June 4, 2007

Departure's Eve

Our last night in Thailand...how bittersweet. A few of us (myself included) have had dreams about being able to go home for one day to see our friends and families and then quickly return to this lovely place. Being away from minnesota and exploring a new land for the last few weeks has really made me realize how important communities and families really are. I am so grateful for the new community of friends I have made from Thailand 2007 Food and Families.

Chou's blog was more of an editorial b/c that is how he communicates best. For better or worse, I am a list maker (thanks mom) so that is how I will end this blog.
Top Five things I will miss about this trip:
1. Green curry with chicken...mmm
2. Cathy and Chery and Poon Suk(sorry about the spelling!)'s unwavering support and effort
3. The pace, the ease, the take it as it comes atmosphere
4. The hundreds of smiling, welcoming, GENEROUS people we have encountered along our journey
5. The breathtaking landscapes we have seen from the tops of the mountains in Chiang Rai to the turquiose ocean in Phuket

Thanks to all for a wonderful trip!

Posted by Elizabeth Hoel

June 3, 2007

so it goes

despite losing a few of our fellow travelers to the gorgeous beaches of Phuket (who can blame them?!) we have all made it to the end of our journey. we are slightly sunburned, a couple of pounds heavier, pretty tired, but also a little bit wiser than we were before embarking on this amazing trip.
the lessons learned during our travels are invaluable to me. i was able to see this culture through the eyes of a student, a tourist, and due to overwhelming Thai hospitality, as a friend. i'm convinced that the "culture-shock" that i experience going back to the states will be greater than it was coming to Thailand. i am excited to see my homeland with fresh eyes.

Posted by Adria Zwack

My homestay experience

After being welcomed into Lamgpang, a rural community, with a community party which included wonderful food, boisterous music and lots of dancing, we settled in pairs with a family. During the party many of the Thai women and children danced and interacted with us and I learned quickly that language doesn't have to be a barrier to communication. Altough the women how hosted me in her home could not speak English, my nerves and embarassment (due to my lack of the Thai language) were settled by her smile and calming presence. Her ability to use gestures to communicate helped me realize that my desire to learn more about her family and to tell her more about mine would have been met if I had just brought something as simple as a few pictures. The following morning after a HUGE and delicious meal we found ourselves laughing while playing a cards. Luckily, (for me) the other student who stayed with me in this home was more prepared than I - she had a deck of cards. We taught the mother of the home and her daughter to play "go fish" and "memory using simple gestures. It was so much fun...lots of smiles and even more laughter....what a wonderful experience. iIwish our homestay could have been extended.... : )

Posted by Jen Teske

June 2, 2007

My family stay experience

First, we arrived for a dinner celebration that the village put on for us. Some of us played volleyball with the kids and after our dinner they shared a few songs with us and we showed them the hokey pokey! It's amazing that even though we don't speak the same language we can still communicate! We went with our families to then spend the night. I was a little nervous at first but our family really made an effort to make up feel at home. They were amazingly nice and very generous. They made us soooo much food. My family's daughter lived next door and some students were staying with her so we all got together and Jennifer taught them all UNO. They caught on so fast and even though we couldn't really talk with eachother we all were laughing and having fun.
What I really took away from this is how you can still share and communicate with people even if you don't speak the same language. We're all a lot more similar then I used to think.

Posted by Jill Heier

Earth Lodge - Jungle Trek

We had so much fun the last few days before we left for Phuket at the Earth Lodge. We went on a Kayak trip down the river. We stopped and looked at some snakes, monkeys and lots of weird bugs. Then we took a break and a few of us swam in the river in the jungle. The next day we took a jungle trek and had a jungle man make us lunch in the jungle. He showed us how to break open coconuts. We saw a lot of poisonous caterpillers and plants and swung on vines like Tarzan. We are having a lot of fun and it is so beautiful here. Miss you all. Can't wait to hang out and not worry about bugs! See you soon!

Posted by Kristen Olson

<<<<<>>>>> Tribulations <<<<<<>>>>>

With the lack of sufficient internet access and overall lack of time, I’ve found it hard to stop and record my thoughts into this blog. I will try to recall what I do remember thus far.
Instead of writing a simple happy-go-lucky blog, I want to be able to stimulate the readers to think about this experience by having dialogue and an open forum of thoughts and ideas. Given that I am the only Political Science major amongst my peers, I find it difficult to openly challenge their notions of Thailand. How so? I am a very assertive yet considerate person, if I just happen to correct someone’s ignorance, I do not want to do it in a way which will hinder our relationship (how short or long it will be). Although it is only a blog, I hope that my ideas and thoughts are taken seriously, lets face it I suck at grammer, I suck at writing papers. Since this isn’t a paper, I will write the way I talk.
Lets talk, shall we?
Alas, Thailand is Thailand. Historically never colonized by western powers; however, one would argue that it is a prime example of modern colonization. Just as the Dutch, French, and English colonized and exploited the people and resources of other Southeast Asian nations, the Tourist is doing the same detrimental damage to the people and cultures of Thailand. I find it uncanny that what seems to be gung-ho liberal educated college students would shriek and fight over trinkets and then unrespectfully start snapping photos of sacred acts of the Thais. It is these similar peers of mine that I see on campus rallying against sweatshops, for equal rights, and so on; however, the virus of Tourism has gotten the best of them. I hope that the grandmother who spent three months weaving their trinkets or the mother leaving her children for 15 hours workdays get their moneys worth.
Do I have gripe? Lets have a chat, a drunken chat would be best. A sip of the Mekong Whisky would make my tongue a bit more nimble, my concerns and respectful image numbed. Lets have a chat about the co-depencies of the new colonist in Thailand, the tourist and their affects.
Lets face it, some people are just ignorant, they just don’t know. No one is to blame that they have no prior knowledge of real life situations of the Thais or their presence is propagating a social and economic jail. But, I can assume that these people who have the wealth and power to come into Thailand have some smidget of learning capacity. After gawking at how hard a grandmother weaves for 30 years, one would assume that this would be a learning experience, not another tourist photo-op.
I will not go into great detail about the treks we went on, the hotels we stayed in, or the people we’ve met. I leave the reader to ask their loved one these questions when they return. I challenge my peers to wholeheartedly consider themselves in the position of these people. Look at the trinkets you bought, look at the places where you’ve been and think of the hands who made these and the people who live there.
It is disgusting and appalling to know that our hotel/hostel/bungalow is greater and grander then our hosts. How does a bamboo shack compare to our abodes? If any of my peers were observant they would see the realities of these people. How do you put $3 dollars on three months of work? You should be ashamed of yourself. Do not let the sparkle of the trinket catch you eyes, instead shake the broken hands of these workers. Then, perhaps this will give you a clue as to what work really is.
Let me correct myself, I am not against tourism, I am against the stupid disrespectful ignorant ones. (Check amongst yourselves). Tourism help in many areas, it builds the economy of Thailand, it puts money into the pockets of the poor, but…. I must say BUT, it also is detrimental to a people and their culture. Sacred temples become photo ops, proud traditions become remedial, and the ideals and mores of a people are changed. I’ve seen many handicrafs half-assed in order to produce more in bulk, I’ve tasted dishes watered down for us, and I see the faces of the workers being gawked at by foreigners. They are NOT ashamed to work. So shut up about your job.
Yes, these things may be new to many of us, BUT respect isn’t. Isn't it?
I admire the grandmother, the silkweaver, mahut, and the boatman. I am ashamed of my peers.
More to come, or just talk to me.
(Margaritas on me err’one)

-Chou Moua

Posted by Chou Moua

Our first full day in Phuket is a little rainy but very beautiful. The hotel we're staying it is amazing. It's hard to believe the our trip is almost over! This past week has been really fun. At the beginning of the week we stayed at a school for two nights. This was one of my favorite experiences because it was really fun interacting with the students and observing school life in Thailand. I was so impressed by how well many of the students spoke english. It made me feel guilty for not knowing more thai words and phrases. I really enjoyed our first night there; we went to the student's dorms and individually got to speak with a small group of students. The girls I talked with were really sweet and had so many questions-the favorite one being "do you have a boyfriend?" or "do i know miss universe", haha. I was suprised by how well we were able to communicate since i don't know any Thai, it was a lot of fun.


Posted by Andrea Dondlinger

Thailand so far...

Chiang Mai/Rai- I've accomplish one of my dreams in Chiang Rai. That was driving a right hand drive Subaru with no speed limits...Awesome experience but I know it will never happen again. Chiang Mai was sorta like Bangkok but not....more like the phrase "same same but different." We went to the Hmong Village and I felt like I came home. I can finally speak in my own language. The Lady of the village was pretty cool. Shes been through so much in her life being part communist and trained as a surgeon. Her herbal recipes for diabetes were interesting, I took down as much notes as I can. The guys were cooking because the females were out selling fruits at the markets. The children were at school. The view of the mountains was excellent from here, you can see many villages on the bottom. They had very little source of income and it seems like our group just made them 100x richer when we bought most the quilts they've made by hand...It was sad when one the old ladies ( I called her grandma) started to cry... She sew quilts with one hand and her vision was going bad. Before we left, Another lady approach me and wonder if I'll ever come back, they were happy that a Hmong like me was able to live a prosperous life in America. She started to cry as I told her "I am not sure when I will return but I will bring my parents to this place." She teared as I handed her some money and walked to the vans.
Coming to Thialand is like a circle to me. Every Thai wonders why I can't speak Thai even though I was born in Thailand. This is my native country but my nationality is different. At the markets I am outside the circle watching all my fellow classmates be targets for " Hello, you want to buy? I give you discount." Most the attention I'll get is when I go buy their things and ask them "how much" in English. I felt in the middle of the circle when we were at the Hmong village...
Bangkok- The JJ market and the floating market experience were excellent. The JJ market is known for its massive market ground that is big as 3 football fields. We soon split into 2 groups when our group of 5 disappeared into the crowded paths. The floating market was pretty adventurous shopping on a canoe that floated next to markets on the shore, some had their own market canoes that had mainly fruits and small desert dishes.
Kanjana-Pisake School- One of the 9(?) King schools, I wish we could have stayed longer than 2 nights. The experience of being in dormitories with uniforms especially in middle to high school is a different schooling system than the US. It seems like the school system lacks many important teaching skills with minor discipline to those who were naughty--- usually the young boys. The students were very shy and usually there is about one person that would speak when I spoke to a group of 10-15 students. Always be prepared to sing an American song to them. Thats one of the common favors they'll want you to do.
HomeStay in Lampang- Me and Jon stayed with a couple that spoke a little English. We stayed at the Mayors house for a night. We never expected him to leave us for 10 mins because some drunk villager ran off the road with his motorbike and broke his collarbone when he struck a cow. It was interesting for us to figure out what exactly happened as the Mayor was doing facial expressions to explain the situation. 11pm and we thought were going to bed, Instead, the mayor and his wife took us out to a night market. They had prepared some vegetables that were going to be sold at the night market about 15 minutes away. The mayor drop his wife off along with the vegetables and he took us to a different area, the market and a small convient store. He tried to spoil us with everything but we only accepted a can of pepsi and some pork on a stick. We returned around 1am and left the next morning.
Khao Soke National Park- The park is awesome with excellent mountain views especially in the morning when you can see the clouds hovering over. The kayak ride, jungle trek and Elephant ride was a once in a lifetime experience for me. I've never experience so much spiders on me before when my kayak hit the bush...I still freaked out even though our tour guide said they weren't poisoness... Those fangs were too big and I had to step on them all or else I would have jump into the river. Little did we all know, the jungle trek required us to cross the river. There goes one shoe that will never be seen again... The elephant ride was bumpy but we got use to it after five minutes. We spoiled our elephant with 2 baskets of fruits...I would hate to walk around everyday with 2 people on my back and 1 person on my head.
Phuket- It is only the first day and we accomplish so much last night, well I did atleast. Saw the beach and met a new group of friends. This was my second time seeing a jellyfish... More to come with 2 more nights in Phuket... The Chang, Leo and Tiger are the best sources for fun and excitement.

Yia Yang
Posted by Yia Yang

June 1, 2007

Closing Time

Hi All,
Well the end is very near and we've done some amazing things not only in the last few days but also during the entire trip. My favorite part so far has been the jungle cabins that we stayed in and going kyaking and elephant riding in the national park. I'm looking forward to exploring Phuket and doing some fun things. Interacting with the students at the school was definitely the most rewarding thing we did and I wish we could have spent more time with them. Now that we've been around the country, it's easy to see the differences in the food and terrain in different areas. We'll be home soon :)
~Elizabeth L
Posted by Elizabeth Lindstrom

May 30, 2007

The Beach

Today we were at the beach. It was at a small town outside of Surat Thani and was wonderful! I woke up at 5am to watch the sunrise and ended up walking the beach for the rest of the time we were there (about 6 hours). It was absolutely AMAZING! Such a beautiful area with nobody in sight. I only saw a few fishermen coming in from a night of work, but other than that it was just the beach and me. Words can't express how relaxing it was. I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M HERE! -AAA

Posted by Ashley Albrecht

Southern Thailand - the Last Leg of the Journey

We arrived Sunday in Chaiya, Surat Thani and were welcomed by about 500 high school students at Kanjanapisake School. U of MN students talked about themselves and played games with students so they could practice speaking English. We spent Monday touring farms in the area, learning about how farmers tap rubber trees, raise fish, and grow mushrooms. Late in the afternoon we arrived at a small village where the whole community turned out to welcome us. They shared food (fried mushrooms grown there) and beautiful fresh fruit (rambutans, longans, durian). A small group played local Thai instruments and student and villagers danced. It was an unexpected celebration but very typical of southern Thai warmth and hospitality. On Tuesday we visited Suan Mokkh, a peaceful forest temple in the area. The temple abbot talked about Buddhism and the importance of wisdom and inner peace. In the afternoon we visited a small silk weaving village near the Gulf of Thailand and spent the night nearby on a very quite beach, watching the night crabbers and fisherman do their work.
We're on the last leg of our 3 week journey across central, northern and southern Thailand. I think we're all a little tired of packing and carrying our suitcases, but always seem to conclude that the experiences we're having are worth the effort. Sawatdee Ka! Dr. Cathy Solheim

Posted by Catherine Solheim PhD

May 26, 2007

Elephants, Elephants, and more Elephants!

Today we got to visit the Thai Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang. It was so great. We got to view an elephant hospital where they were rehabilitating sick and older elephants. We got to feed a mommy elphant from our hands and see her cute new baby! We also got to see an elephant show which included them playing instruments and painting! It was really great! Tomorrow is another plane ride as we travel south!!

Posted by Jill Heier

Home Stay in Chiang Mai

Last night we stayed in a local village with soy bean farmers. When we first arrived they fed a a big celebration meal with rice, stirfried vegtable, spicy clear soup with shrimp and a few other traditional dishes. Then just as the rain began to pour down we moved all of the tables in the one room community building and sang and danced the night away. They began with some traditional music and dance that the local women taught us then we took the stage and did the hokie pokie, and head shoulders knees and toes. It seemed childish but we all had a great time and so did the villagers. They were very welcoming and so excited to have us all stay with them for a night in the village.

Posted by Kristen Olson

Family Stay

Well we just finished our first official family stay. I had a really great time once we actually got into the village and met with our families. Callie and I stayed with the sweeted older lady! She was a great mom! It was kinda weird at first because we didn't understand her and she didn't understand us. But i think as things continued just smiling at one another was enough. At night she made us a green mango for a snack and she also showed us the cleaning and soaking of the sticky rice. In the morning our mom woke us and showed us the rest of the preparation for the sticky rice and how she gave the crusties to the chickens and gave a little bit of the best rice as a sacrifice. I was a little freaked out to go to bed that night because of all the bugs so I was really glad that we were in pairs at the house. Callie really put me at ease telling me that she would protect me, Thanks Callie for the peace of mind!!! Today we also went the the elephant hospital which was really sad to see all the sick elephants, but it made me slightly happy that the workers there cared so much for those gentle giants that they were willing to run a place like that. -LCM

Posted by Lynette McCambridge

The North

The northern region of Thailand is beautiful! Tomorrow we are leaving down to the south. Sad to leave this part, but excited to continue on. Last night we had our family stay in Lampung (sp?), which was amazing. I met a girl in my home who was about the same age who is going to school for accounting. She was learning English, which made the evening enjoyable (we actually helped her with her homework!). Rachel & I stayed up until 1 AM talking with her and learning about eachother. Overall a great night! Today was the elephant camp (the baby one was so cute!).

Posted by Ashley Albrecht