Every year NUNM offers several Global Health trips to different developing nations across the world. Students in the Master of Science in Global Health (MScGH) program must participate in at least one Global Health Experience course, and all NUNM students are welcome to enroll as well. Heather Zwickey, PhD, recounts the first two days of the 2018/2019 Global Health Trip in Thailand.
The 2018/2019 Global Health trip to Thailand includes 8 students, my co-instructor, Laura, and I. The students include ND, Chinese medicine, global health, and nutrition students. It’s a great combination because they all bring something different to the conversations. The first days of the trip are in Chiang Mai. Laura and I finished the preparation for the students – we met with the breakfast chef, the translator, and finalized all of the timing. And then the students arrived, ready for anything. This group is fearless (unless there is a big spider present).
On the first day, we had orientation, followed by a scavenger hunt. We sent the students all over the city, learning the layout of Chiang Mai, seeing the temples and historic sites and experiencing Thai culture. They ate mango sticky rice, had their feet exfoliated by little fish and had their first Thai massage. If you’ve never had Thai massage before, it’s unlike any other kind of massage. It’s as if the massage therapist does yoga to your body. They push on pressure points, pull you one way, and stretch you another way. Afterward, you are relaxed but also exercised. There are some socially responsible Thai massage places now, run by female ex-prisoners or blind massage therapists. We’ve asked the students to experiment with different types of Thai massage. They’ll also learn how to give some massage.
Day two began with a language lesson. Our Thai language teacher is fantastic – she is stern but happy, and she laughs a lot. She needed to laugh a lot because half-way through our language lesson, a gentleman showed up spraying pesticides in the courtyard where we were having class. Pesticides! That’s like the anti-NUNM trip! We quickly retreated to my bedroom – the only room able to close all windows. We resumed class with students on my bed, on my floor, and the teacher lecturing from any open spot. Bed classes can be fun because all of the formality goes out the window – which was closed of course. Thai words and phrases can be funny, and we digressed into creative interpretations of the Thai language. For example, ‘sorry’ is kao tod, or ‘cow-toad’ – at least that is how it’s pronounced. I end up saying cow-toad a lot because I lack the grace of a Thai person. The students have picked up the language amazingly well. They were playing Thai number games on the trip to Pun Pun.
After our language lesson, we caught a songtow to Pun Pun, an organic farm and intentional community which might be called a commune if it were in the US. Even the locals say that Pun Pun’s founders are hippies. Sounds like a perfect place for an NUNM student, right? Pun Pun is about 1.5 hours north of Chiang Mai. Our transportation was a ‘songtow’, which is the back of a pick-up with benches down each side and a roof. It’s not particularly comfortable, but it’s quite functional.
—Heather Zwickey, Adjunct Faculty