So I've never been much of a blogger, but I think this is a great way to be able to share the little observations you don't get in Lonely Planet guide books or the Discovery channel. Faith, Ashley and I arrived early and actually have spent the past three days in Railay, a small island near Phuket to bask in the sun, snorkel and swim with phyto-plankton...it was amazing, but it was a comfy, aloof tourist bubble that is now beginning to erode since we've arrived in Bangkok. Obviously, tourism is a huge industry here in beautiful Thailand but I think if you truly want to understand the culture you're in you must talk with the locals, eat at places off the map (try new, exotic foods), and basically put yourself outside your comfort zone. If it weren't for the fact Faith, Ashley and I came down with a bit of food poisoning, let me tell you, I would be eating everything in sight. I think some of the best food I've had so far came from a small market in Phuket while we were waiting for a cab to the ferry. We had lotus leafs filled with coconut rice, topped with mango and some sticky rice balls..very good! But enough of food...let's get to the main reason our class is here, which is to observe and evaluate the peace-building process in post conflict societies. This is something I am just beginning to comprehend, seeing as I am a nonproliferation major, but it is something I consider equally important in trying to make the world a better place. Today, we met up with Tom Parks of the Asia Foundation and he and his co-worker gave us a wonderful overview of what Thailand has gone through and it's current political state. The Asia Foundation is a perfect example of where foreign aid goes and I am proud to say the US State Dept. is actively involved in providing the funding to stopping human trafficking, helping victims of violence, promoting education and awareness and basically doing all the dirty, hands-on work that individual governments do not include specifically in their foreign policy agenda. This is crucial work that I have great respect for, especially the individuals who work with children who have been trafficked. One of the things that struck me the most was the idea that some of these poor children do not even consider themselves victims...they see these rehabilitation centers and shelters that they are transferred to after the trafficking as a form of prison, thinking they have done something wrong. Being an American, the idea of not knowing your rights is shocking to me, but one of the centers we visited today talked about how they work with these children to empower them. However, he mentioned translation was a big obstacle, aside from just getting these individuals to open-up about their exeriences. Not all children speak Thai and how do you translate emotions they don't even know they have the right to be feeling...? I won't write too much more, so that there's room for other people's reflections but I just wanted to leave you with that thought. The whole experience so far has been incredible and besides the tourist guilt, it makes me very grateful to have the life and privileges I do and hopefully you will feel the same after reading. So stay tuned!