Sumner senior, friend travel to Thailand

first_img Part 1: Invisible, incapacitating concussions are sidelining high school athletes – July 19, 2016 SULLIVAN — Two things struck Baramee Janla right away when he arrived to Maine from Thailand four years ago: the weather was cold, and the people were tall.“I had to look up at everyone,” recalls the Sumner Memorial High School senior. “That first day here was definitely the coldest thing I’d ever experienced.”Janla moved to the United States at age 15 to live in Winter Harbor with his mother, Nui Johnson, who had emigrated to the United States six years prior to be with her new husband, Matthew Johnson of Gouldsboro. The couple spent half a decade filling out paperwork and navigating through complicated legalities before finally succeeding in bringing Nui’s two sons to Hancock County from Ban Sang Kor, a village in the northern province of Udon Thani where the boys grew up.“My mom saw something she didn’t see in Thailand,” Janla says. “She saw opportunity and education. The dream was to have me here.”This is placeholder textThis is placeholder textAt first, the contrasts between Janla’s two homes felt like night and day — which, with a 12-hour time difference, was also literally the case. Janla, now age 19 and a star athlete on his school’s soccer and track teams, returned to Thailand this spring for the first time. And he brought a new friend to experience a month of life in a different country.Matthew Lamoureux’s journey abroad was, alternatively, quite spur of the moment. It began on a February afternoon in Sumner’s school cafeteria during lunch when Janla asked him, “Want to go to Thailand with me?”Lamoureux, a fellow senior and soccer player at Sumner, became good friends with Janla a little more than a year ago after discovering their mutual love for a computer game called Clash of Clans.“Alright,” Lamoureux responded. He had never been outside the United States before.Two weeks later, plane tickets were bought. And two weeks after that, on March 25, Janla and Lamoureux were flying over the Pacific Ocean. After boarding their connecting flight from Tokyo to Bangkok, Lamoureux recalls sitting up and looking ahead at what appeared to be empty rows, as most of the passengers weren’t tall enough to be seen behind their seat’s height.“I looked around,” Lamoureux begins. “And there were people in every seat.”Janla laughs. “It’s like you were just there by yourself,” he jokes.When the pair landed in Bangkok, it was 85 degrees — inside the airport. Janla told Lamoureux that the building was air-conditioned.“I was like, ‘Ha ha,’” Lamoureux says. “‘Very funny.’”He soon learned Janla wasn’t kidding. Temperatures reached as high as 116 degrees. Every day, Lamoureux wore shorts, a T-shirt and a constant film of sweat. He would stare in disbelief at the locals’ outfits, which he says often included black, skin-tight jeans, long-sleeve shirts, jackets and hats.“H-h-how?” Lamoureux says with upturned palms. “It’s amazing how they’re just used to the heat.”Lamoureux soon learned of a cultural reason behind this style: Those with darker skin are sometimes looked down on as working class.“Here, if you’re tan, you’re kind of cool,” Lamoureux says. “There, a tan denotes the opposite.”Indoors, Lamoureux also noticed a trend in decor. Like in most houses he encountered, one of the walls inside Janla’s grandmother’s home in Ban Sang Kor, where they stayed, boasted a framed photograph of the Thai king, Bhumibol Adulyadej.But more palpable than the government’s looming presence was the locals’ friendliness. When Lamoureux first met Janla’s 86-year-old grandma, he had to politely resist her attempts to carry his heavy suitcase for him. Her generosity often caught Lamoureux off-guard, especially in the mornings when he’d groggily wander downstairs, still not yet completely awake.“Matt!” Lamoureux mimics her insistent tone. “Eat, eat!”Lamoureux says this friendliness took some getting used to, even while just walking the streets. He compares, for example, how when strangers in the United States make eye contact, they usually just look away and continue on.“There, you look at someone, and they smile at you,” Lamoureux says. “And it’s like, ‘Oh, I guess I’d better smile back.’”Needless to say, Lamoureux thought Thailand’s nickname, “the Land of Smiles,” lived up to its reputation.While Lamoureux learned to exchange smiles, he also picked up some of the language.“Kob kun,” Lamoureux recites, which means “thank you” in Thai.Janla shrugs. “That’s pretty good,” he says with a grin.With Lamoureux’s Thai limited to the basics, Janla didn’t miss an opportunity to capitalize on his friend’s vulnerability early on in their trip.“Eat this,” Janla once recommended, pointing to a dish.Lamoureux, suspicious, proposed a compromise: “I’ll eat it if you eat it.”Janla agreed, and they each took a bite.“Alright,” Lamoureux said, cringing. “What is it?”Janla smiled and responded, “Fish poop.”They both laugh at the memory, though Janla seems slightly more amused. He places his hand on his chest and says in jest, “I’m a good friend.”But Lamoureux’s open-mindedness paid off, as he discovered some unexpectedly tasty foods, such as June bugs. Lamoureux and Janla would capture swarms of the insects at night, then fry them up in the morning for an afternoon snack.“They are actually good,” Lamoureux says. “Crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside. Kind of a nutty, buttery taste.”When it came to meals, Lamoureux and Janla’s family of 16 would sit on the ground in a circle around bowls of food from which they’d all take servings. When they’d eat in the front of the house, they would invite passersby to join them — a level of openness to which Lamoureux was unfamiliar.“There would just be random people walking around in the house all the time,” Lamoureux says. “It stuck out to me how friendly everyone was.”Lamoureux and Janla returned to the United States on April 27, but not before experiencing Thailand’s majestic Buddhist temples and tropical beaches. Lamoureux apologizes for his photo drought that ensued when the boys visited the island Ko Chang, where they spent most of their time in the water, too wet to pick up a camera.When reflecting on their snorkeling excursion there in crystal clear water among the colorful fish and coral reefs, Lamoureux and Janla both let out a wistful sigh.“It was amazing,” Lamoureux says.“Amazing,” Janla echoes.But Lamoureux says the tourist attractions are not what he appreciated most about his trip. When his house becomes quiet, he thinks about those nights spent with Janla’s family and their many friends.“There were always people talking and laughing,” Lamoureux says. “That’s one thing I miss. Just hearing people having fun.”Lamoureux says the trip has instilled in him a new desire to travel and experience different cultures.“It’s so important to get out there and see the world,” Lamoureux says. “If you’re able to.”And though Janla says he often misses his giant family, he’s grateful to his mom for bringing him here.To express this gratitude, Janla shares a poem he wrote, in which he describes the United States as a country beautiful for its opportunity.“That’s why she foughtWith everything she’s gotFor me to be hereSeeing America for myself.” Latest posts by Taylor Vortherms (see all) EHS names new boys’ soccer coach – July 13, 2016 Part 2: When the injury is inside your head, some “don’t get it” – July 26, 2016center_img Taylor VorthermsSports Editor at The Ellsworth AmericanTaylor Vortherms covers sports in Hancock County. The St. Louis, Missouri native recently graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism and joined The Ellsworth American in 2013. 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