By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
Chutima Intharawongsak, Mae to her friends, is from Bangkok, Thailand. She came to the United States mostly to practice her English. The 17-year-old, from a city of 12 million people, has landed in Pierz, a town of 1,400 people.
Mae could not be happier.
“Bangkok is busy 24 hours a day,” she said. “Restaurants are open 24 hours and traffic jams are constant. I take public transportation to school every day, about one and a half miles, and it takes over half an hour.”
“I am so glad to be in Pierz,” Mae said. “It seems a small town is more family-oriented. I am really enjoying this year.”
During this school year, Mae is staying with the Howie and Kelly Schomer family. She is enjoying having four new brothers and sisters to interact with. They are Latyana, 18, a senior at Pierz; Elias, 16, a junior at Pierz; Corrine 10; and Landon 9.
Mae said the people in Pierz are wonderful. She especially loves the crowds at the athletic games, yelling and cheering for their team.
“This town is like one big family,” she said.
Mae is so into basketball, she has been named the unofficial cheerleader for the boys’ team.
Bangkok, which means “City of Angels,” is the capital of Thailand, a country of 66 million people. King Rama IX is the head of the country’s constitutional monarchy and has been in power since 1946.
The country is newly industrialized and a major exporter of rice, textiles, footwear and rubber.
During March, the temperatures range from 75 degrees in the evening to 90 degrees during the day.
“It is so hot, all year long,” said Mae. “And, it never snows.”
Mae attends an all-girl school in Bangkok with about 3,000 others. She said all the schools are segregated in Thailand.
School in Bangkok runs from 7:25 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. each day. Each day has a different set of classes and students have no choice of what class they take. If they are leaning towards and engineering degree, they take certain classes. If they are leaning towards a medical degree, they take a different set of classes. It’s all set up by the government.
Some textbooks have only recently been paid for by the government, others are still paid for by the families.
“We don’t have lockers to store our books or supplies,” said Mae. “We have to carry everything around with us all day.”
Students in Thailand average 12 classes per semester.
Mae said in Thailand, she is majoring in French, but English is required, so she takes four hours of English each week.
Learning languages is a passion of Mae’s, and she hopes to someday speak French as well as she does English.
In Thailand, the main staple is rice, and the food is considerably spicier than she is finding in Central Minnesota.
The Thai cook with a small hot pepper called prik-kee-noo. The Scoville Heat scale measures those chilies from 50,000 to 100,000 units as compared to a jalapeno which is measured around 2,500 – 5,000 units.
Mae has found she loves mashed potatoes, turkey and quesadillas. She also discovered she really dislikes pickles, cheese and pop.
In Bangkok, Mae lives with her father, Asavin, an engineer and her mother, Ungkana, who is a homemaker. She also has a brother, Soravis, 15.
Mae grew up in a Buddhist family, yet she is a Christian. Her year with the Schomers included her first Christmas.
“Thailand is 95 percent Buddhist,” she said. “I loved having my first Christmas in Pierz and loved all the food.”
Mae’s activities while in Pierz have included learning to knit and bake from Kelly.She is also involved in Bible study and other activities at Fellowship Bible Church in Pierz.
She loves to crochet, an art she learned at home, listen to acoustic and country music and watch movies.
“Mae is remarkable,” said Kelly. “She is sweet, compassionate, giving and kind hearted. She has an amazing love for the Lord and a wonderful sense of humor. She is our first exchange student and I truly believe God had his hand in bringing her to us.”