The Extroverted Feeler is a Rotary Exchange student to Trang, Thailand, gone since August 5, 2009. We had a long talk with him on Skype last night, November 27, only the third time we've heard his voice since August 5. He was at his Thai family's Panasonic store. No camera, so we couldn't see him. It was me, the Introverted Thinker and his father.

His birthday is Monday so we sang happy birthday. He would have to skip school to call us then. He is 13 hours ahead with daylight saving, so it was 6 pm here and 9 am there. It is hot there and rains suddenly and clears. He's eating rice three times a day, doesn't get enough vegetables and is tired of rice. He misses the Collinwood potatoes from when we were in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). He is now 177cm, that is, 5'9.7". His dad is 5'10".

At school he is the only non-Thai among 3000 students. He is being told to work harder in his Thai language skills; he finds this annoying. He was the only one among the 18 exchange students in his district to write his language test in the Thai alphabet, but the language is still a struggle. It is a tonal language so the same word can have multiple meanings. His school does not seem to be particularly serious. Frequently teachers fail to show up. He finds this annoying. He likes math and art. He has been communicating with his counselor and wants to take the SATs in June, and would like to come home a couple of weeks before that to acclimatize. He is getting a vocabulary word a day sent to his email and says his current favorite is "inured". He says that the Thai girls are really annoying. They come poke him at school, say hi, giggle and run away.

He switches families on Wed. He doesn't know if there will be a birthday party on Monday because people don't seem to plan things in Thailand: they just happen. His Thai father told him the night before a function that he would be playing his violin for the high ups in the local and district government. He said that he is one of the best violin players in the region and that he did well. He wishes he had brought his IPOD but don't mail it because it would be stolen en route. He mailed birthday presents to the Introverted Thinker 6 weeks ago and they still aren't here. He's going to carry Christmas presents back because of that.

There are some older American men around and there is LOTS of stuff he could get in to if it weren't for the strict Rotary rules. He wants to start taking precalculus and history for the 11th grade he's missing on line as soon as the Thai school lets out. That is early spring, but I forget when. He 's heard that Rotary students in Scandinavia still drink in spite of the rules.

He said, "Mom, there is some really scary stuff in the world." (That was back in the first phone call). He saw a family of seven on a motorcycle in the rain with one helmet between them, the youngest a baby. He says that he will NOT be riding a bicycle or motorcycle in Thailand. He says that Thai drivers never use their rear view mirrors or check their blind spot when they pull in to traffic. He says that car insurance is cheap but life insurance is very expensive. He wants me to send him Crime and Punishment and the prequel to the Silence of the Lambs. He is currently reading Guns, Germs and Steel, from his grandmother. He's read Brave New World, Manchild in the Promised Land and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas since he got there. All three families that he will be living with have younger brothers. No sisters. He is an hour from the beach so gets to swim sometimes. He did get to "swim with the neon fishes" at Phuket.

The Extroverted Feeler has opportunities to do some traveling under Rotary supervision. His father, grandmother and I have sent money to cover a December trip but there is another coming up in April. Here's what he said about the travel:

"Dear Mom,

If possible I'd like to go on this trip to northeastern Thailand (birthday/christmas kind of thing). It is 17500 bhat ($500) plus personal expenses (which I will try and learn more about), and an 800 bhat ($25) train ticket. I'm a bit dry on money at the moment (Phuket was 4500 baht), but I could probably contribute +3000 baht to this trip. I don't know how feasible this is, but I would appreciate it if you could ask around the family and see if that kind of money could be raised (or I could do some asking if you would like). Oh and another thing, shipping stuff to America is really expensive (FINALLY sent IT's birthday presents) so for Christmas, would I be able to send stuff for everyone in one box and have you redistribute everything? Anyways, I hope everything is going well at home, I'm starting to be able to speak more of the language (plus reading and writing). Phuket is in six days and I'm really looking forward to it. Hope to hear from you soon!"

And so that's the news from Thailand.


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