Lessons from Chiang Kham

The past 4.5 months have gone by in a heartbeat. On the one hand, it feels like I have been here for no time at all, but on the other hand I feel as if I haven’t seen my family in years, and boarding that flight to Doha alone and crying in JFK was decades ago. My time teaching in Thailand has been challenging and trying, but that being said I am so glad I took this step outside my comfort zone and experienced life through a completely new lens. Before I came here, I had a dream in my head of what teaching would be like. I

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First day of school

dreamed that we would be placed in a beautiful mountain town, surrounded by friendly Thai people who would welcome us with open arms and embrace us into their culture. I dreamed of an amazing four months here, and possibly staying even longer and extending my contract with my school. I hoped I would be at a school with other foreign teachers, make new friends, become attached to my town and school, and be sad to leave when the time came. If we’ve facetimed or talked since I’ve been here, you probably know that my experience in Chiang Kham has not really come close to these first dreams and expectations but I have instead grown and learned so much in a very different way.

We all know the old adage, “when you assume you make an ass out of u and me”…I wish I had taken this more to heart before coming here. It was so naïve to think just because people I know or blogs I have read have had a certain experience in Thailand meant I would too, but in the age of social media this is often the message we get! I learned very quickly after getting here, that Thailand is a huge country! While we began to meet people quickly at orientation in Bangkok, it also did not take long to learn that these people would be placed hours and hours away from us. This became real and very tangible that second week when we had to take a 12 hour bus ride from Bangkok to Chiang Kham. We are truly out in the boonies, in the middle of nowhere, at the end of the rainbow– a town that some Thai people have never even heard of!

While I have shared some visuals on my blog during my time here…I feel it’s necessary to share a few more details before wrapping up with some of the lessons I have learned here. During our time here, 2!!! foreign teachers have left our town to go home. One of them was here just over a month and a half. That’s how tough it is! Granted, teaching isn’t for everyone, but both of those gals gave it a pretty good shot and it was just too much. To be totally transparent, there were quite a few times when I thought about leaving. I remember the first time I facetimed with my parents and it was absolutely brutal. In between sobs, I told them how hard it was, how much I missed them and how small my town was. I did not feel welcome the way I had hoped, in fact on my very first day of school after getting off the overnight bus, I was given a bicycle and made to find my way home alone after only being driven from my apartment to school one time. Not to mention my brakes make the loudest squeaking noise, and the chain falls off weekly (but hey now I know how to fix a bike)! I am grateful every day for my parents support, and them encouraging me to keep going and try my best. I am so lucky to have parents who push me outside my comfort zone and encourage me (as well as my brother and sister) to be independent and pursue our dreams. Another tough time was Christmas. Christmas is without a doubt my favorite holiday at home, and not being surrounded by family, going to church, giving my family and friends gifts and spending time with loved ones falls under one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Not only was it difficult to be over 8,000 miles away but it was exacerbated by being forced, I truly mean forced, to do a Christmas dance and show for the entire school. While I have been away for holidays before, I have never been in a place with almost no comforts from home, that does not celebrate the holiday, and that made it a very strange and surreal experience. I am so grateful that I got through all of those hard times, the times when I burst into tears at school (it was only twice but still), the times I cried on my bicycle on the way home from school, and the time when I cried on facetime with my grandparents, aunts, cousins and siblings to make it to the other side of this experience even stronger and more independent than when I began…yes there have been many, many tears but we did it!

It would be remiss of me not to give a huge shout out to the gals who got me through these months in Chiang Kham. Whether it was fate, luck or just good fortune, meeting Jacqui and Chloe has been such a highlight of my time here. I remember the first time Emma and I were walking through the market and turned to each other surprised that there were other teachers just like us! Shortly after that, we met them at Mo’s and started enjoying dinner together a few times a week. Chloe is such a genuine, kind, down to earth gal who always seems to reel us in when we’re being delusional, but also full of empathy and understanding for Jacqui, Emma and I. And Jacqui is a hoot. She is hilarious, sweet, wordly and always fun to be around. The four of us have clicked so well, and dinner/Blacksmith runs with them will be one of the very few things I will miss about CK. I so look forward to hearing about all of their travels and hopefully spending some time with them back on our side of the pond (Chloe if you read this please come spend time with us all on the East Coast :)).

And Emma. I feel so extremely fortunate to have a best friend like her to come on these adventures with me, stick around when I am not doing too hot, listen to my rants and rambles, and make it through all of the tough times as well as thrive in the amazing ones. This adventure will be so hard to explain to folks back home as there really are no words to describe the roller coaster (so cliché I know) we have gone through. But, there is truly no one else in the world I think I could have done this with. I can’t wait to think back on these past months in years to come, laughing and telling stories to our loved ones about that crazy time we moved to Thailand. Thank you thank you thank you, a million times thank you, for being the best, most caring, and compassionate friend a girl could ever ask for. There is just absolutely no way I could have done this without you, and I am sooooooo excited to THRIVEEEE with you the next two months through our travels and adventures.

I’ve lost my train of thought and am definitely rambling….hmm where were we.

Oh right, I could go on and on about the Chiang Kham craziness, but I think it is important to highlight some of the things I have learned here in the 135 days since arriving. Here are the top 10 things (some serious, some funny) that I have learned while living in Chiang Kham, Phayao, Thailand:

Top 10 Things I’ve Learned by living in lil old CK

  1. Smilewhen it doubt, just smile. Being around some of the teachers here (who have never once smiled at me) made me realize how powerful smiles actually are. A img_8465smile from the mango sticky rice lady can really start my morning on the right foot!
  2. Roosters “cockadoodledoo” whenever they feel like it– 6 am, 4 pm, 10 pm, 3 am…it really does not matter the time of day, there will always be a rooster crowing outside my window here.
  3. Breathe- Sometimes random surprise things would get dropped on me at work and it would take everything in me not to react. This is where breathing came into play. Just taking a few deep breaths has helped me to relax and reflect instead of react. Or that time when my sixth graders would not stop talking for 30 minutes, I could’ve yelled at them but instead I just sat there starting at them and eventually they stopped! Would ya believe that?
  4. If you think Massachusetts drivers are bad, come to Thailand- Biking here has been similar to an extreme sport. Dodge this way, quick turn that way, watch out for that tree!!! Do we have stop signs, street lights, road rules? You bet! Does anyone follow them? Maybe 10% of the population! I really wonder if there is any type of driving course around here…
  5. Communication is key- “Teacher, I didn’t tell you about your going away party because I didn’t know if you would be free..”, typically this isn’t how things work back home. The serious lack of communication here has made me so appreciative of how much we do communicate back home with friends, in our jobs, and in our culture in general. It has also made me realize I need to be an even better communicator when I get home.
  6. Language isn’t the only way to communicate- Most of my students can only speak a little English, but that didn’t stop us from building relationships and growing together. Smiles, body language, charades and games have been such integral parts of me connecting with my students here. I have made some amazing connections with students, some of whom I’ve never had a real conversation with. This is something I will carry with me forever.
  7. Laugh at yourself- There were many days I would get home from school, or trying to get something done in my town and think “what the hell goes on”. The gals and I started a joke where we would say out loud or think to ourselves “COME ON!!”, like when one of us would find an ant infestation in our brand new granola bar stash, or the lizard that’s been living in your room for a month pokes it’s head out, or when you find multiple lizards in your room days in a row, or when our water just wouldn’t turn on. It’s fun to laugh at things instead of letting them ruin your day.
  8. It really is the little things- This one is from Chloe but rings true for all of us…whether it was a surprise package from home, a mini Christmas tree from my amazing family, a new coconut treat at the market, water deliveries on Friday, clean sheets, a hug from a student– being here has taught me that every good thing is a good thing, and to embrace it all.
  9. Never trust the “bus schedule”- This one is from Emma haha…the amount of times we have showed up to the bus station and waited an hour or more for a bus that was supposed to be there, AND the time when we were on time but our bus decided to leave early and almost strand us. This has really taught me to be go with the flow, there is so much here we don’t have control over and I’ve learned to lean back and try to be as relaxed as possible.
  10. Live in the moment- Last but certainly not least, this experience has taught me to *try* to live in the moment. There were so many times that I would find myself counting down the days, or trying to figure out when I would get home, and in those moments I would not be appreciative of where I was or the crazy and exciting experience I was currently living. It’s harder than it seems, but I really have started to make a conscious effort to enjoy the time I am in rather than worry about the future.

Through this time there have been a few teachers at my school that I am thankful for. Teacher Sweet and Teacher Jo were always there through my frustrations and confusion. They listened to me, helped me brainstorm, and were empathetic when I was feeling frustrated with the system, the school and just feeling homesick. I am grateful to have met two wonderful teachers from the Phillipines in my time here, and I know they will both continue to be great teachers here in Thailand. And Teacher Wi, my co-teacher. In the beginning, I really did not know what to think. Our language barrier was so tough to communicate through, but as time went on and I learned a little Thai and she learned a little English, we developed our own way of communicating. Sure, Thai time is still very much a thing as is the lack of calendars, but I am thankful for her patience and kindness towards me, endless translating in assemblies, and for sharing her beautiful, amazing 2nd grade class with me the past months.

Lastly, my students. It has been challenging, so challenging, but the perseverance working at this school has instilled in me is unparalleled to anything I have experienced so far in life. On the days that I felt like quitting, or not showing up to school, it was my relationships with my students that kept me there. They were the ones to welcome me with open arms, listen to me, teach me little bits of Thai here and there, and celebrate holidays with me. They are the ones who have made me feel special, and (some of) them are the ones who I will be sad to leave this weekend. The relationships I have with many of them are so different than any I have had with campers, or clients, or children I’ve babysat and I feel so special that I was able to spend time and get to know them. They’re the ones who made me feel confident that I want to continue working with children in grad school, and helped me to remember how working with children comes so naturally to me. While Chiang Kham has not been the dream I had hoped it will be, the students at this school have been more than a dream (again for the most part), and I will miss their funny nicknames and hearing them call out “Teacher Emily!!!!” from all around town. Missing my kiddos already.

Xoxo,

Teacha Emily over & out

A Day in the Life as Teacha Emily

As we begin our last week of school here in Chiang Kham, I realize I have never really talked through what a full teaching day is like here. In an attempt to give you more of a peek into daily life here, this post will be dedicated to an average day in Chiang Kham.

6:20- My first alarm goes off urging me to get up ready for the last Monday of school. After not sleeping well the night before, I turn it off and wait for my second alarm to go off. Ughh Mondays, am I right?

6:40- My last alarm goes off, and I decide it’s really time for me to start getting up. Before I get out of bed, I put on one of my morning meditations with the app Simple Habit”. Listening to a meditation in the morning helps me to calm the millions of thoughts in my head and start my morning on a positive note. I get up, throw on my classic teaching outfit– a maxi skirt, nice shirt and birkenstocks and get ready for the day.

7:25- On Mondays, my laundry gets picked up and done, so I bring out my laundry bag full of my clothes from the week before. Crazy that this is the last load of laundry I will do here!! It has been really great getting my laundry done. It costs 300 baht a month, just under 10 dollars, and gets picked up once a week. Since we don’t have a washer on our property, I would have to bike with all my dirty laundry to a local laundromat and bike home with a bunch of wet laundry. Emma and I meet outside to bike to the morning market and get breakfast/lunch for the day.

7:35- We make it to the market and to see who has set up a stand today. First we stop at one of the waffle ladies who sells small coconut, pumpkin, sesame (and more) waffles for 10 baht. We each get a coconut one, and despite never having liked waffles before, I do really enjoy the ones here. Perhaps because it’s a little taste of home, the fresh coconut is img_8435delicious or they aren’t quite the thick waffles we get back in the states. Sadly, our favorite lunch man isn’t here, so I settle for a salad from the “salad lady” as we call her. While I love myself a good salad, the “salad” here is really a few pieces of big lettuce, with a bunch of fruit and random veggies thrown in and quite the odd selection of different dressings including “egg”, “green tea”, “berry” and “apple”. On the way out, I stop to get an iced coffee. Not sure exactly what is in it, but it gets me through the morning so I get one almost every day to avoid a headache and passing out at my desk ha!

7:45- I arrive at school, park my bike and am greeting by a flock of children yelling “good morning teacher!!!!” It puts a big smile on my face as I make my way up to my second floor classroom. My desk/office area is in the back of a 2nd grade classroom, so my co-teacher and I are essentially the homeroom teachers for that class. Luckily, I got one of the very good classes, and I have enjoyed spending some extra time with them. I eat breakfast quickly, and sadly take a bite of my waffle to discover it is pumpkin and not coconut. Still pretty good!

8:00- The bell rings and all of the teachers and students head down to the courtyard for morning assembly. I come down just in time for the national anthem, and we all stand facing the flagpole while two of the oldest students put the flag up. After, the students say their morning prayers, followed by a small morning assembly. Two students present words of the day, and then call on random students to stand up in front of the school to answer questions about the presentation . On Wednesdays, the presentations are in English so I am able to follow along a bit better, and know when to actually clap instead of just following along with everyone else. Finally, a Thai teacher gives instructions about the day, reprimands any students who have done “naughty” things, and goes on for a little too long…. I just sit on a bench daydreaming since I really don’t know what they are talking about.

8:45- The bell rings for the first period of the day. This morning I teach my youngest class. Autobon 1/1, my little 3 year olds. This is the class that Atom, Wida and AnAnn are in. I love teaching them!! At the start of every class , we sing the Barney theme song for our good morning to one another. Today, first we learn about prepositions. It was quite literally over their head. Then we play Red Light, Green Light, which they love even though they don’t quite understand. They just know try to run and hug me as quick as they can. Lastly we read From Head to Toe  by Eric Carle, one of the very few books left behind from a previous teacher. At the end of class we say goodbye, but I know I’ll go back there quite a few times this week to soak up my last bit of time with them.

9:30– The second bell rings and this one signifies my free period. Almost every day of the week I have a free second period. During this time, I usually grade workbooks, exams, plan for upcoming lessons, or if I’m lucky, have some real free time. The past few weeks I’ve been very busy making all of my exams, one for each grade I teach starting with 1st. Since I finished, I’ve had to check lots and lots of workbooks. While this is relatively simple and just involves reading, checking answers and signing my initials, it is quite the tedious task. A few times this semester, I’ve been able to sneak away and go for a walk to get coffee or get some lunch for later. I’m looking forward to Wednesday when I’ll have a little bit of free time again before having to grade all my exams.

10:20-12:00- Two more classes to teach before lunch. On Monday’s I teach 5/2 and 1/1 during this time. I was warned when I got here that 5/2 was very “naughty”, and the warning was true. I really struggled teaching them in the beginning because there was nothing I could do to get their attention, but as time has gone on they have started to like me and thus care a lot more about the class. They’ve started to take it personally if I have to ask them to be quiet or raise my voice, and that has certainly worked in my favor. We get through a few workbook pages, and I write an outline for the upcoming exam on the board. After this, I teach one of my 1st grade classes. They’re pretty cute, but their workbooks are way too hard for them and since I am required to teach out of the books, it puts me in a bit of a sticky situation. I’ve done my best to simplify them, but it can be really frustrating to have to stand up there and teach them tons of vocabulary when they still have a hard time introducing themselves and saying how they feel.

12:00- Lunch time!! The students line up in the courtyard with metal cafeteria trays/plates and wait for the Thai teachers to serve them their lunch. Since we do not have a cafeteria, the students head back to their classrooms to eat lunch every day. Once they finish, ours students have to show Teacher Wi or myself their plates so we can check if they’ve eaten enough. If they have, they are free to go wash up and spend the rest of the hour playing in the courtyard. Some favorite games are jump-rope, pokemon, rock paper scissors, tag, and a few others I haven’t quite figured out yet. I eat my salad, and do some reading to relax in the quiet time once the students head out. Since our school is pretty small space-wise, there aren’t many quiet areas to relax. After all, there are around 300 students running around the courtyard for recess!

1:00-2:40- Time for my last two classes of the day. First I teach 3/1. They are quiet and very well behaved, and there are quite a few smarties! Unfortunately, we are in the same workbook predicament. Some of the students are able to pick it up relatively quickly, but it is way too complicated for others! We spend a lot of time talking through instructions, and going over concepts and answers, but again I feel frustrated with the school for making me teach these books. I often feel we could be so much more productive without them. After, I teach the other section of 1st grade. Luckily, we are up to the same section as the earlier class so I know what teaching methods worked and what did not with these topics. They get through a few pages, and just like that I’ve taught my last 1st grade class!

2:40- The last period of the day! During this time, I head back to my homeroom class. They do fun activities, finish schoolwork from the day, clean the classroom, and pack their backpacks to go home. They really are the sweetest kids and I enjoy getting to

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Daily views

spend extra time with them. Around the Thai holidays, they paint and do fun crafts to take home with them. Thai students are really beautiful artists and pride themselves a lot on their creations!

4:00- The end of the school day. Students and teachers head back to the courtyard to line up and sing the 2nd national anthem (one is for the last king, and one is for the current king) and to get their buses home. After the anthem is over, I walk to where my bike is parked and bike back to my little apartment. By the time I get home, my laundry is already delivered! I decompress from the hectic day a little bit and relax. Mondays and Tuesdays are my busiest days with teaching 5 classes each!

5:00- Time for the gym. We’ve said this a million times before but the gym really is the nicest part of our town. You would honestly never guess that a gym this nice would be in such a small town! The owner is a young man in his 20s and he always checks in to see how we’re doing. Similar to running, going to the gym helps me to clear my head and feel

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Empty gym a few weeks ago

good. My least favorite part of the gym is how often we get stared at. This kind of applies to everywhere in our town. You would think we’d be used to it by now, but one never really gets used to being stared at wherever you go. Definitely something I will remember back home. There is also a very nice pool at the gym that we’ve used a few times when it’s been really hot. I can’t wait to swim more once we finish school.

6:40- After the gym, I bike back to my apartment and get ready to head to dinner. Emma and I walk to Mo’s which is about a 10/15 minute walk away. Our friend Jacqui joins us and we talk about our days, travel plans, and how ready to get out of here we all are. I had the famous pad see ew for dinner. Always delicious. Jacqui, Chloe, Emma and I are all leaving on Saturday and looking forward to getting a meal together in Chiang Mai to celebrate being done with teaching. It’s been so nice getting to know these gals. Who would’ve thought we would meet such good friends in this tiny town. Weirdly enough, Jacqui’s dad grew up in Garden City, and Chloe’s mom went to UVM and her college roommate is now a dentist in Garden City. Such a small world…

7:50- Post dinner we walk back to our apartments and I tidy up before getting ready for bed. I put away my laundry, pack some of it away, and clean up my room before settling down. Last weekend I started packing the bag I will send home with my parents and the backpack I will take traveling with me. It was a little tricky since I still have a few days left, but I made some pretty good progress. After I finish tidying, I get in bed to watch an episode of Queer Eye, a new show Emma told me about on Netflix. I love it!!!! It’s definitely a tearjerker, but I’ve loved the feel-good vibes. It’s based on the original show, Queer Eye for Straight Guy, but with 5 new guys! Then I read a bit of While the Gods Were Sleeping, by Elizabeth Enslin, a book Emma got in Nepal! We’ve both been reading a bunch lately, and trading books once we finish reading. We’ve also gone to a few book stores in Chiang Mai which has been fun.

9:40- It’s bed time in Chiang Kham. After a long day, I am definitely ready to sleep!! My bed is pretty hard, but it’s done the trick (most of the time) for the past 4 months. Looking forward to softer beds on our travels. Dreaming about home, the food I miss, and the people I miss even more. Xoxo

 

 

 

The Homestretch

homestretch

It is very hard to believe we have made it to the homestretch– the final stage of teaching in Chiang Kham. There are exactly 11 days left until the end of the semester, and 12 days until we depart from Chiang Kham on a bus heading for Chiang Mai. Where the last 4 months went, I will never really know but here we are! In one of my last blog posts of my teaching career (yes, I do not foresee myself teaching again in the future), I’ll just break down a few of the notable things from the last month.

Weekends

The past month or so since I have written has been relatively quiet. When we arrived here, I was full of energy, ready to go on an adventure every weekend. We went to Chiang Mai a few times, played with elephants, went on a few hikes, explored neighboring towns and more. But, we soon realized that that is just all there is to do here for a weekend. Taking the bus to Chiang Mai is fun, but it is a real push to only have just over 30 hours there. I became okay with staying close to Chiang Kham, riding our bikes around to new temples, trying new and local food and trying to enjoy our small town!

Quiet down time on the weekends isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I enjoy waking up to no alarm (even though I seem to be only sleeping in to 7:30 these days), taking my time to get up and eat cereal, write in my journal, stretch and relax. On weekends I go for my run in the morning, or head to our local gym which is often empty on the weekend!

  • Running: Speaking of runs, I have been running here way more than I imagined. I’ve also begun to enjoy it way more than I ever did before, it feels like a lot less of a chore here for me. On Tuesdays and Thursdays after school, I head home and unwind a little and then set out for a run on the side roads near our house. The heat has proved to be a challenge, but I feel that I’ve learned so much about my body, my limits and just really enjoyed allowing myself to clear my head. While there are a few local runners around, I do get quite a few stares although now I think people are a little more used to the sweaty, blonde, American girl running past their houses and shops. I’ve also perfected the art of determining whether or not the dog 20 feet ahead of me will be friendly, and figuring out how to best maneuver if they may not be.
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The view from an evening run
  • Khao Soi: One of my favorite parts of the weekend is this cafe/restaurant place that we go to for Khao Soi. I would say we go almost every weekend at this point. Khao Soi is a Northern Thai dish made of deep-fried crispy egg noodles, boiled egg noodles, greens,shallots,lime ground chilis, fried egg, and a curry-like sauce with coconut milk. I find it pretty neat that this dish is only really served in Northern Thailand and almost not at all in Thai restaurants elsewhere. The restaurant is only open until 4 pm, so we can’t have it during the week, but it kind of makes it into a special treat! The restaurant also has really yummy raspberry smoothies which we haven’t found anywhere else in our town. This is probably one of the few dishes I will really miss when we leave Chiang Kham.

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    Complete with a raspberry smoothie
  • Mo’s Cooking School: A popular tourist attraction in Thailand are the cooking schools that are located all over Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Bangkok, the Islands and more. A few months ago, our beloved Mo, the woman who has essentially become our host mother here, asked if we would like her to teach us how to cook some of our favorite meals before we leave. Mo and her husband own the small “restaurant” we eat at almost every night, and myself, Emma and our friend Chloe and Jacqui have tried almost every single thing on the menu between the 4 of us. Two of our go-tos are the green curry with tofu served with rice and pad-see-ew. We told Mo we would love to, and finally found a free day (last weekend). Mo told us to meet her at her place at 8 am so we could head to the market so at 8am we rolled up to Mos to be greeted by her and her daughter, Great. Great hopped on the back of Mo’s bike and the four of us biked together to the morning market in town. IMG_8129We walked around to the different vendors, and Mo helped us to wheel and deal for the best prices. We bought eggplant,egg tofu, basil (which had the most unbelievable smell), cauliflower, flat noodles, green curry paste and a few other miscellaneous supplies. We also got two coconuts to drink the water/juice/fresh coconut out of, and Mo’s husband chopped them open for us. We biked back to Mo’s and she told us to come back around 11 to start cooking for lunch. At 11 we headed back and Mo had a table outside for us all set up and ready to cook. First, she helped Emma to make the pad-see-ew. First, Emma cut up the fresh wide rice noodles we bought at the market and separated all the clumps. Then, she cut up the veggies according to Mo’s precise cutting instructions. We used kale and garlic I believe. Lastly, Mo turned on the wok, drizzled some oil, and cooked the noodles, kale, egg, egg tofu, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce and sugar. The soy sauce turns the noodles and egg the browish color which is signature of the dish. It cooked for just under 5 minutes and voila! Beautiful pad-see-ew!

Next it was time for me to cook the green curry. First, I cut up our veggies: eggplant           (first time I’ve had it in months!!!), more kale/collard greens, basil and cauliflower.             Oh and egg tofu! If you’re wondering what egg tofu is, it’s this very soft, white                     ingredient that is sliced and served in most of our dishes. At first, I was very unsure           of it but have really grown to love it! Mo threw a little dash of magic into the                       crockpot-like wok and then we poured in the coconut milk and let it simmer a tad               in the bottom of the pan. Then I squeezed a bit of the curry paste in and stirred it to           create the base for the dish. Next, we added the veggies and tofu, stirred a bit and               put the lid on top to let it simmer. In the end, I added a tad more coconut milk to                 make the curry a little creamier and it was perfect.

Once we finished cooking, Emma and I sat down to split and enjoy our creations for          lunch. We were very pleased with how they turned out, and I think both of us are              very much looking forward to cooking some of our favorite Thai food for our loved            ones back home.

  • Chiang Kham Walks: After our fun filled cooking school morning, we laid our yoga mats outside to soak up some sun and enjoy our books. After a while, the pavement was feeling a little too hard so we decided to get up and go for a walk. We walkedIMG_8172 down the road we usually both run on, but decided to swing a left- a way I had never been before. We continued down the road and before we knew it, we came across a “Smart Farm”. Emma’s students had gone on a field trip there earlier in the week so we thought it would be worth it to wander in and check it out. It was beautiful, full of fountains and very green! There were even bunnies, sheep, goats,and a donkey! After checking out the farm, we continued on our walk and before we knew it we ended up at a temple we had visited before that is very far from our house. Surprised at where we were and how small this town seemed once again, we made a loop back towards our apartments. We ended up walking around 5 miles! Even though this town is way too tiny for my liking, we do always seem to find little surprises hidden in the nooks and crannies.

 

  • Movies: Speaking of small town, sometimes we just really have to get out of here. The easiest way for us to do this is to take the bus ride to Chiang Rai for the day on the weekend. It’s 2 hours each way (on a good day), but it’s honestly worth it to get out, see a new movie, eat some different food, and spend a little time in the city. I just looked up the population of Chiang Rai and its 69,888…so take that as you will! We’ve seen quite a few movies here between Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai. We’ve seen Murder on the Orient Express, The Commuter, MazeRunner 3, Fifty Shades Freed, and most recently Black Panther. I LOVED Black Panther. I’m not usually very interested in Marvel movies but I really enjoyed this one. The costumes, set design, plot, it was amazing. Thanks to our friend Chloe, we’ve also gone to this delicious cafe a few times that has delicious veggie burgers and even better-avocado!!! img_8291-2

School Updates

The past few weeks at school have been very busy! I’ve had to do a bit more than usual including some weekends, but it’s just making me feel like I have 300% earned all of the adventures and travels ahead. A few highlights from Sathitwittaya School the past month…

  • Family Day: Almost immediately after getting back from New Years breakall my students began to prepare dances for Family Day. It was fun to watch my homeroom class of 2nd graders go from watching this youtube video of a pretty complex dance, to absolutely nailing it in the days leading up to Family Day. This big event was new to my school, and in classic Thai fashion I had no idea to what to expect when I showed up to school at 5 pm on Saturday evening. I was told to wear the pink polo I was given and to “look beautiful”. IMG_7973Most of the time I don’t wear any makeup here, but the few times I have the Thai teachers all get way too excited and want to take a million photos. Each class went up one by one to perform their dance in front of hundreds of family members, teachers, and other people from the community. It was a pretty neat experience, and I was really proud of my students, especially my homeroom class. Despite not getting home until close to 11 pm that night, I was grateful I got the chance to see them perform and spend some time with them outside of the classroom.
  • English Camp: The week after Family Day, I was told that we would be having an English Camp for grades 4,5 and 6 the following weekend. As much as I do love (most of) my students, the thought of coming to school all day on Saturday and Sunday was somewhat unbearable to me. After much back and forth, I was called to the principal’s office with the other English teachers (Thai and Filipino), to try to figure out when this camp would be. I told them I was not sure if I would be free on the weekend and additionally that my contract said I was required to get 2 weeks notice when I would be working on the weekend. They were certainly frustrated IMG_8099with me and the language barrier, but it was really what I needed to do to stay sane, get enough sleep and take care of myself. Eventually, my principal decided we would have camp during school on Thursday and Friday of the same week which left us with two days to prepare. I ended up having to stay late after school to do some planning, but hey, at least it wasn’t the weekend! The camp was based on Asean Themes…I had no idea what ASEAN was. Turns out, ASEAN is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and includes Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei. I ended up learning a lot too! We planned different games for the students to play over the two days including relay races, vocabulary games, quizzes and more. My camp experience definitely came in handy! While it was exhausting, the students had a really fun time and it was all worth it.
  • Going Away Party: Last Friday, I was told that later that evening there would be a going away party for Teacher Jo and I. It would be at 6pm that night, and the reason I hadn’t been told yet was that my co-teacher didn’t know if I would be free *cue confused giggle and nod*.  Teacher Ni was nice enough to pick up Teacher Jo, Teacher Sweet and I, and we got to ride with her and her two kids, Bolton (5th grade) and Wida (3 years old) to the party. Teacher Ni speaks pretty good English so it is always nice and somewhat refreshing to be with her and the other foreign teachers. I’ve also become very close with her daughter, Wida, who is in my very youngest class. At first, I felt totally overwhelmed when I was teaching them
    IMG_8280
    My sweet Wida

    because they are so little, but now it is the highlight of every Monday for me. I will definitely miss my little ones. The party was at a restaurant where you go and put all raw food on your plate, and take it back to your table to cook it over a fondue-like pot system. There was no way for me to avoid meat, so I just went all in and let the other teachers put whatever they pleased on my plate. I had put a lot of tofu on my plate but after about three bites I realized it was not tofu but instead some type of cubed fish. Not for me! We had a fun evening, and I began thinking about how I will really miss some of the people here no matter how challenging it has been. One of my favorite parts of teaching has been connecting with the other teacher’s children. Three of the girls, AnAnn, Wida and Atom are all in my nursery class and they are definitely my favorites. Today Teacher Wi, my co-teacher, even told me her and AnAnn would miss me and that we would have to keep in touch on messenger.

          One of the hardest things for me here is this sense that I am not making a big                      difference. That I’ll just be another English teacher that comes through these kids              lives that they won’t remember in a year or two. Part of this frustration comes                   from the obsession with workbooks, finishing workbooks and always adhering to               the books, but it also comes from the way the schools are run which is so opposite             of  the experiences I had in schools back at home. But, the closer the time comes to             leave, the more I am coming to realize I do have some very special connections                   here in Chiang Kham, especially with my students. While I may not have been t                  the most productive or experienced English teacher in the history of Sathit, it feels            good to know I have made some tiny difference in the lives of some of  my 300+                  students. More on goodbyes and wrapping up life in Chiang Kham coming soon.