Herald JournalHerald Journal, Jan. 10, 2005

Thai exchange student waiting for snow

By Lynda Jensen

Snow is something that foreign exchange student Pathomporn “Preaw” Klueapsuwan is waiting for patiently in Winsted.

It’s something she doesn’t see often in her balmy home country of Thailand.

The soft spoken 16-year-old is a senior at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, staying at the home of Tom and Mary Wiemiller in Winsted.

“Cold – no snow!” she exclaims with a rueful smile, noting that she likes Minnesota winters, but feels cheated from the lack of white stuff.

In Thailand, the heat causes the sweat to drip off your face, she said. The average temperature there was 89 degrees last week.

Palm trees are commonplace in this tropical country as well.

Klueapsuwan’s home province of Phitsanulok features multi-level waterfalls, mountains and the jungle in close proximity. There are ancient temples, pagodas, and bronze statues of Buddha which attract tourists year-round. It is a day’s drive from Bangkok.

Klueapsuwan arrived in Winsted August after a 26-hour flight to start her school year. This is her first trip to the US.

Since the Wiemillers’ children are grown, her only “brother” is Merlin the cat, she said with a laugh.

She speaks regularly with her Thai mother and father – and talked with them immediately following the reports of the deadly tsunami that ravaged southeast Asia.

Luckily, she lives in the interior of Thailand, which is well-protected by natural barriers, she said.

In fact, her family didn’t even know about the tsunami until she told them. They follow regular televised reports much the same as Americans do, since the damage is a day’s drive away, she said.

Her family sustained no damage. However, the peninsula region of Thailand was smashed by the damaging water, she said. Many people who live in the country depend on the tourist industry in general, but this is especially true of the coastline.

This is the first time she remembers hearing about a large tidal wave such as this, since it isn’t common in Thailand, she said. Typhoons, or hurricanes, are commonplace.

For living conditions, Klueapsuwan is used to more people, since Phisanulok contains about 40,000 inhabitants.

The people, of course, look different to her as well. “They are taller here,” she commented, in addition to the different skin, eye and hair color.

She enjoys the American menu, particularly seafood, but she doesn’t care much for cheese, Mary Wiemiller said. “She likes everything.”

Currently her class schedule includes tough classes such as physics, economics, calculus, and horticulture, Klueapsuwan said. Her favorite teacher is Kim Jones, who teaches English as a second language, although this changes every so often. “My favorite changes every month – maybe every day,” she said.

She isn’t a typical teenager, Mary commented. Klueapsuwan prefers to stay home and does not participate in many extracurricular activities.

One culture difference is that the Thai people have a tendency to do everything with their families, Mary said.

Back home, Klueapsuwan attends a boarding school where she is gone for two weeks at a time.

Thailand celebrates two new year holidays, the first Jan. 1, and a second, called the Thai New Year, April 13. The April holiday is also usually the hottest day of the year there.

This is the second time that the Wiemillers hosted a student, taking in a student from Mongolia two years ago.

The Wiemillers participate in the Youth for Understanding program, a non-profit organization.

They were able to see a preview of students before they were matched with Klueapsuwan.

Those interested in doing the same need to sign up for access to the student profile system, which is accessible via http://my.yfu.org.

For details on this program, or other information, call toll-free 1-866-4-YFU-USA (1-866-493-8872) to speak with a staff member or volunteer.

Those interested may also send an e-mail with their full name, city, and state along with contact information to hosting@yfu.org.

Students rally to aid SE Asia

Students from Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted are collecting cash donations to aid Klueapsuwan’s home country of Thailand. About half of the country was ravaged by the tidal wave that swept through the region last month.

To contribute toward this fund, send donations to the school at: HLWW, PO Box 708, Howard Lake, MN 55349.

The money is being deposited into a bank account set up by the king specifically for helping tidal wave victims. This arrangement was suggested by Preaw’s foreign exchange organization and is considered safe.

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