Time Capsule Letter
We can’t believe it has already been so long since our Thailand trip ended! I can still imagine those amazing dishes that we shared, from pad thai and green curry to fried chicken (or tofu) and that awesome khao soi. It seems like yesterday that we were digging in the dirt, mixing concrete, lesson planning, and playing games with students.
You’re probably back in school (or starting college!) but we wanted you to know that here in Chiang Mai we are still thinking of you and the impact we made this summer together.
Our time spent together here truly did make an impact. You should all know you left Chiang Mai a better place than when you came. The restroom at the children’s home that you contributed to building will help ensure that everyone has the facilities needed. Your lessons at the elementary school helped give those fourth through sixth graders a tangible way to use their English, potentially sparking a lifelong love of language learning!
And more importantly, the knowledge YOU gained on this trip we hope will serve you and the communities you go on to be in for the rest of your life! We now know how important cross-cultural communication, empathy and problem-solving are and how we can work to bring more positive self-talk into our daily lives!
Another thing I can’t forget is how much fun we had together here! You guys were a huge part of making this trip so fun by being such an incredible group. We experienced Thai culture by learning to cook (and eat), learning about Buddhism, meditation and traditional Lanna (northern Thai) dances, and trying our hand at different traditional crafts. We also got to visit local markets and walking streets to buy elephant pants, bracelets, goodies to take home with us. We also got to explore the city, temples, and nature of Chiang Mai and the surrounding area.
We worked really hard and also had a blast together. Whether we were practicing Thai, hanging out with elephants, flying through the jungle canopy, trying to untangle a human knot, or trying something that scared us — it was that much fun because we got to share it with all you guys — the 2019 GLA Thailand In and Beyond the Classroom group! Thanks for helping to make these special memories in an amazing place.
10 special moments from our trip:
• Learning how to make our own Thai food (with mixed results)
• Wrestling with Charlie the baby elephant
• Joy and fear at the flocks of pigeons at Wat Umong
• Sharing lollipop moments and appreciation with one another
• Games and laughter with the children at Baan Praporn
• Getting relaxing (and very different) Thai massages
• Amazingly successful and fun games at the English Camp
• The incredible performance for the cultural exchange (you’re rockstars!)
• Customizing all of our belongings (and umbrellas) at Bor Sang Village
• Sharing our shopping hauls after colorful evenings at the Sunday Walking Street
You were an absolutely amazing group and we feel blessed to have been able to watch you grow during the course of our 21 days together!
Wishing you all of the best,
Rachel – International Director
Tuesday June 18, 2019
Hello! Sawadee Kha!
We are so happy to welcome the students to Thailand! Everyone has arrived, safe and sound and full of smiles! We are so excited to meet our 21-day “In and Beyond the Classroom” group! After a full twenty-plus hours of traveling for everyone, today’s focus was on resting, bonding with roommates, getting to know each other, and getting the feel for Woodfield Resort (our home for three weeks)!
We have an amazing and very full three-week itinerary made up of wonderful service projects, incredible cultural activities, adventure expeditions, and an assortment of leadership workshops (plus lots of new food and language)!
We could not be more excited to share Thailand with the students and to share our experiences with everyone back home. We’ll be updating this blog at least two to three times per week (if not more) with stories, quotes, and photos from our days at service and in the community! Check back!
Thank you (kap khun kha) from your international staff,
Rachel and Lori
Wednesday June 19, 2019
ahaan a roi maak!!!
(Very delicious food)
Our first full day has been a feast!
Students started the day enjoying a full buffet with choices of both Asian and western breakfast foods. This was followed by a morning of orientation, getting to know each other activites, and an introduction to Thai culture by our Thai staff. Before leaving our homebase we participated in a traditional house Shrine ceremony. The afternoon began with a quick trip in the vans to Siripanna for lunch. We then hopped back into the vans for a driving city tour.
We stopped and visited three different temples and learned the history of Chiang Mai. We then went to the “Fresh Market” and learned about the ingredients we would use to prepare our own four course meal of Tom ka gai, Pad Thai, green curry and sticky rice with fresh mango. We are all accomplished chefs now and excited to share our new skills when we return home.
Thursday June 20, 2019
Sawadee ka! Today we traveled down to a few of the street markets and spent our time shopping for clothing, food, and so much more! We learned of new fruits and even tried a few. After a couple of hours we walked down to a small coffee shop and took a much needed break; while there we shared what all we ended up getting at the shops.
Once we left the coffee shop we went to a local reservoir and had lunch under small bamboo huts on the lakes edge, during which we ate squid, veggies, rice, and live shrimp; even had the chance to use the squat toilets!
Afterward we explored hay sculptures and took loads of photos. Once we arrived back at home base we did our first leadership game, during which we split into groups and had to debate then come to an agreement over a specific topic. When we finished we ate dinner then went over the schedule for the next day.
Póp gan prûng níi! (See you tomorrow!)
-by Erin Mitchell
Friday June 21, 2019
Today the students woke up bright and early were ready for a great relaxing day, traveling throughout the city visiting parks and temples. These temples were specifically special because they were underground tunnel temples. We were blessed to encounter a monk sanctuary on the way to another temple in the park. After this we headed off to a high end craft market where students bought jewelry and got a lot of ice cream!
This got the students even more excited for the mall later on in the day. When we arrived at the mall we had a scavenger hunt to find specific things throughout the mall. The kids had so much fun experiencing new restaurants and stores and eating new foods. After the 2 and a 1/2 journey throughout the mall we got to stop at 7/11and get snacks on the way back to home base. At home base the students went into the pool and enjoyed the sun for about an hour. Soon after they had dinner and did a leadership activity and watched a Ted talk. Amazing day.
-by Cameryn Stewart and McKenna Teachout
Saturday June 22, 2019
Hello from Thailand!
Today we took a bus trip and hour and a half away from home base. We arrived at Shi Lanna National Park adventure center where we met our tour guides for the day and got measured for our bikes. Then, we headed out on a seven kilometer bike ride though the villages around the adventure center. Once we got back to the adventure center, they made us an incredible plate of chicken, rice, and vegetables for lunch. Lunch was finished, and we got ready to go kayaking on a lake. We swam in the lake and played various games including King of the Kayak. Then, we headed headed back to home base where we finally got clean. A great way to end a tiring day!
Lauren and Addie♡
Sunday June 23, 2019
Today we all got to sleep in a little and did not have to leave the resort until 9. Then it was about an hour drive, full of singing and jamming in the van, up to the mountains where we would zipline. We all stepped out of our comfort zones with a 120 foot drop at the end. After we enjoyed a lunch break, we headed back to home base to get ready for the Sunday night walking market. We shopped until we dropped, and then proceeded to jam in the van all the way home. Overall it was an incredible day of adventure, teamwork, and cultural experience.
– Jack Engel and Morgan Conway
Monday June 24, 2019
Today was one for the books! We slept in a little and after breakfast headed to the Umbrella Making Villiage. There, we saw how traditional Thai umbrellas are made by watching crafts people up close! We also got to paint our own mini umbrellas. After that, we were allowed to walk around the gift shop and cafe. However, our favorite part was getting some of our own personal items hand painted by some of the artists there. This ranged from wallets to water bottles, phone cases, and even shoes!
Then we headed to a quick lunch before community service. Today’s community service at the children’s home involved clearing out an area and filling it with dirt to prepare for a concrete ground and infrastructure. We were definitely working hard digging the dirt and moving it into buckets and wheelbarrows in the heat. Then our highlight of the day was when the kids from the home hopped off their school buses to come play with us with smiling faces! We didn’t have too long to play with them today, but we played soccer, hand games, and circle games with them and all of our hearts were so full. We can’t wait to see them again tomorrow!
-Nell Pollak and Jess Hirschmann
Tuesday June 25, 2019
Sawadee ka! Today we started the day off with laundry and breakfast. After, we headed out so that we could attend a monk chat. During that time we learned about what it takes to be a monk and about their idealism.
We learned that Buddhism is not a religion instead it is a philosophy that takes multiple years to perfect if not a whole lifetime. Their philosophy practices mental and physical zen. Zen being at piece and balanced. Once we finished asking our questions, he tought us how to meditate and practice reaching our zen.
Later we continued our service project, mixing and laying down cement; while we didn’t quite finish today, we did get quite a bit of work done in that short amount of time. When we finished we washed off and played with the children; that concluded our day full of fun!
Kop Kun ka!
Erin Mitchell and Kar
Wednesday June 26, 2019
Today we started the day with a trip to the Tailue Village, where we learned about how they lived and the traditional life style. We painted small wooden animals and ate amazing ethnic thai food. Afterwards we learned a song and created our own bags to recreate the tradition of having one you to keep your soul with you. We continued the service with making and pouring the concrete at the children’s home.
Another awesome day here in Thailand!
-by Kate and Chris
Thursday June 27, 2019
Today, we began the day with a great breakfast. Our lovely meal was followed by an introductory lesson from the international director Mr. Todd in education 101 to prepare us for teaching English next week. After our lesson was over, we went to visit the school that we would be teaching at. We then took a lunch break at a really cool place with a bus-like seating area.
Then, we continued our service and started to make a trench for the pipe line to begin the plumbing system for the bathroom we are helping to build at the children’s home. After which, we impatiently waited for the kids to return from school. When they finally arrived, we excitedly played with them once again before saying goodbye and then headed back to home base. Tonight, our leaders surprised us with a movie night & the opportunity to buy pizza!!! Overall, it was a great and hardworking day.
-by Neha & Amanda💗
Friday June 28, 2019
Another spectacular day in Thailand! Today we woke up and had a great breakfast at home base. Then we headed out on a long bus ride along the windy, jungly roads leading up to the Hmong Village which offered us the most beautiful views. At this unique village, we got to see firsthand how the hill tribe people live in conditions primitive compared to life in the United States. These people are still so content with their homes and passionate about the work they do within their village.
After a trek up a narrow jungle trail, we had a lesson by the wife of the tribal leader in the handy craft of intricate needlepoint. We then went and had a delicious lunch while looking at gorgeous mountain views. We were all thankful for the 45 minute ride to service as most of us were able to take a nap! At service we finished up digging as much of the trench as we could, while being cheered along by the kiddos! We then spent an hour playing with the kids after our last day of service.
Cameryn Stewart & Jess Hirschmann
Sunday June 30, 2019
Hello from Thailand! Today we drove 2 hours to experience the best day of our lives. We arrived at the elephant sanctuary, and after a short briefing we fed them bananas and watermelon. We also made medicine to give them out of rice, salt, and tamarind. Then we walked the elephants down to the mud, bathed them in it, and took a splash in the river to wash off. We had a lot of water fights and fun! Some of us got stuck in the mud… but luckily didn’t get trampled. Tonight we ended the amazing day with the Sunday Night Walking Street.
-by Lauren and Morgan
Monday July 1, 2019
Today we started the day out a lot earlier than usual; instead of having breakfast at 8, we had it at 6:45. The reason being it was our first teaching day!
Once we arrived at school we went to the teacher break room, put our stuff down, and then went outside to watch the students perform their morning ceremony. Then we met our first classes. Teaching the students wasn’t as easy as we initially thought it would be, almost the second we walked in front of our class, that consisted of 30-38 students, we realized all the things that could, and probably would, go wrong. Luckily for us the students were kind & respectful and the classes went on. Once finished with teaching two hour long classes in our teaching groups we indulged in an authentic Thai school lunch in the cafeteria with all of our students.
After lunch it was time to head over to the high school where we would be participating in a cultural exchange with their students. After a warm welcome we watched cultural dances & drumming, we performed a dance & song routine for our Thai hosts. Then they taught us a cultural dance, learned how to make offerings for a water shrine, and were given tours of the school in small groups by the students.
Although we were sad to leave our new found friends, we knew there was more to come tomorrow and we had lesson plans to plan.
-by Erin & Amanda
Tuesday July 2, 2019
Today was the second day of teaching, and it went considerably better than yesterday. After our morning classes, we enjoyed another lovely lunch at the school. Afterwards, we went to a gym to learn Muay Thai. This was so much fun and we learn many new skills. Boxing was truly incredible and then, many of us enjoyed some ice cream and I had the best bubble tea. Following our boxing lesson, we returned to home base and had some free time. Then, we prepped for the next day’s lesson and ate dinner at home base.
-by Neha and Kate
Wednesday July 3, 2019
Today was another day of teaching and adventuring through the beautiful city of Chaing Mai. We started off the day with teaching the kids in the morning and concluded with a delicious lunch at the school. The kids that we taught had so much fun playing games and singing songs with us! After this we headed back to home base to quickly change into some cute clothes for the 3D Art Museum!
The art museum was full of pretty backgrounds that we got to take photos in front of. Right after the museum we went off to get what we all had been waiting for since the first day of service, THAI MASSAGE! It was absolutely amazing and very relaxing. After that we walked over to a local grocery store and bought some snacks for the last couple of days. Overall it was an amazing day full of laughter, smiles and relaxation!
-by Nell Pollak and McKenna Teachout
Thursday July 4, 2019
Sawadee ka! Today we started off the day with an amazing breakfast arranged by our lovely hotel chefs. Once we finished eating we quickly got dressed for school; today was our last teaching day so it had to be great! When we arrived we went straight to the teachers room and got all our materials ready for our first class.
Each of our classes went great; the students learned so much through out the week. We are really going to miss our students, but we still have tomorrow’s activities to say goodbyes and farewells. After school was out for us and lunch was done we headed home to prep for tomorrow and get ready for the night market!
We were really surprised when we got to dinner and it was all western foods like pizza, ribs, and more! We ate until we couldn’t anymore then left for the night bizarre. We got so many things while there, in other words we shopped until we dropped. All this awesomeness meant we didn’t get home until bedtime and tomorrow we have English camp at the school so we definitely need it. Happy 4th, Goodnight.
Cameryn & Jack
Friday July 5, 2019
The day started off right away by getting to school with all of our equipment for English Camp. We had 4 stations set up, each had a different topic; the goal was to help the children with their English speaking and comprehension skills, it was also a test of the materials we had been teaching them all week. They did amazing!
When we finished we had the closing ceremony where we watched their performances and we did ours. Ours consisted of singing while they did traditional dances and drumming. When we finished we said our goodbyes; we were all sad to say farewell to our new found friends but we knew we had impacted their lives in the best way we could, and they had done the same for us.
With only three days left of our trip our leaders allowed us to have three hours of freetime so we could pack and spend time together relaxing. We are sad to leave each other since we have grown to be a family, but we will be happy to be home in our own beds at the end of the day.
By Erin and Karynne
Saturday July 6, 2019
Today was a fun filled day! We drove to the Maetaeng valley and it took 2 hours to get there. When we finally arrived we had a delicious lunch and then went through instruction on how to river raft safely and correctly. While on the river we hit some white rapids and some if us got stuck but were able to make it by! We got to stop and swim around. We saw elephants roaming around. Three hours later we finished up and enjoyed pineapple and oreos.
-by Kate Champion and McKenna Teachout
Sunday July 7, 2019
Today, we started with a great breakfast and then went to visit the Doi Su Thep temple. We had some time to explore the beautiful area and take lots of pictures with an excellent view. After, we went to visit the Hill Tribe village and had some time to explore this place. There were also a bunch of little booths that we could shop at and spent the last of our baht. Then, we went to an Internet cafe that was filled with computers, so that we could complete surveys evaluating our experience on this GLA program. Following this, we returned to home base to finish up packing and get ready for our special farewell dinner on an authentic Thai riverboat. The dinner was delicious and we enjoyed dancing the evening away with our forever friends. Tomorrow we will be up early to fly home.Overall, a great last day with everyone!
Love, Neha and Morgan
After a last “family” breakfast together at our Thai Homebase it was time to load the the luggage and begin the first round of tearful goodbyes and hugs. The first group departing finally buckled up and headed off to the airport in Vans 1 & 2 one more time. Mentor Lori was dropped off on the way at immigration so she could renew her Visa … more tears. Check in went well and thanks to Rachel the group were all seated for at least the first flight together. More tears as the Thai Staff and Director Rachel watched to make sure all made it through security.
After returning to Homebase to pick up the three remaining students who had a later flight the staff and students had lunch and a massage before another stop at the airport. On the way we received a couple of texts that the first group was already in Taipei and waiting for respectful onward flights. As earlier check in was a breeze and more tears flowed as we said good bye to the students and all staff watched as they cleared security and headed on their way together. This program was a great success for so many reasons, but mostly because the enthusiasm of the students and their desire to make a change. So many wonderful experiences to look back on and life long friendships formed.
We wish all a future filled with adventures!
Rachel, Lori, Emma, Jane, Tai & Kate