Posts in youth


Time for take off!

NongAiPractice

June 20th is departure day! Looking back on the past few months of intensive prep for THR (Thai Heritage Returns), it’s somewhat surreal that we’ll finally be in Thailand. Reviving this program has involved a lot of “convincing” – convincing ourselves, our team, our partnering university, our community and our new supporters that have backed our local events in recent years – Are there enough students? Is taking them to the motherland still meaningful? Will it be better or worse than the trips from a decade ago?

This year’s program feels like a new incarnation of THR compared to its ’95, ’97, ’99 and ’02 predecessors. Before, our program sponsors were almost entirely based in Thailand, but with the current economy, we launched our most ambitious local fundraising campaign to date – reaching out to program alumni, Thai-owned and corporate businesses and other grassroots events fundraising – most of whom were first-time donors to the Thai Cultural Center. 

Our overall management has evolved also. As the first THR alums to co-coordinate the program alongside our founding directors, we’ve paid special attention to asking what did the program give us the first time? What did it lack that we can create now? Both generations still seem to tip-toe around our new working dynamic – we’re still unclear when our opinion is desired or requested, but we have enjoyed bringing our own ideas into the fray – advocating for all students’ spotlight time, giving our older kids a chance to self-govern, creating an edgy look to our program book. Technology has certainly served us well in communicating with our counterparts in Thailand – our participant lists, graphic design and show production. As an intergenerational and international team, but we still rely heavily on late night phone calls for those that are not accustomed to relying on the internet. Facebook, blogging, email marketing and online pledges have also been engines in our campaign – finding vendors and building buzz in both countries.

We have yet to see what our reception in Thailand will be. Have the audiences for Thai classical drama’s dwindled, remained the same or found renewed appeal in Bangkok? Are people in Thailand curious about Thai-Americans? Would Americans in Thailand be interested? Thailand’s upcoming political elections have made it difficult (understandably so) in coordinating with our supporters in governmental ministries – not to mention the usual bureaucratic protocol. We are excited to visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – the ministry that most overlaps with our cause.

Once we arrive in Bangkok, we’ll spend the first few days rehearsing with our partnering schools. We’ll go three full days, back to back, which will most likely take its toll on our “little-ones.” For our next post, and we’ll give you insight into the story and background of our play – Phra Apai Manee!

Time for take-off! Next time we’ll be writing from the Kingdom...

Thai Heritage Returns Blog Kickoff!

THR Poster

Greetings!

We’re thrilled to be able to blog our experiences with this year’s Thai Heritage Returns, aka THR, a ten-day heritage program in Bangkok. (Please bear with us through the Thai names and institutions.) The Thai Cultural Center of the San Francisco Bay Area has revived the program after a nine-year hiatus, and this will be the fifth time we’ve brought our youth to Thailand.

Over 20 Thai-Americans make up the principal cast and musicians of Phra Apai Manee and the Spell of Nang Laweng – an excerpt from a well-known epic in Thai literature – that will be presented at the National Theatre on July 2. Once in Thailand, we’ll be hosted by our partnering university Ban Somdej Rajabhat University (BSRU), and local schools will join us to complete our cast and musical ensembles. In addition to performing, we plan to visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Parliament House and the Museum of Siam – and only because the kids have asked, yes, we’ll go to a beach. Older students will also have the chance to bond during a rock-climbing excursion and rural village homestay.

These trips do a lot in terms of rejuvenating our center. It’s difficult to keep our youth motivated beyond the chance to hang out with their friends every weekend. The center is completely volunteer-run, and we compete with the other “forces” in our students’ lives – school, sports, family work schedules. But those of us who have stuck with the program and continue to perform will stand by its importance. We get to experience “the mother country” as more than a vacation or family reunion. As alums, over ten years later, we still think back on previous THR’s as a defining experience of our youth. It draws in our families (who stay with us throughout the entire program – and rehearsals), forces our Thai and performance skills, but most importantly, brings us closer together during the six months leading up to show time. For most, the benefits won’t be “felt” until after the program.

We’ll be posting every week until departure (June 20) and as often as we can while in Thailand. So we invite your comments, questions (and support!) from now through the end of THR in early July.

Best,
Nicha and Virada
THR Coordinators