2023-24 Gabe, outbound to Thailand

Sep 14, 2023

Journal Entry #1, 9/14/23

I arrived in Bangkok on August 14 and It has been the best time of my life ever since.

It took me 25 hours to get here and getting off the plane and seeing my host family was one of the best feelings in the world knowing I made it. First thing I did was eat and it was one of the best meals of my life. All the food here is so good and everyday I feel like I’m trying something new. I’ve already gained 12 pounds after being here 1 month! They also don’t really have what we would consider breakfast food but instead typically eat rice or eggs and some sort of egg for breakfast. I have tried so many new foods while being here such as octopus tentacle, whole catfish, and many new kinds of fruit.

My home is about 3 hours away from Bangkok and on the ride home from the airport I tried to stay awake to see the scenery, but I couldn’t. On the first day we made a few stops, one of them being to see Buddha’s footprint where you took gold paper and stuck it to the inside of his footprint. Another one was to stop in a town where there are monkey’s running around free and you see them everywhere. Lastly we stopped at this delicious sushi place which had the best sushi i’ve ever had in my life.

Driving around Thailand is absolutely beautiful with there being very ornate and bright temples everywhere. They also have huge Buddha statues around which can be around the size of 6 story buildings. On top of that it is very green everywhere with there being so much greenery everywhere.

In the center of my town there is a huge park with a lake in the middle. It is about 2.5 miles around and is so beautiful. Many times in the morning my family and I will go there around 6:30 and walking through there is so beautiful and refreshing. My friends and I will also go during the day. One of my favorite things to do is buy old bread from vendors in the park, going to the bridge and throwing it to the huge catfish off the bridge and watching them swarm to get the bread.

I started my first day of school after being here for about a week and it was hectic. They have to wear uniforms which I personally don’t like, but the boys must keep their hair a certain length and neither boy or girls can have long nails. Going to school is almost like being a celebrity for right now at least. Everyone wants to talk with me and take pictures. Me and my friends like to play futsal everyday after school which I enjoy a lot. Some parts of it are hard because I can not understand Thai very well and classes are very hard but I am definitely getting better and am able to read a bit after learning the characters.

After being here for a month I have noticed a few things they do differently such as hand washing socks and underwear, always taking your shoes off before going inside and leaving the shoes outside the building, and using the fork to push food onto the spoon and using the spoon to eat everything. It is also much safer and everyone is always happy and smiling. Adjusting to some of these changes was hard but so far I think I am doing well and definitely love it here!

Journal Entry #2, 11/4/23

สวัสดีครับ! I am now about 3 months into my exchange which is absolutely crazy to me. To me it feels like time has gone by so fast.

After being here a while I have decided Thai people have the best food on the planet. Almost every meal I eat here is delicious with so much flavor and spices. Thai people also eat very spicy food. My host dad will pile pepper after pepper into his food and it astounds me considering I’ll put about 10 peppers in and I’ll be sweating at the end of the meal. My personal favorite food is pad kra pao pork which is a pork stir fry with rice. Food here is also very cheap compared to American standards with me being able to get a full meal for about 50 baht or 1 dollar 50 cents.

We were on break from school for about a month and a half only just starting again this week but during this break I have been able to do some traveling and every time it is so beautiful. I went to Phitsanulok which is about an hour north of where I live. I saw a very famous temple called Wat Phra si Rattana Mahathat, as well as the biggest temple I have seen yet that is still being built but is absolutely massive.

During this break I also got the opportunity to go to the RYLA camp in my district and it was a lot of fun. There were about 400 kids there from the ages 13-18 and they included Rotary inbounds, Rotary outbounds, AFS outbounds, and many other kids from the surrounding area. It was a 3 day camp where I met many friends. My favorite memories from the camp was playing soccer with 2 of my inbound friends and many Thai people while the field was super muddy and playing without our shoes or socks. We also had a Prom night where everyone dressed up and they had a live band come and play for us. They also had Prom King and Queen and they ended up voting me as Prom King which was a lot of fun. They even gave me 2000 Baht for being chosen, which is about 60 USD.

I have also been studying Thai a lot and I can now read Thai script competently. Writing is a bit harder because they have many tone rules but if I keep trying I’m sure I can get good at it. As for speaking and understanding I can understand about 40 percent of conversations. Speaking is very hard because I am not super great at speaking the 5 tones that Thai has. It often leads to me saying the wrong thing because my tone is incorrect which can get very frustrating.

I also was able to go to Bangkok for a few days recently and before I went I didn’t realize how massive it is. The city seems to go on forever and there is a 7/11 every block. They also have absolutely massive malls. I was in one for 4-5 hours and I don’t think I even was close to seeing the whole thing. The amount of cars there is crazy too. It feels like every few minutes you’re stuck in a traffic jam but the beautiful sunsets the city has makes it worth it.

Overall I’m really loving it here and excited to continue my exchange and see what differences my next host family has with my current one!

Journal Entry #3, 1/3/24

Hello! I know it has been two months since my last journal but to me it feels like two weeks. I can’t believe I’m already about halfway done with my exchange year.

These last two months have been very hectic but in a good way. I changed host families at the start of December and it was a very big and interesting change. I of course miss my old host family but I still get to see them about once a week. My new family dynamic is very different because we have a lot more people in the house. I now live with my two younger sisters, 1one older brother and my grandma in the house. I do really enjoy it and with my siblings I already really feel like siblings with them because we’re always joking and having fun with each other. My new family does not speak English very well, which is fine with me because I get to speak Thai all the time and even get to help as an English teacher. My new family also cooks a lot so I have learned from my sisters and mom how to cook a few Thai dishes such as a Thai omelet and pad kra pao pork, which is a pork stir fry with rice.

In Thai culture they don’t celebrate Christmas as it is a Christian holiday. I had a break from school on the week of Christmas but many Thai students had exams on Christmas day. On Christmas day we didn’t celebrate at all, but my host parents did surprise me with gifts on Christmas day because they knew that it was a big holiday in my religion, which was very kind of them. Thai people do celebrate New Years and they exchange gifts on New Years eve. My family exchanged gifts with some of our family friends in a “White Elephant Gift Exchange” format. It was very fun and we ate a very Thai dish called Moo Ga Ta, which is kind of like grilled pork. I also celebrated Christmas in Bangkok with Rotary and all of the other exchange students. We did a secret santa which was very fun. That same day we had a Thai speech contest and I got 2nd place which felt really rewarding and it feels like my hard work is paying off.

I have also done a lot of traveling in the last two months traveling twice to Bangkok and once to Saraburi. My favorite moment was staying with my friend La Neige who came to Georgia last year as an exchange student and meeting her mom. I really got to explore Bangkok on my two trips there and I did so many fun things, such as visiting Chinatown and having dinner during a beautiful boatride. I also tried so many new foods, such as jellyfish, which was surprisingly delicious, and scorpion which was unsurprisingly not delicious. The scorpion made my whole inside feel warm and it was a very odd feeling but I am glad I tried it. I also went camping up in the mountains of Saraburi and it was my first time feeling cold in months, I even had to put a hoodie on. The mountains were very beautiful and it was nice and refreshing with the nice mountain air.

I can’t believe it has already been five months in Thailand and I can already tell I will miss it when I leave.