Monday, March 30, 2009

GSE Team from Thailand arrives in US

It was our pleasure to welcome the GSE Team from Thailand at the Bradley, CT Airport (Team Leader: Quanchai Laohaviraphab, Jiraporn Kansuwan, Chawengsak Leatritsirikul, Sawitree Muangyai & Unchalee Boonyanurak). Although tired from the long journey, they arrived full of good spirits and enthusiasm for the adventure that's ahead of them. Thank you everyone for coming out and meeting them.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

This I Believe - Never Stop Dreaming

I have been reading “This I Believe” a collection of essays created originally in the 1950s. And yesterday, as I sat alone having lunch in a food court that allowed me to look out over Bangkok, I realized that I feel very sorry for people who have stopped dreaming.
I soon will be a year from my 30th birthday and I have yet to stop dreaming. It saddens me to think that I will reach a point in my life when I will say this is it: this is who I am, this is where I live and this is my daily schedule. I never want to lose the hunger that keeps me searching, that keeps me wanting to evolve as a writer, a woman, a mother, a friend. As I transition in age, I want to ripen in spirit and love my family and friends harder each and every year.
When I dream, I dream big and then I work hard and God blesses me to always fall somewhere in between. And each achievement is sweeter than the last because it comes along in a way I could never have imagined. I am richer because of GSE. I have made friends that one month ago were unknown and oceans away. I have been reminded that as I curse my computer when it doesn’t perform my commands fast enough, there are children in Thailand pretending to type on paper because there are no computers in sight. I am comforted to know that when I lay in my bed at night, the reception to God is just as clear from all corners of the earth. When you read a news story, follow up on it. It’s not over. A tsunami happened about four years ago. Though the major press has moved on to the next hottest thing, people in Thailand are still rebuilding from it. It is not over for them.
These are the stories I crave to write. These are the people I want to meet, those who actually try to attack the problem instead of watching it from a comfortable difference. Every day I make my son say aloud, “I love God, God loves me and I love myself.” When you love something, you value it. I want him to love himself because when you do, it is easier to love someone else. And I want him to take all that love and do something spectacular with it. Read a book to a sick and shut in elderly person, color a wonderful picture and send it to Shriner’s Children Hospital, anything he wants to do. As he grows, I want him to have big dreams and plans for all that magnificent love waiting to be released. And when he comes upon the opportunity to use it, I want him to seize it.
I know what it feels like to have that opportunity come to you when you least expect it. I had one last year when my editor handed me the fax about Rotary International looking for GSE members. As I sit here typing my mind is still overwhelmed with all of the people I have met and places I have gone. I know the sky is the limit, a harsh reality is just below me and right now, I have landed in the clouds. Dream big and see what happens. The worst thing that can happen is that you end up exactly where you are. This I believe.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The other side of GSE

Maggie and I are born exactly three days apart. I can count on Jazz at the drop of a hat to kill creepy crawlers for me. And Brett knows, deep down, it’s better when you sing it (those close to me know what I am talking about). While I planned on making connections and forming friendships as I toured Thailand, somehow I failed to think about the relationships forming with my travel mates. Group Study Exchange is not just about exchanging ideas with those living in the country you’re visiting.
Take the five us, including our team leader, as an example. We all have different backgrounds: Jazz , an engineer, is originally from Puerto Rico; Brett is from Agawam and works in finance; Maggie was born in Poland and works in marketing; Ex Connecticut probate judge Aileen is our team leader; and I, last but not least, live in Springfield and write for a living. We got to know one another a bit while preparing for this experience. But let me tell you, vomiting, caves, killing bugs and burnt corn can really bring people together. While on this trip the others have seen me fall, scream at bugs, get carsick, sing terrible karaoke, freeze up during public speaking, sweat uncontrollably and more. The next GSE team should know up front that GSE also stands for Getting Stripped of your Ego. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ko Samui

After three days in gorgeous ko samui, we find ourselves waiting for the ferry to head back to the main land. The Rotary club of Ko Samui did a great job hosting us. Thank you!
The picture shows the under composed remains of the mummified monk Phra Khru Samathakittikhun of Watkunaram on Ko Samui. He passed away in 1973 and was placed in an upright position as a symbol to aspire the future generations to follow buddhist teachings (taken from Watkunaram temple).
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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Above and beyond

My gratitude to each and every Rotary Club can truly not be expressed. From Bangkok to Nakhon Si Thammarat, every Club, every member, every President has welcomed us with open arms. The hospitality has been more than anything I have experienced in my life thus far. Sorry, mom, but I can now say I have met people up to par with you. Ha.
I admire the way Thai family and friends share meals. We have had more than our share of delicious fare here. But there is something to be appreciated about the way they all sit down together. There are no big stacked individual plates. The food is laid out on the table and during conversation; various dishes are passed and shared. It gives you that sense that we are all here together and in the moment. There isn’t one person snacking while on their laptop or another eating dinner in front of the television. I like the camaraderie aspect of it. We all could use a little more of that in our lives.

Our life in Thailand

Greetings from Thailand: Sawasdee Kaa, I'm finally blogging. My team is so proficient I feel no need to intefere. What a trip!'s a TRIP..
Here are somethings of we've done: visited temples, rode tuk-tuks in NYC like traffic (scary), spelunked, dealt with monkeys, ate every type of food, some of it staring back at you, manis, pedis and massages (often), attended live theater, visited the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha, sailed on a yacht with Captain Mark from Australia,, met with the Chief Justice in Phuket Courts, served snacks t0 inmates, sat with mothers at the nursery in the women's prison and spoke with youngsters (9 to 12 yo) at Juvenile Detention. We were privileged to see the inner sanctum of the Bank of Bangkok, a tuna fish factory, a deisel something something, a palm oil producing factory, latex factory, we rowed to hongs, (look that up in your Funk & Wagnall), climbed to waterfalls and dove through an unlit cave to an underwater wedding festival site, more temples, more food, visited a pottery making business, shadow puppet show, rubber tree plantation, chicken hatchery, rode in long tail boats to a floating village, saw swift bird condominiums where birds' nests are harvested for consumption, MANY Rotary meeting, Rotary clean water projects, we were interviewed on live radio...Gary we need to talk..... wait...almost done, we visited an electrical & gas plant and brick making factory, several tsunami sites, a self sufficient village that was under mud slides ten years ago, and one of my favorite spots, a batik printing business and oh yes, we kayaked and went to an aquarium, butterfly garden and prawn farm. Can't wait to show you hundreds of pix. Miss you all. Aileen

See Mike I am working, too!!!

We had a great day of vocational visits while staying in Phuket. I had the chance to meet some marvelous individuals. Thank you all for sharing your work and history with me. I will complete detailed articles upon my return.

Eye of the Tiger

The other day we visited Tiger Hill. I’m sure you’ve seen other posts from my teammates about the 1,287 stepped-feat. I did about 100. Ha. Anyhow, after I took the scary descent back to the safety of dirt beneath my feet, I sat on a nearby bench (away from the Monkeys) and took in the scenery. An old woman sat begging on the side of the road. She held her blue change bucket out before her shaking it gently at passerby. Her skin was wrinkled and tanned deeply from the scorching sun. Adults barely acknowledged her presence, passing her without hesitation.
A flock of school children no older than grade four began marching in her direction. They called hello to me, waving and giggling as they passed. Their gorgeous smiles made me break into one of my own and return the wave probably too eagerly. As they neared the old woman, her basket now beside her, their attention transitioned from me to her. There was no deliberation, no whispers of approval, they just reached their tiny fingers into their pockets and colorful purses and offer her temple hands, greeted her, and dropped change into her bucket. First one child, then another, and another and so on. I could hear the clang of their metal change ringing as it hit the bottom of the plastic bucket. They were so little, so humble, so giving … We could learn a lot from children. At what point from childhood to becoming men and women do we lose “that thing.” That innocence. “That thing” that makes us reach into our pockets rather than turn away. Just food for thought. 

Thursday, March 5, 2009

GSE presentation to Srithammasokarat

More pics from gse presentation to Srithammasokarat

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Radio website correction

The GSE Team will be interviewed on live radio (US time and date) March 4th between 9:00-9:30 pm. Please log on to to hear us live from Thailand.
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Random Pictures

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Radio interview

The GSE Team will be interviewed on live radio (US time and date) March 4th between 9:00-9:30 pm. Please log on to to hear us live from Thailand.
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Monday, March 2, 2009

Nakhon Si Thammarat pictures

We were welcomed with colorful flowers and tons of smiles.
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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Welcomed to Nakhonsrithammarat

6 clubs of Nakhonsrithammarat welcomed us with open arms as we arrived
from Trang. We have a very busy schedule over the next few days;
hopefully we will have time to blog!

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