Friday, November 8, 2013

October - Time Flies...

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                It’s been awhile since my last post, but for good reason. Zack and I have been ridiculously busy throughout the entire month of October while school was out. With everything that we have been up to, I could probably write about ten blog posts, but I’ll try to stick to the highlights and just write one!

Part 1: 

                At the beginning of October, Zack and I headed down a little ways south to the province of Chumphon to help out at another volunteer’s English camp. After a 5.5 hour bus ride from our site to Bangkok, we spent the night at a hotel there then finished the rest of the 7 hour trip the next day. Once we actually arrived in Chumphon around 4:30 pm, we made our way to a song taeow stop where we waited for about an hour with some fellow volunteers for the next song taeow to come by. When it finally did, the driver decided he needed a dinner break, so the 5:00 trip didn’t end up leaving until after 6:00 and by the time it did leave, was jam packed with about 20 or more people. And of course, nobody knew what was going on, so we just sat, all crammed together, for over an hour while the song taeow remained parked on the side of the street. Zack and I can honestly say that our Peace Corps experience is making us much more patient. We spent the night at a local beach with all of the other camp volunteers. We sat around on the beach, playing the ukulele and singing together, joking about all of our ridiculous experiences. At some point we decided that a late night swim would be a good idea. Once in the ocean, we discovered that the water contained some amazingly beautiful, utterly magical bioluminescence. We all swam, marveling at the way we were able to make the water glow with our every movement.  The warm, calm sea glowed all around us with the tiny specks of light, the horizon of the ocean was lit up green before us by the boats in the distance, and the stars shone beautifully clear in the vast sky above us, framed by the silhouettes of palm trees swaying in the night breeze. At some point we all made it to our beds, and the next morning we headed to the English camp site for preparations.

Just testing out the games...

                The camp itself ended up being a blast! We had amazing student helpers that ended up facilitating a lot of the activities. It was so great to see the youth in a leadership role. After the camp, we also took our first trip down south as an opportunity to use a couple of vacation days and spend a little bit of extra time at the beach. We stayed in a pretty dingy bungalow (the cheapest we could find) on the same beautiful, secluded beach we had visited a few nights previously and just took it easy.

We forgot our sunscreen, but found these great hats!

We headed back to Bangkok after two nights, where we had a couple of doctor’s appointments. Finally, we made it back to our little village. We spent one full day at home doing laundry and packing for our next big October event, a leadership camp in the province of Loei.

Part 2:

                We made it to the Brighter Thailand Foundation camp with one of Zack’s counterparts (our counterpart for the leadership camp), the youth development officer in our community. The structure of the camp was what made it so unique. The first couple of days were spent working with Matayom (middle/high school) level students. A couple of days in, Bpratom (elementary) level students arrived and the role of leader transferred from us to the Matayom students. Even though this camp had its challenges and was really intensive, it provided an opportunity for Thai students that I rarely see them being given. There was a lot of time for discussion, reflection and critical thinking. Not only did Peace Corp volunteers have the opportunity to help facilitate, but so did an equal number of students from Khon Kaen University. We were able to share with one another and with all of the students about our culture, lives, experiences…everything. One of my favorite times of day was the evening when we would all gather in one large room and just casually interact, play games, play music, dance, etc. It wasn’t until the last day that I realized how much this experience meant for some of our Matayom student leaders. After a really connecting activity that involved anonymously letting others know how important they are and how much they mean to everyone, every single one of us cried together. Peace Corps volunteers, Thai university students, the camp coordinators, and the Matayom student leaders (including even the “tough” boys who at the beginning of the camp identified themselves as being “hoodlums”) all just cried together and shared how much the experience had meant to all of us. It was one of the most beautiful experiences that I have had yet here in Thailand.

Nothing like a dance party to kick things off!

each students draws/writes about his or her dream


Brighter Thailand Foundation

Part 3:

                After the camp we got on an overnight bus to Chiang Mai where we spent a few more vacation days. We stayed at a really great guest house, Mountain View Guesthouse, located in the old city, right near the north gate. The old city is surrounded by a brick wall (that is now gone in most places, but still really prominent in others, such as at the corners and at the gates. Surrounding the wall is what used to be a moat. It’s really interesting how all of it is now just incorporated into the current city. We spent most of the first day just wandering around and exploring. We also ate at an amazing Mexican restaurant, Miguel’s. It was so good that we ended up eating there a total of four times…we definitely got our fill while we could!! Besides the Mexican food, highlights of our time in Chiang Mai included a snake slithering over my foot, a trip to the night Bazaar, a trip up to Wat Doi Suthep, an evening at a local jazz club and quality time with some amazing Peace Corps friends.

North Gate Jazz Club

                A few days later we headed to Ban Sop Pong in the province of Mae Hong Son where we spent three full days at Cave Lodge. The area was absolutely breathtaking, even though the winding road combined with the speed of the rot duu (public van) that took us there was nauseating. We met up with more volunteers and ended up going on some amazing caving and kayaking trips. Nothing to get you working on your relationship like sharing a kayak with your partner! Zack fell out twice, but we eventually made it the whole way, marriage intactJ. At the end of each day it was really great to share stories with other travelers and just relax around a fire, especially after all of the trekking.

At one point we traveled through a section similar
to this except filled with water...pretty intense!

after kayaking through the cave

                Finally, we made our way back to Chaiyaphum to our little house. It’s been nice to be home and be able to start readjusting to village life again. School has gotten off to a crazy busy start, so I’m trying to take advantage of it while it lasts. I have some new projects going this semester that I’m really excited about. I think I’ll have to save that for another post though….This one is already too long! Until next time!

home sweet home


  1. Laura, Thank you so much for the update - loved reading about your adventures. When we come to visit, skip the cave experience, especially the part about the water - that would be over the top for me - actually you can skip the snake over the foot part too. Love you two! Mom/Kathy

  2. Wow, Laura! Thank you SO much for sharing your experiences through a blog!! This post made me cry. You and Zack are such an inspiration!!! Your willingness to dive head first in service to another culture is reaping it's benefits in the form of some life changing peak experiences!!! I can't wait to see what unfolds for you next! I love hearing about your adventures! It makes me realize I need to get out of my comfort zone a little more. (-;