picture with everyone pictured for tomorrow’s blog update as well.
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!
-Keith Wingeard (International Director)
Day 1 – It’s a Buddha-ful Country
Sa-wa-dee-kha! After a much needed rest, we started the day with breakfast next to the Ping River. We then headed to an orientation at the home base where we were immersed into the colorful world of Thai culture, etiquette, and language. We learned how important the tone and pronunciation of the language is (ex: “pa” can mean five different things) and how to properly behave out in the city.
Then we headed to Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Chiang Mun (two popular temples in Chiang Mai) to learn the key points of Buddhism and how to pray to Buddha correctly. At Wat Chedi Luang, we were lucky enough to be blessed by a monk. It was an amazing experience.
After exploring the temples, we were dropped off at the market where we taught about the ingredients that go into Pad Thai, green curry, and sticky rice and mango. We then were able to test our skills and make these dishes for ourselves and eat them! We were given a cookbook as well to be able to make these foods back at home.
We came back to the home base to cool down and split into our mentor groups where we discussed what we expected to get out of this trip on a deeper level. We will meet with these groups every night and talk about how we’re feeling for the day and get to know each other better.
It was a long first full day, but it was amazing to experience these things and we are all excited for all the amazing activities and experiences to come.
Authors: Kathryn Foster, Genevieve Duran, and Annia Ramos
June 24, 2016
Today was unbe-weave-able *wink wink*
Sa-wah-dee-kha! Today was full of learning and adventure as promised. We started the day by going on a tour of Pakoitai and Rong Aor, the schools we will be teaching English in. All the Thai children were smiling from ear to ear and waved as we passed. Their inviting demeanors calmed any nerves we might have had, and now we can’t wait to begin teaching on Monday!
After the warm welcome from the Thai kiddies, we made our way to Kao Soi Lamduan, a restaurant owned and run by one of our lovely Thai staff member’s family, Pii Aey (“pii”, meaning ‘big brother’, because in Thailand, we are family). Our lunch consisted of eggrolls, Chicken Satay, and a type of noodle soup; the meal was yummy.
Following our meal, we piled in the GLA vans, and went to the Baan Mon Fai Thai culture center. The culture center was a representation of traditional Thai architecture and arts. We were shown, and later taught, a few time-honored Thai dances that may or may not have involved swords…sadly, we were not given any swords. Maybe next time J. After some freestyle, we were schooled in the art of bamboo weaving and made some interesting creations.
Back at the home base, we spent some time with our mentors and each other, who discussed with us what it means to be a leader and led a discussion on what we were looking forward to, and what we wish to get out of this experience.
It was a beautiful day spent with beautiful people and we are grateful to get to know each other in such a wonderful country! More experiences to be shared soon xoxo.
Authors: Erin O’Connor, Harnidh Singh, Aria Critchley
Date Written: June 24, 2016
June 25, 2016
Title: Today was a-lana-fun! *wink wink*
Sa-wah-dee-kha! In reference to our title, in translation, ‘Lanna’ means one million rice fields! Earlier in the program we learned about Lanna Kingdom and its culture. Today the GLA group was split into two groups, with one group visiting a village in the mountains, while the other group visited a large market. Each group enjoyed very unique experiences; the events throughout the day exposed the travelers to various cultural aspects.
As for the group that traveled to the small village, we were greeted by a 78-year-old woman, who had the warmest smile! The group that visited the market were surprised by the interesting new smells and sights.
Later in the day, the two groups were able to reunite and continue the day as a whole. We had the privilege of being able to walk around an umbrella factory, where we observed and learned about how umbrellas were made. After our tour, we were given the opportunity to paint our very own umbrella, with each final painting being as unique as each painter themselves.
Authors: Macy O’Rourke, Paige Busacker, Megan Ussery
A “Thai” between City and Country
Deja-vu! Today the two groups flip-flopped! Half of us went to the Akha Community while the others visited very common markets and a mall in the city. Both places represented different, yet important aspects in the Thai culture.
In the Akha village we were greeted by some the friendliest people in all of South East Asia. We were fortunate enough to tour the inside of an actual home which helped us understand the way of life in the hillside of Thailand. After the tour around the village we were welcomed into our tour guide’s house for a delicious, home-cooked meal.
On the other side of Chiang Mai, we were enveloped in the aroma of Thai spices available at the market. We tried many traditional Thai snacks along with an authentic cuisine for lunch in the mall. We later shopped for the infamous elephant pants and various knickknacks to take home.
Between the Akha Village and the Chiang Mai markets, we were able to compare and contrast the lives of the city folk and the country residents. We then came back to home base to a pleasant pool party with fresh coconut drinks, fruit slices, and fun games. We wrapped up our day with fun and group bonding games that helped create a tie between Thai and American activities.
Authors: Ananya Murthy, Annia Ramos, Katherine O’Neal
Date Written: June 26, 2016
June 27, 2016
Title: A Doi To Remember
WOW! What a day! While Mondays tend to have a bad reputation, this fun-filled and adventurous day included our first attempts at teaching, a visit to Doi Suthep, and the beautiful Hmong Village. With many twists and turns in our schedule (and the road), we accomplished some of the best experiences of this trip so far!
We started off bright and early anxiously waiting to start our first lessons with our Thai students. We watched their school opening ceremonies and made our way to the classrooms. Here we were eagerly greeted by our new pupils who overly stress the “er” of Teacher (which is absolutely adorable). Many English lessons later we found ourselves running and playing with the students during their recess and we even learned some new Thai playground games! (You would be impressed with that these kids can do with a bunch of rubber bands). We can’t wait to get to know the kids better and keep on teaching!
Next off we were on our way to Doi Suthep, a gorgeous golden temple built on very sacred grounds. This is one of the most important temples in Chiang Mai, and you can get to it one of two ways. 1) The original hiking trail up the side of the mountain built by a Hermit Monk, which still exists from when the Temple was first created. Or 2) A more modern staircase consisting of exactly 365 steps. We took the second, and the number of steps is true, we counted. After conquering this mighty task we were cooled down by a down pour of rain! While this may have been a bummer for most, we all embraced the cool, wet, goodness, got absolutely soaked, and managed to get in some poncho pics with the temple without ruining our cameras (which may be more impressive than climbing the steps.) Luckily it cleared up quickly and we were on to our next adventure.
One twisty turny road later, we arrived at the Hmong Village, which is built up in the majestic mountains overlooking the most breathtaking scene you’ve ever seen in your life. Rows and rows of exotic plants and flowers blanketed the mountainside, as you followed up the path they lined, the sight of far off mountains with the sun shining over them came into view. We sat and admired for a very long time, though it could never be long enough no matter what amount of time we were given. At the very peak sat a little coffee shop completely open to the view; here we admired some more, enjoyed some Thai goodies, and tried to soak it all in. As the time came to depart our mentors had to basically drag us away because no one wanted to leave, but then they surprised us by taking us to yet another phenomenal view! The day came to a close reflecting as we gazed over the great city of Chiang Mai which now contains so many of our best memories. Eager to plan for school the next day, eat dinner, and rest our burning calves, we were on our way. Another amazing, successful day: Check!
Authors: Genevieve Duran, Astrid Weinstein, Jiawen Zhu
June 28, 2016
Title: We need “Muay” Time in Thailand
Today was our second day teaching in the schools, and we are beginning to feel more comfortable with our lesson plans and teaching as a whole. In the classes, we played games and sang songs to teach the kids English words in a fun and engaging way. The kids are really starting to understand our lessons and they love to learn.
After a long morning of teaching, we had the opportunity to relieve any stress in a Muay Thai Boxing class, taught at a very well-known boxing gym. Along with learning how to kick and punch properly, we got to witness Thai customs in the ring, like the ceremony that takes place before a round to honor the boxer’s teacher. It was nice to exercise and relieve any tension we might have from all of our other activities by diving even deeper into the Thai culture.
-Skylar Davey, Elle Summerfield, Kathryn Foster
Wednesday, June 29
Title: A ‘Massage’ from Thailand
Today was our third day teaching at the schools. It was really fun and we enjoyed playing and taking pictures with the children at recess. After we finished teaching at the schools, we split into two groups and went to either the art museum or had a Thai massage.
The art museum we went to was called Art in Paradise and it was located in downtown Chiang Mai. It featured many 3D paintings that were good for taking interactive, fun photos. One of the favorites was the upside down room. Another great part of the museum was a delicious coffee shop on the first floor. Many of us got fruit smoothies or delicious deserts. Meanwhile, the other group was at the Thai Massage place. Most experienced a one hour full body massage. Some people found it more relaxing than others, but we all enjoyed a nice hot tea at the end.
After the museum and the massage, we were very eager to eat at the western restaurant called Dukes. Although Thai food is amazing, many of us were craving our favorite American foods such as pizza, pasta, ribs and dessert. At Dukes we received around 10 courses of family styles dishes. We were all very full after dinner, but we still had time to shop around at the local night market. After an hour of looking around and buying beautiful bracelets, post cards, and gifts for our family members, we headed back to get a good nights rest at Tianna Garden. Overall it was a very eventful and exciting day.
Authors: Jackie Connors, Anya Nutakki, Divya Narayanan
Title: Thai School Musical
Today was our last official day of teaching. The classes consisted of dance parties, arm wrestling, origami, and many other games. The best part of teaching is not only the fact that we are able to spend time with the children but also being able to see the progress the kids made in learning English after a few days. By the end of our teaching both us and the children learned a lot from each other. While the kids did make progress in learning English, we learned that even though we may not be able to communicate, a smile can go a long way.
After a long day of teaching we had the once in a lifetime opportunity to see a Thai high school. The high school gave us the opportunity to talk to kids our own age and begin to comprehend what going to high school in Thailand would be like. The things that we experienced at the cultural exchange included watching a traditional Thai dance. In exchange we were able to teach them a little bit of American culture by showing them the Cupid Shuffle. We are very grateful for the opportunity and can’t wait to see what else we have left to experience in Thailand!
Authors: Olivia Urich, Tommy Donavon, Jack Kyle
Title: Thai English Camp
Today we ran an English Camp at both the schools for the entire day. It was our official last day with all the kids and everyone was very emotional. We had different stations at each school including song and dance, food, sports, and carnival games. The kids had so much fun and it was amazing to see how much we had taught them in the past week. The day ended with a goodbye ceremony from both the schools and we were so glad to see how much they appreciated our service. We were presented with certificates of appreciation and given presents showing their gratitude. All the hours of stressful lesson planning and teaching was worth it when we saw the smiles on the kids’ faces.
The goodbye was difficult for both us and the kids. As we stood outside the school for the last time we were overwhelmed by the love of the kids shown by hugs and handwritten love letters. We were so grateful to have had the opportunity to make such a huge difference in the lives of all these kids. Although it was a sad goodbye, we will always remember the time we spent with them and the impact they made on us.
Authors: Aamani Ponnekanti, Sophia Bersani, and Ethan Bakal
Title: Zip Zip Hooray! It Was A Wonderful Day
Tunten – meaning adrenaline in Thai – perfectly describes our day today. We all experienced the greatest thrill of our stay here in Thailand today in the form of a zip lining adventure, as a reward for our 5 hard days of community service at the schools. After a long bus ride, we made it to mountains of northern Chiang Mai, and split into 3 groups to begin our journey. The course was composed of 35 separate obstacles and zip lines, each more exhilarating than the last. The Thai instructors entertained us with practical jokes while guiding us along the course. Our zip lining experience ended with a dramatic vertical drop of around 40 m (131 feet).
After lunch and refreshing ice cream, we proceeded to a grassy area near a beautiful waterfall to plant trees. We got down and dirty as we each planted a small sapling, and contributed to the welfare of the environment in our own way. Worn out from zip lining and planting, we were all relieved to finally be able to relax at home base with a rare 2 hour nap. Concluding a joyous day we reflect on the memories we created and how even though some of us were nervous or afraid, we all managed to conquer our fears and thoroughly enjoy our day. As Oprah Winfrey stated, “The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.”
Authors: Erika Pe, Tony Carver, Kathy Zhang
Title: Let’s address the elephant in the room
Wow! What a day. Our group started the day ready for the much anticipated elephant day and the elephant camp. After listening to an orientation slide show focusing on elephant facts and commands, we headed out to meet our elephants. There were 13 elephants, so we got lots of one on one time with the animals. We hiked up a beautiful lush jungle mountain to lunch and the mud pit, where we got to bathe a few of the elephants. Lunch was Pad Thai and a dessert of Sticky Rice, served on banana leaves. After the delicious food, we had a mud bath/fight. It was so much fun! The animals loved it. Then we trekked back down the mountain and made it to the Ping River. We all had a nice swim. We got to ride the elephants backs and trunks. What an incredible experience, and the best part of the trip so far!
Next, we got to go to the Sunday night walking street, a busy market. There we got to buy dinner and go shopping!!! We bought our final gifts and souvenirs. Overall it was such an exciting and fantastic day. Such an awesome place and culture.
Authors: Ahnna Richmond, Newara Faltas, Maddy Sargent