By: Madison Anderson
Initially, when I was in Thailand, all I could think was how different things were to home. It was hot, humid, people speaking a language I had ever heard before, and traffic everywhere; Bangkok was so different to anything I had experienced. But, people are fundamentally the same. Everyone eats, plays, and laughs.
Our group, whether it be the Westminster class, the Thai nursing students, our home stays, or the kids at Ban Toon Ting, everyone gathers for food. Food binds people together, even more so when food is prepared according to cultural traditions. Cooking is very important, and the art of cooking is beautiful in any culture. Watching the Thai women cook is truly amazing, there’s so much controlled chaos. I don’t know how they kept track of everything, and prepared each meal perfectly. After writing my research paper on Thai food, I enjoyed every minute involving food. It is difficult to write to describe food with any accuracy. The best I can do is that food is fabulous. Thai food is a medley of flavors with varying degrees of spice. I know that my spice-o-meter has been changed since before the trip. I also learned that spice is relative. I remember at Noi’s house, I asked one of the nursing students if a particular dish was spicy, they said “no, a little”. Their “a little” and my “a little” are two different concepts. I took a bite of the dish, and felt that I swallowed fire. It was delicious fire, but spicy to my pansy pallet.
Games are another good way to get to know people, even when you don’t speak the same language. The first night at Noi’s, with the nursing students from former trips, we played Big Booty to break the ice. It was a fun filled embarrassing adventure on my part. I lost the first round and had to write my name with my bum in the air for all to see.
At Ban Toon Ting, there was a day when the school had set up a sports day on the soccer field, there was volleyball, the start of a soccer game, and water balloon throwing contest. They volleyball games were so fun, first among the Westminster Students, and the nursing students. And the second round of playing versus the Ban Toon Ting faculty. It was so fun to watch and play with everyone. The kids were the cheering section, with pom poms made from tree branches, musical instruments, synchronized cheers, and an announcer. I didn’t understand a single word the announcer said, but with my limited sports experience, I did understand the tone, and when the announcer was trying to hype up a team. After the volleyball games, A soccer match was started, until the rain began. Everyone rushed for cover hoping to wait it out. It didn’t stop any time soon, so we began the water balloon toss with the kids from the school. That was so much fun. The little boy I was partnered with had a blast, I had a blast. Mind you it is raining cats and dogs while this is going down. We played through a few rounds until I dropped the ball-literally.
Playing games with people is such a fun way to bond over an activity, because ridiculous things always happen when I try to play sports. It was a great way to watch the school kids interact too. The world around you seems to disappear when you’re playing a game, so the kids were less shy with us than they had been before.
A group from Westminster also played a game of soccer with the kids, outside of the organized play. It was so fun, and the kids know their international football rules. I didn’t. I did what I was told to by one of the kids. He would act out what I was supposed to be doing, and then I would try not to make a fool of myself while trying to mirror him. The little guy was a trooper.
Laughter is another great way to make friends, and realize we’re more same than different. Me trying to play certain sports is hilarious, and it is fun to have a good laugh about it. Playing soccer with the kids created many moments to laugh. Whether it be my lack of understanding of the rules, or injuries, someone swiping the ball from someone else, or the ball being kicked down the mountain and Peter running after it.
Talking with the nursing students always resulted in laughter, which could be revisited for more laughter. I haven’t laughed about so much, so frequently as I did on this trip.
I want to try to use what I have learned here to make a change for the better, in myself and the world that I live in. I want to share my experiences with those around me, and hopefully inspire them to want to come here as well-I highly recommend it.
Thailand changed my life. It sounds so cliche, but it really did. I got to see a side of the world, and how people live that I have never seen before. Pictures and words don’t do justice to my experiences in Thailand, and I am grateful that I got to experience Thailand with so many amazing people; from Westminster, Suandusit, the Barker Clan, and everyone that we met along the way. I am so grateful to our professors for putting this trip together, because this is truly an undertaking. I am so grateful for the people that have supported me from home, I couldn’t do half of what I do with out them. I am so grateful to Thailand for showing me another piece of the world, and for helping me see what I can do to make the world better.