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Guest: An American Student in Thailand

Buddha statue, Krabi, Thailand

An American Student in Thailand
I Followed My Heart to the Land of Smiles
Part 1

By Lindsey Koro

Lindsey Koro

've said the word what seems like billions of times, but in 3 days these images in my head of this foreign place will come alive. I'll be living and working in a Muslim community called Ao Luk in the Krabi province of Southern Thailand. I'm joining a volunteer organization--Global Vision International (GVI)--of which I've heard wonderful things, to teach English for ten weeks to little kiddos!

The words study, travel, and fun sum up my 21 year old life right now. I'm a recent Communications and Education grad from beautiful UC Santa Barbara, I've also studied abroad in Melbourne, Australia. While exploring Down Under and visiting New Zealand and Fiji, I fell in love with the beauty of traveling. Pease join me as I report on my travels around Thailand and explore more of its hidden treasures.

map of Thailand
Thai woman chopping pineapple

I MADE IT!

the writer with friends in Krabi
Pi Tung, me, Tammy, Pi Rai, Pi Nui, Mim (I fit right in with the short little Thai women!)
After two 10 hour flights and spending the night taking naps on the floor of the Bangkok airport, I am finally in Krabi. It was a long, enjoyable journey and I surprisingly made it without any troubles. The Canadian girl (Lee), the English girls (Emma and Ella) and I met up in the Bangkok airport and have been walking around little Krabi town together. We have already made ourselves known as the confused roaming foreigners. The four of us get along extremely well... they are all wonderful and we feel like long time friends already. I can't imagine being here on my own, where no one speaks fluent English and every person turns their head as we walk by. The area of town that we are in is full of little shops and people riding motorbikes in sandals without helmets...sort of how I imagined it to be. There is a river in back of the hotel with some beautiful scenery, but the town itself is much less...civilized...then I had expected. Our deluxe hotel room has a mirror that you can't see yourself in and ceilings caving down above our beds...but there is air conditioning!! My hair is dripping in sweat and is as frizzy as can be, and I'm ready for my second shower of the day. Sticky sticky sticky. All the clothes I brought with me are seeming thicker by the minute. Can't wait to head to Ao Luk tomorrow and meet the rest of the volunteers!

the writer with Thai 4th graders
Some of my brightest students (4th graders)
I'm so busy! I think I'll be loving it once I get the hang of things. Today Jill basically taught us how to teach the kiddies English with games and activities. It is all common sense...there is no magic answer like I was expecting. But to my surprise, we are not supposed to speak any Thai at all to the children. We simply use exaggerated gestures and few words. The other volunteers are mostly in their twenties and really great people. Ella, Narelle and I jointly teach our first lessons tomorrow --eek!

a pair of Thai first graders
Can't help but favor these cuties (1st graders)
Yesterday was really hectic. Ella, Narelle, and I taught 2 first grade classes and one fourth grade class. It was fine but we were really stressed out by the time we got to the fourth grade class. The children are adorable though. They treat us like we're famous. Dozens of kids reaching out to shake hands with us, children waving from across the school screaming "HELLOO HELLOO HELLOO!!!" -- and after class they all want our autographs (no joke!). It's hysterical. It is interesting to see the difference between the different schools we're working at. At the primary school the teachers often leave their classrooms, so we show up to a room full of students with no adult in the room.

The kids are really bright though...they try really hard to speak English, and I cannot believe their perfect handwriting and amazing ability to draw. I'm actually in shock about how smart and talented those kids are compared to the first graders back home. Education is taken very seriously and the Thai teachers are very strict. They literally smack the kids or hit them with canes or rulers when they misbehave. OH -- the national park! Literally five minutes down the road their is a gorgeous park full of beautiful waterfalls and natural swimming pools. It is the perfect peaceful getaway.


writer and friendin front of a golden Buddha, Krabi
On Friday we went to teach at a rural school about fifteen minutes up into the green mountainous area of Ao Luk (that's the best explanation I can give) The Thai English teacher (ha) was the sweetest, smiliest person...so generous, bringing us drinks and hugging us nonstop. She came up to us during one of our lessons with her same cheerful look on her face saying something to the effect of "student grandfather, he die, on street there, we go, you come, we eat, we pray." Ella and I looked at each other completely confused. She was too excited and happy to have said that someone died. "He died?!" "Yes, yes, he die (big smile)". Apparently Thais smile and attempt to express happiness during what we would consider hard times. Anyway, the three of us followed the principle of the school to this wake for this dead Thai man whom we had never met. Dozens of blue plastic tables set up in literally the middle of nowhere. Sad looking families. Weird sights like a 3 year old boy carrying a huge chair three times the size of him. Flies everywhere. People throwing rocks at a gross looking dog. Ella and I attempted to act like this wasn't the strangest place we had ever been taken to.

writer trying out local shellfish over dinner
Me eating some sort of sea creature in a shell
The four of us sat down and were served bowl after bowl of different versions of pork. I don't like eating pork in the first place so this was quite the experience. I can definitely say that this was the spiciest food I have ever eaten. When the last dish came, I said "dog?" to Ella, half joking, half serious because this meat looked very disturbing. I asked the principle what it was and she said "pork" so I took a bite. Then she said "pork liver, pork lung, pork heart." YUM! After we finished eating, we followed the lady to the area where the dead body was. At this point I was feeling uncomfortable and rude for just showing up to this funeral for a man I had no association with. The principle went up to the sacred area and did some sort of ritual. She then gestured for me to do the same. I looked around, had no idea what to do, and proceeded to kneel down and bow and light a stick of incense for the man whose photo was next to me.

Stay tuned for part 2 of "I followed my heart to the Land of Smiles."


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FEEDBACK FOR PATTI

I enjoy your newsletters -and particularly Patti Nickell's article about the 'Pudding Club' in the Cotswold's. An old friend of mine is taking a holiday there this year and plans to try their Jam Roly Poly and Spotted Dick - amongst many!

--- John & Maggie - UK

FEEDBACK FOR JULIO

The way I read this article, you stayed at the "Breeze and Waves". Do you have any pictures of the cottages, and would you recommend to some first time visitors to Caramoan?

--- Richard Simons, Stockton, CA

Hi Richard,

Breeze and Waves was still under construction when I stayed there in Feb. 2010. It should be finished by now. You can see pictures of the resort on this page. We got to stay in one of the small cottages in the picture. I'll recommend it to budget travelers but you might want to look at other options. We chose it because of its location right by the beach. You can try other resorts in the Caramoan town proper (you have to get a ride to get to the beach and the jump-off point to go island-hopping but it's a relatively short distance). There are also two higher end resorts located on a cove and very near the islands: Gota Village Resort (unfortunately there is something wrong with their website right now) and its twin resort Hunongan Cove. Caramoan is a relatively new tourism development so resorts are just now being built.

You can go to this site for a good list of choices for accommodations in Caramoan.

I should add that it might be good to go to Caramoan (and almost anywhere in the Philippines) during the dry season from December to May. June to November are the typhoon months and sometimes typhoons will still come during early December.

Julio

* * * * *

Hi, I'm planning to go to Caramoan this coming May. Would you know the number of Breeze and Waves Cottages? Thanks!

--- Ann, Manila, Philippines

Hi Ann,

Breeze and Waves' phone number is 0908-2911072. Look for Freddie. Hope you have a grand time at Caramoan!

Julio

FEEDBACK FOR WENDY

For Nature's Playground: The South Island of New Zealand

Hi Wendy,

In winter, Heritage Heights Apts. now offers free shuttle service to and from Queenstown 24/7 to guests without cars. We own a 7-passenger 4-wd Toyota Highlander used specifically to taxi guests up and down the hill during winter months. We also run advance purchase winter promotions which include a 4-wd rental.

If any of your readers head over this direction, I will enjoy extending Heritage Heights hospitality!!

Cheers

--- Ailey, Owner, Queenstown, NZ

* * * * *

New Zealand text and pix top drawer! Almost as good as making the trip. ( but one still wants to. . . ) Full of useful detail. Only trouble with the website: It's tough figuring out which feedback goes with which article, and the more there are, the tougher it gets!

--- Ken W., Camarillo CA

Thanks Ken..."álmost" is right, you really have to experience the South Island firsthand. Granted this piece is long, but still all I can think about is how much I left out! I agree abut the relevancy factor re the feedback--it can be confusing...sometimes I have a "Wait a minute...what?" moment myself.

Thanks for writing,

Wendy

* * * * *

Okay Wendy, from now on whenever you book your travel, please reserve space for me. I will carry your luggage, bring you cold drinks, massage your shoulders, and change the film in your camera (oops, I guess you don't have to do that anymore). Wonderful ideas and recommendations. Can you get to New Zealand from Boston in less than a week?

--- Carl A., South Easton, MA

Ha ha ha Carl, you're quite the comedian! But you'd be surprised how short that flight feels. I suspect Qantas isn't the only airline who's figured out that 3 movies, 2 full meals, lots of snacks and a complimentary travel pack (eye mask, warm socks and neck pillow) equals a quiet, well-behaved cabin. It really isn't bad. Just fly direct--pick the shortest flight w/ no lengthy layovers and you'll be fine. Re: signing on as my Super Sherpa...why not? I think you know I seldom travel in anything less than Party mode. There's just that pesky background check...

Thanks for writing,

Wendy

For Excellence Riviera Cancun:

Wendy, I truly enjoyed your info especially since we leave in a week to celebrate my 50th Birthday. Was it necessary to make reservations at the restaurants? Was there a dress code for the restaurants? What would you recommend not missing while there? Was the spa experience worth it? Did you travel away from the resort while there? Thanks,

--- Kim P. Fuquay, Varina, NC

Hi Kim.

Sorry for the delay in responding...you had heavy competition with the holidays. Reservations at Excellence restaurants are not necessary and you will not find a wait. The dress code is basically no bathing suits and flip-flops...with a decided a mix of atmospheres. Mostly the open-air beachside spots are super casual, the rest slightly more formal. Truly, as long as you are clothed, I don't think you'd be turned away anywhere, though most people seemed to enjoy dressing up at night...I suspect more for their own pleasure than any sense of decorum.

The spa experience was worth it, though my favorite part wasn't the actual massage. The precursor was a 45 min. or so rotation from sauna to a series of (kind of wild) water jets which was very different and very cool, not just for women. In its' entirety, and with the serenity of the beach/champagne/strawberries, it was memorable.

We did not travel away from the hotel this trip, but the hotel is very helpful in arranging day excursions to fit your desires and you do not have to book these until you arrive.

Have a great time!

--- Wendy

FEEDBACK FOR NINO

I enjoyed Nino's contribution, since we all read about the frightening terrorist attack. Having travelled somewhat through India years ago, I am continually impressed with this country and the gentle spiritual aspects of this nation. Some day I look forward to going back. Nino has encouraged me. Thank you!

--- Yoka Y., Westlake Village, CA

FEEDBACK FOR RUSH & CHUCK

Dear Mr.s/counselors Brown and Koro,

Thank you for a very informed and succinct article on motorcycle accidents and the law. It inspired me to think about getting a motorcycle, but not have an accident. But, if I do I am now well informed with the basics of what to do providing I do not perish in the accident. Any tips about that too?

--- Unnamed

Dear Rush and Chuck,

I wish I had read your article before our camping trip the Friday prior to President's Day.

My wife and I were in a car accident on our way to a camp ground. We were "rear-ended" and the impact caused our car to crash into the car in front of us. The contents of the truck that we were riding scattered onto several lanes. It's a miracle our two dogs decided to stay inside the car. My wife and I were shaken up badly but despite the mess, I was still able to walk out of the car. I got the license plate of the driver in front of me but, to my surprise, after reviewing the little damage on his car, he then sped off. I didn't know you could do that! The driver who hit me from behind gave me his information and then he too left the scene without saying good 'bye. When the police arrived all I had to go by was the little information I had jotted down which I hope was truthful. What if it was bogus? What if I had written the plate number incorrectly? How would that affect my insurance? What if we were unconscious, who would have written down all that information?

I do have one suggestion if you are injured in an accident. The police asked if my wife wanted an ambulance to bring her to the hospital but we declined the offer. I remembered when I rode an ambulance years ago that it was not a comfortable ride. I was strapped to the stretcher and there were all sorts of medical equipment dangling noisily above me. As long as you are able, it is a more relaxful ride inside a car. Besides, isn't there a fee for ambulance service?

--- Dave S. of Pasadena, CA



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