An amazing weekend but with setbacks

Hey guys;

So, the second residential trip, I.E the orientation camp that I mentioned earlier on this blog, has just ended. This is the first time since 2014 that I had more than one residential trips throughout the whole year. The fact that this trip was just a month after the Hua Hin trip was pretty cool. Overall the trip was great, but thanks to a number of setbacks, this trip is not as good as the Hua Hin trip, even though there were like ten times more participants.

This camp, rather than being organized by a university, is instead being organized by an outside organization called The Guide Light. As I said already, I received the information about this trip from one of the staff working at the disability support service of Mahidol University. I think I may have received the information about this trip during the dinner meal where the Hua Hin trip was born.

This camp took place at a resort in Nakhon Nayok province. Two options were available for meeting the rest of the group: Joining everyone at the Rangsit campus of Thamasat University and take the bus, or meet at Victory Monument and take a van. For the outwards journey I chose to join at Victory Monument for convenience.

But…here comes the first setback! The van was supposed to arrive to pick up me and around five or six other participants at around 7AM. Turns out, as one of the participants discovered after she got to the meeting point, that the van won’t actually arrive until like 8AM! So…I literally wasted about an hour or so…that was very annoying. Since the van showed up way after I had my breakfast, I didn’t really go to the toilet beforehand but that’s because there were no nearby toilets at all. As a result I have to ask the van driver to make an emergency stop at a petrol station. During the journey I listened to music and took photos and videos, of course. Oh and just so you know, I brought along with me a few of my inflatable toys – namely, an inflatable Elsa, an inflatable unicorn, and two of my inflatable rings. But the one that I kept inflated and I actually took around with me pretty much throughout the whole trip was the inflatable Elsa that I bought while I was in the UK last year. For some reason, she has slowly become my favorite inflatable toy, after watching the Frozen movie…

When I said that I took my Elsa with me through the whole trip, I really mean it. I took her with me when I went to have my breakfast on the second day, and I also keep her with me during lunch and dinner time for both the first and the second day. As for the unicorn, although I kept it inflated most of the time, but I did not keep it around with me all the time. In the end I decided to ask one of the organizers to take care of it. Since she seem to really like it, I decided to let her take it home to play with.

As a result of the delay, we didn’t arrive at the resort until just before 10:30AM. There were indeed lots of students. Most of them are blind or visually-impaired like me, but there were also a few in wheelchairs. As soon as we disembarked, the organizers handed out our name tags. The color of the name tag pretty much defines the team that we will be in throughout the camp. I got to be in the pink team, since my name tag has a pink background. We then went straight to the meeting room, which was in a different building. But fortunately, the resort operates a tram system which transports guests between buildings. I think the resort was so big that a tram system is needed…but oh well…at least that’s better than walking…

The first activity was mainly about getting to know each other. I think this was the point where I actually found out that the majority, or indeed literally everyone, are from Thamasat University (possibly from the Rangsit campus alone). I was the only student from Mahidol University…

The next activity was where the fun starts. It was in fact a game, called ‘I never’. In this game, players are divided into teams. The main objective of this game is to get as few points deducted as possible throughout the whole game. Basically, each team has to agree on something that as many members in the team as possible have never done, based on a set theme. There is a brief window where team members can discuss on who to speak. Once it’s time, one person has to state something that he or she have never done. If someone else actually did what is mentioned, he or she has to raise his or her hands. The point will then be deducted from a team that has at least one raised hands. The number of points deducted depends on the number of raised hands (one point per person who raises his or her hands). Every team starts with 100 points. I believe this game can go on for a number of rounds, but for this camp, we only play a few rounds. My pink team started off pretty bad, losing a number of points but towards the end we managed to be the winner, with the most points (I think 47 or 49 points). The prize we got were some snacks. I think our strategy was to get someone in our team to say something that would, by context, catch a lot of people in each of the other team.

After the game, it was time for lunch, which was after 12PM. The food was a mixture of seafood with some chicken. The food tasted pretty good. We have to eat in our teams, I.E each table is for each team. During lunch my team also ate the snacks that we got as prizes for the ‘I never’ game.

The afternoon was a bit boring, taking on a lecture style. The topic was ‘designing your life’ or something like that. Since most of it was just a lecture, I’m not going to go into detail. The one small activity we did was to actually imagine what we would do in five years in I would say three different timelines. The first was the real timeline. The second timeline, which was actually an alternate timeline, is what if what we are studying or the job we plan to do doesn’t exist anymore. The third timeline is what if we have unlimited money. I would say the third timeline was the most interesting, as that timeline enabled me to imagine some pretty crazy things I would do if I have unlimited money. Oh, there was another activity as well, whereby we have to basically create a conversation on what we did recently. The person who got to start the conversation is in an advantaged position as he or she can dictate the rest of the conversation. The other person has to basically go along with the topic, basically making things up. The first round was based on something more realistic so I decided to talk about myself getting a haircut last and the international trade and finance midterm exam last weekend. The second round was pretty much a what I would call ‘open round’, whereby the conversation can take on something that is completely unrealistic. Since the conversation I managed to produce was so weird, I’m not going to go into detail.

The afternoon session finished around 4:30PM or 5PM, of which we all went to our rooms. Most, if not all, of the rooms can fit three people. But before we were allowed to go, the organizers asked if anyone would like to go rafting on the second day. I decided to express my interest. Turns out, the majority of people decided to go rafting on the second day. We were also given one small assignment – produce a performance that basically tells the audience about the company. Each group was given a format of which the performance has to be based on. My pink team got the funny comedy show format. Originally, I thought of maybe have the team meet up to discuss the performance, the whole team doesn’t seem to be interested that much. We did, however, get to discuss it during dinner.

Dinner was around 7PM or so, and was also the mix of chicken and some seafood. The food was also quite nice. It was during this dinner meal that my team discussed about the performance. After dinner, we decided to do a few rehearsals.

The show was around 8PM I think, and our team got to go last. Not my preferred choice, but…oh well, I guess everyone else in the team want a bit more time to be ready… Since this was also a competition, so there were of course prizes. The prize for the best overall performance was 1,000 Thai baht in cash. Sounds good, right? Well remember, this 1,000 Thai baht has to be divided amongst all team members, so in the end each person may only get a few hundred Thai baht. There were also smaller prizes, and in the end, every team got at least something. My team got the 300 Thai baht prize, but since there were like seven or eight people in our team, I ended up getting only 40 Thai baht.

After the performance, it was karaoke time. Quite a good number of people went up and sang, most of them sang Thai songs. However one person did go up and sing ‘Take Me To Your Heart’, which is one of the songs that I have on my iPhone. However for last two songs or so, the whole thing turned into a more prom-like event, with people going up to dance. This was especially the case for the very last song, whereby I think literally everone went to the stage and dance. I took my Elsa with me as well… After that, before we all went back to our rooms, the organizers informed everyone about the activities for the second day. Basically, in the morning we had the option to go visit some sheep and goats on the small resort farm. Although the scheduled breakfast was 7:30AM, for those going to the farm, the breakfast was slightly earlier, at 7AM. That pretty much concludes the first day of the camp.

Overall, the first day was great, with the exception of the van delay at the start. The activities were pretty fun and enjoyable, and I meet lots of new friends. The prom-like dance party at the very end of the evening session was really fun, so too did the ‘I never’ game during the morning session.

Yesterday was the last day of the camp. Expecting an early breakfast, I woke up at around 5:30AM. But…here comes the second setback! I was expecting that one of the organizers would come around to pick me up to go to breakfast at around 7AM, but turns out no one came around. Eventually me and my roomates decided to make way to the restaurant to have breakfast on our own, which was like around 7:15AM or 7:20AM or so.

The food was basically…standard hotel breakfast with fried eggs, hams, sausages and whatnot. I decided to order a cup of hot chocolate and a fried fish-like thingy, and also asked one of my roomates to get me a plate containing hams, one fried egg and sausages. The food still tasted pretty good though, despite it being just a standard hotel breakfast.

Even though it’s 7:30AM or indeed almost 8AM, none of the organizers came around to pick me up. In the end, one of the organizers came. Turns out everyone else was either sleeping, just waking up, etc…I guess the so called ‘mini prom’ the night before made everyone very tired…

We finally went to the farm at around 8:15AM or so. Since the farm was very close to the building where I stayed, we decided to walk. The farm visit wasn’t too interesting. There were a few sheep and goats. After that, me and a few others who came with me decided to go back and meet everyone at the lobby to take the tram to the meeting room for the morning session.

The morning session started around 9:15AM or 9:30AM. It started off pretty good, with an activity whereby everone was given a letter in the English alphabet in braille, and then everyone has to form a word by trying to find people with the letter that would complete the words. It was pretty fun, I would say. The following activity, just like the first day, was more of a lecture. Since I did not pay much attention to it, I’m not going to cover it in detail. Oh and also, unlike the first day, we no longer have to sit with our teams.

After that, it was time for lunch, which was around 11:15AM or 11:30AM. Just like the morning session, we do not need to sit with our teams anymore. The food was, once again, seafood. I especially like the fried fish. After lunch, we had a brief presentation about the company, which was around 12:30PM or so.

After the presentation, which I think finished just before 1PM, it was time to get ready for the only afternoon activity, rafting. Earlier I was debating whether I should go back to my room and get change, but since I was told that I won’t get really wet, I decided not to get change. Although in the end I indeed did not get very wet, but the strong sunlight meant that I got really sweaty.

We finally left for the area where we would go rafting at around 1PM or 1:15PM. I decided to keep my small backpack with one of the organizers, but I do take my phone and my beloved Elsa with me. We took a small truck-like vehicle. It was not too comfortable, I must say. Later on, we were given life jackets and helmets.

When we got there, we went straight to the rafts. I decided to keep my Elsa with one of the camp organizers, but still keep my phone with me so I can take photos and videos while on the raft. When I got on the raft, I realized that the raft was somewhat similar to the one I was on during the Chiang Mai trip with STA back in January 2011. In fact, this whole rafting activity was pretty much identical to the one I did back then.

There were five rafts. At first my raft started off almost last, if not actually the last, even running aground not far from the starting point. We got stuck for a good amount of time. Once we got the raft out and moving again, we realized that we were far, far behind, so we decided to push ahead full strength. Eventually we managed to overtake some of the other rafts, eventually coming out second. The activity was very fun, but the weather was also very, very hot and the sunlight was very strong. Due to the delay caused by my raft running aground earlier, I didn’t actually get off until like 3:30PM or so.

After we got off the rafts, we made our way back to the truck-like vehicle. However my vehicle didn’t pull out until like close to 4PM for whatever reason. I also got my Elsa back at this point. On the way back to the resort, for whatever reason, everyone decided that they want a so called ‘traveling prom’, so they asked the driver to turn on some music. The music was extremely loud. Literally everyone was standing and…dancing, although the dance moves were limited, for safety reasons.

We finally got back to the resort just after 4PM. Initially, the organizers wanted us to meet and prepare to check out at 4:30PM, but everyone needed more time, so they extended the time to 5PM. This pretty much gave me enough time to go for a full bath, given how sweaty I was during the rafting activity. Since my clothes were pretty smelly thanks to the sweat, I decided to change into my swimming suit instead for the journey back. And…turns out, I made the wise choice to do that. I’ll tell you soon why. After I finished showering, I started packing up my things. Since I didn’t bring a lot of things, the time it took for me to finished packing my bag was not too long. In the end I decided to keep one of my inflatable rings inflated since I couldn’t be bothered to deflate it. Plus, if I deflated it, I would have to inflate it again later anyway.

Though we were supposed to be checking out at 5PM, a few people were not ready, so we have to wait. I also took this time to take a photo with one of te organizers whom I gave my unicorn to earlier. As mentioned before, I also asked her to take care of it, until I feel like I want to get it back. Since she lives within the reach of the BTS, meeting up should not be very hard, especially on weekends.

Since there were no vans, everyone had to take the bus back to the Rangsit campus of Thamasat University. I was pretty excited. Finally a bus with a big window that I can take photos and videos, without anything obstructing me. But…guess what, this was when the third and final setback, and a pretty bad setback, kicks in. The bus was non-air-conditioned, and the windows were not totally free of obstructions. The central ile was also very small, making it hard to walk around.

We finally pulled out of the resort around 5:15PM or 5:30PM. The non-air-conditioned bus means that during the journey, strong winds generated by the movement of the bus can blow in through the small window openings, making it hard to keep things together. And…you know what’s even worse? It eventually rained, like…pretty heavily. The rain was literally splashing through the small window openings, making my pant wet. Eventually someone managed to close the windows, but there were still tiny openings that rain water can splash through. I finally decided to put my small bag by the window, so that I won’t get wet. Later, I was asked by a girl sitting in front of me to swap seat because…apparently the seat of which her friend (I think) was sitting on had a leaked roof. I decided to agree to change seats. The bus did stop once at a petrol station, but only for toilet. And…it was very awful. The area where the toilet cubicles were was infested with bugs, so too does the sink area. There were no restaurants of any kind at all, so I literally have to just starve and wait until my dad picked me up. Overall the bus journey was pretty awful, perhaps the worst bus ride yet so far. I think you probably know now why I decided to change into my swimming suit for the journey back to Bangkok…but at least I managed to listen to music on my phone on the way back…oh I forgot to mention, a group of people did play some guitar and sing songs on the way back, but I decided to just concentrate on my songs…

We arrived back at the Rangsit campus of Thamasat University around like 8:30PM or so, and that marked the end of the orientation camp. I initially wanted to meet with one of the organizers whom I gave my unicorn to so that I can talk to her a bit and to say good-bye, and maybe help her deflating the unicorn so that she can keep it safe in her bags while traveling home, but I couldn’t find her. But that worried me because I did not know whether she actually deflated it at all.

Overall, the trip was pretty great, but due to the three setbacks I already mentioned, I honestly cannot give this trip a very high rating. I would say that this trip deserves a rating of around 7 out of 10. When the first day ended, I thought I could maybe give it around 9 or 9.5, which would be very close to the Hua Hin trip last month, but the two setbacks yesterday brought down the overall rating. At least the accommodation was pretty good, the activities were very enjoyable, and I got to make new friends. Had there been no delays, setbacks or issues, could I have given this trip a rating of 10 out of 10? Possibly yes. If that was the case, then this trip would’ve been just as good and enjoyable as the Hua Hin trip with exchange students last month.

But even though this trip suffered from three pretty big setbacks, I would still like to say ‘thank you’ to the organizers for putting together a very enjoyable and sociable trip and for taking really good care of all the participants. Thank you so much for making this weekend an enjoyable weekend for me.

And of course, I would like to personally thank one of the organizers who took good care of my inflatable unicorn. Since you told me that you like the unicorn and you thought that it was cute, I decided that it would be nice if you could take care of it for me. Since I don’t need it now, I would like you to continue to take care of it for me. It’s quite unfortunate that we didn’t get to hang out a lot during the trip, but hopefully we will be able to hang out from here on out. If I ever wanted the unicorn back, I will surely let you know, now that we have each other on Line. Thank you so much for taking care of my unicorn…

Since this trip was really good, I have decided not to take back what I said after the Hua Hin trip that…’things are finally changing in the positive direction’. But however, I may change my mind at anytime and take back that statement, if more setbacks and instances of bad luck occur between now and the end of the year.

Anyways, that’s it for now…

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