Sawaadee Bpee Mai aka Happy New Year!

December 30, 2016

K and I ended the year with a wonderful celebration at our Tessaban in Phruphi, Banasan, Suratthani.  Since Christmas is celebrated by very few Thai’s (1% are Christian) most gifts are given at New Years. Our Pre-K and Kindergarten were no exception. Each child brings a gift fully wrapped. Then the Kru (teachers) number each gift.

Kru Kitty cutting out the numbers!

The student that dresses up for the party gets to pick the first number! Of course Super Hero’s are huge here.

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Kru M, Kru KaTea, and Nak Rian Noon picking the first gift!

After each child gets a gift they all pose for pictures!

The students do NOT open their gift at the party. It is a Thai tradition to only open a gift at home and not in front of the person giving it. We were amazed that no one broke this tradition!

The students definitely wanted us to take their pictures. Especially since they wore their best clothes!

Of course the party included Thai dancing for those who were not shy!

 Amee stole the show!

NO party can be complete without ICE CREAM and THAI KANOMS!

Khun Ju Scoops ice cream and Cap Tan is a two-fisted participant!

A tradition of the Tessaban after every holiday is for our Department Head Khun Ju to provide SOM TOM for everyone! Som Tom is a papaya salad made with many other ingredients. It can be Nit Noi Pet(a little spicy) to PET MAAK MAAK! ( very spicy) we had three different Som Toms! K can eat the very spicy I cannot.img_5831

Oh! if you are curious about the roll of TP on the table this is the preferred Thai napkin. Yes, we were baffled at first but now it is perfect!

After Som Tom K and I handed out our gifts. We had stayed up very late the night before making traditional family Holiday cookies. We made Strawberry, Blackberry, and Pineapple Kolachky (Mom Solek’s family recipe), Ginger Crinkle cookies, and Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip muffins. We also signed New Year Cards and placed a ribbon star made by wrapping a Thai Baht with ribbon and folding it many ways until a 5 pointed star is made. These are often given out at Thai celebrations. Our PCV friend Linda showed us how to make them. And  it would not be complete unless a picture is taken!

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From Left to right: Khun DeCha, Kru Poi, Khun Dawn, Khun Tick, Kru K, Kru Pii J, Khun Ju, Kru Oak, Kru Katae, Khun Pickeow with her son Not, and Kru M!

And to start our year off right! Meaning a Slovak/Polish tradition, according to my parents, we had to eat SAUERKRAUT! Since that does not exist here in Thailand but cabbage is plentiful K and I made our own. We also made homemade Artisan French bread and Seitan. So to honor the day and start the New Year we made Reuben sandwiches with real Cheddar Cheese! A meal fit for a KING!img_5838

From our home in Thailand to your home may 2017 be Loving, Kind, and  Compassionate. May you be Blessed with many wondrous gifts and opportunities to help others. PAX!

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“TAM NGAAN and BPAI THIAAO”

Tam Ngaan: Work

K and I thought we should catch everyone up on what we actually do in Thailand as Peace Corps Volunteers.

K works at Ban Chong Chang School with students in grades K-9th grade. He teaches English as a second language. Kindergarten he sees 2 times a week. Grades 1,2,and 3 he sees 5 times a week each and the others 2 times a week. He also comes to the Tessaban where I work and teaches with me once a week. As you can see he is straight out. He leaves at 7:45 am and returns by 4:30pm. K sees 110 students a week.

I am at the Tessaban (Phruphi District Government Offices) Monday-Friday. I work with Pre-K and K teaching English and helping with the students that have physical and learning challenges. There are 42 students in the class. I also go to the Phruphi High school on Tuesday afternoons and work with 40 M-5 students (11th graders) teaching Phonetics and English conversation utilizing many fun games. On Friday afternoons I go to Ban Kwan Neang elementary school and work with two groups teaching Life Skills through activities and games. One group has 38 students and the other 32 students.  I leave at 8:30 am and get home at 5:00 pm.

As you can see we are BUSY! Luckily we have Thai counterparts that help us with translation since our Thai skills are limited. Our students are great! As we tell them “Pii J gap Khun K “RAK NAK RIAN” (love students) and we are told by our Counterparts that the students love us as well.

Two projects that we are dedicated to see happen in our community are:

1) A Community Library that will include 7 villages. Currently there is NO LIBRARIES in our District for families and the elderly to use. Each school has a small library but the students rarely get a chance to use them.

2) A pilot project with Khun MeChai called “Bamboo School” which will focus on Vocational Training and Skill Development. Currently there is NO Vocational Skill training in our area.

Both these projects are sustainable and will definitely help families stay together and the community grow. Currently Thailand has 6 Million young children that live with their grandparents because their parents have to go to the big cities to work. They might come home once a year for New Years Celebration. This is a very dire situation for the children and the grandparents. We will update you with pictures as we proceed.

Bpai Tiaao: Holiday

During October K and I had a break. School was off from October 10-31.

K and I did a 3 day teacher training at the Tessaban. We taught how to make classroom resources, how to introduce activities to correspond with lessons, and how to access resources from the Internet. It was so successful that our teaching staff will be the leaders for a larger training planned for the spring.

Then on October 14th we left for Chiang Mai! Yahoo Holiday time. We met our PCV friend Linda (we met in Ghana as PCV’s and decided we would all apply for Thailand and VOILA) and we spent a week volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park. This is an Elephant Sanctuary that rescues Elephants from the abusive logging trade, from the trekking trade, and the street vendors. All the elephants have been abused, traumatized, and malnourished by time Lek Chailert rescues them. Currently there are 70 elephants at this sanctuary. Lek has help start other sanctuaries throughout Thailand and currently is helping start a program in Cambodia, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.

We had the most amazing week cleaning Elephant Poo, unloading huge trucks of watermelon, pumpkin, bananas, cucumbers and washing all these before feeding the Eles. There is a core staff that sets up the schedule and you are placed in groups. We had 4 groups of 15 each the week we volunteered. This vacation we have to say was the most rewarding way to spend our time. Not only did we care for the Eles we also got to see the love that their Mahouts have for them. Each elephant has a special person that is totally devoted to their care. This person is called a Mahout. Before coming to ENP these Mahouts would abuse and beat the elephant into submission and break their spirit so they would do the hard labor to bring in money for the Mahouts family. Lek has provided the care and retraining so the Mahouts come with the Elephant, bring their families and live on the grounds. Their lives have changed and so has the Elephants. We could go on and on but I would rather give you information if you are interested and you can learn more about the rehabilitation efforts and Lek. We were so very fortunate to actually spend time with Lek and see how the elephants responded to her love. It brings tears to our eyes.

To find out more go to:

http://www.elephantnaturepark.org       http://www.facebook.com/lek.chailert

http://www.youtube.com/elephantnews

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BACKROADS TO HOME

When Real and Non-Real both are Absent from Before the Mind,

Nothing Else Remains for Mind to do

But Rest in Perfect Peace

From Concepts Free

~Shantideva~

 

It was Saturday September 10, 2016 when K and I ventured on our 16 km round trip bike ride to the Idea store for Kindergarten supplies and Tesco Lotus to buy groceries in Ban Na San, Thailand. The day was sunny with beautiful cumulus clouds high in the sky; warm and humid with a slight breeze that waff across my brow as we rode the back roads to avoid chaotic drivers, the noise of large trucks, motor bikes with no mufflers, carts attached to motorcycles going in the wrong direction, and the unfortunate stray dog that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time strewn across the roadway drying in the hot sun.

 

The back roads take us through the rubber tree farms and oil palm plantations. These are roads that barely fit one car however, their beauty and deep ethereal presence take one’s breathe away.

 

The trees form a canopy that embraces and enraptures your essence with a cool, dark, fragrant stillness so profound you find yourself floating along as if you were on a magic carpet that has transported one to a richness that cannot be bought and a serenity that comes when one’s mind is free from all thought.

 

As we float through this Garden of Thailand’s profundity we take in the smell of earth, flora, fauna, the sounds of rustling leaves, guinea hens foraging, birds singing sweet melodious thrills that nurture ones being and cures all ills.

 

The small family rubber processing huts are active with latex sheets being rolled and set to hang in the shade until they are transported by the trucks that bring them to the destinations where products are made and shipped to far off lands.

 

Our senses are heightened as we become aware of the beauty all around us. The bananas, papayas, dragon fruits, and trees loaded down with ripe rambutan. The flowers of bougainvillea, gloriosa lily, plumeria, white jasmine, dwarf poinciana, and orchids. The occasional cow herds and of course the chickens and roosters crowing at the intrusion of us into their territory.

 

As K rides ahead, I stop to take some pictures of this heavenly place on earth. I start to ride and in the next moment instantly the self totally disappears and all is One Taste, One Smell, One Touch, One Tear, and One Whole without Separation

~Resting in Perfect Peace From Concepts Free~

 

 

POTPOURRI FROM PHRUPHI

SIT BACK AND RELAX:

We have been so very busy that we decided to give you a quick tour of our Peace Corps Service to date.

May 2016 after we arrived at site we were told that we needed to help out at two 10 day English camps. Age of students:6 years to 17 years. First camp 44 students came. We had No resources except a printed book and each other! Second Camp same age ranges, 36 students came. Thank goodness we have a great sense of humor and many tools in our toolbox. The best way to build relationships! Here are a few pictures.

 

Tessaban Phruphi:

Phruphi has a complex of town offices that house the Mayor (Nayok), Finance Department, Dept.of Education, Youth Development, Water and Sanitation, and a NEW SENIOR CENTER that is still in progress. K and I work out of the Tessaban with the Lek Leks (Pre-K and K ages) My Counterpart Khun Ju is Director of the Dept. of Education. She and her staff are amazing and so generous to K and I. Here are some pictures. Khun Ju is standing by her soon to be garden. Khun Tic, Khun Ock, Khun Kitae, and Khun M are relaxing after a long day. Khun Pikeaw(our amazing cook) is making Giteaw Khao Pak Goong Bplaa Mok (Wide Noodles with veggies,Shrimp, and Squid). We have 104 leks leks a day attend.  Needless to say everyone eats well at the Tessaban!  Khun Kitae is sitting with our K students as they prepare for teacher appreciation day!

Garden Home Restaurant and Resort in Banasan

After English Camp Kun Ju took all her staff and us to the Garden Home Restaurant. The food was amazing. Goong Toot(Batter dipped Fried Shrimp) Som Tom Bplaa (Seafood Salad) Tom Yam Bplaa Pak (soup with Fish and Veggies in Coconut Milk) and Khao Phoot Cluk (a delicious combination of coconut, corn, peanuts, Thai herbs in a spicy sauce that you wrap in a leaf and enjoy! Our mouths are watering thinking about this!

Sarat Thani:

K and I took a day trip to Sara Thani a large city in our province an hour bus ride from Phruphi. We visited the City Pillar Shrine. This beautiful serene Shrine in the middle of Sara Thani is a place for all to Meditate and Make Merit.

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City Pillar Shrine

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The Protector

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Interior Design

Peace Corps Reconnect at Kanchanaburi:

After 6 months PC brings us all together to reunite and learn more about our programs and resources. This year it was at Kanchanaburi the famous city of the Bridge over the river Kwai. We were all together to celebrate July 4th and also had free time to explore all the sites.

JULY 4TH:

The Bridge over the River Kwai:

The bridge was constructed between 1942-43. The prisoners of war called JEATH (Japanese,English,Americans,Thais, and Holland (Dutch) were the forces that built the bridge to get supplies form Japan to Burma. Also called the Burma Railway.

Boat Ride on the River Kwai to Koapoon Cave Temple:

Our PC friends Linda and Carri  came with us on a day long excursion to Koapoon Cave Temple, The War Museum, and Art Market.  This is the long-boat and our tour guide. Enjoy!

Koapoon Cave Temple:

This Cave Temple was visited in 1870 by King Rama V to worship the reclining Buddha in the cave. The cave is in a limestone mountain and consists of 9 rooms which have been named differently by the stories of them.

War Museum:

The War Museum was very informative and really explained the railway, bridge and internment of prisoners. It was very sobering and sad for all of us.

Words of Hope:

On the way out of the War Museum these signs were welcoming for us. Will the Human Race ever take heed?

Beauty of Thailand:

Well it is time to wrap up so we leave you with these glimpses of the extraordinary visions that we are fortunate to appreciate and the generosity given to us by Thailand and its people. Sawatdii Ka/Kop

ART:

Flowers:

Butterflies:IMG_3836IMG_4159IMG_4166 (2)IMG_4165 (2)

Foods:

Our favorite ROTI being made with many fillings as a meal or a dessert!

Fruits:

 

Surat Thani, Banasan, Prhuphi

DSCN0618 - CopyDSCN0616 - CopyDSCN0615SUGAR CANE, RICE FIELDS, MOUNTAINS, RUBBER TREES, BEACHES AND AMAZING PEOPLE AND NEW FOODS

Arriving to our new home!

We arrived after a 15 hour van ride from Singburi (our training site) to a modest village in Southern Thailand a bit disheveled and exhausted but eager to discover where we would be spending the next two years. Saratthani means city of good people and was settled in the 3rd century. Phruphi (our village) is set on the western edge of the Bantat Mountain Range next to the Gulf of Thailand. The community consists of rubber tree plantations and oil palm. It is also known for its coconut and rambutan fruit. On the way we stopped at the King’s Monument for a picture op. Our Driver Si is in the red shirt. Next is Duuei the Youth Development Officer. Next to K is my absolutely “Has Our Backs” Counterpart Kun JU. She makes sure everything is Rap Roi in our lives. We cannot even begin to tell you all the amazing things she has done and continues to do everyday for us.

When we arrived in Phruphi we were told that the home stay family was not able to host us. Graciously Ampon (K’s counterpart) took us in until we could find a house to rent. Another wonderful person that “Has Our Backs”!

We love how most Thai’s reuse banners (and yes banners are a mainstay for every event in Thailand) to block the heat of the sun. And it was very HOT in April. The hottest in the last 45 years:(  110 degrees during the day/88 at night and just a small fan to move the hot air. Thank goodness we brought our cool rags with us.

IMG_3182K and I just found out that we won third place in the PC Thailand photo contest with this photo! The theme “How did you beat the heat in Thailand”

Their are 127 National Parks in Thailand (size of France) 33 are Marine National Parks. There are 4 in our Province of Saratthani and  K and I were able to check off one of these from our list LOL!  Khao Sok National Park.

We are fortunate that when a Thai holiday comes around we are encouraged to travel and discover Thailand. Since we are in PC we are NOT allowed to drive or ride a moto. So we take public transport everywhere. Luckily our counterparts help us with bus schedules and getting to the stations. At Khao Sok we were able to go to the Ratchaprapha Dam and Lake. We traveled by long boat one hour to get to the water village where we had lunch and then took a three hour hike through the Rain Forest which included an hour long passage through a cave where we needed to have head lamps, crawl through narrow passages, and swim through ice cold water over our heads! It was very challenging but worth every moment. I especially liked the bats flying around our heads. Enjoy the pics.

We have so much to say and many more pictures to download. But this will have to suffice for now. A lot of people think Thailand is Posh Corps  because the infrastructure is developed and things appear to be in place, however, under that facade the issues of poverty, lack of services and cultural struggles continue. We have been placed exactly where we need to be. So until our next post may your adventures be loving and kind and generous.

Boot Camp 101 aka Pre-Service Training

Khai Bangrachan and Bangrachan

K and I are in different Peace Corps sectors. K is in TCCS (teaching English as a second language) and I am in YinD (youth development). As a result we lived in two different villages during our training. We were able to see each other on weekends and share our amazing adventures.

PEACE CORPS pre-service training is definitely “NOT FOR SISSIES”. It is grueling and absolutely the most intensive 10 weeks we will sustain during our 2 year service here in the beautiful “Land Of Smiles”. K and I had many difficult challenges. Being older volunteers makes language learning  a challenge as well as the needs of older Volunteers are very different from the energized 20-30 year old volunteers for sure. Yes we had “down days” but were able to sustain and end up laughing at ourselves because of our consistent Mindfulness Meditation Practice!

Our training consisted of Language (4 hours a day, 4 days a week), practicums at various schools sites, English and Life Skill Camps, activities to teach us about Thai Culture, many cross cultural exchanges, opportunities to go to market, and of course eating many Thai delicacies.

The best way to show you our experience is of course through pictures. So sit back and enjoy.

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As you can see the fruits are plentiful! Jack Fruit (which is K’s favorite and called kanoon in Thai, Dragon Fruit, Sham pooo (named after the color pink in Thai, which is my favorite, it is a cross between an apple, a pear, and a melon YUMMY! Sweet Tamarind. The fried insects are a popular Thai treat! Kai Pa Lo is tofu and hard bolied eggs in a brown sauce served over rice. Yes the favorite saying is “GIN KAOO” meaning it is time to eat! In Thailand it is always time to EAT! My homestay grew mushrooms so when K would come to visit she would make him his favorite ‘hit toot’ fried mushrooms! On our culture day we were served my favorite dishes. Pad Thai, Som Tom, and Bplaa Toot (fried fish)! Yes we are well taken care of.

As you can see Thailand has many festivals and yes we will be taken to all of them! This one is the Hero’s of Khai Bangrachon.

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These are from Lop Buri Festival

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Our only means of transportation to and from our work sites! YES we bike 12-18 km a day!

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K and Mu co-teaching with AM an excited student!

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Charisma, Sarah, Olivia, and K at the Thai Teacher Training. Their final project!

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J’s Life Skills class, co-teacher, and the Paw Aw (Principal)

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The Buddhist Wats are splendid and each one very unique. Here is just a glimpse!

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Praew (J’s homestay) at Lop Buri

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J and Praew in Thai traditional dress

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The Queen’s project above teaching wood working skills and of course our favorite ice cream FRESH COCONUT!

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Preparations for K’s  sister’s wedding!

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Area for the Monks to receive the wedding couple!

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Blessings and Offerings

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Money offerings

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Food offerings

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K giving them a water blessing for a happy marriage

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The family of Manoon Kotuam

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Married!

These are just a few of the over 1000 pictures we have taken to date! We leave with one more to brighten your day!

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The most famous saying in Thai is “JAI YEN YEN” which means cool your heart and this is best way for us to do that! Thank goodness we brought COOL TOWELS at 105 degrees we are chillin. till we post again make every moment count.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Stop: Highlights of Sing Buri

We have just finished training before we go to our Homestay families. The following pics are highlights of our amazing adventure!

Thais love Karaoke and our Thai staff are no exception.

The beautiful centerpiece was used as part of our welcoming ceremony called Bai Sri Su Kuum. The PC staff tied strings around our wrists blessing our stay in Thailand.

We were given Thai traditional wear. Women  wearing Pa Tung  and men Pa Kaw Ma.

The night market with many new fruits and deep fried insects. Can you name them?

Our Ajaans (teachers) at the Thai BBQ!

Wat Pranon-the most famous Wat in Thailand which has a 46 meter gold Buddha. K and I adding gold leaf to a replica asking for blessings.

Walking along Bang Phutsa River.

The Governor of Sing Buri and PC Director welcoming us at the Administration Building in Sing Buri Province.

Our Language study groups with our Ajaans.

And YES Thai is a very challenging language but as our Ajaans say :

“JAI YEN YEN”

Relax and Stay Cool from us to you till the next time! Enjoy Life’s Adventures.

Departing

K and I just want to thank our amazing daughters and their families as well as all our friends and supporters. We would never be able to live our aspirations to be of service without all of you!

We are currently at the Seattle Airport and yes our flight is DELAYED but

we are with an amazing group of PC’s in Training.

We have added two pics: Our Thailand PC group and our dear friend Linda who served with us in Ghana. Who would have thought we would all get to serve again:)

We send you all love and well wishes for an amazing two years until we reconnect! We will post as often as possible.

Hugs

 

YES! IT IS TRUE “PC THAILAND”

SAWATDEE! (Hello)

K and I are excited to announce that we have been invited to serve a second tour of duty in Peace Corps. This time in Thailand! We absolutely are thrilled. Our hearts are full of compassion as we embark on January 8, 2016 for staging and then on to Thailand for three months of PST (Pre-Service Training) before serving in a selected community for 2 years.

K will be serving as “Teacher Collaboration and Community Service” provider. He will be teaching English as a second language in the Primary grades as well as helping the teaching staff implement teaching strategies for success.

I will be serving as “Youth in Development High Risk” which encompasses working with the government to develop programs that support youth in their communities, support healthy lifestyles, engage youth as active citizens, support caregivers, parents, and communities to have stronger relationships with their children.

We feel so blessed to be able to serve again. in our opinion Peace Corps is the BEST program to really show what the US is really about. Volunteers are altruistic and embrace being of service to others as a key essential for success.

So, this is our first entry. In the coming months we will be inundated with filling out forms, getting all course work done, packing, seeing all our friends and all the other things that will manifest.

Oh, on a last note. What does “555” mean in our blog title? Well, as we are beginning to learn Bangkok Thai we have been told by our PCV’S in Thailand that the word for five in Thai is “HA”.  We felt that this would exemplify our service. Pure JOY and BLISS! 

555 “HA HA HA”