I've hit the 3 week mark! In a lot of ways it feels like I left the States over a month ago. A LOT has changed and happened in a relatively short time, like it usually does! Since everyone will probably get bored of reading every little detail about my life (unless, if you're reading this and really want to know it all...please let me know and I'd be happy to Skype you :)) I'll spare specifics and share just some main happenings as of late.
My second week before kids came, the school provided transportation, rooms, meals and adventure at a hotel in downtown Chiang Mai for an annual staff retreat. It was great getting to know my fellow staff for grades K-12, administration and all the people that make GIS possible. I was so thankful to get to share some of my journey and enjoyed worshiping and "retreating" with so many inspiring people and new friends. One of my favorite parts of the retreat was going out in groups of 3 to 6, around the city (mainly to a large night market called "Night Bazaar") and having to find certain landmarks and items for a photo scavenger hunt. This was not only fun, but helpful in getting to understand Thai culture and where to find things better (especially the foot bathes where little fish eat the dead skin off your feet...) :)
I enjoyed the lanterns, the lights, the smell of delicious food, the bright colors, the excitement of being in a foreign city. It is a beautiful one...perhaps why there are so many people that visit this place formerly known as Siam. :)
Teaching has begun!
Hooray! I'm back in the classroom...this time in a totally different setting. My room is quite large, with high ceilings and many windows, so there is good lighting. Lovely tropical plants adorn my windows and door leading outside. My classroom is located in the intermediate elementary section of the school called "the stables" although it is a lot nicer than an actual "stable". My room came fully furnished from previous teachers and was thankfully very organized and equipped with most everything I need to teach. I just had to get some things from the store and use some things I brought with me, move some furniture around to make it my own. It feels good.
My new 4th graders walked through my doors on Wednesday morning. I was already surprised multiple times by the politeness and thankfulness of the students for their teacher. This is probably going to be an adjustment for quite some time, as well as the crazy schedule and ability to very creatively teach science, math and reading to meet standards. My 17/35 kids (my team teacher and I share them all) have completely unique backgrounds from each other...something that I appreciate so much from previous teaching. The 4th grade class has a range of students from Thailand, Korea, India, Australia, UK and the US. Some have lived in up to 6 other countries before coming to Thailand at such a young age. Their parents vary in work...some have a parent (s) that teach at the school, other parents run orphanages, run churches and other ministries in the area, own businesses/chains, some have work in other countries of the world where their base is in Chiang Mai. It is such a wonderful opportunity to teach these kids (many of which don't feel like they can identify with one-single culture) and learn from their multiple perspectives and grow with them in learning about the culture and language in this community we are part of. I am thrilled and honored to be their teacher.
Teaching is great, but it's also important that I get outside of the school walls and doors and explore this incredible place I now live in full of natural beauty. I mean c'mon, I'm from Colorado...there is always adventure to be had.
The day before school began was the Queen of Thailand's birthday and National Mother's Day, so therefore, no school. I had spent 14 hours at the school the day before preparing my classroom for kids to come so that I could take the holiday to R&R.
One of my roommates and I decided to go for a bike ride up a road that leads into the foothills of the mountains/rainforest. It was wonderful to ride up into these incredible canopy forests covered in green mosses, grasses and crazy looking trees. Looking out I was completely awed at the beauty surrounding me.
The further up we biked, the steeper it was becoming and motorbikes and cars/trucks whizzed past us...people looking at us like we were dumb for attempting to make it up a mountain on a bike. Even the "macho" road bikers with the fancy gear were scoffing at us. We looked pathetic drenched in sweat and needing water. Fortunately, no matter where you are there are food stands and small cafes everywhere...even in the heart of the jungle...the Thai love their coffee! So on the way back down the mountain we found a cute little coffee stand with chairs and tables floating out in a river. The randomness of it all, but fantastic!
On Saturday, to celebrate another teacher friend's birthday and our first week of school, my roommates and I went about an hour out of town into the rainforest to explore Bua Tong, an area that foreigners call "Sticky Falls". We ate our "sticky rice" and chicken before CLIMBING up AND down these beautiful waterfalls. The climbing is made possible by the porous limestone that makes it easy to walk on and clings to your feet (thus, why it is called "Sticky"). The water is warm and felt incredible since I was getting eaten alive by mosquitos and definitely sweaty (as always here). It was definitely one getaway I hope to come back to again and again...so peaceful and calm.
I praise God for leading me to a place where there is an abundance of natural beauty and opportunities to explore. He definitely knows my heart.
Despite plumbing issues in our aged Thai house, the lack of efficiency in tasks, the unfortunate morning bike rides to work in monsoon rain/mud, the it's not WRONG, just DIFFERENT mentality....all in all, I'm learning the ropes and adjusting as best as I can and know how.
What's coming up?
Well besides teaching and another little day-trip coming up, I have mandatory Thai language and culture classes starting up the week after next. Two intense/long weekends of learning about this culture. I'm looking forward to expanding my knowledge and learning more than just "hello, goodbye, thank-you, one, two, three..." but not looking forward to two entire weeks of straight- through-teaching-learning-in-the-classroom thing without a break. Please pray that it wouldn't be so bad and I'd actually get a lot out of it!
1. New school year and a so far fantastic class! 2. Chances to experience great beauty 3. Getting to know more people, making new friends
1. Continued energy with starting school (early mornings and being gone all day is ROUGH-totally forgot how that feels after summer vacation). 2. Ways to reach out to my students and make deeper connections...that I would teach them well 3. Thai Language and Culture Modules and I would start seeing things not as WRONG but in the mindset of "that's just how we do things here in Thailand". :)