Sunday, January 29, 2012


Way too big a part of my life!
Screens are on my bedroom windows, and bars, so I can keep my windows open and my door closed, keeping mosquitoes out. It is not always effective. After too many nights kept up by the buzzing, I finally got a mosquito net. PC had given us one, but it was too small for my bed. The tessabaan hung it for me and not to sound ungrateful, but it took 3 tries over a period of several weeks to keep it from falling down. Now it is great!
My kitchen and bathroom are open to the outside with the walls stopping a couple of feet below the roof. There is no way to keep the buggers out. The wall between the kitchen and my living room has concrete blocks with holes along the top. It helps airflow, but allows the mosquitoes to circulate into the main area of the house. Last September, a guy measured for a screen. Finally got installed this month, right before a visit from PC! A life changer. Before, I had mosquitoes every night at my dining table. I used citronella oil spray to keep them at bay somewhat, can’t find the candles.
My best and most often used weapon in my arsenal is the electric racket. Some days I zap over 100 mosquitoes, other days less. I haven’t figured out why some days are worse than others. There are definite mosquito seasons for different kinds of mosquitoes, but one is always in season! Currently they are big and black.
PC also gives us repellent. I don’t like to use it all the time, but I do spray my legs when I go to aerobics class. The class is outside at just the right time for the $%^^%$# little guys to wake up.
My system seems to have adjusted. I get bit but typically don’t react much. That is the good news. The bad news is one kind, I think it is the summer variety, carries dengue fever. A few volunteers have already dealt with it. When infected, you get a high fever with severe aches and pains but usually it passes in a week with no lingering effects. I am hoping to make it one more year without that drama!

The screen that changed my life!

The two very nice guys who hung in and finally got me a mosquito net!

Finished product

My favorite possession in Thailand and a sampling of the morning kill on my bathroom floor.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

English Camp and Teacher Training

Few PCVs complete service (at least in Thailand) without attending and/or giving a camp of some sort. It is a big request from the local schools and communities. Reality is you can’t really teach that much English in a day or two and that is not the point. You do teach some English, but you also have a lot of fun, provide massive amounts of encouragement, and confidence that in fact the participants can learn to speak English.
Some come in knowing at least a bit of English, after all it is taught in schools every year. When you consider that fact it seems kind of amazing how little English Thais speak. And that is the crux of the problem – so much English education, so little English taught. I think it is one of the reasons many adults have so little confidence in their ability to speak English. Not being a TCCO PCV (teacher) I don’t have a lot of firsthand experience, but I have seen the work expected of the students and know how little English the English teachers actually speak. What is taught primarily is reading and writing English and typically if a student is having a hard time, which most are as the workbooks are really really hard, the teachers give them the answers. My library volunteers, who are educated government workers kind of know the ABCs and can kind of read some of the simpler books, but really struggle beyond that level.
For me, the best part was having 5 PCVs and Mimi (Bobby’s Thai girlfriend) come stay with me to help with the camp (I know, I know, it should be the teaching!). We ate and drank and chatted and worked – it was great to connect for at least a little while and they did an amazing job. Day 1 was at my office. We had about 50 government officials and the preschool teachers. Day 2 was at the secondary school to provide teacher training for about 50 teachers. We were invited to help them cope with what I call Monday Madness! Government offices and schools are now required by the national government to speak English on Mondays – a daunting mandate. Our goal was to provide some basic vocabulary and conversation in which ever setting they worked in.
There was lots of laughter and hopefully a little English got taught. Thais love to have fun and I have found that that trait makes Thai adults easy and fun to teach. We’ll see how these Mondays go!!!

Slumber party at my house! A couple of friends brought over pads and blankets.

The tessabaan hosted a dinner for us at the nicest (one of two) restaurant in town.

The really important stuff - Bobby, Jacob, and Luke playing soccer on Bobby's ipad.

As important guests, my group was greeted with pacamas, sashes typically given to dignitaries (usually men) before a big event.

Luke engaging his group.



Bobby and Mimi

Zerina, a PCV 122 heading home in a month. Will miss her!

Gifts are given at the conclusion of the camp. The tessabaan gave us beautiful handmade blankets. The school gave us very cool handmade reclining pads.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Reflections – 1 Year

My plan was to reflect at 6 months, a milestone of sorts, a quarter of the way through, but I was busy and in the states, so we have 1 year in country. This actually gives me 15 months until close of service (cos). Seems incredibly fast when I think in terms of months, but frequently seems incredibly slow day to day.
So why did I come? Why do I stay? What am I learning? Am I finding what I was looking for? Just what is my current reality? Hmmmm…
A rut! That is why I came. I was in a big one and needed something radically different to shake things up a bit. I was also probably still depressed from losing Dougie which exasperated my rut and gave me the feeling of no way out. With Thom graduating, it seemed like the ideal time to make a change, get out of my dole drums and maybe have a bit of a challenge and an adventure. Hence the Peace Corps.
I stay because I made a commitment to myself, to the Peace Corps, and to my village. To myself that I could really do this and that I follow through with what I start; to the PC, well because it costs money to send us volunteers out hither and yon and I think (at least in Thailand) the staff works diligently to support our work; and to my village which was fine when I got here and will be fine when I leave, but I can’t imagine how I would leave early and they would not take personal offense and I do feel that I have a job to do and if I leave early it would be derailed. The Thai people I work and live with are incredibly supportive and helpful, although not always easy to live with. You could call PC Thailand my Brick Wall (reference to The Last Lecture) – put up not to keep me out, but to give me the chance to show how badly I want something…which I suppose is to find value and meaning for myself.
A year is a long time and stuff happens, I missed a lot. My Dad dying under any circumstances was such a hard thing to accept. He was so healthy with big plans. Coming back after that was a tough decision. Knowing my mom would be OK and that she had lots of support allowed me to return. Tiney’s wedding was another. I made the wedding, but missed the showers and the reception and well just being there for planning. She of course did a great job; she could be a wedding planner, just a personal miss. And most recently losing Kabi Jo. She came into our family at just the time we needed her and helped my mom when dad died. She was such a loyal companion. Minnie was still dealing with breast cancer when I left and I was sorry to miss supporting her in any way she needed it. I felt that she too, had our great family surrounding her with love and care.
What have I learned, am I learning? I have learned to appreciate what I have, big time!! Nothing like losing that day to day life to realize how great it is (was). I know, you may be thinking, she had to travel half way around the world to learn that? Yes I did. I miss my family and my friends more that I could have imagined. Every night, I think about that and every morning first thing I think about who I am missing. Thank goodness for the internet – without Skype and email and facebook this gig would be so much more difficult. Even 5 years ago it would have been so much more challenging. I have also learned I can live with less, I don’t necessarily want to give up my lifestyle, but I know I can live more simply and be happy and fulfilled (kind of). Although all bets off when I go on vacation! I have learned I can in fact learn new things, although not necessarily the language (one of the most difficult parts of my service). I never expected to open a library or teach English to kindergarteners or adults – I did know I could tell a story! I have learned to appreciate a different culture and how difficult it is to live in one that is so very different than mine. I am learning not to be so quick to judge (though this is really hard sometimes, I mean really Thailand, is that phone call so very important you have to answer AND talk in the middle of a big meeting – while you are leading the meeting!)
The part of service that really keeps me going is my friends I serve with and the connection with home. PCV Thailand -what a great group of people. As long as I occasionally get to visit and play with them I can do this. Long emails with details, cards, packages go along way. Visits home have also helped as has the anticipation of visits from family and friends from home and yes this is all a shameless plug!
I have also learned:
That you may move to another country, but really you take all your shortcomings with you. I still have no patience, am in too big a hurry, and can’t sit still. Dougie called it futzing – can’t you just sit still and do nothing – NO!
That in Thailand, every single individual piece of See’s Candy is amazing!
That living in another culture is really, really hard – whether or not you have electricity – that is not the issue. The issue is every day having to deal with things that you should just know and don’t. Is the water off because it is off today, or did the cows break the line (either just as likely)? Will my shower be hot, warm, or cold today (or will I have a shower?)? What is my neighbor so excited about? Should I know what they are talking about over the loud speakers this morning? Is that ant eggs in my omelet? Does that bug bite?
And…When am I happy?
Skyping/talking with someone from home or a fellow PCV.
Reading an email from same.
Getting cards or packages (another plug!).
When I’m busy.
When I feel useful and/or successful.
When I’m on vacation!
When I can have a glass of wine!
When I anticipate a visit (now!).
What have I accomplished?
46 flannel board stories and poems
2 ½ scarves knitted and ½ a hat
23 lessons to kindergarten
19 lessons to adults at the office
65 new PCV friends
Learned a little bit of Thai
Opened a LIBRARY!
Learned to ride a bike hands free
Taught 6 friends to knit
Learned how to make wedding pillows for a Thai Water Ceremony
Lost 20 pounds
Found my place in a Thai village
Another year, more adventures, thanks for following. My blog is like my journal…a bit of a release!
(Sorry this is so long!)

Visit home

New friends

New PCVs!


The Wedding

Friday, January 13, 2012

Library Open!

Day 1 and it was Friday the 13th and I am exhausted. As are my volunteers They must be so over my to do lists, charts, surveys, forms, codes – so not Thai! But we did it! We have a library and it is great.
Today was Child’s Day in Thailand and different communities celebrate in their own style. Mine gave the kids the day off from school and had a program in the park for most of the day. The kids performed band and dancing and got a big bag of kanoms (sweets). The tessabaan gave 50 exemplar students 1,000 baht each (about $33). Kruu Rath (my tutor and friend) and I gave a talk about the library, encouraging students and parents to use the library, go to storytime and join the Reading Club.
So we had less business than I had hoped. I was told that was because most of them were in the park all day and after that they were tired. Four adults and 7 children got library cards and 7 books were checked out. The good news is that 4 of the kids were new to me, I did not know them. We had informal storytime in the afternoon as kids came and went – it was fun with the new ones – they ooed and awed at the stories, never having seen flannel stories before. I’m hoping they come back tomorrow for the regular storytime. I am planning a contest for the primary school to encourage students to join the Reading Club. Will keep you posted.
I am already missing storytime at my house. The flannel board is gone along with the name tags and box of stories – I have made 22 stories plus 24 letter poems – I have been working hard on this project. They are pretty cool! Makes me feel like I am already moving out. I’m thinking my maps should go too, but I will wait a while for that.
Day 2 tomorrow. I am hoping to get this project working like a well oiled machine so I can go on to the next (did I hear you groan?). Lots of ideas and so little time!!
Thank you! xoxo

The work of organizing never stops!

Child's Day above and below.

First 2 kids to get a library card!!

The mom of the little girl in pink didn't want a library card...the little girl hung out all afternoon...a work in progress!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Happy New Year!

The New Year is a big deal in Thailand. In rural Thailand it is not about the parties and confetti and general debauchery many in the states might experience (although this PCV managed to find that in BKK!) but as a time to give gifts and celebrate community. My community celebrates with colorful lights strung everywhere, speeches by dignitaries, and gifts given by the local government to everyone. Because there is an election soon in my community – the head of the city council recently died – the gift giving was interrupted. Thai rules about officials giving gifts around election time are strictly enforced, at least publicly.
Thailand’s traditional New Year takes place in mid-April, Songkran. The Western tradition of ringing in the new year on December 31 is an adopted celebration for Thais. In 1940, January 1 became the beginning of the year officially. The traditional Thai New Year however is a national holiday, as is January 1.
Because it is a four day holiday, many PCVs leave town to get together. I headed for BKK and spent the weekend at the Banyan Tree Resort with Margy. We had a great time meeting up with other PCVs (always a treat), eating great food, shopping, getting my computer repaired (hoping it will limp along for another year), relaxing by the pool, getting an amazing massage, and ringing in the new year in the company of a fun international crowd of 20 somethings who included us in an amazing evening of dancing, drinking (we didn’t buy one drink!), and so much fun! They were from around the globe – the Netherlands, Spain, Thailand, Italy, America, Australia, and Germany…the ones I remember! A different NYE for me and a memorable one.

The tessabaan staff gave the nayok and his advisors shirts for the NY.

We clearly left rural Thailand behind! Banyan Tree was spectacular!

Always so much fun to get together with PCVs. Bourbon Street is a fairly new restaurant and a Louisiana treat!

With Margy and one of the characters helping ring in the NY.

Doug from the Bay Area and his friend, a dentist from Germany.

January 14!

The TC Community Library (new name!) opens for business. We have about 400 books, a newly painted room, lots of signs, 8 volunteers, an excited community, and a PCV (me!) in high gear – my best gear and last blog! Books are on the shelf, categorized, alphabetized, stamped and just about ready for check out.
Check our project out at to help fund the last leg. We are looking for $953. It is amazing how far money goes in Thailand. Being a fund raiser from the states, that amount was never on the table. What can you do with less than $1,000? LOTS in Thailand. The actual start up budget and first year operating cost is just over $10,000. The local government and donations from you in the states sending books, supplies and awards accounts for most of it. You give me goose bumps! Every time a box arrives and the office checks them out (and looks at the cost of shipping) – they are newly amazed at the generosity of Americans! I am not surprised…just very happy!!
Watch for photos of the grand opening.

Thais like signs!

They wanted the community to see how generously Americans funded the library and so this sign is hung out front. The plan is to have a permanent donor wall inside. This sign is already out of date!

Dignitaries checking us out!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Addicted to Speed

If you know me well you know I move fast. I walk fast (unless walking with Thom or Patty when I actually walk faster it just seems slower!) and am most happy multi-tasking. I loved West Wing and always thought – I could work there, I walk fast! I landed in a culture that does not particularly have that mentality. I think the reason I love biking (alone) is that I can go fast. I also like aerobics – generally speaking that is when Thais move fast – not all, but most in the class. I loved water skiing trips growing up with uncles who would race their boats up and down the river in the afternoon, what a rush. Walking, working, biking, eating (I guess generally being with!) Thais sometimes drives me a little crazy…one of my challenges is to just jai yen yen (this is when my kids and perhaps others are rolling their eyes). The idea that I am in Thailand and can perhaps move slower, take it easier, just doesn’t work. My balat, city manager, likes to tell me “Don’t worry” “It will get done”!
I like that we are opening a library for many reasons, but if I am honest…there are a million little things to do to get it done. I think my coworkers shutter at my lists, agendas, and timelines – not very Thai!!