We began the day with an early breakfast before we headed off to our first day of teaching. Due to traffic, we arrived at the morning ceremony late, but were greeted with many smiles.

After a brief introduction, we began teaching students ages 3–6. Initially, there was a large language barrier but both Nat Geo students and Thai students maintained positive attitudes and by lunch all was good.

After a lunch of rice, soup, and egg omelets we took a quick break to collect our thoughts and get prepared for round two. We returned to our groups—some of us were sent to teach second and third graders and others to help prepare tomorrow’s lunch. Those in the cooking group helped chop, peel, and pick onions and garlic for four hours, and are guaranteed to come home as master chefs.

While some students were occupied with cooking, others were teaching the Thai students Western dances like the Cotton-Eyed Joe. We continued the day of cultural exchange by visiting three temples, all of which were contemporary and gave a glimpse into modern Thai Buddhism.

The first temple we visited involved us walking up six flights of stairs, each floor becoming progressively smaller. As we climbed to the top, each floor displayed a unique Buddhist figure. At one point, we climbed through a hole barely large enough to fit a backpack, but the view was worthwhile.

The next temple was built out of beautiful white stone and was over 20 stories high. A few students took the elevator up and could see all of Chiang Rai from a whole in the enormous statue’s head! The third and final temple was a brand new blue temple flooded with color and life.

Soon after we drove a short distance and ate dinner at an American style restaurant that was super delicious. Every one of us enjoyed our food and we left in the pouring rain as happy campers and ready for bed.

Praying at The Blue Temple.

Praying at The Blue Temple (photo by Natalie O.)

Outside The Blue Temple.

Outside The Blue Temple (photo by Natalie O.)

Teaching.

Teaching (photo by Natalie O.)

The Giant Buddha at Wat Huay Bla Gang.

The Giant Buddha at Wat Huay Bla Gang (photo by Natalie O.)

Teaching.

Teaching (Photo by Natalie O.)