October Break Travels

I love getting to travel over our school holidays and breaks. Recently, all of us that work at Thida got a few weeks off of work at the end of the first semester. We wrapped up semester one at the end of September and a few days later everyone was spread out across Asia. This time, the destinations among Thida teachers included Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and for me and my husband, China.

Earlier this year, Eric and I traveled Eastern China, but this time we headed a few hours directly north of Thailand to the province of Yunnan. We were in the mountains almost the entire time, which meant lots of cooler weather. It was a nice change from the sweltering heat and humidity of Thailand. We spent a lot of the trip near the Yunnan-Tibet border hiking and cycling in the mountains. The mountains there were massive, some over 20,000 feet tall, and the views were really incredible.

The whole trip was really enjoyable, and probably one of my favorite trips in Asia so far.IMG_2442 IMG_2760 IMG_2858 IMG_3472

Homemade Yogurt

Over October break, I travelled to Pai. I met a Swedish guy there who owns a bakery/sandwich shop. I was telling him how I used to make my own bread, hummus, and things. He gave me a great idea, make your own yogurt! The yogurt here is delicious, but like Jade said recently, it’s because it’s full of sugar. He has been making some of his own yogurt lately, but this method is just a but different.

Use 1/2 of a yogurt cup.

I would buy plain, 0% fat, reduced sugar yogurt. If you can find no sugar at all, all the better. The brand Yolida is sugar-free and it is sold at Tops in Central. The dark blue Bulgaria is a reduced sugar version and it’s sold at most of the chain stores.

1 liter of milk.

I’ve seen some good quality milk in Tops, Tesco, and Family Mart. Again, the less fat in your milk, the less fat in your yogurt.

Bring the milk to 82 degrees Celsius. Use a thermometer.

Be careful not to burn the milk by doing this very slowly. I would suggest using a double boil method. Use a base pot to heat water, and a metal bowl on top of the water to hold the milk. Stir constantly.

Turn off the heat. Cool to 46 degrees Celsius.

This should take two to three hours. If it’s not particularly warm outside when you are making this, you might need to wrap the container in a towel to keep the temperature from declining too quickly.

Add yogurt and stir.

1/2 cup will be plenty.

Bottle and cool.

You can use the liter milk container to put this mixture into. Let it sit for 8 to 12 hours. Check the firmness frequently by tilting the bottle. Be careful not to let it sit out for too long, as it can spoil in this stage. Always do a smell or small taste test before enjoying.

Refrigerate.

Put it in the refrigerator for at least three hours, or until the whole bottle has cooled.

Save a bit of this yogurt.

You can continue making your own yogurt with the yogurt you just made! You only need to buy some more milk to do the whole thing all over again.

Say cheese.

I’m not sure where cheesecloth is available, but you can go even farther and make cheese. Squeeze your yogurt through a cheesecloth and store the curd in the refrigerator overnight. Stir it from time to time so it does not harden on the outside.

Extra help

In the last few months teacher David and I have been helping some of the students prepare for English speech competitions. It’s been fun getting to know students with a bit more 1-1 time. It also makes you proud to see them do well with something they’ve worked really hard on. One student, Vanessa, got 3rd place in a speech competition with 30 different students.

Currently, I’m helping Dave work with Vanessa again, as well as a student in my class, Ploy, who’s also going to be competing in a different speech competition. As of today, I started helping 3 students prepare for an group English quiz competition, in which they’ll be asked Science, Math, and English questions.

It’s been a lot of extra work but I’m happy to help the students and see them succeed.

Mai Sai Nam Tan

I’ve been trying to make an effort to reduce the amount of sugar I get in my diet and it’s no real easy task in this part of the world. “Mai sai nam tan,” is the way to ask for something without sugar. This is a good phrase to know when ordering drinks such as fruit smoothies. Thai people are usually a bit bewildered by this request because to them everything is better with more sugar.

I’ve gone as far as making my own yogurt at home now, which is actually much easier than one would think. The yogurt here is absolutely loaded with sugar. My homemade yogurt contains no sugar and although it’s not quite as sweet, it’s definitely healthier.

In the last few weeks I’ve found myself actually having what feels like sugar withdrawals. I’ve been craving it a lot and coupled with my reduced caffeine intake, I’m getting quite a few headaches. Halloween day at school was not easy!

Vacation!

There are 2 days of school left before the October break begins. Everyone is excited for their vacations and having some time out of Surat and away from school. A lot of teachers are traveling around Thailand or going to Indonesia.

I’m flying to Singapore to visit a friend who I worked with in Korea. From there, I’ll be flying to Sri Lanka for some solo travel time. I don’t have much planned but I’m hoping to get out on a blue whale watching tour, which is apparently one of the things to do while visiting. If nothing else, I’m just looking forward to some time to relax and read a book on a beach. Unfortunately, I think I’ll be fighting with monsoon season. Either way, I’m happy to have some time to myself in the near future.

Caffeine

I have a very complicated relationship with caffeine. At the moment, I’m in the the throes of an intense romantic love affair with my coffee and Thai teas. This is the complete antithesis of my relationship with caffeinated beverages a few months back, when a little too much caffeine would have me sweating and shaking on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

As it stands now, I look forward to my morning cup of coffee, even if it is instant and I’m always on the lookout for the best Thai tea. This morning I found that someone (an unnamed teacher) had pilfered our coffee supply in the MEP office. I felt an oncoming caffeine headache accompanied with some irrational rage. Fortunately, I was able to get a bottled iced-tea from the canteen in the cafeteria.

As I write this, I’m drinking a coffee and I’m day dreaming of frothy foamed milk in a sweet Thai tea. I’m sure a few months down the road I’ll swear caffeine off again for the umpteenth time in my life after I have an attack of tachycardia and convince myself I’m having a heart-attack. Until then, I’ll keep indulging like the addict I am. Because, let’s be honest, caffeine is a drug.

Thida Lunch Continues…

This school year started with a string of great lunches. In fact, we counted a 2 week streak of great, not just good, but great lunches. Now, as the semester winds down, an unparalleled stretch of bad lunches continues here at Thida. Record breaking numbers of gangsom curries plague the tables, forcing English teachers into hiding, or at least into finding alternative sources for lunch.

Yesterday was gangsom and boiled eggs, while today was salt fish and boiled eggs. When will it end?