Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pictures from this week

One of the sites at Ancient Siam

On the water taxi. A monk looking out at a wat.

Same, Same, but Different

View from Ko Kret

Scenery walking around Ko Kret

One of the temples on Ko Kret... with a huge tribute to the King, of course.

"A Little Island Getaway"

Well, that's what Lonely Planet promised us. It says, "soothe your nerves with a half-day getaway to Ko Kret, a carefree island... on Bangkok's northern edge."

Jenna has gone back to Korea, but Mimi is still here, staying at a guest house in town. So, we met up with her today for a little getaway to Ko Kret island.

First, Matt and I rode a tuk-tuk (love those things!) down to the pier and asked around about getting to the island. We found a guy who would take us in his long boat for a fair price, so then we waited a little while for Mimi.

Once Mimi came, we got into our little long boat with the driver. I was NOT thrilled about getting into this thing. It just seemed too flimsy to hold all of us.

But it held us, and the ride to the island was fun because Mimi was sitting in the very front of the boat, holding a drink that didn't have a lid on it. It was funny watching her trying to manage it while flying across the water in that little thing. (Think Evinrude on the Rescuers Down Under). So, he dropped us off at the island, and we told him we would be back in two hours.

First, we ran into a school where they were having New Year's parties. We definitely felt 'off-the-beaten-path', but we thought that was normal. Then, we ran into some houses... lots of houses. And this old lady was trying to say something to us, but we had no idea what she was saying.

So, we kinda wandered around, through this island village for awhile taking it in. It was pretty fascinating to see how these people live. We finally found a sign that pointed us in a direction to go to the pottery village, which is apparently the main attraction on this island. When we found that, it was pretty cool. You could meander through this huge warehouse (open-air, of course) and watch all the different stages of pottery.

This guy took 17 seconds from
getting the clay, shaping it,
putting the detail on it, and
then setting it on the board to dry!

Then ready for sale across the street. After the pottery village, there were a bunch of temples strung around the island. We finally did find our way to the real pathway and started walking. And we walked, and walked, and walked--seeing nothing in particular, just random houses. The scenery was beautiful at some points, and then you would round a curve and there would be a huge pile of garbage. Lots of 'spirit houses'. A few temples, but to be honest, I'm kind of 'templed-out'.

Matt turned around to me at one point and said, "I hate this place." We were tired of walking, really hot, thirsty, and tired of walking. Mimi was still quite content, so we were trying to keep our complaints to a minimum. But after about an hour of solid walking around on the concrete slab, I starting feeling sick, like dehydrated sick.
Thankfully, not too much longer, we kind of got our bearings and realized we were still at least a 40 minute MORE walk back to the boat. Mimi and Matt found a boat that took us further around the island closer to where we were supposed to meet our boat. He dropped us off at a dock, but it wasn't the RIGHT dock, so then Mimi went off in search of our boat guy. At that point, my cute, tired, hungry, cranky husband said, "I spoke too soon when I said I hate this place. I actually LOOOOOATTTTHHHHHE it."

I knew he was serious, but then we started talking about why we didn't like it. Turns out it was all about expectations. He thought he was going to a beachy-island with cantinas and lounging around. Poor guy. Next time, I'll have him read the Lonely Planet before we are off on a mini-day trip. I didn't know that it was going to be such a long walk around the island. I would have enjoyed it more had I prepared myself for that. I enjoyed the first 15-20 minutes of the island, but then I was ready to go.

The boat guy wasn't where Mimi thought he was, so then we regrouped and looked the other way. We finally found him and were on our way back. I wish I had my camera for the boat ride back. It was beautiful! And the fresh air and wind was what I needed to keep me from being sick.
I'll do another post with more pictures.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Pictures of Christmas Day

Christmas Breakfast. Thanks for the fun plates and napkins, Steph!
A Christmas tree at Siam... made out of cds!

A very festive part of the mall (view from the 4th floor).
One store had a bunch of awards, so Matt gave me this one. Very sweet, honey, thank you!

Pretty lady playing a Thai instrument in the "Exotique Thai" section of the mall.
MiMi and Jenna at Outback... yum!
At the market, Jenna bought bugs and ate them...
I'll not post the picture I have of her eating them. Yuck!
Mark showing off his new Christmas pants on Skype! :)

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Day after Christmas

After sleeping in today, we were off on an adventure! We went to Ancient Siam, which is a little ways outside of Bangkok. It was sooo much fun!

It's a park in the shape of Thailand, and it has every important place that's all across the country represented there. So, if you don't want to spend the time (or money) traveling all over Bangkok, you can just go there. We were there for about 3 hours and could have spent so much more time there, but at the same time, we were a little overwhelmed with all the cool stuff this place offered.
When we got there, we bought our tickets then hopped on the bikes that were included in the ticket price (300 Baht, which is about $8). First, we tried the tandem bikes, but they were set aside for regular, plain-old-fashioned bikes that worked just fine. (Note, Amy Ray, you have no idea how much I thought about you today. These bikes were very reminiscent of the ones in Tanzania!) The park is so big that it would take forever to walk around and see everything... so, people either ride bikes, drive golf-carts or regular cars. But the bikes were awesome for us. :)

I'm gonna post a ton of pictures, but the basic idea is that we had a BLAST! I'm so glad Jenna and MiMi are here because it gives us an excuse to get out and see the more touristy things. After all, we do live in Thailand!

(I'll post more pictures later, but I'm going to bed for now!)

Christmas in Thailand!

Well, it began the morning of Christmas Eve for us when we had a Skype date with the Flagler family. We opened our presents from them and they opened theirs from us (it was the night of the 23rd for them). Thanks for all the fantastic gifts!

Then, we chilled around the house for a little while and then went to the airport to go pick up Jenna and Mimi from their couple of days at the beach. We came back to the house to re-group, then went to a drop-in that our small group at church had. It was fun to be with more friends and talk about what different people do Christmas. After the drop-in, we went to church for the Christmas Eve service at church. It was nice. Beautiful music and a short word about Jesus and more beautiful Christmas music. After the service, we went to Que Pasa for more snacks and drinks. We sat with a couple of girls that I didn't know very well, which was fun. When we got home, we were all pretty ready for bed.

On Christmas morning our time, we had a Skype date with the Tyndall clan. We opened our presents from them, and they opened most of theirs with us. It was fun. We got to see Nala Bean and all the other Tyndall dogs--and Mama Jones! Thankfully, we had good Skype connections for all of our recent Skype dates. Thanks for all the great presents, family! :)

While we were Skyping with the family, Jenna and Mimi were busy little elves in the kitchen and they made a very nice Christmas breakfast. We enjoyed French Toast, bacon, fruit salad and yogurt. After that, we exchanged presents between the four of us. That was really fun too. :)
After presents, we made our way to Siam Square in downtown Bangkok, which happens to be the biggest mall in Asia. We walked around there for a couple of hours and then made our way to Outback Steakhouse for our Christmas dinner. It was wonderful! More walking around after that and then we went to a local Thai market and walked around for a bit.

We headed home and had decided to get massages, but we couldn't find a place where we thought one was. So, we headed home and watched a couple of movies. Then, we had another Skype date with the Flagler/Powers clan while they opened their Christmas morning presents. It was really cool to feel like we were there, even though we were getting pretty tired at the end.

Matt and I both enjoyed Christmas in Thailand very much, but we are definitely looking forward to being back with family next year! This was our view of the family on their Christmas morning.This was Dad showing a huge cutting board that he got for Christmas.
You can see (from L to R): Steven, Gary, Grandpa, Grandma and Lauryn in the background.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Card

Well, it's not much, but it'll do for this year. I do miss addressing and stamping lots of envelopes though!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Grades 4 and 5 Singing

My class is on the front two rows.

Videos and Part 2

Well, I know the videos aren't long, but I hope you'll get some idea of how the evening went. It was a lot of fun and very beautiful. I might post one more tomorrow, but I've been uploading videos for 3 hours, so I'm ready for a change of scenery.

The 2nd night was definitely not as fun. Our friend, MiMi, arrived in the afternoon, so we had to leave her to go hang out with Grade 4 during the church program. They did really well, but I spent that hour going back and forth with them to the church and the classroom and telling them, "Shhhhhhhhhhhh". When they weren't singing, all the other classes were waiting in the classrooms or right outside the church. I think at some points, the kids right outside the church (none of mine, of course) were louder than the speakers inside the church... sad.

After the church program, the buffet thing happened again. The food was not as good as the first night either, bummer. But MiMi and another teacher's mom, Vicky, ate dinner with us, which was nice. The program started a lot later, and there was no Thai dancing. Grade 4 went first, and they did a great job!

We sat through a couple more songs and about three skits that you couldn't hear or understand, and then we excused ourselves. We went back to the house and got comfy. Vicky went to bed, and the rest of us started a movie. We left in the middle of the movie to pick Jenna up from the airport! It's so fun having friends here from home!

They left this morning after a yummy brunch at Que Pasa. They flew down to the beach for a few days. Matt and I spent a couple hours walking around the market picking up a few things to take home.

Now, Christmas Break has officially begun!

picture Album of Night 2 is available here.

More Thai Dancing

Friday, December 19, 2008

Night 1 of the Christmas Program

I've been quite cranky lately. I think it's a combination of missing family and friends, being tired and feeling overwhelmed. This teaching thing is busy, busy--especially this time of year. I won't go into all the whining that I wanted to write about last night.
Instead, I will report that after getting a little bit of rest and an attitude adjustment from the Lord, I had a great time tonight at NIGHT ONE of GES's Christmas Program. (K1-Grade 3 did theirs tonight, and Grades 4-12 go tomorrow night--whoa!).

The Thai staff (with a tiny bit of help from us) transformed our campus into a beautiful atmosphere for the Program tonight!
Here's the basic agenda for both tonight and tomorrow:
-Part 1: the 'church program' with songs and narrations from each of the grades.
-Part 2: a Thai buffet outside on the soccer field.
-Part 3: the "Big Stage Show" where each class does 1 or 2 songs/dances.

It was all very well done, and it was fun to see all the little kids enjoying tonight!

I'm going to post a ton of pictures on Facebook, so you can look through the album here, even if you don't have a Facebook account.

I'll also do a separate blog or two with some videos. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Mrs. Tricia, I like your hair today...


Honestly, that's what I heard today from one of my very vocal students RIGHT after school today. Thankfully, Matt happened to be in the classroom to be my witness.

After asking her to repeat what she said, she said it again, "Your hair looks like crap."

Matt: "Does that mean the same thing here as it does in America?"

Me: (Laughing Hysterically.)

Several students: "Why is she laughing? ... Mrs. Tricia, you laugh so weird... What is so funny?"

Me: "Dream, please explain what you mean. What does my hair look like to you? "

Dream: "You know, like a spider. It have many legs. Your hair look like that..."

Me: "OOOOOh, you mean a CRAB. C-R-A-B."
(Still a little perplexed as to how my hair looks like a crab)... "Thank you, Dream."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Chrisitmas Crafts

We've spent our last few evenings doing crafts. It's a nice way to spend the evenings... while watching Christmas movies, of course.

Currently, we're watching The Return of the King. Somehow, watching the LOTR trilogy has become a Christmas tradition for me.

Anyway, wanted you to see the result of our hard labor. With no money and no decorations from home, we decided to make some of our own decorations. Each of the ornaments you see hanging on our wall (over 50!) has a picture of some of our family and/or friends... and of course, Nala Bean. Since they're made out of construction paper, I'm not sure how long they'll last, but at least they add a little festivity to our home this year. :)

We borrowed puff paint from a friend (thanks, K!) in order to be able to personalize these Santa hats for Matt's kids. They'll wear these during the Christmas Program this weekend.

Our Christmas tree!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Decor in our Classrooms

Thought you'd like to see some of the ways we are decorating our classrooms.
The kids will be judged next week on which room is decorated the best. We had to use recycled items and have a theme.

What do you think? One of the Christmas trees in my room.

The kids set up this shadow box window to look like a shop's window.

Our other shadow box window is set up like a winter wonderland.
We're still working on this one, but it definitely has potential.
My creative husband made this Christmas tree for his room,
and the kids have been decorating it.This cracks me up. Matt is Santa, and his kids' pictures
are on reindeer that he made out of toilet paper rolls.
This will hang from the ceiling in the middle of the room.
Not only are his kids reindeer, but they are personalized angels as well.
This guy is cute too. :)

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Very Different Weekend

We didn't have school on Friday--in honor of the King's 81st birthday! This freed us up to enjoy the weekend a little more. Usually, we just end up sleeping in, taking naps, and doing school stuff.

This Thursday night, we hooked up the Wii at a friend's house after playing Texas Hold 'Em for a little bit. It was fun to be able to play the Wii for the first time since being here. We now have a lot of people hooked, but it kinda stinks that it stays at their house. (We still don't have a tv for it at our house.)

Friday, we slept in, did school stuff, and then enjoyed the evening with Kristen and the kids. They had carolers come and visit after dinner while we watched Cinderella II. I think their 3 kids are finally getting used to having us around. :) (BTW, you can get to their blog from the list on the right.) Also, in the movie that we watched, there was a scene where the king gets launched from an elephant... hilarious!

Saturday, Matt watched Dan and Kristen's kids, and Kristen, Ro (and Jaya) and I went to Chinatown to do some shopping. This was my first time really on a shopping outing here, and I took full advantage. I got some good gifts for friends and family at home and some Christmas decorations and small gifts for my class. Chinatown was INSANE! It was packed but fun. Definitely worth the bargains.

(You can see from the picture how packed it was. Streets were hard to walk on as it was, but then a car would drive by and we would have to scrunch!)
Pic on the right: My shopping buddies.
Baby Jaya was the star of Chinatown for the day.
I carried her around the first couple of hours, and she was so so good!

Pic on the left: me with my Thai-style pose and all of my goodies from the day, waiting on the water taxi to take us home. (It takes about an hour to get to downtown from our school when there's traffic, so the water taxi is just as long but at least it's always moving).

The rest of Saturday, we hung out at Dan and Kristen's for a few hours (avoiding another toxic mosquito spray at GES with some other teachers). Then, Matt and I went to a new mall in town that we had heard a lot about. First, we just walked around all 8 floors soaking it all in.
Then, we purchased a few little things that we wanted/needed.
And then we ate at a new restaurant, Au Bon Pain. I think I remember eating at a few of these in Europe. It's kind of like Panera. Soups and Sandwiches, desserts and fancy coffees. I loved my Broccoli and Cheese Soup in a bread bowl and think that it might be my new favorite place to eat here. Matt had a turkey and stuffing sandwich. He liked it, but I don't think he loved it. When we got back on Saturday, we stayed up until 2 am talking on Skype with Ginger and Steven. Every time we get to talk with someone from home, it's like we get recharged. We miss you all so much!

Sunday was pretty normal. We went to church, but then we did something different--and wonderful! We went to a place where I could get my eyebrows waxed and a pedicure (all for less than $8). I hadn't had a pedicure since July 4th when Ginger and I got one in Texas. My feet were in desperate need, and they did a fantastic job. Check out the detail! Yes, there is a snowman AND a Christmas tree on my toenail.

Then, we ate at our normal Sunday lunch place, Que Pasa. Here are some pics from the animals who live there. Matt and I pet the giant lizard thing, and it felt really scaly.
Then, we just chilled at home for a little while.
In the afternoon, we had to sing a song at the Thai church.
Then, we did some grading while watching FRIENDS.
That's what a normal Sunday is like, at least.

The night ended with the drama of killing a GIANT spider.
I really, really hate those things!

***Alright, friends. Our blog is in need of some comment love. Let us hear from you. :) ***

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Can anyone tell me... ?

I ask this question a lot here in Thailand... mostly to my students.

Yesterday, during Flag Time, which is when we sing the Thai national anthem and pray together and do announcements and all, the Thai homeroom teacher for my class did something different.

She walked around and asked each student to hold out their hands. With some of them, she would just keep going. With some, she would tap on their knuckles with a thick marker. I could hear it, and it didn't sound very good. Sounded like it hurt.

I asked one of my students quietly what she was doing, and he said he didn't know. One student started crying because the marker hurt her.

The Thai teacher continued on, through the whole class. I figured out somewhere in the middle that I think she was inspecting the length of their fingernails.

When we got back to class, this was confirmed after I said, "Can anyone tell me what Kru Noi was doing during flag time?"

Someone said she was making sure their nails weren't too long, according to the Student Handbook.

Interesting.... well, now I know.

Monday, December 1, 2008

History in the Making

Have I mentioned that we're living in the midst of a coup? It started just a couple of days before we arrived in Thailand but has recently escalated. The group who instigated it wasn't getting enough attention with their other protests, so they took over the airport. Actually, BOTH of the Bangkok airports. The country is losing billions of dollars. Over 100,000 foreigners are stranded here.

I think they are finally getting the attention they wanted.
But the government is in a really tough position because the Queen supports the protesters. Plus, Thai people in general are extremely passive. The general attitude here is 'subai-subai', which is kinda like 'hakuna matata'. In the midst of all the protesting, there have been some injuries but no deaths. Not much bloodshed. It kinda has the feel that it's going to get worse, though, if anything's going to be resolved. There is a lot of speculation about what will happen and when. But, we do know this: the King's 81st birthday is on Friday, which is a HUGE deal. Some think that the government is waiting until after the birthday to get the protesters under control. Others think that they'll want it taken care of before the King's birthday. Who knows? Matt was at the US Embassy the other day, and there was a Princess Cruise that was supposed to fly out last week, but now they're stuck here. He got to hear the Embassy official explain the situation pretty simply: Nobody knows what's going to happen.

Our friends who lived here during Thailand's last coup said that it was pretty peaceful. In all of Thailand's history, they've NEVER had a civil war or never been ruled by another nation. That's some pretty cool heritage and something they take seriously.
At this point, we have many friends whose lives have been affected by the airport takeover. The pastor who flew in to speak at our church retreat last weekend hasn't been able to fly home. A couple of friends from small group had business or personal trips planned that were canceled. Imports and exports have been interrupted. The economy is taking a big hit.
Our day-to-day life remains the same. We're still not wearing yellow shirts, though.
This morning, half of my class was late. So, I asked those students who were there if all the other students were protesting at the airport. I got some pretty interesting comments... then, I realized that I should probably not be talking about such things in class.

For more information:
Article 1
Article 2
Article 3

Not saying that I agree with everything in the last one, but it's perspective.
More perspective is that compared to what's going on in many other nations around the world, this is extremely minor.


Whoops, I realized I haven't written in awhile, so I thought I'd give a quick update about what we did for Thanksgiving weekend.
Thursday was pretty uneventful. School carried on as usual, but we did eat some good American cuisine for dinner (McDonald's). And even had dessert at Swensen's. I lost my cell phone sometime that evening which was a big bummer. But, in some ways, I'm thankful that it lasted as long as it did. I lost like 5 phones in Uz.

Friday was Pay Day!!! We went out with a bunch of the teachers to a pub in downtown Bangkok. It was nice to be away from campus and enjoy hanging out.

Saturday, we slept in, bummed around for awhile and then started cooking. It was my first time cooking here in Thailand. First, we had to go to the store, which didn't have everything I needed for the green bean casserole. No canned green beans. No french fried onions. And it took forever to find 'wooster'.

But, we did eventually find all the necessary items and headed back to the house. We started snapping the green beans and cooking them, but couldn't figure out how to turn on the stove--it's funky. A friend came over and showed us how to do it, then, we realized we didn't have a can opener for the cream of mushroom soup. Ha! So, after putting some ingenuity to work, we made some small openings in the cans of soup and were able to pour them over the cooked green beans into the casserole dish--- Oh wait! Nope, we didn't have a casserole dish. We made do with some recycled pie tins... so the green bean casserole turned into green bean pies. The green beans cooked down A LOT, so it didn't make as much as I thought it would.

We transported our little pies to a friend's home (pretty much a mansion) in the American part of Bangkok where our small group was celebrating together. A girl from GA had brought french fried onions from home, and she let me use them to top the 'pies' once we got there.
Everyone else is much more experienced at cooking here, and all of the food was fabulous! We had ham, turkeys, casseroles, pies, breads, desserts--all the fixings of a traditional Thanksgiving--people had even thought to bring cans of cranberry from the States. :)
After eating lots of good food, we hung out around the pool for awhile. Some people swam, but it was a little chilly for us. It was just nice to sit around and talk.

Sunday, we had our second Thanksgiving celebration with the GES staff. Everyone brought a contribution to our house, and we had a very successful Thanksgiving dinner here as well. After everyone ate, we sat around and sang Christmas carols for at least an hour. It was really fun, actually!

Matt and I are both getting kinda sad that we aren't home during this time of year. Please know that we love all of you, family and friends, so much, and we look forward to being there with you next year--if God wills!