Monday, June 9, 2008

Karoliina's Goodbye Party

Yesterday was Karoliina's Goodbye Party and I thought I'd make a post for it. Karoliina is an exchange student from Finland and her exchange is soon coming to an end. She invited all the inbounds and outbounds to come to her goodbye party on Sunday and it was probably one of the last times we'll all be together (at least that many of us at one time). So, Yuki (Japanese inbound) offered to help get me there (Burlington) for most of the way. He lives in Cambridge so he's not too far away. After almost getting lost at one point and knocking on two random people's houses, we got to Karoliina's.

Everyone basically mingled, talked, had fun, the works. There was a lot of picture taking, a small water fight outside (followed by picture taking), talking, eating, and more! It was decided that a mvie should be rented for everyone to watch so me, Emma, Mark, Bam, and Emi went to Blockbuster to rent a movie. There was a pretty big thunderstorm and lots of lightning too :O

We ended up renting How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (well....there are a lot more girls than guys in our district). We drove back...except we were on the wrong part of the street. We all got out and couldn't find the house haha. We finally got back, Bam ran towards the door going "YAY!" Bam is WAAAAYY too cute. Everything she does, you can't help but smile about it. I wondering if I'll be in Thailand just going "Awww!" to everybody...BTW, Yuki is totally horrible towards her. She was sleeping and he slapped her in the face a yelled "WAKE UP!" It was admittedly funny but only because he's so insane. Yuki is crazy but that's what makes him funny.

The best part of this all was that when I called home to get a ride, my mom said she couldn't pick me up (and my dad was going to be gone up North for the next 3 days)! I was just like "....what?" Here I was in Burlington, an hour and a half away from my home with no way of getting back for school the next day and with yet anywhere to stay. I had to stop and laugh and I thought "You know...I'm probably gonna be in a situation similar to this in Thailand...probably crazier." That's when I thought "Emma!" so I talked to Emma and she said it was alright to stay at her house overnight. Awesome! So, at the end of it all, everyone said their goodbyes (it took like half an hour but that just goes to show we don't wanna leave haha). We took some group photos and everyone headed home (some of the inbounds stayed at Karoliina's because they were going to go to Wonderland the next day). Alex (outbound going to Finland), I found out, also had to stay over at Emma's for the night. At Emma's we all got to talking about our exchanges and I realized that we all had only known each other since January! It's crazy how fast everyone got so close knit! Both Alex and I slept in the basement, I slept in a reclining chair but I didn't get a good sleep (To Emma: It's not the chairs fault, I was just overtired or something).

I woke up at 6:30 and took a shower and Emma dropped off Alex at the train station (so he could get back to Ingersoll). Now, what was I gonna do about school? Well, my mom couldn't come pick me up until around 11:00 so I just went with Emma to her school until then. I helped put up posters for her play and and I sat in on her drama class. When I got picked up, I realized the only class I had left was Accounting so I just said screw it. I ate some A&W though. Their root beer is amazing!

Anyways, I'm sure there's still a few more goodbye parties but I'll have to wait and see. Karoliina, if you read this thank you so much for the great party!

Jeez, I write such long winded walls of text.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Beginning - A Background Entry

Alright! Up and running! My name is Jared Stryker, I am a high school senior and I am going to be going on a year-long exchange to Thailand through Rotary Youth Exchange (District 7080). Specifically, I will be in the Chanthaburi province in Muang Chantaburi City (this is where the blog's name came from...that and my knack for somewhat cheesy puns). As of this post, I'm still an "outbound" as Rotary calls it. An outbound is someone who will be going on exchange but hasn't left their home country yet. For me, that country is Canada. I live in Waterloo, Ontario (which is about an hour and a bit's drive from Toronto) and I'll be here until early August.

Of course, I didn't just I didn't just suddenly become an outbound. I went through a selection process beginning with my local Rotary Club interviewing me, up to interviews with Rotarians from around the district on a multitude of subjects. Needless to say, they liked me enough to send me to a country halfway around the world. :) There are, of course, other outbounds in my district. Twelve girls and only four guys (including me). I remember wondering what was with the lack of boys wanting to go on exchange. I still do not have that question fully answered. Something for me to figure out while on exchange perhaps? Anyways, there was a few different orientation sessions both with the outbounds and together with the inbounds (people who have come from other countries on exchange to Canada). I was surprised at how cohesive everyone was together. We're truly a great bunch of people, outgoing, confident, the cream of the crop, and I'm proud to say I could be a part of it all. The best orientation we had was a 4-day winter camp up in a more Northern area of Ontario. We built quinzees (kinda like igloos), we went on a 6-hour snowshoe trek, had a campfire, dance, and more. It was fantastic to experience something like that with such great people!

In February, our district held the announcement day for our countries. Going in, my hopeful countries were Japan and Thailand. I have studied Japanese for eight and a half years and Rotary had said they wanted everybody to have new experiences. Knowing that, I knew my chances for Japan were incredibly slim. Each of us got up in front of the group of Rotarians, parents, outbounds, and inbounds and opened an envelope containing the name of our country choice. By the time it was my turn, the Japan spot was already taken and one of the two spots for Thailand had been taken so I was a little nervous. I opened the envelope and saw Thailand and I read it out excitedly. So, it was me and fellow outbound Emma who were going to be on our way to Thailand. Bam, the Thai inbound in our district, told us a little about Thailand and she pointed a few things out on a map. It was a fun day and it seemed as if everyone's placements seemed to fit perfectly.

More recently, we had our last orientation before our departures. We had a bunch of information sessions and presentations within a campus at the University of Toronto. We got a ton of information, our Canadian-Red Rotary blazers, some pins, and some good laughs. Bam taught me and Emma some Thai for a couple hours when we had some free time as well. Some rebounds (people who have already gone on exchange) came for the weekend and shared with us their exchange wisdom. I learned a lot, not just from the Thai rebounds but the other rebounds as well. Not only did all of that happen but I also got a big package of info straight from Thai District 3340! I got some rudimentary information on my first host family (they own a gem sale business - rubies and sapphires for everyone!) as well as general information about the Thai program and tours we can do. I will be joined by 42 (!) other exchangers when I get to Thailand. It looks to be an exciting year of adventure in Thailand for me!

So, come early August, I will be on my way to Chanthaburi, Thailand. Hopefully I will have many tales to tell as my year progresses and hopefully I will have sparked some interest in any readers that may stumble upon this blog. Enjoy!

Jared Stryker