Week Exchange in Nan


From December 20th to January 6th, I did my first ever week exchange with Sofia, another YES Abroad student living in Nan, a Northern province. I lived with her host family, attended her school, and followed her schedule.

Daily Life in Nan//

I reluctantly woke up every morning at 6 am, often times by Sofia shaking me and pulling me out of bed. Immediately, chills ran down my spine and pierced my skin. In spite of the bitterness, I actually appreciated the drastic shift in weather as it closer resembled my comfort zone in Chicago and gave off a further Christmas vibe. I began borrowing sweatshirts from Sofia, Mae Jiab (Sofia’s host mother), and Baifern to sleep in and a different one to wear to school. My little black cardigan I made a habit to wear every day did not suffice in the slightest. I took a properly hot shower every morning, a luxury I counted my blessings for every day of my week exchange. I changed into my school uniform that Sofia kindly ironed the night before for me. I discovered that my iron at home was more high-tech than most, rendering me embarrassingly incapable of ironing my own clothes elsewhere despite my desperate effort to learn. Sofia shared her skin care products with me and I lent her my makeup. I brushed my hair, now peaking below my ears. Not as bad as before. Sofia and I raced out the door every morning, slipping on our shoes in the car. I foolishly forgot my school shoes (Mary Janes) and ended up wearing my sneakers, which was rather humiliating. People would already be looking at me because I was an exchange student but I didn’t need to give them any further reason to. As we drove for about fifteen minutes to Sofia’s school, Strisrinan (pronounced Sa-tree-sri-nan), we ate our breakfast in tupperware kindly prepared by Mae Jiab. My breakfast was usually egg, vegetables, and some rice. However, whenever we ate in the car, Sofia’s host mother would always roll the windows down exposing us three girls to the icy air. The reasoning behind this was never clear to us but we learned to eat fast so as to return the car to its warm, comfortable state. We also played music, either trying to learn Thai songs for fun or some American bops. Eventually, Sofia, Gonzague, and I memorized the choruses for some Thai songs and we played them all the time just to prove we could sing and understand them.

We hopped out of the car and wai-ed thank you to Mae Jiab, who went to park her car before joining assembly because she taught English at Strisrinan. We ran usually straight into the inspection line and then morning assembly, putting our bags either in 5.2’s classroom (Baifern and one of Sofia’s classes) or at a table on the side. We always passed a gigantic banner advertising the students that happened to feature Baifern wai-ing, so I made a habit of wai-ing back to the photo of her on the wall which made her laugh. Gonzague usually arrived a few minutes after us and we all sat together for the duration of the assembly, which was pretty much the same as mine. The only notable differences were the marking of attendance, as well as the students sitting in a grassy area rather than under a dome like at my school and others. We hung out with Sofia and Baifern’s friends (Seagram from the sleepover and some others) and then headed to classes. 

These varied daily but we either had classes with Baifern’s class (5.2), a Matthayom 6 class that Sofia’s best friends (Milk and Ford) were in, or separate cultural classes. In Baifern’s class, we would be taught English by Kru Nong sometimes. Sofia, Gonzague, and I sat in a row and finished our work fairly fast. I will admit I often used this extra time to sleep. If the class wasn’t busy, the three of us would sneak in the back and sit on the floor for a bit near the outlets. We would play geography games, talk, and sometimes use our backpacks, sweatshirts, and each other as makeshift pillows to rest for a while.

In the Matthayom 6 class, we would normally come in during their free time so we could sit together and talk with Milk and Ford. Milk was a very nice girl who was a bit quiet. She had an amazing talent for art and wanted to make a career of it, though she wasn’t sure how. Ford was more outgoing, at least to me, and he was trying pursue studying abroad hopefully in England with a government program. They were both ambitious, funny, and friendly. I could definitely see why Sofia and Gonzague were so fond of them. One day, we arrived at their class’s end of term party so we formed a small circle and played Uno, Bingo, and a hand game that if you lost, resulted in a firm slap on your hand. At lunch, Sofia, Gonzague, and I sat by Milk and Ford. I usually ate noodles and eggs. Sofia, Gonzague, and I frequented the school store usually after lunch. I would sometimes snack on yogurt or papaya after if I was still a little hungry or even just as the entirety of my lunch. Sofia and Gonzague would buy little sushi triangles that looked so good, even I was tempted to try it despite my not eating fish. Sometimes the three of us, accompanied by Milk and Ford, would get ice cream cones and sit under benches in the shade.

We often had cultural classes, like Thai language, handicraft, dance, or music. In Thai language, we would have some rather good instruction time outside under a dome area with benches that served as a center for student activity. The three of us would help each other out when we forgot a word or needed teaching of something. I helped with Gonzague’s notes, as I quickly assisted in writing the Thai and English translations and he did the same, adding the French translations as he went. I greatly admired Gonzague, though I’d never say that to his face as he would never let it go. The last time I saw him in September, he barely spoke English or perhaps was just too nervous, needing our Italian friend Arianna to translate for him quite a bit. In such a short time, he had improved by leaps and bounds, which can be credited primarily to his work ethic but also surely to Sofia’s patience in helping him. At this point, he could express almost any thought and tease the lot of us however much he wanted with a very thick (but extremely beautiful) French accent. Not only that, but he also took on the extremely challenging third language of Thai at the same time. I was considerably impressed. At the end of lessons, while Sofia would be learning some advanced thing, Gonzague and I doodled in his notebook in both French and English. He taught me very, very basic French phrases and we compared handwriting. Our secondary Thai language class, located inside a building close to our cafeteria and further away from the center of school, was a bit more misguided and focused on more rudimentary and arbitrary topics. We primarily worked on speaking and got off track pretty fast with our teacher taking turns asking us random questions. I preferred the first class significantly but didn’t mind this one either.

We would cross from the teacher’s office area of this building to the workshop space and work on “Thai handicraft”. The three of us dreaded this class, as it was often several hours doing one highly specific and useless task. For the two of them it was far worse than for me, as they had been doing the same thing weekly for months and were tired of it. Our tedious work was wrapping the tips of toothpicks in toilet paper and fastened them with thin white strings. I never even found out what the end product was supposed to be. We spent the time playing our music, sometimes even singing along obnoxiously, providing entertainment to the few students who also sat around in the workshop. I also took a few naps in this class, if the hours got to be too long and the weather too warm. In this class, we were sometimes joined by our two American friends, Libby and Lily. I met the two of them in different classes but they were English teacher’s assistants in their early twenties or even 18-19 years old. Lily, from New England, had a very sunny demeanor and also had bright blonde hair, a trait that marks you in Thailand as an outsider even further. She was polite, more reserved, and fun to be around. Libby was another native Chicagoan (though further in the suburbs than I, so I was less familiar with where) and a bit more edgy, with dyed pink hair, and several beautiful tattoos that she later explained to us. She was sarcastic and hilarious. The two of them had travelled with a company that provided a unique gap year experience, giving them six weeks in four different countries (I believe) around Asia, Africa, and South America. They lived and travelled in a small group of Americans and learned extensively on a different thing in each country. In Thailand, their primary focus was education. They were extremely close with each other and I really liked hanging out with them, discussing the differences between Thailand and the United States among other things.

The five of us would see each other in our free time or in our dance class, which I never actually took as the teacher never showed up. In that class, the five of us would practice Thai dance by ourselves in a very light-hearted manner in front of the mirror before switching to fun American tunes. Whenever Teacher Mark saw our little group around school, he would exclaim “farang gang!” (farang meaning foreigner in Thai). 

We took a Thai music class, where Gonzague and Sofia actually knew how to play a Thai instrument that I considered kind of similar to the xylophone but that circles around you. I took on the tiny cymbals, which were clearly given to me in the spirit of inclusion and pity. After a certain point, I could no longer truly participate and I messed about on my phone until they finished their songs and discussed the meanings. I loved listening to the music so much, as it was incredibly different from any style I’ve ever heard– a sound uniquely Thai. I was rather weary of this class though, as it was located at the top level of the building. Though it provided an incredible view of the school, it also involved a climb up some rather rickety stairs. I, as one of the clumsiest people who ever walked the earth, do not have a great track record with stairs so this was a bit anxiety provoking.

Our last cultural class was a cooking class in the morning that was taught at a local university where Sofia’s host uncle happened to work. The two of us got a ride from him and stopped at 7/11 for breakfast, getting yogurt and some crackers that he nicely bought us. Sofia and I waited in Uncle’s office until Gonzague arrived and class started. Cooking class, like at my school, was more like a watching-people-cook class. The most we ever participated was to stir a pot for a few seconds for a photo. However, the teacher was very kind and the other university students were fun. They made some soup and cake, which we waited a while to finish, passing the time watching Vines. After they finished, we were allowed to try what they had made and then proceeded to sell the dishes to the various classes at the school. Our host aunt, Mae Rat, picked us up afterwards to take us to lunch. We had omelettes and chatted for a bit before returning to school, though we didn’t have class.

In our free time, we would sometimes leave school for other activities, such as volunteering at Daniel’s school, Sriserm. We walked along a small curb for a while and it wasn’t a fun walk. The worst thing that ever happened to us on that street was spotting a little suffocated cat in a plastic bag on a bench, one of the worst things I’ve probably ever seen. We hurried along until we reached the main road, bustling with people zooming by in their cars and motorcycles hardly giving consideration for pedestrians. Gonzague scared the living daylights out of me many times with his reckless crossing the street, essentially playing a game with his stopping and starting in the middle of the road. After crossing, we would go to a small ChaPayom stand to get tea. My favourite was ชามะนาว (chaa manao), or lemon tea. We befriended the owners, as they spoke English exceedingly well. One day, while we were at Sriserm, Sofia got a bloody nose from the heat. Gonzague and I ran over to the ChaPayom stand and the owner generously gave us a large roll of toilet paper as well as a makeshift ice pack. After getting tea, we would hang out in Arianna & Daniel’s class for a while and Gonzague would play soccer outside with the kids for a bit. Our favourite café, Coffee Sound, was on the same street as ChaPayom and across from Sriserm. We would go there before or after volunteering, and sometimes just if we were bored. I usually shared an iced cocoa with Sofia.

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One day,  Teacher Kean (a Filipino teacher) took us one by one on his motorcycle to the barber’s to get Gonzague’s haircut, followed by a fun trip to Coffee Sound. If boys’ hair gets too long in Thailand, the school makes them cut it so this was a semi-regular occurrence. At the barber’s shop, Sofia and I chatted with Teacher Kean as Gonzague fawned over his new hair in the mirror for an hour. A woman working at the barber’s shop couldn’t resist my now windswept hair from riding on a motorcycle and began combing it while we waited. At Coffee Sound, we talked about the gossip in Nan and about Thailand. We ordered little cakes and Sof & I got our usual. We then went back to school one-by-one, chatting with Teacher Kean as he drove. One of my favourite parts of Thailand was the omnipresence of motorcycles, as they are hardly ever used in America. Sitting side-saddle on the back of one made any trip, no matter how short or slow or how boring the destination, seem like an exciting adventure.

When we weren’t outside on the town, we would often go to a small classroom, where we met our favourite teachers, P’Jub (pronounced Jahb) and P’Aun. They were college students, as well as best friends and colleagues training for a degree in teaching English. P’Jub was very lively and candid. She was exceedingly skilled at makeup and had an affinity for everything Western. P’Aun was her partner in crime, though more reticent. She was very funny and inquisitive about our lives. We would chat with them about everything under the sun and asked them questions about Thai culture we wouldn’t dare ask anyone else, as they did with us about Western culture. One day, P’Jub sent Sofia a message on Instagram, asking very politely if we could perhaps play Truth or Dare with them, as the two of them had never played and were curious. We, having played this game since we were children, found this request sweet and happily obliged. The next day, we met them in the classroom and played, using a water bottle to determine who asked who questions (as dares would hardly be appropriate for Thai school). We talked about embarrassing and outrageous things, as well as serious matters.

Sofia and I in the classroom.

Gonzague, Sofia, and I once went to one of P’Jub & P’Aun’s English classes of Matthayom 1 students (aged 12). P’Jub was teaching about how to perfect an English accent and it was stunning how accurately she could mimic Thai-English and American-English accents. We also demonstrated sometimes by reading sentences aloud. Gonzague imitated Sofia & I’s accent, never getting it right unless he was mocking us. With every “Oh my god!” or “I literally cannot,” he had our accents down to a fine science. For the rest of the class, the three of us played games on our phones and all sat on each other’s laps on the one available chair, which made all the Thai children giggle like crazy. P’Jub and P’Aun were not only good friends, but proved to be good teachers as well. They kept their class in check, taught them valuable language and cultural lessons, while keeping things light-hearted. The five of us met once after our classes had finished to walk to a nearby cafe, where we drank cocoa and shared delicious cake. We chatted about the same things as before, as well as our future plans. A cheeky Thai boy, the son of the cafe owners, boldly walked over to show us a comic he had drawn for his English class. The boy, certainly being no older than eight, appeared to be fluent in English, speaking with ease and grace despite limited contact with the language. We were all blown away by his talent and he chatted with us for a while, though it was clear he had been begrudgingly pushed into conversation by his parents. We walked back to school in time for the end of classes. Gonzague, Sofia, and I went to the end of the main hallway where the teachers’ offices were to the library to hang out with Milk and Ford for a while, as we did most mornings or afternoons. The windows would always be wide open, exposing us to some fresh air and sunlight, which I appreciated. 

Gonzague, Sofia, and I in the library before classes.

After hanging out in the library, we would go to leave school with Mae Jiab, one of my favourite parts of the daily routine. We walked down the hall to her office, the primary teachers’ one. There, Gonzague, Sofia, and I played hide and seek with Daniel, who had just come from his school to leave with Teacher Mark and Kru Nong. There were hardly any hiding spots so we got rather creative, hiding in closets and under desks. We also chatted with Teacher Kean and another Filipino English teacher, as they were also part of the farang gang, oftentimes snacking on bread while we waited. Teacher Mark would sometimes join us for a while as well. When Mae Jiab arrived, the three of us (as Baifern left for extra classes with friends) walked down some stairs to get to her car. All the while, we chatted about our day in English and incorporating Thai. We drove through the town, stopping at a tiny stand that sold the most delicious apple smoothies, quickly becoming Sofia and I’s favourite after school treat. Sometimes the kind woman running it would also give us little pieces of cake after seeing our excitement to have our smoothies, making her a fast friend as well. After that, we would explore the market where Mae Jiab would buy vegetables and other supplies for dinner. I loved hearing about Mae Jiab’s day and discussing ours’, as she was very funny and enjoyed our stories no matter how silly they were.

Sometimes Sof and I would help with dinner and other times we were assured that wasn’t necessary. There was always a delicious vegetable option for me and plenty of eggs and rice. Mae Jiab, Paw (Sofia’s host dad), Baifern, Mae Rat, Uncle and sometimes P’ First (Sofia’s cousin) would come over for dinner. If the whole crowd was there, we would eat outside, sitting on the floor around one table. After dinner, we all showered and put on pajamas. If Baifern wasn’t hunched over her desk in a session of near-religious study, she would watch something with us. The three of us watched a great deal of Thirteen Reasons Why season 1 together. Sofia and I would watch YouTube together in the living room if Baifern was studying or I could sometimes persuade Sof to watch a movie with me, as she rarely does considering she can’t sit through them. We watched Birdbox because it was extremely popular then. I think the two of us found it more funny than scary, which I guess says something about us. I usually hate watching scary movies but Sofia and I could snuggle up under blankets and she told me when to close my eyes so I wouldn’t be afraid. After movies, we would quietly slip into the room Sofia and Baifern shared to sleep. I have trouble sleeping sometimes and I find it much easier to sleep when others are around me awake. I would curl up in bed in an effort to sleep and Sofia would shake me, begging me “not to leave her” or “not to go” if she still wanted to hang out. She even went as far as to push me out of bed and onto the floor, leaving us both collapsing silently from laughter. Then, she would force me to turn out the light though she was very much awake and up. I conceded and after that, she would leave me to sleep. And so the day started again.

Weekends (alternately known as an exploration of Nan’s cafés)//

On the weekends, we would either spend time with Sofia’s host family or with friends.

Sofia’s host cousin, P’Jui, had recently returned from Japan where he worked. He was very insightful about being abroad, acknowledging both the benefits and some of the disadvantages that many people tend to oversee. He was easygoing and always ready for fun. He sometimes contrasted P’First, his older sister, but just a bit. At that time, she was transitioning out of her young adulthood with her upcoming marriage. She was a pharmacist, a highly regarded career in Thailand, and was practical, reliable, and understanding. She also had a fun and wild side that she showed by her enthusiastic participation in any activity as well as her extremely close friendship with Baifern. Sofia, Baifern, P’Jui, P’First, Uncle, Mae Rat, and I went to two fancy cafés on the day P’Jui returned. We got cocoas at the first one, located across the Nan river and across from Strisrinan. When we first entered, we happened to see Libby, Lily, and their whole travel group. This was sadly the last time we saw them, but seeing as they were all laughing and enjoying themselves before the next leg of their journey, we knew they’d be fine. After ordering our drinks, we climbed up the spiral staircase that led to the top of the café where we shared a long bench and enjoyed some cake and our drinks. I was familiar with only the other side of the river, where we had school & our daily activities. The closest I’d ever come to the other side was the bridge where Sofia, Gonzague, and I would listen to rap music and talk in our free time. It was a bit strange seeing the center of Sofia & Gonzague’s life (and mine for the past two weeks) from across the river. At the next café, almost half an hour away, we had to wait forever in line so we ended up not even getting anything to drink. We instead explored the garden area, full of mist machines, fountains, swings, greenery, and cages with gorgeous birds inside. On a different day, Mae Rat took Baifern, Sofia, and I to the famous café in Nan with a viewpoint that is maybe forty minutes away from Sofia’s house. This was the third time I’d been but it wasn’t getting old at all. I had a green apple and honey smoothie and Baifern, Sofia, and I found a little corner inside with a window to chat in. We found house magazines and flipped through them, playing games picking our favourite houses on the pages and in the entire magazine and then explaining why. 

Baifern, Sofia, and I’s nook in the cafe.
The view of Nan.

After we finished our drinks, we took some selfies by the viewpoint before leaving.

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We ended our evenings by returning home to play card games. Playing cards is actually illegal in Thailand, as a way to prevent gambling. Playing non-gambling games is completely alright behind closed doors, as the American cohort learned in our first day in Thailand when we were kindly asked to play upstairs in our room rather than in the lobby. I liked playing cards with Sofia’s host family, as it was a distinctly family activity. Sometimes we would even play for small sums of 1-10 baht as a joke. P’First was skilled at cards, as well as Baifern, who had a sneaky strategy of keeping quiet but pulling a win at the very end. One of my favourite family nights was Mae Rat’s birthday. The entire family went to the nearby Big C Supercenter (a mall in Thailand), where we had หมูกระทะ (or Mu Kratha). With one giant pot in the middle of the table, everyone could cook their own food. P’Jui was very considerate of me and got a separate pot for me to make my vegetables, tofu, eggs, and noodles in. We spent an hour or so there talking and enjoying our meal. Then, us kids explored the mall for a bit. P’First bought Baifern, Sofia, and I bread for the next morning’s breakfast, which was very sweet of her. We also all got ice cream from Dairy Queen, which wasn’t the brightest of our ideas as right when we got home to Mae Rat’s house (down the street from ours), we had birthday cake. She blew out her candles and we all sang happily. Sofia’s host family were extremely kind people and she was very lucky to have them in her life. 

When we weren’t with the family, Mae Jiab encouraged Sofia and I to borrow bikes from a nearby hotel her friend owned so we could explore Nan. We got up early and Mae Jiab would drive us to the center of town where we got our bikes.

Sof and I renting bikes.

We rode down the main street, though it was rather intimidating. We passed by the night market spot and the temples, on our way to Sofia’s favourite café. Unfortunately, we got lost seeing as Sofia’s directions were based off of the one time she had been to the café, Baan Baan Nan Nan, and it involved going through some back alleys. We drove around in circles until eventually I got frustrated and asked a Thai woman for directions, despite Sofia being far better at Thai than me. With her help, we found the café and, thanks to getting lost, another hidden gem of Nan. Just down the street from Baan Baan, there is a small home-grown boutique, Lucky Penny, run by a kind woman and her eight-year old daughter. The handmade & vintage clothes and jewelry there were gorgeous, though a bit out of my price range. I did end up getting one shirt, a light see-through green one with beautiful pink flowers on it. As we browsed, the daughter ran up to Sofia and I and spoke some English lines that her mother clearly fed her seconds before. When she finished asking us how we liked the clothes or letting us know where we could try things on, she beamed with pride and we complimented her on her courage and English skills. Sofia and I stumbled upon some postcards that were hand-drawn for sale. Some of them were clearly done by skilled local artists but there were a few in the back clearly made by children. The owner explained to us that she encourages her daughter and nieces and nephews to paint and draw postcards to sell, as it shows the process of making and selling art, and gives the proceeds back to them to spend. Sofia and I, both already finding the little girl to be beyond adorable, immediately began sifting through the children’s postcards and bought some. Another thing I delighted in about Lucky Penny was that when we had made our purchases, the owner told us she didn’t give plastic bags, only wrapping in paper with ribbon. I had brought my own purse for the day so I didn’t need that, but I appreciated their eco-friendly business approach.

The Lucky Penny

After stopping there, we finally got to Baan Baan Nan Nan. The walls were filled with Thai books in neat plastic coverings, as well as handmade postcards and earrings. 

Sofia looking at some earrings at Baan Baan Nan Nan.

When I walked further into the café, I saw a little painter’s workplace outside as well as a tiny area of the space where you can order your drinks. The menu wasn’t as frilly as many other cafés, even being mostly in Thai, and I ordered a hot chocolate. I continued exploring, finding shelves of miscellaneous Western books in various languages. I marvelled at seeing old books like Harry Potter or Roald Dahl books in print again, as I hadn’t read a book in English in months. After getting my drink, I climbed up the spiral staircase to the second floor. This was also all new Thai books but there was an open window in the library area. When I looked down, I saw a woman painting with black watercolour while listening to piano. I glanced at the Thai books and recognized some of the titles but knew I would never be able to read them. I felt creativity pouring from every crevice of this area– in books, music, art, handicraft, everything. It truly embodied the artsy spirit of Nan. I left the library area to see Sofia sipping on her drink in a hammock tied against two logs on the floor in the center of the room. We sat together, across from art and the library and quietly talked about the space as well as our Capstone plans. 

The spot directly across from where Sofia and I sat on the hammocks.

After that, we took our bikes up to the nearby mall to get pizza from the only Thai chain restaurant, The Pizza Company. We rode through the busier streets of Nan and I enjoyed the combination of sun and wind. The journey there was a bit ill-fated though, seeing as Sofia and I, being Americans, kept driving on the wrong side of the road and then having to correct ourselves under duress. We eventually arrived and then had to wait almost an hour to get pizza despite almost nobody being in the restaurant, something we made a joke of. On our way back to meet at the hotel where we’d return our bikes, we spotted Arianna on her own bike. We made plans with a large group of people for the next day.

Sofia and I met Arianna and her two friends, all Ivy League graduates and English teachers, in town. We went thrift shopping at an 80 baht ($2.60 USD) sale place, where I found one of my favourite dresses of all time. I was a bit sad because a button was unstitched but the owner very kindly sewed it on for me. The dress was a bright red and had white and green flowers on it. I ended up wearing it many times to the beach later in the year. We talked with Arianna’s friends for a while, though I was a bit intimidated by their intelligence and candor. Though Arianna made us feel like we were all equals, being around her successful adult friends reminded me that I was only sixteen and still had a lot of life to live. Arianna, Sofia, and I split from her friends after a bit and rode to a local market I’d never been before, upon Arianna’s recommendation. We bought enormous bags of salad, full of all kinds of fresh fruit and vegetables for such a low price. The little joys of Thailand. For dessert, we got ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วง (khao niw mamuang), or mango sticky rice. We then biked over to a nearby park and ate our lunch on benches under some trees. Sofia and I are lucky, seeing as I don’t like the coconut milk or even the rice part very much and Sofia prefers that to the mango so we shared our dessert accordingly. Then, we met up with Ford, Ford’s friend, and Gonzague at another café called The Curve Project. It was a very hippie place and Arianna actually knew the owners quite well. We sat outside on little mats around a small table. I had peach iced tea and we all got desserts to split. We played games, watched funny videos about American politics, and played with the owner’s cats for a bit. At the café, there was a sort of lottery game that consisted of you paying a small price and then taking down a string attached to the ceiling that had a folded piece of paper on the other end that gave you some sort of prize, whether it be art (as this was another shop) or free coffee or just a bookmark. Gonzague played and got free coffee, to his delight. 

The Curve Project’s lottery game.

As the sun set, we headed inside the café, where we looked at the art and played puzzle games, such as trying to fit a square with only little triangle parts. We laughed as we tried it as a group and were informed that nobody had ever completed it successfully. This was a small consolation when our combined brain power was just not enough to figure it out before it got dark and we all had to leave. Ford and his friend left on motorcycle and us four remaining members of the group took our bikes and went to the night market. This was where our nights usually ended, with Sofia and I meeting Baifern after her extra classes to get dinner or be picked up. My favourite night at the night market was on my last night in Nan because we had special visitors! P’Kam!!! P’Kam, our AFS returnee who volunteered at our first camp, met us in Nan along with her other AFS friends who had also gone to America when they were our age. We had a lovely dinner, eating Thai food and discussing our home country, which we all missed dearly (except Gonzague haha). I gave big hugs to P’Kam and Gonzague, as it would be my last time seeing them for a while and Sofia and I went home. 

The next morning, there was a bit of complication with my bus home. We had to leave the house early, so I unfortunately didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to Baifern. Then, I had to take a van to another province and then take a bus back to Phitsanulok, where I would be picked up. I was a bit stressed, seeing as I had to navigate this all by myself only in Thai but I managed to get home alright. I said goodbye to Sofia and Mae Jiab with huge hugs and lots of love, as they had truly welcomed me into their lives and created such a fun environment for me. My week exchange with Sofia showed me a totally different area of Thailand and gave me a better understanding of the intricacies of Thai culture. I also got significantly closer with Sofia & Gonzague and now knew their experiences in Thailand in a completely different way. I was very happy in Nan and I would love to visit again someday.


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