If I had to use one word to describe the past two weeks it would be busy. Our days are packed with Thai language classes, interviews, travelling, group building exercises, eating, laughing, reading, and so much more. At first it is a bit overwhelming, but after talking about it we all agreed that we came on this program because it isn't your typical study abroad program. We aren't just living in Thailand taking classes in English about Thailand, but we are really trying to live with the Thai people, learn about them, and from them.
This past week I spent five days, four nights, with my host family in Nong Chai. I had a mom, a dad, and two younger sisters (9 and 12 years old). The family I stayed with was middle class, and lived relatively comfortably by Thai standards. It was a dramatic contrast from the family I lived with in Nong Jahn, who didn't have indoor plumbing or a closed housing structure. My Nong Chai family had an indoor bathroom, a fenced in home, an upstairs and a refrigerator (I was prettyyyy spoiled).
Despite the differences in living quality, both families were hospitable, generous and kind above and beyond anything I have ever experienced in the United States. They insist on me, their guest, sleeping on the most comfortable bed, always having a full tummy, always having the fan in my room so that I am comfortable when I sleep, and the list goes on. It's heartwarming and humbling to be treated with such generosity as a guest in some one's home; however, I can't help but feel a little guilty. The first night when my family in Nong Chai showed me to my room I saw that I had a fairly comfy mattress to sleep on while my 9 year old sister (Wan) was on the floor next to me. The next night I motioned to Wan to join me on the bed, as it was big enough to easily fit both of us. She was a little reluctant at first but eventually hopped in.
Wan acted as my guide around Nong Chai. At first, it was kind of funny being led around by a 9-year old, but the maturity level of Thai children is impressive. They are like any other kid in the sense that they love to have fun, but they are also incredibly responsible and capable. They can cook, clean, and drive mopeds (which may or may not be a good thing). But they also love to play tag, sing songs and laugh. I truly enjoyed my time with Wan, as I formed the closest bond with her and was sad when I had to leave.
It might be hard to understand how close bonds can be formed by people who do not speak the same language; however, language is truly not a barrier to forming meaningful relationships. I still have no idea what my mom in Nong Chai did for a living, as I could not figure out what she was saying when I asked, but I do know what her routine around the house is, how she interacts with her daughters and husband, and how kind she is to a complete stranger. Living with that family was an experience I will never forget, like so many I have already had here in Thailand, and so many that are sure to come.