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!