Christmas elephants from my 4th grade class!
Pics of "what I've been up to"
Pics from the village trek
Since I am lacking the snow and cold of winter, I am enjoying the "cooler" (80 F) temperatures (at times still 95 F) this Christmas season in Chiang Mai. I both love this time of year and dread it at the same time.
I've been keeping busy as usual, continually learning to refocus my eyes on the little blessings each day brings.
No breaks from teaching! We had our annual field trip to the botanical gardens and insect zoo which was fun for all the kids (and adults)! I'll never forget how all the kids saw the grassy lawn area outside of the gardens and just took off running. The huge fountain at the bottom of the hill all of the sudden shot up and they all ran to the edge of the pond to get sprayed by the water. As I watched them all get soaked and come crawling up the hill with huge smiles on their little faces I couldn't be mad. Such a joyful moment and something they probably won't forget either!
Thanksgiving was a busy time. Although I was pretty homesick, I was not alone and enjoyed chicken dinner (turkey's were banned from the county this year due to an avian flu) with three groups of people. I was left struggling with contentment as the heat seemed unbearable, mice running around our house and things breaking down, my attitude was less than thankful with my circumstances.
It wasn't until I watched as my students shared what they had written on my "thankful" board, I realized I have been so self-centered and focused...forgetting the many blessings I have right before me, including the gift of experiencing a different life and perspective many miles from home with an enthusiastic group of kids that bring a lot of joy to my life.
Diakonia kept me very busy the months of November and December. It was all worth it to have our kids share the Christmas story with other kids and spend extra time teaching each other and spending time with one another. Lots of laughter at those meetings! Always crazy with a group of around 20 5th and 6th grade students crammed in the back of a songthaew (open-bed truck taxi) pulling up to the Thai school or a children's home. I am so proud of our students and the courage they exemplify in teaching other kids English and building relationships with the kids we serve and encourage at each location. I see so many great leaders in that group! They may be young but that doesn't and shouldn't hinder them!
Celebrating Christmas with my students was a lot of fun! They were so sweet in trying to make the whole month (actually, even before Thanksgiving) special! We made a class advent calendar and they decorated my entire room with snowflakes (even though many have never seen snow!), Christmas trees, santas and even a reindeer and sleigh. After sending them home after cookie decorating, I was one exhausted teacher.
In the beginning of December I traveled to Seoul, South Korea again (visited twice before that trip). I attended a Google Educators conference to be trained and taught on the different Google technologies, resources and apps to help support our students' learning in this increasingly technological age. It was very informative and often felt like a fire-hose of information was shot at me. As an educator I had to decide which information could be most useful to my student's and their learning as well as which resources we have available to us at the international school level.
When not in conference, the other teachers from GIS and I were out and about in the COLD winter air. When we arrived in Seoul it was snowing! The other days were just chilly. Each time I go to Seoul, I'm struck by how the traditional Korean culture continues to thrive in an ever-changing and modern city. The architecture is incredible! I enjoyed walking through a park all bundled up drinking a Christmas-spice vanilla tea latte from Starbucks :)
The conference was overall a wonderful opportunity, not only to get a break from the routines of life but I also enjoyed learning new things!
My two weeks off from teaching have been great so far. After report cards, I got out of town and went on a three day two night trek in the jungle/forest hills outside of Chiang Mai. It was an awesome time of satisfying my love for nature and being outdoors. I went with a few other teachers from my school. We spent many hours hiking many miles each day, tromping through fields of banana, passionfruit and papaya plantations and forests to reach Karen hilltribe villages. We toured three different Karen community schools and met teachers, talking with them (as best as we could in Thai and with translators) about what it is like teaching so remote and away from the city. We also spent time playing and singing with kids at the schools which was a fun treat.
We slept in bamboo houses on raised stilts above the ground with nothing but a thin mat on the floor and a mosquito net. Food was cooked over a fire and eaten under the stars by candlelight. A rustic experience, for sure, but always so worth it to taste the simple, yet often rough and difficult life of many people in this country.
Christmas Eve included two special get togethers with close friends from school and Teach Beyond. On Christmas day, the house mates and I enjoyed a breakfast together and then a lunch at a restaurant. The day ended by spending time with a dear family here and lighting lanterns to celebrate Christ's birth.
The New Year is quickly approaching. I need wisdom and guidance as I will soon make my final decision about returning for another school year. At this point I am almost positive I'll be here one more year, but seeking confirmation of that and what the future holds for next steps to take. If I choose to stay, it also means facing, yet again, many, many changes and challenges. Walking this faith journey not alone, but still afraid of the ever present loneliness that singles often endure on the field.
1. For the joy that teaching my students brings me
2. Christmas break and the time to reflect and rest
3. So incredibly thankful for my supporters and people at home who pray me through every situation.
1. My decision to serve another year here and the many unknowns at this point while I’m trying to navigate my own desires to get a Master’s degree, potentially teach or work in a different field, ministry etc. Whatever and wherever that may be.
2. Definitely a difficult time of year…especially to make decisions and be away from family.
3. Our school needs prayer…big changes ahead in leadership (our superintendent resigned and our school was just rejected in a Thai supreme court case dealing with the property we lease which means that the neighborhood can evict us at any time…) Pray that negotiations between the school board and our opposition can come to an agreement about renting our facility so we don’t have even more stress in where to meet as a school.
Thank you. Thank you for reading this, for supporting me, whether through words of encouragement, financially, prayerfully or even just thinking of me. It means a lot. I will continually say I am thankful for all the support I receive because it is what allows me to be present here and do what the Lord has called me to do for this season. I appreciate YOU!!! I pray that you will all have a great 2016!
Sara Gurule c/o