Category Archives: 2012 Thailand Learning Abroad Blog

Reflections before heading home from Thailand by Acacia

I cannot believe how close we are to heading back to the United States. Although I know I will miss the last three weeks of traveling around Thailand, I am ready to get back into a regular schedule with school, work, & lacrosse.

On Wednesday the 10th, we traveled to the southeast of Thailand for a day at the beach. It was gorgeous there with water clearer than I had seen in Thailand so far & almost no clouds in the sky. Although I applied & reapplied sunscreen, I still managed to get burnt. After spending a few hours at the beach we traveled to Prachinburi & this is where we stayed for the night. The hotel was beautiful with small pools of water all over the grounds & an infinity pool to swim in that overlooked a small lake. After we had dinner at the hotel restaurant a group of us played a very intense game of Phase 10. The next day we went off to our last & final visit of our three week trip– a hospital that specializes in using herbal medicines. I found the lecture to be very interesting, especially hearing about what the different herbals are meant to heal. After the lecture we were taken to the herbal shop where we were allowed to buy / test a variety of products.

After three weeks of traveling around Thailand it is extremely hard to pick my favorite part. On the more adventure side, the elephant riding & ziplining are definitely what stands out. On the academic side I enjoyed the lecture & tour of the Bumrungrad International Hospital, as well as the visit to Hill Area & Community Development Foundation (HADF), which included a lecture & a visit to a hill tribe.

Only a few more days left before we head back to the United States– I will definitely be taking everything during these last days. See you all soon!

Bangkok Experiences Post by Acacia

Bangkok has been anything but a disappointment for me & has been one of my favorite parts in our three weeks of traveling in Thailand. For our first day of visits we headed to The Grand Palace, Wat Po Temple, experienced a Thai massage, & explored the weekend market. The Grand Palace was definitely a tourist hot spot, it was very crowded throughout the grounds with people taking pictures, praying, & just admiring the beautiful surroundings. On our tour of the temple we were allowed to see the Emerald Buddha. On the outside the temple looked huge, but walking inside it’s about half the size that you expect it to be, but I believe the beauty of everything in this temple definitely made up for the lack of space inside. Our next stop was to the Wat Po Temple, which is home to the huge Reclining Buddha. This Buddha was amazing & definitely was a site to see. The Wat Po Temple is known as the birthplace of the Thai massage, which leads us to the next visit. We walked a few blocks to the massage school where we were introduced to the fundamentals of this specific type of massage. From my understanding Thai massage puts pressure on specific pressure points & a variety of stretches to release blockages in the muscles & joints. After the lecture we were able to enjoy our own half hour Thai massage. It felt so good & definitely relieved pressure from my shoulders. Our last visit was to the weekend market, which is way bigger than I ever imagined. While here we completed a short scavenger hunt created by the professors & did quite a bit of shopping. Of course when we were on our way out was when we found our most favorite places to shop. We were able to find our way back to the hotel using the sky train system, which I found to be extremely convenient & easy to use.

On Monday the 9th we had two visits arranged; first a lecture at the Ministry of Public Health & the second a lecture & tour at Bumrungrad International Hospital. My favorite visit was to the international hospital, which had an appearance of a five-star hotel more than being an actual hospital. All the departments seemed so simple & straight forward. For example, in one of the clinics there would be– the registration, any pre-testing required for the appointment, the actual appointment with the doctor (which takes place in the doctor’s actual office), the cashier to pay for the appointment, & a pharmacy if a prescription is required– all on one level for the patients. One of the departments that really caught my eye was the pediatrics department. Everything about this department was directed towards children. It included a play set for them, there was a fun colorful design throughout the whole department, & the staff appeared to have a more playful personality compared to other departments. Overall the visit to Bumrungrad International Hospital was quite successful & very eye opening. Visiting this hospital makes me wonder why the United States does have / run a hospital compared to this one. On my return home I plan to research further into this question.

On Tuesday, we also had two visits arranged; Foundation for Slum Child Care & a lecture regarding diabetes at Theptarin Hospital. The part of the day that most impacted me was the visit to the child care center. We began with a lecture giving us a background of the foundation. However, my favorite part of the visit was being able to interact with all the children. By the time we arrived they were just finishing their lunch & were off to take a nap. Our group helped with giving the children baths, drying & applying powder on each of them, dressing them in their uniforms, & helping them fall asleep. I was in the room where I helped them fall asleep. They were all so cute & knew exactly what to do upon entering the room; they would find a pillow & mat then a person would rub their backs until they fell asleep. I have definitely missed working with children so I tried to take every moment I had with them in.

Bangkok Slum Area Child Care Post by Kari Lawrence

After the past 3 weeks in Thailand I think interacticing with the kids at the slum child care was the most rewarding experience I have had on this trip. According to the Foundation for Slum Child Care, 20% of Bangkok’s population lives in what is called squatter communitites. This brings the total number of residents of the slums to 2 million, 10% of which are children less than 5 years old! The Foundation for Slum Child Care’s goal is to provide quality care to these babies and children who are part of that 10%. In addition to it’s main location in Klong Toey slum child care has 4 other houses located in other slums in Bangkok. All these houses together provides care to a total of 200 children a day! What makes slum child care unique, however, is it’s mission to improve the parenting quality of these children’s parents. After our lecture we got a chance to play with the younger children and help some of the children fall asleep for nap time. It was great to be able to be a part of something so important, even if it was only for a little while. It would have been amazing to be able to volunteer there for a whole day, but I am glad to have been able to help out, even if it was only for a short amount of time.

Post by Amanda Brueshoff

This past Monday , January 9th, we had the privilege of visiting Bumrungrad International Hospital here in Bangkok. I had never heard of this hospital before Monday and now am a little surprised that I hadn’t – it seems like such a prestigious place that i feel like everyone should know about it! Before our lecture at the hospital began, we had time to eat in the lobby of the building. At this point when we all walked around the food court, I still had no idea that we were actually IN the hospital. The building is designed in such a way that the standard hospital/doctor’s office “feel” does not exist. Rather, I felt like I was in an upscale hotel or on a cruise ship getting lunch – we later learned that this was done intentionally so patients would not have that “I’m in a hospital” feeling, as it usually evokes mostly negative emotions. So, as far as the set up of the facility itself, I was impressed from the start.

After lunch, we sat in for a very interesting and informative lecture about the hospital from the CEO Mark Banner who is an American and has held his position at this hospital for the past 7 years. I enjoyed his presentation and his description of how they really try to cater to both the local and international patient. He said when providing care for “expats” or medical tourists, they ensure high quality care, low price and easy access. I was particularly surprised when he told us that treatment here costs are approximately 1/8 the price of what they are in the U.S. What a deal! They even have a system where they allow international clients to use frequent flier miles to cover costs for medial tourism. It sounded like an amazing system, very organized and focused on what is best for the patient – just how it should be. The cheap costs over here are also what allowed for the construction of such an amazing and classy building. We toured the facility and I again could hardly believe I was in a hospital. The patient rooms, lounges, waiting rooms, even reception areas all looked like they belonged to a hotel or display in an Ikea store. It was pretty fascinating. The organizational structure and different sections that the hospital was separated into also made it appealing. There are two sides to the facility, a Thai side (to focus on specific care needs for locals) and an International side. It was fun to walk around the international portion as we saw people from all corners of the world – Europe, America, Middle East… very interesting. Of course, I do not hope to have to be in a hospital any time soon, but if I do ever need certain care, the Bumrungrad Hospital seems like an ideal facility to do the job! I was very informed and impressed that day.

The next day, Tuesday, we had the JOY of visiting the Foundation for Slum Child Care (FSCC). We first met in one of the office buildings to discuss with staff the mission of the FSCC. This foundation has created four different daycare centers for infants to children up to age 5 who come from underprivileged families/situations. Most are from low-income households with young parents who are likely to have involvement with drugs and/or alcohol. It was really heartbreaking to hear about the situations that some of these kids are in but in turn, it was very heartwarming to hear about how these care centers operate and focus on creating better situations for the child and their parents. They work to form a better daily routine, give proper meals and education to the children – they also stress parental involvement and parenting education so that there is more of a family dynamic created. The mission and passion described from this staff during our lecture was really uplifting for me and touching to see/hear about. The best part of the day, however, was getting to see and interact with the kids.

After our discussion, we walked over to the daycare center next door and came directly into the eating area, which was wide open to the yard outside. We seemed to have caught the kids in the middle of meal clean-up, as they were taking turns clearing their plates and washing their hands – and, of course, staring at us the whole while. We smiled and they stared – I can hardly imagine what they must have been thinking as 18 of us walked in there at once. We went upstairs to the nap room where we were each invited to help with the “nap-time” routine. Coming from working at a preschool at home, it was really fun for me to see such a similar process taking place. I went in the nap room and attempted to help the kids get changed. They were all SO cute and very curious – some hesitant, others smiling and energized by our presence. They had little mats and pillows on the floor and we were helping them calm down so they could sleep. This seemed pretty difficult at first, especially with a bunch of strangers in the room. A few of the kids would cry when they saw us, but most just wanted to see who we were. I had the privilege of sitting with this one small boy, who I was later told had just turned one, and while he cried at first, I went over to him and patted his back, talking to him in a soft voice. Though he probably could not understand one word I said, it seemed to work as he calmed down and then let me hold him for a while. Eventually he was pointing at things and laughing; when I put him down, he would climb on my lap and look at me curiously. It reminded me so much of my work with kids back in Minnesota – it’s funny how little kids are always kids, no matter where in the world you go or what the circumstances are – they simply want security, love and attention. I was nice to see that these children all looked healthy and happy, and they made all of us happy as well. The already positive mood in our group was elevated through our interactions with the kids that day. I like that these types of interactions bring out a different, softer, more compassionate side of people and it was great to be about to see all of us bring that out during this outing. Finally, we actually DID get all of the kids asleep and then it was time to leave. On the way out, I met and spoke with an employee there who told me she had been working at the daycare for 8 months now – she is a retiree from the U.K. and wanted to do something meaningful post-retirement… “what a great way to fill your time!”, I told her. Very fulfilling work, I can imagine. I liked hearing that as I left the building. Many of us discussed how we’d like to comeback and volunteer here again someday – it is such a great foundation and after seeing all of these cute little kids, we all wished we could stay with them all day. Maybe there will be room in the future for further involvement with the foundation – I’d love to come back for that. We’ll see! But again, it was another day well spent in Thailand!

Communicating across languages… Post by Naomi Timm

While I’ve found myself lost in translation several times in the land of smiles, there is one sound that is simply a universal language. The sound of a child’s laugh. Yesterday we went to the slum child care center, a nongovernmental organization that provides child care and family outreach programs within the slums of Bangkok. These slums started becasue country people moved to the city in hopes for better jobs and more money. However, the transition causes unforseen problesm such as higher costs of living and displacement from extended family who would normally provide child care. So what ends of happening is families will leave their children with neighbors and community members with limited resources and difficult and crowded conditions. The Foundation for Slum Child Care (FFSCC)goes out to these home day cares and helps make them a better environment for the kiddos alongside with maintaining their own child care center.

This visit was my favorite site of the entire trip! We were able to actually interact and play with the kiddos! Some of the kids had a look of shock on their faces and seemed scared of all of us big tall farangs. Actually we later found out it was because of our blonde hair- the only light haired people they see are elderly. But many of the kids took really well to us foreigners and we all found ourselves a little buddy to hold and put to sleep.

My heart went out to all the adorable little kiddos. Even though I knew they couldn’t understand the words I was speaking, I knew they felt my guinune compassion towards their wellbeing . Most of these kids come from broken drug influenced home environments- the director said that they generally accept the children from the worst conditions. I loved being able to provide these kiddos the attention and love that they so desperately desired. Part FFSCC approach to their family outreach program is to help parents help themselves. They want parents to know its their responsibility to focus and provide for their child’s needs. FFSCC offers parenting classes for these families and tries to change their attitude. The program director said, “We try to get to their hearts and remind them what it was like to be a child, because once you open their hearts you can thow all kinds of knowlegde into it.” I really appreciated this mentality and found it interesting that the foundation shared my same belief that change and societal progress stems within each and every family.

Human Trafficking Post by Kiara Malone

When entering Thailand I had a fear of human trafficking. After watching various movies and documentaries about travelers being kidnapped and sold into the sex trade while overseas I was very nervous, especially being in a country that was not English speaking. My first journey in Thailand without a professor was in Chiang Mai, a heightened anxiety about the people around was enough to make me think going outside alone again wasn’t going to happen for the rest of the trip. Much to my relief a seminar on human trafficking was on the agenda. Human trafficking is an especially heinous crime in my eyes. Stealing someone’s ability to control what happens to their body whether that is by force or psychological manipulation is a tragedy I’m not sure one could ever recover from.

The most surprising part of this lecture was that most men and women in the sex trade are not forced by violence, only psychological manipulation. These victims are held by the pimps or owners of the brothels because of an overwhelming amount of ‘debt’ that is accrued in many different ways. Some of these victims are underage and their parents have sold them beginning the amount of debt that they need to work off. What my biggest question was after listening to the lecture was what was so important about leaving behind a debt? If I was being held against my will I could care less how much of this so called debt was mine that I would need to work off. Escaping would be my only state of mind. I then started thinking about the Thai people that I have met so far, after learning a little about the culture I see that they highly value morals and the idea of ‘doing the right thing’ when it concerns people. So I draw the conclusion that maybe they are able to be bound by psychological means because of this cultural responsibility to do right by people. But that means even if they have wronged you, so if you escape before you pay off your debt in a sense you’re stealing from them. This theory could be completely off base but it has registered to me and will be something to continue looking into

It’s not the Bangkok in Hangover 2! post by Kiarra McCain

Experiencing Bangkok for the first time was intense. What made it intense weren’t the people, the interesting smells or the massive areas of shopping, but the movie, The Hangover 2. What I like about this observation is the fact that we dealt with a chapter that’s very similar to my experience.

As an assignment, each room was required to read a chapter out of the assigned text and teach it to the group. Doing so, we all would gain additional knowledge about a particular section in the book, ask questions to each other about the reading and discuss the overall concepts or emotions that were experienced when reading. Kiara and I discussed a chapter titled “The Bridge to Yesterday”. In this chapter the narrator talks about an important bridge that’s from his native land, which he learned about through watching a film. The film represents the bridge as a fictional piece of the story, but he later gets the opportunity to go and visit the bridge and learn about the history it holds. Like the narrator, I too had my own thoughts about a place that I had never been strictly because of a movie.

Because of Hangover Two, I had a lot of notions about Bangkok. I thought it would be extremely dirty and filled with craziness polar opposite of the city life in the US. However, I now know that those ideas were false. Yes partying in Bangkok isn’t hard, but neither is it in any big city. Yes being pick-pocketed is something to be concerned about, but I would hold my purse very close to me during rush hour in New York City as well. The point that’s being made is a lot of learning comes from experiencing a place first hand. While it’s easy to say that opinions shouldn’t come from the media when clearly most media messages are misrepresentative, we all are guilty of doing so. I do realize that I am extremely blessed to have this opportunity and not many people will get the chance to experience places that they see on TV; however it’s still just as important to be willing to learn outside of popular media and be open to being corrected. Lesson learned.

SHOPPING Post by Kiara Malone

SHOPPING! When travelling abroad one of the things that seems to take up a good amount of time is the shopping. In Thailand this has been no different. The best place I have shopped at so far has been the Sunday market in Chiang Mai, since this was the first city that we were going to I decided not to buy as much but as the week is dwelling down I regret not getting as much. Bangkok seems to be the land of the knock off items. Finding the handcrafted objects that are so intricately designed by Thai people is what the treasure of these markets are, in Chiang Mai there were the most beautifully sculpted pieces of jade, wood, and metal. From elephants, Buddha’s, clocks, wall hangings, frames, and numerous other objects. While searching through all of these objects you can’t help but notice the smells of the different types of vendors’ foods. Good smells like curry spices, lemongrass, and teas or unpleasant smells like dried fish, eggs, and sewer. But these things are all a part of the atmosphere of the markets.

While looking through the market I’m always doing a mental list of my loved ones at home that I need to bring souvenirs back for and here it is 4 days before departure and I can only just now start to decide what I want to bring back home with me. But I suppose the mere memories of the bargaining, smells, stares of people, crowds, children, and treasures of the market will be a part of the experience that will serve as a much better souvenir

Human Trafficking Post by Kiarra McCain

Human trafficking was a hard topic. The lady did a great job at presenting the information. She talked about the process that they take to recover the women and children and there was a view thing’s that stuck out to me. Their process is very intensive. They have a very inclusive way of looking at the rescue, from the police officers to the social workers. In America I have always heard of social workers being the last piece of the puzzle. While they have a very important job, they often don’t get treated like they do but here they are very apart of the system. Social workers are on the scene when the women and children are rescued. After the police clears the area and assures that it’s safe, the social workers come in and directly work with the victims. Our speaker explained that this is done to show the victim support from the start of the healing process to the ending. She mentioned how police officers could be less compassionate (not purposely but just given the job their there to do) and this could ruin the relationship and growth of the victims. In this rescue system, all trained parties are there to do the job they do best, and the victims are better off because of it.

Another interesting piece to this rescue was the sad stories of some of the victims. Apparently, most victims are in the sex business to pay off debt or have been in the business for so long that it becomes their only means of financial stability which makes rescues a little tricky. Some victims are under-age but tell say they are 20 years of age when the rescue happens. This is reported to the police because the pimps or controllers of that victim has instructed them to do so, so they want be arrested and continue to work. This saddens me. A lot of the people are strung out on drugs because of the pimps and have a habit that can only be fixed at the hand of their oppressor. While others may simple get in the sex business because they’re parents did it or sold them and there’s no way out; no matter the reason, these young people have a difficult pattern to try to break.

I certainly didn’t pass judgment on the young people that were exposed to this life, I merely felt sad. I was sad that in 2012 this kind of business still exists and most importantly, sad that people or Johns still support them. The hardest part about it all is there is no quick solution, you can educate and be educated but unfortunately that’s not going to be enough. And as of right now, I’m not sure what is.

Bangkok Traffic Post by Kari Lawrence

To everyone at home who has to deal with rush hour traffic to or from work everyday, it could be worse! On our way to our lecture by the minister of public health the other day, we hit the worst traffic I have ever experienced. Our location couldn’t have been more than 20 miles away from our hotel, but believe it or not we spent almost two hours in the bus trying to get there! Every travel book I flipped through before coming here mentioned that the Thais were very patient people who hardly ever let anger get the best of them. After sitting in that traffic, I’m not sure how they do it! Just another thing that makes Bangkok unique I guess! Needless to say, you won’t hear me complaining about rush hour traffic in Minnesota anymore!