What a lame excuse I know. However, studying in Thailand especially under the circumstances of martial law has made life a bit eerie in some ways. I have found no words to describe how I feel about learning about Thailand, the region of Isan and globalization in general. I have gone through 4/5 unit lessons I am suppose to learning while abroad with CIEE. These units were Agriculture, Politics, Chiang Mai and Tourism.
During our agriculture unit, we traveled to the province of Yosthon and had a homestay with 100% organic farmers. And yes, the food was freaking delicious! We learned about the process of switching to organic from chemical farming in addition to learning about the consequences of chemical farming. To spend time on a rural farm made me very nostalgic to the time I spent in Lao with my grandmother at 9. My time in the agriculture unit made me miss my grandmother and my mother alot. There was a lot of simplicity and a carefree attitude that can only be understood if you could come to this village and see the farmers way of life.
During the politics unit, it was interesting to see the two sides of view in what is currently a hot political climate right now in Thailand. This unit taught me a lot but most important to know that any heated debate, to realize that there are always two sides of an argument. This was an interesting week but I can't say more beyond this in writing. We are just gonna have to grab coffee to talk about it more when I get back if you want to learn more!
After this unit, I had a chance to spend a three day weekend in Bangkok. It was quite a weekend as I got make Buddhist pilgrimages to all the temples my parents always talked about growing up. I went to the famed Grand Palace and saw the Emerald Buddha and Reclining Buddha. I hope to one day take my parents to these places as they have never been. This is not a weekend I will forget.
Moving on to Chaing Mai, this was not only a special unit because it required a travel and was our comparative unit but because I was the “unit facilitator” for this unit. This means I was in charge of helping my program peers through our exchanges throughout the week and headed a project output for our unit. To go to a different region of Thailand and become more aware of the different cultures and ethnic groups that are in what seems to be a homogenous country was very exciting. Chiang Mai is probably one of the most popular cities people know of outside of Thailand and I am happy that I got to see it. Despite the fact it was burning season and the smog blocked a lot of views and airways—I think everyone cant leave Thailand without going to Chiang Mai.
Our 4th unit was to the island of Koh Chang (off the coast of Cambodia but still in Thailand) to study eco tourism. Koh Chang is divided into what is the right side and left side. Those who want to experience a typical island touristy experience are said to go the right but those who want a more authentic experience with the locals. We stayed in a “homestay” but unlike the traditional homestay that I’ve spoked about in the last year – this one was actually a home stay tourist can choose to stay at rather than staying at a hostel or a hotel. It gives you a chance to live with a family and interact with them during your stay. It was unreal to wake up on a tropical island every morning and think that this was for school. I learned a lot about the effects of tourism to an area that is underdeveloped and how it could be dangerous or beneficial. Going to Koh Chang was no on the original plan for our study but I am glad that we had the opportunity to explore this area.
Currently, I am on spring break in the southern area known as Krabi. Krabi is south of Phukhet, beautiful and slightly less touristy. You know all those pictures you see of Thailand beaches with blue waters, white sand, green cliffs, and beauty? Yeah I am in that part of Thailand. While being abroad seems like a dream, being in this area is even more surreal. It’s funny, I didn’t grow up going on many vacations (or I don’t remember vacationing – mom says we did) and when I have time away from work or school, I always feel like doing nothing. This mentality still carries while I am even here in a tropical beach area. Call me crazy but I love spring-cleaning, reading and vegging out for a vacation despite the fact that I LOVE travelling. However, I did make some day trips out the beach, explored the area and spend quality time with my friends from the program. Songkran (New Year) starts Monday and I cannot wait – I will be back in Khon Kaen for it and its been a life long goal of mine to be able to celebrate the New Year in Southeast Asia.
Life in Khon Kaen is great. The food is great, the people are even more great. However, I do miss home a lot and more often than I did in South Africa, which is shocking. But I have to take into account that I have spent a significant time away from home. Its great that I am taking the time to learn the native language of my parents, and hope that I can communicate more to them when I come home in June. I cant believe that time has gone by this fast, it seems like yesterday I was only packing for South Africa in August and I am 2 months away from being home. I guess a lot of my lack of recording and reporting is due to my disbelief that I am almost done with my crazy year abroad. I am sorry for abandoning the blog for a while but I promise that I am going to make an effort to be more diligent!