August 20, 2015

First Impressions of Thailand

I wish I had composed this entry sooner, when my first impressions were more “first,” but here I am, five-ish days in.

Chiang Rai is gorgeous. It’s a green and luscious paradise of oversized leaves, tropical flowers, and misty mountains. It still takes my breath away. The campus where I now where, Mae Fah Luang University, is in the middle of all the lusciousness. If you’re a Nebraskan reading this, imagine the Henry Dorley Zoo, but without the animals. Add in some stray dogs and kittens, and you’ve basically got how our campus looks. It’s beautiful.

And even thought the campus itself looks like a resort in terms of natural beauty and food options, our Dean generously took the English department to a small resort for a multi-day orientation. After an introductory meeting on campus, we continued with some community and cultural service at a temple on the way to the resort. Our department offered the monks a large Buddhist lent candle and a tub of supplies for their daily lives. We participated in a Buddhist prayer session, and then continued on, heading North from the university, which is already 15 kilometers outside of Chiang Rai proper.

The resort property was quaint and cute, with lots of birdhouses and tropical foliage. Most of the meetings were in a large room that was well air-conditioned (yes!), but I spend the most quality time with my new colleagues over the many meals we ate together at the resort. All of the food was excellent and fresh. My favorite item, though, was the freshly brewed Americanos (form of coffee) that were available all day. I must have had 10 over the 3 days.

Just now, Alan and I are settling into our new apartment, a semi-furnished apartment on campus. We bought a mattress, bedding, and towels with the help of a colleague, and we plan to buy other essentials over the weekend. The apartment did not come with much in the kitchen. Only a sink. If we want to cook, we will need to buy a hot plate and/or microwave, and probably a small refrigerator. For the time being, we will eat the excellent campus cafeteria food and enjoy not having to do dishes, save for a few coffee cups here and there.

The people we’ve met so far have been sweet, courteous, and the kind of people who go out of their way to help. Speaking Thai, or I guess, NOT speaking, understanding, or reading Thai has been a challenge for us. It took a long time for us to learn the basics in Turkish, and I know we are in for a steep learning curve here too. I’m ready.

Big tree with strange other things growing on it (I said "What are those!?)

My name, written in Thai; and my new university photo

Inside the Buddhist temple

Coolest flowers at the resort

Rice field--we are in Asia after all!
Overall, my first impression of Thailand is hugely positive, much more so than my usual first impressions of places. I think Alan and I are in for many good things in Thailand.