Tuesday June 19, 2018
Hello! Welcome to Thailand!
We’re so happy our students arrived in Chiang Mai safely and full of smiles today! We’ve been so excited to meet our first 21-day “In and Beyond the Classroom” group! Today’s been a tranquil arrival day, adjusting to Thai time, meeting one another, and exploring the Woodfield Resort, our home base for the next 3 weeks! Needless to say, all our students are a little tired after 2 days of traveling, so resting was s a highlight of today! We were welcomed with a delicious Thai dinner with chicken/tofu curry soup, fried rice, fresh fruits, and veggie spring rolls! After dinner we briefly looked over tomorrow’s orientation day plan and our fun filled 3 weeks! The international staff can’t wait for the adventures and leadership activities to begin!
We’ll be updating this blog at least twice a week with stories, quotes, and photos from our days at service, and in the community! Check back!
Best wishes from your international staff,
Lexi and Mark
Wednesday June 20, 2018
First full day in Thailand, and what a day it was! We started the day with a buffet breakfast with foods ranging from veggie fried rice, to waffles, and back to Thai noodles! After breakfast, we met in the large conference room for Orientation! We reviewed the code of conduct, house rules, and dos and don’ts in Thailand. Then off to an awesomely international lunch buffet (they even had green tea ice cream)! Post lunch was the city tour! We saw 2 of Chiang Mai’s wats (temple) including the oldest one! After a quick Thai tea in the park, GLA met a local chef in the market to pick out ingredients for our cooking class. We learned how to cook pad Thai, green coconut milk curry, fried spring rolls, and mango sticky rice for dessert! We even used a blue flower, butterfly pea, to turn the ricey dessert blue! Back to home base for a mentor group regarding hopes and fears for the program along with silly and serious group goals! The last student arrived this evening! We’re so happy to have all11 students safe and sound in Thailand! We can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store!
Lexi and Mark
Thursday June 21, 2018
Today we woke up bright and early to head off to a local pottery village. We toured the village and saw the processes behind the beautiful Thai artwork. After touring and seeing how effortless the Thai potters made it look, we took a stab at making our own pottery. We learned that many of us are not natural artists, but with the help of the potters, we were able to make small, beautiful vases. Once our time in the pottery village was up, we ventured out to Huay Tung Tao reservoir for lunch.
Our delicious meal was devoured inside a cabana overlooking the lake. We ate live dancing shrimp, soup, rice, and some good old french fries. Bon appetit! Once our lunch was finished we took a picture with a giant gorilla (see picture below) then played games and had an intellectual discussion about Children’s rights. After a long day of fun, food, and friends we headed back to our beautiful home base for a swim test. All of us passed so we were able to swim around and play pool games.
Following our pool fun, we chowed down on dinner which was scrumptious! Then our wonderful mentor, Lexi lead us in an activity to inspire meaningful conversations. We learned about the importance of being open and talking about things that are important to you. We closed the night off with some group bonding. We can’t wait for more adventures, learning, and bonding.
Friday June 22, 2018
We started off our day today with an hour long trip down a windy road to the Doi Suthep temple about an hour away from our home base. After climbing all 306 steps to get to the temple (yes, Clare and I counted), we all had the chance to walk around, take pictures, and ask questions to our local staff about everything we saw. We also were able try out some interesting fortune telling techniques to find out if our wishes for the future will come true, like shaking a cup full of sticks and waiting for one to fall out, or lifting a heavy gold elephant with one finger. We then had the chance to get some amazing views of all of Chiang Mai from the mountaintop where the temple stood.
On our way home, we visited a Northern Hill Tribe village where we learned all about the different tribes in Thailand. We even had the chance to shoot a crossbow at a hanging vegetable… with varying degrees of success. On our way out of the village we walked through a market where most of us bought elephant pants for only 100 baht! (About the equivalent of 3 USD). We then came back to the home base for some free time. Most of us spent our time doing yoga led by our mentor, Lexi… also with varying degrees of success. Despite a lot of tripping and complaining about exercise, we all had a great time. After dinner we all got together for a leadership activity in which we all discussed ways we can overcome the things we feel hold us back in life.
Hope everything’s going well back home!
Saturday June 23, 2018
Hello! (Say wah dee kah )
Today marked day 5 of our adventures in the scenic Chiang Mai, Thailand. Today we started off by visiting an adorable nearby community which is known for making cotton umbrellas. We learned the history of the community that has existed for over 40 years and saw the umbrella making process ourselves. After we saw the steps of making an umbrella we got the chance to paint our own umbrellas.
Many of us have quickly realized in the past few days that our artistic abilities are more to be desired. After our artistic attempts we proceeded to a little market of highly talented painters where many of us got our phone cases painted with flowers, elephants, and dragons. Then we went to the cafe for a pick me up. We have been practicing ordering in Thai and getting all our drinks without straws (mai aow lòrd).
We get a lot of weird looks from barista when attempting to drink things from smoothies to iced drinks without our straw but we are trying to save marine life one straw at a time thanks to our awesome mentor Lexi’s influence. After that we went to lunch at a local restaurant where we could try anything on the menu. With the freedom many choose pad Thai and spring rolls but some went outside there comfort zones and tried a totally new dish.
Mid- afternoon we returned to our beautiful home base where we had a leadership activity. Each of us dived into our goals and what we want in the future whether that may be tomorrow or years from now. Also parents if you get a postcard in the mail before our return please don’t read them. They are for our future selves. After that we had a pretty laidback night of self care, getting to know each even better, practicing our Thai, and then a family pool night . That’s all we have for the today.
Hashtags for the days included:
Sunday June 24, 2018
Today was a really great day! The first thing we did was go zip lining. It was a blast and everybody was proud of Lexi for facing her fear of heights and falling. The instructors were really fun and loved to tease us. They dropped us down the belay rope half way, shook all the bridges we walked on, and even scared us into thinking that we started zipping the line when everybody wasn’t ready. In the evening, we went to the night market to eat dinner. While we were there, we bought many items that the vendors had for sale such as: elephant pants, shirts, sandals, essential oils, playing cards, jewelry, and wood crafts. Overall, today was a very successful day and I hope to have more just like it.
Monday June 25, 2018
Hey parents and readers,
Time is flying by here in Thailand! It’s been a tiring day; we did a lot of physical work. We started our morning workin’ on our biceps while trying our hand at carving wood. Emphasis on ‘trying’. Though many of us struggled, Jolie and Cara killed their wood carving; it’s not as easy as it looks!
Next stop: the rice fields. Before we got down and dirty in the paddies, we saw a variety of agricultural practices. We fed hungry catfishes kept in above-ground pounds and learned how Thai farms keep frogs in captivity. Afterwards, we learned about how rice is grown and processed. First, rice seeds are thrown randomly into their respective paddies — essentially large muddy ponds. Then, after around one month, the rice seedlings are picked and replanted in orderly rows. Wait four more months and the rice is ready to be harvested. We part took in the seedling replanting process and it was a really fun experience. Knee deep in rice paddy mud, you really appreciate the work it takes to get every grain of rice. Note to self: don’t waste any grains of rice.
To end our excursion we went to the orphanage Baan Praporn. Unfortunately we weren’t greeted by kids — they were still in school. Instead, we were greeted by sand, stones, water, and the final ingredient: cement mix. We mixed and poured cement for the foundation for a new bathroom. We probably got a third or fourth more done with it then where it was left off. After some hard sweaty work, with plenty of hydration breaks, we enjoyed a peanut butter sandwich to boost our energy for the arrival of the kids. Trust me: we needed it. We ran around what seemed like for ages. The amount of energy bursting from the young kids was insane! We played tag, kicked around a soccer ball, and introduced ourselves. Our playtime was cut short by a sudden down pour of rain and our hot dinner waiting back at home base. Today was another novel and adventure packed day for the GLA team.
To many more!
— Adam Zawierucha
Tuesday June 26, 2018
Today, we started out the morning by enjoying our resort breakfast and headed out to another popular Thai market; Warorot. We got to try some local snacks, such as rice crackers, and explored the many parts to the market! Most ventured off to find skirts to purchase for our teaching beginning on Monday. After a couple hours at the market and a pit stop at a nearby coffee shop that had complementary WiFi, we continued our service project at Baan Praporn. Six bags of cement later, we got to enjoy playing with the kids for an hour and a half. It was a beautiful, sunny day, which allowed us to participate in some of the favorite activities amongst the children, which include soccer, frisbee, duck duck goose, tag, and decorating our hair with flowers. After saying our dreaded goodbyes to the kids, we returned to home base and enjoyed a well earned dinner. We’re all so excited to spend more time with the children and can’t wait to see what’s yet to come!
Wednesday June 27, 2018
Today we woke up to some beautiful pouring rain. We started our day off in the “leaf room” of our resort with Ajarah Todd. He taught us everything we need to know before we head off to teach Monday morning . After our seminar, we headed off to the school to meet the principal,check out the classrooms and the students. By then it was lunch time so we headed to the famous 89th Plaza. By now we were excited and ready to start service as soon as possible so that we could play with the kids at the orphanage.
Because of the rain we couldn’t play outside, but that didn’t stop us. We went into a hut together and played a hand game. It breaks our heart to say goodbye everyday, but we know that they’ll forever be in our hearts. We may be impacting them in some way, but they’re doing so much more for us… we headed home for dinner and had a leadership seminar with Lexi and Mark. We discussed our vision of what we would want the world to look like. We ended our night with some ice cream and good laughs.
Thursday June 28, 2018
This morning, we woke at 7:30 am for the usual breakfast buffet. Shortly after, we left home base in our temple-appropriate outfits and made our way to Wat Suandok, or Flower Garden Temple. We gathered in a private room and awaited our chat with the chief monk who holds a position of respect and honor in the Thai community. Phra KK warmly greeted us and began recounting the origins of Buddhism, emphasizing that it is a philosophy rather than a religion. He also told us of his childhood and experiences with his discovery of self. Towards the end of our time with Phra KK, we asked about his daily routine and his fluency in multiple languages.
After an enlightening chat, we headed to lunch, and on our way out witnessed the younger monks as they left the school near the temple. We ate at Boat Bakery, and then returned to the orphanage for a new day of service which centered around digging holes and dumping the dirt into the foundation of the bathroom. Once the children returned from school and the rain subsided, we picked up where we left off the day before and enjoyed our time with the kids, keeping in mind our limited time. After a long and tiring day, we convinced Mark and Lexi to stop at 7/11 on the way back to Home Base and we stocked up on “healthy” snacks. We closed out the day by preparing a dance for later next week which took a lot of coordination that not many of us had. I can’t wait for tomorrow, our last day of manual labor at the orphanage!
Friday June 29, 2018
We woke up an hour early to drive to the Hmong Village that was about an hour and a half away from home base. We drove through the beautiful mountainside of Northern Thailand, giving us the opportunity to experience once in a lifetime views. Once we arrived we met with Mr. Yua the village community leader and he gave us an overview of the village history. We began our exploration of the village with a hike through the national park in the surrounding area. Mr. Yua explained what different plants were used for and what types of produce they provided. We were able to try fruits and vegetables from right off the tree. As we concluded our hike and made our way back to the meeting room we went down village streets and were able to see different aspects of their culture, such as “spirit catchers” and chickens used for sacrifices to the spirits. At the meeting room we learned about the art of beeswax painting. All of us were able to create our pattern on a cloth and trace it with beeswax using a special tool. The beeswax can be used as a “barrier” to keep the cloth white during the dyeing process. At around twelve o’clock we hopped back into our vans to go to the Baan Praporn Orphanage that we have been working at for the past 4 or so days. The drive down from the mountain was very quiet as almost everyone was tired from our trek.
After the long car ride was over, we resumed our service and finished our 2 meter holes for the septic tanks. This was our last day of manual service and we wanted to to make sure that we finished and we savored the moment. The kids arrived back from school at around 4:30 pm. We all played on the playground and fields. A few of the girls, including myself got their hair braided because the little girls love to do it and are really good at braiding. We were overall sad to leave the orphanage today because this was our last time seeing some of the kids that we had grown so attached to in such a short amount of time. We got back to home base and did our normal evening activities such as dinner circle, dinner, and tonight leadership group where we talked about the meaning of development. We are excited to see what tomorrow brings for us as Mark has organized a special surprise for us GLA teens and some of the kids from the orphanage!
Saturday June 30, 2018
Today we all headed over to the Baan Praporn orphanage for the last time, giving us a chance to play more group activities and say goodbye to most of the kids. After a few hours of games and laughter we had lunch at the orphanage, coconut curry, vegetables, and rice!
Next, we took a designated group of children to a Thai waterpark and enjoyed the slides and lazy river for a few hours. Lastly, we concluded the day by organizing our English lessons for Monday’s first teaching day. It was for sure one of my favorite activities so far.
Sunday July 1, 2018
After waking up and eating our typical Thai breakfast, we set out for a day full of fun. First, we took a 15 kilometer (9 mile) bike ride on a route that had a beautiful view of rice fields and mountains in the distance. After returning to our starting point, we all ate a big lunch which included rice, chicken, and smoothies. Once our bellies were full, we changed into our bathing suits and took a short bus ride to Sri Lanna National Park where we got to kayak in the lake. We swam around in the lake and played a game called Chicken Dance, where you and your buddy stand on the kayak and try to knock each other off. Back on shore, we changed into dry clothes and headed back to home base and ate dinner. The group practiced the performance for cultural exchange that will be preformed at a local high school tomorrow. Off to bed we went, ready for the next eventful day.
Monday July 2, 2018
Today was the first day of teaching Prathom 3,4,5, and 6! Despite having to wake up early (breakfast at 6:30am) we got to watch the school’s morning assembly! We all were excited to start teaching! Teaching went really well, and we now know what works and what we need to work on for the rest of the week. The kids were eager to learn and made teaching fun and worthwhile. Im totally excited to teach again and cant wait for what tomorrow holds. Our classes were overall successful and we are all prepared (fingers crossed) for tomorrows day of teaching.
Afterwards we visited high school students at Sarapee Pittayakom School. It was eye opening to see the difference in culture between us and Thai high school students our age. We spent time sharing cultural performances, like dances and musical talents. All of the performances were so awesome and we were in shock at how amazing the Thai students are. After getting the chance to learn some of their cultural activities like bamboo dancing and gong-like drums, we can conclude that it is way harder than it looks. After the performances, groups of high school students gave us a tour of their school. We exchanged our goodbyes, took some selfies, and ended the night journaling and reflecting on the past few days.
-Adam, Bri, Cara, Clare, Esme, Jolie, Marietta, May, Mia, Milan, Paige.
*This blog post was written as a part of tonight’s journaling exercise. Each student wrote one sentence about the day and passed it to the next student leader.
Tuesday July 3, 2018
After waking up bright and early we all headed to the elementary school to teach our classes. After eating a quick lunch at the school, we hopped on the vans and went back to home base to change into athletic clothing. Once we were changed we went to Chiang Mai Muay Thai gym and learned how to Muay Thai box.
After getting our hands wrapped, we started off with a warm up of running around the boxing ring for 5 minutes followed by stretching. We were showed the moves and techniques and practiced on punching bags, trainers, and each other. Tired after the two hour work out, we stopped by the grocery store to buy snacks such as gold fish, cookies, candy, chips, and salsa. Back at home base we helped ourselves to a nice big dinner followed by a movie night. Curled up with our blankets, pillows, and newly bought snacks we watched the movie Inside Out and then off to bed we went.
-Paige and Jolie
Wednesday July 4, 2018
Happy 4th of July 🇺🇸
Today we headed back to school for our third day of teaching. We spent our mornings teaching lessons and playing games with our students. Some of us even explained that in was the United States 242nd birthday and we had our classes sing happy birthday. After our busy morning we headed back to home base and prepared for the afternoon in the city center.
First stop of the afternoon was at a 3D art Museum filled with all sorts of different exhibits. Then we headed to our much awaited Thai massages. Thai massages focused more on muscle tension rather then relaxation. There were lots of laughs shared to say the least.
Next stop was the grocery store across the street to buy any snacks or candy we wanted for back at home base. That night we went out for dinner at Duke’s where we had an American meal to celebrate the 4th. We were served pizza, nachos, mozzarella sticks, salads, ribs, fries and more. After our delicious meal we headed down to the market on the street below. We each got time to buy gifts and explore Chiang Mai markets once again. After our night on the town we once again returned to our beautiful home base. Upon our return home we were surprised with sparklers. We finished our night singing some patriotic songs and enjoying each other’s company on the 4th of July.
-Clare and May
Thursday July 5, 2018
This morning we woke bright and early! We headed to the school to have our last lessons with the classes. Then after a quick lunch prepared by the school we rushed back to home base. We began planning our english camp games for tomorrow. We separated into groups and created a list of items that was needed for our games. With only a short break we went straight back to brainstorming and creating posters for our stations. We then went to dinner and indulged in smiley face french fries! Today’s activity with Mark consisted of tips on how to manage your anger as a leader. Okay We’re tired, its been a long day. See you guys soon!!
-Esme and Mia
Friday July 6, 2018
We woke up bright and early this morning to make some lasts minute preparations for our full day of English camp! Split into 4 groups, we all prepared to put the plans we had spent the last day coming up with into action. Our stations included “camping,” soccer, a clothing relay, and a scavenger hunt. The day was overall a huge success! Despite some challenges due to the large class sizes, we had so much fun playing with and teaching the kids. At the end of the day, we were thanked with a closing ceremony where we were able to watch our students preform some traditional Thai dances. We were also able to thank the school for allowing us the opportunity to teach for the last week. Cara stood up to say a few words to the school while Milan translated, revealing to the entire astonished crowd that he speaks fluent Thai despite having taught his classes entirely in English all week! After the camp, we headed back to home base and ended our night with a mentor group where we discussed each of our personal mission statements.
-Bri & Cara
Saturday July 7, 2018
Today was our dreaded last day of activity, but we were all excited for what the day held. At 9:15 am we left home base and headed out to the elephant sanctuary. All was good until van 2 got stuck in a ditch just before we got to our destination. Luckily everything was fixed and we were able to get to the sanctuary in time. We first learned a little bit about elephants in general and then about the elephants specific to the sanctuary. Nut, our elephant guide, then set us free with our colorful ponchos to play with the elephants. First we fed the elephants bananas and avoided getting sat on by a baby elephant. We had a quick lunch break before jumping into the mud pond to cover the elephants in mud. Then we rinsed the elephants, and ourselves, in the river. I don’t know who got splashed more: the elephant or us. To conclude our day we went to the Saturday night market to make our final purchases, and spend our last baht.
— Marieta & Adam Z.
Today was the last full day of our GLA trip to Thailand! It was a pretty relaxed day for the most part. In the morning, we hung out near the pool and went for a sweat in home-base’s sauna and steam room. After our spa morning, we left for lunch at the Central Festival Mall of Chiang Mai. Central Festival is the biggest mall in Chiang Mai. We had time to walk around to shop and get some food. Many stores were visited and a lot of clothes were purchased. During the evening, we had dinner on a river boat and sailed the river. We listened to some teen tunes and enjoyed our last night together. Love to our entire GLA family.
-by Milan and Jolie
Monday July 9, 2018
And just like that, it’s our students’ last day in country! How time flies! One final breakfast at the Woodfield before our first student departure! Our morning was filled with laughter, reminiscing, and holding back a few tears, oh and packing, so much packing. Checking out at noon we headed to a mall near the airport for lunch, the last Thai meal for many! We headed towards the airport in the early afternoon and checked everyone into their flights and checked their bags – no overweight bags! Hooray!
Around 3:30 the flood gates opened and through tearful goodbyes we said goodbye to most of our students. One student hung out with international and local staff until her later flight. At midnight we had confirmation that all of our future leaders were homeward bound! We’re so thankful for this amazing group of humans and the adventurous times we shared over the last 21 days! Kopkoon and see you soon!
-Lexi and Mark