Monday, September 29, 2008

Riding Home From School

A tuk-tuk, as it is called, is a unheard-of mode of transportation in the U.S., but extremely common in Thailand. Although, it is widely-known that you are risking your life by riding tuk tuks through Bangkok traffic, I had to experience it anyway. Check it out my video clip of my ride home from school.

Fulbright Orientation Off to a Great Start

Fulbright training began yesterday. I am excited to report that things are going fantastic. The Executive Director of Fulbright Thailand, our Thai mother, Porntip, is an incredible lady –very funny, with a charismatic charm, and a kind heart. We learned the first morning how to address her and the other faculty members. “Pi” in Thai refers to an older brother or sister. We call her Pi Tip. Kate and I were joking that it sounds like we are calling the woman by her rapper name, but ultimately it is a more polite and preferable name to call her. Lectures the first day introduced us to Thai culture and history, the Fulbright mission and its role in Thailand and across the globe, and expectations for our stay in Thailand. We spent an hour or so hanging out in the dorm before we met Pi Tip and other Fulbrighters staying in Thailand (professors from the U.S.) at Marina HK, a hip little restaurant twenty minutes walk from the dorm. I included a picture of P-Tip and I at Marina. Dinner was great. I walked out of the restaurant charged, excited, and feeling empowered from the discussions at dinner. I am so grateful for the people here enjoying this experience with me. Dinner ended with passionate and intellectual conversations about our government and the upcoming November 4th election –this is what charged me. JR, Karen, Caryn (we call them Karen squared because their names are pronounced the same), Brad, Zoe, and I talked about politics; we talked about religion, healthcare, energy, education, international policy. We spoke openly and informatively. We discussed, talked about change, inferred, we talked about the future and the past. It is actually rare to find a group of people so well-educated that conversations like these are not a stretch, but in fact desired ideas and emotions needed to be spoken and shared with peers. I am thankful.
Pi Tip and I at dinner. Outside the Education Building where Orientation is held.
The classroom at Chulalongkorn University where Orientation is held.
My name in Thai.
Lunch. Rice and veggies with wa wa juice. About 30THB in total. Less than $1 USD. I'm getting spoiled here. The little bowl is full of spices...phet maak (very spicy).


Day two of training included a great presentation from a former Fulbrighter (a Thai woman who spent time in Oklahoma on a grant). The presentation was on Teaching English in Thailand, and it was really rewarding, confirming my excitement to teach. Ideas are flowing, that’s for sure. We have a break right now, and are planning to go to the night market this evening. Also, great news: we should be receiving log-ins for the internet here at the dorm by the end of this week.

Miss everyone! Much love to all.

Oh, and before I forget… Today we talked about our role as teachers/Fulbrighters to share information about American culture. Someone asked how much we should focus on sharing things about our culture. I couldn’t help but ignore all of the universally generalized American culture concepts that people mentioned (i.e. thanksgiving, New York, fast food). For me, my students will learn about my home, Louisville. It’s only been a week, but the others here already know how much I love my city, how much I represent my hometown. I feel as though I represent it well, and I can’t wait to share what I love about Louisville with my Thai students.
More Pictures

Chike, myself, Kate, and Audra at Saxaphone Pub in Bangkok, listening to live music and eating spicy foods.

Photos of my room at Suskit Nives International Dorm. Notice the Louisville IronMan poster, the 1950's style green fridge, and my awesome world map (thanks again Slim!).

Chatuchak Market and Other Adventures

Day Two in Thailand: Today we went to the Chatuchak market, commonly called the JJ market. It is insanely large. There are perhaps 2000 or more shops, selling everything imaginable including dried fish, knock-off clothing, furniture, textiles, jewelry, puppies, and even flying squirrels (sugar gliders). We spent about four hours at the market –quite a long time in the heat. For lunch we enjoyed Pad Thai in the center of the market. Amazingly enough we ran into our new friend Carla from Austria at a small food shop.

Me, Carla, Ahna, Audra

The chaos that is JJ market.

View of the city from the skytrain.

Carla and Timmy, friends we met at the dorm, have brought us to dinner tonight in the center of town. Timmy is from Germany and Carla from Austria.

All day has been great, as all ten of us have been willing to come out together. The place we are eating at now is so very interesting. Every place in sight is on the streets and open to the elements. They cook the food in front of you and hundreds of people sit at tables which line the streets. Traffic is heavy and practically on all sides of us. Fulbright has provided us with a book on “Thai Street Food”. I must read it soon, for it is common to eat on the streets around the area where we are staying. Ordering food here is incredibly difficult for non-Thai speakers. Most of the time, a lot of pointing, saying “mai ao nueua ka” (no meat please) and gesturing results in an adequate meal –it actually makes me feel a bit like a child again, not able to read the menu, although this time without a parent to read me my options.

Well, life is good.

Some of the crew: (from top left) Brad, Zoe, Karen, JR's forehead, Timmy, Chike, Ahna, and Nim.

Oh, by the way…
After dinner, Kate and I fed an elephant, a baby elephant. Ha, only in Thailand!

Chula Soi 6...The Street Impossible to Find on a Map

Today Kate, my new roommate, and I woke up around 8am. We walked about two miles or so to a local park, Lumphini Park, and went for a jog. Kate is from Seattle and we seem to have a lot in common. We were both college athletes and are both extremely open-minded and non-judgmental toward others. I enjoyed the park. There were plenty of runners, but it was not overcrowded. On our way back, Kate and I got lost for about a half hour, as we walked in squares around the area of the dorm at Chulalongkorn University where we are staying. The map we had is perhaps the least detailed map of all time. In fact, we decided we would burn it upon return to the dorm. When we finally found the dorm, we decided that getting lost our first morning in Bangkok was actually a good thing. We now understand a bit more about the numbering system of the nearby streets and alleys. As it turned out, neither of us possessed matches or a desire to set perfectly good paper on fire –so, the map lives on.

Flying Across Our Earth

Hour eleven of twelve: The food cart on the plane rolls down the aisle for what feels like the hundredth time. I am on the second leg of my journey, preparing to land in Tokyo to await my flight to Bangkok. After tons of music, sleeping, and working out the cramps in my backside, I find myself hovering over Asia, halfway across the world from my home in Louisville, Kentucky.

A few weeks ago, the Prime Minister of Thailand declared Bangkok in a “state of emergency” in the mist of 30,000 plus protesters outside the government buildings in the capital city. I only know what I read from the BangkokPost and other online news sources, but now that I am flying in that direction, I begin to have more curiosities about the implications of living in a protesting city/country. Will I witness any protests? If so, you can be certain, I will keep my distance. Will the morale of those at TUSEF (Thailand-U.S. Educational Foundation, the organization responsible for my Fulbright grant in Thailand) be down? Is it silly of me to have such concerns?

I feel anxious right now thinking about life in this foreign country. I know one thing for certain –I am going to pour all of my effort into making Thailand a familiar country rather than a foreign country. I am eager to learn the language, the culture and traditions.
What will the food be like? Will I find a place where I fit in? Will students really be able to learn from me, from what I have to offer? When I make mistakes, will I recover quickly? Will my Thai colleagues see me as a polite and respectful American?

This is the time to believe in what I know –I am patient, open-minded, flexible, and optimistic. So, I suppose I should say chook dii (good luck) to myself. Afterall, I am leaping into the biggest adventure of my life thus far.

Thank you to everyone in my life who helped make this opportunity possible. Your love and support was, and continues to be, life-changing. I love you and miss you all.
Next stop Tokyo. Three hour layover. Six and a half hour flight to Bangkok. Sleep.

I’m on the flight now to Bangkok. I’ve been introduced to the other seven Fulbrighters on this flight. On the plane, I am seated next to little Noah (age 3), whose parents are living in Myanmar working for the Embassy on behalf of the U.S. State Department. I was able to speak at length with them about the situation in Myanmar. My previous knowledge stems from research I did for a paper in my International Negotiations course last semester.

It is 5:22am in Louisville. It is 6:22pm in Tokyo. It is 4:22pm in Bangkok. It is 11:23am in Amsterdam (near where I used to live in Holland –Den Haag).

Time is such an unusual concept. It is great for organization of course, but nearly useless today/tomorrow/yesterday to me at this very moment. I woke this morning, technically yesterday morning, at 7:30am in Louisville. After hours and hours of travel, I am comically confused. Should I be hungry? Should I be tired? Is it actually a new day, or just a new time to set my watch by (EST plus 11 hours)? Ha! Mai pen rai (no worries).

Bangkok, here we come.

Sawatdee ka (hello and goodbye)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Thailand, The Land of Smiles

I am one of 1,450 United States citizens and one of seven University of Louisville students to receive a Fulbright Scholarship in 2008.

In two weeks, I will be joining 9 others from across the United States to teach English as a Second Language in Thailand.

For more information about the Fulbright Program:

For more information about my trip to Thailand, stay posted. I will be blogging about:

  • the five-week orientation program in Bangkok
  • my school assignment at Princess Chulabhorn's College in Chiang Rai
  • learning the Thai language
  • random facts, thoughts, and ideas
  • tears and laughter

    + Paige +

Living in The Netherlands

So, it has been nearly a year now since I have moved back from Den Haag, The Netherlands. I had the most incredible, eye-opening experiences in Europe. I feel exceptionally grateful for having been given the opportunity to travel and study abroad. Take a look at a recap of my experiences in the video below.

For more information, checkout the following websites documenting my journey: