Bagan Revisited as an Intern – Sequel 3

Continuing to my third week internship at Thiripyitsaya, I was assigned to intern at the Front Office of Thiripyitsaya Resort, which housed the reception and the concierge.

The reception accommodated the cashier, room reservation, Night Audit, and vehicles renting programs. Constructed in an open-typed style with a blend of Burmese & Japanese architecture, I would say that Thiripyitsaya’s reception is the most beautiful one I have ever seen in life. Sitting right in front of Thant Kyi Mount and along the Ayeyarwaddy River, it is well-accepted that the resort possesses the most gorgeous view among other resorts in Bagan City. Sitting right in front of Thant Kyi Mount and along the Ayeyarwaddy River bank, it is well-accepted that the resort possesses the most gorgeous river view among other resorts in Bagan City.

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Thiripyitsaya’s Front Office (Copyright to Thiripyitsaya)

From the training at the reception, I have learned that the reception not only is a place that represents the whole image of a hotel, but also it is a communication medium between the customers and the management teams. When encounter a complaint from customers, the receptionists help make negotiations with the guests to resolve it. When a guest come to the resort for check in, the receptionist would create a for the guest and document his/her information into the profile. From guests reservation to documenting guests information, Thiripyitsaya uses OPERA System to manage rooms assignments, reservation, occupancy rate, and guests’ check-ins & outs. The OPERA System also helps the management teams to keep records of guests’ background information, preferences, and locate repeated guests. After OPERA System was installed at the resort, management teams from all departments are able to supervise the in-house occupancy rate, rooms availability, housekeeping, etc. Overall, OPERA System has helped the Resort to function productively and efficiently in delivering services to the guests. It also helps the management teams to be organized at handling Resort finances and room managements. Besides documenting guests information internally, the reception was also asked to send the guest list to the Ministry of Tourism & Traveling to keep track of the number of inbound tourists.

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Thiripyitsaya’s Reception (Copyright to Thiripyitsaya)

Regarding the room reservations, there are four types of customers at Thiripyitsaya. They are Free Independent Travelers (FITs), Travel Agents (TAs), Companies, and Online Travel Agents (OTAs). While I was interning at Thiripyitsaya, the reservation was divided into two division. Thiripyitsaya’s reception was assigned to arrange the reservations from TAs. Whereas the Thiripyitsaya’s Sales Dept. was in charge of the OTAs. A room sold to each type of customer is varied because different types of customers are given with different rates or signed with different contract rates. For example, the rate sold to TAs is lower than that to FITs because TAs bring abundant guests to the Resort. And the rate sold to companies could be the lowest because companies stay for a long period at the Resort. Nevertheless, based on different conditions, the actual selling price that guests get from OTAs could be lower than that of FITs, or the actual selling price that guests get from TAs could be equivalent to that for OTAs. From the resort front office’s manager, I have learned that this is how hotels are operating these days. At this point, almost 80% of hotels in Myanmar are linked with TAs/OTAs. With the annual rise of tourists in Myanmar, the number of hotels is increasing daily as well. In Bagan only, there are about 43 hotels operating currently.

In addition to the reception, Thiripyitsaya’s front office also placed another desk for the concierge (tour desk.) There, guests are able to learn about the activities and promotional packages in depth that Thiripyitsaya offers. The activities that Thiripyitsaya currently offers are: meditation at the Pavilion, exploration around the historical Bagan, cultural immersion activities, and back to nature programs. Moreover, Thiripyitsaya also offers to coordinate tour guides, hot balloon rides, taxis, electric & manual bike rentals, cooking classes, pagoda dinners, etc. When a guest makes a request regarding these activities, the Concierge and the Reception would work closely to fulfill the request.

To sum up my week at the Front Office, I would like to state that I like working there. During my times as a trainee at the reception, I met many friendly guests who conversed with me regarding where they were from, why they came to stay at Thiripyitsaya Resort, why I was interning there, etc. From America to Ireland, from Sweden to Vietnam, conversing travel experiences with guests from around the world helped me to expand my knowledge and also learn more about my country in the eyes of foreigners.

Bagan Revisited as an Intern – Sequel 4

Dining on the Riverfront

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Overlooking Irrawaddy River from the Thiripyitsaya’s terrace (Copyright to Thiripyitsaya)

My last module of internship was completed by spending two weeks at the Food & Beverage Department of Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort and Sky Bistro Restaurant.  According to my internship coordinator, Mr. Shirai, opening a restaurant needs a strategic process of planning and creating. Before thinking about all else, the restaurant’s owner should brainstorm the type of the restaurant that he/she wants to open. After that, he/she creates the ambience that will fulfill the restaurant type. For example, a fine-dining restaurant should have the atmosphere of high-class and prestige that is created with dim light to form a romantic environment. The waitstaff would be well-trained and wearing formal attire. Both of the restaurants that I interned at were fine-dining restaurants. From the training, I have learned about the sequence of service, different types of food and beverage service, the components of fine dinning, steps in composing a menu, the two types of soup, etc.

First, the sequence of service comes in a step-by-step process. When the guests come in, a waitstaff is supposed to welcome guests with smiling faces, and lead guests to the seats. While seating the guests, it is important to ask for guests’ preferences and check if they had a reservation. It is important to use open palm to direct guests to wherever they are sitting. Once they are seated, check if they are satisfied with the tables. Then, fold the napkins into triangular form and lay it on top of the legs of guests from left. Also, before laying the napkins, ask the guests if they are comfortable with it. The next step is to serve water and present the menus to guests. When offering the menus, it is important to note that – ladies come first. Before offering the menus, ensure that it is not upside down, and open it to the first page. In order to take orders, it is important that wait staffs keep a pen and notebook to register the orders. If guests ask for suggestions, wait staffs should be able to elaborate the ingredients used in cooking each dish and make useful suggestions to guests. When it is time to take the orders, take beverage orders first. Then, the starter, and come the main course. After the orders are taken, reiterate the orders and inform guests the amount of time needed to prepare the food. Finally, place the orders. During the period while the foods are being prepared, place cutlery according to the types of orders that guests made. Once the orders are ready to be served, check the quality and serve the orders. After a few minutes that foods are served, check guests’ satisfaction. When guests finish dining the main course, offer dessert and beverage menus. Eventually after guests finished dinning, clear the tables, present the bills, accompany guests to the entrance, and thank the guests. This is the universal use sequence of service.

Second, I would like to talk about food and beverage services. According to one of my supervisors, Ko Aung Ko, the service of foods & beverages are carried differently depends on many factors. These factors include the setting of the restaurant, the time that the meal is served, the customer’s turnover rate, the cost of the meal, the cuisine type presented in the menu. Based on these factors, the restaurant’s supervisor could designate the types of services that s/he would like to deliver to the diners. Currently, there are five types of services known universally. They are:

  1. Table Service (eg. Silver/ English Service, French Service, Russian Service, Pre-plated/ American Service, Gueridon / Cart Service)
  2. Assisted Service (eg. Buffet Service)
  3. Self-Service (eg. Cafeteria Service)
  4. Single Point Service (eg. Take Away, Vending, Kiosk, Food Court)
  5. Specialized or in situ Service (eg. Grill Room Service, Tray/ Trolley Service, Home-Delivery)

While I was an intern there, the restaurants offered menus that came in a mix of A La Carte and Set Menus. When foods were served to the diners, it was served and cleared from the left, whilst beverages are served from the right side and cleared from the left. Both of the restaurants that I were trained at used the American Service, in which foods were served pre-plated. As Thiripyitsaya’s restaurant utilized fine dining, cutlery was set in the meantime while tables were laid with covers. On the other hand, Sky Bistro utilized casual dining. Therefore, cutlery was laid depended on the type of orders that the diners made. The following is an example of fine dining accomplished with ‘Table d’ hôte service’ or covers laid prior to the arrival of diners. On this type of fine dining table, the fundamentals are: handkerchiefs, cutlery (dessert fork/ spoon, butter knife, soup spoon, salad fork, dinner fork, etc.,) plate mats, crockery (water goblets, butter plates, etc.) In addition, depending on the types of course that diners ordered, fish/ steak knifes would be offered.

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Dinner table (Copyright to Thiripyitsaya)

Another component that helps to smooth the dining services is the preparation of Mise-En-Place. Mise-En-Place means putting thing into place. This is also a component of fine dinning. In this process, I got to collect cutlery, crockery, and seasonings and help my colleagues to prepare Mise-En-Place. I didn’t realize the importance of Mise-En-Place until the day I assisted to serve a group of 50 diners at a conference that was held in Sky Bistro. Because of some changes in the menu from the kitchen, the saucers and teaspoons that we had prepared ahead for the banquet were not enough. Therefore, a few of us had to go to the kitchen back and forth to get them.Even though the event went successful, the serving process was quite clumsy and seemed to be unprepared. Here are some pictures for Mise-En-Place preparation:

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The Mise-En-Place for cutlery
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Mise-En-Place for lunch & dinner menus

Last, but not least, I learned about the importance of menu creation. Even though there are other many factors that make a restaurant successful, menus play one of the most important role among them. Menus are not only the image of a restaurant, but also it can be a marketing tool that attract customers to come back. According to Danny Maribao, the author of Menu Planning on LinkedIn, Menus also act as a control tool for the restaurants to gather ingredients, plan ahead of time, and calculate costs.

To create a standard menu, there are certain fundamental components we need to consider in order to make the menu complete. These components are: appetizer, soup, fish, first meat course, main course, roast meat course, vegetable course, desserts, fresh fruits & nuts, and beverages. As we know, appetizer is a stimulant of one’s appetite. It is normally salty, spicy, and pickled in nature. It comes in the form of salads, eggs, Canapés, Fish, Meat, and fruits. Following appetizer is soup. There are two types of soups: thick soup and thin soup. If the appetizer is cold, thin soup should be served. Likewise, if the appetizer is hot, thick soup is served. After soup comes the first meat course that is a hot or cold  dish of organ meats like kidneys, brain, liver, etc. Continuing first meat course is the main course, which is served with heavy supplement (eg. potatoes,) and some decoration. The next course is called sorbet, which means giving the diners a break. At this time, an infused beverage, cigars, refreshing snacks would be served to help diners in digesting food. Resuming from sorbet is the serving of roasted meat course, vegetable course, and desserts. Desserts include cakes, pies, fruits and nuts. Finally, beverages such as coffee will be served together with cookies as the conclusion of the meal.

As a waitress, I have learned that wait staffs ought to be observant and alert of the situations that they are in, and incorporate their common sense in the service to guests. A waitstaff should never show off that in front of the guests. He/she should bear a sense of humility in the service of guests. In addition, as a rule of Thiripyitsaya’s F&B department, waitstaff is not allowed to wear distracting jewelries and have hair dyed besides the basic appearance restrictions. A qualified waitstaff should be presentable externally. I found the duty of a waitstaff is very exhausting because they ought to stand for 8 to 9 hours without sitting down.

To conclude, I am grateful of Juniata College for funding me to have this internship at Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort. I had make connection with staffs from Thiripyitsaya Resort & Sky Bistro, and gained exposure to the real world hospitality and workplace experience. During this one-month period, I have had a practical and firsthand industry experience learning from Thiripyitsaya Resort’s & Sky Bistro’s management teams, and my colleagues alike. From the delivery of services to the marketing of products or services, from human resource management to intra-organizational communication, the whole process was about learning for me. I have had a positive experience at both areas.

Bagan Revisited as an Intern – Sequel 2

My first week of internship at Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort was completed by spending 5 days at Housekeeping Dept. to learn about room service and its relationship to the operation of the Resort. Then, as the second week of my internship, I was introduced to other important departments of Thiripyitsaya Resort, such as Kitchen Dept., Finance Dept., Gardening Dept., Security, and Engineering Dept.

My first stop was at the Kitchen Dept. There, I got to see the whole Thiripyitsaya’s kitchen that prepares food for thousands of people each year. The kitchen comprised of two lines that cooked two main kinds of food for the diners. The first line was Asian line, which cooked not only Burmese food but also other Asian foods. The second line was Western line where European foods and American foods were mostly served. Besides that, there were 5 big storage refrigerators in the kitchen that stored raw beef, pork, seafood, and imported poultry separately. In addition, there was also a separate room that was intended for preparing meat and poultry before they were cooked. Close to the entrance of the kitchen is an air-conditioned storage room that was used for stocking ingredients, fruits, and vegetables. The chef who gave me this tour emphasized on the use of First-in First-out stocking system because of the Bagan’s arid weather. Next to the kitchen was the dish-washing room equipped with a dishwasher, sinks, and a huge cupboard. After passing through the entrance of the kitchen is the pastry room where both Burmese and western desserts were made. Next to the pastry room is two other storage rooms that were used for stocking dry fruits and kitchen equipment. In the end of the tour, the chefs told me that they carefully prepared and stored food, and they guaranteed that the foods they cooked were healthful, organic, and perfect in the combination of color, aroma, taste and appearance.

Next, I was sent to the Finance Dept., where I learned about the general sources of cash in/outflows of the Resort from its Chief Accountant. As a revenue-driven source, the Resort has operated a Restaurant, Bar, Souvenir Shop, Spa, bicycle-rentals, and other special programs

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Royal Dinner at Pagoda Garden (Copyright to Thiripyitsaya)

besides offering accommodation to the tourists. These special programs included Dinners at the Pagoda Garden, Cooking Class, and Meditation Class. The Chief Accountant also explained to me that the Resort’s source of Account Receivables and Payable. Although most of the departments, such as Food & Beverage Dept. and Front Office Dept. had their own cashiers, they were not financially independent. At the end of the day, all the vouchers and receipts were sent to the Night Audit from the Reception for audition. Then, the Night Audit would transfer all the audited financial statements to the Finance Dept. the day afterwards. After the International Revenue Department (IRD) has renewed the law of charging Commercial Taxes at restaurants and stores in early 2016, Thiripyitsaya also started to charge a 5% tax in every item or service that it sold to its customers. The way how this new system works is that every restaurant or shop (including Thiripyitsaya) in Myanmar would buy stickers, and stick them on top of each receipt that it gives back to the customers in order to prove that the tax charging is legitimate. Each layer of the stickers consists of 100 stickers with values that range from 50 to 10,000 K. *(K = kyat is the currency of Burma. K1182 is equivalent to $1 currently.) When the suppliers put a sticker onto the receipt, they are going to stick the corresponding amount of the tax charged that reflects on the receipt.  Here is a picture of how the tax stickers looked like:

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The image of tax stickers (from K50 to K10,000)

For example, when the owner of a shop went to the IRD to buy a layer of K10,000 that consists of 100 stickers, he/she would have to pay K10,000,000 in return. This means that the owner would have to stick these 100 stickers on top of receipts in order to earn the K10,000,000 back. As reported by Aye Thidar Kyaw in Myanmar Times about “Retailers to Charge Commercial Tax,” these stickers are the proofs to customers that shop owners are paying tax to Myanmar government (Myanmar Times, August 31, 2016.) Nevertheless, neither all restaurants nor shops in Myanmar are obeying this policy exactly. Still, there are a large portions of shops and restaurants in Myanmar are avoiding from paying taxes. Additionally, most of the suppliers are underpaying taxes because of the difference in the amount of payment. For example, if the tax charged is K140, the shop owners would pay K100 because there isn’t an amount of K40 in the stickers.

Third, continuing from Finance Dept., I went to the Gardeners’ Office. There, I learned about the day-to-day work that Thiripyitsaya’s gardeners do.

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The overview of Thiripyitsaya Resort (Copyright to Thiripyitsaya)

At Thiripyitsaya, gardeners are generally in charge of mowing the lawn, taking care of the flowers and the Organic Garden, controlling pest, taking care of the peacocks, etc. At the Organic Garden, there are vegetables and plants planted to serve Thiripyitsaya restaurant’s diners. As Thiripyitsaya emphasizes in decorating the public areas, taking care of flowers and the lawn have been an important task for the gardeners. Whenever a season changes, gardeners have to move flowers from the nursery to the yard to replace the outdated ones. In addition, as the Resort is surrounded with plenty of plants and trees, pests controlling is also an important task for the gardeners. Gardeners would use anti-pest spray to spray indoors and outdoors 8 times per month to control pests. Furthermore, gardeners are also responsible for taking care of the peacocks that are raised at Thiripyitsaya’s peacock zoo. During High season when there is high occupancy at the Resort, gardeners would release the peacocks out from the zoo at the breakfast time for guests entertainment.

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Peacock viewing at Thiripyitsaya’s lawn (Copyright to Thiripyitsaya)

When the breakfast time ends, gardeners would escort the peacocks back to the zoo. These peacocks are very familiar with the guests as the frequent interaction with the guests. Normally, Guests are invited to give treats and interact with the peacocks. Unfortunately, during the rainy season, peacocks would become restless. Therefore, it is very rare that peacocks are released out for entertainment during the rainy season.

After visited Finance Dept., I went to the Security Office. There, I learned about how the Office ran throughout the year. The Security Office normally operates with four shifts: Morning, Evening, and Night. Therefore, it was operated throughout the whole day. While on duty, all the security officers were responsible to patrol around the Resort to ensure the safety of the guests and Thiripyitsaya Community. To record that the security officers did their jobs, the management team required them to register on the checkpoints. Within Thiripyitsaya Resort, there were about 26 checkpoints. A round check from one end of the Resort to the other end would take about 45 minutes. Besides patrolling around the Resort compound, the other duty of the Security officers was to record all the vehicles and guests that pass in and out of the Resort, to inspect employees who come in and out for duties, to make sure that drivers from Free Independent Travelers don’t sleep inside their vehicles, and to prevent wild animals from entering the Resort community.

Finally, I was sent to the Engineer Office, where I learned about the general functions of the Office. At Thiripyitsaya, the engineers were in charge of taking care of telephones, lights, air-conditioners, kitchen equipment, electronics, and electricity access as a whole. Because Thiripyitsaya used sea water to support the whole Resort, water treatment was another important task for the engineers before it was distributed to the users.

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Chlorine Test Kit

Generally, water treatment is a process of filtering water through the use of chemicals (such as Chlorine and Carbon filter) and Chlorine test kit (picture illustrated below.) As Thiripyitsaya also had a swimming pool, water filtering processes for normal use and swimming pool use were different. The water for normal use only needed 65% concentration. Then, it would be tested with the Chlorine test kit. If the PH level passed, the water would be safe for using. However, water for swimming pool use would need an additional step of adding Chlorine 9% concentration and go through the Chlorine test kit to test the PH level. The engineers told me that water treatment was a very important task as it was related to the health of the whole Thiripyitsaya’s community.

All in all, it was eye-opening to get exposed to these operational management. I used to think that operating a hotel is easy. After experiencing these, I have understood it is such an effortful business that needs lots of cooperation, knowledge, commitment, passion, and time.

Bagan Revisited as an Intern – Sequel 1

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Bagan Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort

 

In order to spend my 2016’s summer break more meaningfully, I chose to come back to my home country (Myanmar,) specifically Bagan to intern for the first time in my life.After my graduation, I want to work in Hospitality & Tourism industry. Therefore, my internship is about hospitality management training at Bagan Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort that is located in Bagan, Mandalay Division, Myanmar. From here, I would like to appreciate Juniata College for its generosity in funding me the training fee.

Bagan, used to be called the kingdom of Pagan (founded in 849 AD,) is famous for tourism in terms of religion, architecture, rural setting, and culture. Unfortunately, it has yet to be listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its poor conservation. Every year, it is reported that there are almost 300,000 tourists, both internationally and domestically visit there. It is predicted that there would be half a million of tourists visit Bagan once it is named as the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bagan has many attractions. One of them is the thousands of Buddhist temples and stupas that are situated spottily around the city. There is a Burmese saying that in Bagan, there is always one pagoda in whichever direction you point to. Because of the city’s ancient and rural setting, you would feel a sense of tranquility and peacefulness while in Bagan. It is like an isolated world. Whatever is happening around the world doesn’t bother Bagan people at all. Besides that, Bagan is also known for its friendly and helpful people.

 

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Temples scattered around Bagan City

 

The owner of Thiripyitsaya Resort that I am interning at is a Japanese investor who acquired the Resort in 1996 from the Myanmar Government. The Resort has about 110

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River view at Thiripyitsay

rooms for guests. The occupancy of rooms is full during the high season, which starts from October and ends in April. As the economy of Bagan relies solely on tourism, not many tourists would come to visit Bagan during the low season. Thus, the hotel’s regular occupancy during low season is about 20 to 30 rooms. The Resort is located in Old Bagan and by the Ayeyarwaddy River, which has offered guests an opportunity to view the sunset. Because of its stunning decoration, the Resort is claimed to have the best scenery among other hotels in Bagan. I  would call it “a place created for dreams” because there is a feeling as if I am living in the heaven while I am here. The Resort has five kinds of guestrooms. They are Standard, Deluxe Classic, Deluxe River View, Deluxe Garden View, and River View Suites. Here is the resort’s website: http://www.thiripyitsaya-resort.com/en/    The decorations and architecture of buildings at Thiripyitsaya are peculiarly unique and rich in Burmese and Japanese cultures. Around the hotel are plenty of trees, plants, and seasonal flowers. Here is a view of sunset you can see at Thiripyitsaya:

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Sunset view at Thiripyitsaya

My internship lasts for one month. It consists of training in Housekeeping, Food & Beverage, Front Office, Souvenirs Shop, Finance, Security, Gardening, and Sales & Marketing. The internship began on June 13, 2016. On the first week, I was trained in the Housekeeping Department. At Thiripyitsaya, Housekeeping Dept. is divided into Room Service, Laundry Service, and Public Area Service.

At Housekeeping Dept., first, I was sent to the Room Service segment and assigned to set up beds and rooms for the new check-ins. From setting up beds, I learned new terminologies, such as Duvet Covers, Turn-Down Service, linens, and so on. A Duvet Cover is used to insert the blanket, and to cover the bed after the bed sheet is overlaid on the mattress. Nowadays, it is popular to use Duvet Covers because they are normally less expensive and time-consuming than using three-layer covers. The other duty of Housekeepers is to look around the neighborhood to ensure that there is no dirt nearby. Room service is a very labor-intensive job. From this training experience, I learned about the art of setting up beds and also the exhaustion behind it. From here, I would like to give my salutation to the hotels’ housekeepers from all over the world.

Room Service is linked directly with the Laundry Service because housekeepers have to get the linens, covers, pillowcases, etc., from the Laundry Dept. to set up rooms for check-ins. Likewise, housekeepers also transfer the used linens, covers, and so on back to the Laundry Dept. for rewashing and preparing for the next cycle. As you can see, teamwork is very critical in this case. Abide by the mission statement of Thiripyitsaya Resort, “building one team, one culture to achieve the vision of becoming the ‘First Choice’ in Bagan,” teamwork and cooperation are put into first priority as one department is linked directly or indirectly to the other. Because of the staffs’ cooperation and the resort’s good management, every step at Thiripyitsaya (from the reservation> check-in>room service>in house & external dining, etc.) is processed smoothly.

After learning about the in-and-out of room service, I was introduced to the Laundry Service segment. There, staffs used washing and drying13493655_1071373706270762_929585368_o.jpg machines to do laundry related to hotel operation. While treating guest’s clothes, staffs used hand wash method. Washing machines include different buttons that classify different materials to be washed separately. Each button is linked to a certain detergent because different detergents function differently. For example, L-1 means to wash bed sheets. Therefore, the detergent used in washing bed sheet is different from that is used in washing 13492809_1071373669604099_1365387573_nL-2, which is for white towels.  These links not only prevent staffs from getting confused of the mixture of chemicals, but also save time in matching certain laundry with certain detergent. While the hotel is in low season, a bin of detergent can last for a month. One other machine that I found interesting at the Laundry Service building is the massive ironer that was used to iron the linens (bed sheets + covers.) This machine was really high-performing in terms of quantities. However, in order to get the linens flatter, staffs would need to use the manual iron to flatten the uneven areas.

As the conclusion from the Housekeeping Dept., I was tied to the supervisor from Public Area Service to observe the duties and functions of this segment. At Thiripyitsaya, Public Area Service is mainly in charge of cleaning the floors, trash bins, and restrooms that are located in public areas. Gardeners take care of the gardens and walk-a-ways. Public Area Service helps to clean and remove trashes in the swimming pool. However, engineers take care of the water conditions in the swimming pool. Each task is divided separately and clearly because it is clear for both the staffs and the supervisors. Once a problem happens, it can be traced down to certain person of certain department to solve the problem. Furthermore, in order to let the guests to be able to easily identify staffs’ corresponding department, Thiripyitsaya also makes staff uniforms of different colors and designs that represents the respective department. For example, the uniform of Housekeeping Dept. is white top and greyish pants. By having staff uniforms, staffs are having their own identity, and are giving the guests a consistent presentation of the department that they belong to.

My week at Housekeeping Dept. was enjoyable even thought it was tiring during the whole process. I made many friends at the department. And we had a lot of laughters while we were carrying out the assigned tasks.

 

 

 

 

**** All pictures posted on this blog were taken by me.

Kentucky Appalachian Service Trip

Crossing four states, river and mountains, from Pennsylvania to Kentucky, our group Spring Break Alternative 2015 took 8 hours to drive from Huntingdon and made a stop in West Virginia on Saturday’s night, March 7. Then, we resumed our driving on the morning of March 8 and drove for another 3 hours. Finally, we arrived at Chavies, Kentucky’s Appalachian Service camp on March 8, 2015’s afternoon. The weather in Chavies was hotter than it is in Huntingdon. Similar to Huntingdon, people there were very nice and friendly. However, Chavies was a very religious and close-knit village.

The Service Center that we were staying during the service week was a three-storied building, in which there were recreation room, catering room, men and women’s bedrooms, ASP’s office, kitchen and bathrooms. Our building was built on a small hill, at the top of the Chavies village, with mountains, cliffs and a cemetery surrounded. The whole building was decorated with inspirational, motivational and loving and caring quotes. They were very beautiful, which make the lodging more lively and sweet. There were altogether four groups serving for the week from Wake Forest University, Illinois Wesleyan University, Virginia Tech University and ours, Juniata College. Overall, there are 70 students and 2-3 trip advisors from each university.

Right after we arrived, I was able to make a run with my friends down to the village. It was a very quiet and peaceful village. I wondered if it was because it was Sunday. There were about 25 houses, a church, Chavies Medical Center, a small convenience store & gas station and a furniture store. That was all about Chavies. It was quite small, as small as a village. After coming back from the village sightseeing, we had our first service meeting by giving small introductions and the welcome dinner. Since the camp is a religious building, there are rules and dress code regarded to Christian religion: no sleeveless shirt and above-knee short pant. Our five-day’s work schedule is all the same. Everyday, we have to get up at 7 am, make devotions and eat breakfast at 7:20 am, leave for work site at 8:30am, have lunch at 12:30pm, return to camp at 4:30pm, have dinner at 6pm, reflection at 7:30 pm and go to bed at 11:00 pm. After all the introductions, ASP’s staffs explained us the duties that all the students have to carry throughout this whole week. Every group is on duty everyday before or after working at the work site. I immediately realized that here nobody is above anyone. Everyone is the same. We came to serve people and help each other. On the right is the duty board, which I found very interesting. Our Juniata’s group is called Koala Tree. The family that we worked with was also called Koala Tree.

Our family’s house was located in Busy, Perry County. Busy was about 20 minutes away from Chavies. The geography and the location of the area was very remote. There were a lot of muddy streets and forests with high & low hills from one end of the street to the other. People around Perry County are mostly depending on coal mining businesses. On Monday’s morning, we started our building project at Busy. Once we entered Busy, I felt very connected to the area. I felt that the world is very globalized. I was shocked a bit. I thought I was back to a poverty area in Myanmar. The impoverished condition of Busy disheartened me. There were plenty of old, poor-conditioned houses in Busy. Nevertheless, the formation of the area was very contradictory. Although there were some impoverished houses, there were also many very affluent villas. We had driven for about an hour to locate the house. A lot of questions came out from my mind. Why do people in Busy keep living there with no easy access to stores, hospitals, schools?

Finally, in the middle of nowhere, we found the house of the family that we would be working with for the rest of the week. It was situated in a small valley inside big valleys. During the first day, we finished building a quarter of the porch and half of the ceiling of a bedroom inside the house. Apparently, 11052396_998529126827977_2179675621628957659_nsome of us like I were very new to building houses. Our trip leaders taught us how to cut timber, screw drive nails and so on. I also learned many construction terms: toe nailing, waterproof dry walls, heat-resistant dry walls, straight edge, tape measure and so on. Starting from Monday through the end of Friday, we worked on two things: build a porch and hang dry walls. Within just one week, we were able to build a porch, hang dry walls on about 3/4 of the indoor’s walls. ASP’s staffs were very amazed at us for being able to accomplish this much. I felt very proud of our group and myself too.

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