We started off our program at a result about 40 minutes away from Khon Kaen city, it was beautiful and completely surreal to have spent our time at a place that had so much character culturally and physically. We also visited a very large Buddha that was built in the mountains and was kind of a difficult hike to get up but so worth the view. We also visited monuments that mean a lot religiously and spiritually for the people of Khon Kaen, and it was nice to have an introduction to the Issan People of Thailand.
While I live in Khon Kaen, I will be staying in a university apartment (but it is more of an American dorm style) with a Thai roommate who speaks Thai and some English. I met my roommate last weekend, her name is Doughnut (this is a nickname not a formal name) and she is in her final semester studying medical science. She is very sweet and kind and I am really happy to be placed as her roommate. She had made sure I feel comfortable, taken me out to eat, and given me generous riThere are also homestays throughout the semester and I believe there are roughly 6. Each homestay are in communities that face the problems that we are studying throughout the semester. These problems include agriculture, forest, politics, mining and more. There is also a one-week excursion in Chaing Mai, which I am super excited about.
I will admit that there is nothing extremely shocking about Thailand for me since I have been to Laos before and since Issan used to be apart of Laos before the French colonization, a lot of the food and culture I grew up with is all very much the same. However, I will admit at how shocked I am with the development that has occurred in the last 10 years in this area seeing as refrigeration was a fairly new concept back in 2003. There are paved roads, westernized coffee shops, other ethnic restaurants and more. However, there is a extremely good amount of old culture left for me to enjoy the roots of Thai Issan culture. The food is also extremely delicious and extremely cheap, a plate of phad thai is about 35 baht, a little over 1 USD. Fruits are about 30 baht or less, so 1 USD or less. Everything is extremely fresh and authentic but there is a bit of western influence as there are McDonalds, KFC, Dairy Queen, ect. moving into town. However, the small food stands and street foods are highly patronized regardless, especially by us farangs (foriegners).
I embark on my first homestay tomorrow for 3 days to be immerged in cultural and language exchange. You would think that having 4 homestays last semester would make me a pro at this, but I am stil extremely nervous to stay with strangers in a country that is not my home country. I hope this experience brings me great blessings, joys and great start to my new semester in a new world!