As part of our training to become English teachers in Thailand, our TESOL school XploreAsia puts on an action-packed orientation week to help us experience and learn about Thai culture. We spent time in class learning about the culture, taking Thai language lessons, and went on several excursions around the town where we are staying.
We visited a local pineapple farm to purchase pineapples for the elephants and taste some deliciously fresh fruit. Thailand is the world’s largest producer of pineapple with 95% of that being grown on small, family-owned farms. Having a bad crop can really hurt a family financially. We helped out by purchasing damaged pineapples they couldn’t sell to feed to the elephants at stop #2.
Hutsadin Elephant Foundation
Hutsadin Elephant Foundation rescues elephants from unethical and harmful living situations. The volunteers and mahouts (elephant caretakers) knew each of the animal’s stories and personalities. Feeding them pineapples involved lots of elephant slobber, but it was amazing to interact with such intelligent and fascinating creatures.
One of the youngest elephants at the foundation was rejected by his mother at a young age. He is now so attached to his mahout, who has cared from him for the last 6 years, that they do everything together. Here the two can be seen praying together at the temple.
Open-air markets made up of individual tents are a very common way for people to shop in Thailand. When Cole and I first arrived, we were so overwhelmed trying to buy food at these types of markets. We didn’t know what any of the food was and weren’t sure how to place an order in Thai. This time we went through the market in a small group with a Thai staff member explaining the different sections and foods. We successfully purchased the ingredients for papaya salad and tried some delicious, fresh-made treats.
Thai Cooking Class
The XploreAsia staff-members showed us how to make spicy papaya salad, called som tum, and pad Thai.
Muay Thai boxing is the national sport of Thailand and dates all the way back to the 16th century where it was used for hand-to-hand combat in warfare. Our afternoon of “training” at a local Muay Thai gym was mostly made up of the locals laughing at us.
On the last morning of orientation week we walked through temple grounds and up to a large Buddha statue, learning about the Buddhist religion along the way. Thailand is 84% Buddhist and principals of Buddhism and animism are deeply woven into the fabric of everyday life in Thailand. There were beautiful views of the ocean and surrounding mountains from the top.
At the temple we visited a monk who showed us the traditional meditation practice and spoke to us about his religion. I had a good laugh when he pulled an iPhone 6 out of his robes and took a phone call.
As in many developing countries, Thailand has a problem with stray dogs. XploreAsia helped found an organization call Rescue Paws to feed street dogs, sterilize stays, and educate the local population on taking care of animals. We got to take a few of the dogs out to play on the beach.
For our last night of Orientation Week we had a barbecue on the beach as our official “welcome to Thailand.” The best part of the week by far has been getting to know the other people in our group who are training to be English teachers as well! We had to say bye to a few new friends who were only saying for the first week. We are thankful we get to spend there more weeks here and are excited to begin the teaching portion of our TESOL course.