Freshmen Fieldtrip to the River Kwai

Trip Start Jul 18, 2009
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Trip End Jun 08, 2011


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Where I stayed
The Village at River Kwai Resort

Flag of Thailand  , Kanchanaburi,
Sunday, September 20, 2009

Hello Hello! Thank you for reading our blog again. Lauren and I have been feeling like the Beverly Hillbillies lately in our condo and just in gallivanting around the city. But it was time to get back to my roots. Yep. Did some good ole camping this weekend. Well…sort of….

Every fall at my school they hold a retreat during a weekend in September, for all of the freshmen to attend. They stay two nights at a place, explore stuff, play games, etc. And of course, where there is students, there needs to be chaperones. That's where I came in. As a homeroom teacher of a class of freshmen, I was basically required to attend this retreat. Leading up to this weekend, I was really dreading the retreat. There is just something about spending my weekend with 123 freshmen that really doesn’t appeal to me. But actually, it was a really great time.

The retreat was held at a place called "The River Kwai Village Resort." Now for any of you history buffs or movie buffs, you may recognize that title from a movie called “The Bridge over the River Kwai.” Yes they are the same place. The resort is on a river called the Kwai which is very close to the Burma border and is about a 4 hour journey west of Bangkok. So why this location? Well, as a history teacher with also a degree in history, I feel obligated to give a little lesson here. But don’t worry it will be brief. Here we go: At the height of WWII, Japan was dominating countries in Southeast Asia. Japan began to focus on conquering European landholdings in Asia as the next step. One by one, Japan began to invade and take over European holdings such as French Indochina (Vietnam & Laos), Dutch East Indies (Indonesia), and Singapore. Japan attempted to conquer Thailand, but after weeks of fighting, a stalemate was declared and a cease fire issued. Japan issued Thailand an ultimatum: Either Thailand lets Japan build a railroad connecting their holdings in Singapore/Laos/Vietnam to Japan's holdings in present-day Burma, or Japan will just take over Thailand and do it anyways. So of course, to remain free, Thailand allowed Japan to build a railroad in the middle of their country to Burma. Now, the Japanese never signed the Geneva Convention and felt that they were above any war laws. Therefore they used POWs from Australia, England, New Zealand, and even some Americans, to build this railroad. During this time the Japanese thought that they were a superior race and treated the POWs as sub-humans. As Thailand and Burma are mostly jungle, the working conditions were horrible and tens of thousands of POW soldiers died. The retreat is located near a museum dedicated to the memory of the fallen POWs and is located right near the most difficult piece of the railroad that was built. It is known as “Hellfire Pass.” The river Kwai, which is the river that our resort where we stayed was on ran next to the railroad and the soldiers built a bridge over the river for the railroad. This bridge served as the last bridge until the country of Burma, so allied forces constantly bombed the bridge and destroyed it, only to have the Japanese force more POWs to rebuild it again. Hence the storyline from the movie “Bridge over the River Kwai.” Got it?!?! There will be a test on this next class. Also study chapters 5 and 7.

Thankfully my friend Daniel was also going on the trip, so we were able to room together. When we arrived at the resort we checked into our amazing room which was right on the river. This was so beautiful. I don’t know if it compares to the mighty Waccamaw River in Conway, but it sure does come close (that was a joke. This river is 100000 times better). In the evening all of the students played a bunch of icebreaker games, and then were assigned teams for the Ninja games on Saturday. Each chaperone was to be in charge of 12 students as their team, and think of a team color, team name, and create a team cheer. We were the blue team (duh greatest color on earth), and the students chose us to be the Vipers. What is funny is that Thais have trouble pronouncing Vs and pronounce them like Ws, so we were essentially the “wipers” all weekend. It was funny. Ok so anyways, that was the end for Friday.

On Saturday they split the freshmen group up into 2 groups and one went to the museum and the other went to some really sweet caves. I was with the cave group so we hopped on some Klongs, and traveled down the river to the caves. The caves were freakin sweet. It was really hot in there, but it reminded me of Merrimack Taverns when I was younger and I really liked seeing all the cavey stuff. The ceiling was also covered with bats the whole time so that was pretty cool. But Dracula was no where to be found. Asian Dracula. He can suck blood but cant use a turn signal.

In the afternoon it came time for “Ninja Games.” What this consisted of was 12 different obstacle courses through the woods, such as a rope walk, cargo net climb, etc. Now I was really pumped up for this because not only am I crazy competitive, but I have been taking some spinning and body pump classes and was feeling really jacked up. But it turns out the chaperones were really just the coaches! So I passed on my enthusiasm to my team. There were 11 teams total consisting of about 12 students each team and ever team complete the different stations and were timed for how fast it took the entire team. The team with the fastest time won. This was really really fun. The students got a kick out of it, I had a great time with my team just strategizing with them and cheering them on through all of the obstacles. They did really well and truly understood the meaning of team work. More on that later….

When we got back to the resort, everyone was exhausted, and it was time for a some much needed Rj & R. Thankfully, our room had a mini-bar! Ah yes, that needed to be refilled every day. Daniel and I sat on our porch along the river and just soaked it all in. It was really peaceful and relaxing and yet another time that I wished all my family and friends could be there experiencing it with me. After a hop in the sweet resort pool and a power nap, we ate dinner and then headed to the eagerly anticipated freshmen dance. High school dances in Thailand are just like high school dances in America. All these pockets of friends, mostly girls on one side and guys on the other, just standing while the music is playing. And the only people on the dance floor are a few crazy kids trying to dance as ridiculous as possible. Yep that’s about it. And we had to be there chaperoning it for 4 hours! Now they were playing some good music like T.I. and Flo Rida, but no Soundgarden or Boys II Men, so the music selection was just average. And yes, the music that is popular in America is popular in Thailand (if I hear one more black eyed peas song I am going to puke). The dance was a costume dance with a number of different themes, and most of the students really got in to it and dressed up. We chaperones had to judge so it was really cool. Then, at the end of the dance, they finally announced what everyone had been waiting for: the results of the Ninja games competition. All of the students were standing there just crazy nervous and were yelling their team’s chant and eagerly awaiting the results. So Ms. Shirley started to announce (keep in mind there were 11 teams) “In third place, the Orange Tigers.” “In 2nd place, the Brown Monkeys.” “And in 1st place and the winners of the Ninja Games………..the Blue Vipers!” Yep, much like a down-and-out Michigan team beating a highly ranked Florida Gator team, me and my rag-tag group of students won the Ninja Games competition. The kids on my team were all jumping up and down and we got a little trophy and stuff. Its was cool. They were happy and I was happy for them. Also, I love winning so that was cool. Im putting this on my résumé.

On Sunday morning it was my group’s turn to head to the Hell Fire Pass Museum and walk the Death Railway. It was a powerful experience. To think that men carved so deep into the mountains using only hammers and chisels is just mind-boggling. The museum is small but pretty cool. It has a lot of diaries from the POWs working on the Railway and pictures of them. It also is such a beautiful view from the railway. Kind of a bitter sweet experience looking at such beauty at a place where such horrible things happened. The kids were very well behaved about it too. My favorite part was that one could really see how WWII affected countries in Asia. So often in America were learn about and are taught the impact WWII had on America and some of the countries in Europe, but besides the Ajtonic bombings in Japan, we never really hear about the impact that the war had in Asia. It was very interesting and I am glad that we came.

When we got back to the resort, we loaded up and headed back for the 4-hour ride back to school. We were in big travel buses, not school buses, so the ride wasn’t too bad. I did a lot of grading so that passed the time and the kids were pretty beat so we finally got some peace and quite.

So what was Lauren doing through all of this you ask? This was the first weekend that we have really been apart since moving to Thailand. Well as they say, “While the cats away, the mice will play.” Well play she did indeed. Lauren has become friends with this really friendly group of girls from her work. They come from all over the world so it was really an eclectic bunch. Well, Lauren basically just partied and hung out with that crew the whole time and I guess just had a blast. We also both joined this massive gym at the end of our road, and Lauren is going there all the time and did a bunch of classes there over the weekend.

Ok. That’s about it for the weekend. Thank you for still reading if you have kept up for this long. I believe that this weekend we are going to head to the ancient city of Ayuttaya to do some exploring so check back for pictures sometime on Sunday. We love and miss you all a lot and wish God’s blessings for all of you. Thanks for reading!

Keeping it gangster, Asian style,

L & J      :-D:-D
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