The Grand Finale

Dearest friends and family,

You have all been wonderful supporters of my crazy PC journey. I have appreciated all of you for following my blog and keeping in touch with me. It’s so great to know I have such amazing people in my life. I want to take this moment and say “thank you” to all of you. I couldn’t have done it without you.

My time here in Isaan has come to an end. I leave in exactly 2 weeks and time is flying by. It’s a bittersweet feeling. Everyone has asked me how I am feeling… I’m lost at the moment, to say the truth. When I’m at my house with my host family having a wonderful dinner followed by an evening filled with my host bother and sister’s laughter I find myself trying to hold on to the moment. I will miss the days at school when I pass the students saying “Good morning, teacher!” And seeing their eager faces, wanting to learn English. I will miss the every day lunch surprise, the random chickens on the bus, the bugs in the bathroom…. just kidding… But, I will really miss a lot of things. However, I am excited for the next chapter. I have lots to look forward to: Eating street food in Vietnam, diving off the islands of Malaysia, jungle trekking and Singapore shopping. Not to mention I get to do all of this world traveling with some great people. Oh, and I get to live on an island for the months to follow… not too shabby.

I didn’t know how to express myself thoroughly through words so I gathered some of my videos and with the help of my tech specialist, Harrison, I think we put together a great montage of my last 2 years. Adventures in Thailand: An Unforgettable Journey.

I have enjoyed every minute of this journey. It has opened my eyes to so many things. I am so grateful for this opportunity and I can’t wait for what’s next to come.

Much loves from me and a million “Thank yous!”

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Hey! It’s 2014?!

The holiday season here was crazier than I expected. Harrison ended up coming to visit a few days early, which was a great surprise. We had a wonderful holiday celebration with the family and school teachers. Harrison and I went to Roi Et to pick up a few things for the big meal and we did really good for having limited resources. We managed to make a full Christmas meal with mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, pumpkin pie and even Yorkshire puddings! We didn’t think my host family would enjoy the meal but we were determined to make them try it. We discovered that if you put gravy on the meal it becomes delicious! Therefore, our meal was a success! Just add gravy, who knew?

I also slaved by my mini oven one evening and made 6 different kinds of sweet treats which included; chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, chocolate cupcakes, funfetti cupcakes, apple pie and pumpkin pie. All of the treats were made from scratch and all turned out amazing… 7 hours later. Things would have gone faster if my oven could hold more than 6 cupcakes at a time. All that matters is that each school devoured the Christmas cookie plates!

One a sad note the weekend before Christmas one of my students in sixth grade had passed away from a rat disease. I am close with boy’s older sister so I felt awful about the ordeal. It was quite difficult and upon Harrison’s arrival we had to attend the funeral, which I also felt bad about. It was nice to have Harrison there for support but it was a very rough day. It was also interesting to see how the school dealt with this situation and supported the family. It was very different than the states. The funeral was also interesting. I hadn’t attended a funeral in Thailand before so it was all-new. There was a lot of chanting and flowers, which were beautiful. We lit incense and gave offerings to the monks. At the end the monks lit a firework that winded around the garden and finally lit the fire for the cremation. Immediately after the fire started the family started throwing candy and money wrapped in shiny paper. So very interesting.

The few days after the funeral Harrison helped at the schools, participated at the New Year’s Day gift exchange. Every student and teacher brings a present and then draws a number to receive a gift. The student’s absolutely loved it. Such a great way to start the New Year.

Around the 27th of December Harrison and I started our trek to Koh Tao to bring in the New Year. We thought we’d be lucky and there would be enough seats available all the way to the island…. We were wrong. We got to Bangkok just fine but all of the tickets down south were hard to come by. We managed to get a ticket to Chumphon where the boats leave. The bus took ALL day to get there. When we arrived we rushed to the harbor to get an overnight boat to the island. We got a ticket, luckily, only to find out that we had to sleep on the ground of the boat cause they were over booked AND that night there was the roughest waters I’ve ever encountered. I never want to experience that again.  5 a.m. on the 29th we arrived at Koh Tao.

We spent the next few days being island people and soaking up all that the island has to offer. We met up with a few other volunteers and hiked to the top of Mango Bay, which overlooked the entire island. The hike was straight up for an hour but it was so worth the view. We got massages, ate great food and tanned on the beach. It was glorious.

New Year’s Eve was completely packed with people. We managed to grab some ice cream, in lieu of champagne, and headed down to the beach to bring in the New Year. The beaches were decorated to the max and fireworks filled the air, along with prayer lanterns. Happy 2014!

Highlights:

9 weeks left of PC!

Receiving beautiful Christmas packages from family and friends. It was more than appreciated, thanks so much!!

Harrison got a job as a free diving videographer!

I applied to my first job, wish me luck!

At the end of the month I will be a resource volunteer for the new group of volunteers

Bangkok protests are getting crazy! Protestors have shut down all major intersections and are threatening to shut down the city for a month!

My host mom and I had girl talk for over an hour, just hanging in my room.

The Emotional Roller Coaster.

It’s officially 9 weeks till I will be finished with my Peace Corps service and how do I feel? Like I’m on an emotional roller coaster. Just a few weeks ago we had our COS “Close of Service” conference and I found myself randomly crying. I think it’s because of theoverwhelming feeling that this part of my life is coming to a close and these past 2 years have been the craziest chapter of my life to date.

The conference was a nice way to talk through, with fellow volunteers, about how we’re feeling, what’s to expect next and how to move forward. As much as it was nice it was also a lot of information to take in. Luckily, I have 40 other volunteers who are in the exact same boat as me! We have had an experience together that no one will ever be able to understand. And that is amazing.

So, what am I doing next? That’s the big question, right? The answer is… I have NOidea! I’ve always been a person with a plan and responsible outlook on my life.  I thought that by joining the Peace Corps I would get a federal job at the end and keep living a life that was “expected” of me. However, through this experience I’ve come to realize I have no idea what I want to do, where I want to live, or what the future will look like for me. This thought would have been the end of me 2 years ago. But, today I finally find it liberating. Just the idea that I don’t know where I’ll be next year excites me. I’ve played with many options and scenarios but my mind seems to change every day!  I’ve pondered being a beach bum, living back at home, traveling or working in D.C. What I will be and where I will live is unknown at this moment in time and that’s okay. All I know is that I will do great things and I will take all the experiences I’ve had and use them in the future, they have made me a better person. Just like the great AlanisMorissette said, “I don’t have it all figured out right now but I’ve got one hand in my pocket and the other is giving a peace sign.”

Highlights:

  • Being a judge at the Regional English Competition at Mukdahan for 3 days.
  • Getting a ride home and being surprised that there was a chicken in the trunk when I put my bags in.
  • The weather is so cold I got to wear a sweatshirt, scarf and pants to school!
  • Going to the beach with all the volunteers for our last conference.
  • Completing the World Map project at Thasida School! Super awesome.
  • Spending my last Christmas with my host family and making homemade pumpkin pie, from scratch…
  • Excited to spend my first Christmas with Harrison. Then going to Koh Tao to bring in the New Year!

An Asian Vacation Month

October proved to be another wonderful month in Thailand. I had the Kimoto ladies join me on an epic adventure touring the country from the South to the North!

It was so surreal to have them here. Harrison and I met them at the airport with big hugs and warm Thai smiles. Then it was off to the hotel for a nap before we got on the next plane to the south!

We started in Koh Samui and stayed at the cutest Thai house not too far from the beach where we got daily massages. Oh, the life. We even rented a cute car and managed to toured the whole island in a day. I had a delicious birthday dinner on the beach with lanterns that lit the sky while we ate. Koh Samui gave us beach side meals, fresh coconuts, temples and Thai time… we were well adapted to the beach life when it was time to leave for the North.

We got to Chiang Mai in the late afternoon and hit up the Night Market just as it opened. The ladies know how to shop… good thing I can work a deal here and there for them, they liked that 🙂 We loved Chiang Mai. We stayed at the nicest hotel right in the city but felt like we were so tucked away! The ManaThai Village is a must stay if you’re going to Chiang Mai. We took a cooking class that was super fun! We toured a local market and learned about the foods that we’d be working with and then spent the next 5 hours cooking and eating. 5 courses later we were stuffed and in a food coma. My mom and I even did an elephant day while in Chiang Mai, it was called Patara Elephant Farm. I highly recommend it for anyone who loves elephants. It was beyond amazing. It was a day that neither of us will ever forget. The next day we climbed to the top of the mountain to see Doi Suthep temple. 300+ stairs up and you can see all of Chiang Mai. Let’s just say that my mom and I deserved that last massage, granted we moaned during the entire session. Overall Chiang Mai treated us well.

After Chiang Mai was the big bad city of Bangkok! And we did it well. We hit up the gigantic shopping malls, had fancy drinks at the rooftop bars and shopped till we dropped at market on the river, Asiatique! Then, sadly it was time for my aunt to depart and head back home to the states. However, my mom and grandma followed me back to site.

We spent the next few days nice and relaxed watching movies and listening to the rain. Kind of a nice change of pace from what we’d been having. They enjoyed the family meals, learning how to make straw mats and touring my village market. It was such a great cultural exchange. We all loved every moment.

The goodbye was bittersweet. Tears were had and hugs were given. The thought of not knowing when we’d actually see each other again, besides Skype, was the hardest part. This will be my first holiday season away from my family. I will have to keep my self busy and keep in mind that I only have 4 months left in this great country! I have to soak up every moment.

After we said our “goodbyes” and “I love yous” we parted ways. They went back to the states as I went back down south to visit Harrison and his family. After a long ordeal of planes, taxis, buses and boats I finally made it to Koh Tao where we spent the next week being pampered and rejuvenated. We stayed at a gorgeous hotel right on the water with two rooms and a private pool. We enjoyed the taste of fresh smoothies from a coconut as we laid on the beach and evening meals together with the family. Perfection. It was another wonderful vacation and a great way to end the month of October.

“Family is the most important thing in the world” –Princess Diana

Flower Ribbons and Homemade Explosives?

Yesterday I was invited to go next door to my host aunt’s house for dinner. We had a lovely meal of Som Tam, papaya salad, and sticky rice. After the meal the local ladies gathered around to make flowers from ribbons. Each flower was perfect and tucked inside them was money! I was told that there was going to be a party next week and the flowers will be thrown in the air and all the kids grab them like candy. Fun! So I joined in on the flower making, took me a while to grasp the idea, and soon I was pumping these little flowers out like a machine. I quite enjoyed it. Sitting with the ladies, gossiping and just doing our thang.

Meanwhile, the men were near by drinking the local moonshine and crushing something in a big mortar… it wasn’t until I had my head between my legs that I realized what they were making… small explosives. Even till this day nothing surprises me in Thailand.

Turns out this small party with cute flowers is actually a monk ordination that is a BIG deal. We’re having a concert next Saturday and everyone and their mom will be invited! Can’t wait to party with the locals till sunrise!

 

Here’s to the last 4 months…

I think it’s been a while…

Once again I find myself forgetting to update the blog! It’s been a few months so let me catch you up…

Basically the roller coaster ride that I wrote about in the last blog is over and the next one is about to begin. The end of June and ALL of July was definitely a roller coaster. I went to a town right outside Chiang Rai for an ASEAN camp and had fun then spent the weekend in Chiang Rai, cute town. Wish I had more time to spend in the city and explore but I had to rush back to Bangkok for medical. I then spent a few days at home, basically re-packing my bags so I could meet Harrison in the south for his birthday. We met at Surat Thani province and stayed at Khao Sok national park. It was magical. The first night we stayed at a cute bungalow on the river and explored the little town. The next day we woke up early and made our way to the lake. It’s a man-made lake that is surrounded by limestone rocks and howling monkeys. We stayed in a dinky bamboo bungalow and kayaked all day. There wasn’t a soul in sight. The water was crystal clear and felt so refreshing. It was a beautiful day and an even more beautiful weekend. When I returned home I had one day to re-pack my bags again and get ready for a leadership camp in Nong Khai, about 6 hours north of me right across from the Laos capitol, Vientiene.

The leadership camp was AMAZING. It was so inspiring and everyone enjoyed every minute. I got to bring my co-teacher, Lap, with me and I’m so happy she got to experience that type of camp. The camp was so different than any camp I’ve seen here in Thailand. It’s student based and is highly productive. It doesn’t revolve around students learning English but leadership skills; responsibility, perseverance, honesty and respect. It was like Outdoor school we have back in the states. Brought back so many happy memories.

After the camp I only had a few days before I went to the states for a much needed visit. It was glorious. The trip home was a whirlwind. I started the trip at home seeing the beach and family. Then I made it to Brewfest on the waterfront and got to see all of my downtown friends. Felt so weird to walk the streets of downtown with familiar faces and speaking English! I don’t think I slept in a bed the whole time I was home!  I was bouncing all over the place… We even had a mini family reunion when we celebrated my mom’s 50th birthday at the parents’ house.  We made a cuddle puddle in the living room with all the kids, friends, pillows and blankets we could find. I couldn’t have been happier. I ate lots and lots of American naughty food. I also enjoyed myself at my best friends wedding at the Gorge. It was so nice to be able to be there for the big day and see everyone from college. We’re all grown-up even though I don’t feel like it.  Overall it was an amazing visit that I wish was longer.

When I returned it was already August! August was a crazy month as well. To make a long story short this is what I accomplished…

– A visit to Harrison at Koh Tao J

– A long weekend in Laos

-Celebrating Mother’s day and enjoying all the student entertainment

-Participating in Sports Day

– Attending a mock safety drill for PC

– Many mini trips to Bangkok!

– Doctor appointments like crazy!

– Discovering we can make awesome veggie burgers

Then it was September! September also started out with a bang. The first week I got horribly sick with a stomach bug… but I was determined to get better because I was supposed to attend the GLOW camp on the 3rd, Girls Leading Our World. The camp was more than amazing. Most of the students had never been on a bus or to Bangkok. It was their first big trip away from home. Each volunteer got to bring 5 girls and a counterpart to the camp. Every day we started with yoga and meditation, so nice. Then the days were filled with activities about confidence and goal building, guest speakers, crafts and teamwork. We even had the US Ambassador come and give the opening speech. So special. So lucky we got to attend.

After the camp I got sick, again. I had been running myself ragged even before the camp. This time it was a sinus infection, which left me in Bangkok for a week! As timing would have it that week was the same week that Harrison’s sister came to visit and it was Rissa’s last week! Everything worked out. I got lots of meds and got to do mostly everything that was planned that week. Although on the way back home I got a really bad fever, which kept me in bed for 3 days. Yuck. So tired of being sick.

It’s now been a week and I feel much much better. Things are slow at site. The schools are preparing for the final tests before the October break. Next week my crazy month begins… I have medical appointments; meetings and then the Kimoto ladies arrive. I’m so excited to have a girl’s trip. We’re starting the trip in Koh Samui then headed to Chiang Mai to play with elephants then coming to my site to meet the Thai family. It’s going to be a great trip / birthday! After the ladies leave I will be headed back down south to spend the rest of the break with Harrison and other volunteers on Koh Tao! It’s going to be a great month!

It’s already June?

It has been a roller coaster ride. As soon as school started in May I couldn’t stop the time from flying. It’s already the middle of June and I can’t seem to find the time to wash my laundry! Just kidding, my clothes are clean… that would be gross, especially here. But it has been super busy here.

The beginning of the school year seemed a bit slow in the sense that classes weren’t really happening and the teachers weren’t working on the semester’s curriculum. But, as time would have it classes finally started and new routines in the class blossomed.  The interruption of me being new was gone and we could finally teach. The students weren’t always “surprised” by me knew what to expect and the teachers caught on to new ideas faster. We have now established a weekly reading program along with a successful rewards system! The kids seem more eager to learn and the teachers are more excited to teach. It’s been wonderful.

Thanks to my sister who has just sent an entire box full of treats for the students to earn! Their mouths were watering when I opened the box. It was like finding a hidden treasure chest full of candy!

Besides teaching things have been relatively great. Lots of bike rides in the evening with my host brother, cooking delicious meals with the family and really staying at site and enjoying the every day life. Simplicity has its perks.

Yesterday was “wai kru” day, which means “Teacher respect” day. It’s a day when the students make beautiful flower arrangements and present them to the teachers.  At the end of the ceremony the principal gave a speech about why it’s so fulfilling to be a teacher. It was actually a very lovely speech and I could agree with everything he said. I do love working with students and enriching our minds every day. To see the smiles of children as you walk into the classroom is the best way to start the day.

It’s been nice being able to stay at site for a while. Things can get out of control when the calendar is booked. My next roller coaster actually starts today. I leave today for Chiang Rai to help another volunteer for a week teaching about ASEAN. It will be a great way to get to see the far north. Then I will go to Bangkok with my co-teacher and do some shopping. This will be our first “girl trip” and we’re both pretty excited! Then I will come home for 3 days before I head out again for a long weekend trip to the south at Khao Sok, the biggest evergreen rainforest in the world.  Lakes, limestone rocks, trekking, and lake houses are what I have to look forward to. Then I head home for a day to pick up my co-teacher and go to a leadership camp at Nong Khai, about 5 hours north of my site. We will be teaching high school students about how to be a leader and then they will become mentors of elementary students for a week. It’s a really positive program that seems to be really successful around Thailand. After the camp I will come home and help Arm celebrate his golden birthday and rest up for a week. Then it will be time to make an appearance in the great state of Oregon. A weeklong trip filled with weddings, birthdays, friends and family. I seriously can’t wait.

 

The Fam Bam

17 months in and I thought it was finally time to introduce my host family.

The mom

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Dokmai, which means flower in Thai, is one of the hardest workingwoman I know.  She is a farmer. She is a mom. She is a grandma. She is a homemaker. She is wonder woman. On a daily basis she’s up before the sun comes up getting my host brother, which is her grandson, ready for school. Then she’s either out in the field before the sun gets hotter than hot or she’s fixing something around the house. If it’s a special day she might be making a straw mat from scratch. Literally it’s like she’s the little red hen who made the bread. She cut the straw, dried the straw, dyed the straw, wove the straw and made a mat, all on her own! Or maybe it’s a laundry day or a day she’s making homemade kanoms, a Thai sweet. Or maybe it’s a day where she is just going to hang around the house and lay in the wind of the fan because it’s just too darn hot to do anything else. Although she might make time to pluck out the gray hairs one by one with the help of the tiniest mirror.

She loves her nails to be pink and her favorite color is green. She doesn’t like to eat meat and enjoys leisure reading. She doesn’t always like my foreigner cooking but she’s always willing to try J She knows what she likes and she doesn’t need to change.

I enjoy every moment with my host mom. Especially when we hoola-hoop or make Thai food together.  And I adore, now, the moments when I’m really ill and she insists that I drink boiling water or sit with her granddaughter and watch me workout, awkward.  She’s a wonderful mother through and through.

The dad

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Muay Thai fighter, craftsman, farmer, and dad are just a few names you might call my host dad, but he goes by Veera. He is a man that can do it all. He’s 55 years old and still has a six-pack. I’ve seen him make his own gun from a scrap of wood, plow a field of rice all alone, stand out in the middle of a thunderstorm to catch the rain water, and eat the most raw chilies, “if it’s not spicy, it’s not delicious.”

He enjoys making and fixing things… his hands always have to be busy.  He makes the best papaya salad, if you like it hot and he likes to tell jokes when he’s enjoying his favorite Thai whiskey. But really, he’s a man of few words and means what he says.

I adore my host parents. They are the salt of the earth. The biggest and happiest accomplishment of my Peace Corps experience this far is when they called me their daughter.

The brother

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Arm is what we call him. His mother is a teacher in a bigger city about 5 hours away and his dad lives in Bangkok. He sees them during summer break and some holidays. He prefers to be in Isaan with his grandparents. It’s his home.

Arm is 9 and full of energy. He is definitely the one who brings life into the house. He sings, dances, and can catch any bug! Yep, he’s basically the triple threat. He is in the 3rd grade and goes to the public school in the main town about 20 minutes away and his favorite subject is English!

Arm likes to play the drums, ride his newly painted bike, play with fireworks, or run around with the neighborhood kids. It’s pretty much a free-for-all when the school bus drops him off.

He likes to come to my house after his nightly bath, or not, and hang out. We usually play cards, draw pictures, watch Home Alone (it’s all he wants to watch), make food or watch terrible Thai TV. He is my partner in crime, and we go everywhere together. He even moved into my house for a while and it was a party until his bed became infested with ants from all the chocolate boxes.

He wishes to travel the world and visit his cousin in Spain. He loves staring at the map of Thailand I have in my room and talking about all the places he wants to travel and why.  He thinks that my foreigner backpack is so big that he could fit inside and go to America for free! He may be pesky at times but what are little brothers for? Love this kid to the fullest.

Thailand tour

Chiang Mai to Mae Sot to Khampheng Phet to Sukothai to Bangkok to Ranong to Bangkok to Singburi to Koh Tao and finally back home.

I am so happy not to be living out of my backpack and having to smell my clothes to see if they’re clean. Seriously.

I was lucky enough to be able to travel all around Thailand during summer break and see other volunteer’s sites. First I traveled up north to help a friend paint a mural with the local kids. She has such a beautiful town. She lives with a family on a peanut farm and has really integrated herself into the community. It made me appreciate what we are doing here and thankful for the opportunity to meet another community who have totally embraced us. From there I traveled to the Burmese boarder to help teach a student camp and teacher training. It was awesome working with a staff that is motivated and who speak English really well. Majority of the kids who attended the camp were Burmese or hill tribe students who were awesome to work with! Both places in the north were really great to explore, so different from where I live. However, the people are just as friendly and the food is just as delicious.

Moving on from the north I traveled down to Khampheng Phet to visit another volunteer. Her place is half way down to Bangkok and it was a great way to see where she lives. We spent the weekend being social volunteers. We ate dinner with some neighbors and had some of the best food I’ve eaten, went to a monk ordination and did a day trip to Sukothai to see the ancient ruins. It was a lovely trip.

From there we traveled together to Bangkok where we met up with a crew of people, which was a great surprise! There were two volunteers from the group 123 who were there finishing up paperwork before they left the country for good! They are finished with PC. It was a sad but great way to end their two years here. We of course had to see them off right by celebrating on Khaosan road. The next day we had a meeting at one of the universities in Bangkok with Dr. Singh, an environmental professor. We were meeting with him to see if he would be interested in working with the PC environmental group and putting on a camp for Thai kids…. He said “yes!” It was a successful meeting to say the least and it got the ball rolling. We are now in the process of finding a location in Thailand where we can teach children about the environment and make useful products out of recycled material with the help of the staff at the university and the Dr. Singh’s scrap lap crew! So exciting.

Later that night a group of ladies and I headed down south to Ranong, Rissa’s site, to help her with a teacher training. We had so much fun having “girl time.” We spent our “off time” going to the beach, taking walks around the town, working out, making good food, taste testing food at the market, watching t.v. or just laughing. After the camp we all packed our bags and headed for a quaint island, Koh Phayam, just 2 hours from Rissa’s house. It was so nice. The weather was awesome and the beach scene was so perfect like it had been set up for a workout video to be taped there. The water was azure and crystal clear, we never had a bad meal and we even got some sun on our skin, some more than others. We couldn’t ask for a better weekend getaway.

After the beach trip we made our way to Bangkok for a week long meeting with the PC. We had meetings about language, what we should be doing for the last year, guest speakers and medical appointments. It was a long and tiring week. Rissa and I stayed with a couple from the states for a few nights and learned a whole new Bangkok. We found some classy and funky places to hang out and even went to an art gallery bar that was totally like Portland. Loved it. So many hipsters.

From Bangkok Rissa and I traveled to Singburi to visit our first host families. It was so nice to see them again… and this time I could actually communicate with them. It was such a different experience then we had from the first 3 months we spent with them. I’ve had lots more experiences in Thailand that I could now relate to them more and I also have a bigger vocabulary so I could actually hold a conversation. We even cracked a few jokes! They were so sweet, they made up a special room for me with ac and a new bed. I only got to spend one night there due to scheduling problems but it was worth it! My host mom made her famous 4 course meal for breakfast and we just hung out in the backyard in the hammocks before I had to leave. It was actually really sad to leave them all over again. I’m hoping that my mom and grandma get to meet them when they come to visit in October.

Ranong was my next destination. Rissa and I decided to go back to her site before we went to the island of Koh Tao. We really needed to rest up after such an exhausting week of meetings and social functions. It was perfect. We slept a lot, made our rounds to her neighbors houses and even had a pot luck dinner at her host family’s house. We made falafel and a Burmese salad and her family made a Japanese dish and Thai food. It was an international meal for all! A great volunteer moment.

As soon as we were rested it was time to pack up our bags again… It had been almost been a month for me living out of my bag and some how I accumulated second bag. But it didn’t stop me from getting on a Song Tao (truck/bus thing) and then a bus and then a boat and then a truck which finally brought us to our hotel on Koh Tao.

I know I say this about every island but this is for real… Koh Tao has to be the best island we’ve been to so far. It is not only beautiful but it has great food, awesome dancing, gorgeous sunsets, friendly people and an overall great vibe. We spent the first night having a drink and watching the sunset over the ocean followed by many rounds of pool with people from all over the world. Then we ended the night dancing in the rain in the ocean! It doesn’t get any better. Or so we thought. With each day on the island we just fell more in love with the island. The second day we were there it was Songkran, the Thai new year and biggest water fight in the world. We were soaked as soon as we stepped out of our room, no joke, one of the maintenance guys sprayed us with a hose. We were soaked for the rest of the day. I think we danced from morning to midnight! The following days just got better… we went to an island, Koh Nganguan, just next to Koh Tao and hiked to the top of one of the peaks to an overlook. One of the most amazing views I’ve ever seen. Then we went snorkeling before we had to go back. We had romantic dinners on the beach, watched the sunsets and met lots fascinating people. We didn’t want to ever leave.

When the time finally came to leave we made a dramatic exit by sitting at the back of the catamaran and watching the island disappear in the distance. We will be back. I was able to catch a bus to Bangkok when I got back to the mainland only to get to Bangkok too late and missed the last bus to my site. Thus, I had to stay a night in Bangkok… But as luck would have it Tucker was passing through Bangkok that weekend as well! We were able to hang out all day before I had to catch my bus! It was perfect!

I have now been back to site for almost a week and it feels like I had never left. Everything is exactly the same. Sookie and Ted follow me everywhere I go, my host mom and dad are always working hard at the field and it’s hot. The only difference is that school isn’t in session. I’ve been spending my days either at the tessaban, hanging out with the government officials, or crafting at my house with my host mom. But, it’s seriously hot here… you can’t do much during the day because it’s so hot. There’s been a lot of thunder and lightning storms at night which have been fun and scary to watch. Thank goodness they installed that ac or I would probably melt…

It has been a roller coaster ride of a month and I’m happy I got the opportunity to do all of it. I now have a few more weeks before school starts and it will be good to get things back in order and try to get my co-teachers to come lesson plan with me 🙂 We can only hope!

Highlights:

  • Traveling Thailand
  • Seeing the Burmese Friendship bridge
  • Visiting Chiang Mai, love.
  • Buying a hoola hoop!
  • Learning a new Bangkok
  • Seeing ALL the volunteers at Mid-service
  • Finding purple wigs on the street
  • Discovering Burmese salad… YUM
  • Getting our environment camp approved
  • Losing/having my iPhone stolen… not so much a highlight
  • Getting tan and being told I really look Thai now
  • Looking forward to meeting Rissa’s brother’s next week in Bangkok

 

 

Continuity.

It was so fun to have Rissa visit. We actually had time to just hangout and enjoy the time at site together. My host family fell in love with her and they called us Lisa 1 and Lisa 2. The best part about it was that she speaks Thai just as much as I do so she understood “everything” that was going on. One of the best moments we had was when my host mom was talking about making sure I kept my windows open or doors… I wasn’t sure what she was talking about and I looked at Rissa to help me figure it out… We looked at each other puzzled and trying to figure out what she was talking about. I shook my head and smiled as I always do when I’m not quite sure what’s going on and walked away…

The next morning before going to school I told my host mom that I left the windows and doors open. She then told me that the air guy was supposed to come in the afternoon. I looked at Rissa and I asked her, “did she really just say that I was getting AC?” Rissa asked if we’d talked about this before… ha. I told Rissa that she was knew just as much as I did. So we went to school and could only hope that the AC conversation wasn’t a “lost in translation” conversation.

So, the English camp was a success! We had so much fun teaching an obstacle course that focused on verbs… and playing games. We basically wanted an excuse to play with water all day.  It was a good thing we did play with water cause it was ridiculously hot that day. By the end of the day we were exhausted… to make ourselves feel better we would look at each other and say, “AC” with a smile.

After a long day of running and singing songs we finally made it home. We had just enough energy to run to my bedroom to see if there was AC. Sure enough we saw the prize! Let’s just say that we didn’t leave the room for the rest of the time. Sad but so true.

The rest of the English camp was fun. We played more games, sang more songs and took more pictures. Typical English camp!

Rissa left on Saturday, which left me with lots of chores and lots of time with the family. My oldest host sister was here visiting with her family. Her daughter is two and is the cutest, Cartoon is her name, and she LOVES pink.

Saturday night we all went into town to run some errands and upon our return I was unloading my groceries in the kitchen when noticed something dark with long legs hanging onto my water bottle. Yep, my worst fear had come true… I thought for sure that I might get lucky and never actually have a “run-in” with this nasty bug… but no. There I was standing right in front of it… the big hand-sized spider… so what did I do? I ran and got my camera! Snapped a quick pic, not too close of course, and then screamed for my host mom. She quickly came with a broom and my host was not too far behind. I was trying to act cool when she came in to get rid of the giant spider but then she began to act scared so I did too. She smashed it to death in the backyard and when she was finished she came back in and said “it’s dead” in the nicest way possible with a smile. Thank goodness I have her.

Lately we’ve been taking evening walks to the farm. Rissa and I went a few times to see the sunset and then I started going with my host mom. She admitted that she had never walked to the farm she only rides her motorcycle. Btw the farm is like a half mile down the side street. The sunsets over the rice and sugar cane fields are just beautiful. So simple and gorgeous and my camera can’t quite capture the full effect. It’s a mix of the warm air, the light breeze, the sweet smell of the fields and the red glow of the sun that really makes it a sunset that I’ve never experienced. Can’t get enough of them.

School is about to end and all I can think about is how we can make next year even better! I want nothing to do but develop new lesson plans, make new materials and plan, plan, plan during school break. Its no wonder my co-teacher try to avoid me… all I do is try and make them work! I have a lot on the “list” for next year, many goals for all of us! Let’s hope we can check off a few of them and I can trick them into working!