I'm at the start of my second week of school with students, my 4th and final year at GIS. It's a bittersweet feeling. Today after my Thai lesson, I took the long way home (as I often do) through the villages, rice paddies and by the wats (Buddhist temples). It is a beautiful night...not raining and as humid as it has been, almost everyday since I came back. The surrounding mountains so lush, vibrant and clear against the colorful clouds in the sky. This place has forever left a mark on my heart, despite the many, MANY days I complain-of how difficult the language is, how confusing and frustrating the culture and so many people a challenge to love. I think of how this place has changed me, shaped me in ways I'm still discovering and providing me with experiences I could never have hoped for. All, which I am so grateful to God for. I am hopeful that this last go will prove to be my most impactful yet. I want to SOAK in all that God has for me in this season, and continue to trust him with whatever the next may be.
I will try to not make this blog too wordy, the pictures can speak for themselves. This summer was one I definitely won't forget. So many incredible places to see, memories made and moments with people that left me thankful and encouraged. I feel truly blessed.
1. The gift of 2 weeks in Chiang Mai-successful passport and paperwork issued, and the time and space to rest, renew & prepare for the travels that followed.
2. Travels in Iceland and Isle of Skye, Scotland with my good friend Summer. Thankful for good conversations, wild adventures (river crossings in our Ford Escape) & beautiful views & walks. Although, I preferred the quaint and simple views of the Scottish highlands...
3. What an honor it was to counsel high school girls at QRC camp in Colorado. To learn from them, their struggles and be a support & encouragement to them.
4. Spending time with family & friends, camping, day hikes, eating Mexican food (I did even eat some Thai-couldn't stay away...), and visiting Greeley. The gift of so many of you in my life, your prayers, financial giving, words of encouragement and love is a tremendous source of strength for me as I am on this journey. Thank you isn't enough. It would be much more difficult to follow this calling without it.
5. Now that I'm in Chiang Mai once again, I've been busy adjusting back to life here. Orientation week consisted of kicking jet-lag, prepping for students and playing cajon (box drum) for the worship team at school. I have enjoyed plugging in again with my house church and excited to grow deeper with them this year! The first week of school was a blur. It's always difficult to be "on" and up in front of kids all day, talking, after having a break. Hoping to settle into a routine here soon. Started up Thai language again...2 days a week this time! Will begin finalizing plans for Diakonia soon...pray for someone to step up and help out with this endeavor and can carry it on after I leave.
AND I have a new little addition and love in my life...
A baby hedgehog named 'Ollie'. He is one of the cutest creatures ever! I'll be taking him to school a few times a week. Excited to have a class pet, but a bit nervous...especially one that I actually like (not a rhinoceros beetle like the kids usually find on the playground) and I'm praying he stays alive for a while.
Hope you enjoyed the MANY photos!
1. Thankful for this season...it's been a great few months of exploration and growth.
2. Smooth travels all around the globe
3. The school year is off to a good start
4. Thai friends who are experiencing answered prayers of blessing and provision
1. It's been much more difficult to get into routine this school year, than years past. I returned with various problems with my house, vehicles and community. Not easy to step into after a full summer. Pray for protection, patience and grace for these adjustments.
2. Someone to co-lead Diakonia with me and potentially someone to train in preparation for next year.
3. For my students (40 total that I teach) as they learn and grow this critical year in grade 6. Pray for patience for me and the other grade 6 teacher, Erika. We have wonderful, yet challenging kids this year.
4. This is an accreditation year for our school of which I am on a committee for. This is going to require a lot of extra time, work and motivation (which I'm currently lacking) between now and Christmas. Prayers would be to not procrastinate on this project!
Thanks everyone! Until next time! -S
Finally, this marathon school year has come to a close!
This school year began with numerous transitions and changes. As you may recall, we were evicted from our previous campus and then 'moved in' with a bilingual school, sharing their space temporarily for the next 2 years as our permanent new campus is being built. This time last year we were frantically packing boxes and moving. I was not only moving my classroom, but also transitioning to a new grade level while simultaneously moving into a different house/living situation, all before heading back to the States for the summer. Crazy times! When I returned to Chiang Mai in August, all the teachers had the task of unpacking boxes and setting up classrooms in our new space. I honestly don't remember much from those first few months...it was a whirlwind.
In many ways, this school year has felt like 2 academic years...so much has happened this year regarding transition, change and growth. Now that we've made it through one year and look forward to another at our current location, God's provision is so evident.
Challenges of the 2016-2017 school year:
-smaller teaching space
-lots of trial and error with teaching a different curriculum
-learning to take on a more leadership role
-As always, learning how to love others even when it's tough
Highlights of this school year:
-The gift of teaching my 4th graders from 2 years ago a second time
-Developing a heart for this age group and finding ways to relate and encourage them in this rather confusing and awkward stage of life-I have found my sweet spot with teaching this year
-Having deeper conversations with my kids and hearing their perspectives and thoughts
-Watching them make incredible growth in so many areas...especially in math!
-From the 6th grade trip, presentations on self-awareness, solving algebraic equations (my favorite!!!), plate tectonics and volcanoes, to teaching the kids to wear deodorant and about the reproductive system, it's been quite the year! I absolutely love what I do! These kids are worth it!
-The last band concert of the year showed tremendous growth in their ability to create music. They went from squeaking and squawking to actually playing a classical piece!
-I tried not to get too emotional at their continuation ceremony to middle school. They rocked with their 'flash mob' "We're All in This Together" from High School Musical!
-We ended Diakonia with our biggest clothing drive yet! We had about 12 large boxes filled with clothing to give to our children's homes that we partner with. They are always in need of clothing for the kids that come from the villages. The leftover clothing goes to villages where the kids return once a year. It was a great end to Diakonia and I'm already thinking about and getting excited for next year!
Pai (pronounced 'bye')...is one of my favorite towns about a 2 hour drive from Chiang Mai on a road famed for it's steep switchbacks. Pai itself reminds me of Boulder, Colorado...just has that earthy, nature, organic feel. Some friends and I stayed in a bungalow there over a 3 day weekend and said farewell to a friend who was teaching at GIS this year. It was a sweet time of reflection of how far we've all come this year. Our goal was downtime with each other. We achieved that as well as eating REALLY good food. Some of the best western food I've had in Thailand. One day, my friend Katrina and I rented motorbikes to go to Pai's canyon. It was impressive to Thai standards, but really nothing comes close to Black Canyon of the Gunnison (CO) or The Grand Canyon (AZ) or even Colca Canyon (Peru). It was far too hot that day...which didn't go well with me and so after a short time in the canyon catching the views to be seen, we quickly drove our crappy bikes back to town to hydrate. When we were feeling better we decided to just drive. We drove through the rolling hills, the rice paddies, through numerous villages as the sun was beginning to go down. There is something that wakes me up when I have the opportunity to see rural places and get away from the hustle and bustle of urban, city life. I see and feel so much more than when I isolate myself from what's beyond my norm.
May is always full of social events. I attended my first murder mystery party and was the detective who "solved" the mystery...I was obsessed with Nancy Drew growing up so I was pretty into this role for an evening. Then staff end-of-the-year banquet which is always a great reason to dress up and take photos in the King's Botanical Gardens (my fav place to walk on Saturday mornings)!
Vietnam Round 2
Immediately (not exaggerating!), after I said goodbye to my kids on the last day of school, I rushed off directly to the airport to fly to Vietnam where I did a week-long trek through the northern hills near the China border. After traveling by overnight train and bus we (I met up with a few other teachers from my org) arrived. The views were beautiful. So many villages and rice terraces against a mountainous backdrop. I was interested to see first-hand how rice was planted and harvested. It was neat to see how water buffalo were used in the planting process. The traditional agricultural methods were fascinating to observe. It was hot and humid. Walking on uneven, rocky soil around and in rice paddies is not easy and really difficult on the knees. As we trekked, we saw how challenging rural farming life is and witnessed excessive poverty. Either rice plantation work or trekking tourism is how these rural hill tribe people survive. I often felt so helpless...as this tourism is not a sustainable, effective practice and way of eliminating poverty. I felt overwhelmed with thankfulness that I have opportunities and choices in my life...I'm not stuck to one track. What a blessing! When I returned from the trip, I was reminded of how often I take air conditioners, electricity, running water and filtered water for granted.
Overall, it was a great trip with the amazing teachers I visited back in October. Such a great time of processing as they leave to return to their home country. A much needed experience for me before embarking on a wild June and July journey.
-I'm currently hanging out in Chiang Mai and waiting for my expedited passport to arrive and then get all my other legal paperwork transferred before the end of June. Besides numerous trips to the consulate and immigration, I am enjoying a flexible schedule and studying Thai intensively for the next 2 weeks.
-I will be traveling from June 26-July 7 meeting one of my oldest and dearest friends for our once in a lifetime Skye sister trip.
-I will return to Colorado for 3 weeks on July 7.
-One week counseling High school students at QRC camp again this summer July 10-15.
If you would like to meet me for a meal, coffee or hike email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to connect with as many of you as possible before heading back.
1. Thankful for a successful school year and a fun, meaningful end with my students!
2. A safe trip to Vietnam
3. Successful blood draw last month and so far so good with immigration and consulate document processing
1. For the next week of intensive Thai language study but also prayers for a sweet time of solitude, rest and reflection as I’m living solo for the time being.
2. Prayers for a successful expedited Passport and Visa, in my hands, before I leave Thailand-that all will go smoothly
3. For my BIG trip this next month with my friend, Summer! Pray for safe travels and an unforgettable experience for us both.
4. Colorado plans-that it would be an encouraging and meaningful time and that I would leave well for my final year.
As always, THANK YOU for reading this and I look forward to hopefully seeing many of you soon! -S
Sara Gurule c/o