AISEF Program: “Of learnings, memories, and friendships”
Jay Ian L. Capungan (Filipino)
AISEF Loy Krathong 2015 Participant
I was in front of my school calendar. The year was in 2015 and the months shown were in July to December. The calendar had plenty of red marks, these marks were indication of long and short holidays. As I checked the days, I found out long holidays in the months of September and November. I was happy when I saw that November 22-25 were all holidays in the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Then came lunch break and I was in front of the computer googling things to help me kill the time. Suddenly, I browsed the website of the ASEAN Youth Friendship Network (AYFN) and it showed me the schedule for the Art Immersion and Student Exchange Field Trip (AISEF) which was slated in November 22-27, 2015.
In just around 15 minutes I filled up the application form and emailed it to AYFN. I was in a hurry because it was time to go to my class. AYFN emailed me back few weeks later after they closed the online application process. I was accepted for the program. And yes I am going to Chiang Mai to participate in the Loy Krathong AISEF porgram.
Fast track to November 2015 and the story telling begins here.
Day 0: November 21, 2015
I left Phnom Penh International Airport at 5:15pm bound to Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand. It was an hour and five minutes plane ride from Cambodia. These two countries are neighbors so the flight time is a little more than an hour. AirAsia was very accommodating, they gave me my boarding passes for my connecting flights when I was in PP Airport so I only crossed the fly-thru counters and didn’t have to go thru arrival and departure areas. The airport was not so big I easily found my gate for my next flight to Chiang Mai.
At around 9pm, I boarded my flight to Chiang Mai. I was on the same flight with my two Indonesian friends and Ms. Hesti was an hour ahead of us. When we arrived at the airport, two staffs from the Language Institute of Chiang Mai University welcomed us and brought us to our hotel.
Day 1: November 22, 2015
Few of the remaining participants arrived on this day. I took the chance to have breakfast together with my Indonesian roommate. We exchanged some good information about us while enjoying the delicious foods prepared for us.
In the afternoon, I tried to enjoy the place and had a small walk to Maya Mall just five minutes walk from our hotel. The place was so quiet. I was a little nervous crossing the road because in Thailand they are right hand drive and I am use to cross a left hand drive street.
In the evening, the official welcome dinner started and we were treated to a dinner with special Lanna Dance performances by dancers and musicians in Chiang Mai. I got my official photo souvenir from the welcome dinner.
Day 2: November 23, 2015
The official start of the program begins today. In the morning, we were transferred to Language Institute- Chiang Mai University for the opening ceremony. The deputy director of the Institute welcomed all of us with great enthusiasm for our week-long immersion and trips.
After the short opening program, Teacher Mint of the Language Institute conducted her Basic Thai Language class. I must admit that learning the language was difficult for me because of the different tones that we must first learn. Well, at least today I can still remember saying “Sawadee krap”.
We had our lunch held at Chiang Mai Grand View Hotel. It was a stomach loaded lunch. We were once again treated to a lunch for the kings and queens.
Then in the afternoon, we came back to LICMU for our highly exciting campus tour using the renowned electric cars of the university. We’ve seen all the colleges of the university and we stopped to take a picture of lake in the middle of the campus. At 4 o’clock we rushed back to the institute for our Lanna dance class which was conducted by Instructor Ong who is an expert in both Northern Thai and Indonesian tranditional dances.
The day was jampacked with memorable activities. I learned many first on the first day of the immersion. We went back to the hotel with so many stories to tell.
Day 3: November 24, 2015
On the third day of the immersion, we had the academic writing workshop conducted by Dr. Preeya Nokeaw. She is a very energitic woman who explained to us her difficulty in learning English back when she was a university student. It was unimaginable to know that this respected educator who holds a PhD in education is traumatized in speaking in front of an audience. I can even sense it when she was doing her lecture because her voice was shaking while explaining the basics of academic writing. She told us that because of her fear she specialized in writing and not in speaking.
In the afternoon, Instructor Curtis Predigo, an American teacher in CMU conducted his academic presentation lecture. He told us that the only way to be confident in speaking is through practice, practice and practice. His presentation was filled with fun memories of his childhood, his previous job in an insurance firm, and how he got into Chiang Mai University. Mr. Predigo was surprised to know that the Indonesian and Filipino people are well-versed in speaking English unlike his Thai students who are afraid to even speak an English word which make them having a hard time to learn the language.
At the end of his session, he told us to prepare our “scar story”. The story was presented individually the next day for our project presentation.
Day 4: November 25, 2015
So the whole morning of November 25 was for our individual scar story presentation. Each of us was given enough time to present. I can recall a participant who told us how she was pulled out of a car and rolled on the road few meters away from the car because she forgot to close the door properly. Another one who figured in a motorbike accident and got into coma for 10 days. And a couple who were eating dinner and sat on one side of the restaurant table which was connected to the chair and when they sat down to eat, the entire food on the table was thrown to their body. They had literally received a shower of food.
I was the last one to present and I told them about the dance performance I had in 2009 and the motorbike accident in 2013 that gave me a big cut and stitches on my left knee. The only difference in my presentation was when I did it humurously and all of them were laughing while I was presenting. They looked entertained when I finished my presentation.
In the afternoon, all AISEF participants together with the international students of LICMU participated in Krathong Workshop. The Krathong was then judged and a winner was announced at the end of the workshop.
At around 4 o’clock we went back to our classroom for the closing ceremonies and certificate presentation by Deputy Director Sakorn. In the evening, we attended the annual Loy Krathong parade and released our krathong and our wishes at Ping River.
Day 5: November 26, 2015
We woke up early on this day because of our field trip. After taking our breakfast, we went to Phra Sing and Cheddi Luang Temple. Mr. Chum told us a little history of the temple.
After the temple trips we went to Mae Ta Man Elephant Camp probably an hour away from Chiang Mai proper. There, we watched the daily elephant show. After the show we experienced elephant riding and then had our sumptuous buffet lunch at Mae Ta Man restaurant. To end the trip, we jump off to our rafts and tried bamboo rafting.
Day 6: November 27, 2015
Send-off time. Half of the participants left in the morning and afternoon thru plane from Chiang Mai to Bangkok while five of us took the bus and stayed a night in Bangkok.
Ms. Hesti arranged for our bus and we are off to a night travel via Sombat Tours. The bus was very comfortable. The bus had a 90 degree reclining chair, blankets and pillows, a head-set and individual TV for movies. It even had snacks. In the middle of the trip around 3am we stopped for a while and had buffet foods served to us. It was amazing. I felt very much accommodated during the trip for less than 30$.
Day 7: November 28, 2015
We arrived in Bangkok at around 7 o’clock in the morning. One of our Indonesian friend met her Thai friend and we took our bags to her place and drop there for a day so we could go around the city without our bags. She then brought us to Chatuchak park and there we roam around the park until the market opened. We spent half of the day at the market. In the afternoon, we took the BTS train to Siam Paragon and enjoyed the rest of the day. One remarkable thing I observed with Thais is that they are not noisy mall goers. They respect other people while they are shopping. They do not throw garbages anywhere.
In Bangkok, people do not push each other when riding the train. They always wait for their turn and line up properly.
Then at night, we hurried to our Thai friend and took our bags and rushed to the airport. Two of my four Indonesian friends left at around 9pm for their flight to Jakarta and the other two was still with me while waiting for our flights the next day. They were going to Phuket and I was bound to Ho Chi Minh City for my trip back to Phnom Penh.
Day 8: November 29, 2015
My flight left Bangkok at 7am to HCM City. I left Thailand with so much memories. Memories that can not be replaced by any material possessions a man could have. When I arrived in HCM, I took the 6-hour bus ride to Phnom Penh and I was home by 6 o’clock in the evening.
I was tired, but happy.
I embarked on a journey that my future self would say “You made it, good job”.
The eight days was short, but the memories it gave me can literally make a book of many first things I learned while I was in Chiang Mai and in Bangkok. Things that schools and universities will never teach me, but only experience does.
My sincerest gratitude to the ASEAN Youth Friendship Network for the Art Immersion and Student Exchange Field Trip (AISEF) program.
To Ms. Hesti Aryani, for the kind assistance during the whole course of the program.
To all of my new found Indonesian and Thai friends, until we meet again. Good luck to all of us.