The Odd One Out
About a month ago, teachers at my school were given the opportunity to go on a school trip up to the northern part of Thailand and to Laos. When asked if I wanted to join, of course I said yes. A free trip to Laos? You can't beat that! However, many of the other teachers in the EP department did not have the same mindset. Yep, I was the only one I knew that was going.
This past week the trip finally came. I met at the school at 5:30pm on Wednesday having no idea what to expect (the itinerary that was sent to us was all in Thai). We got on the bus and were on our way around 7.
After a few pit stops, we got to our first destination, Udon Thani, around 5am Thursday. We got hotel rooms long enough to get a shower and change for the days activities then it was off to breakfast.
How (I think) it worked is we all got a travel buddy. My travel buddy was one of the older teachers whom I've never met, or even seen, before. There was little communication due to the language barrier, but I like to think that we had a mutual liking and respect for each other.
My travel buddy and I were the first people to arrive to breakfast at a restaurant near the hotel. After a few minutes, two younger men walked in and sat at our table with us. They were P.E. teachers. As it turns out, one of them I had met before. When my mom was here, I took her on a walk around the school's campus. When we walked past the gym, two guys called out to us. One mentioned that he didn't know english very well and wanted to practice his conversation skills. I didn't notice that it was him until he asked if my mom was here the other week.
After we finished breakfast, the four of us went to a small temple.
**Not nearly camera ready after a long bus ride. But the PE teachers insisted on taking photos of and with me.
After everyone got back onto the buses, we made our way to a school in Udon Thani, Udonpittayanukoon School (try saying that 3 times fast...or even once). We were welcomed with a group picture and then made our way into a room where we heard multiple people, including the director of UdonPit, speak. Again, I wish I could tell you more but it was all in Thai.
After the presentation, we took a short tour of the school. It was very interesting seeing what other schools look like compared to ours.
The school was also having some sort of cultural festival. One part was where students had a booth and made a sample dish from different Asian countries. Yep, FREE FOOD!! I had samples of foods from Thailand, Japan, China, etc.
When it was done, we were back on the bus and headed to Wat Pa Phu Kon, a temple in Udon Thani. We had to take pickup trucks to get up the mountain because the charter buses wouldn't have made it. It was a beautiful temple high in the sky with a 360 degree mountain view. On the inside was a giant reclining Buddha.
**I didn't get the pants memo.
Then once again, we were on the bus headed to our next destination: Nong Khai.
We only staying in Nong Khai for one night before heading up to Laos.
After breakfast in Nong Khai, we headed for the border. Of course being the only foreigner, I held up the buses so I could get my re-entry permit (that way my work permit wouldn't become expired). Sorry guys!!
When we got across the border, we changed onto tour buses, complete with guides and all. To be quite honest, I did not catch the names of the first two temples that we visited. But they certainly were beautiful!
**One of the PE teachers from the day before saw me walking out of the temple and snapped this picture of me.
Later that day, we also went to Patuxai. Patuxai is a war monument that is dedicated to those who fought for independence from France.
**The breathtaking ceiling of the monument.
**My travel buddy and I!
After spending about 8 hours in Laos, we went back to Nong Khai and checked into our hotel.
That night, we had a final dinner in the ballroom. There was live performances from some of the teachers, food, dancing, and even a ladyboy show. At one point there was a Thai version of a conga line. Of course being the only foreigner there, I was picked up two different times to join. It was so much fun! I even got a compliment that I'm a beautiful Thai dancer (lol good joke).
Finally the next day, it was time to head home. But not before a few more pit stops! We went to the skywalk in Nong Khai. It was a beautiful view!
After that, we were on our way back home. We arrived back at the school around 3:30am. After hitching a ride from one of the Thai teachers in the EP department, I got back to my apartment around 4:30.
This week really pushed me outside of my comfort zone. Never in my life have I been the odd one out - not even being able to speak the same language. It was uncomfortable at times, but overall I am so happy that I went. I got to meet so many great people. People with whom I hope to form friendships with over the next few months.