Geez time just flies when you are busy Peace Corps-ing! I’m really sucking at keeping this thing updated and I would promise to do better, but really I think we both know that would just be a lie 🙂
Things here in Tak, Thailand are going great! I feel like after six months of feeling like I was in way over my head, not really knowing what was going on, and not really sure what I was suppose to be doing here, I have finally started to sort of figure things out. I mean I still have days where I have no idea what is going on, but they are much fewer than before. I am in a bit of a routine here now, and have actually been doing some youth development work. Progress!
I spend most of my time teaching at the local schools and planning for those lessons. I’m teaching 1st through 6th grade at two different schools in town. I’m pretty sure that the teachers think I am there to teach English even though I explained my role as a youth development volunteer, but that’s okay. I do teach quite a bit of English, but I also manage to sneak in some stuff to help the kids with their confidence, build team work skills, and work on critical and creative thinking skills. We also find a lot of time to be goofy and silly and just have some fun. I have also had the opportunity to teach some kindergartners. This scared the bejesus out of me at first, but those crazy little munchins grew on me and we managed to have some very chaotic and tiring fun!
I have also been teaching six hours a day on Sundays with the matayom (junior high and high school) students. I teach 10th, 11th, 12th grade in the morning and 7th, 8th, and 9th grade in the afternoon. We have been talking a lot about traveling and the world. Only one of my kids has been on an airplane and only a handful of the students have ever traveled outside of Thailand and that was only to Myanmar which is right next door. Most of my kids have barely left this province. It was really interesting to get their concept of the world. I had them get into groups and draw a map of the world, and the results were really interesting. Here are a couple of the drawings:
Honestly, at first I was appalled at their lack of knowledge of the world, but then it really made me think about what the world means to them. Even if they learn geography in school it is not as if these kids ever think of the world as someplace they will get to explore and see; learning geography is almost hypothetical. It is simply talking about places that they will probably never get the chance to see. It really made me think about what a privilege it is that I get the opportunity to travel and see the world. I really want that for these kids too. I at least want them to be able to dream of places outside of this tiny town where they were born.
So between all this teaching at my own site, I did manage to get over to my friend’s site to help her with a two day English camp for 84 sixth graders. Let me just say it was a tiring two days, but it was nice to get to see some other volunteers.
But life is not all work! I have managed to squeeze in quite a bit of fun as well. My community recently had its sports week and I was on the volleyball team. As most of you know I LOVE sports so I had a blast during sports week. It was actually a really good opportunity to bond with the other women in the office and we managed to play really well too 🙂
And like I mentioned in my last post I got an opportunity to visit Chiang Mai and I think it might be my most favorite place in Thailand so far. Carly, Kailei, and I got the opportunity to talk to some American high school students who were over here doing a volunteer project. A lot of them were interested in what the Peace Corps does and wanted to hear more about our individual experiences. I was really impressed with the questions they asked and their perspectives on international volunteering. It was also really motivating to talk to them about why I joined the Peace Corps and what I have learned so far. I think I needed to remind myself of my reasons for doing this since sometimes I just get all wrapped up in the frustrations of it all.
Carly and I also visited an elephant sanctuary while we were in Chiang Mai. It was amazing! These elephants are rescued from forced logging or from working in the tourist industry on the streets of the big cities. Several of the elephants had injuries from land mines, getting hit with automobiles, inhumane logging practices, or forced breeding programs. It was really amazing to see these animals up close. We got the opportunity to feed them, bathe them, and just wander around the grounds with them. They do not allow you to ride the elephants and all the staff are super gentle with them. We had a lot of fun and the area was beautiful. I definitely want to go back! I feel like I cannot really do the place or the program justice.
A couple weeks ago was the Queen’s birthday so that means it is also Mother’s Day here in Thailand. I went to Kalasin province which is about a nine hour bus ride from my province to see Carly’s site and meet her family. Her family was so super sweet and welcomed me with open arms. Like most Thai families they immediately made me feel at home and announced that I was their newest daughter.
They then let me take part in the Mother’s day activities which included eating of course 🙂 and paying respect to the mothers of the family. It meant a lot to me to be included in the ceremonies. Carly has a really incredible family and it was sweet of her to share them with me.
The weekend also included a very random trip to a Wat that had some interesting depictions of what I think were sins and consequences for those sins, but as usual I’m not totally sure what was going on and was a little confused.
All in all it was a fabulous weekend!
Like I said I think I am finally finding my Thailand rhythm or maybe I am learning to be more patient with myself and this whole process. Either way things are good and I’m feeling happy about being here. I can’t believe how fast time is going and I’m excited to see what else Thailand has in store for me. So until next time…Peace!