My departure from Bangkok was timely, as I was ready to experience something outside of the backpacking district of the capital. The drive to the “resort” where we stayed this past week was about 7 hours from Bangkok in Khon Kaen, Provence. We left our computers to be brought to Khon Kaen University, so the week was entirely wireless and open for bonding. Through many group meetings and activities, we really started to work together as a group, finding our way each moment. Whether we were transferring people through a web of string or discussing oppression, we leaned on each other through rougher moments and celebrated the positives together. It seems like we are really forming a strong community, which is a main focus of the program both internally and within the villages we stay in.
On our way to the resort, we stopped about halfway through for a nature walk. By nature walk, of course I mean sludging through mud in gaters (which are cloth coverings for your legs and feet, because apparently there are leeches in the national park). The scenery was absolutely gorgeous and followed by a delicious plate of kauw pad (fried rice). As we went to get in the van, though, I noticed I was bleeding on my foot, so the med kit was grabbed so that I could bandage my apparent leech wound. It wasn’t until we were ten minutes on the road that I noticed I was bleeding on my thigh as well, and friends in the back of the van simultaneously found a huge leech on the ground. I suppose I, too, am delicious. All is fine, the leech was killed and cleaned up, and I was bandaged. Needless to say, mai pen rai (it’s all good / no problem—and a popular Thai phrase at that).
We started Thai class this week, and wow, is it a difficult language. Sure, they don’t have verb conjugations, but they have tones for each word. Use the wrong tone, and it’s a different word. So, although I will throw in some random Thai in these posts, it is not really helpful without audible dictation.
The final stop before coming to Khon Kaen University, and our apartments, was a homestay in a weaving village. I was with one other girl, and together, we maybe understood 10%. Communication was not easy, and all our Meh (mom) wanted to do was feed us and have us take an abb naam (shower). However, in the course of 24 hours, we had a fresh coconut and grapefruit picked off a tree for us, ate fresh peanuts, and helped farm rice, pulling up the plants in the paddy. I also was attacked by my host mom with baby powder (which has the affect of Icy-Hot here). Before we left, some of us spent a few hours playing with the kids at school. My favorite game was their version of Duck Duck Goose, which involves a shirt instead of patting heads and a very catchy song. We were running around, slipping on the dirt, and finally “communicating” with Thais.
It has been a long week, filled with surprises and adventure. I finally have met my roommate and moved in, and she is so cool. She is an English major, so communication is fairly simple. We were welcomed last night through a traditional Thai welcoming ceremony and we have a short weekend break before heading off to the Railroad community on Sunday.