Happy Thanksgiving

Today, unsurprisingly, doesn’t feel anything like Thanksgiving here in Surat. There are no decorations, no parades, no turkey trots, no feasts, no football, no big family gatherings, and no days off from school. In fact, Thida served about the most farang-unfriendly meal possible today, with dried salted fish and a fishy fermented soup. Ugh.

But… in 46 hours and 36 minutes we’ll have our annual Super English Thanksgiving party at Sweet Kitchen! (who’s counting, though?…) This is our third Thanksgiving in Surat, and this has been one of my absolute favorite SE events throughout our time here. Each year that we’ve been here, Peter has bought us a massive Thanksgiving feast at a restaurant run by a chef who spent a long time in America. Stuffing, mac n’ cheese, and lots of other great food. It’s a taste of home and I can’t wait!

Only 46 hours and 34 minutes now!

Old Thida Renovations

Thida is separated into 3 campuses – Old Thida (or Thida 1 as many Thai teachers call it), New Thida (Thida 2), and MEP. The MEP students in all grades go to class in the MEP building, adjacent to New Thida. The building is brand new, just now in its second year, and is well-designed and pleasant-looking.

Students in Anuban 1 (3 year olds) through Prathom 2 attend class at New Thida, the giant building that looks like a bit like a spaceship ready to launch a colony to a distant solar system. It was built less than 10 years ago and still looks nice and new.

Then there’s Old Thida, about a 3 minute walk down the road. It is, as the name would suggest, quite old. It looks it too. You walk in and feel like you’re in a typical schoolyard built in the 1940s with a bit of Thai style mixed in. It’s not exactly an eyesore, but it’s definitely not the building they show off to parents, either. But over the last month, Thida has decided to spruce it up a bit, maybe to catch the attention of people driving by on the street. They built a fancy new glass facade and have remodeled the entryway. Supposedly, Old Thida’s getting a full makeover throughout the rest of the year. Just another example of Surat looking more and more modern.

Old Thida Front Entrance

MEP Restaurants

This semester I’ve been trying to do a lot of projects. I have a very difficult class of prepubescent girls and motivation and positivity is not their strongest attribute. I’ve found that doing a lot of projects and independent work has improved the students English as well as motivated them.

Here’s a rundown of my current English Project:

Teacher Dave (P6) and I are working together to coordinate this project. Students from both of our classes will work in groups of 4 to create their own restaurants. Each group was given a cuisine to learn about. Each group will think of a restaurant name and create a menu with 5 meals, 2 appetizers, 2 drinks, and 2 desserts; the students will also need to include descriptions and prices for everything on the menu.

Cuisines include countries such as Italy, Korea, Japan, and Greece; 15 cuisines in total were given but Thai food was excluded. Students work together in class and at home researching their cuisines on the internet.

Once the students have finished creating their menus, they’ll write, rehearse, and record short 30 second long commercials for their restaurant. Commercials should be funny, yet informative. Teacher Dave and I will record and edit the commercials. Once the commercials are finished, we’ll have an in-class showing so the students can see each restaurants’ video.

Next, we’ll have the P5 and P6 classrooms turned into mock restaurants. Students will operate their restaurants by taking orders, describing dishes, and delivering meals to the other students who will be playing customers. This is meant to be a fun activity that gives students the opportunity to use meaningful language in a pretend restaurant environment.

Finally, once the project is completed, we’ll have a food day in our classes. Groups will be awarded extra points for bringing real food into class. For example: The Italian restaurant group should bring a dish found in Italian cuisine, while the group with Japanese cuisine should try to bring a Japanese dish. This is of course not mandatory and only for fun. This will give the students an opportunity to try some of the different cuisines we have been discussing. It’s also a fun way to finish the project. Teacher Dave and I also plan to cook some American food and bring it in for the students to try!

New Places in Surat: Jam Bar & Restaurant

Within the past six months or so, a few notable watering holes have sprung up around town. When I moved here just over two years ago, a good beer was hard to find in Surat. Heineken or Carlsberg weren’t too hard to come across in nicer places around town, but when it came to finding anything a step up from those at a bar or restaurant, there weren’t even a handful of options. Now though, a few new bars have joined the ranks in Surat and they’ve both quickly become two of the most popular spots in town to hang out and get a good drink.

The most recently opened establishment is Jam Bar & Restaurant. If you drive down Chon Kasem from the river, you’ll find it just past the Karunrat intersection on the left. The place has a nice ambiance and the vintage decor combined with the two-level open air setup make for a nice place to grab a few drinks with friends. The best thing about Jam though is that the drinks are tasty AND reasonably priced AND ┬ámade with good quality liquor. Most cocktails will only set you back 90 baht and they also have wine for 80 baht a glass. A few of us think that the strawberry margarita might be the best mixed drink in town and I can definitely recommend the white russian.

Their food menu is almost completely Thai dishes and while it’s a little bit pricey, everything I’ve tried has been good. The cashew chicken and fried shrimp are both nice. The food menu is not translated into English, but a few of the waiters and waitresses speak some English and can help you out.

With great cocktails, reasonable prices, and a relaxed atmosphere, Jam has quickly become quite popular among teachers and expats in Surat. If you haven’t been, go check it out!

Gettin’ Educated

Every semester I’ve been in Thailand has been a little different. The ways I’ve spent my time, both professionally and personally, have changed throughout my stay here. Some semesters I’ve really been into inventing new games to play in class or creating engaging class projects for my MEP students. At times I’ve spent a lot of my free time playing soccer, swimming, brewing beer, or reading.

This semester I decided to take advantage of the abundant free time in the evenings this job affords and take an online class. I’ve always been fascinated by data and statistics (baseball stats were how I learned math as a kid) and have had a few math classes covering the basics over the years. This past year, I discovered the website fivethirtyeight, which uses data to tell stories about sports, politics, food, culture, etc.. I’ve read nearly every feature there for the past 6 months and it’s really sparked my interest again.

I recently came across an online course series in data science on Coursera. With my intrigue renewed and my time available, I decided to dive in this semester. I’m currently learning how to use an advanced statistical program, and soon I’ll be learning about regression models and finding trends in data. It’s fun and interesting, and should give me some useful skills. I’ve also started collecting data on Thida lunch for my first personal stats project. More on that in a coming post.

I love that working here is giving me so much freedom to pursue personal development in addition to teaching, and it’s something I’ll likely miss a lot once I’m gone.

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.


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!