My first birthday abroad was fun and very eventful. I spent the morning learning about Thai pronouns and critical thinking in the classroom-riveting, right? Things picked up at noon when we headed into town for lunch and ate delicious spring rolls with peanut sauce. Then the volunteer group went to a village called Renu Nakhon for a Pud Thai traditional dance performance. During introductions, the audience even sang me “Happy Birthday” after my friends forced me to disclose my special day! Here is a picture of the opening performance:
After the trained dancers performed, we were invited to try on the traditional garb and join in. It was pretty funny because we had no preparation but we were still well-received. The audience was amused by our efforts; unfortunately they took lots of pictures and video to capture this special moment. Here’s a shot of the WorldTeach volunteers with some of the school teachers, after the performance. We are holding sticky rice containers, which were presented to us as gifts. If you look closely, you can also see the white string tied onto our wrists, which were given to us in a ceremony earlier in the day to give us protection and happiness during our time as volunteer teachers in Thailand.
It was a very special experience for us and we were grateful to be so warmly accepted by everyone. Today we tried on another type of traditional dancing outfit, which we will wear on November 2 for a fish festival and actually get to keep! Back at the orientation site, I was (semi) surprised with an actual birthday cake, candles and gifts! Our Thai host mother, Maeo, made me a pretty floral arrangement I will be taking to my new house when I move, and the volunteers gave me a yoga mat, which I am really excited about! I’ve been leading yoga classes for a small number of people every few days and am looking forward to practicing with a mat again. Even though I’m so far from home, it was a very happy birthday with my new friends here.
I was also able to talk to lots of family and friends yesterday, which also made the day special. Thanks everyone for thinking of me and keeping in touch!