By Nadine Wilk
Spending the night cramped on a wooden beam, thinking about the cockroaches that could be nestled in the cracks is not a comfortable way to fall asleep. Hearing the loud squeals of a pig being slaughtered is not a pleasant way to wake up. Going for days without showering and being in the humid and hot weather, makes a cold shower and a soft bed sound like a luxury. At the top of a mountain with no electricity and no toilets; this is the magnificent reality of a jungle in Thailand. Yet, despite the stinky aromas, lack of cleanliness and uncomfortable bedding, it was by far one of my most treasured experiences from my two-and-half month field school in Southeast Asia.
Our guide, Alak, picked us up early in the morning from our hotel. Despite the early hour, his enthusiasm and energy made us excited for the adventure ahead. He taught us about Thai culture and geography, he took us swimming at a hidden waterfall, and he always had a joke to tell. Thanks to Alak, the agonizing heat and the weight of all our gear on our aching backs, was much more bearable.
When we finally arrived in the remote village, the sun was already setting. The view was unbelievable. It felt like we were on top of the world. The local children ran out to greet us with huge hugs and welcomes. We played with them for quite some time. Together we cooked a delicious meal of chicken vegetable stir-fry and sticky rice. For dessert, Alak made us his ‘famous’ bamboo cake, which was vanilla cake cooked in a bamboo shoot over the fire. After dinner, one of the local villagers brought out his guitar. Together we sat by the fire, singing songs, telling stories and sharing laughs. I will forever cherish the memories that were made around that fire and under the stars that night.
We didn’t get a cold shower, we had to listen to strange noises all night, we probably swallowed a few bugs in our sleep and we were sweaty and sore. Yet, the laughter, serenity and splendor of the entire two-day adventure, made it one of the most peaceful and real experiences of my entire field school. So, for all future field-school students who want to travel abroad, remember this: Go on adventures, step out of your comfort zone, get dirty, don’t worry about the language barrier, and don’t be afraid of a few cockroaches, squeaky floors or squealing pigs!