After 24 hours of traveling I finally arrived at Bangkok, navigated the airport, and found the CIEE program directors. The protests in downtown Bangkok had caused the program to switch to a hotel outside the city and limited any late night exploration. Honestly this was fine with me as I was wiped and most of the other people on my program had already arrived and were sleeping off the jet lag.
The next morning we set out early for our trip to an ambiguous “orientation site”. On the way we stopped for a hike/nature walk at a Khao Yai national park on a mountain outside Bangkok. When the guide zipped off ahead half us got separated and lost in the Thai wilderness. With no phones or understanding of the scribbly looking Thai characters on the signs at forks in the trail it was pretty awesome. There were monkeys all over the place, it seems kind of like monkeys are to Thais as turkeys are to New Englanders. They are bothersome, and not intimidated by speeding/beeping cars, and only interesting to visitors.
The ride up to Khon Kaen was long, tiring, but interesting. Almost every strip of the highway was lined by shops and markets selling Buddha statues, or lined with rice patties. We finally arrived at the orientation site, a “resort”. The place has elaborate Thai architecture arranged with a hodgepodge of sculptures and shrubs around a manmade pond. Over and around the pond is a maze of walkways and floating buildings and docks.
Thus far orientation has been busy but enjoyable. We are here for 5 days and each morning starts with intensive Thai class from 8-12 followed by workshops specific to the two programs under CIEE, Public Health and Development & Globalization. Everyone in the program is incredibly nice and accepting, as are the administrators and the staff. The Thai staff are particularly enjoyable, full of smiles and so friendly.
Today we went over our syllabi and course descriptions. It looks like we will have 3 homestays this semester in varying communities such as the Burmese immigrant communities, urban slums, rural farming communities, etc. I’m excited to learn about the specific needs of the Khon Kaen communities and explore topics for my community health project!
As far as food I have made a huge effort to eat everything offered. I’ve been eating fruit regularly!!!! Huge. I’m trying all the dishes and enjoying them! Though I still tend to stay safe with the “mai pen” (not spicy) stuff. The staff bought us American snacks and candy last night. God. Bless. Them. And God bless Cheetos.