It's true. Reality is setting in that I'm not just a "tourist" but I now live and work here in Chiang Mai. This past week I received my work permit...now officially legal to work in Thailand. I will soon (in two weeks), also have my VISA (green-card) that is proof I can legally live here. Things are getting real- from the scent of burning incense coming from the temples in the morning, to the intense heat and humidity which makes my hair WILD!
Reality. A day in the life...:)
I'm not always touring the rainforest, exploring waterfalls, shopping in Night Bizarre or riding elephants...(one of these days :))
5:30 am: Sun is not up yet...struggle to find which light switch on the wall turns on the light I need. The switch is inconveniently placed in my opinion (behind the door) and then I often forget to turn the light on from the outside of the bathroom as I go in. Light switches are located on the outside of the bathroom wall. While fumbling for the light switch I am always hoping I don't step on or accidentally grab a gecko/scorpion/spider/cockroach/snake instead of the switch...yes, all five exist here.
7:00 am: Still half-asleep, I get on my bike and ride the 5 km(?) to go to GIS. Ride over about 8 speed bumps in my neighborhood alone, past a park and around a group of monks walking to temple each morning. When I make it to the main roads...I ride FAST to get a breeze to cool me down! Fortunately, the big news is... I bought a motorbike from a good friend, so not much longer will I have to manually ride on the busy Canal road next to the crazy traffic in the heat and humidity. Now I'll be contributing to that crazy traffic :) More about the bike below!
7:20/7:30 am: Transform from grudgy, sweaty, drenched, Sara into "Miss Gurule", happy, awake Sara.
7:55 am: Rush over to the tennis courts to line up my 4th graders. Whole elementary sings national Thai anthem (click for the link) and then pray for the day.
8 am: Bible or Chapel (which is like VBS every other week :)), Reading, Math A and then THAI class. I can now ask basic questions and respond in Thai. I also know my numbers 0-100, colors, fruits and veggies :) Happy about that! I continue to love learning language with students!
11:15 am: Recess!
11:35 am: DELICIOUS Thai Lunch...usually rice, chicken with veggies and or noodles. Salad bar is a plus or days where they have my favorite Northern Thailand cuisine, Khao Soy!
12:05 pm: Math B
12:55 pm: Recess!
1:15 pm: Science A/B
2:05 pm: Specials (Library, Art, Music, Wellness, P.E...twice a week...once a week all 4th grade has SWIMMING and swim lessons)
3:00 pm: dismiss my kiddos
The schedule varies day to day and can be confusing at times, but this is a general outline of the school-day for those of you who want to know the play-by-play.
After students leave I spend at least 2 hours making copies, lesson planning, grading and prepping for the next day. Sometimes I work out or go for a run (horrible, when you don't even need to exercise to sweat). Some days I go get my required blood work done to see if I'm infected with strange diseases or go get a Japanese Encephalitis series shot...haha. I think the Lord brought me here to coax me out of my fear of needles.
Then comes the difficult part of figuring out what's for dinner. It's usually cheaper to eat out if dinner is Thai food. I usually order Thai food from a nearby location or stop by the market near my house on the way home to pick up food in bags. If I'm still feeling adventurous after a long day, I take a songthaew to the "Tesco-Lotus" sorta like a Walmart/mini-mall, to get groceries etc. and take advantage of their food court and then catch a songthaew back to my bike and ride home.
I've been blessed to have families who invite me to their homes for meals on occasion. SO thankful for the encouraging, helpful community here that helps me navigate and take me around the town. Without them I know that my adjustment in Chiang Mai and the past TWO months would be much more difficult.
Anyways, I usually get home late and then grade/ prep until I get too tired and try to get to sleep early, which doesn't typically happen (a habit I had in the States that I can't seem to break). It's always weird skyping people in the States...they are just getting up and I'm going to bed.
Plans are always changing. Lessons learned in how to be flexible!
Thai module classes were CANCELLED, yet again. They have been canceled at least 3 times since my arrival. The week they were supposed to take place, we got word that they were FOR REAL canceled this time. This was a good thing because it allowed me to have a weekend of rest and the next weekend I was able to attend the Elementary staff retreat. This was frustrating though, because the Thai government changes policy for the requirements of work permits, visas and all of that important stuff ALL the time, making it more and more difficult to acquire. The current word is that instead of having the mandatory Thai module language and culture trainings (government mandated) for the Thai teaching certificate and visa, in Chiang Mai, they will instead be extended from 4 day sessions to 2 week-long sessions in Bangkok. We now have four years to complete this module in Bangkok, instead of 2. BUT with all this said, it can easily change again.
Making new friends. Discovering myself. Getting "plugged-in".
Overall, I am enjoying teaching at Grace International School and love my students. They are so inquisitive and excited to learn and I'm always excited to share my passion for the things they are learning with them. They are teaching me so much through their perspectives of the world and all that they've experienced and the places they've been. We are all learning together. It is truly remarkable how much I can learn from these kids.
A few weeks ago I had this sudden urge to want to play the drums again. The cajon specifically. The next day I was asked by our music teacher, who found out I play drums, if I'd like to play at the staff retreat that weekend. What an answer to prayer! What's better is that he bought a cajon that same week to let me play! It was great being able to just "let go" and worship using my gifts and talents through music again. What joy!
Lately, I've been missing being directly involved in intercultural/multicultural ministry...specifically with the Karen. I've been praying for opportunities to minister further with this people group here in Thailand as I'm trying to find my "niche". My friend Christine and I just began an after-school club called "Diakonia" which is a greek word that means active service done with a willing attitude for the sake of the Gospel. We are leading and guiding a group of 5th and 6th graders in what ministry means and how to minister to others in the community. Once a month we are visiting a children's home nearby and a Thai school and teaching them English, spending time with one-another within this children's ministry and helping our international school kids make friends with other kids of other backgrounds. The children's home has a number of Karen and hilltribe kids, which is another answer to prayer--that I will have interactions with them. Our first Saturday was such a blessing for me that I'm planning on coming more frequently to the children's home, to get to know the kids there.
Another crazy answer to prayer...art. Well, ceramics/pottery.
Last year in Greeley, I discovered a ceramic studio that I wanted to be a part of, but realized I didn't have the time or money. GIS has a large ceramic studio in the secondary building and there is a pottery class offered each Monday evening. I'm using this opportunity to de-stress, let my creative juices flow and enjoy the experience of clay between my hands...molding and forming something beautiful from the "muck". So thankful! So far I've made an abstract coil pot and I'm working on a "leaf-design" salad bowl. We'll see if these projects turn out to be picture-worthy :)
The Elementary retreat was a good time to get-away, but was not entirely a retreat. As a staff we bonded through games (which I helped lead and facilitate), deep discussions and conversations, analyzing data to plan instruction (just not as much as I've previously experienced) and of course identifying communication styles among staff and strategies to use to support struggling students. We did get time to eat yummy food, painted, and slept. I managed to take a kayak out on the pond for a little bit. Broke some rules taking it across the road to the BIG lake...whoops, I mean, the gate was open after all! Enjoyed my time on the water and getting to know another teacher until we got caught by the Thai groundskeepers...like the rebel I am.
On September 11th, celebrated my first birthday overseas. It was such a blessing of a day. I had no idea what to expect. A friend left me a pastry and QUINOA (from the States of course) at my house for a birthday breakfast! I got to school and was serenaded by "happy birthday" three times (once each time from each of the fourth grade classes) and once from the administration and staff as they came in while I was teaching with a plate of cookies and candles for me to blow out! I received flowers, more cookies, a little treasure box with elephants on it, a Thai starbuck's gift card, homemade rubber band jewelry from my girls and a special note from each of the 4th grade students and the elementary staff compiled into three little books. Super special! To top it off, one roommate made me cupcakes, the other bought me cheesecake (my favorite) and I had a delicious pasta dinner, complete with ice cream cake for dessert, all with a friend and a wonderful, generous, family. The following Saturday night, some new friends took me out for a delicious Mexican food dinner (although not AS good as at home or in Mexico even...but it was the next best thing). Thank you to all who sent me messages, emails and sent your love my way. I feel so appreciated.
There are many adventures ahead, whose plans are in the making...looking forward to the next update already :)
The task and new challenge at hand is riding the motorbike/scooter. Although I am VERY grateful for new wheels, it also means adding a new element of risk to my day. I'm learning to ride carefully and not get too ambitious, but it will take some time to build up the courage to ride in the fast-paced, often spontaneous traffic. This I will need constant prayer for, as I hope to take the Thai drivers test in the next few weeks!
It is not always easy to be so far from what is home, comfortable and emotionally "safe", but I'm thankful for each moment of newness that life has to offer. Without it I get restless and I'm reminded that "we are restless until we rest in Christ".
My life is definitely not all rainbows and roses, but I still believe God led me to this place for a reason and I am thankful to be here for whatever it is He has in store. I'm slowly learning that not every day is going to be "fun" and exciting and quite often I learn lessons the hard way. Not everything is efficient, convenient or the way I think it "should be" but I know who cares for me even when the going gets tough and who gives me the grace along the way.
"Find fulfillment through living close to Me, yielding to My purposes for you. Though I may lead you along paths that feel alien to you, trust that I know what I am doing. If you follow Me wholeheartedly, you will discover facets of yourself that were previously hidden. I know you intimately-far better than you know yourself. In union with Me, you are complete. In closeness to Me, you are transformed more and more into the one I designed you to be."
--excerpt from "Jesus Calling"
"You see me when I travel, and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head."
1. Settling into the day-to-day
2. Reaching the over TWO month mark!
3. Overall, great health
4. God's provision-friends, families, new wheels, and times
to use my gifts/talents and passions
1. Safety on the motorbike and the passing of my Thai drivers test
2. Finding a regular church to attend
3. Upcoming Parent-Teacher Conferences
4. Continued guidance as I find my "niche" and I would clearly know which
opportunities to take and how to get involved.
Thanks for reading this rather LONG update!
Grace and Peace to you!