After a 22 hour flight. I am finally home! I’m very exhausted and jet lag already. Stepping into the cold weather in New Jersey, it amazes how I was in Thailand not long ago, enjoying the beautiful heat, wind, food, and culture. The two weeks spent in Thailand flew by incredibly fast. Studying abroad in Thailand had exceeded my expectations and stepping on Thailand land drew my nervousness in beging in a new country right away. To witness and take part in the cultural activities of Thailand was a blessing, that I hope everyone gets to experience. The time went so fast, but we did so much! Thailand has forever a special spot in my heart. We traveled to different regions in Thailand, where we got a different perspective on how people live in Thailand and the agricultural practices. Agriculture runs very deep in Thailand, that without it I dont think it would what it is. Even though we went to several regions there is one thing that remained unchanged. Their deep passion and admiration for Buddha and the King. I thought it was marvelous to see this wherever we went and I believed the people and climate of Thailand is so peaceful because of their passion and faith towards Buddhism. I want to thank Rutgers Global study abroad for granting me a scholarship and Dr.Matthews for giving me the opportunity to visit Thailand This trip has enhanced my love for traveling and learning even more. Without them and the staff of Mahidol University, this trip would not have been possible. To those who are applying next year, I can’t recommend this trip enough. It will be your best time!
Food and Sustainability in Thailand
Hello people! Tomorrow we leave to go back home, and it feels bittersweet. Although I miss my mom’s cooking, I’m gonna miss eating authentic Thai food, exploring new places with my wonderful peers, and studying at Mahidol University. The last few days, we felt like farmers. We had the chance to plant a garden at Uncle Tom’s cabin. First we were taught to how to make the compost/mixture to prepare the seedings of Bok Choy for planting. Our hands got very messy! We went out a planted the seedlings, but first we had to till the dry dirt with all our strength. We got even more messy, as we set out to make bricks from water, dirt, and rice husk. We were shocked to learn that they put plastic bottles inside the bricks as a way to reduce it’s waste.Talk about sustainability! I had so much mixing the mixture with my feet and hands. Today was a great experience because we were able to dive into more of the sustainable practices dont in the local communities. After this, we quickly freshened up and set out to explore the tall windmills seen initially when driving to Phetchabun. We also picked our very own strawberries at the farms and enjoyed a game of poker as we enjoyed our drinks on top of the mountains.
The next day we returned back to Salaya Campus and were sweetly welcomed again by the staff. It truly amazes just how kind the people of Thailand are! I presented my presentation on Composting as a sustainable practice and discuss what we saw in Thailand. Everyone gave an interesting presentation and reflected on our trip in Thailand. It’s no trip, without seeing the islands of Thailand, so as a group we organized the last day to visit Kosichang on Siracha Island. Thailand was truly an experience of a lifetime and I hope the next group of students have as great of a time we all had!
Hey guys! With no surprise, this week was a blast! Everyday in Thailand has been filled with cultural and academic learning opportunities that I will cherish forever. Today, we got to explore Thailand’s history, by visiting Hell-fire Pass, a railroad track constructed by prisoners captured by the Japanese army during the second World War. We were all pretty shocked to learn about what occured during in Thailand because as Americans we ware only familiar with our history. We walked down many flights of stairs and walked on rocky paths to reach the monument, dedicated to these prisoners-I had to catch my breath. I couldn’t imagine the suffering these prisoners went through. It was reflecting and moving experience.
We shifted gears, and continued our education on sustainability in Thailand. We visited a small-scale organic melon farm. With the help of Mai,who was an absolute sweetheart from Mahidol University, Kanchanaburi, the owner of the farm discussed his agricultural practices, with ease. It was interesting to learn about his fertilizers, irrigation methods, organic soil to grow the melons in sustainable ways. He also treated us to a delicious melon smoothie, which satisfied our thirst in the hot weather.
The next day was very unexpected. We woke up at 5:00am to take part in the Annual MUKA Bike Run for Fund at the University. I am not a runner in the slightest, so I was incredibly nervous to take part in this run. However, I challenged myself and ran the 3K, with the others. I’ve never taken part in a run before, and tp do it in Thailand while studying abroad felt amazing. Would I do a 3K again? Hmm..still deciding. We were rewarded medals for our participation, met the president of the school, and were even interviewed on camera- can’t say I didn’t feel like a celebrity! This was our last day in Kanchanaburi, with the lovely staff. we bid our farwells and went back to the resort. The rest of the day, I spent time recovering and bringing my legs back to life. The next day we left our accommodations in Kanchanaburi to depart to Phetchabun. To survive the 8-hour car ride, we played a bunch of games, worked on our presentations and caught up on a lot of sleep. The ride to Phetchabun was filled with scenic views of the mountains, and filled us with excitement to explore the city. Right off the bat, the change in lifestyle here in Petchabun compared to Salaya and Kachanabur felt different. It felt independent from Thailand metropolis environment. We arrived at Uncle Tom’s Cabin, where the views were to die forand only birds chirping could be heard because of its location. The next day we took an exhilarating ride up the mountains to visit a lettuce farm and witnessed their processing facility. As we drove up we observed the community that resides in these “cookie-cutter” houses.
The trip is almost coming to an end, and I’m not ready for it to be over.
Hi readers! Week one is over and there is so much to unpack! On our fourth day in Salaya, we took a boat ride across the Salaya river to a plethora local farms on a boat. Patty, a dietetic student, like myself, from Mahidol University gave us a tour of each farm, including a lotus farm, gac fruit farm, rice patty, and orchid farm. The views of each farm were captivating and the ride was peaceful. At each site, we learned more about Thailand’s agricultural practices, food handling/safety, sustainability and lifestyle. Since, we are here to study sustainablity, I found it incredibly impressive that the farmers used coconut husks as a potting media for the orchids. We also had the chance to make rice snackers from the rice grown in the rice patties. They were so tasty-I went back for more! During the visit, we learned that rice is not only the main staple corn, but the most exported. My favorite part of this day was the tractor ride to these rice patties. It was strange exhilarating ride to experience in a sleepy orchard, and to end the visit we enjoyed some of the fresh local produce grown in these farms.
The next day, we drove west to Kachanaburi, three hours from Salaya. We were pleasantly greeted by the staff, and received a ‘certificate of participation’ in performing cultural and agricultural activities in Thailand. We felt very welcome by everyone! Shortly after we were given a tour of the campus, and the geological museum by one of the Professors at MUKA, who was very kind and witty! The next day, was even more enjoyable than the first. The food science department at the university organized a food lab to make rice noodles from scratch. In additon to eating rice noodles in many Thai dishes, it was a blast to make it ourselves…well almost ourselves. The teaching assistants gave us a helping hand in place our rice sheets into the steamer carefully. We had the chance to make our own broth and cook the noodles. The results were delicious!
Later in the afternoon, we paid a visit to Malika City! It’s a living museum where we got to interact with villagers and dress as one. From visiting rice patties to make rice noodles, I milled rice at the production house too. Needless to say, it was a workout! At night we experienced an entertainment of traditional Tha dances, soothing music, and an appetizing meal . Today’s day was culturally and academically enriching. Can’t wait to see what happens next week!
Return and Reflection
I have only recently gotten back from Thailand, and I do miss the culture and food. Mostly the food. I got back to Rutgers and within hours I was at H-Mart, a Korean market that carries a lot of products I knew I would need to recreate my favorite Thai dishes. I had the recipe book from our cooking lesson, and I used it to guide my shopping list. I got lots of coconut milk, some fruit, spicy sauces, jellies and more. But there were a few ingredients I even asked them about at the market, but they said they didn’t carry pandan leaves or guangal, key ingredients in many Thai soups. At first, I was shocked. How could this Asian market not carry these basic ingredients. But of course, it was actually a Korean market. I had forgotten one of the biggest lessons I had just learned from the trip. In America, we often group all Asian cultures together, and don’t bother to look into the nuance of each country’s customs. In Thailand, I learned all about how they have specific chili’s with a distinct taste. In Thailand, they have their own system of writing and many regional dialects within the country. Just one country south, in Malaysia, they have their own script! Which is different from Chinese, which is different than Japanese, and so on. Of course H-mart didn’t have Thai specific ingredients, it was Korean!
Must recreate these dishes!
So of course, when I was making my Tom Kha Gai later that night, I used a few substitutions. In the end, I think it came out pretty good, and made me feel like I was back in Thailand. As I move forward from this trip, I will always be seeking Thai food, and thinking about how complex every place is. It means something different to whoever you talk to, and it will always be its own place in southeast Asia, with a distinct culture, and even within the country itself.
First glimpses of the USA
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