Sunday, January 11, 2015

มิตรภาพ [friendship]

We hope everyone saw our post with the video of our dance performance!! Erin was pretty excited that she figured out how to upload a video to YouTube…between this and the blogging this is the most tech-savvy we both have ever been in our lives. Thank you to Auburn HSOP’s Facebook for sharing our blog, because through that we were connected to an HSOP Class of 1999 alumnae that lives in Bangkok completing missionary work! We are meeting up with her at the end of our trip…War Eagle to that! Social media is truly incredible when used for the powers of good. Megan’s mom collects nativities from all over the world, so we are on a quest to find her one from Thailand. However, since the country is predominately Buddhist, this has not been an easy task. We were on such a social media joy train that Erin tweeted at the Pope for some international help. We are really hoping for a response!

Our first weekend day in Mahasarakham again reminded us of our beloved time on Auburn’s campus. We slept in (probably too late…oops). We think we slept so late Saturday because we both secretly enjoy the hard beds here. The back support is incredible and kind of makes us regret buying mattress pads at Auburn.

Upon waking up, we enjoyed a nice lunch with Camellia, Hannah, Boss and Peanut at the small market. Erin got Camellia a t-shirt that says “Bike Life Is Awesome” for our New Year gift exchange, and she wore it when we biked to lunch, which truly was awesome. Since lunch was actually breakfast for us, we snacked on frozen coffees (it’s becoming an addiction) and a Thai sweet bread. They steam bread, spread a sweet butter on it, and drizzle sweetened condensed coconut milk over it. Talk about delicious! We both decided we’re going to make that for our kids one day and they’ll think it’s such a special breakfast treat! Hannah finally found the real Thai drunken noodles, called Pad Kee Mao here, so it was a small market success.

In the late afternoon, we returned to the dorm where we spent the rest of the day working on presentations and other assignments. We alternated study locations between our porch, beds, and living room area and snacked throughout the day on popcorn, gummies (candy we brought from home from our Christmas stockings, thanks Moms!), cookies from Japan (thanks Airi and Risa!), PB sandwiches, tea, coffee, and fruit loops. TRUE COLLEGE STUDENTS. For a study break, we walked around campus and found a small lake that has a nice running track around it that we guesstimate to be a little larger than a traditional track. We think we strolled for about 1.5 miles, which made us feel better about our meal choices of the day.

Our Sunday adventure began at 9 am when our friends picked us up in four cars and we caravanned to Khon Kaen, a large city in the Northeast Region (where the main airport is) for a fun-filled day! We rode with Best and Tony in “the Best car” and enjoyed making the boys listen to Taylor Swift (hahahaha, or 5555 as they say here since “ha” is the word for the number 5 in Thai). The trip takes about an hour, but the time passed quickly. Our first stop in the big city was at the mall to purchase movie tickets. To kill some time before the movie started, we played arcade games, shopped around, and ate lunch. In the midst of our shopping, we discovered that our new favorite fruit, the JackFruit, comes as dried chips!! We bought a bag and they may be the greatest packaged snack ever. At lunch, we taught Mint, Prim, Best and Tony how to say War Eagle and showed them videos of the 2013 Iron Bowl, which was very fun for us! All of our friends continue to be so helpful teaching us Thai phrases that we love showing them our school and helping with English phrases too.

Then we saw a Thai comedy movie called Tua Phor Riak Phor which was really good. It even had some poignant moments and mixed in a little drama! There were English subtitles so we could follow along, but it was very cool gaining exposure to the modern culture. Something that is unique is that before the movie begins, the entire audience stands to honor the king and the Thai Royal Anthem is played throughout the theatre. Also, for the both of us to buy tickets, a large popcorn, a coke, and a water bottle it was only 380 Baht, or about $12. Talk about a stellar date!

In stark contrast, we followed the movie with a trip to WatNong Wang to see more historic and traditional culture. This nine-story temple is gorgeous and located in the heart of Khon Kaen. Each level represents an aspect of the Buddhist religion or Isan culture, and as you ascend through the temple you get closer and closer to the ultimate alter of Buddha and therefore paradise. The view of Khan Kaen and the surrounding area was incredible. There were very interesting murals painted on the walls throughout the temple that were depictions of metaphor teachings. We are SO grateful to our Thai friends for taking the time to translate these teachings first in Thai, and then into English, so that we can learn. We also got to see the teaching books for the monks. The monks have to learn 227 lessons or papers, whereas females have to learn only 8. Every male has a chance to be a monk beginning at age 20, and they serve to bring merit to their family and protect their mothers and sister.


Teaching books for the monks

Our Thai friends also helped us to learn and carry out a few rituals. The first was kneeling before Buddha with cup filled with sticks that had numbers on them. You make a wish to Buddha then shake the cup of sticks until one falls out. Then you look at the descriptions on a nearby wall that corresponds to the number of the stick that fell from the cup. These descriptions will provide insight about the wish you made. The next was kneeling before Buddha and making a wish then attempting to lift an elephant sculpture with your ring finger. If you can lift the elephant on the first attempt and then cannot lift the elephant on your second attempt your wish will come true. We are both feeling excited to see our wishes come true.   

When we left the temple, we walked across the street to a large park on a lake, called the “central park” of Khon Kaen. Here, you can rent bikes, paddleboats, etc. or simply walk around the 3 km pathway around the lake. It was a bit chilly today (lower 60’s with wind…nothing compared to the temperatures in America right now but cold for here!!) so we opted to just walk for a bit. We enjoyed the sights of the Golden Flower Trees, the official tree of the Khon Kaen Province that really does produce a pretty yellow flower. The Thai name for these trees translates to Wishing Tree.

For dinner, we traveled to the Ton Tann outdoor market, named for the Ton Tann tree. We both loved this market! It was very modern with indoor and outdoor shopping, indoor restaurants and outdoor food stands, a stage on a small creek with traditional Thai dancers performing, Christmas lights and lanterns in trees everywhere, an art museum, and many cool sculptures and structures around for photo-ops. Our group loves to take pictures and just has so much fun together!! We feasted on Pa Tong Go, a pastry similar to a doughnut but better, with Sund Kha Ya, a sweet pandan leaf icing that is incredible. We also tried Kao Yum Kai Sap, a mildly spicy fried chicken and rice dish with fresh herbs that we both loved!! Some of our friends had spicy Tom Yum soup and spicy papaya salad that contained dark, black preserved duck eggs. We both tried it to continue our food adventures, but are sorry to say that it was pretty gross. Luckily we recovered with Pak Moh, a super unique vegetable and pork crepe-like dessert that is made on the mouth of a wide pot (in Thai, moh means pot). Due to the chilly weather, we also ordered hot lemon teas that were amazingly flavored.

Pa Tong Go and Sund Kha Ya

Making Pak Moh

Pak Moh

Trying duck egg

When we arrived back home in Mahasarakham, we met briefly with Camellia and Hannah to practice our presentation on Clinical Pharmacy in America that we will give at Khon Kaen hospital tomorrow. We also have presentations to give to the students and professors at the Faculty of Pharmacy on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

We had such a wonderful weekend with truly awesome friends, and are looking forward to a great week of pharmacy practice!

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