busy days, or rather, weeks

I realise it has been ages since I last updated. And a lot have happened since then. I have been busy with not only school, which to be honest isn’t that hard here in Thailand, but also with travelling. This blog post might be quite lengthy in the regards that it has been a while since last update.

Let’s start talking about the school, Rangsit University, here I am reading 5 courses all in the spectrum of communication arts, not really the same line of subject as I study at Malmö, which are linguistics and literature, but rather courses regarding the field of mass communications. If that makes sense. Then I also have a class in Thai language, as I am indeed in Thailand and knowing some local lingo really helps you out. Three of these courses the level is ridiculous low! Like I could compare it as first year in upper secondary school, if even that. The “lectures” last for about an hour out of the scheduled three hour block. The teacher read from a printed out power point and give tiny extra explanation to those. And that’s it. For the midterm in one of these courses, Introduction to Mass Communication, contained 4 basic questions that took me 10 minutes to answer and for the other course we were to have a presentation about the elements of journalism. So I had prepared a power point, being ready to present in front of the class, something I am always dreading. Came to class and turned out I just had to sit in front the teacher and read straight from my notes. Although I like this professor, he is this old Thai man, who used to be a journalist, whom have terrible English, but always wants to talk to me about Sweden. Last week he asked me where I was from, and I said “Oh you probably don’t know, but a small town called Timrå, just north of Sundsvall” whereas he replied with his broken English, “I’ve been there, when I was young and handsome! Haha, and ice hockey!” He is so nice and fun. But now I’m getting side tracked.

Then there is a photography class, which I enjoy, and where we every week get a homework to take some specific photos. It’s an easy going and fun course. Then the last course is Principles of Public Relations, a course I didn’t think I would find that interesting, but my course coordinator here, Dr Ten, really recommended it since they have invited a guest professor for this term, so I choose that one as well. And I must say, I do not regret it at all. It is by far the best and most interesting course! The guest professor is an Australian woman (oh how I have missed that accent) whom been teaching all over the world, as well as working in PR for years. She’s so engaging, passionate and so present. Probably one of the best teachers I’ve had. Finally a course that hold the standard of higher education. After have gone half of this course, it has gotten me really interested in working within PR, something I’ve never thought of before.

Now let’s move on to travelling and what I have been up to when I’ve had time off.

Firstly I went on a trip with the Rangsit international collage department, called the local wisdom trip. Basically most of the exchanges students this term along with some Thai students that’s part of the buddy program came along. We took the university bus early in the morning for about 3 hours out to nowhere, thanking back now, I sadly can’t remember the name of the place. Here we started by getting in small boats along the river, where we were to plant some mango tree in the mud. And not mud like on the ground on a rainy day, but like mud so deep it reached my upper thigh, almost my hips at some places. That was fun and terrifying. Me with my bad balance I almost fell down so many times, but was able to stay up with the help of branches and other steady people’s hands. One guy in our boat filmed this experience, so will try to insert his video if you’d like to have a look. Then we got in to the boats again and drove from the river out to the open but calm sea. We stopped by an open house out in the middle of the sea for lunch. After lunch it was time for some water sports, such as kayaking, swimming or doughnut after a jetski. I did the two latter combined with some tanning on the deck. The doughnut though, so much fun! My partner even fell in the water and had to climb up again which isn’t the easiest thing to do when wet. After a few hours we went back to the mainland, for some more water games, this time in a small water adventure park. Totally spent we went back around dinnertime, but due to the heavy traffic that Bangkok is mournfully blessed with it took longer than it should.

Next trip was to an Island owned by the Thai Navy called Samea San Island, and where you can’t get to unless you have a Thai person driving you. I went with Theresa and her Thai buddy Mellie and her friends. We drove there early in the morning and when arriving, it was like paradise! White fine sand beaches with crystal clear water. And barely any tourists, like seriously Theresa and I were the only non-Thai people there, ha-ha! In the evening and back on mainland we went to a night market and had a few beers at a traditional Thai bar. The next day we went to another navy owned beach, but this one much more popular with the tourists. As usual I got burned, even though my devoted use of SPF 50+. There is no escaping it for me, those damn red pigments I was blessed with.

The weekend after that Pattaya was on the schedual, and for the sole purpose of the Maya Music Festival. Pattaya being famous as Thailand’s sex trade city, isn’t really something for us, and us being me and four Finnish girls, but who can resist a good house music festival, with a sick line-up only 3 hours away eh? So we had rented this apartment away from downtown Pattaya in the more calm and family friendly Jomten beach (I think it was called). The festival was amazing! Can’t wait for Summerburst this summer in Stockholm to experience the feeling again. Next two days was just spent relaxing by the pool and a brief outing to Pattaya centre for a quick look and a well needed greasy pizza.

Next stop, Ayutthaya, the previous capital of Thailand. A city filled with old and broken, but amazing and majestic architecture. Me, two Finnish girls, Riina and Laura, along with Riinas brother that was here for a visit, rented a tuk tuk with the driver to drive us around to all the old temples and sites that needed to be seen. It all took 4 hours and was amazing, so much history in this place. If ever in Bangkok, I truly recommend going there as it’s only about an hour away.

The day after that I went to Hua Hin by myself to get some relaxing by the sea. Here I didn’t do much then enjoying the sun and sea. One evening I went to a night market and bough some bargains and had a glass of wine at a Swedish bar. My first time speaking Swedish face to face to someone since arriving to Thailand.
Went back to Bangkok and spend most of the weekend in downtown Bangkok along with Riina, her brother, Laura and her friend who was here for a visit too. We among some things went to the JJ market, the biggest one in Thailand, picked up some clothes and a small handbag. We also visited Khaosan Road, a must for tourists for a massive dinner along with some cooling cocktails. We also visited the famous rooftop bar located on the 64th floor in the Leuba hotel. This rooftop being famous from Hangover part 2. The view was nice and all, but the drinks were ridiculous overpriced. A simple Whiskey Sour costed almost 200 Swedish kronor! Which everywhere else in Thailand would be like not even 50 kronor. And there were nowhere to sit, no chairs nor any tables. So we took some photos, drank our cocktail and left.

Next trip was the one I’ve been looking forward to ever since I found out I could actually re-enter Thailand on my single entry visa, by simply applying for a re-entry stamp. Hong Kong! With my love for big cities, this was so exciting. And I can safely say I love this city and will try to return sometime in the future to explore more of the city. We had a bit of unlucky with the weather, it was foggy (which to be fair HK is famous for) a bit rainy and for us cold with mare 15 to 19 degrees, and coming from 36 degrees, brrr cold! Every day we were out walking and exploring for 12-14 hours. Since it was so foggy, we couldn’t go up to Victoria Peak, which is a park up in the mountain that is supposed to offer an amazing view of the city. We went to a museum, ate Chinese food, did some shopping (hello new converse shoes for more than half the price in Sweden!), went to an Irish pub and was caught in a swarm of drunk British guys when they found out we were Nordic. Stumbled on a show of traditional Chinese dance. Not to forget to mention, everyone spoke English, and good English, which was nice for a change! But yeah, 3 days was not enough for exploring Hong Kong.

Moving on to less interesting subject of weather. It is starting to get hotter and hotter now. And I am not liking it. Today we had 38 degrees in the SHADOW, which in the sun feels like 45, with a humidity of 60%. Five minutes out and I am sweating. Gross. And hotter it’s going to get next month. Would it have been the dry heat that I had in Australia it would have been fine. It is the humid and sticky air that’s killing me. I was sitting outside of the international service centre today, and on one of the tv’s on the wall a video from a Thai girl’s exchange in Sweden started showing (they show videos of places to get more people to go on an exchange) and there were a bunch of photos of snow and autumn, it made me really miss Sweden and to be able to dress in layers, cosy jumpers, coats and big scarfs. I am having a great time here, but yeah wouldn’t mind going back just for the cold!

That’s all for me this time. Have a good day wherever you are,
Sara

Amazing weekend with elephants

This weekend Theresa, Migle and I went to Elephantsworld in Kanchanaburi. http://www.elephantsworld.org/ here is the website if you want to have some more information. But basically this is a place where we, the people, work for the elephants instead of the other way around, which sadly is happening a lot in Thailand. We chose to do the overnight program.

Theresa, Migle and I

Theresa, Migle and I


Most of the elephants here have been rescued from logging, where they are dragging tons of logs to the woods, and trekking camps, which is the tourist attraction of riding elephants. However trekking is taking a big toll on elephants. Their backs can only carry 100 kg, and only the seats weights 50 kg. So imagine putting two full grown persons on those seats… not good nor healthy for the elephant. In these logging and trekking camps the elephants are also underfed. An elephants needs to daily eat 10 percent of their body weight. So a full grown elephant needs around 400 kg food, per day.

On Friday afternoon we left Rangsit campus to go to Kanchanaburi. As we left in the peak hour of traffic jams the journey took a bit longer than it should. All in all it took us 4 hours, when it should have taken around 2,5 hours. We checked into our hotel for the night and went out for some late evening food.
On Saturday evening an open back truck picked us up and our 45 minute journey to the countryside began. The first thing we see when entering the gate are huge elephants walking with their mahouts. Amazing.

First elephant we saw

First elephant we saw


First thing we got to do was feeding the elephants some corn, pumpkins, bananas and watermelons. We gave it them from our hands straight to their trunks or even their mouths. Pretty cool to be so close to them. After feeding we took them down to the river where they drank and some of them went into the river. After that it was time to cook some more food. We were split up to smaller groups and our group made sticky rice and pumpkin for the two oldest who no longer has any teeth. The oldest one is 80 years! When that was done it was time for our lunch. Lots of gorgeous Thai food to choose from as they had a smaller buffet style serving.
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After lunch we watched the elephants cooling down in the mud. They have two elephant kids who were very playful and clumsy, one of them pushed the other one down in the mud pool and he had then later problem getting out of it and kept on sliding down again. Adorable.
Then we went back to finish making the food, this time adding pellets and some fibres and vitamins and rolling it into balls. And lastly feeding the two elephants that had been standing outside of the hut cheekily trying to get into under the roof to have a piece of the food. Once again we fed them straight from our hands to them.

Now it was finally time to bathe the elephants! Down the river we went together with the elephants and scrubbed and washing them. Water was thrown here and there and we were all soaked after that bath. After this the one day visitors leave. We were offered to follow some of the mahouts to go with them and their elephants to the bottom of the mountain where they sleep during the night. So we left and walked them there. Back again we checked into our bungalow we were to stay at. It was located with a view of the river with a porch going around half of the bungalow. The rest of the evening we took it easy with some dinner and a beer and had a semi early night.

View from our porch

View from our porch


Day two we got to decide ourself what we wanted to do. So after breakfast we started with some feeding of the elephants out in the open and then took 3 elephants down to another part of the river away from today’s new visitors. We fed them some more and then taking them down in the river and had a bath with them. So nice being only 5 plus 4 workers with them. You could really get up close with them without a lot of people flocking them, so nice.
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After an hour or so we joined the others to the other part of the river and had a bath with those elephants.
After lunch we had booked us into floating. Which meant we were to be floating down the river in the stream for an hour. We jumped on to the back of a truck and went further up the road. We were told to put on the life vests as diapers if we wanted a nicer floating, which of course I wanted so despite feeling silly doing so it was on and we went into the river. And wow, such a relaxing and cool experience. We floated down the river and had a nice time. And I got to say we chose the right day to do so as the temperature was up to 38 degrees! An hour later we arrived to the river opening where the elephants were about to go down again. As it wasn’t that much time until we were to leave we went up and had a shower and change into dry and clean clothes. And that was how we ended our amazing time at elephant world. If anyone is going to Thailand then it is defiantly taking a trip out there!

Have a nice day,
Sara
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Biggest Buddah I’ve ever seen

Yet again some time has passed. And a lot have happened. Hence why I haven’t uploaded in a while.
I started off with once again spending the weekend in Bangkok. The city is starting to grow on me. There is quite a lot to explore, which I like.
On Thursday last week, I went out exploring with two girls, Theresa and Migle, who are also studying here at Rangsit. We visited the temple Wat Pho, where the famous reclining Buddah is. It was so much grander than I had first thought. We had an amazing dinner by the river with a view of another temple in sunset. Bangkok is truly beautiful in sunset. Then we went to one of the popular areas called Sukumvit for drinks, where we met up with some other exchange students from Netherlands.

enterence to the reclining buddah

enterence to the reclining buddah

reclining buddah

reclining buddah

wat pho

wat pho

dinner view

dinner view

The Saturday was spent at the Chatuchak weekend market with four finnish girls from Wasa. Surprisingly enough I didn’t shop that much, just a small bag, fresh coconut ice-cream and food. But the market is huge, we walked around for four hours and still didn’t see it all! They went back home and I went to my hotel for the night that was located at the 30th floor which, granted, had a spectacular view. I went for an evening swim and had some street food for dinner. A fun fact is that it turned out that the manager of the hotel is a friend of a friend I met when I lived in Australia, such a small world!

view from my hotelroom

view from my hotelroom

On Sunday a weathercock occurred, the temperature had dropped down to 22 degrees which felt so cold after being used to the daily 35 degrees. Despise the “cold” weather, me and the Wasa girls went to a small waterpark located above a shopping mall for some fun. After a few hours there we explored Khoasan Road for a Sunday sesh.

This week all my lessons have been as scheduled and finally there is some structure. So far I like my class of PR, which has an Australian professor, and my photography class the most. But I reckon these few months are going to go so fast. The first midterm exam will be in 2 weeks, whaaat!

This weekend was spent with elephants, but that will be in another post!
So I will see you soon again,
Sara

First week

Hey there again,
it is now the beginning of another week. Turned out that out of five classes last week, four were cancelled, so I barely had any school at all, frustrating and nice at the same time!

The week was spent taking it easy with catching up on some leisure reading and tv shows. Most nights I have gone out for dinner with a group of the other exchange students. It is so nice to be able to eat every single meal out at a restaurant/canteen and not spending a fortune. My guess is that if I were to buy groceries and cook my meals myself, like i do back home, it would cost more than going out for lunch and dinner. However i usually have breakfast at home with some simple muesli and milk and fresh fruit, but tend to buy a proper coffee before class, so basically most meals are eaten out.

One of the nights we went to a restaurant where we got to cook our own food over a small stove thingy they bring out to the table (picture down below). It was fun and different. Most menus here are unfortunately in Thai, but luckily we’ve made friends with a local who usually joins us and help us translate. So far regarding food I only know the word for chicken, pork and water!

This weekend I decided to treat myself with a stay at a nice four star hotel in Bangkok. Accommodations are also very cheap in Bangkok! You can stay at a five star hotel for barely thousand Swedish kronor a night, such a bargain. I stayed right in the centre of Siam Square, the big shopping district. I had a big and very soft bed, and after been sleeping on my really hard bed in my flat here for two weeks, the bed at the hotel felt like a cloud. I haven’t slept that good in a long time. My days were spent by the pool catching the rays of the sun, doing some shopping and I treated myself to a massage as well as room service, whereas I finally had some western food!

Yesterday it was time for class again. This time me and another girl sat in the classroom that’s on the schedule, but turned out that the class took place in another building, so we rushed over to there. Once there we met the teacher and it turned out she is teaching two classes at the same time, hence the different classroom, so in that class we only got the course description, and was told when all the exams were as well as being told to buy the course book. So not much of a first lecture.
Today started the same as yesterday, was in the classroom stated on the schedule but turned out to be in another building as well. Getting very frustrated with Rangsit right now that there is no proper structure or information to the schedule. Like you know we have kronox that’s always accurate (in my experience) but they doesn’t seem to have that here. And when 10% of your grade here is depending on attendance, they should at least update you with the right classrooms! So I am sad to say that I am not liking it here regarding the school. Hopefully it will be better in the future.
Anyway when arriving to the right classroom the professor had already started, but didn’t seem to mind that we were late. Felt good to finally have a proper lecture, but the downside however is that the professor spoke English very poorly. So this will be interesting.

School Uniform that needs to be worn

School Uniform that needs to be worn

Campus

Campus

Campus

Campus

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Relaxing by the pool in Bangkok

Relaxing by the pool in Bangkok

Bangkok by night

Bangkok by night

Bangkok by night

Bangkok by night

Now I’m off to dinner so see you later,
Sara

The land of the smiles

Hello, or sawadee kah as you say in Thai,

I am now halfway through my first week at Rangsit University, and I have already experienced a small culture shock regarding the school system here in Thailand. But first, let’s start with the orientation.
As an incoming exchange student the International Office of Rangsit Uni had organised a two day orientation for me and the other international students. It started on friday morning with speeches from the staff, amog them the Dean of Rangsit and different professors within the International deprtment. It then moved on to some general information about Thailand and the Thai culture, and lastley a campus tour. It was a day with lot’s of new information. We are a group of maybe 30-40 international students, with a good portion being Finnish, Dutch and Asian. Saturday was day two of orientation, which focused mostly on the Thai culture, with our Thai buddies presenting all kinds of information. We also got to try some Thai snacks from different regions, Thai dance, simple language lesson, as well as learning how to fold a lotus flower. It was a day of good fun and met a lot of people that will probabl be the people I’ll hang out with.

Going back to the bit of the culture shock, this is what happened, firtstly, a school uniform needs to be worn in classes! For me as a girl, a black skirt, white shortsleeved button up with the Rangsit University symbol brooch on the left side needs to be worn, very interesting as I have never worn a school uniform before. Secondly, I had my first class on monday morning, but after waiting for almost an hour without the teacher showing up, we left. Same thing happened for my tuesday afternoon class as well. And apperently when talking to the fulltime thai students, this happens a lot without any notifications from the teacher. Finally today I had my first class where the teacher actually showed up, however, there was also some drama around this class, on my schedual it said room 805, but turned out to be in 407. So when arriving to the right class room, my first class at Rangsit officially started. The class was Thai Language for Beginners. We started off very easily with just going through the phonetics of the consonants used in Thai, as well as telling our names and nationallity to the teacher and next week we are to be given Thai names by our teacher.

On other notes, I have now been in Thailand for two weeks and am still not used to the heat here, the temperature lies around 32-35 degrees with a humidity of around 70-80%, and this is only the “cold season” here, in april and may the temperatures can lie around 40 degrees celcius! I am not looking foward to that to be honest.. at least I have a working AC in my flat and the uni buildings too. Something I really like about Thailand so far is how cheap it is here, a full dinner with a soft drink costs around 25 kronor, even cheaper around campus, which is insanely cheap! So not having a kitchen in my flat is quite alright as i can afford to eat all my meals out. Even the taxis here are cheap, to go the the airport that about a 20 minute drive away costs around 18-20 kronor, that’s a good thing with the public transportation not being the best out here in the suburb Pathum Thani. I have come to realise why Thailand have been refered to as “the land of smiles” everyone truly do smile, even though their knowladge in English is lacking they make up for it in politeness and smiles. They will always try to help you if you asked them something.

That’s it for this time, next time I’ll post some pictures as well! Have a nice day!

Last day of INU Summer School – Tuesday August 11th

The last day of our course at Hiroshima University was probably also the most exiting one. The role play – a simulation of a special session of the United Nations General Assembly in order to promote gender, peace and security – lasted the whole day. The delegates of the different groups were determined to present their countries standpoints, issues and visions with flaming speeches, and the different proposed amendments for a new resolution were debated passionately.

role play2 role play1

The day really provided an interesting insight in the world of international politics, including the rather disillusioning fact that national political and economic interests will always weigh more than the actual issue at hand (in our case gender equality, peace and security) within the UN structures.

After finishing the role play, we could finally get rid of our imposed national identities and reunite with the rest of the group in order to spend a beautiful last evening at the farewell party with all students and teachers. The night was concluded with a Karaoke session at a typical Japanese bar. The latter, like many other social activities, was arranged by our four classmates from Hiroshima University, who took extremely well – and very patiently – care of us during the whole week and brought us their culture and customs closer.

group pic

We are very grateful to Malmö University and Hiroshima University under the International Network of Universities as well as to all teachers and the facilitating staff, for the opportunity to participate in this interesting course and to meet so many great people from all around the world.

INU Summer School – Monday August 10th

The theme of the day was the case of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). The lectures were mainly concerned with human rights in and between these nations. Several interesting student papers were presented during the day with different takes on ASEAN. We also had time to freely discuss and ask questions to our two teachers Dr. Anthony Langlois, and Professor Steven Rothmann as well as to Dr. John Scherpereel, the chair of the International Network of University’s (INU’s) Academic Planning Committee, about anything related to academic careers and work life in general, which was very rewarding for us.

The evening was spent yet another time preparing for the role play and the hotel lobby was filled with different country groups trying to negotiate their way towards a successful outcome for their respective country’s interests the following way. Many secret alliances were plotted this night, but everybody knew that these alliances and promises could be broken at any point of the role play.

INU Summer School – Sunday August 9th

Today’s theme was “Strategic decision-making”. We had a lecture about game theory, basically it is about optimizing the success of your goals and minimizing the mistakes. Our professor introduced us to different games to see if we were able to calculate and choose the best outcome in some situations. The winners were awarded Japanese candy. Japanese candy is definitely different from western-style candy. We have at least never seen – or tasted – seaweed candy before…

At 11.02 we had a minute of silence in memorial of the victims of the second atomic bombing in Nagasaki. Hiroshima was the first city to be attacked and perhaps that is why Hiroshima often is mentioned more often when speaking of the atomic bombings, but the devastation of Nagasaki was just as severe as in Hiroshima.

In the afternoon we started to engage in fierce preparations for the upcoming role-play until late at night in the lobby of our hotel. While our Master’s students group was divided into two sub groups representing the USA and Russia, the undergraduate seminar students became representatives of nine other countries such as DRC, Sweden or Cuba.

Russia group work

The fun part about getting started with the preparations was definitely to sketch out first allies among the different groups of the undergraduate students, plot plans and to twist arguments and facts until they fitted our “national interests”. The latter was a task that was not always easy considering the fact that we were supposed to represent two extremely powerful countries with very distinct and, let’s say, sometimes questionable agendas.

INU Summer School – Saturday August 8th

This day started with an hour discussion around the past days. All events and the visit to the museum and the memorial ceremony had affected everyone deeply and stirred up a lot of feelings. The keynote lecture about “Peace and Security – What We Can Do For Tomorrow” by Mr. Tsuneo Nishida, the Director of the Institute of Peace Science at HU, gave complementary input and another opportunity for us to ask questions and reflect on the things we had learned and experienced the last few days.

During the rest of the day the lectures and a second mock-conference session were focusing on the second core theme of the summer school “Responsibility and Justice in Global Politics”. We also tried a Japanese game called Kendama, very difficult game to play. The Japanese students made it look very easy. Even though the rest of us got rather mixed results, we had a lot of fun playing it.

kendama1 kendama

 

INU Summer School – Friday August 7th

The second day of our cultural programme in Hiroshima. It was composed of an early visit in the peace memorial museum, a fun introductory session to the Japanese language, held by students of Hiroshima University, and lectures of Ms. Keiko Ogura and and Ms. Chieko Seki, two survivors of the a-bombing in Hiroshima in 1945.

chieko seki a-bomb dome Hiroshima

The programme was less exhausting than the one of the day of the memorial ceremony itself, which was good as we all needed time and space to process the impressions we had gotten the day before. That said – the day was by no means less emotional. The information provided by the excellent and moving exhibition in the museum, combined with the unique chance to listen to the stories of the two women who have been living in Hiroshima in 1945, gave us a lot more things to think about. Their reflections on how to avoid such a man-made catastrophe in the future, as well as what each and every one of us can do in order to create a more peaceful world provided the basis for an interesting and also controversial discussion the next day about the role of citizens and political stakeholders in the process of achieving and maintaining peace.