Udon Thani, Thailand: An Unforgettable Experience


Alexa Tagliaferri, Writer

  If you asked me a year ago if I would like to be challenged to go outside of my comfort zone, I would have told you no way. For most of my life, I have been the type of person to stay close to what I was familiar with, whether that was my family or Marin County. So as you can imagine, when the opportunity to go to Thailand for a week and a half in June came around, I wanted nothing to do with it. After discussing this once in a lifetime opportunity with my parents, I decided to take a leap of faith. The idea of traveling to a foreign country without knowing who else from Marin Catholic would attend was truly terrifying, but a small part of me knew it was the first step to breaking through my comfort zone; the same part of me that signed up for the service project a week later.

  When I arrived at San Francisco’s International Airport four days after the 2016-2017 school year came to a close, I felt an overwhelming sense of excitement and nervousness. Surprisingly, when the group of about forty students boarded the plane with me, my nerves completely vanished. I settled into my seat, closed my eyes, and awaited the long plane ride to Hong Kong. After fifteen hours we landed, and proceeded to explore the enormous international airport. We then went through customs and I boarded a plane to Bangkok. Two hours passed, and almost immediately after landing in Bangkok we boarded the final, miniscule plane to the village of Udon Thani.

  When I arrived in Udon Thani, I was in complete awe. We were riding in buses, similar to the back of a pickup truck with a thin roof, cushions placed on benches for seating, and a back wall complete with five large speakers and an aux cord. These buses were called Song Tao’s, and from these buses I saw the large expanses of green grass, forests in the distance, many small farms and homes, some industrial buildings, and the most welcoming thing of all: numerous amounts of villagers smiling and waving at us. Once we were settled in, we got to work! Every day my fellow MC classmates and I adventured to a new site in need of service; we spent one day building walls for a house, another planting banana trees, and another teaching children about the different members of the family at a local school. Along with the service projects during each day, every night back out our “home base” revealed even more surprises, such as learning a traditional Thai dance, partaking in the “Thai Games” (similar to a relay race), and trying traditional Thai foods such as silkworms wrapped in rice and fried crickets with salt and pepper seasoning. It was truly an experience like no other.

  As nervous as I was leading up this unforgettable experience, I am so glad I put those nerves aside, allowing myself to have an amazing time! Marin Catholic offers many different service trips every year, and if you have the opportunity to go, take it; I promise you will not regret it. I encourage you to put your worries and prior judgements aside, and to just experience your service trip and everything that it has to offer. Whether it is with friends or by yourself, going to a foreign country and experiencing cultures different than your own is an unique experience. My service trip last summer was the most life-changing and humbling event that I have partaken in yet, and I am so happy I was able to venture to the beautiful country of Thailand and help out the impoverished and people in need.