Category Archives: 2017 Thailand Learning Abroad Blog

Blog Post #2 // Liz

Wherever you may find yourself in the world there is always a public health issue or initiative to be discovered. As I set off on my first trip to Asia I was looking forward to identifying the public health issues that Thailand faces and also to seeing the ways that they are promoting public health throughout their communities.
As we boarded our bus at the airport upon arrival I immediately noticed that there was a sign at the front reminding us to fasten our seat belts. I was impressed to see this and it only raised my excitement level as I had my first taste of a positive public health promotion initiative in Thailand.
I got the chance to dig deeper into one of the many challenges that Thailand faces on our very first day in Bangkok as I attended the ChildSafe Workshop. During this workshop we learned about the human trafficking issues that many children in Thailand deal with. I was shocked to learn that nearly 90% of children living in orphanages actually have one or more parents alive and that they are trafficked into orphanages in order to make money off of tourists. During the workshop we were given a pamphlet with 7 things to remember in order to be a Child Safe traveler. I was very impressed by the amount of knowledge that the organization had and by the amount of effort they put into spreading awareness.
I have also been impressed by Thailand’s sexual health promotion on several occasions throughout the trip. As I was buying a chocolate bar at the gas station across the street from our hotel one night I noticed that the register displays contained boxes of condoms rather than the tabloid magazines you commonly find in the United States. I was also happy to hear that at the Chiang Dao school we visited there are comprehensive sexual health education courses taught to all of the students. It seems to me that Thailand is very proactive in their curriculum and that they are doing a great job of providing health information for students.
One final thing that I have noticed during our time traveling throughout different cities is that there are several building dedicated to public health services. I have seen an office for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, an office run by the World Health Organization and the teachers at the school visit told us there was a public health community clinic located nearby. I am somewhat surprised, but very glad to see that Thailand seems to have the infrastructure needed to tackle the public health challenges it may be facing.
As we continue our trip I am really looking forward to our visit to the Cabbages and Condoms Restaurant that promotes family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention. Public health problems are inevitable, but awareness and action are necessary to limit their detrimental effects.



Blog 2: First Week In Thailand!

Sawatdee, Ka! This first week has been a rollercoster of activities. We started out with the longest plane ride I’ve ever been on. Once in Bangkok we went to a Child Safe Workshop. In the morning we woke up and had an unusual breakfast. The food was regular breakfast, but on top of it there was curry, rice, bread, sushi and more. Once breakfast was over it was back on the plane to Chaing Mai.

In Chaing Mai we went to a Khan Toke Dinner. This was a traditional Thai dinner to welcome us to Thailand. We sat on the floor and leaned back as we ate authentic cuisine and watched traditional dance preformances.

The next day we went to a local market, it was a little like a farmers market. This was so different than what we see in the U.S. Usually we see veggies and fruits ,  as well as some canned goods. However, one thing we don’t see — entire animals on slabs of ice. There were also fresh fish that they butchered right in front of you. We were going to a cooking class and needed some coconut cream. The cook ordered us 5 lbs of the cream. We got to sit and watch as the man made the cream. The coconut was carved and then shredded, finally moved to the juicer. It  was really awesome to see “how it was made” right there at the market.

The food we made at the cooking school was Tomyum Soup,


Phanaeng Curry

and Mangos with Sticky rice.

Every recipe was different. The food had more flavor and spiciness than I am used to. It was also interesting because there was a good amount of things that went into the soup that were uneatable. This is something not typically found in most American houses.

The food by far has been a favorite. I can’t wait to see how breafast changes everyday.  It’s going to have to beat the Thai donuts with dipping sauce that has been apart of our meal for 4 days. Tomorrow we headout of Chaing Mai and into our village. Can’t wait!


Blog #2: Same, Same, but Different – Anna Borromeo

Sawatdee ka!

The first week in Thailand has already come and gone, and I have already learned so much. As a Filipino-American, I have been finding myself constantly comparing my observations in Thailand to the United States and the Philippines. A common phrase heard in Thailand is “same, same, but different,” and I think this phrase accurately describes my experience in Thailand thus far.

When we first arrived in Bangkok, my initial observations were of the road infrastructure. I was really impressed by the construction of the highways and organization of traffic. I found it different to the Philippines but similar to the US, except that the lanes and driver’s side switched. On one of the first nights, I realized the difficulty of crossing streets as traffic seemed to be never-ending as we constantly had to check left and right. However, the drivers rarely honk, and they are not really as aggressive as those in the Philippines.

One thing I recently realized is the influence of the primary religion/philosophy on the people. In the Philippines, Roman Catholicism significantly influences the interactions between people and also the government. In the US, there is much diversity when it comes to religion, but Christianity is claimed to be the majority. We learned that in Thailand, 95% of the population is Buddhist. During our monk chat and visit to the local temple, Wat Suan Dok, we learned more about how Buddhism is a philosophy not a religion. Buddhism focuses on the belief in karma, what goes around comes around, and the practice of meditation and concentration. Pra KK emphasized that the future is impermanent and balance of the mind and body is key. Therefore, one should not be stressed. One should be simple, calm, take it easy. Through my experiences and interactions with local people this past week, I can observe the Buddhist philosophy within them as people are soft-spoken and move at a slower pace (which I even observed in their traditional dances). The Thai people are so friendly, respectful, welcoming, and peaceful!

A couple of my favorite outings were the traditional Khantoke dinner and the Thai cooking class in the beautiful landscape of Chiang Mai.

This post is just a snippet of all the great things and experiences we have had the past week. I have thoroughly enjoyed each outing (and meal because the food here is delicious!). I am looking forward to more learning experiences over the next two weeks!

Blog Post #2 “The Respect Elders Deserve” – Matthew Fuller

One thing that really struck me in my first week in Thailand was the idea of socio-cultural environment through the Human Ecology Model. The socio-cultural environment can be described as relationships, beliefs, language, laws, and cultural values and norms. I find this idea a lot different in Thailand than in the United States. For instance, I feel that in Thailand the elders are much more respected and are looked upon as people with wisdom and experiences that can benefit the community. I am not saying it is non-existent in the U.S. but it seems to be much more apparent here in the culture. One experience I had was when we visited the Chiang Dao School, the kids were so awesome and extremely respectful of their teaches and faculty. They were not only respectful to them but also to us foreigners, always properly greeting and staying engaged. It was really cool to see. I think this is extremely important due to the fact not only can you learn from the experiences and wisdom of an elder, but I believe it brings a sense of unity and foundation for a  strong community.

Another thing I have noticed is the diversity in Thailand. There are so many rich cultures in Thailand that are so different from each other.   It seems that everyone has a sense of Thai nationality, but also has rich traditions that are unique to their specific culture. It was also saddening to hear that minority groups are discriminated by some Thai people.  When visiting Pha Nok Kok village I was immersed in the Hmong  culture and was blown away about their traditions and culture. I loved how I could relate differences and similarities to my own culture to a culture that I had no prior knowledge of before this trip. It was an unforgettable experience to say the least. I found it also really cool to see the Hmong students in the group get to speak with the locals of the village. My fellow classmate Sia, did a wonderful job translating to English for a village elder as he was speaking to us.

Overall, the first week has been a truly eye opening and an experience incomparable to anything that I have ever done. I have met so many wonderful people and learned so many things that I cannot wait to see what the next weeks are like!

Photo of Acharn Cathy and my classmates and I with students of the Chang Dao School.


First week in Thailand!

Thailand has been an absolutely amazing experience so far. Our days are jam-packed full of activities and it has kept me on my toes. The essence of Thailand is vastly different than the essence of America. The people here are all so hospitable.  Some people believe that respect is earned, while others believe respect is a given until proven otherwise. Everyone here seemingly believes that everyone deserves respect. Although Minnesota is known as the nice state, a lot of people aren’t naturally warm and kind towards strangers (especially in other states).  The people here are so refreshing with their warm nature and value of kindness and compassion.  America values independence. I do align with independence and doing things for myself, but I also love that in Thailand, people seem to look out for each other. The community is more cohesive than individualized. I am not saying one country is better than the other in this context, but I really do appreciate the mentality here. Moreover,  people just do tasks more organically over here. They aren’t anxiety driven about the future or doing things in the fastest way. For example, we visited a Hmong hill tribe village yesterday and they showed us how to make cloth for clothes and other products from scratch. We were shown the process of using the hemp that they plant and how to make it conducive for clothes, purses, blankets, etc.  The process   took time and concentration. It was beautiful to see that not everyone only cares about mass production and making money, but that people still do things the “old fashion way”. Below is a picture of the hemp being made into cloth in the Hmong village:

Going to the Buddhist temple and talking with a monk has been the experience that has catalyzed me to be the most introspective thus far. Learning about Buddhism from the source was so informative and touching. We learned that Buddhism is a philosophy, rather than a religion. Kay Kay was the name of the monk we talked to. Kay Kay explained to us that the key elements of Buddhism are to live your life with, love, compassion, peace and happiness. He explained that everyone suffers, but to combat suffering, we must acknowledge it and let it. Then, spread those elements into the world. Although I know that everyone suffers, it was nice to be reaffirmed that nobody  lives their lives without suffering. We get so caught up in wanting happier lives and less suffering because we think that other people have it easier than us and that we were for some reason cursed. We compare our lives to others instead of focusing on how we can find inner peace and happiness, and letting go of the things that make us suffer. I think that focusing on love and happiness is what the world needs. Kay Kay explained that anyone can follow Buddhism because it is just a philosophy to love by. I am Jewish, but I still find myself aligning with Buddhist elements and way of being. I am a very existential thinker, and it was a good reminder to hear that these elements are the aspects that will make suffering diminish. We cannot control everything, but we can control letting it go and stopping it from consuming us. Kay Kay was such a good reminder of how I can live in a happier and healthier way. Kay Kay also touched upon living in the moment. I align with this idea more than anything. I truly wish that more people were conscious of this idea. I think a lot of people live their lives acting like they have all the time in the world even though they don’t. He talked about the idea of a “one day life”. We should live in the moment because that is all we have. Having this concept reiterated was inspiring, and I am thankful I got to have that opportunity.

Wennicha – 2nd post

Sometimes we have to travel across the world to realize that everything we need is where we’ve always been – home.

My experience feels similar to “The Alchemist.” It’s a story about a boy who follows his legend because of a dream he had about going to the pyramids and finding a pot of gold. As he follows his legend, there are people that he meets along the way that help him, and others that negate his journey. He also meets his soul mate and doesn’t want to continue his legend because of infatuation. However, he eventually continues his legend in fear of regret, and digs the pyramid to only find out that the pot of gold he had dreamed of was actually hidden underneath his house.

I visited “Pha Nok Kok Village” with my classmates. It’s a Christian Hmong Village in Chaingmai and it’s been established there for about 50 years. We rode go carts, learned how to shoot bow and arrows, learned how hemp was made, and saw their beautiful acres of farmland.

Something that stood out to me throughout this trip was that many Hmong-Thai youth struggled very much when speaking Hmong. The Hmong students who I met at Chiang Dao Boarding School had a difficult time communicating to me, and some of the younger Hmong villagers that I met today also had a difficult time speaking Hmong to me too. I came to Thailand expecting to greet and converse in Hmong with Hmong brothers and sisters; I had the misconception that my people who lived here were the keepers of my culture. However, I now realize that we are all keepers to our culture. All around the world, Hmong people are assimilating, losing culture, and having conversations about how to preserve ethnic identity. At home in MN, we are no different than the Hmong-Thai. We struggle being Hmong, but we are also experts to our culture and people. I am where I need to be. We don’t have to travel thousands of miles to understand our history. There is not one place where everyone is perfectly Hmong. We are living it with the trauma and happiness of our parents and grandparents. We are living it currently with our education and profession.

My idea on being a Hmong person has definitely felt more pusposful since being on this trip.

Hot…So hot…Blog post 2

People would complain a lot about Minnesota’s summer weather, I was even one of them. However, after one week in Thailand I feel that their complaints are ironic. Here in Thailand, the temperature usually ranges from 80 to 100 Farenheight with “high” humidity. By “high” I mean high enough that if you walked down 2 blocks in the sun you would be guaranteed at least sweating in an area of your body; for those who sweat easily like me would have sweat forming in their face and body, followed by an everlasting stickiness. This, of course, is taken from the perspective of a foreigner from an area with only one hot season.

For the last 6 days that we have been, there was not a day that I did not sweat. By the end of the day all my upper body would be covered with sweat and stickiness. I only sweat this much when I play soccer but it’s like a never ending cycle here. However, always sweating can have a positive impact as well.

Thailand is like a detoxication system for foreigners. Every day you that you are sweating, you are detoxing. I think this detoxification gives a good balance with the food that we eat here. Everything that we eat contains some kind of toxin, and because the foods here are mixed with a plethora of flavors and spices and we tend to eat a variety of them on the streets, most foreigners do not really know what is in the food. For example, because I have been eating everything spicy for the past few days I feel that my stomach is always unsettling. The warm, humid weather helped detoxify my body and made it so that my body did not have to use the restroom so often. If I ate this much back in Minnesota, I think I would be in the restroom maybe 5-7 times a day.

There are more ways that Thailand’s hot and humid can benefit the body, but going deeper into would require many more paragraphs, so I will end it here.

So while Thailand’s climate is really hot and humid and makes foreigners sweat like crazy, it creates a balance with its amazing food by creating a detoxification system that sweats out the toxins in your body.



Blog Post #2 | Kia Lee

Being in Thailand has been an amazing experience so far. I’ve learned so much about the Thai people and their culture. One of the important topics that I have been learning about since our arrival is the youth who are at risk.

At the Child Safe workshop, I learned about the problems that youth at risk face– trafficking, drug addiction, abusive homes, poverty– and the programs that the organization, Child Safe, implement to help the youth. Child Safe has programs that are sustainable and serve to better the future of the youth that they work with more than anything else, such as vocational training and training families to manage their own shop.

Although I as a tourist may not be able to directly help a child from being at risk, I can be careful and smart about what I do. I should be aware of how I use my privileges as a tourist and know that my actions, even with the best intentions, may do more harm than good.

When we visited the Suksasongkroh Chiang Dao School, a school for youth at risk for grades primary through high school, I learned about the students’ academic schedule. The school is free for the students’ and their families, the students sleep in dormitories, they get free meals, and they must follow strict rules. There is only a 5% graduate rate because many students may choose to drop out or pursue other obligations. Most of the students are minorities from other ethnic groups and many of their parents are farmers. It was a humbling opportunity to play with the students and learn about their studies.

Learning about the youth in Thailand emphasizes how important it is to work with youth and care for them. These young people have a bright future but not many opportunities are open for them to succeed.

“The Balance of Life: Meet You in The Middle”

Sawadee ka thuk thuk  khn!! Hello everyone!!

The first week of learning and experiencing familiar (because I was born in Thailand) and different things in Thailand seemed surreal and heartwarming. From what I have experienced and learned thus far, the balance of life, as I agreed with the monk from our Monk Chat when we visited Wat Suan Dok, is my focus for this blog.

First, helping the less fortunate is something is a kind act that people should practice but there needs to be a balance in terms of how one serve or help. On Tuesday, I learned about the seven tips to protect children: treat children as children and not a tourist attraction; look for better ways to volunteer with children; do not give to begging children; call professionals to help children because they know best; report child sex tourism; report child labor; and be a ChildSafe Traveler. These tips reminded me that there needs to be a balance of how I can help children so that I am not perpetuating the cycle of children un-safety.

ChildSafe Speaker: M.

Secondly, learning how to cook the three Thai dishes at the Thai cooking class called Cooking@Home evoked the theme of balance for me as well. As a Hmong daughter, I considered myself an “education” daughter and not a “traditional” Hmong daughter. This means when it comes to education and cooking, I put all my time and effort into studying and doing school related activities and not on cooking. So yes, I am not a cook like my mother. As a Hmong daughter, I feel shameful when I think about my cooking skills. I want to be good at both school and cooking. Recently, I have come to a realization that I need a balance between studying and cooking. One reason is because I will not live with my parents for the rest of my life, for I will get marry and go live with my husband (and his family). Connecting back to the cooking class, I was inspired when the instructors emphasized that people have different tastes and so one can adjust the spice or substitute ingredients according to their preference when one cooks. This means balance to me. This actually inspired me to learn how to cook (from my mother and older sister) when I get back home. I look forward to using my time and effort in both the school and kitchen.  

Cooking@Home (:


Tum Yum Koong                                                          Sour and Spicy curry

Pad Thai

I felt blissful when we visited Suksasongkroh Chiang Dao School because I got to see Hmong, Lahu, Karen, Thai, and other tribal students, as well as talking with one of the teachers. From my observations, the students seemed shy but I also felt that they were excited to meet us, too. The small group talks and large group activities together were fun and diverse — I enjoyed every moment of it. There were many so-called balance examples from this memorable interaction, but I want to focus on the theme of balance of the strict rules of the school. The rules of the school were strict but I learned one of many reasons why during the teacher interview. It is because of balance. The students in this school are at risk whether it be being an orphan, an abused victim, and abandoned child. Thus, to ensure fairness, protection, and minimize problems within the students, the school set strict rules. This is a balance of the school; it is also something I consider “love for all children.”

Silly photo: my afternoon group at Suksasongkroh Chiang Dao School.

Finding the balance between two or more things is important because it can be harmful and destructive when one fails to interact or support children in the professional, best, respectful, and non-harming ways. It can be embarrassing and devaluing, for I do not yet have a balance between my education and cooking skill. It can be to control problematics behavior and situations, for the rules in the Suksasongkroh Chiang Dao School are strict. Overall, the first week of Thailand has provoked the importance of balance for me. I look forward to the next two weeks to find or analyze balances in the activities and knowledge I gain.

Kwap kuv ka thuk thuk khn!! (:

Culture Differences

One of my main objective coming to Thailand was to learn about the different cultures in Thailand. Since I am Hmong and was also born in a Thai refugee camp, I really interested in the Hmong culture here in Thailand. I want to see how different are the Hmong here compare to the Hmong in America. Before coming, I thought that that are very traditional and still do everything the same old fashion way.

By going to the Hmong village, I realized that their daily lives are very different from ours. They still do traditional things such as farming, sewing, hand-laundry, and playing spinning top. Not only that, I realized that they still wear their traditional Hmong clothes every day. I found this to be very interesting because modern Hmong people don’t usually wear Hmong clothes. We usually wear Hmong clothes for special occasion like Hmong New Year and wedding only.

Another thing that I realized about the Hmong people in Thailand is that they are losing their language. Since they have excess to education and getting a higher education outside of their village, they started to use Thai language more and more. And because they are surrounded by native speaking Thai, they don’t usually use their native language. From what I see today, there are many Hmong people who struggle to speak Hmong. For example, the Hmong sister who explained to us about the process of making thread struggle to use her Hmong because she doesn’t use it that much. Not only that, I also saw some children in the street communicate through Thai instead of Hmong. I’m very surprise how they can keep their traditional going but not their language.

Overall, I think it was a very good opportunity to get to see the culture difference between Hmong in America and in Thailand. Coming in, I was expecting to meet Hmong people who are super traditional and know Hmong very well. Even though I was wrong, I understand that things can’t always be the same. Like the Hmong in America, we also to struggle to keep our language going because of the education system and society. We have no choice but to use English to communicate and fit in with the society. Just like the Hmong people who are in Thailand, they have no choice but to learn how to speak Thai to communicate with Thai people.