Tag Archives: cultural exchange

Sawatdee from Thailand!

I have officially been living in Thailand for almost 2 weeks! Writing this in the middle of an afternoon thunderstorm, it’s clear that I still have tons to adjust to in my new home. After our orientation in Bangkok the first week, we have now moved to our placements throughout Thailand. I still wake up occasionally and forget where I am- even after flying 20 hours from Texas here, it’s all very new to me right now. Well, except maybe the heat and humidity I know so well from Texas 🙂 Also, my school hasn’t even started yet so that adventure is yet to come!

Here are some favorite moments of my time in the “Land of Smiles” so far. I’ve been able to explore Bangkok and my new province and city, Nakhon Pathom. So many exciting things have happened since arriving here, which makes me really look forward to the rest of this semester. Of course, there have been challenges as well such as getting “traveler’s tummy” on the first day of week #2 (I’m about 95% recovered, thankfully!). And the Thai language- Passaa Thai yaak! Thai is difficult! But also sanuk, fun. Today I bought a water bottle from a street vendor with my basic Thai and got a smile of understanding from her in the end. Moments like that make my time here absolutely worth it.

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A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ayutthaya has some of the most beautiful ruins I’ve ever been to. Plus we went here on the second day of orientation! Thanks CIEE and OEG, our Teach in Thailand program coordinators! Walking around this ancient Thai capital was amazing. Also, it’s just about an hour from Bangkok so very useful for a day trip.

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Exploring Bangkok via River Taxi

Coolest experience ever. It’s way faster and a lot more fun to get around parts of Bangkok in a boat taxi, we took one to visit the Royal Grand Palace during orientation. For a round trip from our hotel to the downtown area, it cost only about 14 baht. (current exchange rate: 33 baht=1 USD!)

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Grand Palace

A must see in Bangkok. So many golden pagodas and elaborately decorated halls. Many Thais make a pilgrimage here to see the Emerald Buddha- a smaller than you’d expect Buddha carved from emerald, definitely worth visiting in person. Glad we saw this during orientation as well!

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Getting settled in to live in Nakhon Pathom- local cats and more palaces!

These two cats are always around outside my school. They also happen to look a lot like my cats from home! One thing I definitely like a lot about this placement is having on-campus housing. Hooray for sleeping later! Today I adventured to a local palace nearby, which surprisingly was not listed in any Lonely Planet guide to my province, Nakhon Pathom. I highly recommend visiting, it’s called Sanam Chandra Palace.

Pre-Travel Musings

Two weeks from today, I will be flying to Bangkok, Thailand to start orientation as an English teacher with CIEE! I don’t think I’m aware yet just how much my life will change.

Since getting back from my backpacking trip in Europe, I have been living at home and mainly spending time with my family. It’s been somewhat challenging keeping busy when I’d rather just be starting work as a teacher or diplomat already! After October 18, I’ll be settling into life in Thailand and getting the chance to explore a fascinating and new region of the world. I can’t wait to leave Texas and live overseas again!!

There is something weird and thrilling in jetting off to Thailand with no firm return date. I do have a plane ticket back home booked for the end of March, but honestly everything depends on the Foreign Service and if/when they give me a confirmed offer to start A-100 in DC. Right now there are four orientation classes tentatively planned for 2016- January, April, June, and September. Last I checked I am still around #7-8 of 108 public diplomacy candidates and hoping for an A-100 invitation sometime next spring! Of course, if things don’t work out I have the option of extending and just teaching longer in Thailand 🙂

I’m beyond excited for this next step in my life-however long I end up staying in Thailand! Life is a bit in flux and I am getting more and more comfortable with it being that way.

Snapshots of Doha: Reflections from an amazing trip

Like all proper overseas spring break excursions, our trip to Doha had us busy and moving the entire day. It was nice to take a real break from being on the internet all day- but I thought I’d post again after coming back to Houston to reflect on the whole experience and how much I learned about public diplomacy in the Gulf. These are just a few of my favorite pictures from the trip and I’ll explain the story behind each one!

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Camel riding in the desert outside Doha

Since I’d never been sand duning or camel riding in the States or anywhere before this trip, I was super excited for this day. Before our group dove into the academic side of the program, we went outside of the city for adventures in the desert. The personal highlight for me was definitely sand duning- the Qatari drivers we had were ridiculously fearless. Qatar has the highest per capita income in the world, so most Qataris just work in whatever field they find the most intriguing. Our driver was even nicknamed “Qatari wolf” so you can imagine how intense it was to drive straight down the dunes!

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The Colloquium begins

Qatar Faculty for Islamic Studies (QFIS) at Hamad bin Khalifa University hosted us for the entire student conference. Every day from Sunday-Friday, we met in this beautiful building pictured above for our research presentations. On the second day there, we got a tour of the building where the architect explained how the building was meant to be half mosque and half academic study of Islam, which I found to be a breathtakingly beautiful design combination. The conference was organized into 4 days of student presentations focused on themes of education, energy/infrastructure, gender equality, and health. I presented on women’s political engagement in Qatar, with the chance to receive feedback from other students and scholars at HBK University. It’s definitely one thing to research gender in Qatar from the US, and quite another to hear from Qatari women leaders themselves about their experiences!

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Sustainable farm visit

Visiting a farm outside of Doha was probably the single most surreal moment of the trip. Everything was incredibly green, flowered, and about the opposite of what you’d expect for the desert. I have doubts on just exactly how sustainable the farm itself was, given the constant AC and irrigation everywhere. It was also quite an experience finding it, as there are not real addresses in Qatar, more just postal codes and landmarks. As a result it took almost 5 hours worth of driving around Doha to find a guy who knew another guy who knew how to get to the farm! Honestly, some of the best memories for me will be singing karaoke with fellow students on the bus out of boredom.

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Relaxation in Doha

Parts of the trip felt like pure vacation, which I badly needed! One morning six of us decided to get up extra early (I would usually never do this, but thanks jet lag!!) and go running along the Corniche. We met at 6 and had the incredible view of Doha’s skyline, green spaces, and flower-lined streets during our jog. That will be one of my favorite moments from this experience by far. Another highlight was on Friday where we had free time in the morning- so a few of us met in the hotel pool to swim. Swimming in the desert heat, followed by a spa shower= perfect spring break.

We also had the chance to visit the US Embassy, which of course was amazing for me but not really possible for pictures due to obvious security reasons. It was cool to see that not only the Cultural Attache, but also the Public Affairs Officer and the Ambassador were all women! Most of the diplomats we met were second tour officers, which makes me really want to bid on Doha as a post in the near future. I think I’d really love living in Qatar for a few years as a diplomat.

Our group left early in the morning (Doha time) on March 7th for a 16 hour flight back to Houston. Part of my body is still convinced we’re in Qatar, which is disconcerting for classes tomorrow. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to visit Doha on this trip and gain more experience for my future career in public diplomacy!