It’s hard to believe that I’ve already reached week 12 of the program. As May approaches, I’m taking every opportunity to travel around Thailand and make the most of this experience. Academics have been keeping me pretty busy. Two weeks ago we visited a semi-urban community called Ban Samran for our second homestay. The community was different than Ban Tha Pho because many of the villagers leave to work in the industrial sector rather than in agriculture. As people returned home from work in the evening, we went house to house to ask people to complete a questionnaire. My group also conducted interviews with the head of the health promotion hospital (HPH), where we learned about the occupational hazards associated with factory work. Being an environmental health major, this topic was right up my alley. We interviewed our host mom because she used to work in a fishing net factory.
She told us about how she worked the evening shift from 11pm-7am and would use cotton balls to plug her ears because the machines were so loud and she worried about losing her hearing. She was allowed only one 30 minute break during her shift and many people will work overtime at the factories to earn some extra money. At the community priority setting meeting, the village members identified factory work as one of their main concerns, as well as getting dogs and cats vaccinated for rabies. After the homestay, I had the chance to refresh my data coding and analysis skills to look at the results from our questionnaire. Of the 59 people we surveyed, over half reported experiencing back pain, leg pain, and tiredness from work. We are now shifting gears to focus on our final field research project. My group is going back to Ban Tha Pho to describe the potential exposure pathways for contaminants from the community water supply. I’m really excited to dive into this environmental health issue and utilize what I’ve learned both here and back home regarding human health risk assessments and characterizing exposure pathways.
Outside of academics, I have taken the past few weekends to travel around Thailand. Two weekends ago, I spent three days in Bangkok with a couple friends. Until that weekend, I didn’t realize how much I missed city life. The skyscrapers, nightlife, and of course giant shopping malls. It was at once refreshing and overwhelming. One of the best parts was recognizing all of the American food chains that are not to be found in Khon Kaen: A&W, Dairy Queen, Krispy Kreme, Auntie Anne’s, and so much more. While in Bangkok, we explored the Arts & Cultural Museum and listened to a wind ensemble that was playing outside in tribute to the past King.
We also visited the largest market in Thailand: Chatuchak market. With over 15,000 stalls I almost got lost in the sea of booths and people. However, it was a great place to splurge a bit and I bargained for almost every piece I bought! In the evening, we watched the sunset from a rooftop bar (but ordered smoothies because alcoholic drinks were so expensive). Although 2 ½ days in Bangkok wasn’t enough to see everything, it was the perfect amount of time to get my dose of the big city before going back to Khon Kaen.