Friday, February 27, 2009

Last day in Krabi - Welcome to Trang

Our last day in Krabi was full of energy. Our first stop was the Laem Pho Mollusk Fossil site. The fossils in this site are believed to be about 75 million years old. Our second stop was the Outdoors Aquarium where we got to see a little bit of everything: small fish, BIG fish, colorful and even ugly fish. After that we visited Wat Tham Seua (aka Tiger Cave temple). Even though this visit presented a challenge, Maggie and Brett made us proud by climbing 1237 steps to the top of the mountain. I only climbed half of the mountain, but Maggie and Brett took amazing pictures for all of us!
After an amazing day we had to say goodbye to our friends in Krabi and move to the province of Trang. We were received with open arms. Our hosts families were very excited and happy to see us. I enjoyed a great dinner with my host family, Manit and Lynn Wongsureerat. They made thai rice noodles and shrimp soup for me. Delicious!

An amazing day awaits tomorrow! It will include a sea trip, snorkelling and visiting an underwater wedding festival.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


2/26 evening-

Spent the evening at the Krabi Tipa Resort belonging to Rotarian
Kanokwalee Engchuan. The resort was a compound of over 100 very nice
secluded bungalows very close to main street Krabi. Dinner was of
traditional dishes (chicken,rice, octopus, prawn, thai coconut soup
and egg omelette, among other things). Dinner included 7 Rotarians
from various vocations including hotel owners, doctor, insurance sales
and an owner of high end commercial construction company. Pitak
Peanusaha, a Rotarian, engineer and hotel owner was graciuous enough
to give us a tour of his property and treated us to an after dinner
cocktail. Before calling it a night we spent time on main street Krabi
where there were several vendors and a Burger King; I had forgotten
how good Whoppers really are!!!!!

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Updated photo for 226

Here's the correct photo for post 226, sorry! The other picture was in front of the Phuket Marine biological Center. So much fun!
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The true meaning of resilency

Earlier this week, we visited Ban Nai Rai, a village in the stages of being rebuilt. The former site was ravaged by the tsunami four years ago. Thanks to local Rotary efforts and those abroad, 300 homes have been constructed. Right now, there are 65 units up in the mostly Muslim community.

There are still shards of its former tenants about - scattered debri, old clothes, toys that were probably loved dearly by some child. It was quite sad and very, very moving to see these people getting on with their lives. Children still being able to smile despite the cards they were dealt. It really makes you wonder about the inner strength that lurks within all of us. I will post photos of the village when I can. Until next time, peace, love and blessings.
~ Natasha

Thai Ocean Venture Co

We've had the pleasure of visiting the Thai Ocean Venture Co Ltd in Phuket which is one of the largest tuna processing plants in Thailand. The owners, Mr Paol Yu and Mrs Kanya Yu received us all and gave us an overview of their business. We had a tour of the very sterile and impressive plant, which included the chill room (-60C), freezing, trimming and cutting of the tuna and of course the packaging. We had a delicious lunch with the freshest tuna, mahi mahi and snapper, so next time you enjoy a delectable yellowfin sushi, know that if it came from TOV Co, you're having the best available in the world! Please feel free to check out their web site at:

Warm welcome at Phang Nga

We were welcomed with beautiful traditional Thai dancers by our hosts the Sineenat Jangtatang family and rotary club of Phang Nga. The team is in Krabi preparing to meet the rotary club for dinner. ~ the team
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Monday, February 23, 2009

Vocatioanl day for the team in Phuket

2/23 The team spent the day in Phuket visiting the various vocation
sites individually. I spent the day with Leo and Piopop at a local
credit union and bank.
More to come when internet access is available.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Visiting Bangkok Bank February 19th

Quanchai, our gracious host in Bangkok, Past Rotary president and 2009 GSE team leader to the US was able to arange a meeting with Bangkok Bank. I was excited to meet with the Bank and get a better understanding of their operations and how it may relate to what I do at Babson Capital. The GSE team intersted to learn of the bank and in some respects trying to get a better understanding of what I do also accompanied me. The first part of the day was spent touring the normal operations of the bank including a visit to the vault. We were then escorted to the 24th floor which included all of the investment activities of the bank which included private banking, fund management and the securities divison. Sornsak Sroisangchan, officer in the Fund Mangement department walked me through the structure of the bank and the various attributes of the bank including the investment subsidaries. the bank is relatively small by US standards but quite large in Thailand. Banking and finance is beginning to evolve rapidly, as it was not until recently where the bank was allowed involvment in foreign investments. This has been relatively limtied to date due to the US /global financial crisis over the last year. ;"bad timing" according to Sornsak.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Leaving a blazing trail in Bangkok

In the intense Thailand heat we follow our guide, C, in a neat row on the crowded Bangkok streets. He smiles often, pauses to call out “Momma” over his shoulder. Each time he does it brings out a giggle from us. His “momma,” our Aileen, shouts back that she is just fine. But that never stops him from circling back to make sure that “momma” has not fallen out of step with the group.
Our line would be hard to miss – I’m sure there is a trail of perspiration we weave from our hotel to the sky train all the way to the markets. The water seems to pour out from us to soak our clothing and run down our faces as quickly as we guzzle it from our plastic bottles. I am in desperate need of a diaper. My pants are soaked from perspiration and I am pretty sure along with our trail of perspiration, I have left prints of my derriere all over the city.
The markets are almost overwhelming as we make our way through it. Side by side, row by row unique gifts, clothing, quality handcrafted furniture, paintings, carvings and more are at each turn. You can smell the scent of cooking meat at nearby vendors. The city is alive with sights, sounds, smells and tastes. In fact, I can almost taste the thick humidity. Inside the markets we spilt up and roam leisurely. I climb the tri-level market and explore what I can. Exquisite silks and handcrafted jewelry line tabletops and counter spaces waiting for an owner. I hit the jack pot in the basement though. Unique paintings line a small square room. Bright colors, bold images and minute details capture me. I ask the young woman if she has created the wonderful artwork and she shakes her head. Her sister, who is not present, is the artist behind the masterpieces.
After lunch (old-school cafeteria style complete with karaoke entertainment) we leave the markets, get back on the sky train and head over to MBK mall. The stores are impressive. I have little luck in the clothing departments. I tease C earlier in the day by telling him, “Big Girls Get No Love in Bangkok.” Ha.

Goodbye Bangkok......Next stop: Phuket Island

Our last few days in Bangkok were full of fun activities, including the zoo, the weekend market and a great Thai show called Siam Niramit. We did a lot of new things and saw unbelievable sites. We even had the chance to feed the elephants, who slobbered all over us.
Visiting the traditional Thai village was one of my favorite things to do. We had the opportunity to witness the string ceremony. We had a piece of string tied to our wrists, while a prayer is said to bring good luck and health.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wonderful Thai Cuisine

And it wouldn't be a good recap of our time here without some pictures of the delectable food that we've been enjoying. Thai cuisine is a wonderful combination of fragrant spices. herbs, vegetables, beef, chicken, the freshest of fish and of course sweet and colorful fruit. The food is aromatic, delicious and contains many varieties of rice dishes, sauces, soups and side dishes. Enjoy!!

Learning from one another

This morning I can’t seem to sleep for a long period of time. I went to bed a little before midnight and kind of toss and turn in the night. It is a little after 4 a.m. and since we will depart Bangkok in two days, to begin to head south, I figure now is a better time than any to write. I may not get the opportunity, nor have the time, to fully get my thoughts down later.

First off, you don’t realize quite how long 23 hours is until you’ve spent it with no where to go in an airplane. Nonetheless, when the five of us finally landed in Bangkok, after crisscrossing our way from Connecticut to Washington D.C. to Tokyo to Thailand, I don’t think we could have imagined the welcome wagon that awaited us. The people of District 3330 have been absolutely amazing. It’s funny because language is not the barrier that everyone seems to think it is (Of course, many of the fabulous people we’ve met have spoken English, so it may sound overconfident to say). When we can not understand each other very well, we do take a moment to find a better word that will contribute to understanding. But warmth, kindness, hospitality, the early roots of friendship, these are things that can be communicated without words. It is body language, demeanor and the tone in which you say anything in any language.

Jiraporn reminds me of just how similar we all are when we are on the grounds of the Grand Palace. She is a GSE member of District 3330 who will journey to our District 7890 in April. She and her other GSE teammate Unchalee, Krittika and I visited the Emerald Buddha together. As we move around the palace my team (Maggie, Brett, Jacelyn and our Team Leader Aileen) break off into twos or threes, meet up again, take pictures, chat, keep it moving – the cycle continues. I pretty much have traveled along with Jiraporn and Unchalee not only because they are awesome, but because I really love to hear them explain what each piece of architecture, painting or symbol means personally to them and their people as a whole.

We take off our shoes and sit down inside, pointing our feet away from the Buddha. We talk a bit about Buddhism; I do most of the listening and every now and then ask specific questions about prayer, worship and meditation. This is why I personally came to GSE, for these moments. You see I am captivated with studying and learning about life and how others get through theirs. About a year ago I went to Elms College on a scholarship to study religion. Not because I am taken so much with the acts of worship, but with the reasons people choose to worship. We human beings are ingrained with the need to believe in something. In order to survive in at least a happy existence we all have the inner need to be connected to something or someone - whether we choose to believe in our family, a politician, God, our friends or in the greater good of every human being. Here I am sitting with a woman I met for the first time a day before, and while I don’t know everything about her (she’s still almost a stranger), I know the feeling she talks about when she tells me about what her prayers and meditation mean to her. She finishes by telling me that in Thailand there are Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, but all, each and every one of them, are all Thai.

Time for bed

I am very tired after a long day. But the photo is an inkling of what the day held.

First day pictures!

Here are some more pictures on our first day adventures! We saw a lot in one day. Thank you very much to our hosting country!

We visited the Rotary Center of Thailand!

The Grand Palace visit was amazing! So beautiful.

Sawitree & Unchalee will be visiting us in New England next month.


It is my pleasure, after 23 hours of air time, to say that we arrived safely in Bangkok yesterday. To say that we received a warm welcome would be an understatement. Rotary District 3330 gave us a magnificent welcome complete with banners,Leis and a number of friendly faces and kind smiles. The fact that we landed close to midnight shows the generosity of those hosting us. To leave their homes at that hour to greet us speaks highly of who they are and what Rotary represents.

First day in Thailand!!!

We arived in Bankok at 11:45 pm and were graciously greeted by over 20 Rotarians from 5 districts. On Tuesday morning at 9 we toured the Rotary center of Thailand. They had a full day planned for us including a visit to the Grand Palace, the Emerald Budha and Wat Pho where we recieved a traditional Thai massage. Shortly there after we went to fai Kham resaurant where we were warmly welcomed by host DG. Dr. Ratmanee. A long but very enjoyable day. The reception hads been wondeful and the people are most generous.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

GSE Thailand

Rotary District 7890, comprising of Rotary Clubs in Northern Connecticut and Western Massachusetts, has selected four non-Rotarians and a Rotary Team Leader to travel to Thailand as the 2009 Group Study Exchange. The team will depart on Sunday, February 15, from Bradley International Airport.

The Group Study Exchange (GSE) of The Rotary Foundation is a unique cultural and vocational exchange opportunity for businesspeople and professionals between the ages of 25 and 40 who are in the early stages of their careers. The program provides travel grants for teams to exchange visits in paired areas of different countries. For four weeks, team members experience the host country’s culture and institutions, observe how their vocations are practiced abroad, develop personal and professional relationships, and exchange ideas.

This year’s team includes three individuals from the Springfield, MA, area and one from Manchester, CT. Brett Gearing is the director of the structured credit group of Babson Capital and is sponsored by the Springfield Rotary Club; Natasha Clark is a reporter for The Reminder publications and is sponsored by the East Longmeadow Rotary Club; Magdalena Jaroszewicz is a product marketing manager at Lenox Tools and is sponsored by the West Springfield Rotary Club; and Jacelyn Lopez is an aircraft engineer with Pratt & Whitney and is sponsored by the Manchester Rotary Club. The team leader is Rotarian Aileen Witkowski of the Putnam (CT) Rotary Club.

The team will participate in a rewarding, once-in-a lifetime experience and will return home with a broadened cultural perspective and new understanding of a nation’s history, language, commerce and government. A GSE offers a unique opportunity to develop leadership skills, work on team building, and increase self-confidence. The program is designed to have an invaluable impact on the career of these young professionals in an increasingly global workplace by creating networking opportunities and lifelong friendships.

While in Thailand, the US team will stay with host families from the local Rotary District and will move to a new location every few days. The Thailand team will arrive at Bradley International on March 28 and will stay with host families from the Springfield, Franklin County, Simsbury and Windsor Rotary Clubs over a four-week period.

It's official

We're officially notifying the public ... though next week I notify Reminder readers in my own way ... Reminder Adventure style ... ha ha ha. Above is the official press release making the rounds: (if i can get it to post.) he he he