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    [post_date] => 2009-07-19 00:00:00
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    [post_content] => 

Our itinerary indicated that we would be spending this past weekend in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, in order to renew our Thai visas as well as learn about Lao culture and its relationship to Thailand.

However, upon learning new Thai re-entry procedures that now only allow a 15-day stay in Thailand upon re-entry (as opposed to the previous 30-day re-entry visa), the group will be crossing into Laos next weekend on July 25th to ensure the visas will cover the rest of our stay in Thailand through August 8th.

Instructors presented a couple new itinerary options to the students, and they were instrumental in deciding on our new plan. The students have decided to continue with their homestay in Nong Bua Lumpoo as planned, and then return to the border and cross into Laos next weekend. This new plan does however require that we cut the fishing village visit to Ubon from our course and head immediately to the southern province of Trang next week upon re-entering Thailand, but students were also excited that we would have an extra day in Trang.

We have spent the past couple of days in Nong Khai reflecting on the past three weeks of the course, re-evaluating students goals, accomplishments and challenges thus far, and in a writing exercise, the students were able to give each other tips and advice for making the most out of the remaining weeks of the course. We have also been preparing students for their weeklong homestays - brushing up on language skills and preparing students for their first extended stay with Thai families, especially their Thai high-school-aged "sibling," and their week at a Thai high school.

Off to Nong Bua Lumpoo!

-The Instructor team

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Thailand, Summer 2009

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Postponing Our Border Crossing into Laos

Virada Chatikul,Thailand, Summer 2009

Description

Our itinerary indicated that we would be spending this past weekend in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, in order to renew our Thai visas as well as learn about Lao culture and its relationship to Thailand. However, upon learning new Thai re-entry procedures that now only allow a 15-day stay in Thailand upon re-entry (as […]

Posted On

07/19/09

Author

Virada Chatikul

WP_Post Object
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Standing...Standing...Standing...Lifting..lifting...lifting....moving...moving...moving...

lowering...lowering...lowering...treading...treading....treading...

These were the words that we were supposed to repeat continueslly and at times extremely monotonously through our heads while practicing walking meditation. The goals of sitting meditation and walking meditation were to learn how to control out mind in order that we would be able to get rid of suffering and any malignant feelings from sleepyness to hatred. In addition, the goal was to be able to follow one thought from the cause or it and the result of it, gaining wisdom by learning the how to control your mind. Sadly, none of us from the 5 hours a day of meditation were able to reach this state of mind no anything near nirvana. Let's just say, for me, it was extremely painstaking and tideous. My busy life at home, juggling homework, sports, friends, insterments, family and other activities made me have an inate nature to try to control time and know how much longer there was to go. The first step of meditation for me was to realize that: 1. I cannot control time 2. Time is a constant that will always be there so there is no need to try to control it 3. I have no where i need to be, I dont need to know how much long 4. Be in the present moment. If I had just learned that from my medition I would have reached my own special Nirvana. However, by the secound day I was able to release my anxiety about time and just be present in the moment of meditation. It came to the point where I did not even notice 30 minutes of sitting pass. In day 2 and 3 I was able to become more "intune" with my mind and hold a constant pattern or awareness in my brain for at least a minute without any other thoughts disrupting it. For me, this was an extreme accomplishment. Having the pillow or safty pack now to know that when my school life starts up again I have this option to just take 1 minutes and forget about time. To release the anxiety and be able to focus on one thought or one piece of homework more thoroughly than before. I will prize this new piece of knowledge and ability for the rest of my life.

On another note, the photohere is a statue taken from the Monastery we were staying that. One of the aspects of Bhuddism that has stood out to me compared to other religions is the acceptance and continual reminder of suffering and death: in their book of chants there is one prayer where it said: (PARAPHRASED) we are all going to die, it is the one certain thing, our bodies will decay and become as useful as a piece of wood. The Bhudda is shown as when he suffered and became Ascetic. Unlike in other religions where Zues is only potrayed as strong and powerful, or Vishnu as divine, Bhuddism comes face to face with the suffering of man kind. I guess the Crucifiction in Christainity shows the same thing, However, that is focused on ones mans suffering to save the rest rather than the fact that all people will suffer. Medition is the only true way out from suffering.

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Thailand, Summer 2009

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An Attempt At Nirvana

Abby Schneider,Thailand, Summer 2009

Description

Standing…Standing…Standing…Lifting..lifting…lifting….moving…moving…moving… lowering…lowering…lowering…treading…treading….treading… These were the words that we were supposed to repeat continueslly and at times extremely monotonously through our heads while practicing walking meditation. The goals of sitting meditation and walking meditation were to learn how to control out mind in order that we would be able to get rid of suffering and any […]

Posted On

07/16/09

Author

Abby Schneider

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    [post_date] => 2009-07-11 00:00:00
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On the last day of our Trek we climbed to the highest summit in the MaeHongSon area. We were hoping to experiance amazing veiws and even be able to see the town of MaeHongSong. However, we quickly realized that this wasnt going to be the case at all. About an hour into our hike we became surrounded by a heavy fog. It came to the point where we were not able to see 10 feet ahead of us. When we were 30 minutes away from the top and had already passed the treeline we kept on see what we thought was the top of the mountain. However, after reaching the top of that mound we were faced with an even steeper one. This continueded to happen about 5 times.

When we finnaly reached the top it was as if we had reached Nirvana. And as one of the instucters said if there was a place in which you could communicate with the gods this would be it. We could only see the hill we were standing on and nothing else except extreme whiteness. It was cold, and rainy, and not what we had expected at all. This made it that much better.

Now, for the metaphor. (not to be cliched or anything). Every step of this trip has been one little mountain after another. When we have accomplished one thing such as communitacating to our homestay family about eating restrictions and sharing songs from our opposite cultures we are then faced with the challenge of finding our way around the city of Chiangmai. When we finish our metaphorical trek to the end of this program, my ideas on how I will change (the beautiful landscape at the top of the mountain), I am now realizing are not going to be the way I see them at all (the drastic fog). The suprises of what comes ahead might be strenous. However making it to the top of those little hills leading to the summit will make it worth it.

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Thailand, Summer 2009

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Fog Vs. Gorgous Views

Abby Schneider,Thailand, Summer 2009

Description

On the last day of our Trek we climbed to the highest summit in the MaeHongSon area. We were hoping to experiance amazing veiws and even be able to see the town of MaeHongSong. However, we quickly realized that this wasnt going to be the case at all. About an hour into our hike we […]

Posted On

07/11/09

Author

Abby Schneider

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    [post_content] => we have descended from the mountains where the kuren villagers subside, and have made our way to cheng mai only after the longest most painful busride of all our lives. we took a course on thai cooking and i am still alive after eating my own food. its a giant step for me and many of the others who are culinarily challenged. I hope to catch up on some last sleep and get ready for 3 days of silent mediation.
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Thailand, Summer 2009

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more thailand

asher lovesky,Thailand, Summer 2009

Description

we have descended from the mountains where the kuren villagers subside, and have made our way to cheng mai only after the longest most painful busride of all our lives. we took a course on thai cooking and i am still alive after eating my own food. its a giant step for me and many […]

Posted On

07/11/09

Author

asher lovesky

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    [post_date] => 2009-07-11 00:00:00
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I wanted to share all of the amazing poets we have discovered in each of the students on the Thailand program.

The instructors assigned a haiku reflection during the middle of our crazy trekking experience in Mae Hong Son. Below are the results, some silly, some serious, some super on it. All wonderful and unique.

Keep on writing.

Colorfulness trek

furry caterpillar bite

pink grimey beetles

- Lupita

Bubbling Blisters

mucky poopy mudslide pants

leeches bite my toes

- Margot

Sweaty men trek woods

we sing lots of awesome songs

caterpillars suck

- Asher

Muddy slippering

Different differences

Flowing waterfalls

- Julianna

The caterpillar

Fuzzy, hairy, black and white

Please do not touch it

- Hannah

Theres's the highest tree

Nope the next one is taller

stretching to the sky

- Abby

Silence falling through

the wild green envelops all

slowly passes by

- Julian

Quiet Rivers grow

they drip spores that walk on me

itching murky dreams

- Jenny

Bamboo forest paths

water plays among the rocks

the trekkers walk on

- Nicholas

Mud slides leeches rain

village on the horizon

warm bamboo waiting

- Virada (Gop)

Little bamboo stick

I think blisters are worth it

Oh crap down we go!

- unknown

Jungle names for all

mountains so tall do not slip

you might slip and fall

- James

I'm sorry if I mixed up who wrote which haiku....no one put names on the notecards so I had to go off of memory.

The caterpillars were of extreme interest to us all because they were quite large, furry like with 2 inch long hair, like a thick web and our guides told us they are poisonous to the touch. Good thing we steered clear of the little creatures!

More art and prose to come.

Jenny

Ps Coral I couldn't find yours...was it the unknown one? Or was that Gus's?

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Thailand, Summer 2009

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Trekking Haikus

All,Thailand, Summer 2009

Description

I wanted to share all of the amazing poets we have discovered in each of the students on the Thailand program. The instructors assigned a haiku reflection during the middle of our crazy trekking experience in Mae Hong Son. Below are the results, some silly, some serious, some super on it. All wonderful and unique. […]

Posted On

07/11/09

Author

All

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    [post_date] => 2009-07-10 00:00:00
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It's difficult to write sometimes. An hour here, 2 maybe and then we're off, back in the present. Writing about what's happened and what's to come seems to take me away from whatever my goal was to be present every moment with all of you.

I have to say something, though. I want to share what's being created.

We have so little time to collect ourselves and the flow of these days melt like sweat down our faces and we watch the days soak into the past.

We've come so far in just twelve days. Bangkok and jet lag we overcame with street food and some yoga.

Sukothai by train and a homestay that would be a fun story to relive throughout the course.

You all had to work through the space issues, the feet issues, the food issues. And you're still working on it. You're laughing and you're learning and I'm so proud of you.

You are all confiding in us - Pui, Gop, Jen - and you're challenging yourselves and growing up. The first few days you struggled to say hello and thank you and now you can say that in two languages. Thai and Bah gah ga yone. (Karen).

From ancient temples to cock-fighting camps to road-side stands selling ngok, it's been an adventure.

And the adventure continued most recentlyto the mountains of Mae Hong Son - three villages welcomed us. Ban Nam Hu, Ban Huay Gong, and Ban Huay Hee. You had to take showers in your patoons, you had to eat rice grown in the hills, you had to get down with the bamboo dishes and you swam across rivers....literally.

Mud didn't stop you.

Leeches may have found your toes, your legs, but they didn't stick.

Rain was annoying, but the sun came out the last day.

Children laughed with you even when you faltered.

Songs were sung - you showed your talents.

You climbed the highest mountain in Mae Hong Son.

You learned where your food comes from - wild pig!!!! Thank your pat tee and mah goo, na!

And slowly I begin tosee your individual faces. Talents for story-telling, singing, laughing. More reserved, some, more full of energy that doesn't alwaysfind the best outlets....

I see an earnest desire to learn, to share and to immerse yourselves in this place, for you're all too aware of time passing and the moments slipping away from you.

I feel the same. That's why it's been hard to stop and write. To stop and put down for the world all that's been changing, all that we've been seeing.

I am filled with wonder at the moments I get to share with each of you.....Asher, Julian, James, Gus, Julianna, Nicholas, Lupita, Margot, Coral, Abby, Hannah.

We're back from 4 days in the jungle. You're all super dirty, but smiling. I am thankful you're all safe. Next stop, Chiang Mai, tonight.

We're off exploring more of Thailand's northern region. A temple stay to come, adventures in Thai Cooking and a day to explore on your own.

I want to honor the efforts and encourage even more questions.

I'll be posting your haiku's from the trek shortly and some photos.

Tah-bleau,

Pii Jen

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Thailand, Summer 2009

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Through Your Eyes

Jenny "Pii Jen" Kane,Thailand, Summer 2009

Description

It’s difficult to write sometimes. An hour here, 2 maybe and then we’re off, back in the present. Writing about what’s happened and what’s to come seems to take me away from whatever my goal was to be present every moment with all of you. I have to say something, though. I want to share […]

Posted On

07/10/09

Author

Jenny "Pii Jen" Kane

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    [post_date] => 2009-07-05 00:00:00
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    [post_content] => 

The differences can be amazing.

You would think that going from Berkeley, California, where hippes prance along telegraph with without shirts to Sukhothai, Thailand, where it is not pri proi for even a young man to expose his shoulders, would strike you with contrast. In moments, it does; when we watch Asher and Gus dig their teeth into fried fish after triumphantly managing to say "dat blah" to a laughing old woman working as a street vendor; when we attempt with great grimace to utilize squat toilets; when the boys are notable to sleep shirtless, lest they offend our hosts. Sometimes, though, we forget, moving so quickly in Thailand from place to place, gaping at the ruins and shoveling down rice, that these are not really our lives; there are merely snapshots.

Today, when we came to our guesthouse, we remembered.

The moment we entered, after living all in one room (boys and girls) at our beloved Pi Pui's mother's house, the Coral and Margot and I exclaimed with joy. We heard literal shrieks of delight from the girls next to us, and gratitude so great that at our meeting later ill have no idea what they're saying, and we're staying each night without our instructors or each other. but we get to to help take care of the kids and stuff like that, so it's all good.
i got supersunburned (like it started blistering) when we went to sukhothai ruins but now you can see my freckles.
tell me about your normal american life where you have showers, nonrice, and clean clothes. all of that feels impossibly far away.Hannah stood up and thanked the instructors for letting us stay in a place so nice and comfortable.

While we were waiting in our room for that meeting, we were talking, and one of us mentioned how, in America, we would feel completely ripped off. The beds we were so unbelievably grateful for after sleeping on mats on the floor? Impossible stiff. The bathroom we no longer had to share with fifteen people? The shower was right over the toilet! Thetele we couldn't even believe was there? It hardly worked, and certainly didn't play DVDs. A fan instead of air-conditioning, a toilet that only weakly flushed, a small space, little to ourselves--which seemed like all the wide-open wonder in the world to us after cramming eleven energetic teenagers into one place. To us, our guesthouse is the Ritz, full of luxery and superflous Western gadgets. A week and a half ago what we we have thought?

Certainly something different.

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Thailand, Summer 2009

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Differences

Julianna Meagher,Thailand, Summer 2009

Description

The differences can be amazing. You would think that going from Berkeley, California, where hippes prance along telegraph with without shirts to Sukhothai, Thailand, where it is not pri proi for even a young man to expose his shoulders, would strike you with contrast. In moments, it does; when we watch Asher and Gus dig […]

Posted On

07/5/09

Author

Julianna Meagher

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It's been about a week so far into the trip and if there's one thing I've learned about Thailand, it's that its people is just as amazing, if not even more amazing, as its scenery. At the moment, all of us have the knowledge of a five-year old from Thailand. Despite that, we still manage to order food and buy fruits at the markets here.

For the past couple of days, we've been staying at Pui's mom's house. It's pretty much unanimous that she is one of the most amazing people ever, especially because ofher patience with our lack of knowledge of Thai culture and language. One of the things I love about her is the fact that we can manage to laugh even though we never really understand each other.

However, now that we've left our mom (yes, she isalso our mom and we are her children), we'recontinuing our trip around Thailand. Tomorrow we're going to trek through various villages andlearn about the minorities in Thailand. We have to leave to return to our guest house (it's like an inn!) soon, so I'll leave this yak yak how it is (well,I also don't havemuch more to say). We won't have internet access for about a week, so we won't be able to post our next yak yaks until after our trek.

Lovey'all

Coral

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Thailand, Summer 2009

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Put your feet down!

Coral Fung Shek,Thailand, Summer 2009

Description

It’s been about a week so far into the trip and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Thailand, it’s that its people is just as amazing, if not even more amazing, as its scenery. At the moment, all of us have the knowledge of a five-year old from Thailand. Despite that, we still manage […]

Posted On

07/5/09

Author

Coral Fung Shek

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Well, we just left Sukhothai today. We spent a few hot days biking around the ancient city and living at Pui's house. Everyone loves her mom, who laughed with us and taught us to cook delicious meals. I know my mom and maybe other parents were curious about the different jobs we had. So, I will explain my job while in Sukhothai. Abbie andI were cooks. Meaning, we got to help prepare dinner every night. We became especially skilled at chopping veggies and peeling garlic, lots of garlic. On our last night, the kids planned and cooked the meal. Abbie and I whipped up some delicious garlic bread as a little break from our Thai meals.

Instead of giving a whole generalized itinerary, I also wanted to talk about one of my favorite parts of Sukhothai. We got to spend a lot of time lookng at craftsmen at work. We watched woodworkers and potters, create beautiful pieces of art from scratch. My favorite woman helped me sculpt an elephant out of clay and then gave all of us little gifts to take home. It was amazing to see the whole process, start to finish and to participate ourselves.

Now, we are preparing to leave for our trekking, so we will be out of contact for a while. We are all living the dream in our slightly more westernized guest house, before we spend the next few nights in little minority villages.

I think we are all looking forward to excercise after a long day of travel.

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Thailand, Summer 2009

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pottery and lots of cooking

Hannah Bahn,Thailand, Summer 2009

Description

Well, we just left Sukhothai today. We spent a few hot days biking around the ancient city and living at Pui’s house. Everyone loves her mom, who laughed with us and taught us to cook delicious meals. I know my mom and maybe other parents were curious about the different jobs we had. So, I […]

Posted On

07/5/09

Author

Hannah Bahn

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Sawasdee from Mae Hong Son!

We've just arrived in the province of Mae Hong Son! We had a wonderful few days in Sukhothai - biking around the old city, daily language lessons and helping Pui's momwith house chores. Students can now introduce themselves in Thai as well as name a few dishes and ask for prices.

Tomorrow, we will be starting our trek. We will be staying in different Karen villages each night. It has been raining here, so we expect some mud and stream crossings. It will be a big change to what we've experienced in Thailand so far, but the group is VERY pumped for the trek - especially after their first glimpse of the mountains from the plane ride to Mae Hong Son.

That being said - we will be out of touch for the next six days. And will have a chance to post again once we've returned from the jungle!

All the best,

The instructor team

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Thailand, Summer 2009

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Trekking in Mae Hong Son

Virada Chatikul,Thailand, Summer 2009

Description

Sawasdee from Mae Hong Son! We’ve just arrived in the province of Mae Hong Son! We had a wonderful few days in Sukhothai – biking around the old city, daily language lessons and helping Pui’s momwith house chores. Students can now introduce themselves in Thai as well as name a few dishes and ask for […]

Posted On

07/5/09

Author

Virada Chatikul

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