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Following is a sample itinerary for Dragons' “Thailand: The Spirit of Greng Jai” summer program. Our sample itineraries are based on past courses; in order to meet instructor team goals, as well as the goals and interests of particular student groups, itineraries are subject to change. Please keep an eye on the course's Yak board for additional itinerary-related postings and updates.

Week One:
Orientation in L.A., fly to Mae Hong Son: visit local markets and begin immediately to discover the incredible variety of foods in Thailand. Immerse in a study of Thai culture and ethnic minorities, bike amid rural villages and rice fields; visit Buddhist monasteries, daily language instruction.

Weeks Two - Three:
Visit communities bordering Burma and Laos: jungle trekking to rural villages. Live with families in a network of villages learning their trades and living as they do. Visit Burma and travel to similar villages in Burma studying the varying effects that tourism and government policies exert over minorities in each country.

Weeks Four - Five:
Home-stay, group service project, internships, further work on Independent Study Projects, further study of comparative cultures and religions.

Week Six:
Wat-stay (live in a monastery): meditate daily, study the teachings of Therevada Buddhism, chant with monks, and reflect on the experience. Return to Bangkok, meet with heads of NGOs and international aid and development organizations.

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Thailand, Summer 2008

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Thailand: Sample Itinerary

Dragons Administration,Thailand, Summer 2008

Description

Following is a sample itinerary for Dragons’ “Thailand: The Spirit of Greng Jai” summer program. Our sample itineraries are based on past courses; in order to meet instructor team goals, as well as the goals and interests of particular student groups, itineraries are subject to change. Please keep an eye on the course’s Yak board […]

Posted On

10/15/08

Author

Dragons Administration

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I've been putting off writting this Yak Yak for over a week. I just know that no matter what I write, it could never give the slightest justice to my homestay.

Homestay is over now and leaving was honestly extremely difficult. What I miss most can hopefully be summarized in a run through of one common day:

6:00 - 6:45:

Wake up: ok true... I don't miss this but the day has to start somehow!

Shower: a very nice bucket bath.

Breakfast: An amazing combination of Thai and American food for every meal. Maybe some เขาผาด (fried rice) with a side of hot dogs. Or mixed veggies with an assortment of sea food.

6:45-7:00

Bike ride to school: This was quite a work out because we lived pretty far from school. Yet was the greatest start to a day.

7:00 - 8:00

School arrival: School arrival... 1 hour??? Well, in all of Thailand, there is this thing called "Thai time". Basically... no such thing as tardy! A little challenging when trying to gather but I was glad that บอม brought me to school because this was great time to socialize. Socialize? but with who???

บอม -Bom: my homestay brother. (บอม สนุก มาก มาก!!!)

จูม - Jum: One of Bom's friends who I spent alot of time with. (จูม สวย มาก มาก!!!)

แผม - Pam: Another student and Bom's friend. (แผม ตลก, สวย... ไมจายดี!!!)

ออม - Aom: ha ha two of them.... both very kind.

โรส (Rose), ดิอาร์ (Dear), เบล (Bell), สอริ (Soy) , มิน (Min) , บานก (Bank) , ทัก (Tak), อาม๊ (Ammy), บอว... and many many more.

And these all became my best friends.

8:00-8:30

School morning anouncements: during this time, students would do some religious chanting, and meditation.

8:30-4:00

Classes.

Each day we had different classes to go to and different options presented to us by our trip leaders. Most of the time we did not have to stay in school or be with our brother/sisterthe whole time. However, I chose everyday to be with บอม.

English Class: First day I felt a little bad. I mean, I was just taking up room considering I'm just a little taller than the Thai 9th grade students, right? And I was also keeping alot of kids from studying.. I guess I was a little more interesting than their lesson. But however, on our last few days of English classI was able to take a more interesting part in the class: paper corrector.

Sounds a little like a teacher's pet, lame kinda thing to do.... but it was truly something special for me to do. In Thailand and in most places, actually, (except for the US) teachers are very revered. The fact that the teacher put me to her level and let me help her was something of great respect and a great opportunity. Everytime I got a new notebook, and a new student, it was amazing to see just how much they wanted to make sure they were spelling things right, and pronouncing right... and I was truly ther to help!

4:00-5:00

Hanging out after school

This was a great time to play some basketball and for most students to interact. I always spent this time talking to other Dragons Students' brothers and sisters. It was cool, considering I speak some Thai, to talk about my classmates with the Thai stuents. we always gossipped and just really had a blast (especially because of all our language barriers!!!!)

5:00-7:00

Special lessons

Just past my house, on our way back from school we would go to special lesson's at ยา's house.

ยา (pronounced Ya) is really quite the amazing person. ยา is the most inspirational and specialperson I met the whole time I was in Chiang Muan. ยา was my teacher and a huge part of the reason why I can read Thai now. When ever I was there, the number one priority was that I was comfortable that I understood what was going on and that I was learning. I make it sound like this was a huge overwhelming place, special lessons, but in reality, it was a gathering of about 15 students, ยา, and myself in a living rom with desks. See, ยา is not a school teacher. He was in a motorcycle accident 7 years ago and since then has not been able to walk. He was the best student of the WittayakongChiangMuan School (as claimed by one of the teachers there) and with limited job opportunities and mobility, has spent the last 7 years of his life being a tutor to his kids. They all love him very very very much. And I love him alot too.

Sometimes we would stay at ยา's house for special lessons, but in reality, after all that school time you just have to have fun sometimes. So one day all of us students and ยา went out for a trek around Chiang Muan. and also one time we had some nice singing classes in english (as a foreign language for the Thai students) and then in Thai (as a foreing language for me!!!). In Thai we sang: "Do Ter Tum". And in English we sang: "Bleeding love" and "I kissed a girl". Ha ha .. fun time explaining the lyrics to those songs...

Finally, just before bed:

Dinner at ยาย's (Yai, mother's grandmother) house.

Not only was this a time to have the most amazing Thai food of the whole entire trip but this was a place for me to practice my Thai customs, Thai language and for us to bond as a family. Bonding through eating came when I shifted from eating เขา to eating เขานิเอา (plain rice to sticky rice) . See, eating plain rice implies use of a plate yet eating sticky rice is without a plate. and the way thai food works is not individual plates, so when eating sticky rice everyone had their fingers all over everyone's food. SO AWESOME! true I was no good (my balls of rice would occasionally fall apart in the cury, or I would drop the food all over me) but it was .... a pretty big deal.

Now that I know you guys read this, my family in Chiang Muan (yes including you ยา, and all of บอม's friends previously mentioned and even those that were not) hopefully this goes some where close to saying thanks, and I miss you.

Thank you for reading!

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Thailand, Summer 2008

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It’s been a while

Kevin Vasquez,Thailand, Summer 2008

Description

I’ve been putting off writting this Yak Yak for over a week. I just know that no matter what I write, it could never give the slightest justice to my homestay. Homestay is over now and leaving was honestly extremely difficult. What I miss most can hopefully be summarized in a run through of one […]

Posted On

08/5/08

Author

Kevin Vasquez

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Today we were given the opportunity to spend the morning anyway we liked. For those who hadn't finished, we used this time to work on our Independent Study Projects. For my ISP I'm focusing on the positive and negative effects tourism brings to Thai culture. So, in orer to observe and experience this in Bangkok, I headedto Kow Son Road (aka. Backpacker's Road). This road is known as the area where all the foreigners congregate. I spent two hours simply observing the interactions between the thais and foreigners and making note of all the cultural no-no'sthey were committing. I realized that in another situation, on a different trip, that could be me.

Throughout this experienceI'velearned what it means to travel as the locals do. I'velearned the value in appreciating the native culture, without affectingit. And I've learned the difference between a tourist and a traveler. Personally, I'd rather be a traveler. And I'm glad to saythat's what I'vebecome throughout this experience.

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Thailand, Summer 2008

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tourist vs. traveler

Gabrielle Newell,Thailand, Summer 2008

Description

Today we were given the opportunity to spend the morning anyway we liked. For those who hadn’t finished, we used this time to work on our Independent Study Projects. For my ISP I’m focusing on the positive and negative effects tourism brings to Thai culture. So, in orer to observe and experience this in Bangkok, […]

Posted On

08/4/08

Author

Gabrielle Newell

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The end of the trip is near, and we have mixed feelings. While both of us are exited to see our families, we also do not want to leave our new friends and the country that we have come to know so well. Temple stay was so hard at the time, but looking back, one of the best parts of the trip. It was a "fun B" experiance. We enjoyed our time alone, as well as the time we got to spend together. However the 6 hours of chanting and meditating was a definite challenge. In the end, we were glad we were able to stay in a forest temple rather than a luxery temple where the rules might not have been so strict. Because although hard at times, we would not have had a real monestary-stay experiance if we were given slack and able to bend the rules.

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Thailand, Summer 2008

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End of the road

Elizabeth Weitzman and Stephen Zaro,Thailand, Summer 2008

Description

The end of the trip is near, and we have mixed feelings. While both of us are exited to see our families, we also do not want to leave our new friends and the country that we have come to know so well. Temple stay was so hard at the time, but looking back, one […]

Posted On

08/4/08

Author

Elizabeth Weitzman and Stephen Zaro

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They days have flown by andwe areenjoying are last few daysin busy Bangkok. We just finished our challenging but extremely rewarding monastary stay in a forest wat (temple) where we meditated three times a day and some only ate one meal. Each of us also had ample time to reflect on the trip, rest and enjoy each others company. We slept on bamboo mats, (most of us anyhow with a few exceptions) wearing light colors and chanted Pali. The experience was truly unique to each of us and we all left with a better understanding of Buddism.

Now,we arespendingour days visiting temples, eating great food, laughing, and squeezing every last bit of adventure out of the trip that we can. We are all excited to bring back our stories to share with all of you!

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Thailand, Summer 2008

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Final Stretch (group yak yak)

monique kelmenson,Thailand, Summer 2008

Description

They days have flown by andwe areenjoying are last few daysin busy Bangkok. We just finished our challenging but extremely rewarding monastary stay in a forest wat (temple) where we meditated three times a day and some only ate one meal. Each of us also had ample time to reflect on the trip, rest and […]

Posted On

08/4/08

Author

monique kelmenson

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    [post_content] => Back in Bangkok. Although we were just here 5 weeks ago when we first landed in Thailand, it feels as if though a year has passed. I never imagined I could experience as much as I have in the past 5 weeks as I have. The last part of our adventure which we just returned from which I think felt like one of the longest parts, was our 3 day stay in a forset temple outside of Ratchburi, Wat Pawanah. I came into temple stay not really understanding what we were going to do, but a little frightened. As I soon realized, temple stay was going to be quite a challenge. Not only because we wore all white, followed the eating pattern of a monk, but because of the three times a day we would meditate. Starting from 4 to 6, then from 1-3, and then from 7-9. Not only was it physically challenging to stay in a seated position which would not be insulting towards the Buddha, or towards the monks and nuns around us, but also mentally challenging. To focus your mind for two hours, is something none of us had expericnce with from home. Previously on our Dragons trip we meditated for 5 to 15 minutes, but this was not even close to comparing. Igot no where closeto enlightenment, but something I did take away from temple stay I think is a greater endurance to situations I may not be interested in. I think everyone in our group had atleast one moment when they thought they would rather die than sit through one more minute of meditation, but we all made it through.
    [post_title] => Back to Reality
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Thailand, Summer 2008

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Back to Reality

Inge Sullivan,Thailand, Summer 2008

Description

Back in Bangkok. Although we were just here 5 weeks ago when we first landed in Thailand, it feels as if though a year has passed. I never imagined I could experience as much as I have in the past 5 weeks as I have. The last part of our adventure which we just returned […]

Posted On

08/4/08

Author

Inge Sullivan

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Hello to Thai group!

Sounds like you are having a wonderful last 'home stretch' time in your new almost second home. It really has been wonderful reading all of your entries and as we read them we see and feel much growth from all the participants, we are very impressed!

Enjoy your last week!in Thailand and with each other, safe travels all.

Sincerely,

Ann and Eddie Kelmenson

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Thailand, Summer 2008

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hello from Maine

Ann and Eddie Kelmenson,Thailand, Summer 2008

Description

Hello to Thai group! Sounds like you are having a wonderful last ‘home stretch’ time in your new almost second home. It really has been wonderful reading all of your entries and as we read them we see and feel much growth from all the participants, we are very impressed! Enjoy your last week!in Thailand […]

Posted On

08/1/08

Author

Ann and Eddie Kelmenson

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    [post_date] => 2008-07-28 00:00:00
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Much of this trip has been about the "three zones of comfort."

The Comfort Zone

The Learning Zone

The Panic Zone

The goal is to escape the ever-so-tempting Comfort Zone, and station yourself in the Learning Zone. The goal is, the more time you spend in the learning zone, the larger your comfort zone becomes. Which in turn makes ou a more comfortable, well rounded, worldly human being. Over the past 9 days or so in homestay, I took the journey from the Learning Zone into the Comfort Zone.

My homestay brother was a transgender 17 year old named Bop. It was a bit of a struggle on both sides, but the experience payed off. Even with limited communication, Bop taught me a lot about myself, and how to treat, and relate to others. The end result of this struggle: I became extremely comfortable in Chieng Muan, living with Bop and friends.

The next step of my journey lies in Ratchburi, in a temple where I will be meditating, eating one meal a day (if that,) sleeping on a wooden floor, reflecting, and definintely pushing my limits.

I can kiss my sweet Comfort Zone goodbye.

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Thailand, Summer 2008

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Three Zones of Comfort

Zach Hodges,Thailand, Summer 2008

Description

Much of this trip has been about the "three zones of comfort." The Comfort Zone The Learning Zone The Panic Zone The goal is to escape the ever-so-tempting Comfort Zone, and station yourself in the Learning Zone. The goal is, the more time you spend in the learning zone, the larger your comfort zone becomes. […]

Posted On

07/28/08

Author

Zach Hodges

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it's incredible how close we have all grown with our families. it's also incredible how close you can grow to people who you can hardly communicate with. i am able to connect with someone who is completely different than me, but there is something, something that brings us all together.

my homestay brother cooks, cleans, does laundry, has to satisfy the daily chores. he is so independent and strong, which makes me feel incredibly young and inexperienced. but they laugh and giggle over such small andsimple things; they are able to let go of their independent lives for a few minutes and be 17! we stayup all night and play bingo andgo fish (Thai kids are the biggest cheaters!). we sing karaoke when we wake up and before we goto bed. we bike 20 minutes to school with our syblings and get the feel oftheir type of learning environment.i also have havehad the bestfood at my homestay.our families spoil us with mangos, bananas, morning glory, and so many other delicious foods.i have had a blast living with my brother, Bent, and our other friends- Mai, Bobby, Boo, and Kendy.

now we're off to temple stay. we'll be waking up at 4.30am to meditate and collect alms. we'll be meditating for about three hours a day- sitting and walking meditation. it's going to be a long three days, but i am ready for the challenge. i am ready to mentally let go and just be present for three days.

samip

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Thailand, Summer 2008

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Leaving Home…

samip raval,Thailand, Summer 2008

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it’s incredible how close we have all grown with our families. it’s also incredible how close you can grow to people who you can hardly communicate with. i am able to connect with someone who is completely different than me, but there is something, something that brings us all together. my homestay brother cooks, cleans, […]

Posted On

07/28/08

Author

samip raval

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Our ten days in the town of Chiang Muan have gone by too quickly. The students have established a rhythm with their homestay brothers and sisters: biking to and from school, sharing the highlights of the previous day at our morning check-ins, overcoming the language barrier on daily tasks such as waking up, eating dinner or choosing what to wear. The students have quickly learned that there is no shortage of karaoke, but have embraced it as well.

This past weekend we held our English Camp at the high school. The students facilitated games and lessons on menu items, creativity and description, verb conjugation, etc. About 100 students attended the camp, and it gave Thai students the opportunity to practice their English with native speakers. That evening we held our homestay party attended by the families, the school principal and teachers. The students' families did an amazing job dressing us up in traditional Thai garb. Each student read a thank you speech (in Thai) to their families and presented them with a certificate of appreciation. The festivities were followed by, of course, karaoke!!! The Thai and American students performed a few modern and traditional dance numbers as well. Okay, mostly modern - Soulja Boy and the Cha Cha Slide to name a couple.

Tonight we leave on a night bus to Bangkok, then head straight to Ratchaburi for a temple stay where we will meditate and learn about Thai Buddhism. On the way, we will stop at the Floating Market and volunteer and visit a local orphanage. During the temple stay itself, so that we make the most of the temple and spiritual experience, we are refraining from internet and phone use (except in emergencies), so do not be alarmed if we are out of touch for the next week. We will be returning to Bangkok on Sunday, August 3rd.

The students have put together an amazing itinerary for our final days in Bangkok. More news to come after our temple stay!

Best,

Thailand Instructor Team

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Thailand, Summer 2008

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Farewell to Chiang Muan

Virada Chatikul,Thailand, Summer 2008

Description

Our ten days in the town of Chiang Muan have gone by too quickly. The students have established a rhythm with their homestay brothers and sisters: biking to and from school, sharing the highlights of the previous day at our morning check-ins, overcoming the language barrier on daily tasks such as waking up, eating dinner […]

Posted On

07/28/08

Author

Virada Chatikul

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