Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I haven't been as annoying on my blog as I have been on facebook about the countdown until Isaac arrives! Only TWO more days!!!!

Tomorrow is the last day of class already. I'm actually pretty excited about it; while I have been enjoying teaching, I haven't really bonded with my students as much as I did the first session. I tell myself it's because one class is mostly high schoolers and the other is mostly middle-aged students, but it might also be because I'm not a very interesting teacher. Today I had my level 3 class (the high schoolers) over to my apartment for pizza and games, which was pretty fun. Tomorrow night I'll go out for dinner with my advanced conversation class.

After this session ends, we'll have a 3-week break and then start up again April 20th. During the break is Sonkran, Thai New Year, the biggest holiday of the year. The tradition is to throw water on each other for blessing, which has turned into a nation-wide water fight on April 13. Crazy, right? After Sonkran day, Isaac and I will go with Rung, Awn, and Kwang to visit their hometowns in rural Thailand. SO excited :)

Isaac and I will be the only volunteers for the next session, so all of the foreign staff (a couple Americans, a couple Filipinos, an Irish guy, a Tibetan guy...) will have to pitch in and teach as well. Everyone is super curious to meet Isaac, especially knowing how quiet I am; it makes me a little nervous to know we'll be analyzed so closely by a lot of people.

Last weekend we had "friendship camp," an overnight stay at a retreat "resort" in Saraburi with about 60 students, teachers, and staff. It was a lot of fun--mostly meetings, talks, discussions, and eating. We also got to go to a waterfall and swim around. It reminded me a little of adventuring in Hawaii except with smaller waterfalls and more people. It was sweet because it turns out Nan isn't like most Thai girls I've met, who are afraid of swimming, and she jumped off the waterfalls even before the farang. The adventure was complete when we got chased out of the water by a snake. One of my students, Sud, came along to camp, and we were in the same room. It was cool to get to know her better.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Curriculum Blues

I don't know if I'm lazy or a whiner or just out of (writing) shape, but this curriculum writing is SO HARD. It doesn't help that I only have a week and a half left to outline 30 hours of class (is that a lot? It sure seems like a lot) and then only one extra week after that to polish up and teach it. I feel like I should be good at this kind of thing, but it's excruciatingly time-consuming and ridiculously difficult to organize. And I have this feeling that even after it's all ready, it's going to be a challenge making it work in the classroom. ESL is hard.

I think I'm just a lazy, out-of-shape whiner.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Had a good, full weekend again. My weekends always seem to be characterized by long, hot, exotic trips and huge meals. This past Saturday, I took the train with Rung, Awn, Kwang, and Tai to Ayuttayah, the ancient capital of Thailand, about an hour outside of Bangkok. We rode a little subalu (a itty bitty pickup) to a few different ruins of temples and palaces. As far as history goes, all I really picked up was that the Burmese invaded and destroyed all these buildings a few hundred years ago. For some reason, they also knocked all the heads of the Buddha statues even though they’re Buddhist too.

The best part of the Ayuttayah trip was a leisurely elephant ride after lunch. I got to sit on the head of the elephant—so crazy! At one point, our elephant leaned down to drink water, and I thought for sure I would topple off over his head. Most of all, I loved being able to see and feel the wrinkly skin, the weird hairs, the trunk, and the ears up close.

After we got back to the city, we planned to go back home, shower, and change before a fancy dinner that Rung has been planning for months with Awn and Kwang. Unfortunately, we found our way blocked by the “red shirts,” a political group protesting the removal of Taxin, the former prime minister, by a military coup a few years ago (wow, that sounds like I know what I’m talking about!). They’ve been protesting for a couple weeks now, and they spent Saturday parading the main streets of Bangkok. There are no “back ways,” so we hung out down town a bit and then headed to dinner, sweaty and disgusting and all. But dinner was SO worth it. We ate at the top of the Baiyoke Hotel, the tallest tower in Thailand, with a huge international buffet on the 83rd floor and a revolving sky-view thing on top. I. ate. so. much. Amazing!

An update from EWU: they still need another couple weeks to find out if they can offer me a teaching assistantship. The prof who’s been contacting me said I was still “very much in the running for the TA,” but he suggested another GSA I could apply for that involves tech writing and the international/nontraditional programs office. It feels so good to know they really want me there.

I’ve got most of my flights home booked. Isaac and I will be leaving May 23 to go to the Philippines (Cebu via Manila). Then I fly back to Minneapolis on June 1 (I’ll be arriving at 5:55 p.m., in case anyone wants to see me!!!). Isaac is still figuring out his plans, but he might fly straight to Minneapolis too. This is probably too much information, but I am really excited to start pinning down the plans!

Check out my new pictures:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Exciting Things

I've been here a month and a half!

My most exciting news these days is that I got accepted to Eastern Washington University!!! I'm still waiting to hear if they can offer me a teaching assistantship, but I'm just so honored and thrilled to have been accepted :) The prof who emailed me to let me know had some really encouraging things to stay about my writing, and he said he was "keen" to work with me. He also said I was high on the list for assistantships, fingers are crossed.

At the same time, getting such an awesome offer from EWU would complicate my hope of living in Seattle. I haven't heard back from UW yet, so I don't know for sure what my options are, but I have a feeling that I have a really hard decision ahead of me.

Had a fairly chill weekend. On Friday, I went to a market with Dow and Nos, two girls who've taken classes at Santisuk. On Saturday, Rung, Marie, Cassidy, and I went to King's Park, a big park with a couple gardens, paddle boats, tree house, paths, etc. Then we got these amazing massages (2 hours for about $7). It was everything I'd heard a Thai massage was; I was stretched in ways I didn't know I could move, was walked on, had my fingers and toes cracked.... It was great! It was wonderful to spend more time with Cassidy and Marie, too. For the first time since coming here, I'm starting to feel like there are people I can be myself around. I've been having a good time with the women in my small group, too, especially Nan. She and I have so much stuff in common. If we spoke a common language fluently, I'm sure we'd have even more to talk about.

This past Sunday we (my small group) had a pizza party at my condo. Only three of my students ended up coming, but it was still fun.

I'm working on some big curriculum revision for Santisuk's writing class. Cathy, who's been working on all the curriculum writing and publishing, asked if I could incorporate my ideas for the creative writing class with some stuff another teacher put together a few years ago (mostly I'll have to change her stuff though, because she copied almost all the lessons directly out of other books) and organize it into a book/guide that could be published and used every time someone teaches writing. It's a huge project that I don't know if I'll be able to get done, but I'm so excited about it! This definitely falls into my "skills set." It's hard to find time, though. I realized that even though I only officially work about 20 hours a week, my free time is either too short to really get into something, or I'm out most of the day with people. Sometimes I daydream about the wonderful feeling of having an entire day to myself. Selfish?

Isaac comes in 16 days!! I just realized how soon it is :)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Moving right along

Since I last wrote, I finished one session of classes and began a new one. The last day of class last Thursday was great. My morning class (plus about six students I inherited for the last week from Toni, a teacher who’s out with a bad back) went out for breakfast after the final. Jan, Pui, and Pisamai took me to the Royal Grand Palace and this sweet teakwood museum, two big touristy spots in Bangkok that are pretty worth seeing. I made it back in time to give my p.m. class their final, and then we all went out to this nice restaurant for dinner. We had a lot of fun together—or at least, they had a lot of fun and I enjoyed watching them have fun (because most of the fun was in Thai). We ate a LOT, of course.

I’ll miss my students! I’m glad most of them are still around for level 2. My morning class requested to have me for level 2, but I think they like to let the students have a variety of teachers, for some reason. Anyway, I’m honored, even if the spokesperson who put in the request happened to be a male student who’s also given me fruit and snacks a few times. Hmmm.

This past weekend I went to Saraburi, a province just outside Bangkok, with Rung and Kwang. It was a business trip, to check out the campsite where the school is having “friendship camp” in a couple weeks. It was nice—I think it will be a good place to have a retreat. It was also the first time I was really aware of how hot it is. April is the hottest month of the year, and the temps are creeping up above 40C these days. I enjoy spending time with Kwang (I think I spelled it “Gwang” before). She’s May Awn’s daughter, 17 years old, and she’s such a sweetie. She’s in one of my classes this session :) When we got back to Bangkok, Rung took us to her favorite restaurant, one that’s floating in a pond. I’ve decided that if you’re at all interested in food or shopping, Bangkok is by far the best city in the world. It has SO many incredible restaurants and SO many markets. I don’t think you can even imagine it until you see it. Oh yeah, and we ate a LOT.

Last night Rung took me to see Alice in Wonderland in 3-D. It was actually the first full-length 3-D movie I’ve ever seen, and it was pretty sweet.

The beginning of this new teaching session has been so much smoother than my first. It’s satisfying and encouraging to look back and see how much I’ve adjusted over this past month. I love knowing how things work here, how to get around, order food, say a few things, teach classes, etc. And I love having friendships that are starting to get below the surface. I feel like I’m right in the middle of a pendulum swing, where I can still feel the extreme I came from (wishing I’d never come) but can anticipate where I think I’m headed (wishing I never had to leave).

Because it’s summer, there are more students this month, and also more teachers. There are a couple volunteers in their 20’s, Cassidy and Marie, who’ve done short-term overseas stints before and came here together. I feel like I connect pretty well with them, and I’m so grateful to have them around. Even though they have each other, I hope I can be a support for them if they need. Yesterday we had meetings all day and I found out what classes I was teaching, what time, and got trained for them. I have a level 3 class from 1-3 p.m. and an advanced conversation class from 7-9 p.m. I am STOKED to not have any morning classes! It seriously makes an infinite difference. My creative writing class was cancelled because not enough students signed up for it :( I guess most of the interest was from other teachers and from my level 1 students, none of whom are allowed to take a level 5 class. I’m praying that I’ll get to teach it in April, and I’m glad for more of a chance to prepare it.

Level 3 is structured fairly similarly to levels 1 and 2. I have 9 students, most of them high schoolers. Advanced conversation is very different, and I think I will like it. The structure is flexible, and the point of the class is, well, conversation. So basically we get to ask questions and talk to each other for two hours every day—it’s a class in making friends. There are only 4 or 5 people in that class, two girls around my age and two people in their 40’s or 50’s.

Isaac’s visa came through! So he’ll be here starting April 3!! The time is flying by. I have to get on the ball with making various travel plans—a trip to Chiang Mai, one to Rung’s province, one out of the country (maybe to Laos?) to renew my visa, one to the Philippines (hopefully with Isaac!!), and finally, a one-way ticket back to MN! I know I’ll be sad to leave Asia, but I am also deeply looking forward to being in Minnesota again for a little while and having a lot of good friends in close proximity. I never realized what an incredible luxury and blessing that is.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I've been a busy girl lately. Here's a summary:

-I went with Nan and her Chinese friends from university to the Ancient City, a replica of the old Thailand. You can ride a bike around the mini city and check out all these old-looking buildings and beautiful gardens. On the way there, we got into a car accident (Rung was driving)--a truck to our left turned right into the front of our pickup. We were all fine (thank God! Nan and I were squished in the front seat without seat belts, right where the truck hit) but our car wasn't great. Rung had to figure out insurance and go to a car shop, and the rest of us continued on by taxi.

-Our cell group sang "God is so good" at church in four languages--Sebuano, Thai, English, and Swahili. It's fun having so many cultures represented in one group.

-I ate barbecue at this big restaurant nearby. It was a buffet-style dinner where you get your own raw meat (including seafood in tanks) and then cook it at a little grill/boiler thing at your table. Awesome!! I'm amazed that with all the random meats I was cooking myself, I didn't get sick at all. My stomach has been a great little trooper so far, and I'm really grateful.

-Some of my students took me to Kogkret island, a pretty place known for Thai desserts, pottery, and woodworking. None of them had been there before, either, so it was fun for them to see it for the first time. We took a boat around the island, ate a lot, and explored. I loved spending time with Puky, Nok, Aom, and Aom's husband and baby girl. I kept forgetting that I don't speak the same language as them, and I'd start to ask something complicated like "What would you have done if you hadn't gotten into engineering?" and realize all those verb phrases are too much. I'm constantly impressed with and blessed by Thai people--everyone I have met has been welcoming, generous, hard-working, polite, helpful, and fun. I think I may have found the ideal people group. By the way, see my previous post to check out pictures!

-Rung and I went to the market one day and got all the ingredients for Ethel to make us Filipino food for lunch. We had squid, shrimp, fish, and a bunch of veggies, all cooked various ways (this is where technical jargon fails me). I have been eating SO much, especially on weekends (during the week I guess I'm hidden away working on my creative writing class all day, and I just snack on random things). I had squid four times within 48 hours. And of course rice or noodles and fish or pork for almost every meal. There is so much variety it's overwhelming! I think Thai food is perfect. It tastes great, even to foreigners, there's something for everyone, and no matter how much you eat, you don't gain weight.

-I've been putting in about 7 hours of planning for every day of my creative writing class. Now I not only admire my friends who've gone overseas to teach for a year but I'm pretty much in awe of them. Going thousands of miles away from everyone and everything familiar + lesson planning (sometimes from scratch) + lesson planning in ESL = Wow. I wish I could have a refresher of all the grammar and writing classes I took in college. I never thought I'd say this, but thank you Dr. Black for advanced grammar. If only I could remember how to tree sentences....

-Some biggish news: Isaac is arriving April 3 :) :) Can't remember if I mentioned that yet. His application still has to be approved, but I think it will be ok ;) ALSO, Martha is moving to Seattle this fall!!!! Oh, the sweet possibility of living in the same state as her. It's too much to bear :)

-Thai lessons are going pretty well. I have one now--have to run!

you will enjoy yourlife

Not sure if this is ethical, but I want to share an essay one of my students wrote:

"Once in the past of my life, I must go to work oversea in other country. At the first time, I was afraid because of if you never live alone in other country then you will get home sick. I feel want to go home. I think of my mom very much. I think in my mind “How will I do.” I must contact everything by myself. for example where is the hotel? Where is the office? because my administrator in Thailand contact to them by email. I know information by email only. After I went to overthere I must bought sim card for contact them.

After you pass that all event then you will grow up. You won’t afraid to go to other place in the world. you will enjoy yourlife. you will see the world more than other people."


I have some pretty new pictures: