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.
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 26, 2021
Greetings from the group in Tokyo! All 13 students are with Julie at the Layover in NRT and had the opportunity to meet each other as a full group before heading into ASQ in Bangkok. Spirits are high and students are excited to start their adventure! Everyone got onto the connecting flight without any issue and will keep parents in the loop once all students have checked into their hotel for ASQ.
Stay tuned for more updates once the group arrives safely into their ASQ hotel in Thailand and have their first virtual check in & sessions underway from 10am tomorrow (Sunday Thailand time).
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 26, 2021
Here are some more photos of our journey so far, including tasty meals on a nearly empty Japan Airlines flight, airport measures.
And everything wrapped in plastic!
-Julie and the GLA Team
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 27, 2021
While still being a little jet-lagged, we woke up to a delicious breakfast and a lovely Thai garland from the staff.
We started the day by gathering together for an introductory Google meeting and breaking the ice. Further on, we had some free time.
Some activities were suggested; Zach proposed watching Sumo Wrestling that was available on local TV, Madi recommended Nourish Move Love’s videos for those who are interested in exercising; however, recovering lost sleep was trending amongst us.
Afterwards, we regathered in a meeting. We kicked it off by singing Happy Birthday to Sofia and enjoying some scrumptious cupcakes. Then, we went over the itinerary and were able to contemplate the places that we will be visiting. Following this we had an exceptional dinner, where we were dazzled with dishes out of our comfort zone.
To wrap up the day we came together one last time for a sort of Scavenger Hunt where we were given a word and we had to find an object we associated that word with. This activity boosted our brains and gave us the opportunity to get to know each other better.
-The GLA Team
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 28, 2021
We have finally recovered from jet lag and are more adapted to the new time change.
Today was quite a busy day! This morning we were able to learn more about each other and build up our community/team. We all worked together to create a list of values that we will all follow to make sure everyone has an awesome experience during the trip. After our delicious lunch, we were introduced to the Thai language. Now we are all fluent! Nah, we learned basic phrases and greetings as well as how to use the “wai” when speaking to certain people.
Following our language lesson, we were able to have a Google Meet with a group of students in Chiang Mai who spoke really good English so it was easy for us to communicate. We were able to talk to them about our interests and why we came to Thailand. We had fun when the local students were then asking us questions.
To relax ourselves before dinner we all participated in Thai meditation. It was nice to get some fresh air outside when we got our COVID test done which was epic.
A cool thing we experienced today was our first thunderstorm in Thailand, which didn’t last long but still cool!
More to come soon!
-Bryce and the GLA Team
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 29, 2021
By Will Boyd (writing) and Ana Gonzalez (photos)
Hello everyone! Today we woke up bright and early to a very sunny day in Bangkok. During the morning we all took an online Thai cooking class with our instructors Mai and Imm and learned all about the intricacies of Thai food and culture. We learned that different regions of Thailand (such as the North and South) have different cooking styles and types of ingredients that they regularly use. For example the South uses more spices in their food while the East uses more coconut milk! We were also shown various videos on how to cook certain Thai dishes and how certain ingredients can change the flavor drastically.
For lunch we had chicken skewers with a side of vinegar sauce! We also had rice with curry sauce and the most delicious glazed chicken we have ever had! Right after lunch we all enjoyed watching professional Polish slapping competitions that aired on the television. This was a first for all of us to watch and we enjoyed texting each other our reactions after every knockout!
We then attended an afternoon meeting with Todd Cikraji where we began planning out the English courses that we will teach to the Buddhist monks. We learned the DOs and DONTs of teaching in Thailand and eventually we all organized into small groups to prepare our lessons ahead of time! During the lesson that Todd was giving us, he was also showcasing all of the various fruits that can be found around the country through a platter that was sent to each of our doors. As he spoke about them we were able to sit behind our screens and taste the fruits at the same time.
Later in the evening the Leaders of the Day lead an activity together where we played charades with topics that related to Thailand and our trip. After that experience we played a round of online Kahoot where we quizzed each other on what we had learned the previous day with topics ranging from the proper way to greet people to the intricacies of Thai language.
BLOG POST FOR JUNE 30
Blog post by Caroline and Naomi
It was a beautiful day with 93 as the high and 79 as the low for the day. Although we are confined to our rooms that are solely indoors, we can enjoy the weather by looking out of our large windows and some choose to open them slightly. Some of us chose to open up our minds with new books, new workouts, and engaging more in conversations outside of class!
After breakfast we had a class with Mai and Imm ( local Thailand staff) and we learned about Thai numbers, Calendars, currency, addresses, and more. We had a shrimp noodle dish for lunch. A group of students got on a call during lunch today just to have company during a meal. We then had a leadership class with Julie where we did an activity to draw out the steps of making toast without words. This was showing that each person will have a different way to teach, some may be unclear, some may be too much extra information and others with have the perfect amount of detailing. After that, We had our next class where we discovered ways to teach monks more deeply. Each group brainstormed ideas for warm ups, the lessons and a closing activity. As our surprise today, We got “Mama Cup noodles” and a Herbal Lemon Grass drink. For dinner we had Rice with a fried egg, chicken with mixed vegetables, and soup.
After dinner we lead a group game before we called it a night. The group game we did was creating a story with each person adding a new sentence. We created two stories but unfortunately we will not share them because they were spontaneous, unexpected, and a bit too gory for our parents to read. We finished off the night with our highlights of the day, low points of the day, and what we want to grow on. As we wrap up today, we are slowly moving closer to being able to explore Thailand outside of our quarantine rooms!
BLOG POST FOR JULY 1
By Ella Fowle
Hello to everyone back home! Happy first day of July. This morning some of us got to sleep in a little later because our meetings didn’t start until 10 am. Our Thai Culture lesson this morning with Mai and Imm focused on Thai song and dance! After watching various types of songs, we got to try our hand at singing in Thai. After lots of practice rounds we finally made it through the whole song.
With our lunch we got a nice surprise, a menu. We got to go through and choose the different foods we wanted for the rest of our stay here in quarantine. We had a longer mid day break today, and once that was over, we had our leadership meeting with Yente, who taught us all about sustainable development, and why it’s important. During our lesson, we got a surprise delivery at our door: Poy-Sian. This is something totally unique to Thailand, called a nose inhaler, and basically its just a strong scent which you can smell whenever you feel the need.
After dinner, we got together for our student-led leadership group. We played a game called GeoGuess, where Ella and Roxy read aloud different hints about a state or country, and whoever guessed correctly got a point. After that, we drew different outfits that had to do with either Thailand or the activities we will get to do. Before we all headed to bed, we shared pictures of our pets in our group chats, and looked forward to that fact that we only have nine more days in quarantine!
BLOG POST FOR JULY 2
Written by Nikki and Sofia
Greetings, friends and family back home! We started our day off with a yummy breakfast, which we all had the option of choosing after receiving menus last night. At 11 we met with Mai and Imm for a virtual Thai writing lesson. We practiced writing consonants and vowels, and even tried our hands at writing our names! At lunch, a group of us decided to eat together via video chat and get to know one another more.
Before our afternoon meeting, we all took some time to plan our Sustainable Development Goal projects. For our session with Julie we discussed the importance of responsible and ethical photography for our trip and beyond, so that our experiences can be shared in a thoughtful manner. Our treat today was a type of sweet rice cake from northern Thailand called “Khao Tan” and an herbal drink made from longan juice, a type of Thai fruit. We then enjoyed a delicious dinner (of our choosing!) while listening to the storm outside.
For our evening session we played some games and shared our moods using creative sound effects. We’re really looking forward to tomorrow being our (almost) halfway mark, and we’re not so looking forward to our 2nd PCR test in the morning!
BLOG POST FOR JULY 3
Written by Madi Gesse & Zach Laden
Sawasdee Ka! Sawasdee Kap!
Today we had our second PCR test which was exciting because we got to go outside! It was only 90 degrees but felt like 100, the fresh air was a blessing either way. For our Daily Gift from Todd and GLA, we received “Chicken Leg” Bread Sticks, which are a popular Regional snack in Southeast Asia. We also received Coconut water which was a refreshing change to the Bottled Water we are so very accustomed to.
Today we also had time to work on our SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) project in our groups. With 17 total goals sponsored by the UN, we all took the time to analyze the importance of each individually. Ultimately, we were split into 3 groups (Education, Life below water, and Life on Land). Each group is responsible for sharing an insight to the other students on their specific goal, while also actively learning about the other two.
We also met with Jade, the manager of Big Blue Conservation, a leading Marine Organization based in Koh Tao. We briefly discussed their overall mission, and exactly what WE would be doing while on the island. Although it is torture to hear about beautiful beaches while we’re stuck in hotel rooms, it definitely gives us something to look forward to. We have all developed a strong mentality with “Keeping your eyes on the prize” as our anchor.
For our last meeting of the day, we got to know each other in a very unique light. Each person got the opportunity to be in the “Hot seat” while the student leaders (us) asked them a variety of questions from personal to “is a hot dog a sandwich?”. Everyone had a fun time getting to know weird facts and interesting anecdotes from their peers!
-Zach Laden and Madi Gesse
BLOG POST FOR JULY 4
Written by Kai
Happy 4th of July!
Today we celebrated Bryce’s Birthday by singing to him over Google Meet and ate a special dessert of chocolate cake. In the morning, we made Coffee and had some breakfast. The morning was a great time to relax.
We then met with Todd Cikraji to discuss a general overview of Thai Culture. We began by discussing and defining what culture means. We went over the things we have learned so far– language, customs, and cuisine– and expanded on new concepts like schools, weddings, and funerals.
We then had the afternoon to work on group related projects about the different pillars of our trip: education, water conservation, and land sustainability. By the evening, we watched the 1999 movie classic “The Matrix” as a fun group activity, enjoying our bag of kettle corn.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 5
There is nothing more exciting than waking up knowing that breakfast is waiting outside your door, well… at least that’s how waking up in quarantine is like; however, this is not a complaint, every meal at Citrus Sukhumvit 11 is heaven brought to your palate. After breakfast, Todd was kind enough to teach us about Thai politics. We gained some understanding of how Thai politics resembled the American one; while in the U.S. there is the Democratic and the Republican Party, Thailand has, what they call, Red and Yellow Shirts. We also learned the differences between the Prime Minister and the President and their role in the Thai society. Along with that we learned about some main events that had happened throughout history. We were able to take a look at some of the occasional “dramatic” and passionate chaos that has presented itself with the civilian discontent. Following this very informational and interesting meeting, our brains were given some free time to lay back and relax for a while.
Nevertheless, at 1:00pm it was time for another meeting. During our leadership meeting with Julie, we all shared some inventions/innovations we created in our hotel rooms to make the rest of our quarantine a little bit better. An example that multiple people did was using a case of water bottles to workout with. We then learned of many strategies we can use when we come across the need for group decisions. We were able to practice some of these when we all had to work together to decide what 5 items we would bring to a desert island.
Before we knew it, the clock struck four and it was time for our daily “student lead activity”. The first activity that was planned was called “Finish the Lyrics”. Bryce and Ana presented a screen with the lyrics to a song, nonetheless, part of it was missing and the rest of the group had to complete it. This game included some of the classics, such as: “Let It Be” by The Beatles, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, and “Dancing Queen” by ABBA.
After blessing our ears with the beautiful melodies that these songs provided, all volunteers were up for a different game. This activity consisted on doing a debate on a silly topic where the group was to be divided into two teams and each team had to support whatever point of view they were assigned. Each person had 40 seconds to speak and the speaking turns were alternated between teams. The group that was able to convince the moderators would win.
The two topics that were discussed during this game were: “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” and “Are pigeons secretly controlled by the government to spy on their citizens?”. It is impressive how much the mind can wonder when trying to find arguments to convince one another; some of the opinions on the topics ended up in making everyone laugh and some of them heated up the debate.
As usual at 6:00 we got a message from the lovely staff at the hotel, letting us know that dinner was ready! After enjoying our mouthwatering and very much awaited for dinner, we were let off the hook and allowed to have some time for ourselves to relax after a long day.
ONLY SIX MORE DAYS IN QUARANTINE!
BLOG POST FOR JULY 6
Today we woke up with an amazing breakfast from the chefs here at the ASQ. We received scrambled eggs with rice, sausages, and delicious strawberry yogurt.
We then hopped on a meeting with Mai and Imm to learn more about Thai language, specifically evolving around the beach and ocean life. We learned new pronunciations for words like dtiang paa bai (canvas bed) and ruea hang yao (long tailed boat). After that we played a fun game of guessing what an image was with just a small portion of it actually showing. We used the given vocabulary words that were taught to us during the morning to guess what it was and the team with the most points in the end won!
For lunch we had fried fish, rice, and a bowl of curry with chicken and onions. We met over lunch to talk about paranormal encounters that we have had and it got pretty spooky. For our afternoon meeting we all watched a Ted Talk video on what it means to volunteer and the difference between volunteerism and voluntourism. This made us question what impact we were going to make on this trip as tourists and how we can better serve our communities when volunteering abroad in the future.
For our last meeting of the day, we played two games. The first was a game of “Would you Rather” where we were allowed to pick a number between one and forty two. Whatever number they picked was the question they were asked. After playing a few rounds of that, we played “Is it Higher or Lower.” It’s basically a game where you have two things that are searched on google. You have to pick if one is higher or lower in the amount of searches. After that, we did our wind down exercise. We took five minutes to draw an emoji that could explain how we were feeling now or throughout the day. After that, we showed our emojis and shared how it represents us. It was very cathartic and a good bonding experience. Here is one of our emojis. Meet- Napoleon Dynamite!
BLOG POST FOR JULY 7
Today we write to you on day 11 of quarantine. We have our last quarantine Covid test tomorrow!! Today we had a very simple day. We had our first meeting today at 10. We watched Mai and Imm at the Temple! They talked to us about the meaning of the objects in the temples and the customs to follow when we are there. We had the entire afternoon off, but came together for our final student led activity. Ella and I had the group caption two pictures (which are inserted).
The winners captions were “buying low prices, doesn’t always mean buying the good flesh” by Ana Sophia and “do you ever look up at the stars at night and think that their staring right back at you” by Kai. We also had a campaign to find our quarantine royalty. Will was our winner!!! He impressed us by telling us how he watches the elevator waiting for our meals. Finally, we finished off by showing pictures of how we were feeling. Families, you should be so proud of all the quarantine innovations your students have created! Sending all our love back home.
by: Caroline and Ella
BLOG POST FOR JULY 8
Only 3 days until we’re off to Chiang Mai!
Today we woke up and had our last PCR test during this quarantine! We have one more before we go back home, but our noses are thankful to not have one for a while. For breakfast, we all had the options of bread, noodles, bologna, yogurt, juice, coffee, and croissants. We had a lesson with Mai and Imm all about Thai festivals. We learned about three major festivals, Songkran, Yi Peng, and Loy Krathong.
First is the Songkran festival which is a massive water fight festival that celebrates the New Year, which is in April. People gather throughout the streets and spray each other with water, which quickly ensues an all-out water war. Next was Yi Peng, which is a lantern festival in which flying lanterns are sent into the sky. This festival is only allowed in Chiang Mai due to the hazards it causes with Airplanes and wooden homes. Tickets are very expensive, $200 to be exact. With that, you get unlimited food and two lanterns.
Lastly, we learned about the Loy Krathong festival where you light candles and send them off on beautiful homemade boats to disappear into the local river. After learning about this, we had the option of a Thai spicy salad, chicken with rice, grilled pork, and a boiled egg for lunch. We all had plenty of free time which we each used in very unique ways.
Our dinner options included stir-fried vegetables, stir-fried fish, noodles with pork, and mixed fresh fruit (dragon fruit, mango, papaya, and watermelon).
Our last meeting, which was our student-led meeting, was very heavy on individual strategy as we played an online rendition of MAFIA (also known as Werewolf). Three roles were given (Mafia, Doctor, and Detective) and plenty of substantive arguments were held (plenty being pointless to the game).
We then cooled down with our Favorite cars and why, which produced plenty of unique answers (pics below)!
-Written by Zachary Laden
BLOG POST FOR JULY 10
Written by Madi, Kai, and Sofia
LAST DAY OF QUARANTINE!!
We made it after 14 days confined to our rooms and by this time tomorrow we will be at our home base in Chiang Mai! We started our day with Mai and Imm to review what we have learned so far throughout our various meetings, and focused on some do’s and don’ts for our time in Thailand.
For lunch, some of us chose a curry dish along with some fresh fruit which was very delicious.
We then joined Julie, Todd, Mai, and Imm to discuss the itinerary and plan for when we depart tomorrow. More forms were filled out and we discussed our plan for traveling tomorrow. Everyone is anticipating the next chapter of our journey and the opportunity to breathe some fresh air and feel some sun on our faces.
For our activity today we set some time aside for people to use as they please while playing music. Whether that be packing our bags or tidying our rooms, it was quite productive.
We ended the day with a meeting for final questions before we depart and a “funeral” for quarantine as our farewell. Some individual evening activities commenced (a product of our stay and some added creativity) where some students used our many water bottles from our stay and toilet paper to play a game of bowling. Not much will be missed from quarantine, mostly just the large bed, and we are all excited to see each other in person!
BLOG POST FOR JULY 11, 2021
After 15 long and, what seemed like neverending days of quarantine, the day had finally arrived! Some of us barely got any sleep due to what was to come.
Nonetheless, our expectations were surpassed when we got out of our hotel rooms. Smelling fresh air, meeting with people that we had only seen on screens, being able to hug each other, and looking at the rest of Bangkok, was like opening presents on Christmas Day.
Before we knew it, we were in the airport on our way to Chiang Mai. It was the first time we saw the streets of Bangkok being illuminated by the sun.
Following a very short, one hour, trip we arrived. We then took two vans to get to what we would call home for the next few days. Upon our arrival we were astonished by the gorgeous hotel, “Chotana Villa”. The amount of green areas, the wide pool, the aesthetic rooms, and the homelike feeling, left us in awe.
Speaking of the wide pool, before leaving the hotel to discover Chiang Mai, Julie was kind enough to test our swimming abilities and — spoiler alert — we all passed the test.
Afterwards, we were ready to go. We started our adventure by going to an exchange house. For some odd reason, it was also a honey store; a honey money store (that’s a terrible joke, I’m sorry). Anyway, to continue our adventure, we went to the mall!
While Julie got a SIM card, Mai took us to buy some groceries, some of us both snacks and some other bought day to day personal hygiene things. Later on, it was time to leave the mall and reach our next destination, the market.
On our way to our dinner, we saw the different stalls selling things that ranged from customary instruments and paintings to traditional clothing and making its way back to delicious Thai food. You know what else was delicious? Our dinner; so full of color and flavor. Too good to leave a simple crumb behind. Each of us were handed money and were able to pick whatever our palate desired. After our stomachs were well fed, we strolled down the market and bought ourselves some treats.
Suddenly, while we were enjoying our way through the market, an incredible amount of water started pouring out of the sky. The smarter ones in our group were sheltering at “Burger King”, while the rest were caught in the rain and soaking wet. While some might see this as a negative event, the rain was enjoyed by many. Some danced in the rain and some ran through it with grace. However, the rain coincided with our schedule, because not so long after the rain started, it was time to head back to the GLA Home Base.
Upon our rival, the sun had set, and we were let free to do whatever we pleased. To end the big day, the group stayed up talking and laughing until 10:00 p.m. and then all were sent to bed to rest for our next adventure.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 13
We woke up today in the Chotona Villa with an amazing breakfast from the staff of the hotel. Some students had eggs, bacon and sausage while others had barbecued pork and sticky rice. After breakfast we packed up our bags for 3 days of clothing (and made sure to include bug spray) and started our journey to the elephant sanctuary!
We arrived on a small dirt road in the jungle and stepped out of the van. Two trucks picked us up and we road up and down very steep mountains into the thick vegetation. We were greeted with the site of elephants when we arrived at the sanctuary. We received an introduction on the elephants and where we would be staying.
Right after settling into our special rooms, we had an amazing crispy noodle soup with chicken. It had a tasty orange broth with chili spices!
We then walked over to the elephants paddock and fed them bananas, milk tablets and sugar cubes. We then got a chance to be kissed by them which will definitely be a moment we will remember for the rest of our lives. Right after the feeding we went on a walk with them up a mountain and into the jungle. The elephants were eating the leaves off of trees, sometimes even taking the whole trunk down! We walked back down the mountain and gave them a bath in the river. We were able to see how playful these gigantic creatures were as they would roll around on their back and climb under each other. After the elephant walk we met the local water buffalo with the most adorable smile.
We had a nice afternoon to rest and get adjusted to the new environment. For dinner we had rice, green curry and the best chicken we have ever had! After dinner we had a special event called the Elephant Debate. In the debate we had 2 moderators and everyone else grouped up in pairs and received a paper describing what sanctuary they represent and their goals for the future. It went well and we all left with new perspectives and ideas. As the day came to a close and we all headed to our humble bungalows, storm clouds took the sky and rain drizzled down as we silently and peacefully fell asleep. 😉
*Note – We are in the jungle with limited connectivity so couldn’t attach photos this time.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 17
Families and friends,
Today we had a very eventful day. We started our day off with a service project. We went to the monk school and helped make visual aids and posters for their english teachers. This is our first day working on this project. We then enjoyed a wonderful lunch at the school and got ready for our muy thai boxing lesson. All of us broke a sweat! But don’t worry, we won’t be sore tomorrow because of the traditional Thai massage we got after. We went back to Chotana villa and had a great dinner. Lastly, we end off the night with swimming.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 18
Today the Gla group had our last day in Chang Mai and along with that came our last day of service work for the monks. The monks gave a speech then gave us our certificate of service work. Ana Sofia also gave a speech they were both so touching and nice to listen too. After the monetary school we went to the Elephant parade and painted elephants everyone’s was so unique and awesome in there own ways it was a lot of fun! The group spent about 2-3 hours there so after that it was around 4:30-5:00 so we went back to the hotel and had a delicious dinner and then went to the mall and got lots of cool stuff!
-by Roxy Feagin
BLOG POST FOR JULY 19
Today we embarked on our longest journey yet, to one of the beautiful islands of Southern Thailand, Koh Samui. Unfortunately, that meant saying goodbye to the beautiful Chotana Villa where we shared a large portion of our group memories. Chiang Mai treated all of us so well, and none of us will forget “The Rose of the North” any time soon.
Our first flight boarded at Chiang Mai International Airport at around 11 AM. All of us were excited to revisit our quarantine zone: Bangkok. Once we landed, we were put on a shuttle from Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok to Suvarnabhumi Airport on the opposite side of the city. Our second flight left at around 3 PM and we were finally ready to go to our final destination.
Even flying close to the islands, the change in color for the ocean was immaculate, the crisp emerald water immediately catches your eye. We landed and the sight of beautiful homes and white sandy beaches were everywhere. Our hotel “Chaweng Garden”, is one of the most beautiful places I personally have ever experienced. We are directly on the beach, and the atmosphere here is tranquil. Koh Samui is much emptier than usual, giving us an extremely unique view on the island that hasn’t been offered to tourists’ in over 20 years.
Although they are always long, travel days are always filled with stimulating conversation and laughs. Overall, it was a very good day.
-by Zach Laden
BLOG POST FOR JULY 20
Our first full day at Koh Samui was full of adventure and relaxation. Many of us woke up bright and early to watch the sunset and either go on a jog or do some beachside yoga. After breakfast, we were eager to get in the water and spent the morning up until lunch swimming in the ocean, the pool, or relaxing on the beach.
Post lunch we took a tour of the island starting with a lookout of the island. We made our way down to the water’s edge and climbed on the rocks. We continued the island tour and headed to one of Samui’s many tourist attractions– the mummified monk. At the temple, we read our fortunes and explored the area.
On our way to the next destination, the group stopped at a fresh market where we were free to roam, and Imm treated us “the king of fruit,” Durian (pictured below). Our group had mixed opinions on it. Some hated its smell and others didn’t smell anything. Yet the experience of trying new fruits was certainly unique. Further on, we had the opportunity of visiting yet another ravishing temple or enjoying some quick but worthy shopping. Continuing with the tour, we went to see a giant Buddha statue where we enjoyed the view and walked around the grounds. We made a brief stop at Charlie’s Homestay before going to the top of the Khao Hua Jook Pagoda, which overlooks the island.
Even with purchases in hand, some of us were eager for more. We took a walk around the streets nearby and found some places to shop, amongst them: the shopping mall. After dinner, we played a game to better understand ourselves and our group. We all gathered on the beach to discuss the exercise, the day, and the excitement of the days to come.
-by Sofia, Kai, and Ana
BLOG POST FOR JULY 21
Greetings, folks at home! We had a busy day here, our last in Koh Samui. Our morning started with a delay because of some heavy rain. Once we got going we took a long boat to the nearby Pig Island. While there we enjoyed kayaking and swimming in the clear turquoise water. We ate our packed lunch from the hotel and visited with the one small piglet on the island. Then we took the boat out a little further to a nearby island and snorkeled for a while. Ella helped identify the many sea animals we encountered: sea cucumbers, stingray, jelly fish and much more. On our boat ride back to the main island, Koh Samui, we got caught in a thunderstorm. Once we realized we were already wet we had fun in the sideways rain. There were a couple of scary moments with nearby lightening, but we all returned to shore in one piece. Then, we swam some more back at the hotel, before enjoying our final dinner on this beautiful beach. After, we went to the nearby mall for some ice cream, and relaxed for the rest of the evening.
Written by Madi
BLOG POST FOR JULY 22
Today we woke up bright and early in the Chewang Garden Villa. It was an early departure as we drove straight to the ferry and departed the island at 8:00. The ferry ride was definitely not what we expected, as it was packed with people, humid sweat everywhere, and eventually the vomit came next.
We arrived in Koh Tao with queasy stomachs and drove to our villa. When we arrived, the hotel was beautiful with lush vegetation surrounding our modern white cube-like rooms. There were many centipedes crawling around the ground and stray cats would roaming the area.
For lunch we had an amazing pineapple fried rice dish and after eating we headed off to an island to snorkel around a coral reef. When we got there we hiked to the top of the island and saw a beautiful view of Koh Tao and the bright blue ocean.
After exploring the reefs we headed back to the villa and got ready for dinner by the beach. We all had different and unique meals from stir fried chicken to yellow curry with rice. Right after dinner we all headed out for a final night walk and stopped by a local 7/11 to buy Thailand’s famous panini. Overall the day was really nice and relaxing, while also being stressful and hard at times, but that’s just part of the Thailand experience!
BLOG POST FOR JULY 23
Today was our second day working with Big Blue Conservation. We began with an in-depth lesson on Coral Reefs and refreshed on identification and important facts. After we all partook in a brief beach clean-up; as of now, our total is around 40 lbs of waste collected.
Then, Jade, our instructor, taught us about concrete coral transplants and how they are effective in restoring hurt or dying reefs. We did so by attaching pieces of coral to a concrete platform as an example.
We learned how divers will create large groups of these concrete structures to create a base for new reefs to grow. Our group then worked on creating new concrete structures in an organized effort with 4 groups that divers can use for future artificial reefs.
After our service, we played a quick game of “Sand Pictionary” where we used our heels to draw random things while the others would actively try to guess, with some of us not being super artistically inclined, the results ended up being hilarious. We then had a couple of hours to walk the main road of Koh Tao to shop for an assortment of goods including clothes and ice cream.
After, we ordered “Chuchu’s,” a famous Pizza place on the island where they serve Thai food on their pizza. We all tried to order as many kinds as possible and not one person disliked any of them. Curries or just plain Thai dishes were offered, and all of it was eaten.
-Julie and the GLA Team
BLOG POST FOR JULY 25
Written by Kai
This morning we were woken up by rain and wind on Koh Tao. Because of that we had a later start to the day’s activities. After our breakfast, we went to Big Blue Diving to work on infographics that focus on specific shark species. We learned about their life cycles, their roll in ocean ecosystems, and the threats they face in the future. Over 11,000 sharks are killed each hour according to some estimates. Many sharks face habitat loss due to the rapid change of ocean temperatures. We began research into sharks and what challenges they face, and started to make our own infographics. We learned more about the importance of social media when it comes to informing people on what issues reefs face.
For lunch we had very spicy curry. Many of us drank water or ate rice to combat the spice. After clearing our sinuses we took a small break before heading about to the beach to look for micro plastics. Although we pay more attention to large pieces of trash on the beach, small plastics that are mixed with the sand can be just as telling of our effect on the environment. After conducting the survey we found that there was an alarming amount of plastics on the beaches of Koh Tao.
As we walked back we collected pieces of trash along the beach. After a brief reflection on our time with Big Blue we had dinner. We all look forward to our last day of service on the trip.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 26
Blog by Ana Gonzalez
I wish I could explain how amazing it is to wake up and have breakfast next to the beach. The wind brushing against your skin, the relaxing sound of the waves crashing into the sand, and the sun illuminating everything around. Or at least that’s what most breakfasts here made me feel. Anyway, after having a good meal to start our day with, by 9:30 we were leaving behind the streets that lead us to Big Blue. We started our service by taking a stroll down the beach and collecting all the trash that was visible to the eye. We then proceeded to separate the trash into groups depending on the material they were made of; later on we counted the amount of trash per material and then we summed it all to see how much trash we had collected. The quantity of rubbish that we found within minutes was impressive. This activity lead to a short discussion as to what was the object most commonly found and how we could act in order to get less of it in the oceans. Before our bellies started asking for food, we were given some free time to walk around through the streets of Koh Tao.
Further on we had a delicious lunch at the restaurant underneath Big Blue’s workspace. We then got some more free time, and were able to walk around for a bit. At 1:30 our help at Big Blue was required again. We spent the following hours creating colorful infographics about different aspects of different types of sharks. The objective of this infographic was to inform the spectators about sharks and encourage them to donate money by joining the movement “Swim for Sharks”. When we were done it was time to present the infographic. At around 4:00 we were on our way to the most exciting part of the trip, another Covid-19 test. If you didn’t catch that, that was a joke. Following this event, we were given free time to shower and refresh a bit. To commemorate the our last full day in Koh Tao, Big Blue organized a barbecue dinner in our honor. A beautiful night to remember; everybody dressed up and delicious food on the table. We received certificates to commemorate all the hard work done. Unfortunately, the sky was grey and the wind was strong; this marked the finish of this special night. As we arrived to our hotel and some rain started pouring, we were given more free time till 10:00. With the trip coming to its end, this day was a great way to commemorate it.
BLOG POST FOR JULY 28
Hello everyone! Here is a video we put together of students teaching English in Thailand!
-Julie – GLA Director