Thanks for the checking out the blog for this Global Leadership Adventures program!
Here are a few things you can expect:
- We typically receive 2-3 blog posts per week here at GLA Headquarters from our program staff and students, so please don’t be alarmed if you don’t see a blog post daily – that’s totally normal.
- Blog updates sent on weekends may not be posted until Monday.
- Due to many factors, including but not limited to internet accessibility, photos may not always be available to post onto the blog. Sometimes onsite program staff are only able to send text back to Headquarters, where our team updates the blog.
Cell Phone Policy: The GLA cell phone policy is currently in place this summer to help foster meaningful connections between students. This means your student’s phone will be collected every day and returned to them throughout the program during designated spaces of time we call ‘tech time’. Actual tech times and regularity will vary greatly by program location. During designated ‘tech time’, your student may use their phones as they wish. Please note that your student may not always choose to use this time to get a hold of their parents. If you are not hearing directly from your student each day, you can assume that no news is good news! We strongly recommend you follow the blog to follow your students’ experience without talking to them every day. If you are a parent and would like to get in touch with your student directly, you can call us at +1-619-758-3031 and we can set up a formal time for you to connect with your student.
Thank you for your patience and understanding, and we hope you enjoy following along on these unforgettable adventures.
For frequently asked questions about the blogs, please visit our Program Blog FAQ page.
-The Global Leadership Adventures HQ Team
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 14
Sa Wa Dee Ka (Hello) from Bangkok!
Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles – and our GLA staff team were certainly smiling this morning, excited for student arrival day!
We headed off bright and early as the sun rose, ready to meet our brilliant students as they began to land throughout the day. They have made such a fantastic effort with multiple flights, long journeys, and various connections throughout the world – Japan, Qatar, Istanbul to name a few – they really are intrepid explorers and brave leaders already. We are so lucky to have them!
First to arrive at Suvarnabhumi Airport this morning was Sean – an early bird, at 07.05am. Excited to learn more and embrace his new Thai surroundings, once we arrived back at the Airport Cottage Hotel in the Lad Krabang area of Bangkok, he dug straight into the breakfast buffet and tried out some true South East Asian cuisine, including Pad See Ew (stir fried ribbon noodles) and Thai-style fried rice.
After a filling breakfast, Sean’s room was ready! He was able to get settled in for a long-awaited shower and some rest – and a couple of hours later, eager to explore more, went with GLA staff for lunch nearby and a walk around the Sois (streets) and market near our hotel.
This afternoon it was take two at the airport – five more students arriving! With a mixture of flights landing between 2.30 and 3.30pm, Kinkade, Morgan, Charlotte, Naomi, and Will all confidentially navigated the Thai pass check, immigration, and baggage claim (well done everyone!), meeting with the team at the arrivals point. Kinkade, Morgan, Charlotte and Naomi are all new to GLA – Will is an alumnus – and they were equally ready to get back to the hotel to freshen up and rest! At 18.16hrs, we went to a local restaurant for dinner – and the students impressed us all, fully embracing delicious Thai dishes including spicy tofu, fragrant coconut soup, and kaao (rice – an absolute staple with every meal).
There were empty plates and bowls all around! Our fantastic Local Director Natchanan – known as “Kate” – helped students with ordering food in Thai, navigating the menu and explaining the different tastes and flavours, as well as vegetarian and vegan meals. Kate is from Chumpon in the South of the country, and now works in Chiang Mai (where we are headed next, which is in the North), so she has so much insight to share about life here, including the culture, customs, commonalities and differences between the provinces. After dinner, the group of six headed next door to visit a Mall and enjoy an evening walk with Neha, our incredible International Mentor from India, who was able to show them around and highlight important ways of staying safe and well in the city.
With the team almost complete, we made our way back to the airport this evening for the very last student pick-up! Gabby came through first, full of energy and big smiles, having landed early at 22.50hrs and been proactive to call GLA to confirm where she needed to be in the airport. After a call home and water bottle refill, she was ready with staff to greet Sophia – our last student who landed at 23.30 after a slight delay, equally fully of positive energy despite it being midnight by the time she was able to claim her bag. Gabby and Sophia are both GLA alumni and are bringing a wealth of knowledge with them, which will be invaluable in supporting new connections and friendships with the rest of the team. We made it back to the hotel, and it was finally bedtime for our night-owls.
And with that, the mega day of arrivals has finished, and the team of 8 students is finally complete. It’s back to the airport tomorrow morning after breakfast, for our internal flight to Chiang Mai, where our beautiful homebase is located. The whole group is looking forward to finding their feet, learning more about the GLA elephant and educational service projects, and getting to know each other.
Thank-you parents and families, for entrusting us with your students. They’ve impressed us so much already, and it’s only Day One! We cannot wait to watch them have fun together, grow their capacity for leadership, and to enact positive change in Thai communities over the next 14 days.
Khop Khun Ka (Thank-you)
Caroline Jane Green – International Director
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 15
Day Two of our travels – and despite the jetlag, everyone was awake bright and early this morning, ready for the journey to Chiang Mai!
Will, Kinkade and Sean were super organised and ready to go – bringing their bags down before breakfast, followed by Charlotte, Morgan and Naomi, who were sleepy but full of smiles. Gabby and Sophia followed shortly after, who were remarkably awake for having been our late-night arrivals the evening before!
We left the hotel at 08.30 and journeyed to the airport, checking in for our 10.20am internal flight. By 11.15am, we had landed in Chiang Mai – our home for the next 11 days. Chiang Mai sits at an elevation of 1000m and is most famous for its beautiful ancient temples, old walled city and striking mountain ranges that surround the area. We are so excited to be exploring the area more. We collected our bags and left the baggage claim area to meet Chanissara – “Pare” – another wonderful member of our Thai team, who greeted our students with garlands of fragrant white jasmine flowers to wear. Pare is from Chiang Mai and studied tourism management at university – she’s worked extensively as a guide across the region, leading everything from kayaking tours to jungle walks, and truly enjoys sharing her knowledge (as well as love of food!)
Our local driver collected us from the airport, and headed straight to a restaurant for a dim-sum lunch! Dim Sum breakfasts and brunches are beloved here in Thailand, served buffet style – and as it’s now the best season in the year for fruit, the students finished off lunch by trying out delicious dragon fruit and rambutan, which have the most striking and unusual outer peels!
After a quick pit-stop to change money locally, we travelled the short distance through the city to check in to our Home Base, at Chotana Villa. Taking a moments’ pause gave the students a wonderful opportunity to rest, orient themselves to our leafy new surroundings, and appreciate how far they’ve already come (personally and literally!) The afternoon was spent kicking off icebreakers and group games – helping students to get to know each other and establish friendships, – and running through all of the GLA essentials that will enable our group to stay safe, happy and healthy whilst on program. Later on in the afternoon, we were greeted by Todd Cikraji. Todd came to Northern Thailand as a US Peace Corp volunteer, and loved his time here so much that he never quite left! Todd is deeply rooted in Chiang Mai, fluent in Thai, and works as a teacher at the International School that the students will be doing a cultural exchange with later next week. Todd is also the founder of friends for Asia, an organisation that specializes in ethical service learning and volunteering opportunities for foreign volunteers – he and his team are instrumental in facilitating our cultural activities and enriching connections with the local communities. Kate and Pare then led the students through one of the most interesting and crucial aspects of the day during the orientation – understanding the culture and customs of Thailand. In particular: helping students practise how to do a Thai greeting called a Wai to other people – with hands together in prayer position and head slightly bowed – and also how to speak some key Thai phrases!
Kate and Pare took us all to dinner that evening at 17.30; it turned out to be dinner with a twist…students were in charge of cooking their own! After being introduced to concept of 5 key taste flavours in cooking – sweet, salty, sour, spicy, bitter – and how to achieve balance between all of them for maximum deliciousness, the students toured around the beautiful organic gardens, tasting everything from Thai basil to chives to kaffir limes. A true farm-to-table process, Gale, our cooking Kru (teacher) empowered the students with new skills to make not one, but four (!) dishes – including a welcome snack, stir-fry, curry, and vegetable spring roll – teaching the group the importance of working safely in a kitchen, and cooking from the jai (heart). Parents & families, definitely get your new chefs to cook for you when they return home from Thailand. They’re pros now!
Gabby cooked pad thai stir-fry, and challenged herself with a Massaman curry – the dish with the most complicated process! Sophia put together a pad see ew, and made a delicious Penang curry, which is peanut-base. Naomi made a pad thai to start, and was ready to challenge her spice levels, picking a tofu Green Curry (the hottest on the menu!) to make for her main meal; she also ground the green chillies with the pestle and mortar to add to the paste. Will was excited to try a hot basil stir fry and khao soy, grinding the red chillies to add to the paste, and enjoying the process so much he even cooked alongside Sean to prepare a larger dish for multiple people. Sean cooked what is rapidly becoming one of his favourite dishes – pad see ew – and khao soy curry. Charlotte tackled a complicated pad thai, with many ingredients and steps, followed by a beautifully presented khao soy. Morgan tried her hand at the hot basil stir-fry, followed by a penang curry, and her spring roll was one of the most accurately made that Gale had seen! Kinkade made a hot-basil stir fry and red curry, trying his hand with using a pestle and mortar to grind star anise, cinnamon and turmeric together as the base for the curry paste.
With happy conversation and jokes flowing, and tasty homemade food plentiful, we left with our hearts and minds truly full. After saying goodbye to Gale – who gave each student a thoughtful gift of a cooking book – our group travelled back to the hotel, finishing the evening with a group debrief before heading to rooms at 21.30, with lights out by 22.00. An evening spent cooking, eating, sharing, and laughing together, had been the perfect introduction to our new Chiang Mai home.
Tomorrow we’ll be heading to Lampang, where students will be learning all about animal-human interactions within Thailand, and elephant conservation efforts across the country. A fun-filled day awaits with a trip to the world-famous Elephant Hospital and Elephant Conservation Centre in Lampang, followed by lunch, a visit to Elephant Parade, and pool time for rest and relaxation this afternoon. All of our GLA team have been so impressed at how every student has fully embraced new experiences so far, no doubt day 3 will bring even more growth! What an incredible bunch! I’ll also be officially handing over the blog to our students – they’ll be taking the lead on writing to you at home for the rest of the trip. Stay tuned for all of their fantastic stories!
Laew jer gan (see you soon)
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 16
Written by: Morgan, Kinkade, Naomi, Sean, Charlotte, Sophia, Gabby & Will
Today was the start of learning all about the Elephants in Thailand!
We drove 1.5 hours to the Elephant Hospital, a charity which is run by Friends of the Asian Elephants. Here, we met Mosha, one of the most famous elephants in the world. Her leg was blown off by a landmine on the Thai-Myanmar border, and now she has a prosthetic. Fun facts we learned – elephants backs arch when a front leg is injured, and the foot is the most sensitive and vulnerable part of their bodies
After our visit to the Elephant Hospital, we visited a Thai Government-owned and run facility called Elephant Conservation Centre, which has a public hospital for elephants. Here, we were able to be closer up to the elephants and feed them bananas and sugarcane! Lunch was also at the centre, where we laughed a lot together.
Lastly, we went to the Elephant Parade… it’s not a parade of actual real-life elephants, like some of us thought! It does involve large elephant statues ‘on parade’ around the world, as well as statues that are made on site and sold. The purpose of the organisation is to spread awareness about protecting elephants, and to raise funds for ongoing support of Friends of Asian Elephants projects. Here we saw the artists who produce the statues working, and they were hand painting every single elephant. We were able to decorate and take away our own miniature statues as a keepsake to remember the trip!
After we got back, we took a swim test in our pool at Chotana villa, and played in the pool for free-time, including pool-based ball games for quite a long time. After dinner we got together as a mentor group to learn more about ourselves and each other, and did a color association activity for emotions and personality.
Tomorrow, we will go to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary to begin our service project!
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 17
Written by Naomi Jones (Day Leader)
Today we set out on a long car ride towards the elephant sanctuary where we were introduced to our new larger friends!
We fed the elephants 2 buckets filled to the brim with bananas. After our own tasty lunch, as rain started to pour, we crafted nutritious medicine balls for the elephants to indulge in, We then brought them to the river to bathe all the dirt off their backs. It proved to be a wet experience for both the elephants and us! We were all drenched by the time the elephants wanted to head over to the mud bath. We rubbed mud all over the elephants for the purpose of protecting their skin from the scorching heat. Some of us were sprayed head to toe with mud and even took a fall in the mud as well.
As we headed back to our rooms at the eco lodge, some of us faced difficulties with the showers, however, eventually we were able to get clean from our excursion. We ate a delicious dinner of fruit, fried papaya veggies, rice, chicken and other rich Thai cuisine. We then played some entertaining games directed by leaders of the day: Naomi and Sophia. A day of endless adventure with elephants was able to bring a big smile to both us and our elephant friends. A day well spent!
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 18
Written by Morgan Lindsey and Charlotte Morse (Leaders of the Day)
Our first big activity of the day was travelling to another location of the elephant sanctuary and walking with the elephants. There were five elephants, including one baby. It was very cool to finally see the elephants in something like their natural habitat.
After returning to the section of the sanctuary near our lodge and having some lunch, we planted bamboo and grass in the fields, We planted an entire section of the field. The type of grass, also called napier grass, will be used to feed the elephants about a month down the line.
We got back, used some of our free time to shower, and enjoyed dinner. Our guides Pare and Kate gave us a crash course in Thai. They taught us numbers, as well as greetings and introductions.
It was a truly amazing day, but we will sleep tonight for certain!
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 19
Written by Gabby Holt (one of the Leaders of the Day)
Today was our last full day with the elephants and staying at the Elephant Sanctuary. We started the day off with breakfast at the eco lodge. Then, we headed over to the elephants where we met with the veterinarian who taught us about elephants and their healthy behaviours within communities and relationships. We then separated into two groups where each group performed its own physical exam on an elephant and created posters of what we had observed, and presented to the rest of the team.
We then ate a delicious lunch at the sanctuary. We used the elephants as our fruit compost, as we were allowed to feed them our leftover banana peels and watermelon rinds!
We then helped feed the elephants lunch, and had the opportunity to hug them. We gave one of the elephants a good scrub clean, and the rest we walked to a little pond, and some of us jumped in to help rinse them off. We then took them to the muddy water and gave them a muddy bath, while having a little mud fight!
Exhausted, we all drove back to the eco village, took showers, and played cards until dinner. It was Kate, our Local Director’s birthday, so we surprised her with cake after dinner. We then did an insightful reflection of our day with the ‘mango sticky rice’ method, where we mentioned something sweet, something that stuck with us, and something fulfilling. After that as a group, we decided to do no further activities, and have our phones early if we wanted, so we could head to bed early.
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 20
Written by Kinkade Spencer (one of the Leaders of the Day)
Today we started out the day by packing up and preparing our dirty clothes for laundry day!! After a long joy-filled couple of days at the Elephant Sanctuary, we were sad to go.
After eating breakfast we travelled to the sanctuary one last time today goodbye to our gentle giant friends. Then everyone made sure to zip up their bags because zipping up meant that our clothes wouldn’t fall out on the bumpy car ride back.
When we got back to Chotana Villa, everyone needed a shower. After everyone was done settling back in we left to go learn about the Buddhist temples of Chiang Mai. It was really cool to learn about the customs and the Monks.
Everyone was hungry after that so we went to a mall to get some food we needed the day by talking with Todd about teaching english and the next part of our adventure here in Thailand. After a day like this everyone will be happy to sleep under the starts in our nice hotel rooms!
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 21
Written by Naomi Jones (one of the Leaders of the Day)
Today we ventured out to tour the school we will be teaching at over the next couple of days. All of the kids were super cute and friendly and even gave us some handshakes and ewaves. Afterwards, Pare gave us a tour of the new local market and showed us some new types of food like sesame jelly. We all got the chance to look around, grab souvenirs, and learn about new customs and normalities in Thai culture.
Afterward we set out towards lunch at the diamond breakfast club where we all got some nutritious and endearing dishes. In addition, we all had an extensive conversation regarding movies!
Afterwards we drove towards Home Base to prepare for our teaching lessons tomorrow at the school. We all came up with lessons to engage our students. Afterwards, we all got to enjoy the pool and play some fun games like marco polo. We then got ready for a dinner of fried chicken curry, steamed veggies and rice. We did a a reflection of the day in the evening, and some Day Leader-led games like vampire and ghost in the graveyard.
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 22
Written by Charlotte Morse (one of the Leaders of the Day)
Today, we started to work at the school. We got there for the national anthem and prayer at 7.45 AM. Then, we had breakfast and prepared for our lessons. We got to teach Prathom 4, 5 & 6,, which are the equivalent of 4th, 5th and 6th grade. The kids were all very excited to see us and very eager to learn. After we taught the kids, we had lunch that was very spicy for some of us! We got to go outside and play with the kids. There were many hugs, hearts, high-fives and rock-paper-scissors games.
After the School, we went back to Home Base and got ready to go to Muay Thai boxing. We got there, stretched and learned some punches and kicks. We started out with “shadow-boxing” which is when you fight the air. Then we moved on to training with the instructors and the punching bags. We learned how to do a regular punch, a hook punch, an uppercut, a regular kick, a push kick and an elbow. It was very fun and a good workout!
We were all very exhausted after a very full day. When we got back to Home Base we planned out our lessons for tomorrow, and worked on our cultural exchange project, which we will be doing tomorrow. After that we had some free time, and Sean & Will got in the pool. For dinner we had stir-fry, fried mushrooms, and some extremely good soup. It was a very fun and fulfilling day.
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 23
Written by Morgan Lindsey (one of the Leaders of the Day)
Today we successfully completed our second day of teaching! We each got a chance to teach whichever classes we hadn’t taught yet (Prathom 4, 5, or 6). We all completed 3 more classes, and we focused in different subjects (professions, animals, adjectives, etc) Although, sometimes we had to break out the origami or other activities in order to accommodate for shorter attention spans of the younger kids! We spent another lunch hour playing various games with the kids, as well as receiving a plethora of high fives and hugs.
After leaving the school we headed to SISB – Singapore International School Bangkok (in Chiang Mai). We participated in a cultural exchange where we each presented a dance – each group, not each person! – took a tour of the school, and discussed ways in which Thailand and the US are different or similar. It was overall a great experience.
Back at base we prepped for the following day’s ‘English Camp’, which we will tell you all about once it has happened. We each, in our teaching groups, prepared a lesson and fun activity to excite all the kids about learning English. Some groups even made their own materials.
Finally, we swam in the pool during our much needed free time. It was an exhausting, but ultimately extremely rewarding day.
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 24
Written by Sophia Wolfinger (one of the Leaders of the Day)
On our last service day and second to last day in Chiang Mai, we had lots of well-rounding experiences. We finished off teaching with an English Camp; although the concept was a bit nerve-wracking at first, we developed deeper connections with the students and learning quite a bit about ourselves.
After the main portion of the camp, we came together as a group to teach the students how to make fun-shaped sandwiches. Nonetheless when the time came we said our last goodbyes and thanked the students and school for the opportunities they provided.
The rest of the day was spent reflecting and hanging out on one of our last days together.
P.s. We miss you all lots! 💛
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 25
Written by Will Resende
First in the morning today we went Doi Suthep Temple and we had a Monk speak to us and teach us about Buddhism and his lifestyle for an hour and a half along with a question & answer session.
After the Monk Talk we went to Doi Pui which was a village high up in the mountains. It was a very winding drive up. Once we got out the van a little car sick, the weather was amazing and there was no humidity. There we went to the cafe at the highest part of the village and had some smoothies right before lunch courtesy of Kate. After lunch in the village we went and shopped at the different local shops. We then went to visit the most famous temple in Chiang Mai, Suthep Temple and explored the beautiful sights it had to see.
We then took some time to rest and talk to Todd. Then went out to dinner on a river boat for our farewell dinner, where we had all types of food.
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 26
Written by Morgan Lindsey
Today we left Chiang Mai and flew back to Bangkok. Fortunately, our travel was pretty smooth, although our flight was delayed for an hour. After landing in Bangkok we travelled to the hotel that we stayed at during our first night in Thailand, in order to drop off our bags before heading to lunch.
After lunch we got our chance to truly visit Bangkok and see some of the world-renowned sights and temples that exist here – Royal Palace, Wat Prakaw and Wat Pho. We were all astounded by the intricacy, beauty and sheet size of these monuments.
After this experience we visited one of Thailand’s most famous markets, Chatuchuk – or JJ – Market. The sights and smells and overall atmosphere of the market was incredible. The market was very large, and it seems as though it sells nearly everything. We enjoyed dinner at the market and our group had time to shop before we drove back to our hotel. Our final full night in Bangkok – and Thailand!
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 27
It’s departure day…. we can’t quite believe it! The Land of Smiles is certainly feeling bittersweet. We are smiling from time spent with these wonderful students, sad to see them go, and excited for their incredible next steps in the world.
Students enjoyed a well-deserved late start, after a jam-packed program. With buffet breakfast at the Airport Cottage hotel being eaten at their own leisure until 10am, all students spent their morning relaxing, packing, downloading music and movies for the long journeys home (and in some cases, catching up on even more sleep!). At midday, we headed together to the Mall next door, to try out the delicious delights of the amazing food court upstairs, as well as do some last minute shopping to stock up on souvenirs and snacks.
In the afternoon, we officially closed our program. Students gathered together for a guided meditation by Neha, followed by journalling reflection led by Caroline. Everyone set themselves an OMG – One Meaningful Goal – a achievement they would like to work towards to ‘Be The Change’ in the world, and together they devised another OMG for the group to commit to and contribute towards. Lastly, students wrote out appreciations for one another – positive affirmations to read on the plane ride home – and wrote a letter to their future selves. They can look forward to receiving their post after program!
And with that….it was off to the airport. A last dinner together beckoned, followed by check-ins (and some mega long baggage queues!) before finally each student went tp the international departures area, and waved goodbye to their GLA staff. Safe and smooth travels, everyone!
14 days ago, our students arrived…excited, nervous, tired, perhaps a little apprehensive, and maybe even unsure of themselves. Today, our young Leaders stood confident, smiling, connected. They are forever changed by the incredible experiences they have had, and the positive impact they’ve made within communities here in Thailand. It may have only been two weeks – but we’re sure everyone has made memories that will last a lifetime.
Sean, Morgan, Charlotte, Naomi, Kinkade, Will, Gabby and Sophia – you are all incredible. Thank-you for bringing your full selves to this experience – as well as your dedication towards service projects, and not to mention so much laughter and joy. You are going to do amazing things in your lives. We can’t wait to see you thrive and soar high!
From Caroline, Kate, Neha and Pare