Loi Krathong Day!

Yesterday Thailand celebrated Loy Krathong day!  Although I’m a bit rusty about my overall knowledge of the special day, it pays homage to the Water Goddess by releasing lotus shaped rafts (krathongs), sometimes made of bread, decorated with incense, candles, and flowers down a river.

Typically, Loi Krathong falls on the twelfth lunar month, usually in November, at the end of the rainy season.  It symbolizes a way of saying thank you for the previous year’s abundant supply of water and to make an apology for polluting the water.  Some people believe it also symbolizes ‘floating away’ anger, etc. from the previous year and offers a fresh start.  Sometimes, people put some of their hair or a fingernail to release any negative feelings or energy and to start fresh. It’s believed that if your candle stays lit until the krathong is out of sight, you’ll be in store for a year’s worth of good luck.

We celebrated this special day at school with the kids taking a break from their usual uniforms and wearing traditional Thai dress.  Needless to say, it was absolutely adorable to see them in their attire and the pictures never stopped!  It also helped remind me how young and precious they really are…somehow they seem older and more mature in their Thida uniforms.  A good way to regain perspective.

The Anubans held an assembly during the morning (easy to hear while trying to teach) in the main area, complete with dances and games.  In the center was a mini kid pool, where many students and teachers placed their krathongs ‘down the river.’  I had the fortune of having second period off and joined in on the fun.  I’ve never been grabbed for so many pictures before!

The MEP students had their assembly after lunch in the assembly area.  They too enjoyed singing the traditional Loi Krathong song, dancing, and playing games with their class.  The Super teachers were ‘invited’ to participate and found ourselves rather sweaty after participating in a relay race, some sort of limbo game, and a class snake game.  It was good fun, but definitely exhausting in that heat!  After, the MEP students also sent their krathongs ‘down the river.’

I had the good fortune to go to the pier and take a small boat out on the water.  There, we lit our krathongs and lanterns and enjoyed watching them float and fly away.  I don’t think we could’ve handled anymore people on that boat…it was tipping back and forth pretty good!  It was nice to see this event this year, as last year’s event was dampened by heavy rain all evening.  My krathong a student gave me never got it’s proper use.

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MEP English Camp Take II

Recently the MEP program took a break from a normal Friday to schedule to have an all-day English camp.  The theme was ‘In the Jungle’ and students enjoyed a variety of stations, games, and activities centered around this theme.  Stations ranged from Teacher Torie’s ‘Jungle Boogie’ game, where students played a freeze dance game and worked to match different jungle animals and their offsprings to Teacher Joel’s ‘Amazing Amazonian Animals’ game, where the kids learned about different jungle animals, did a connect the dots worksheet, then enjoyed a memory game with their completed worksheets and animal labels.

The day was an exciting yet busy one, as each one of the ten MEP teachers had their own station.  Each station lasted twenty minutes, so getting through all the games and activities sometimes was a challenge!

My station was called the ‘Banana Peel Challenge’ game.  I presented a PPT with jungle animals and depending on the student class/level, we discussed various things.  For example, with the older students, we talked about what the animals eat, warm/cold blooded, their habitats, etc.  I knew I needed to challenge the older ones to retain their attention.

Afterwards, I led them through a series of questions to get them answering about monkeys.  I’d bought some bananas and was going to have them try to peel them without using their hands, but soon realized how many bananas would be needed.  Instead, I lined up two kids at the opposite side of the room and asked them how monkeys walk/run.  They got down on all fours and with only using their legs kicked the bananas across the room and back.  I told them if they kicked it like a soccer ball the other ‘monkeys’ in the room (students) could come take their bananas.  The younger ones really got into it and things got quite competitive!

Throughout the course of the event, we also had three assemblies.  While we didn’t do the songs to save time (and most of them have been recycled over and over, ha) we had a huge limbo game with all the kids….then with the teachers!

The last and final assembly involved putting ten ping pong balls into an empty tissue box and taping the box around a student’s waist.  Their goal was to shake all the balls out of the box the fastest.  Those kids can really move!  To conclude the day, five of the Thai teachers played the same game….hats off to Teacher Neung for competing in record time!

I believe this was our last English camp for the year.  While they’re a good bit of work to coordinate, prepare, and execute, they always seem to come together when the day arrives and the children really enjoy them!



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Thida Teacher English Camp

This past Saturday the teachers from both Old and New Thida gathered for an Asean themed English camp.  It was a great turn out and more than a few laughs!

The teachers enjoyed listening and participating to different stations like Travel (how to buy a ticket via various transportation options), Shopping (which stores offer what items/how to purchase items), Restaurant (going to/ordering food at different restaurants), Greetings (learning when it’s appropriate to say various greetings/slang in English/various situations), Tourism (discovering where teachers would go for a ‘dream holiday’ and items to bring, etc.).

My station was called ‘Love, Serve, and Forgive.’  We talked about different ways we can express love, like a spouse/family, favorite activities, and favorite places.  I think it was helpful to show different ways to express love and not just focus on one thing.

To explain serving, we talked about going to a restaurant and how a waiter takes your order, brings drinks/food, and takes care of you during your experience.  We also covered serving one’s country, i.e. military service, in the community (police officer, firefigher, etc.) and serving one’s God through religion.

Last was forgiving.  As teachers, we can all relate to being wound up by a student, but it’s always important to let that go and realize they are children.  The same thing goes for personal relationships.

To apply these principles, we prepared some simple examples of each of the three and rolled them inside balloons.  The teachers enjoyed popping them and trying to see if they could match the phrase with the correct principle.  They did very well!  It was great to see them enjoying the activity and not looking at their watches to get out of the room!

I personally had a great time and loved seeing the Thai teachers cut loose!  The  Green team was my favorite (somehow we got them two times during the day) and had a lot of energy!  All in all a great day and the bar’s been raised for next year’s event!

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First Day Back at Thida

Well, the past few weeks of holiday really flew by!  It was great to have a bit of time to relax and kick back at the beach for a bit.  I had the opportunity to see my brother from Hong Kong on Samui for a few days, which was great!  Like all good things, holiday had to come to an end.

This semester we welcome two new teachers, Alex and Ashton!  Alex has previously taught in Thailand before, which will help his learning curve at Thida.  He’s set to take over Emma’s P1 class (they have all the fun kids!), while Ashton will take over Brittney’s P6 class.  We spent some time with them this week reviewing their various responsibilities over the past two days, hopefully addressing any concerns and questions they had!  Both seem very excited and I know they’ll do a great job in the classroom.  As always, we encouraged them to relax, have fun, smile, and enjoy themselves!  The more fun they’re having in the classroom, the quicker the kids will take a liking to them, increasing fun for all.

Today we had our general year meeting with Peter–of course, the second semester really flies by, so it was a good chance to re-connect with everybody and remind us to buckle down and maximize the time we have in the classroom.  The scary part is the Christmas break is here in about 7 weeks time!

This week has also seen a lot of traffic around the streets of Surat.  The dragon boat races are going on around town, and the floats have been seen all over the roads….of course, makes for a longer commute, but very interesting to see!  There was a lot of traditional Thai dress and dance, and the streets were packed to see everything!  A nice way to end the holiday break.  Of course, I should remember to wear sunscreen and not wear light blue!!

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New Bike

I was leery I might have to go down this avenue at some point, but I was hoping it wouldn’t be right around holiday time. When I arrived in Surat, I purchased a pre-owned (must’ve been an outgoing teacher) bike. It was ok last year, as I only had to pay about 800 baht to maintain/repair various things with it. This year, though, has been a nightmare. I was driving several weeks back, crossing a major road, when I felt the bike cut off. Luckily, I was able to re-start it and get across safely, as there were no oncoming cars.

Of course, when I left the restaurant, the bike wouldn’t start, wouldn’t turn over, wouldn’t do anything essentially. I couldn’t even kick start the darn thing. I went back the same weekend to see if I would have better luck, but same result.

In hindsight, I should’ve called X (of X Rentals and Service fame) from the very get go. I sent him a message at school the next day, and he happened to be by Thida. He picked me up in a matter of minutes after school and pushed it with his mechanic friend to the mechanic’s shop across the street. The rough news was the diagnosis: The engine was shot…costing 4,700 baht.

I was hoping to get through this year with my same piece of junk bike, but it just wasn’t worth the trouble anymore. To add insult, after arriving back from traveling, I was greeted to a dead battery. That was the last straw–X helped me get the bike back to his spot, I took a look at a few he had in his inventory, test drove them, and made my selection. While it was a bit more than I wanted to pay, whatever I can get from essentially my old one being sold for parts should work out.

X has been so awesome through my time here–always willing to help out, goes the extra mile, and does it with a smile. Before I took the bike, he checked the oil and everything, plus is replacing the brake handle free of charge and swapping the green book info into my name gratis as well. He’s a great dude and I’m thankful he’s in town!

The black bike below is my old one (RIP) and the one on the right is my new ride…I hope safer and less hassle than the first one!



Getting a Haircut in Surat

One of the more interesting experiences over the past year and a half has definitely been getting my haircut.  When I first arrived to town, I went out to Central, as I figured it was my best shot.  After discovering the prices at the shops there pushed 500-600 baht, I figured I’d take my chances elsewhere.

Up until recently, my gameplan for a haircut was driving up and down Karunrat on my bike and popping into any barber shop/salon I could find.  Usually, I’d have to go through several shops until I could find one that’d cut my hair.  I’d get the usual responses of 1) the non-verbal giant X with hands 2) ‘no English speak’ 3) completely ignoring me until I left.

About 4 months ago I luckily found myself a good spot where I’ve been a repeat customer.  Just past the corner of Karunrat and Cheon Kasem (spelling?) is a little shop next to a 7-11 (I know, I know…7-11’s are everywhere!).  I’d give some sort of identification for the shop, but I haven’t seen much in English outside of ‘Barber.’  There’s a little stall out front where a woman, who I think is the man’s wife, sells some sort of delicious dessert-type of cake.

I’ve been really happy with the service at this barber.  We used to have the awkward conversation about how I wanted my hair styled. Thankfully, mine isn’t too complicated. He has the array of various men’s haircuts on the wall…everything from outdated looks from 10 years ago to the Justin Beieber look. I’m really happy all I have to say is, “#2 on the sides and blend the rest in, please.” The first time or two I went, I had a bit more chopped off than I wanted, but that’s ok. The way I figured, if I got a bat cut, I’d simply shave my head and go from there (benefit of men’s hair). After going several times, the barber knows what I like and there’s no hassle.

Of course, back in the States, haircuts are about $17 at the generic Supercuts chains. For 80 baht, I not only got my hair cut, but also got the razor blade treatment on my neckline, ears, and between my eyebrows. Additionally, he’ll give me a razor blade shave for no extra cost and get a hot towel afterwards. Probably the most surprising part was the mini massage he gave my shoulders and head! Not used to all of that for such a bargin price!

It’s nice to finally have a place I can rely on and feel like I get great service. I typically give the barber an extra 20 baht for all the extras he provides, and he’s quite happy with that! In fact, I’ll be going this week again!

I’d share some pictures of the location and inside, but I felt it might make them a bit uncomfortable, so I held off!





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End of the Semester

It’s hard to believe the end of the term is already here!  I can still think back to the start of the school year…excitement in the air, fresh faces running around, and all the time in the world.   It’s scary how fast the weeks come and go these days!

I’ve never really done many big party things with my students until today.  I spoke with one of my students’ moms over the course of the week and she helped me arrange to have pizza delivered!  I think she let the cat out of the bag, as a couple of the kids were yelling for pizza as soon as I walked in the classroom.

It wasn’t easy to arrange for me…so was super happy with my students mom delivered the pizza herself!   Unfortunately, I missed her, as I was in the office wondering when the pizza might be come.  I was deathly afraid something might go wrong and I’d have to see looks of disappointment on those little faces!  Luckily everything went through without and hiccups.

Today was a nice, casual day to celebrate all the kids’ hard work.  I’ve seen some major improvement in some students–Nan and Good come to mind.  I can see their hard work is paying off and less and less shy and timid behavior.  Rather, there seems to be a new confidence that’s awesome to see!

Of course, I’m happy as well to have a bit of a break.  As much as I love the students and Thida, I’ve been feeling a little bit worn down.  I am excited to have some time to get away and enjoy some rest and relaxation.  I plan to go to Cambodia next week alone to explore and think about how I might improve my class next term.  After 1.5 years together, ideas and games can become stale…and I’ve always prided myself on having fun in the room!  My view is that if the kids are having fun, they’ll not realize how much they’re learning.  I do push them to become better, but can’t lose sight of the overall big picture!

There are still many things I want to improve upon next term.  Following through with homework worksheets is probably the biggest.  Finding a way to get through to a few of the weaker students so they don’t feel sad or discouraged.  I have such a wide range of levels in the room, sitting stronger students with weaker ones not as effective as I would hope.

I’ll definitely use some time in Cambodia to do some reading (poolside of course!) and researching to see how I can improve my class moving forward.  It’s a challenge, but one I am excited for!