I arrived in Thailand a little over 3 weeks ago on August 10th. Every day since then, I have given thought to what I should share in my first blog post. It hasn’t been the easiest task to decide on what to write about because a lot has happened since I got here.
I flew into Chiang Mai a few days later than everyone else in my program because I had a doctor’s appointment in the U.S. that I couldn’t miss. The day after I landed at Chiang Mai International Airport, the 13 of us hopped into the back of a truck and drove 2 hours to a small village called Sri Kham in the Phrao District of Chaing Mai Provence.
Phrao has a lush agricultural landscape with rice fields and orchards extending in every direction. The weather was quite unpredictable, with storms coming through every day. Despite the pockets of sunshine and occasional breeze, the air was thick with humidity and even the simple task of breathing became a challenge at times. Rain and humidity made bugs and mosquitos an ever-present reality.
I spent 6 days and 5 nights in this village, learning about the culture mainly through body language and google translate. My host dad, Pha Khum (พ่อคำ), and host brother (known to us as Bill) lived on a small plot of land that had 4 structures: the kitchen, bathroom, building where Pha Khum slept, and the pleasant wooden shack where Bill slept in one room and I slept in another.
Our program met once or twice a day to do some fun/educational activities throughout the week. We plowed and planted rice fields, cooked authentic Thai meals, played with children at school, and even learned a Thai dance. But, most of my time in the village was spent sitting outside at Pha Khum’s big wooden table, socializing with card games and trying to figure out the extraordinarily complicated Thai language.
Upon our arrival back to Chiang Mai, we had a weekend to rest and recover before classes started at Chiang Mai University. I went all around the city with friends exploring markets, restaurants, and coffee shops. Chiang Mai is bustling with all sorts of vibrant colors and smells. There are 7-Eleven shops on every corner (at one point I could see 3 from where I was standing on the street) and the power lines here would give any electrician an aneurysm. The streets are usually packed with cars and motorbikes, making the common task of crossing the street quite the experience.
A lot has happened since we got back from the village: classes have started, I experienced Chiang Mai Ram Hospital (that is a story for another blog), spicy food has taught some of us a great lesson, and I found a place to climb!
The culture shock has been real and I am more homesick than I ever planned on being, but Chiang Mai is gradually becoming somewhat of a home. Slowly but surely, I am establishing a routine and I can’t wait to continue the adventures!