Thinking Outside of the Box & Taking Action

By: Tiffany Henry and Katherine Stoner

As we reflect on the past month and all of our experiences in Thailand, two inspirational men stuck out to us. Mechai and Michael taught us the importance of thinking outside of the box and taking action.

The center we visited in Mae Sot is a non-profit organization that trains backpack medics. The goal of the backpack medic is to administer healthcare services to villages in Burma who have no access to medical care. The medics must travel long distances across strenuous terrain and courageously sneak into high risk conflict areas to help serve the people in these remote villages. They bring crucial medical supplies and educate the people on sustainable health care.

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Waste Not Want Not

By: Carson Chambers and Zoe Sirivejachipan

Since we’ve been in Thailand, we’ve experienced a wide array of subcultures within the country.  Within each unique area, we have been exposed to a variety of subtle differences and similarities.   All humans have to deal with the not-so-glamorous issue of waste – what do we qualify as waste?  How do we dispose of it?  How will it affect one’s culture and environment?  So far we’ve been to two different rural villages, the big city of Bangkok and a tourist island and how waste is dealt with.

I first started to notice the differences in how the people of Kalasin deal with trash after breakfast on our first day.  We (the Westminster crew) ate, left some trash scattered around, piled our plates with plenty of leftover food scraps, and started talking about plans for the day.  But what was going to happen to the plastic bottles, left over scrambled egg and oatmeal packets?  In the United States, once our trash is in a garbage can, it’s taken care of and out of our lives.  But what about in Kalasin where there are no landfills, garbage trucks or recycling centers?

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Rain Dance

By: Jane Dahle, Alexa Ferdig and Rob Caesar

Sunday May 8. 2011 Westminster College had the great honor of attending the yearly parade hosted by Kalasin to call upon the rain gods to bless their villages for water during the farming season. This was an incredible event to experience from two different standpoints that include the farmers and the royal family. Janie had the honor of playing the role of one of the four princesses while Alexa joined the majority of our May Term group in performing a traditional Thai dance while playing the role of a farmer.  Both are of great importance in properly praying for rain and fertile lands for the amazing people of Kalasin. Describing this experience is hard to do but we will do our best to express the incredible atmosphere and significance of this parade to local people.

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Animal Encounters

By Katie Jobst and Victoria Valencia

Our adventure in Thailand has brought us many encounters. Specifically, we have had diverse interactions with many animals that we would not be able to see in Utah. Some were in a natural setting; others were in captivity, or even roaming free along city streets.  Each experience brought forth a range of emotions. Connecting with animals enriched the cultural experience of the trip.

From Katie:

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Cultural Differences

By: Siri Wieringa and Kaylene Moulton

Being immersed in a new culture, there are differences that everyone will notice compared to their own culture. Some people may not notice the same differences as others, but some of the differences we noticed are the treatment of animals, the definition of beauty, obsession with working out and sense of community among the population. Traveling all over the country, we have noticed all of these differences in every place we have visited.

In the U.S. animals are part of the family and are treated that way. My own dog is so spoiled and if we take him in the car with us he has to have ice water or else he won’t drink it. In the U.S. it is also a requirement that you have your animal spayed or neutered. If you adopt an animal from  a pound, they will normally have the animal fixed for you. Looking at the treatment of animals in Thailand they are treated like animals. Many people can say that it is good that they are treated that way because they are animals but it was really hard for me to get used to. I also haven’t seen one animal that has been fixed which will result in too many stray animals.

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Thai Time: Mai Pen Rai Lifestyle

By: Mamta Chaudhari and DeAnna Castro

We all know that Americans are always running to their next appointments and never seem to have much time for leisure. Leisure time is almost non existent in the U.S., particularly during the week. Even eating is a chore that must be squeezed in on your drive to your next meeting. Everything in the U.S. is carefully scheduled so that time can be used most effectively and productively. Leisure time is reserved for your ten vacation days a year. However, half way around the globe things are very different.  Here in Thailand, leisure time is a necessity. If the Thai people acted the way we do in the U.S., they would have no energy to do anything.

What seems to be the main reason that Thai time is different is the heat. Trying to do anything at midday is almost impossible. It is simply too hot to be outside. When we did things around midday we were regarded as crazy Americans. The Thai people accommodated us in this, but only because weare American.

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Welcome to the 21st Century

By: Nathan Calies and Chris Roundy

On May 19, 2011, we went to an AIDS Hospice that I believe was called Chao Khun Phra Udom Prachatorn, located in Wat Pra Baht Nampoo, Lopburi. The clinic was located at the base of some mountains. It was a beautiful area that was well kept, had a good vibe, especially since it was for end-stage AIDS victims, and was an area for teaching. Han and Peter tried to prepare us for what we were about to see, but by our surprise, parts of the tour were not nearly as sad or touching as some of us expected.

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The Power of Thai Women

By: DeAnna Castro and Mamta Chaudhari

Historically, men have held most of the leadership roles in most societies. Women don’t usually have much power or many rights. In the United States, women in any sort of political leadership role are hard to find. We have observed otherwise in Thailand.

Many of our encounters with leaders have been women.  The woman behind the entire trip, Noi, is always the one negotiating, planning, and organizing where we go in Thailand. Without her, we would be lost and could not accomplish what we set out to do. She is the one that has the final word, even our male professors follow what she says. This woman has all the qualities of a leader, yet in Thai culture this seems to be the rule rather than the exception.  Everywhere we turned, it seemed as though women were running the show.

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Service can be Selfish…

By: Chris Roundy and Nathan Calies

In thinking about the trip so far, especially in thinking
about the service portion of the trip which is now behind us, the many reasons
for doing service have become more apparent. Before we left for Thailand, the
group read and discussed two papers that addressed the ideas behind service and
how it is viewed. It was refreshing to see a straight-forward analysis of
service that wasn’t afraid to say that some reasons for doing service are more
selfish than others. Some of the reasons for doing service that were discussed
include: 1) a love of whatever god(s) you choose to believe in and his/her
children; 2) we’re all human and occupy this planet; 3) I can relate to your
problems; 4) bragging rights; 5) karma points. When serving internationally,
one might also include a desire to see the world as an excuse or reason to do
service.

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Biking in Sukhothai

By: Victoria Valencia and Katie Jobst

From Victoria:

As a nerdy history major who actually wrote my research paper on the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya kingdoms it was really great to see the ruins of the first official Thai kingdom in person. Seeing all of the ruins- the wats (temples), the still standing Buddhas, the remnants of things we can only guess at- really puts things in perspective for me. It was one thing to research about Sukhothai and its empire from the safety and relative comfort of the Giovale library, but quite another to see the actual ruins firsthand and wonder about the actual people who lived there and marvel at the work of whoever built the monuments we still see today. And it puts the short history of America into perspective where we think things from the 1970’s are old.
There we were in Sukhothai standing next to ruins older than our country- well actually we biked around them. While many people had their own bike, some students shared. Both Katie and I had the unique opportunity to ride around the ruins on the backs of our professors’ bicycles. Being chauffeured around on a bicycle by your professor while discussing the history of an ancient culture is something you can only experience on a May term trip. And it is only after spending almost two weeks with them living in rural Thai villages, bouncing along bumpy mountain roads for hours on end, and putting up with Han’s endless picture taking that I would feel comfortable riding that close to a professor’s behind. But that’s all part of May term- bonding with your fellow students but with your professors as well.

From Katie:

Whilst being toted around through the Sukothai Historical Park, clinging to Han’s sweaty t-shirt, watermelon popsicle dripping down my arm, I realized how good our lives really are. Spending time in a foreign culture, wind sheepishly making its way through the water-thick air, the occasional shout from Han at the front of the bike (“BUMP!!!”); this is a truly unique experience. I felt like channeling my inner Indiana Jones when we stopped to traipse around the gorgeous ruins of a bygone civilization. Except, with this study experience, we have much more to discover than Harrison Ford did.

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