Stephanie Ahlmann, a Staffing Coordinator/Background & Reference Specialist in the Aureus Medical Group Nursing division, recently visited Thailand to catch up with her relatives whom she has only met a few times. In honor of her trip, Stephanie wanted to do something special for her family, so she made arrangements to donate a laptop computer to her nephew’s 6th grade English classroom. In the spirit of giving, the Aureus Medical Group Nursing Admin team organized a fundraising breakfast in early January to help Stephanie purchase the computer. Stephanie tells us in her own words about her adventure and the culture of this third world country.
Tell us the reason for your visit to Thailand? I went to see all of my mom’s side of the family who live in Thailand, including my half-brother who was raised there by my grandmother. Until three years ago, all of these relatives were strangers halfway across the world. When we met during our first trip to Thailand, I really fell in love with those I met and felt a real connection with them, despite the language barrier. I just couldn’t wait any longer to see my niece and nephew, who are very bright, sweet kids. While we were there, I also did some professional training and took traditional Thai massage classes. I’m so grateful that everything worked out so we could go with my mom and stepdad.
What family members do you have over there? I have three uncles who live in eastern Thailand – Tay, Piya and Teng – two of whom have families. Of my cousins, I have met seven. Bo is my age and is married to Chan and they’ve had a baby in the past year. It was fun to realize that Bo was much like me in the way we “handle” our husband’s actions. My half-brother, Werasak (Vee-la-sock), his wife, Suoy, and two kids, Pay and Fang, all live in Bangkok.
Explain what you did with the money raised at the breakfast sponsored by the Nursing division. The money was used to purchase a laptop which will help Pay’s 6th grade English class write papers and do research. The laptop proved to be easy to transport and share between classrooms. It was a little difficult for my mom to translate ‘pancake feed’, but the kids were very thankful for the gift! Pay’s English teacher and classmates were very excited when we came. They were especially drawn to my tall, blue-eyed husband and had fun practicing their English on him. We weren’t allowed to be in the classroom while class was in session, but while we waited in the courtyard, we felt like we were the objects of show and tell with the younger kids! It was a riot!
How long were you there? We were in paradise for 20 days. It’s the ‘cool’ season right now, which means 80 to 90 degree weather and little rain.
What is the culture like in Thailand? Thailand is very exotic and independent. It’s pretty common to see elephants and small monkeys on the street on a daily basis. Most people are Buddhists and many display devotion by visiting beautiful ornate temples and paying respect to ‘spirit houses’ that are at every dwelling. Spirit houses look like ornate birdhouses decorated with flowers, knickknacks and small dishes of food and water. The Thai language is complex – the word ‘cow’ can mean ‘white’, ‘smelly fish’, ‘news’ or ‘rice’ depending on your intonation, so you have to be careful when you practice Thai! The majority of people are very gracious and humble – they say hello, thank you, and farewell by bowing to the other with their hands pressed together. It’s really neat to use this gesture as a form of gratitude and respect, even when you know little Thai. The food is probably the most interesting. You can get everything from grasshoppers to fresh papaya to duck gizzards from vendors pushing food carts on the streets. The strangest items that we tried were seaweed chips and pickled mango (which wasn’t very good). We also had barracuda and shark that was all very fresh. And for “dessert” one night we had what appeared to be ground pork wrapped in marshmallow. The meat inside was a surprise, as it was not like your typical American sweet dessert.
Thailand is an amazing country that I recommend visiting! Although it’s still an upcoming third world country, it’s very beautiful. It makes you appreciate the luxuries we have here in the U.S., but is also humbling to see how happy many Thai people are despite living without a lot of material things.