Home again, home again…

We’re back!  We made it safe and sound back to Syracuse, greeted by friends and family.  Many of us felt like we could have stayed longer, but once we were on the plane, our only thought was getting home.  A bit of a weather delay in Detroit but now the trip is well and truly over, except for the stories and the memories, of which there are many.  Thanks again to all the folks at Clarkson who make these trips possible, to the friends and family for their support (both moral and financial), to new and old friends in our host countries, and most of all to the students, who are truly the key to a successful trip.  It is my honor and privilege to share this trip with them.  Until next year.

Goodbye Thailand, goodbye Asia.

Off we go!  Asia will miss us but it isn’t fair to America for us to stay away.  In the many trips I have led to this region, it usually happens that by this time, everyone is both ready to go home and settled in enough to stay.  Homesickness usually occurs much earlier in the trip.  We are leaving with some new friends, new experiences, and a lot of memories.  This is a region rich with friendly people and ancient and fascinating cultures.  We also have a greater appreciation for the challenges and opportunities for students whose future employment might land them in this area.

We had a free day today.  Some of us got an all day boat pass and traveled the Chao Phraya river, stopping at interesting places along the way.  It is no wonder that Bangkok is called the “Venice of the East”.

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Scenes from the boat.  The last is a photo of Wat Arun, the “Temple of Dawn”, one of the most important temples in Buddhism.

100_3209 100_3210 100_3211 100_3212 100_3213 100_3215These shots are in Wat Pho, another important temple, with a massive Reclining Buddha statue, and is home to a Thai medicine and therapeutic massage school.

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Women are required to wear these hard-on-the-retina robes while in the main temple.

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Sam and Kim, posing with the monkey gargoyles.  I don’t think you are supposed to ride them.

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The temple architecture is impressive.

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Rich and Stan, posing with guardian dragons.

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This is the Grand Palace of the King of Thailand, who has reigned for many years.  The people love their king.

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There are markets like this everywhere.

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If you want to know the proper form for greeting, in Thailand, ask Ronald.

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This is another temple that we passed while walking around at one of the pier stops.

100_3247This is one of the ubiquitous Tuk Tuks that are everywhere in Thailand.  They have a reputation for taking you where they want you to go, rather than where you want to go.

That’s it!  An amazing trip with a great group.  We are off at 3 AM for the long journey home.  Thanks to the students, our business hosts, and to Kim for handling logistics and a thousand other details.  See you stateside!

Out with a bang!

Tomorrow is our last day in Bangkok, and our last day on this trip.  It is a free day for everyone.  So it is fitting that we finished our official business today in a big way.  We started the day early at Poolcharoenwittayakom School, a high school on the outskirts of the city.  We were received like royalty, both gratifying and humbling at the same time.

We visited a local Buddhist temple after lunch, and then went on to visit Somboon Advance Technology.  Somboon makes automotive parts for the booming Thai auto industry, and they also sponsored our trip to the school and the temple.  Somboon has been incredibly generous to us in the two years we have been associated.  Thanks to Ms. Jiraporn and her colleagues for a truly great day.

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This sign sums up our reception by the students, faculty and staff of Poolcharoenwittayakom School.

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The school has a robust language program and we were greeted in at least 8 languages.

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Ms. Jiraporn from Somboon Advance Technology, also welcoming us at the school.

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The school takes environmental science to a practical level, creating environmentally friendly universal cleaner.  Rich, Scott, and Erin get in on the action.

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The students also create what they call “eco-bombs” for cleaning the water.  It is a mixture of natural materials, dirt, and beneficial bacteria.  It is also a good excuse to play in the mud.

The video above shows the students singing a song about making the eco-bombs.

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We visited several of the classrooms and talked with the students.  Many of them were shy but more than a few were eager to talk with us.  The girl on my right is named Nuria, and she wants to be a movie star.  So I got her autograph and a picture with her so when she makes it big I can say I knew her in the beginning.

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We were treated to a Thai dancing demonstration, followed by some instruction in the proper form for the dance.

Click the video above to see the dance.

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100_3158Mr. Witthichai Wantamart, the principal of the school, presents me with a commemorative plate as a parting gift.  And then Ben feels left out so we get a picture with him too.

100_3169 100_3168Saying goodbye at the temple.

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Here we are in the plant at Somboon.  It was 40 degrees celcius today (104 F), and here we are in a plant where they forge molten steel into automobile axles.  See how we glisten? And don’t our smiles seem a little forced?

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100_3181100_3183 Here we are planting trees again!  We planted three alstonia scholaris trees on the Somboon property.  The sap and bark of the tree have many medicinal uses.

That’s it!  We have a free day tomorrow but I’m sure I’ll manage some photos of the day.

Sanmina SCI

Today we visited Sanmina SCI, and electronics manufacturing company based out of California.  Sanmina makes electronic components for the high end market, such as components for Airbus.  We had a great visit with Matt and his team.  Anyone who has bought into the idea that Asians only make low quality merchandise should visit this company as well as the others we have visited.

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Matt from Sanmina is explaining why Thailand is an ideal place for their manufacturing operations.

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Matt and his chief engineer show us around the manufacturing floor.  It is an impressive operation.

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This group loves pools!  Stan left his arm-floaties at home so he is making do with a ring.

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Thailand is a Buddhist country, although people are free to follow other religions.  These little shrines are scattered throughout the city and countryside where worshipers can bring offerings (food and drink) and burn incense.

I think a few folks are headed to a small night market for a little while.  We have a big day ahead of us tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

The Market

Today we visited a Bangkok classic:  The Chatuchak Weekend Market.  It is the largest market in Thailand and the largest weekend market in the world.  In order to really appreciate different cultures, you must visit the local markets and Chatuchak is the king of them all.  It is hard to describe the Chatuchak experience.  Keep in mind that Bangkok is the hottest city in the world.  Imagine shopping in an open air market on the surface of the sun, surrounded by thousands of your closest friends.  The drink vendors in the market are literally keeping people alive in the heat.  But the students loved it they did their part to enrich the local vendors and artisans.

We all did our own thing in the afternoon.  We have a company visit in the morning.

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Waiting for the skytrain to take us to the market.

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Scenes from the market.  The guy on the bottom was really playing the banjo and playing it well.

That’s it!  See you tomorrow.

Minor calamities; and fruit!!!

Nothing ever quite goes as planned, and that is often a good thing.  I tell my students that we seldom remember the times that we were warm, dry, and well fed.  We don’t welcome unpleasant things because, well, they’re unpleasant.  But they often make the best stories.

For some of us the day started early. Kevin was stung by a jellyfish yesterday and was feeling poorly enough that Stan and I took him to the hospital around midnight to get checked out.  We were in far more danger from our crazed taxi driver than from jellyfish stings.  A few hours, some medicine, and another harrowing ride with the maniacal cabbie and Kevin is fine.  We got back around 2am.

We were up early to head to the tropical fruit farm in northwest Penang.  This is one of our favorite visits, combining business and pleasure.  It is a long and winding road up to the farm, and unfortunately there was a short in the bus’s electrical system, and whenever he turned (which was a lot), the horn would go off.

The farm visit went off great.  We learned a lot about fruit, and then ate a lot of fruit.

On the way back to the bus (in a farm van), we scraped together with an oncoming van, and it took a little while, and a lot of yelling and hysterical laughter (Kim) to get us unstuck.

Once in the bus, the short in the electrical system became less intermittent and we were treated to almost non-stop horn blowing for the 1-2 hr ride back to the hotel.  It was swell.

On the way, a few of the students had to make a pit stop, and we couldn’t find a good place to park the bus.  We ended up parking in front of a bus stop and we made some people miss the bus they were waiting for, so we invited them to ride with us.  We had a good talk with these two ladies from England and Hong Kong.

The rest of the day was uneventful, but it was definitely a day to remember.  Tomorrow we are off to Bangkok for the last leg of the adventure.

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Riswan, our tour guide, explains the health benefits of the fruits on the farm.  We suspect that some of them are exaggerated, otherwise all these folks would be immortal.

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Just some of the fruits on the farm.  The farm exists not only as a tourist destination but as a conservation project for many rare fruits.

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Mr. Quah, the owner of the farm, explains the history and mission of the farm.

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The gang with Mr. Quah and Riswan, against a stunning backdrop of the Penang mountains.
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This is a canopy of passion fruit plants.  Many of the students had never had passion fruit before, but it quickly became a favorite.

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Mr. Quah, explaining the process by which he turns fruit waste into a enzyme rich liquid that he uses to fertilize the trees.

100_3071You would think it would be impossible to sleep with the horn blowing, but you can see that it is not.

Off to Bangkok.  We arrive late so there may be a day missing in the blog update.  See you in a few days.

Man it’s hot….

Really, really hot.  The kind of heat that makes you despair of ever being cool again.

But anyway, that doesn’t stop us from doing what we came here to do, which is visit businesses, see the sights and meet new people.

Today we visited DB Schenker, one of the companies that has consistently welcomed us in our visits to Asia.  DBS is one of the top logistics companies in the world, and is number one in Malaysia.  They invite us back year after year and we are happy to take them up on their hospitality.

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Above:  Alvin of TE Connectivity explains TE’s relationship with DB Schenker.  DBS provides logistics services for TE in Malaysia.  Seated is Mr. Liw of DBS.

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We are decked out in our finest safety garb for the tour of the warehouse.  It’s a good look for these guys, especially with Ben’s hard hat covering his face.

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TE took us out an open air seafood restaurant for lunch.  From the outside, it looks like a dive, but the food was amazing.

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We went our separate ways after lunch.  Courtney, Abbie and I went to Fort Cornwallis, a British era fort from the late 1700s.  We thought this was a pretty cool fountain so we stopped for a photo.

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Above:  The Queen Victoria Memorial Clocktower, given to the British by a Chinese millionaire in the late 1800s.

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Abbie and Courntey, with some of the armaments of the Fort.

100_3029In one corner of the fort, Mr. Osman has been creating and selling beautiful paintings of traditional Malay life for over 9 years.

That’s all for today.  Tomorrow we visit a local tropical fruit farm up in the highlands of the northwest corner of the island.  Stay tuned.

Hello Penang!

We left KL today for the long bus ride to Penang.  Penang is an island off the north west coast of Malaysia.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with lots of beaches, greenery, and colonial British architecture.  It is also the center of the Malaysian electronics industry.

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Kamieshia has been craving chicken wings, so she ordered them at the hotel.  We found her reaction to the arrival of the wings quite amusing.  No gift of gold or silver was received with more joy than these wings.

100_3001 100_3002At the Red Garden Food Paradise, a famous hawker center near our hotel.  The folks in the top picture all got dishes featuring frog.  We at the other table were a bit more diverse, getting Thai, Indian, and Japanese dishes.  You can see that Kamiesha still has that post-chicken-wing glow.

That’s all for today.  Tomorrow we visit DB Schenker.  See you later.

The Mah Meri

Happy birthday to Rich!

What a day today.  Fun, informative, and exhausting.  We took a long trip out to Carey Island, home of one of the indigenous tribes of Malaysia, the Mah Meri.  We learned much about the life and culture of these fascinating people.  We also did a number of hands on activities with the Mah Meri, as you will see.  Lots of pictures and a couple of videos to follow.

Thanks very much to all the folks at TE Connectivity Malaysia for their support for this visit.

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The Mah Meri were originally people of the sea.  A small boat like this would have been home to a family of 4.

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Appearances can be deceiving.  The man in the middle, taking a break from harvesting palm nuts for oil, is the shaman (holy man) of one of the local tribes.

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Posing with the shaman.

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This is known as a spirit-house, used once a year to, as they believe, communicate with the spirits.

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Two local ladies greet our group with a gift of a headdress woven from palm leaves.  They are dressed in clothing made from palm bark and leaves.

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TE Connectivity and Clarkson plant a mahogany tree in a ceremony as a gift to the tribe.

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A ceremonial foot washing on a specially prepared mat, as part of our welcome.  The locals began weaving this mat 3 days before our arrival, from palm leaves, specially for our visit.  After we had all passed through, I received the mat as a gift.

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The Mah Meri are renowned for their wood carving, and we can see why.  The shapes are a bit unusual but the craftsmanship is undeniable.

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Our group took part in a a traditional wedding ceremony.  Above, is the band.  We aren’t sure how the violin fits it, but it is probably from the British occupation of the island.

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This is the staging area for the wedding ceremony.

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Stan and Courtney play the role of the bride and groom.

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Supported by Abbie and Sam, their faithful attendants.

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The bride-to-be and some other women hide in this little curtained area, with one hand sticking out.  The groom-to-be circles the area 7 times and chooses the hand of the women he hopes is his fiance.  Rumor has it that the bride marks her hand to make sure he chooses the right one.

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Someone then goes through an elaborate ceremony and dance to bless the couple.  Part of it involves painting some white stuff on the face and hands of the couple.

 

Click the video above to see Scott blessing the happy couple with some funky moves.

The video above shows the group doing a circle dance with the new couple.

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We tried our luck at using a blowgun.  The local wildlife is in no danger.

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We went to another village of the tribe to learn traditional leaf origami.  The lady directly above is holding my creation.  In case it isn’t obvious, it’s a fish.  “Ikan” in the local language.

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The children were a little shy but eventually warmed up to us.

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As I said, appearances can be deceiving.  The man on the left, draped in a towel, is the head-man of the village.  He is the spiritual and civil leader.  He is police, judge, and jury. He presides over weddings and funerals.

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The little ones like the palm leaves too.

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The guys posing in front of a very old banyan tree.  I snapped this just before they realized they were standing in a nest of red ants.

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Can’t see the group well, but I wanted to get the whole house.  This is the home of Edward Valentine John Carey, the (now deceased) owner of the island.  It is a beautiful home, but he never lived there.

That’s it for today.  Tomorrow we leave for Penang.  See you there.

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