Saturday, July 7, 2012

Set Laao

June 12, 2012 was my last day of PC service. My mom is having some health problems and I want to help. Those of you who know my mom, know how much she was/is there for me and my family. She was there for all the trauma of illnesses and all the joys of family traditions. My kids loved it when Dougie and I left town – that meant Grandma was coming. I get immense pleasure in seeing my kids so close to my parents. Family connectivity through the generations teaches our children so many valuable lessons and enriches their lives in so many ways. It brings them warmth, security, fun, stability, a sense of connection and belonging to something special. So of course I am coming home. I will (do) miss PC, my village, my Thai friends, and my PCV buddies (we had funnnn!). I will come home to my family, my friends, and get re-acquainted with the Big Bear community – looking forward to that. I will start my business (send grant rfps my way please) and my next phase. So… Top 10 things I will miss in Thailand (no particular order): • My project – it will continue, but I wasn’t quite ready to launch it. The library is my joy! • My PCV buddies – what would I have done without you? So much fun. I have new lifelong friends. New adventures together still to come. Will miss our bpai tiaos to Bangkok and the beach. • My nickname – nothing like riding my bike and having the community yell out Baa Kare – Aunt Karen – in greeting! • My office – they would do anything for me and continually went out of their way to make sure I was happy – buying me bamboo plants (good luck and shade), hanging my mosquito net and hammock, bringing me food, driving me to the city, etc., etc., etc. • My bike – loved riding everyday. • The kids – so helpful, so cute, so willing to accept me into their lives. • Pineapple cookies – so good! • Thai fruit – mangos, papayas, pineapples, bananas…so yummy! • Storms – intense and beautiful. • My aerobics class – all ages, coming together in the afternoon, in the heat, working out to Thai music played at double time! And in the interest of fair and balanced, there are things I will not miss: • Bugs – yuck, too many and too big. Going to the bathroom without my mosquito zapper will be a welcome change as will not sleeping under a net! Centipedes and scorpions especially will not miss. • The weather – hot, hot and rainy, humid – so hot you sleep naked with windows open and the fan blasting…and you still sweat. • The fishbowl – I don’t like being the center of attention, everyone always knows your business. • The ambiguity – not knowing Thai, I frequently did not know what was going on until the last minute or never. I would go to work in the morning and maybe no one would be there, or they would all be there all dressed up for the occasion (there is always an occasion) and somehow I missed the memo. • Greng jai – agreeing so as not to confront, pleasing at all costs, never really knowing if yes is yes or if yes is yes just to make me happy but means no. • No water – a mystery, never knowing from day to day, from hour to hour, will it be on? • Storms – so intense sometimes I had to turn my computer off to save it from a power surge…and my life pretty much revolved around my computer. • Noise – Thailand is so damn loud! Roosters, dogs, cats, karaoke, trucks, TV, music – always blaring. • The food – salt, sugar, MSG, bugs! Enuf said. • Slow and unreliable internet. And…back to America, looking forward to: • Family – seeing my kids, mom, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews without a major investment in time and $$$. Just deciding to visit and having it be so easy! • Driving – not depending on someone else to get somewhere. • Shopping –not having to drive an hour to get good nonfat milk. Finding organic produce, good wine, really just about anything. • A set table – may sound silly, but I am looking forward to a set table with matching dishes and linens, inviting you to enjoy a meal, at a table (not the floor), engaging in conversation I can follow and participate in. • A comfy bed – Thai beds suck! • Nightlife – stay outside at night and not getting eaten alive by the bugs • Weather – looking forward to CA summers, winters, falls, springs! • Holidays – Thais have them, and they were interesting to learn about, but they are not my traditions and I am bound by my traditions (strings anyone?) • Work – with a paycheck!! Peace Corps is a vow of poverty! Although many PCVs may say I strayed from that vow now and then ;) • Being home – for all the ills our country is dealing with, it is a great place and its mine and I am happy to be a small part of it!! Peace Corps was an adventure. I felt valued and useful and the better for the experience. Signing off for the last time, Karen PCV Thailand ------------------------ Parting shots...fond memories!

Thursday, May 31, 2012


The last post is one of my favorites. This one not so much. My least favorite part of Thailand is the bugs, or maybe it’s the weather. No, this week, it’s the bugs. Last night had an invasion of the main mow (excuse the spelling and sound it out), the name according to one of my kids. They come after it rains and they come in swarms, attracted to light and are really really gross. Twice I got swarmed when I was in training, literally thousands of these flying insects entered my bedroom from who knows where. They die quickly, but it is miserable until they do. Your only defense is to turn off the light and leave and come back about an hour later. A dead mess on the floor, but at least not flying in your face. So…new town, new house, I would get a few but not too bad. Especially once my screen was put up on the wall with holes in the living room and even better after Thom and Zach screened the major openings in the kitchen and bathroom. I still get bugs, but not as many. Last night, working on my computer, I see a few flying around, and a few more. They were coming under the door from the kitchen into the living room. I sealed it with one plastic bag, they still came, I sealed it with 2 plastic bags, they slowed to a trickle, but still the number was growing rapidly. I looked around…and then I saw them, coming through the crack in between my front doors. There was my tookay, happily eating them, but only one of my 3 tookays was there, and he could not keep up. A valiant effort. I really wasn’t ready to call it a night. So I did battle. My mosquito zapper was pretty effective, dying bugs everywhere. They come in as larvae (I am making this up, but I think it is accurate) in pairs and scurry around together. All of the sudden one runs off quickly, sprouts wings and flies away. I spent way too much time at war with the bugs, but I was able to finally finish my job for the evening. I swept up most of the mess and finished in the morning. No dishes done that night, wasn’t going in the kitchen with lights blaring announcing a new battle. I figured it was better to deal with the ants in the morning.
When I opened the front door in the morning, this was the mess that greeted me. So, most did not make it in!

PC Thailand 50th Anniversary

This July is the 50th Anniversary of Peace Corps working in Thailand. To honor the occasion, PC asked volunteers to do a community service project. I worked with Kruu Rath (my friend who teaches English in the high school) and Balat Sukon (City Manager) on a project honoring PC and Visakha Bucha Day. This day honors Buddha’s birth, death, and enlightenment. 50 high school students learned Buddha’s 8 fold path in Thai and in English and discussed how to relate the path to their everyday life. The path is: Right View Right Intention Right Speech Right Action Right Livlihood Right Effort Right Mindfulness Right Concentration They then made beautiful posters, drawing most of the pictures free hand, and flashcards to teach younger students what they learned. The high schoolers proved to be excellent teachers. They divided the primary students into 5 groups and taught them the path in Thai and English, rewarding good participation with candy. They had a rapt audience. The teachers and students had fun, learned a bit more about Buddhism, expanded their English, and contributed to community pride and volunteerism. A great way to celebrate Peace Corps 50th and Visakah Bucha Day. In July current and former PCVs will gather to celebrate the anniversary. The US Ambassador and the Princess of Thailand will take part in the celebration.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Trip to the States and Back Again

My last post was April 24, over a month since I last posted. I seem to get writer’s block (maybe writer’s lack of motivation) when I come back after a trip home. I assumed the longer I am here the easier to go back and forth, but the opposite is the case. I keep telling myself, 9 months, like being pregnant! I can do this. I had a great trip to the states to see Kristine graduate and celebrate lots of other milestones – Steve’s and Krystle’s birthdays, and Mother’s Day for me and my mom. The best part was just being there – with my kids and my mom. I have been very fortunate in returning home 3 times and having my kids visit (Tiney and Steve are here in 5 weeks!), but there are long dry spells that seem to last forever. I think I am ready to blog again…but with this introduction, not so sure!! Kristine completed her Masters in Clinical Nurse Leader (summa cum laude!), a tough 4 year program. She AND Steve are happy to put that chapter behind them and enjoy a less hectic schedule.
I got to meet Krystle, Thom’s girlfriend, in person for the first time. A welcome addition as she fit right in. A full house in Tiney and Steve’s small place – Kayley and Zach, Thom and Krystle, me and mom, and the two dogs. Lots of fun with some time to enjoy St. John’s, a charming little town in Portland. AND cousins Laine and Steve drove all the way from Prineville to spend the afternoon with us. So good to see them both.
Left Portland to go to Oakland for a couple of days with Thom and KayKay. Got to see Kayley’s new office and meet her boss. She works a few blocks from the Embarcadero in the city, cool spot, great job with Lymphoma and Leukemia Society. Had a lovely dinner in Sausalito with friends, the Onceas, and celebrated Susan’s birthday. Also, had such a great day just hanging out with Thom in SF and Golden Gate Park.
The trip was only 6 full days on the ground, PC was NOT flexible in time off, which I am not happy about. As others have reminded me, it is the federal government. No time to hit OC, a very big miss. Nice to have all the amenities we take for granted in the states – electricity (in Thailand not grounded and things like computers run very hot and it goes off in frequent storms), hot water (none in rural areas), running water (been off for 2 days…again), a comfy bed, understanding every single person I talk to! Thailand is definitely a developing country with poverty and lack of infrastructure and quality schools interfering with progress. I think (and many would agree) that Buddhism is one of the reasons Thais are so friendly. The other side of that coin, however, is a bit of mai bpen rai (never mind), kind of a fatalism and acceptance without questioning. One of the things said in training was not to ask Why? Just not high on the list of what is important. Actually, that list is hypothetical, probably not one.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Railay Bay, Krabi

Songkran is Thailand’s New Year and last year at this time, I was in the Do Not Travel portion of my service, so I was at site for the event, refer to blog on April 14, 2011. Five days plus of visits to wats, dancing, parades, and being drenched by water. Once was enough! So this year I headed south to Railay Bay with PCV buddies. Had a great time relaxing at the beach and by the pool, eating farang food, and enjoying the company of good friends. I find the longer I am here, the more I need an occasional bpai tiao with other PCVs, seems like it should be the opposite. You can probably tell, I give in to the urge!
Railay Bay is at the end of the Krabi Penninsula. You have to get there by boat. It is a destination for rock climbers, beautiful formations throughout the area.
Julia, Deborah, Marjey - a beautiful site up the mountain for lunch.
Railay is known for its sunsets. We had lots of clouds every afternoon, but you get the idea.
Pam, Marjey, Deborah - where we hung out by the pool and the beach.
Lunch with Deborah and Pam.
Marjey, Deborah, me, and Pam with our favorite jewelry lady. She and her husband make beautiful and unique art to wear. We helped her out!!
Deborah, Julia, Pam, me, and Marjey
Deborah's sand art

Monday, April 23, 2012

Khao Yai National Park

Khao Yai National Park is a World Heritage Site I had the good fortune to visit with some friends. We stayed at a very marginal hotel. However, the owner also gave amazing tours of the park, so I guess it was worth staying there, not totally convinced! He is an accountant by training, but now gives daily tours. Says he traded a cubicle for “this universe is my office” as he took us through the forest. He had a telescope that he would put our cameras up to so we got some great shots. He was as enthusiastic as we were every time we saw something. He had this knack of knowing where we would find animals and birds and interesting insects. At the end of the day, he and his buddies downloaded the day’s photos and compared what they saw to photos in their books. They were truly enthralled with their park – gratifying to see. Our PC group toured with Julian, a young man from Hong Kong, and Ian and Sasha, a young couple from Stonehenge. All contributed to making it a great trek!!! More on fb.
Horn bill
Leech, you'll notice in some photos our white leech protectors on our legs. The leeches were everywhere and we frequently picked them off our clothes and shoes. Poor Laurie had the misfortune to get one on her tummy!
The gibbons were amazing. This is the only place where black and white gibbons mix. We saw so many. I am sorry I couldn't get a photo of them swinging through the trees...spectacular!!!
Snack time eating trail mix and dark chocolate covered cranberries. The consensus was all wanted to adopt Kayley!!
Julian, me, Tammy, Ian, Sasha, Carol, Laurie, Marjey, Connie
Connie making friends with a scorpion!
Monitor Lizard
A beautiful spider

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day

Earth Day is not widely known or recognized in rural Thailand (at least in the Isaan area), but the students seemed to embrace the concept…we’ll see what follow up happens. In the library I read a flannel story of a simplified version of Curious George Plants a Tree. We then had a discussion what they could do to help the earth on Earth Day (and any other day). They had great ideas including unplugging chargers, using cloth bags at the market, picking up trash, planting a tree, turning water off, and recycling milk cartons. I added turn off the TV! I asked them all to do one thing on Earth Day and come tell me about it in the next week. I’ll let you know the results. It is summer vacation here and silly me, I thought that would mean more kids at story time, but alas, our average is down to about 6 to 7 compared to 12 to 15. That was Saturday. On Sunday, Bobby (fellow PCV) and I made drinking glasses from beer bottles (I mostly watched). There’s a bar in the states that does this on a regular basis, as replacing broken glasses gets expensive. Facebook gives more details. One of our PCVs, Christine, is doing an Earth Day project for her 50th Anniversary project. She asked every PCV to do something and let her know. The results will be displayed in Bangkok in July. Happy Earth Day!