Meeting over Mango Sticky Rice

Sharing mashed potatoes and apple pie slices with family members yesterday made me thankful for all those that share this existence with me. Friends, family, and all those I’ve crossed paths with in this life.

So it was necessary…

I took today to remember the lovely individuals I met in Thailand this past summer. I was sharing reviews on study abroad sites today to elaborate on the experience I had in travelling with CISabroad. In every review, I talked about global connections. This was something that became most apparent after posting a final travel review on Facebook. The term “connection” and “friends” was recurring.

I studied abroad with a dozen other college students from across the nation, with one girl from my home school: Ohio University. (I couldn’t have been more surprised to find another OU Bobcat in Southeast Asia!)

I got into my lodgings at the Chiang Mai Gate Hotel, roughly at midnight. Within the first hour, all the other students were knocking on the door. Not only did they want to welcome me to Thailand, but they also wanted to invite me to hang out in the hotel meeting space, adjacent to the pool. A barrage of new faces and names in a country I had yet to know, but they were all friendly. Needless to say, I was excited to adventure with them.

Not only that, but I was blessed to share a living space with an amazing soul, connecting with her as soon I walked in the door. She reminded me my best friend in Oregon. We found we had both had a love for late-night ice cream trips to 7-11, temple hikes, romantic comedies, geckos, and mid-afternoon naps. We later discovered we have the SAME favorite obscure childhood movie; The Little Princess.

Today, I exchange pen-pal notes with her, and have it down in my plans to visit Wisconsin to visit (and also take note of the accuracy of the Wisconsin state project I did in 4th grade).

I stay connected with other members of my study abroad group through Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. I know this maintained connection is quite millennial, but I have to commend social media for keeping me up to date on the lives and good fortune of the people I shared a hotel and city with in Thailand.

Not only do I stay in contact with the people in my immediate study abroad group, but I also maintain contact with friends living in Chiang Mai. This was in thanks to the coordination of CISabroad. During our month-long stay, we were linked to “Thai buddies.” These were Thai students also studying at Chiang Mai University. Through getting to know “buddies” of our own age, we got to explore the city through the eyes of a local. We became familiar with popular restaurants and sights, obtained insights into the culture, and learned more of the language. Having this connection in the city helped us overcome any reservations we might have had about going out and exploring a foreign city.

I know that I have friends to continue exploring the country further when I return to Thailand in future. And I am always happy to be a tour guide for the southernmost corner of Ohio when they decide to journey this way.

As I said, staying in contact with everyone is one of the blessings of social media. It offers a reminder of the adventures in a summer of temples and mango sticky rice. Memories I clutch onto with the messages we all exchange and the pictures shared. (I actually just wished one of my Thai buddies a ‘Happy Birthday’ today. )

So I give thanks to a program and resulting adventure that allowed my path to cross with these people. I could not be more thankful for the souls that this life has brought me in contact with.

My advice: When travelling – find a reason to speak to a fellow adventurer. Share coffee or Thai milk tea with someone who might be as starry-eyed with discovery as you. Ask directions. Smile and say “hello.”

I thought I would share this gratitude from the heart. Whether for mashed potatoes or mango sticky rice. Because Thanksgiving begged that it be said.



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