Everyone was so nervous for a 7 night home-stay. My stomach dropped when the driver announced, "Okay, Joe. You're up". My mom was standing outside her property gate waiting to welcome me into her home. To make it less awkward, Kate and Lucas, our OE's (Overseas Educators), joined me in my first interaction. Without any knowledge of the Thai language, the next 3 hours were very tranquil. The first morning was unorganized. Somehow I managed to communicate that I had to leave for school soon, so I needed food.
School, a 15 minute bike ride away, was every day from 9:00am-1:00pm. We learned Thai vocal tones, vocabulary, sentence structure, traditional dances and cooking. Our teacher, Ajaan Petchara, was very patient and helpful. It was incredible how much we were all able to learn in just 6 days.
In our free time, the group decided to visit the Mae Sa Waterfall: a 10 level tourist attraction. There was a lot of swimming and splashing. A cultural difference we ran into was that everyone had to wear shirts and shorts in the water.
The last day of our home-stays, the group prepped the school for that night's goodbye ceremony. We cooked. We laughed. We blew up balloons. And to end the night, we performed our dances in front of our host families and friends. The girls' dance involved long, golden fingernails and slow spins for 12 minutes, ("It's harder than it looks" - Claire C). For the guys' dance, we waved bamboo swords in an orderly fashion, but only for 5 minutes. It's super fun, and each move has an interesting backstory.
To end the ceremony, we floated our banana leaf lotus flowers into the pond. Each flower had a candle and incense. This tradition exists in many parts of Asia. All together everything looked magical.
Now we head to Chiang Rai for an intermediate period before our long 2 weeks of trekking through rural villages in Northern Thailand. I won't have access to internet during this period, so get ready for a jam packed blog next time.