Maddie Harper

On March 23 Chester Rotary was charmed by Maddie Harper's smile as she described her five weeks in Thailand during last July and August. Maddie, junior at GMUHS, was one of 13 kids participating in this Experiment in International Living program. She told us she was inspired to participate by her ninth-grade teacher, who had had this same experience when she was Maddie's age.
Maddie showed photos of Thailand and commented on the different cultures there. The house-moms she lived with in the rural southern region were overwhelmingly attentive while those in the wealthier hill north were casually indifferent. In some schools there was wide-open free play, in others silent kids watched TV. She traveled from rural areas to a traditional temple town and to modern Bangkok. Maddie learned how to ride an elephant (you have to sit far up on the hump to avoid the sharp spine), she visited the Tiger Kingdom zoo, and told us how to eat sticky rice with your hands (you roll it into a ball and dip it into other foods) and about the showers and the toilets.
Most of all, we learned the great things a big smile for everyone accomplishes when you don't speak the language. The Thais are always smiling she said, and she brought that smile home with her along with a bunch of new Interact friends and a list to ten things she learned from the experience—the common humanity of different peoples being among them.