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First taste of fish stomach soup

Stephanie Woodruff
Community Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyStephanie Woodruff, center, has made of lots of new friends in Thailand.
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My name’s Stephanie Woodruff and I am doing a youth exchange for a year in Thailand through Rotary International. I am living in downtown Bangkok, which is only slightly different than living in Singletree (sarcasm for those of you who don’t know me).

I arrived one month ago and I’ll be here for about 10 months. So far I am very happy ” my host family is very nice. I have normal parents (not that you guys aren’t Tito and Moms!) and four siblings: an older sister, Ling Ling, an older brother, Ming, and younger brothers Sing and Vern.

I am curious as to where “Vern” came from and why they didn’t continue the rhyming pattern, but I’m hesitant to ask. They have a very nice house located in downtown Bangkok only two BTS stop’s from Siam Square, “the hot place for all the teens in Thailand,” or so my Bangkok Tourist Guide Book tells me. It’s the Riverwalk of Bangkok.



There’s several 10-floor malls all neighboring each other, truly a shopper’s paradise, but I haven’t done too much damage there, yet.

Thai high school is very different than Battle Mountain, to say the least. I arrive at school at about 7:20 every morning and at 7:45 the day begins. Everyone goes to a courtyard area in the center of the school and sings the national anthem and the school song, then they say a Buddhist prayer and meditate for a couple of minutes before going to class.



Classes are 50 minutes long ” kind of. Thailand has its own time zone, and I don’t mean Asian Pacific Standard (yeah, I Googled that). I’ll show up to class 10 minutes late and get weird looks from the teacher, if the teacher is even there yet, as to why I’m there so early.

On the contrary, they also get to run class as late as they want. My classes are pretty tough though ” Thai classical dance, Thai music, Thai sports, Thai language class, singing, flower arranging and ballroom dancing. Yes I am enrolled in a ballroom dancing class, not by choice. I have to dance once a week with Tae ” I’m pretty sure they found the tallest kid in the school and made him my partner.

I have a couple of real classes, such as math, science and English, but they’re all in Thai and I have no idea what the teachers are saying. And as I sit here writing this I realize I’ve written a whole paragraph on school and haven’t even mentioned my uniform.



Oh dear God, my uniform. It’s a nice navy blue pleated skirt, past my knees, with a light blue short sleeve collared shirt. This is accompanied by high white socks, nice black mary-jane shoes, my hair up everyday with a ribbon, and I rock this outfit five days a week.

Unless of course it’s a day when I have P.E. class, then I wear my pink collared shirt and white tennis shoes, and I am allowed to wear long black sweatpants to play volleyball ” outside, in the sun, In Thailand. I think you get my point.

This leads me to my next point, the weather.

It’s hot.

Really, really hot.

The Thai language is really simple, according to my teacher. There are no verb tenses, no subject-verb agreement or anything like that. So I guess it is easy, just the whole learning part is what’s getting me.

There are five tones when speaking: flat, high, low, rising and some sort of rising-then-falling nonsense that I have yet to master. You can have the same word, like “ma,” for example, and with the five different tones it means five completely different words (from mother to horse).

I’m not quite fluent but I know my essentials ” “I’m hungry,” “I’m full,” “water,” “rice,” “my name is,” “where is the bathroom?” and a few others. It’s very difficult, but I am starting to recognize words when my host family is talking, granted they may only be “yes,” “no” or “thank you,” but it’s a big deal for me!

Thai food is interesting. Some of it’s actually really good and some of it, not so much. I’ll try it all once. I couldn’t tell you the food I like but I can tell you exactly what I refuse to eat again.

Starting off with fish stomach. They take fish stomach and make this soup-like stuff and it’s absolutely repulsive. Thai people seem to love it for reasons unknown to me.

Next on my no-list is seaweed soup. It’s soup made out of seaweed, with little balls of pork and who knows what else ” another one everyone I know loves, but it’s just not for me.

My school lunch the other day came with a side of what at first-glance looked like french fries. Then you see eyes looking back at you and realize it’s not quite french fries. They are just really little fish, battered and fried and eaten whole. My classmates loved them but I stayed away after I tried one and saw it looking back at me.

And yes, Thai people do eat a ton of rice. Steamed rice, boiled rice, sticky rice, sweet sticky rice, coconut sticky rice, fried rice, Thai fried rice, Chinese fried rice and the other day I had a sandwich with a bun made out of rice ” it was actually pretty good.

I’m not sure if this has been making international news, but there has been some political unrest in the land of smiles recently. There has been corruption in the government for quite some time now and on Tuesday the People’s Alliance for Democracy started a huge protest outside of the Thai parliament building.

There were more than a hundred thousand people there. School ended early on Tuesday, was canceled on Wednesday and the protests are still going today (Sunday), but I think they’re supposed to stop soon. But don’t worry, I live in a very safe place on the same road as the Swiss and British embassies and am very well taken care of.

That’s all I have for now. I know fall sports have started … Go Huskies!

If anyone wants to contact me, e-mail me at stephaniewoodruff@hotmail.com.

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