Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Library Update

Went to the city yesterday (Roi-et) and bought book shelves! They look great. Waiting for the walls to be painted and the old furniture (it was previously a bank) to be moved out. We are at about 290 books – the beginnings of a fabulous library! Darien Book Aid came through last week with 30 books and the Soroptimists in BKK have a box in the mail. They are holding a book drive once the flooding is gone in the city. Some neighborhoods are still under water.

Pan and Focus playing with Maisy's Pop-up Playhouse

The new library building on a Tuesday when the dalat expands. I have been told once the library opens, vendors will not be right in front. The awning is new.

Art work from 2 girls who checked out How to Draw books.

The King’s Birthday

Father’s Day is December 5, the King’s Birthday. I was feeling a little guilty that I would be missing all the festivities as I am headed to BKK to see my long lost PC buddies for the holiday. And then, walking to work down Main Street, to buy my bus ticket, I ran right into a parade! At first I was slightly offended, not having been asked to lead it, judge it, or even watch it. But then I learned it wasn’t the real parade, just the student parade! I was happy to run into and see at least a little of the celebration.

Happy Father's Day!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Youth Serving Youth Conference

Awesome weekend, for me, the students (Bo, Kat, Plai), and my counterpart (for this weekend that was Kruu Rath – my tutor, friend, and English teacher at the high school). The PC Youth Development GIG (a GIG is a PC committee that is in every country PC serves) put on the conference and they were amazing. It was well organized, fun, and provided lots of opportunity for the youth to get involved, have fun, and think critically about their communities and how they can make a difference. These PCVs are outstanding role models for Thai youth.!!

Our group: from left, Bo, our driver, me, Kruu Rath, Plai, Kat.

Working together to make a pyramid.

6 steps to reach goal - the girls choose to hold a Life Skills camp to address the issue of teen pregnancy in their school - a brave and important choice! Chris, on the right, was one of the PCV leaders.

Sharing their Public Service Announcement.

The shirts we designed!

See more photos on facebook!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Loy Krathong Festival

On the full moon of the twelfth lunar month, when the tide in the rivers is highest and the moon at its brightest, the Thai people hold the 'Loy Krathong' festival, the 'festival of light.' Loy Krathong is one of the two most recognized festivals in the country.
Loy Krathong is probably the most picturesque and beautiful of all Thai celebrations. 'Loy' means 'to float,' and 'krathong' refers to the thing that floats on the water. Originally, the krathong was made of banana leaves or the layers of the trunk of a banana tree or a spider lily plant. A krathong contains food, betel nuts, flowers, incense, candles and/or coins. Its shape represents the lotus flower. The Loy Krathong ritual is to light the candles and the incense, make wishes and let it float away with the current of a river or a canal.
Thais watch as the krathongs drift in the water, hoping that the candle will not go out. Its flame is said to signify longevity, fulfillment of wishes and release from sins. It is considered a romantic night for couples or lovers…sigh. Couples who make a wish together on Loy Krathong are thought to stay together in the future. Including coins insures a prosperous year ahead.
You actually can compare Loy Krathong to our Thanksgiving. It is a time to express gratitude and thanksgiving – different legends credit different origins, but the intent is the same, to give thanks and ask forgiveness, either to the goddess of water or to Buddha, or to ancestors. In Isaan, where I am, the origin is believed to be from Nang Noppamas, the King’s concubine in the ancient kingdom of Sukhothai in the 13th century. She floated a krathong as an offering to the river and asking for forgiveness for using the water and for polluting it.
At my site, the festival took place at the lake. Each of the 8 villages made a float representing a large krathong. There was a musical show featuring children singing, dancing, and playing musical instruments and a beauty pageant with 8 contestants, one from each village. Being the expert that I am, I of course was a judge, a particular challenge for the speaking category. My criterion was all about poise and confidence and the advice of Mii, a fellow judge and friend! Small hot air balloons were released in the air and the krathongs were placed in the water. It was a beautiful evening. As the krathongs were released, we took a moment to offer a blessing and make a wish. Very loud fireworks occasionally punctuated the evening seemingly at random times. The new nayoke and ron nayoke (mayor and assistant mayor) couldn’t resist an audience and did a few karaoke numbers, surprising the balat (city manager) by inviting her on stage. The whole extravaganza lasted 5 hours!
The ron balat (assistant city manager) ended up shadowing me to make sure I was at the right place at the right time. At the beginning of the event, the dignitaries were ushered on stage and I was off watching the balloon launch. When these same dignitaries were launching their krathongs I was photographing the village krathongs and ended up launching mine late. They wanted to make sure I was in place to judge the pageant!

A week was spent at the lake setting up. Tuk ta is beating the heat with her sun shade.

Getting my corsage. We made them at the office. I was in charge of making the bows. I couldn't mess them up too much with that job!

Hot air balloons. They held them until they heated up and then released them.

The krathongs floating away. My candles blew out immediately, not a good sign!

The beauty contestants

More photos coming on facebook.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

My Typical Day in Thailand

A typical work day starts at 8:30 in the office. I spend a lot of time preparing for classes – making lesson plans, flannel board stories, flash cards, games, etc. I work on the library project – navigating the latest hurdle, looking for support, cataloging books, researching topics, etc. I research Thai topics of interest for a blog or a potential project. About half the time I go to lunch with friends in the office, usually to a noodle stand or bring food in, occasionally to one of the two restaurants in town if it is a special occasion or the balat (city manager) takes me out. Lunch is also a good time to run errands – head to the dalat (outdoor market) or post office. Sometimes I go home to have a granola bar and read. I teach one morning and one afternoon and have a standing meeting with the kindergarten teacher once a week. My Thai tutor comes once a week and I make an effort to study every day, I will admit frequently halfheartedly. I get very discouraged.
After work I go to Thai aerobics. It is outdoors in front of the fire department. About 15 – 20 people show, all ages. By the time I ride my bike back to my house, it is dark. No nightlife here. I make a simple, healthy dinner typically with veggies, rice or pasta, and sometimes an egg. When I have it, I treasure a glass of wine or a rum and fruit drink. I eat in front of my computer listening to a podcast – 60 minutes or an NPR show (Wait, Wait Don’t Tell is my favorite). A priority is showering fairly early as my bathroom (and kitchen) walls have about a 2 foot gap between the wall and ceiling – more bugs come out later!

I settle in with my hard drive and either watch a movie or TV show while I knit or create flannel stories or color flash cards. I journal a few nights a week - it is also a scrap book that I like looking through.
The weekend is about eventful as the week. Saturday mornings is storytime. Often the kids will hang out for a while. I read the book they have checked out or they color or play a game (bingo or memory). They like to color on the white board and pull out flannel stories to tell each other. I market, clean my house, go on a bike ride, read in my hammock , do laundry, iron, mend (clothes get wrecked really fast here), other chores. I typically am not too social. I actually like it that way – a break.
I get out of town every couple of months and catch up with other PCVs – good for the soul and also for some farang food and alcohol! Festivals frequently interrupt the routine. As the local farang, I often have a prominent presence at these events.

Dalat - daily outdoor market. I am lucky, some villages don't have a daily market. I buy pineapple and grapefruit (Thai grapefruit is simply outstanding) from this vendor. Her daughter comes to story time and is so smart!

Me, Kayley, Bobby, and Luke visiting a wat

Erin, Kyle, Jade, Dom at a great farang restaurant

Buddy, my dog friend

May and Ja-o at the whiteboard. The top photo is Ja-o's mother.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Kathin Kanoms

If you have been paying attention, you have noticed that at all Thai gatherings, food plays a central role, especially kanoms – sweet snacks. A typical kanom is made with sticky rice and banana. It is wrapped in a banana leave, tied, and steamed. They are delicious! I have had some with other fillings I cannot always identify, but I think banana is best. The first day of Kathin included kanom making with many of the women participating.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Kathin Festival

Last weekend (Oct. 29 – 31) was the celebration of Kathin, a Buddhist festival celebrated in Northeast Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. It is the culmination of Kao-pan-sa, which takes place the previous 3 months (August – October), when monks stay in the wat. It is said that Buddha started the tradition of the monks staying in so they would not step in the rice fields as the rice was getting ready to harvest. It included two parades – one through town and one to the wat – with monks, money trees, musicians, and Thai dancing. It included early morning prayers with monks blessing the occasion and lots of food. It included an evening of Thai dancing and karaoke with men buying the opportunity to dance with Thai women. Each event was another opportunity for the community to make merit and the monks/wat to make money. It is the biggest money making festival for the monks/wat of the year. In addition to money, people made merit by giving the monks pillows, blankets, food, toiletries and household items. It was an exhausting 3 days with no time off on the weekend. Even the Thais were glad when it was over!

Monday morning, everyone brought their sticky rice containers and walked in front of each monk (9 that morning) and put a handful in each monk's container. This photo is a perfect example of old and new Thailand!

For most of the events, the women wore traditional Thai.

One of the parades with the band and dancers.

The monks in the parade.

Counting the baht after each event.