August 8, 2017

Niki Schroeder: Blogging from Thailand

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Aug. 8, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Junior Niki Schroeder is one of 10 Ohio State student-athletes who left Sunday for a service trip to Thailand with GVI Phang Na. The Avon Lake, Ohio, native will be checking in throughout trip to document her experience.

Day 1-2
After about 36 hours of traveling, we finally made it! We spent our time playing card games like euchre, uno and president. We also enjoyed getting to know each other better while taking strolls around JFK airport during our eight-hour layover to waste some time and keep our legs moving. We ran into three Ohio State graduates during our layover and even had Aaron Craft on our flight from Columbus to JFK! From JFK, we had our 12-hour flight to Dubai, which was an unbelievable airport. Brittany Savko, our student-athlete development program manager, and I were amused by the outside cameras on the plane where you were able to watch live footage from the back wing of the plane.

We were served two meals on our flight to Dubai and two meals on our flight to Phuket, Thailand, and enjoyed seeing exactly where we were in the world.

The next plane ride was six hours from Dubai to Phuket. It felt amazing when we landed, knowing that we were finally in Thailand (also because I watched an entire season and a half of a show on Netflix which is not healthy). The last leg of our arrival was an hour and a half car ride from the Phuket airport to Phang Nga, which is where we are staying for the week. We were all oddly amused by how the trees were in perfect lines in Phuket near the airport. It was interesting to just look out the window and observe the culture we were about to take part of for the next eight days. One thing is it seems that mopeds are the popular choice when it comes to what’s on the road. There were hundreds in the airport parking lot! I am so excited to learn more about the Thai culture and people and expand my knowledge and appreciation of the different things we will see. Here, we are working with GVI, partaking in a variety of activities such as teaching English to taking care of sea turtles, and even teaching them about our various sports. I am also very excited to get to know this group of student athletes better along with Brittany, Gary and Vicki from SASSO.

This is a trip we will never forget and will value these lessons for life. I am so thankful for the opportunity to enjoy this trip and hopefully we can make a lasting impact on the schools and areas we will be working in. I can’t wait to share the rest of our trip with you all. For now, it’s lights out because our bodies have no idea what time it is with the 11-hour time difference from Ohio after all that travel. 

Go Bucks! 

Day 3
Yesterday was a 12-hour flight, and today was 12 hours of sleep. I think we were all in bed by 7:45 last night! We were up early and ready for our full day. We started off with a nice breakfast which included pancakes, beans, fruit, and Thai Cocoa Puffs (which were amazing). Next, we had a learning session on how to effectively teach Thai students English and how to tackle the dreaded language barrier. We went to lunch at a local place where we had fried rice with breaded chicken for 50 baht a plate, which is equivalent to $1.50!

When we arrived at the school we were welcomed by all the students and they even held a ceremony for us. We taught two different groups of kids, about 30 total, the difference in healthy and unhealthy foods and how to consume a balanced diet. We told them about what sports we played and they were so excited and interested in the pictures and videos we showed them. We had fun and played games to introduce them to a certain vocabulary and teach them about how too much salt and sugar in their diets is not good for their health. After we were done teaching, we took lots of pictures and enjoyed talking to them even more.

When we left the school, we had some down time. I went for a run, hand washed some clothes and caught the rest of the group at the beach. After the beach we finished off with a traditional green curry dinner, which was very good! Now I am headed to shower and play some card games with the group before another early morning and packed day. Tomorrow, we are teaching the kids about baseball and American football. It should be another awesome day in Thailand!

Day 4
Today we went back to the same school as we went to yesterday but had different students and started off by showing them a video of the many sports that we have at Ohio State so that they could see us in action. After that, we taught them the differences between team sports and individual sports. We played a few games and quizzed them on their vocabulary of various sports and whether they were team or individual. We had an hour break and then we taught them football and baseball. I was in the group that taught American football. We taught them how to pass and catch, and even played a small game with them. At the end of the day we played a large game of baseball with all of the kids and student athletes. After we were done at the school, we had some down time before our evening lesson planning and dinner. We went to the beach and played a game of beach football, which of course got intense with all of us! After, we enjoyed dinner and Max (one of our GVI leaders) led a quiz, which sadly my team didn’t win. After the quiz we played more cards and enjoyed many more laughs. Tomorrow we are looking to do a similar thing at the school by teaching more sports.

Goodnight from Thailand! Go Bucks!!

Day 5
Finally something different than rice…noodles!! But this time it was for breakfast. Every meal we have had here has had rice, which fits my Filipino background, but rice for breakfast is something new. After breakfast we worked on our lesson plans. Today we talked about sports nutrition and the importance of hydration and eating unhealthy foods in moderation. After our morning teaching session, we ate lunch at the school. After our break we introduced the kids to track and field and lacrosse. It definitely helped having Juan Seward from track and field and Hannah Gantt and Luke Buckley from lacrosse to teach the correct skills. I was in the track and field group and we talked specifically about the different events and how to exchange the baton and Juan even showed them how to hurdle. We put water jugs on the ground for them to hurdle and had them participate in a relay race with real batons. I wish I got as excited as they did to run, they loved it!

After we met with both groups of kids, mostly 15 year olds, we put in a large game of sharks and minnows. No doubt they will sleep good tonight! After we burned all of their energy, the school held a closing ceremony for us and we all received certificates. We then went and toured the actual school where most of our student-athletes thought it would be easy to beat these 10 year olds in a game of soccer, and boy were they wrong! Luckily, no broken ankles, but they will admit they got whooped by the Thai students! We went back to our place and had a cooking lesson, where we all made different dishes and they were amazing! I made pad thai along with Brittany, Liz, and Elizabeth. We made curry, pad thai, seafood soup, and chicken and vegetables.

We also celebrated Alice’s birthday with a nice little cake! We were going to go to a local lantern festival but the plans changed so we decided to go to the city market. It was different bargaining, something I definitely need to work on. But it was good to get some cool souvenirs for friends and family. Tomorrow we are going on an adventure to Khao Sok national park for the weekend (so not sure if I will be able to blog) but we are excited to see another piece of Thailand!  


Day 6-7
We took a trip to the Khao Sok National park on Saturday and Sunday we visited a few temples. Saturday morning we were up early and took two vans to the national park, we even saw a few elephants on the way! Once we got to the national park, we all understood why people said Thailand is so beautiful. After we stopped to see the mountains, we got on bamboo rafts down the river and made a pit stop at the cave where the boat guides roasted water within bamboo over a fire and made us tea and coffee.

Our cups were made from bamboo as well and we even got to take them home as souvenirs. We got to adventure into the cave and saw some bats (Brittany freaked out and we all got a pretty good laugh from it). We got back onto the bamboo rafts and met our vans around the other side of the river. Our vans then took us to the actual national park where we would be staying the night. We took a longboat about an hour from the dock to our raft houses.

The views were absolutely amazing, pictures don’t do it justice! Once we got to our “raft island” we ate dinner and went swimming. It poured on us pretty good but we stayed in the water and enjoyed being able to see our feet because the water was so clear! After dinner we played Euchre until we went to bed. On Sunday morning a few of us tried to kayak to a good spot to see the sunrise but the clouds were blocking it. We then ate breakfast which finally consisted of an actual egg! We stopped at a 7/11 on the way to go see temples and we all bought the most American snacks we could find because we can’t stop talking about what our first meal back in the States will be! Our first stop on the way back to Phang Nga was to a newer temple. Our tour guide taught us about Buddhism and how large it is in Thailand (over 80% of the population follows Buddhism). The temple was so large, colorful, and beautiful!

After the temple we went to lunch before heading to another temple. We ate lunch on a river and headed to the next temple. The temple was more traditional and we got to feed the monkeys!

They were super friendly and ate directly out of your hand, it was an awesome experience. We headed back to our original resort and 4 of us got massages. It’s important to enjoy all aspects of Thailand, right? 

Day 8
Our final day in Thailand! Man, did it fly by! This morning we went to an island school where we played games such as duck, duck, goose and three-legged races with younger kids. They were so adorable! It rained a lot so we ended up getting stuck inside but as soon as it stopped we went outside to play baseball. After we finished with the kids we went back to our rooms and packed everything up. We reflected on our trip and discussed what we learned and what we can take forward from this trip in both our professional and personal lives. We said goodbye to our GVI leaders and headed to the airport. Our flight leaves at midnight here so to try and get my circadian rhythm back onto Ohio time, I downloaded another series on Netflix to keep my eyes peeled open for as long as possible. We have a layover in Dubai and at JFK. I can’t wait to get a milkshake and fries at the JFK airport (sorry, coaches)! There’s no doubt we will all be crawling to bed when we land in Columbus at 10:30 on Wednesday night. As far as this trip, I can’t thank Brittany, Vicki, and Gary enough for coming with us on this trip and helping to organize everything we did. I appreciate the opportunity that Ohio State Athletics has given me along with the nine other student athletes to use our sports as platforms to serve others. Seeing the communities and schools that we were able to work in has changed my perspective on the way I live life back home because the people and children always have smiles on their faces. Even when we were making the kids run around, they were enjoying every moment. Knowing that we made a lifelong impact on the areas we worked in is the most memorable piece of this trip. I also want to thank GVI for all of their hard work in planning our daily activities and exposing us to new things. Max and Anna were awesome hosts. We couldn’t ask for any better! The two of you made our experience that much more enjoyable and we wish you the best as you continue to work with GVI in Phang Nga. Because of this trip, I will continue to push and find more opportunities where I can make a difference. For the other nine athletes, thank you for all of the amazing memories we made. This is an opportunity that none of us will forget. We certainly grew closer and I can’t wait to see you guys around campus back in Columbus. Thank you all so much for following my blog. It was so much fun keeping you updated on our service learning trip to Thailand!

Go Bucks!