From February 24th to March 8th, YES Abroad cohort member Sydney Chesta came to Kamphaengphet for her week exchange.
During the week exchange, Sydney lived with my host family and shared my room with me. My host parents were very welcoming to her, even though the planning of the week exchange was incredibly last minute. They took us to many of our town’s nicer restaurants that I had only been to on special occasions as well as the mall more times than we normally would. Sydney also attended my school and there was even a special ceremony at morning assembly welcoming her.
She shared some of my school uniforms, as pictured above. She had the same class schedule as I did so she got to know my classmates and teachers fairly well.
My class even interviewed her on the first day, which they do with most foreigners.
In the AFS office, Sydney and I studied, read books, or helped teachers with small tasks. Sometimes we did silly things too though, like create long handshakes.
We spent a good amount of time with the foreign teachers in the STEM Office. We sat with my friends at lunch. It felt like my two worlds were colliding, but in a good, harmonious way.
Teacher Suporn, Kru Nok, and some other teachers took us, in Thai traditional dress, to the Kamphaengphet Historical Park on Sydney’s first day of school. We explored the ruins and took lots of photos.
Sydney and I were also lucky as my town was having a festival for the week and it was very close to my house. My host parents took us on the first day and we did a lottery type of activity not like anything I’d ever heard of. We bought tickets and then took a long net and fished out little plastic eggs from a revolving pool while surrounded by a massive crowd of people doing the exact same thing. There was a huge stage in front making frantic commentary to intensify the occasion. In the eggs, there are Thai letters corresponding with prizes. My host parents let Sydney and I try but we only got household items like cooking oil or sugar, which were the most common prizes. However, Peem (my seven-year-old host sister) managed to snag a high-tech washing machine through this somehow, which was honestly pretty hilarious. We already have a nice washing machine and it was rather hard to get the new one home but a win nevertheless! Sydney and I later went to this once with my friends after school for a snack and to hang out. We also went on the last day by ourselves to the market area and got some super inexpensive but lovely new shirts as well as hair curlers and make-up. After that, Sydney and I would randomly get dolled up with our new curlers, trying new styles. This made my host parents, advisor, and friends amused from seeing me in such a different look.
In our free time, Sydney and I usually rode our bikes to my favourite cafe and worked on our laptops doing college research, blogging, and whatever else. Sydney picked out banana bread from the cafe, which I’d never tried before, and it ended up being one of our go-to breakfasts.
We got bubble tea some days instead. At home, we made a lot of noodles and mac’n’cheese and watched movies or TV. My favourite movie we watched was The Impossible, at Sydney’s recommendation. It is on Netflix and features Ewan McGregor and a young Tom Holland. It is based on a true story and follows a Western family after the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. I didn’t know much about this historical event prior to watching and I researched it a lot after, especially about how it affected the Thai people as this wasn’t the focus of the movie. We also watched a lot of Gilmore Girls.
Sometimes we called the rest of our American cohort just to chat. Chloe and Sofia were also together at that time, I believe. One night, we decided to draw all of our AFS friends though our art wasn’t the best and was just a huge joke.
In the evenings, Kru Nok, Teacher Nee-On, Teacher James, my British friend Lewis, the Russian teacher Tim, Sydney, and I spent about two or three hours volunteering to teach English to court clerks. We did this through plenty of games as well as basic listening and speaking practice. This was fun but also a lot of hard work to work on lesson plans.
On our very last night in KPP, we had a small going-away party with my host family, Teacher Nee-On, P’Day and P’Dream (her daughters), Nong Natcha (her baby granddaughter and one of my best friends), Kru Nok, Teacher James, and Teacher Suporn. Sydney and I dressed up and we all went to a fancy private restaurant I’d never been to before. We had a lot of lovely food like som tam, fried vegetables, and french fries among other things. We also listened to American music covered by Korean artists, which is a classic move for Thailand. After dinner, my teachers gave us some gifts like little keychains and a tote bag. I thought it was so lovely and kind of everyone to organize this.
Sydney was supposed to stay in Kamphaengphet until around March 10th but AFS sent out an email asking if anyone wanted to join the upcoming Krabi island camp, starting on March 8th. Sydney and I spontaneously decided we would, as we had pretty much exhausted my small town’s activities and were ready for some travelling. When we were asking permission to go, Teacher Suporn asked me if I wanted to do another week exchange living with a different host family for a few weeks because she had connections in a province in the south of Thailand, which is rather far from my home but close to the camp location. She also kindly invited Sydney, so long as her advisor agreed (which she did). This sort of opportunity doesn’t really exist in AFS so Sydney and I leapt at it. We packed our bags for a few weeks hastily and were off on our first summer vacation adventure!