An international experience

By Dick Mason, The Observer February 11, 2013 09:58 am

Chris Baxter / The Observer Central Elementary third-grader Fernando Torres snaps a photo of one of their class’ special guests Friday morning, foreign exchange student Andreia Fernandes of Switzerland. CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer
Chris Baxter / The Observer Central Elementary third-grader Fernando Torres snaps a photo of one of their class’ special guests Friday morning, foreign exchange student Andreia Fernandes of Switzerland. CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer

by DICK MASON / The Observer 

Eastern Oregon Excursion brings foreign exchange students to La Grande 

Oliver Kasemsuphaisan, a Rotary Exchange student from Thailand, did not lose his breath while playing dodgeball with students at Central Elementary School Friday. 

However, the teenager did find himself momentarily breathless while providing a fun fact to Central students about Thailand — a fact that left the grade-schoolers agasp. 

Kasemsuphaisan, who is attending Oregon City High School, amazed Central students by telling them that the name of Thailand’s capital city is the longest of any national capital in the world. Thailand’s capital is known as Bangkok to foreigners, but its people call it “Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit.”

Kasemsuphasan needed between 10 and 15 seconds to pronounce the name. He can write it out in about 90 seconds without consulting a book or computer. Kasemsuphasan said most adults in Thailand can do the same because of how they learned it in school.

“They are taught it as a song,” the exchange student said.

Kasemsuphaisan was among 38 international students from 22 countries who visited Central or Island City elementary schools Friday. The students are all attending school in Western Oregon and Southeast Washington.

Other students who shared fun facts about their nations included Alphan Sekuri, a student from Izmir, Turkey. Sekuri told Central students his nation’s name may give them a misleading impression.

“We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, and we do not have any turkeys,” said Sekuri, who attends Roosevelt High School in Portland. 

Sekuri and all the 38 international exchange students were in Northeast Oregon as part of the Rotary Exchange program’s Eastern Oregon Discovery Excursion. The high school students received an extensive and varied look at Northeast Oregon. On Saturday, they viewed elk at the Anthony Creek feeding site in the Elkhorn Wildlife Area and skied and snowboarded at Anthony Lakes before returning to La Grande, where they spent the night at the Maridell Center.

The international students were joined by 38 teenagers from the Northwest who are preparing to go to another country for the next school year through the Rotary Exchange program. 

Many of the international students who went to Anthony Lakes had never skied or snowboarded before. Sekuri, who had not been on a snow-covered mountain before, was among them.

“I fell 4,000 times. It was great,” said Sekuri, who tried his hand at snowboarding.

The Eastern Oregon Excursion is an annual part of the International Rotary Youth Exchange Program. The La Grande and Baker City Rotary clubs alternate putting on the event each year. This year the visit was put on by the
La Grande Rotary Club.