Three full days have passed since my last log entry and I am regretful to report that my Thai language skills are sadly not progressing as I had hoped. As it turns out, I have no natural affinity for this language which is a tonal language, meaning that the way each word is said can give it different meanings. When speaking with one of our guides from Mahidol university, our host institution, she was explaining that the word Mai can have five different meanings depending on how it is spoken. Very difficult! On our fourth day in Thailand we were given the amazing opportunity to take a river tour of the Salaya area where we were guided by boat to different local farm areas including a lotus flower farm, rice patty farm, Gac fruit farm, and an orchid farm. At each stop we were able to learn of their farming practices, admire the natural beauty of the farms themselves, and interact with the locals whose lifestyles are entirely dependent on this agriculture. My most notable observation was that everyone we encountered was older in age which indicates to me these laborious farming lifestyles are a dying practice and popularity. I am very glad we got to experience this with the help of a Mahidol Masters student, Patty, who helped translate all of our questions. This experience is not something I could have easily organized on my own.
The next day, we moved to three hours west to Mahidol’s campus in Kanchanaburi. Our introduction to this campus was very refreshing because they made our reception extremely special, formal, and professional and you could tell how proud they were to have international American students visiting their university. Shortly after our arrival we were given a tour of their campus by their professors which revealed a breathtaking campus set back in the jungle and this was followed by various scheduled cultural activities. On our second day here, Mahidol’s food chemistry professor organized a food processing lab where we made rice noodles from scratch, a classic Thai product. Here we were able to learn the process, perform a sensory evaluation on the finished product, and also interact with the students who, surprisingly, spoke wonderful English! It was heartwarming to spend time with Mahidol’s student body as they were incredibly kind, interested in our time here, and asked us a myriad of questions about our study programs. I cannot stress enough how immersed we have been in the Thai culture and have gotten and authentic feel for the academic resources and academic structure available to these students.
Beyond the classroom and guided lecture with Dr. Matthews, in the afternoon we have been able to enjoy and incredible about of authentic Thai cuisine and cultural activities that gives us a better feeling for Thailand’s rich history. Ending our day today we sent to Mallika city where we got to dress up in traditional Thai clothing and enjoyed a traditional Thai performance with dinner. I cannot wait to see what else this campus and surrounding area has in store for the next two days. Keep posted to find out.