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Final Reflection

Final Reflection

By: Erica Houck


Reflecting back on the past three weeks I find myself wishing to help more. I believe that we all contributed from day one; from fundraising and raising money, to giving a donation to the AIDs hospice and other villages in Thailand. Although we gave a great contribution to multiple organizations, there is always need for more help. We donated money to the school in Kalasin, then to the second villages school (Ban Mai), and we also contributed to funding the AIDs hospice and community. These donations may have seemed minor to us, but these communities greatly appreciated our efforts and involvement in their societies.

However, I still think that there is still so much more that we can contribute in future years. It is critical to understand that a little bit goes a long way to others. It is important to pass on that this service learning trip can be more effective to ourselves in some cases, than to those we serve. I have learned a great deal about myself on this trip and my wish to help others who are not as fortunate as I am. There are so many different aspects to this trip that have changed my outlook on the way that we, as Americans live our lives and how truly fortunate we all are. I would strongly suggest to others to take this amazing and incredible opportunity in the years to come. I can only stress that this trip will be more enjoyable and rewarding if everyone puts in their part to raise money and participate in the pre-planning of this trip. With everyone’s participation, not only while on the trip but prior, you can all help to further benefit the villages and communities that you will visit.

The people in each area that we traveled to were all very appreciative for our contributions and services and yet I still think that we could have done and or raised more funds for these people. I am hopeful that in  future years, Westminster students like ourselves will understand and stress to others the need to contribute to helping those who are less fortunate than we are and taking others into consideration.  We all worked together to achieve the things that we did and it is important to always remember this while on the trip. It is not about our own needs but helping those who need more than we do and offering above and beyond what we had hope to offer to further develop as global citizen.


At the Ban Mae Tuen School in the second village we mixed cement for the cafeteria.


The principle of the Ban Mae Tuen school asked us to paint these water tanks. We all worked together to pant and add a bit of color and pattern to these once bare tanks.

Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to Thailand

Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to Thailand

By: Libby O’Reilly

As I sit on a China Air 747 coming home from Thailand reflecting on our trip, there are so many things I wish I knew before the trip that could have even further enhanced my experience. So this is for all the future Westminster Thai travelers, some words of advice from my friends and me that I hope you can take on you with your travels to Thailand.

-Eating family style rocks. No other way to do it.

-Thai phrases: take the time to learn (and practice saying) some common things in Thai. Here are a few that we used the most, after it took most of us half of the trip to get the pronunciation down:

Hello: sa-wat-dee (feminine) sa-wat-dee-ka (masculine)

Yes: chai

No: Mai

How much?: tow-rai

Thank you: korp kun (feminine) korp kun ka (masculine)

Bathroom: horng nam

Water: nam

Beer: bee-a

Ajahn- professor I.e. Ajahn Han/Ajahn Peter

-Practice your Wai: The Wai is a palms together Thai greeting. Practice doing it, my first Wai was to the checker at the grocery store and needless to say I was caught off guard and ended up embarrassing myself.

-AIDS hospice gifts: a lot of emphasis is placed on bringing gifts and treats to the villages and schools we visit. I think it is equally important to have something to give the terminal AIDS patients we interact with. When you visit the HIV/AIDS hospice in Lopburi, you will have the opportunity to interact one on one with patients in the last stage of the diseases. Having gifts or treats to share with them would mean the world to them.

-Practice baht conversions: currently the exchange rate between US dollars and Thai Baht is right about 30:1$. Thus, you must become a master calculator to be able to come up with on a whim what an item costs in American money. 700 baht = _______$? 240 baht = _______$?

-It will be hot, hotter than you could ever expect.

-You will be going from sun up to sun down, prepare to be exhausted.

-Close your mouth and simply take in your surroundings

-Bring LOTS of bug spray. You will get eaten alive.

-Don’t even bother with a hair dryer and straightener, I carried both around for a month and all they did was take up space and get in the way.

-Try all the food, it will grow on you. The first few days will be a tough acclimation, but you will learn to love it.

-Your first move once you get on the long flight should be to claim a purple China Air blanket and make it yours for the trip. They are soft, take up barely any room in your backpack and are so nice to have around. It will be ridiculously hot outside but inside the vans and at night you will get cold. My original plan was to leave my purple blanket on the return flight but it’s been such a lifesaver it’s coming home with me forever!

-Make a conscious effort to befriend your driver, buy them a treat at rest stops.

-Don’t judge another culture just because it is different than your own.

-Bring snacks from home. You will like having food you are comfortable with around to snack on and share with your friends for a midnight snack.

-Every time you see a Dairy Queen, you must order a mango and sticky rice blizzard!

-Get to know the Thai nursing students as well as you can. I wish I had made a better effort to get to know them better and learn from them.

-Watch and learn how to cook on the floor like a real Thai person whenever you get the chance. Write down recipes.

-Let the fish eat your feet at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. Definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity that will leave your feet softer than ever. Beware though; it tickles….bad.

-Take the opportunity in Chiang Mai to go to Doi Suthep to get your fortune. Take a Dramamine in the way up though, the road is vicious!ImageImageImageImageoi

Thai Massage

Thai Massage

By Erica Houck and Libby O’ Reilly

“A system of massage and assisted stretching developed in Thailand and influenced by the traditional medicine systems of India, China and Southeast Asia.”

Thai massage is referred to in Thai as: nuat phaen thai (Thai style massage), nuat phaen borane (ancient-style massage) or simply nuat Thai (Thai massage.)

The Thai massage originated in India under the direct guidance of Jivaka Khumar Bhacca, a yogi, physician and caretaker of Buddha more than 2,500 years ago. His teachings and methods migrated to Thailand with all of Buddhism. The core methods of Thai massage involves static and rhythmic pressures in yoga-like positions leaving the body energized and rejuvenated. A typical Thai massage lasts two hours at minimum, but we have been opting for anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour and a half; anytime we can find a break in our hectic schedule. No matter what the duration of the massage, the body is left feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.

Massage is one of the branches of Thai traditional medicine used throughout the country as well as in other Buddhist cultures. It relates to the medical and healing industries as well as the tourism industry as many tourists make Thai massages essential on their visits to the country. Thai massage is a deep muscle and full body treatment that typically starts at the feet and ends at the head.  This type of massage is thought to restore and synced the energy of the human body through deep stretches, meditation and deep muscle pressure. There are three different forms:

Physical- detoxify, boosts the immune system, increases flexibility, improves posture and balance, increases blood flow, decreases blood pressure, tones body, strengthens joints and helps fight chronic disease.

Mental– builds emotional balance, motivates creativity, clears mind, and restores mental clarity.

Physiological-  relieves stress, boosts inner energy levels, and increases stamina.

Getting Thai massages became an instant staple on this trip the minute we landed in Bangkok. Ever since then, we can often be spotted at outdoor massage parlors around Chiangmai’s Night Bazaar, interior massage parlors throughout Bangkok’s malls and even taking advantage of in room massages in Sukothai and Kamphaeng Phet.

Before our first Thai massages, many of us did not know what we were getting ourselves into. Unlike massages at home, Thai massages are not for the sole purpose of kneading knots out of tired shoulders, but more of an assisted stretch.

Libby and I both got Thai massages on multiple occasions. We found them to be be extremely relaxing and rejuvenating. I got my second Thai massage on the beach at the Saikaew Resort. My experience was even better on the beach than it was the first time. I wasnt the only one getting another massage on the beach. Peter made sure to get as many Thai massages in while at the resort, and I dont blame him for doing so. Overall, I would recommend getting a Thai massage in Thailand. They are definitely worth every baht!



By: Lara Gallacher & Erica Houck

Why is it an important place to visit?

Khmer refers to an ancient kingdom in Southeastern Asia which, was in it’s highest power during the 11th century. Phanom-Rung is one of the most beautiful and important of the Khmer historic areas in the country of Thailand. It may have been a prototype for another significant site called Angkor Wat. The location enough provides a reason to visit as Phanom-Rung was built on top of a 1256 foot tall inactive volcano. Similarly, it has a historical importance as the resting area for pilgrims traveling from Angkor to Phimai. This Hindu temple complex represents the largest and most comprehensively restored historical park. The structures in Phanom-Rung have been well preserved by avoiding use as a battlefield and by limited overgrowth of that area. Other Khmer monuments have been largely reclaimed by the jungle but this park is neatly groomed and protected from environmental reclamation.

Significance of various parts of the park:

Main SanctuaryThere are several areas of the park that are especially important as religious, historical and architectural artifacts. The general layout of the park represents Hindu beliefs. The buildings line up all the way to the main pagoda, which represents the layout of Hindu heaven centered on Shiva. Also important historically and architecturally, are the religious carvings found on the outer surfaces of every building. These most frequently depict stories of the gods. It also has Buddhist elements from the era when it was adapted. Buddhist influences are visible in the later 17th century additions to the park including the pagoda, the stairway and the Naga bridge.

Continue reading Phanom-Rung