I spent part of January in Thailand preparing for our Thailand Summer 2016 trip. For me, the best part was visiting Nong Sara, the small village in rural Northern Thailand where I grew up. My mother and most of my extended family still live there: many uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews.
Even though we will only be arriving in July, the people of Nong Sara are buzzing with excitement about such a large group of farangs (foreigners) who will be living with them. Some have already started decorating their houses, and there is competition about who will be chosen to host the visitors. One of my uncles is worried that the drought plaguing the region will not end before we arrive. He really wants to see all of us knee-deep in the water-filled rice paddies as we help him and his friends cultivate their rice crops.
The abbot of our local Buddhist temple and I discussed the day you will spend with him and his fellow monks: everything from sleeping and showering arrangements to the various projects you can work on. Be prepared to get up very early in the morning and to work hard! But you will still have time to join the monks in meditation.
Finally I visited my old elementary school. The picture below was taken there at the end of a school day. The kids are thrilled at the prospect of being your students, although one young wag ventured that he was going to teach you Thai while you taught him English. They are also keen to arrange a soccer match with you.