My intro to Thailand

By Candace Begody
Navajo Times
SING BURI, Thailand

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T hree weeks in the Kingdom of Thailand and I have been asking, "What did I get myself into?"

I arrived in Bangkok almost one week ago. When I arrived at the Bangkok airport, I waited for the coordinators of the Imaginations Volunteer program, who said they would be waiting at the international arrivals meeting point for me.

Like any tourist, I was looking for a sign that read, "Candace Begody." There was none. I began to think they had forgotten about me and decided I would hitch a cab to Khaosan Road, where I expected everyone to be waiting.

We drove for about 30 minutes before I arrived to one of the busiest streets in the city. While everyone was dancing, laughing and drinking, I began to pray. I prayed for countless things - my safety, my sanity, strength, my parents, a miracle, but, most importantly, the hostel I would be staying at for the next couple of days.

No one on the street seemed to know where to find the atHome Hostel. I walked down the busy street but was sent back down a dark street.

This is when my miracle came - I asked a young man for directions and he agreed to help me find the hostel. We turned around and walked down the same wild street and soon came across the hostel.

That night I did not get an ounce of rest. My first full day in Bangkok was a shopping day as the rest of the volunteers and I made our way to the floating market and the weekend market. The floating market is, just as the name implies, is a place where goods are sold from boats. The weekend market is what I would call simply a huge flea market.

The second day, the group and I made our way to an elephant village where we rode and fed elephants. To Thai people the elephant can be compared to horses back home. They are sacred and many times are what the people rely on for survival. I found that they are beautiful and intelligent creatures, just like our horses.

This same day, the group and I left the city and drove three hours to Sing Buri, where I will be until Friday morning. I thought I had experienced plenty about the world but walking into the Sing Buri house, I was left with speechless and more appreciative of where I come from.

I stepped into the house and immediately noticed lizards walking on the walls. I was assured that this was a good thing since "they do not come off the walls" and they will eat the mosquitoes that swarm the city.

The house, a two story, has metal sheets as roofing and no windows. The bathroom is on the same floor as the shower (there really is no shower) and pouring water into the toilet flushes toilets. Toilets back home are pressurized. Gravity takes everything down the toilet here.

Monday, June 4 (Sunday, June 3, back home), was a Buddhist holiday. We offered food to the monks at one of the nearby temples and had a breakfast buffet - rice, fish skins, Pad Thai, pork, and much more.

Here we were told not to point our toes at the monks or Buddha as this was a sign of disrespect. We paid our respects to Buddha and meditated before leaving the temple.

We also visited Wat Than Pla, also known as the monkey temple, where monkeys freely roam the complex. Here, my purse was nearly stolen by a monkey. Monkeys roam, fight each other, sleep, walk, jump, eat and play in the streets.

On this same day, we toured Wat Prabath Namphu, also known as the AIDS temple, which houses nearly 150 AIDS patients. Two museums displayed human body parts and bodies of those who give the temple permission to use their bodies.

I entered the museum to find corpses. I quickly exited the museum with my stomach in my hands. But this is how they honored their dead HIV patients.

Come Friday morning, two of my peers and I will be moving to Chiang Mai, the northern part of Thailand and a 12-hour train ride from Singburi. Here we will be teaching English at an orphanage for the next couple of weeks and I have been told I will be living in a tree house for the next couple weeks.

Sawat dee ka.

Candace Begody, the sports editor at the Navajo Times, is participating in the Imaginations Volunteer Program, a nonprofit organization committed to improving the quality of life of children and families through sustainable health and education initiatives at home and abroad.