This is a video I made of my holiday with my Grandma and Mom. We went to Chaing Mai, Thailand, and Hanoi, Vietnam. Enjoy! Music by Chilly Willy
It’s official! the first semester of teaching in Thailand is over! We made it to the half way point in the school year. I can’t believe how fast FIVE months has gone by. It seems like not that long ago Jeff and I were getting on the plane to begin this adventure. Teaching has been such a rewarding experience. In just five months these kids have learned so much. We have covered the human body, family, transportation, animals, the first half of the alphabet and counting to 50! It really is incredible how much they are learning at such a young age. I don’t think I knew this much when I was in kindergarden!
The entire month of October is holiday for students, unless they choose to go to leadership camp during the first week of the month. I was fortunate enough to apply and be chosen to be a camp leader this year. Camp was at the Sida Hotel and Resort, in the Nakhon Nayok Province, located about two hours north east of Bangkok. It was surrounded by lush grounds, mountains, a river and peace and quiet! A really nice change from the hustle and bustle of the big city Bangkok is. Students from all three Lertlah School divisions attended camp from Phetkasem (close to where we live), Kanchanaphisek (where we teach) and Kaset-Nawamin Road (far away). Campers range from the 4th grade all the way to sophomore year in high school. There were roughly 150 campers there, with the majority being in the fourth, fifth and six grade.
The first day was really relaxed, getting to camp, meeting my campers and getting to know each other. We were the purple group and I had a wide range of ages and kids from all 3 schools. The kids names were Soon, Amy, Pong Pong, Dome, Max, Mona, Natty, Trong, Mine, Sun, Mon, Folk, Van, Opar and my Thai helper Jack! They were all so quiet at first, but opened up more and more everyday. The first night we had club sign ups and camp ice breaker games. My buddy Darius and I were in charge of Sports club and we had a ton of kids sign up. All the Ice breaker games were super fun, and helped the kids and teachers get to know each other. The game of the night was Hot Potato! But instead of a bean bag, it was a bottle of baby powder, and if it landed on you, you either had to put baby powder on yourself, the person to your left, your thai teacher ect. I had been having trouble getting Opar, the oldest camper in my group to open up and participate in activities, and this game really helped him. When the hot potato stopped with the bottle in his hands, they said put the powder on your Foreign teacher (me)! So he put a huge pile of powder in his hands and with a huge smile pored it right over my head and all over me! I looked like an old man with grey hair haha. From that point on, he was way better. The first day was a huge success and it made me super excited for the upcoming week!
A full day of activities. Starting in the morning with Jr. Master Chef, the campers had to prepare one sweet dish and one salty dish. Glance at the pictures and you will see how beautiful and creative these kids make food look! Next up we had team building. This activity was a bunch of games like the human knot and land mines. Activity 3 was the Tarzan Hut. A ropes corse up in the trees. For some of these kids, it was a walk in the park, but for others it was quite an ordeal. I got a chance to try it and was able to make it through the whole corse! My Thai teacher Jack could only get through the 3rd stage before she had to turn around and go back. But one of the other Thai Leaders from my school, Ms. Bom made it all the way with me! She was a champ! After lunch we had free time. My buddy Darius and I were in charge of the Zip Line, and we had quite a crowd. It was too bad though because most of these kids are so small, they don’t have enough weight to make them go fast! For Sports Club we played Football (soccer in the states). We had them do a couple drills and then we had a big game. It was such an awesome setting! a big field surrounded by mountains, the pictures say it all! Great first full day of Camp!
The morning activities today were more like crafts. We made awesome sun catchers from crayons and super sweet bottle rockets with vinegar and baking soda. The students used water bottles and a few supplies to make “out of this world” (the camp theme) rockets. They had to work in teams and come up with a design and then build them together. Watching these kids work together, and then to see the finished project and the smiles on their faces as they launched their rockets was priceless! It was so neat to see these kids let loose and have fun and just be able to relax and be themselves. Not confined by the walls in the classroom and always being in student mode. To see them with their friends playing, laughing, having fun, that’s what camp and being a kid is all about. The afternoon got rained out, so the kids just had free time. This was a nice break for the leaders as camp is all day, 7am-8pm. In the evening we had a carnival, it reminded me of the good old days when I was in grade school of the carnivals we had at Uplands. There was a skee ball station, bean bag toss, ring toss, photo booth, plinko, and I did face painting! The kids had a great time and I think us leaders did too! I ended up letting the kids pain my face, and you will see how it turned out in the pictures haha.
This was the last full day of camp, and in the morning we all played “Minute To Win It” Just like the TV show back home. We were paired up with the green team, who’s leader Olivia was from Eugene, such a small world! My favorite camper that I had, Pong Pong was this little 9 year old boy who acted like an old wise man. I asked him if he wanted to play in any of the games and he said, “No, I like to play chess and checkers so I can use my brain.” So funny! The afternoon was filled with free time, so I spent it at the Pool. It was so fun to swim with the little kids and throw them in and let them jump off my shoulders. We played tag, sharks and minos, it brought me back to my cul-de-sac days in Taylors Crest where I would spend my summers at the pool with my best friends. The last night we had a really nice banquet dinner and a dance party after. Since the theme of camp was “Out Of This World” everybody dressed up in their best interpretation of this. I had a sweet jet pack that I made. The night ended with all the kids and all the campers on stage dancing to PSY “Gangnam Style”. INCREDIBLE to say the least!
Last day of camp! not much went down here. We did get to sign shirts of the friends we made, and that was very fun, and brought me back to my camp days when I would do that. All in all I had the best week in Thailand so far! It was such a joy to see these kids have fun and be outside and enjoy camp. It was great to talk with kids and get to know them outside of a school setting. As well as meet kids I see in the hallways at school but don’t really know. I can’t wait to get back and see all my new friends at school, as well as my little K’s! This whole week just reaffirmed my decision to come out here and teach for a year.
Up next, my mom and grandma get here Friday! And I can’t wait to see them!! We are going to go up north the Chang Mai and then hop on over to Vietnam. I hope all is well with everybody back home, I have been watching the Duck games with Jeff, and we are looking good this year! Maybe another run at the Natty is in our future?!?! Thats all for now. Pictures to come.
Chon Gayo (Cheers in Thai)
It’s been a while since the blog has been updated, like most travel blogs seem to do after a while. I guess that means we are really settling in to Thailand, and getting comfortable. The las two weekends have been filled with boats. One in Kanchinaburi and the other in Bangkok. Both awesome!
I went to Kanchinaburi with a crew from campus 2 and campus 3 from Lertlah, while Jeff ended up in Koh Samet. I stayed in Bangkok Friday night and caught up on some sleep from the long week since I knew I would be out on Saturday. First thing Saturday morning, Darius and I, a fellow teacher caught a bus up to Kanch right outside of our place. We had to transfer busses, but it worked out and we got there right on time before the boat left. We ended up renting a huge, one flat level boat for the afternoon. We went up the River Kwai, and passed the Death Railway, a historic site in Kanch. The afternoon was spent getting to know the others from campus 3, and enjoying the beautiful scenery. The evening was spent at the ten baht bar, where shots are 30 cents! This was followed by an enjoyable night out, and the best pizza I have had in Thailand. Thin crust, great toppings, and chili oil like they have in France! I will definitely be going there every time I’m in Kanch.
Sunday was spent at Erawan national park with Darius the Birthday boy, Sarah and Jason, two new teachers that work with Jeff and I at campus 2. Erawan is one of the top 3 most beautiful places I have been in Thailand. I was there before, but this time was even better, though we didn’t get to the top waterfall. There are 7 waterfalls in all, but number 3 and 4 take the cake. 4 has an awesome natural rock slide and a great little spot for jumping in. While 3 has the largest waterfall. That’s where we spent most of our time, and hiking up to number 7. We got turned away when we got there because it had just closed, a reason to go back again! We ended up going back to number 3 and hung out there for a while. It was amazing, nobody was there and we had the place all to ourselves. Truly an amazing experience! but like all good things, it must come to and end and it was back to Bangkok and another week of teaching!
These last week couple of weeks of teaching have been busy! we had “Hand in Hand” parent teacher conferences, as well as “Open House” where parents come in and watch you teach a lesson. The parent teacher conferences went quite well. For my K2/1 class, I had 4 parents show up. Go figure since this is the class that I have the most trouble with. My K2/2 class I had about 8 show up, still not a lot considering there are almost 25 kids in each class. Its amazing what these parents ask of their kids at age 3 and 4 to be in school from 8 a.m until 4 p.m. I even had parents asking why their child doesn’t speak in full English sentences, and if they understand everything I say. Their expectations are so high at such a young age. ”Open House” was the complete opposite. I had a nice showing in my K2/2 class, and the lesson went great, I was teaching about animals and what environment they live in. example, fish live in the sea, monkeys live in the jungle, then match the animal to their environment. For K2/1 I had a full house, and I was shocked considering only 4 parents showed up for the conferences. It was so full I had parents sitting on the ground! And of course, just like every day, half of the parents were late with their kids. Over all though both the Open House and Hand in Hand were very successful!
This last weekend was a much needed break, and time to celebrate the last couple of weeks, AND the big hurrah before we have to start testing next week and working on report cards and comments. Hard to believe that in two weeks we will be done with the first semester of teaching! CRAZY! Friday was spent like most Fridays are in Bangkok, at the local watering hole, Old Bar. Most of the teachers who we live with and the old timers gather for the night to let loose. It’s always a fun time to talk about your week and hear what crazy stories happened. Example, a kid shit his pants this week in 3rd grade and shoved it in his desk! haha classic poop stories, always funny!
Saturday was the party boat on the Chao Phraya River that runs through Bangkok. Neither Jeff or I had been on the actual river before so this was a great way to see it. We got on at 10 pm and the party didn’t stop until 130. It was so cool to just be on a boat having a great time looking at the city and temples all lit up. Sarah and Jason who I went to Kanch with knew one of the DJ’s so that’s how we found out about it. My friend Helen from UO was in Bangkok for the weekend so she and her friends jumped on board as well, it’s always great to see her, and a familiar face!
Pictures will be up soon from both weekends. As always, I miss my family and friends from back home! It’s a little harder being gone now that Football has started. But great to see pictures of Autzen and friends at the games, but sure makes me miss Oregon and my Ducks! I hope all is well with everybody, and a special shout out to my sister Jennifer for following her dreams! She is about to embark on an amazing journey herself that is taking her to New York City! I wish you all the best and can’t wait to see what you do!
All my love,
Instead of a blog post, we are putting up a little vlog, this is some footage I captured from the weekend, and gives a little peek at what Samet is like, and why we keep going back! Enjoy!
We will also get the photos from Phi Phi up, but we have to convert them, all in due time.
Joey and I just got back from maybe the best weekend in Thailand so far. We had Thursday and Friday off for Buddhist Lent so we packed our bags and headed south for the weekend. We took the overnight train Wednesday night from Bangkok to Krabi. We arrived early in the morning and took a ferry ride to a town that sits on the tip of a peninsula called Railay. Its an absolutely gorgeous setting surrounded by two main beaches on both the east and west sides. We stayed in a resort that put us in bungalows up on a hillside overlook the water. It was beautiful! We managed to meet up with Joey’s friend Helen and her friends from Oregon who showed us around the area. On Friday we decided to hike up a hillside to try and find a lagoon we heard about from some people we met the night before. It turned out to be a serious excursion that consisted of some pretty serious rock climbing but turned out to be totally worth it. After you reach the peak and a viewpoint of all of Railay, you begin to descend down a series of cliff faces. Its treacherous at times but there are a series of ropes that aid the trek and we had each others backs the whole way down. When you finally reach the bottom, it opens up to a natural lagoon that is surrounded by all sides by rock walls 500 feet up on every side. The water which fills and drains with the tide each day is so turquoise blue its unbelievable. It was like something out of Planet Earth the T.V. series. Its without a doubt one of the most surreal places I’ve ever been. Joey and I will be posting pictures for you to see, but its almost embarrassing how little justice it does for the real thing. We spent several hours swimming there and flat out refused to leave until the water receded enough with the tide to force us out. By the time we finished the return trek back up, the day was pretty much spent. We spent the rest of that night exploring the Railay nightlife and relaxing after being pretty much spent from the activities. I did get to try shark at dinner which was surprisingly delicious. Its very similar to tuna in many respects. I did feel bad eating it though because I rather like sharks.
On Saturday we took a ferry early in the morning to the nearby island of Koh Phi Phi. Its a pretty famous spot so some of you may have heard of it. Even in the “down season” it was flooded with tourists. Still, the beaches are drop dead gorgeous in their own right. It’s just like every poster you’ve ever seen of Thailand. Just google gorgeous Thai beach and you will probably see a picture of Koh Phi Phi. We went up a couple of friends from school who happened to also be in Phi Phi for the weekend and went on an evening boat tour of the surrounding area. Our tour guide who was hilarious took us to all the usual spots, including Monkey beach and our personal favorite, Maya Bay. Maya Bay is where they shot the movie, “The Beach” staring Leonardo DiCaprio. It was incredible. We managed to get there just in time for the sunset. The sun dipped down right between the mouth of the bay and the orange and purple hues juxtapose against the white beach and vivid blue water was overwhelming. The setting was perfect and we were virtually by ourselves there. Unfortunately Joey didn’t have his nice camera as swimming was required to get to the beach, but I’m hoping to get pictures off of one of our friends who made the trek with us. If we get our hands on some, we’ll definitely get them up on this blog. After sunset, the sky was clear and the moon and stars were out in full force. We went snorkeling there in the bay where bioluminescent plankton are everywhere. Anytime they are disturbed, they illuminate in the water. When you dip below and move about, its like being surrounded by underwater fireflies. Again, the whole experience didn’t seem real. As the tour finally rapped up, we made our way back to Phi Phi. There we went out to a Muay Thai bar and watched some pretty exciting fights over drinks. It was a wonderful cap to our weekend. We were finally forced back to reality on Sunday after we spent the afternoon laying on the postcard beaches of Phi Phi. We ferried back to Krabi Sunday evening and caught a flight back to Bangkok from there. All in all it was an epic weekend. The whole experience was something I won’t forget, ever. I only hope I get the chance to experience it again. I’m going to go ahead and try and post some of these photos, but keep checking back for updates. Although Joey and I are busy, we are trying to make time to actively post. I miss all of my friends and family back home but its weekends like this that make it a little easier. Take care!