While in Bangkok, CIEE and OEG hosted our orientation group at the Royal River hotel. The sights from our hotel room were breathtaking – there was a gorgeous patio area outside overlooking the river.
The Royal River hotel also hosted a Welcome Dinner for CIEE and OEG orientation participants in which they had a private Thai dance performance just for our group. In total, we had about 60 people. In some of the photos below, you will see members from our orientation group posing with the beautiful Thai dancers. While we ate dinner, these dancers performed for us and even enacted one of the most famous Hindu mythology stories – the story of Hanuman, the Hindu Monkey God.
The Hindu Sanskrit poem titled Ramayama (“Rama’s Journey”) details this story. It is said that Rama was the human incarnation of the Hindu god, Lord Vishnu. Rama had a beautiful wife named Sita, who everyone in the land revered as one of the most beautiful women alive. The demon king Ravana kidnapped Sita from Lord Vishnu and (very long story short) Hanuman led the monkeys to help rescue Sita from the demon king and return her to Lord Vishnu. The dancers enacted this story to us as their final performance, with full Hanuman attire and all!
Below you can also see Jenn and I with Sib, my very close friend I met at orientation, and two women. These two women came up to us in the hotel and asked to take a photo with us – we had no idea who they were! In this area of the world, whiteness is celebrated. It’s so interesting how the grass is always greener. In America, everyone is busy going to tanning salons and looking as tan as they can, whereas in Thailand, even the cosmetics contain bleaching agents because people want to be as white as they can.
Red hair and blue eyes makes me stand out even more. They call us “Farangs” – foreigners. Sometimes, when I’m walking down the street, I can hear people saying “Farang! Farang!” These two women were so fascinated with how we looked that they asked if Jenn and I would take a photo with them. They were so kind and sweet!
There are also photos of our whole group during the final orientation ceremony. I am shown receiving a necklace made of beautiful Thai flowers as a congratulations for completing orientation. The ceremony our orientation leaders put together was beautiful. We were invited to a traditional Buddhist ceremony in which our coordinators tied a white string around our wrist. It is meant to symbolize unity and connection – we will always have this shared experience together, and our coordinators will always be there to support us. This experience we have shared will always be a part of us. I still have not taken this bracelet off – and many others have not either!
You will also see photos of me teaching some young local Thai students. These students came to the Royal River Hotel as volunteers for us to teach as the final practicum for our orientation. My group taught the students parts of the body in English, which included us singing “Heads, Shoulders, Knees & Toes” together. We had a blast – the Thai kids are sooooo cute! Identifying age in this country seems next to impossible – everyone seems much, much younger than they actually are. This day, we were teaching students who had just completed Prathom 6, which is the equivalent of students who are entering 7th grade in the United States. But if you had seen these kids, you would have thought they were all third graders!!!
Finally, Jenn, Sib and I treated ourselves to a snazzy evening at the Bangkok Vertigo Moon Rooftop Bar. This place was absolutely stunning. The view is something impossible to describe with words alone. When we arrived, it was already dark out, though I would have loved to experience this view at sunset. (It was a cloudy day that day, anyway). The city was lit up everywhere with dazzling lights, like overlooking a Christmas light display as far as the eye can see. We splurged and treated ourselves to some really nice cocktails and a delicious vegetarian dinner. It was an evening I will never forget!