Update #4 July 19th-August 19th

Another month has gone by. It has simultaneously felt like 2 weeks and 2 months. So much happens that it goes by so fast, yet when I look back towards the past, it felt so long ago. I truly believe that I grow each and everyday. I am starting to find a grove with my teaching, getting use to sweating at every moment, building stronger connections with my students, and finding moments in each day to be grateful for the life I have. Here is a shorter day-by-day synopsis (trying to update the significant things in each day and skip over the nitty gritty details).

7/19/18:  Taught my 4 classes, was exhausted. Played volleyball with my students, and then got dinner. Afterwards, visited Jung Hoo’s home and had them show me their favorite youtube videos. Finally, got a fresh cut.

7/20/18: Regular Friday other than a extremly frustrating moment with Prathom 6 as they collectively didn’t listen/try in class. It was a warm, Friday afternoon so I truly don’t blame them.

7/21/18: Today, hiked a mountain near bye called Doi Khun Tan with Teacher Jackie and his friends. At first, I didn’t want to go, but realized I need to seize opportunities that kindly come my way. We motorbiked around 50-60 km. Once we entered the national Park, the road had crazy hills. To the point where the motorbike couldn’t make it up the hill. So, I had to get off and push the motorbike up multiple times. But, no one was on the road and the scenery was gorgeous.

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After being exhausted running up hills, we had to start our 10km hike up the mountain. Hiking in a tropical terrain was pretty incredible, but totally different from what I am use to (dry, dry, dry). It was interesting that when I was hiking, I thought a lot about hiking back in Oregon and made me realize that I can go to an amazing place like Thailand, but nothing will every compare to the Pacific Northwest. Here are some pictures from the trek up and the top of the mountain. At first, we couldn’t see anything, then after a while, it cleared enough to see a few rolling hills.

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Then, we visited a famous train station/tunnel called Khutan Tunnel. You can take the train from Chiang Mai to this station and do the same hike I did.

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Afterwards, I went on a slow bike ride to cool down. I saw a sunset, which is rare in rainy season. I was so excited that I biked to open land (which is near the train track in my town), to get the best view.

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7/22/18: I woke up today in a mood: I missed home. My sadness turned into a weird frustration. So, I decided to bike to 10 km to Kad Twain Market to buy my friend Brenna something. I actually had a lot of fun walking around and picking things out for her. I had families of my students help me find the best things. It was totally fun.

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Then, I went with my Bingsu Family to have Japanese food for the first time in Thailand. It was good to eat something different and felt good as I was taken care of as a son. I went from being sad in the morning to being taken care of as a son. I am so grateful that I have a support system here and really strengthening a bond here in Hang Chat, Thailand.

7/23/18: Monday, Prathom 1 out of control! It was funny to see some of my students help me by them disciplining the bad boys ahah. Afterschool, gave rides to students on the back of my bike and rode around the school campus. They loved it so much.

7/24/18: Regular Day

7/25/18: No class in the morning as students made a pledge of allegiance to the King since it’s his Birthday on 7/28. Students dressed up in their boy scout uniform for this ceremony.

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At the end, their was a group of Prathom 6 students who received a gold collar neck tie to resemble that they have an active mind for the community.

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I then crashed PE class…Today, PE consisted of cleaning up the field. HAHAHA!

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Afterschool, I was trying to get a picture with iPhone (my student in Prathom 1) with me, but wouldn’t pose. So, I said something silly and got a adorable picture in the end.

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7/26/18: Went to the Temple today with Prathom 6 to do an early version of การเวียนเทียน (Kar veiy ahn thei ahn). But first, there was celebrations at the school. Mathayom (Secondary School) did a parade by the school.

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Parthom 1-5 did a ceremony at the school. These are some of the shots I got before it started.

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Had to get Prathom 6 to the temple some how. So, they all piled into this truck, which looks like it transfers prisoners, that took them to the temple.

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When we got to the temple, it was nothing but good times.

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7/27/18: Today was the start of Buddah Lent. There was a ceremony in the morning that consisted of taking food to the monks. Jung Hoo’s family helped me prepare food, milk, fruit, and an envelope filled with a little bit of cash. On the envelope, I wrote my name and a prayer for the monk to read out loud to make it come true. I don’t know what mine said, but was a pretty special thing I was able to be a part of.

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This is Ohm’s Mom (Ohm is a friend I made that day). I told her I needed some help making an arrangement for การเวียนเทียน (Kar veiy ahn thei ahn) at night. She helped me find the most beautiful flowers in the pile and put it together for me.

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Ba Pen then helped me put the final touches together on the arrangement and I bought my first Durian in Thailand. It was for the monk, which is my friend. He had so much food left over in the morning that he gave a lot of it to me. The least I could do is get him some of his favorite fruit.

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การเวียนเทียน (Kar veiy ahn thei ahn) is a pretty special ceremony. I didn’t really understand much, but what i do understand is that you walk around the temple three times holding an arrangement and a candle. 3 times: 1) for Buddha 2) for Buddha’s Principle, and 3) for the Monks. That is also why all arrangements have three incenses. It was a spectacular ceremony. It was cool to also see teachers and students at the ceremony, too. I think it is important to have students see their foreign teacher present in the community by participating in such activities. It was truly a special ceremony.

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7/28/18: Today, I was suppose to go to Chiang Mai, but Fisho’s car broke. Everything happens for a reason. Instead, I use the day to truly relax. I ate dinner at Bingsu. I really enjoyed a dish with shift cooked with garlic. Shrimp heads were included in the dish. I decided to try eating one of the fish heads. In the process, I realized that part of the head got lodged in the back of my throat. But I didn’t realize till afterwards. I tried drinking water, eating rice…nothing worked. I tried tweezers and sticking my fingers in my throat. Nothing worked. So, I had to go to the hospital…to get a single bone out of my throat. I couldn’t take pictures because of privacy reasons, but I did get a picture of me and my adopted mom & dad in the waiting room. It was full of laughs. Only 170 baht later (~$5)

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7/29/18: Woke up, went on a run, had lunch, and got cake for my friend Kat who had a birthday. Had Bingsu with her and her daughter Namking (in my Prathom 1 class). She was very shy, but was good to have her company.

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Afterwards, I went to the temple near by and they had 1 month old pug puppies. So adorable.

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7/30/18: Monday no school! Graded all morning, got lunch, lesson planned, hung out a bit, got dinner, and went to bed.

7/31/18: For assembly today, I sung we will rock you by Queen. It kind of failed, but some students got the idea of making the beat. Farangs came to school again. Beautiful sunset afterschool.

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8/1/18: I got my iPhone back after 3 1/2 weeks and to be honest, I didn’t like it. I just shoved in my bag. I really enjoy not having a phone. You don’t realize how much you are on it till you are completely stripped from it. I am glad I am starting this in Thailand and hope to only use my phone back home when I REALLY need to. I went to Teacher Wilawan’s center after school to volunteer my time with students. Had fun because I taught students English and they taught me some Thai. I can now write my name in Thai. ไมเคิล (Mike-kun). I actually typed out my name using my Thai keyboard.

8/2/18: Today, a tour group of Farangs came from the Netherlands to visit my school. I pulled out some of my tour guiding talking points to share about my experience teaching abroad and how schools work in Thailand versus from back home. Pretty fun to change up my day a bit with that. The tour guide then gave my 500 baht and told me to buy something for myself. Felt good, yet foreign to accept money. Afterschool, one of the bus drivers, Mali, took me home with her students where I did some rice planting with my student Bam. Her mom was laughing about how slow I was. She kept saying, “Farang slow!, Farang slow,” and thought it was the funniest thing.

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8/3/18: Friday and normal. I leave early to go to Lampang city for TTC retreat. I got their and went on a jog to prepare for the 5 km on Sunday morning. I then walked 3 miles to the cultural market. The last time I was their, I was filmed. This time, it was nice to be just a spectator. I had this awesome egg salad. I don’t remember the name, but it was quite good. So good I ordered two (it was quite small and I didn’t have dinner). The lady was so sweet. Afterwards, I sang Elvis to the whole market. Quite fun.

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8/4/18: Was cool to get all the teachers together for the first time since orientation. In a way, it felt like a step back because I resorted on speaking only English, yet I learned a lot from listening to other teachers share their experiences. The biggest take away was if I am having fun, I am doing it right. Also, if the students are doing something…that boosts confidence. Then, we cooked dinner with Ja and Janthana. Fun to learn how it is all done. I learned that Thai food is constant mixture of intense, strong flavors.

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Then, Adam (program coordinator) tried durian for the first time. Proud of him!

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Then went out to walking street and to a bar afterwards. Fun, yet I learned that going out is so expensive. A single beer is the cost of two Pad Thai dishes.

8/5/18: Today, we woke up early (5 am on a Sunday) to go to Mae Moh, just outside of the city. I participate din the 5 km. Yet, we were late for the start so i was dropped off and immediately started running. Fun to see so many students from the Lampang area participate in the Queen’s charity. I don’t have any pictures, but I remember the last kilometer, i was exhausted and stopped for a brief moment. All of a sudden, this little girl passed me and she looked exhausted, too. I decided to suck it up and be her cheerleader. I coached her all the way to the finished and looked exhausted, yet accomplished. I finished at 24 minutes, but that is not knowing what time I started. I was for sure hauling ass. Afterwards, we planted rice at Dr. Nirund’s family land. We paid respect to his Mom and Dad (As they are buried there) and planted rice in their honor.

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Afterwards, went back to Hang Chat and asked my Bingsu family to help me execute the project for reaching my school Willamette University’s motto.

8/6/18: Today, I had a new teacher who just arrived to Thailand who will be teaching in Chaiyaphum. Her name is Dariana and it was nice for her to see my everyday life in action. I showed her around, she saw a successful class and a unsuccessful class. All in all, she enjoyed the visit and she truly saw what it would be like as a teacher in Thailand. Then, spent the night making my posters with Jackie, Fisho and her dad! So thankful for their help.

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8/7/18: Nothing significant today, just an adorable picture of my prathom 5 students.

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8/8/18: Willamette Day in Thailand! I woke up extra early to make sure the field look nice for the picture, the materials were all ready, and that I communicated with my co-teacher how the assembly was going to go down. It all started with one of the teachers  giving me a polo as a gift for being a teacher at their school. I then introduced my school and had the students practice pronouncing it.

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I went on to teach them the motto of my University: Not Unto Ourselves Alone Are We Born. In Thai, เราไม่ใช่ คนเดียว ที่เราเกิดมา (Rao maichai kon diow thi gert ma). I taught them one word at a time to eventually say the whole thing.

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Finally, a picture with all my students at Anuban Hang Chat School.

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After school, we had a couple who played music for students. They were blind and it was pretty awesome to see how they performed. The students loved hearing them.

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8/9/18: Normal Day. My student, May, came to me and showed me the sticker I gave her is now on her binder. Made me smile especially because I put a lot of effort into the assembly and happy to see at least one person enjoyed it.

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Then selfie with my Prathom 2 students.

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After school, I visited Grandma Pun. A few weeks ago, it was a normal day after school for me. For Pun (ยายปุ่น), she fell off her bike and broke her hip. I was biking home just thinking about how excited I was to take a shower and get into bed. All of a sudden, I noticed in the corner of my eye a bike on its side on top of someone…it was Pun.

As any good human would do, I stopped and helped. I thought at the time that she just fell and she needed some help getting up, but no. I tired to get her up and immediately fell back down. I picked up her bike, vegetables, and dinner that fell out of her basket during the fall.

I didn’t know what to do…didn’t know who to call, what to say…but most importantly, I was present with her. Luckily, I was able to flag two gentlemen near by who did speak Thai. She seemed so grateful for me, yet in so much pain. When I left, I didn’t think I would see her again. Lo and behold, she lives in the neighborhood I visit often. When I walked into her home, she was so happy to see me. She thought she would never see me again. I cracked a few jokes that I knew in Thai and brought her happiness. I think it brought me more happiness than anything!

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8/10/18: Mother Day celebration at school. To pay respect to mothers, students enter a writing/drawing competition about Mother’s Day as well as prepare a skit/song/dance. Here are some of the pictures from the ceremony.

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Anuban (Kindergarten) prepared a dance.

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Prathom 3 prepared the most adorable dance, too.

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Prathom 6 prepared a skit.

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8/11/18: My day started by driving 15 km to Lampang. It was a nice ride with good weather. I met up with another teacher, Emily, to go to a temple in the mountains in Chae Son called “Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat.” We went to TTC headquarters to rent out the old Honda they have. They drive on the left here with the steering wheel on the right side. It was a bit weird at first, but I got use to it. When we arrived, we have to park our car in the lot down low because the hills are too steep for any car. You have to take a 4X4 truck to get up the steep hills just to reach the beginning of the steep walking trail. Then, 500m up. It was exhausting, but beautiful.

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We finally made it to the top and it was stunning. Let the pictures speak for themselves.

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I had two really awesome interactions that day. 1) I met a blind kid who was so happy. He couldn’t see the view and I didn’t have the English to explain it, but I enjoyed talking to him and touching him. He was so happy. 2) I met Tong, who speaks great English and studies in Bangkok for the Thai military. He is up north visiting his mom for Mother’s day. Since starting his studies, he has only seen his mom one other time. Pretty awesome to share that with him.

8/12/18: Thai Mother’s Day. I couldn’t stop thinking about my mothers back home. But, I spent the day visiting and dropping of flowers at my adopted mothers around Hang Chat. I then went on a spontaneous bike ride that led me to Mali and Bam’s house (where I planted rice). They live very far away, but it was good to see them and some other of my students.

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Then, I visited Grandma Pun for her family Mother Day celebration. Pretty awesome to visit her and play with her great-grandchildren.

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8/13/18: Today, I just felt like not seeing many people. I use today as a bit of a reset: grade, lesson plan, and relax. Then on a nice bike ride afterwards.

8/14/18: Today is Ba Pen’s last day at my school. Every morning, she has made me amazing breakfasts. She would go out of her way to prepare a great breakfast for me every morning. I still get to see her, but won’t have her breakfast and amazing company in the morning. I will miss her very much.

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I also helped my Prathom 6 students weed the garden. Hard, hot work.

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8/15/18: I went outside to go to the bathroom and I notice my friend, Teacher Kat, with her class playing with balloons and Plastic bags. They were learning about air, but they are so young and crazy, that you can get through to them much. I decided to help out and ended up just being a crazy, yet fun time.

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I then went to Teacher Wilawan’s center to help out and tried Thai Spaghetti (a spicy pork sauce with pork on rice noodles). It was quite good!

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8/16/18: I felt good about my teaching and executed a great new activity with my Prathom 6 class. I don’t have pictures because I was too into it that I forgot. I told them to go outside and write down what they see. To limit the barrier, I told them if they don’t know the English word, to write down Thai and translate later. I will then have them write the word on the board next week and have that be vocabulary for Outside/School Vocabulary. Afterschool, took some pictures of my favorite Prathom 1 students. They are so silly: iPhone, Ploypapot, and Namking.

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I then went to Fisho’s house to help her students. Learned some new English grammar.

8/17/18: No school for me today because my visa expires today. I spent all day in the Lampang Immigration Office. I learned a little bit about the process it takes for me to be legal here….A LOT. I feel very lucky to be abroad and to have a program that pays for such fees. Through the process, their was something wrong with my residence documents. But I was friendly and made them laugh so I got away with it.

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8/18/18: Saturday Morning and Thai Power came to my school to donate 1,500 footballs/soccer balls to students and sports team. I helped the team blow up all those balls. It was exhausting work, but fun to see student reactions.

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Then, I went to Teacher Wilawan’s house to help out/hang out with my students. Fun!

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Since it was a Saturday, that means students could bring their phones to school and to the academic center. Some of my 3rd graders had massive smart phones. Prathom 6 were attached to their phones while next to their friends. It makes me sad. I think a little bit is ok, but the addiction is real. It makes me glad that I don’t have a phone. It really has shaped my experience in Thailand. My head is always up and their is so much more you see in a day instead of looking down at your phone. Having no phone has allowed me to make so many more connections because my heads up and people recognize me.

At night, I had dinner with Bingsu family and went to the market. Their son, Nat, in Prathom 1 enjoyed painting.

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8/19/18: Fine day other than doing laundry in Thailand. There are no dryers and I am in the midst of raining season. My room is too small to hang up my clothes and every drying rack outside was being used. I got creative, but I spent 2 1/2 hours doing laundry…and thats not folding and putting away. I truly appreciate the concept of a dryer. Then, helped out at Bingsu. This is what a lot of my off days look like. I help out at the café, meet new people, and see my students. Then went to Lampang to eat Chinese food.

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I love making a difference each and everyday here. It is truly worth all the challenges each and everyday. I am already thinking about teaching a second year. Thank you to my loyal followers. I hope you enjoyed this update and if you enjoyed it so much, wanna give me a rating on TripAdvisor…? 😉

 

Update #3 (June 18th-July 18th)

Here is my third update that is a bit overdue. Trying to focus a lot on my lesson planning, living in the moment, and making connections with my community. I love Thailand, but everyday is a challenge. I sometimes feel I don’t do anything right and sometimes, I feel so loved and supported. Sometimes I feel alone, and other times, I feel so welcomed. Here is a day-by-day synopsis of my life for the past month. Miss you all more than you know:

6/18/18: Today was truly a Monday. I started to really miss home and my comfort zone back home. I also do a lot of comparing. I see on social media at home that people do these awesome internships etc and sometimes I think, I’m teaching first grades the ABC’s…but I realize I can’t be hard on myself in that way. Everyone has a very different path and mine is unique. I’m also starting to realizing how complex and hard teaching is over language barrier. I hit a very low point today and I didn’t think anything could get me out of it. But I realized my amazing community has my back. I road around on my bike after school and saw so many of my students. I ran into my student Bei Tai and my friend Lui. We made plans to go get ice cream tomorrow. I smiled when I sat in my bed at the end of the day. I did take this cool picture of Prathom 5 all waving at me:

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6/19/18: Last night, I was stress dreaming of lesson planning. In my dream, I came up with an idea. I was teaching students about family members. I thought of a good activity for them to draw their own families. That way, they can make a personal connection to what I am teaching them. It ended up being a success after explaining to multiple students to not copy the example on the board, but to draw their own family.

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After school, I was suppose to get dinner with Lui, but got rained out. I got dinner at the place right in front of my apartment complex. I found my apartment manager and two other people. The two people I met ended up being factory workers for Crate & Barrel in Bangkok. They both have been employees for the company for 20 years, however, they decided that living in a big city, working in a factory, and being away from family was not the life they wanted to live. So, Hang Chat was a stopping point to go back home to Chiang Rai Province. They were kind enough to treat me to dinner.

6/20/18: Today, I was mentally prepared my three classes as I suppose to. However, that is not what happened. I was told 20 minutes beforehand that I would be the only judge for student speeches regarding International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on June 26th. I had no idea what was going on, but you have no other choice than to adapt quickly and roll with it. I ended up enjoying, yet, of the 4 students who gave speeches, two of them forgot their speech. They had to memorize it and I felt so bad, but I had to be “judge” like. I thought standing up in front of a native English speaker (me) and trying to speak English deserves a win considering barely any of my 650 students would do that. I hate choosing a winner. I then taught my class in the afternoon. One of the classes that I was suppose to teach in the morning was upset they missed my class, so they begged and pleaded that I teach them during a free period and I said of course. After school, I climbed the mango tree on campus and picked some mangos for my students. Teacher Chuay and First (nickname) pose here with mangos:

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I then got dinner a student’s house (they sell food on the side of the road). My back front tire all of a sudden was flat. I had multiple families coming together, plus my students trying to help me fix my bike tire. It was a big deal. They ended up fixing it for the time being and bought Khaw Tan as a thank you.

6/21/18: Today (Thursday) is Scout Day. Now, I’m not too sure what the meaning is other than wearing a different uniform to school. I don’t think students do separate projects outside of school and instead, Scout is embedded within the school. Upper levels (Prathom 4-6) had uniforms as such:

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The lower levels wear a scarf that is blue and yellow. Other than Scout Day, everything was pretty normal.

6/22/18: Friday and today, it didn’t feel like the end of the week. Today I teach the most classes in a day… 5 classes (one couldn’t make it on Monday). A long day, yet satisfying. Selfie with Prathom 6:

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After school, something felt off. I was playing football (soccer) with the boys and I did a joking shove. He got actually mad and felt bad. I also had na few teachers say I was doing something wrong. I think it was a bit of a reality check that even though I’m starting to feel comfortable, I am still in a different country and there are a WHOLE different set of norms, expectations, cultural behaviors, etc. I then back to the student’s home (nickname: Name Gaye) for dinner. On the way, I stopped by a mango tree to grab some for the family. I then spent the afternoon peeling them. It was a fun activity.

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I then biked home. On my home, I passed by the school and saw the student teachers still at school working on decorating the board. I ended up stopping and afterwards, hung out sharing Chang beer and Bingsu together. First time I hung out with people my age 5555+ (555555+ is a common in texting here. It means “hahahaha”).

6/23/18: Today I woke up late after a long week. Got lunch and then went to one of my student’s home (Jung Hoo), who lives right across from Name Gaye’s home. We all got together and played Uno together.

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We then got Bingsu together afterwards. It was fun and special. Even though the language barrier still exists and is prevalent, I appreciate them and they appreciate me.

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I then went on a bike ride with Teacher Jackie in the afternoon. Very beautiful as we rode in the backroads of Hang Chat.

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We climbed a steep hill and as a celebration, we cheers our water together.

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6/24/18: Got up this morning and went to the school to do a leg workout. At first, no one was there, and then the school director (principal/boss) saw me and laughed. I was a bit embarrassed, but I think he got a kicked out of it. I then went to Bingsu cafe to lesson plan and met some awesome high school students. I get a kick out of them.

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I then had dinner at Bingsu (my adopted family here in Hang Chat) and went on a non-destination motor-bike ride with Jackie. Super fun!

6/25/18: Good day of teaching. This week, I plan to teach Prathom 1 & 2 food and drink vocabulary and do a review session for Prathom 3-6. The students here really like this chain throwing game. The goal is to throw one of the plastic chain in the air and before you catch it, to grab another plastic chain from the ground. There are many versions you can play. Some of them try to explain it to me but I don’t really understand it.

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6/26/18 (International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking): Today is international Drug awareness day and here in Thailand, it is a big deal. Both my school and the high school participate in a parade to raise awareness that drugs and alcohol is not good. Now, I didn’t know if I needed to go to the parade because only Prathom 4-6 are in the parade. But the school director told me to go and so, I assumed that everyone was going. Apparently, the classes I was suppose to teach were still happening and I didn’t know that. Big miscommunication. Didn’t mean to skip the classes. In my head, I’m thinking, “How am I suppose to effectively teach 1st and 2nd graders while the entire town and school are participating in the parade…?” Regardless, witnessing the parade was a cool experience. So cool to see so many of my students. Have the pictures speak for themselves:

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To be honest, I am glad that I messed up because being part of the parade was more valuable than teaching the two classes I had in the morning. I then got a smoothie with Teacher PP and then ice cream with Lui and Bei Tai. Dessert filled day.

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Afterwards, we went to the Hang Chat temple. It was cool to walk around and meet the monks there.

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6/27/18: Today, there was a school wide test. It gave me a chance to breathe, respond to some people back home, and relax. Had fun hanging out with the Prathom 6 class. They love taking photos:

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I then had dinner with many of the teachers plus the director. I went on a long run beforehand and they love to talk. I was there for 2 1/2 hours and eventually, got cranky because I just wanted to go home.

6/28/18: Finally a day with a normal schedule. I went jogging with one of the teachers after school at the high school. I got a cool picture of the clouds that day.

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I then got dinner at my regular spot. I than ran into my co-teacher there. Boy was it an awkward interaction. I was sitting at the table with my 3 year-old friend Jung Wen and she sat far away from me. At a certain point, I told myself to be the bigger person and and to engage in friendly conversation. I asked her, “Are you busy?” She said yes. I mentioned to her, “You must be busy from grading your student’s test,” referring to the school wide test yesterday. She said, “Ohh good, you gave students a test.” In my head, I’m thinking to myself how does she expect me to give a test to students after 5 classes… I responded to her no and restated what I meant to say. She look a bit disappointed at me. She then told me, “You know students only had test in the morning!” I took that as a message of her thinking I’m slacking off when really, I work my ass off every single day. At that point, I was really done with the conversation and politely ended the conversation. To gain some positive energy, I biked to one of my student’s house and it reminded me the whole point of me being here in Thailand: for the students.

6/29/18: Today was a series of shitty events. I woke up and the very first moment, my phone started spazzing out. I realized that maybe plugging my phone into the wall where the voltage is 240 instead of 120 could have caused it damage. I’m mostly bummed because I love using my phone mostly for portable music. Then, I was itching all over my body from a combination of a rash and mosquito bites. It was a tough start but what made it all better was a single moment. I was waiting for my Prathom 1 students outside of their classrooms with a bit of a moan. All of a sudden, they come out one-by-one screaming, “YAY, TEACHER MIKE! TEACHER MIKE!!” with the biggest smile on their face. I ended up have a fantastic day of teaching. After school, I got to hang around for a bit and then, it rained the hardest I’ve seen in Thailand so far. The first photo is Prathom 4-6 praying. The last period of every Friday, everyone devotes 1 hour to working on prayers and meditation.

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Afterwards, I went to the market in Lampang with Fisho and her friend Jackie. Fisho ended up seeing a good friend from high school at the market she went to. Her friend is a make-up artist for a Thai TV show called ตลาดเด็ดประเทศไทย (pronounced: Tlād dĕd pratheṣ̄thịy = Thailand Market). I first wanted to be famous, so I kept walking back and forth behind the camera hoping that maybe my face could be seen in the background. I then saw on the people working on the show talk to one of the stands and I said, bingo, that is where I need to sit. And so, I sat down and sure enough, they came over and interviewed me for a solid 5-7 minutes. The show will be aired on Thai TV on July 16th at 9:30-10:30 pm on Channel 23.

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6/30/18: I woke up and Teacher Mao and her son Wayu took me to the Elephant conservatory up the road to not see the elephants, but to visit a student who lives there. It was truly an adventure to get there. I truly felt I was in the middle of the jungle.

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We then went to the well-known market near by called Kad Tung Kwain Market.

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Then, I went to Bingsu Café to work and lesson planning. I was suppose to go to Chiang Mai, but I said no because I’m exhausted from teaching and just wanted to relax for a bit. I ended up having dinner with my second family and helping a few students knock some mangos out of a tree.

7/1/18: Today, I decided to go check out the “gym” downtown. (gym is in quotes because it really isn’t one) It has run down equipment, uneven weights, and non-functional cardio machines. It didn’t really matter to me because it was just nice to have some type of gym. Also, it is free! I then spent the rest of the afternoon strategically planning my teaching. I have a good plan to shift my focus to focussing on dialogue. Then, went to get ice cream  with my students Jung Hoo and Name Gaye. Then, went to the park afterwards.

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On my way home, I then bought my 3-year-old friend Jung Wen a plastic cheap tractor. I saw him play with a few beat-up toys the other day and the least I could do is spare a bit of change and provide this kid with a brand new toy. He was so excited. He put it in his special spiderman backpack!

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7/2/18: Monday and trying my new approach in regards to my lesson planning. Overall, it went really well with just a few kinks. I started class with some tongue twisters. Some students struggle with understanding the concept of dialogue, but the ones who understood, I felt like they actually learned something. I felt satisfied. After school today, I went downtown and heard, “Hello, Teacher Mike” around 10-12 times. In a single moment, I couldn’t help but feel gracious that this community is accepting me. Whether or not the students are learning anything, They remember me and I remember them. Such an empowering feeling.

7/3/18: Tuesday = long days. I changed my morning assembly time to Wednesday because tomorrow is 4th of July. Wanted to sing the National Anthem while waving the american flag. Of course, I don’t have a flag on me and so Teacher Mao did my a favor and helped me go to 6-7 different shops around Lampang city in attempt to find an American flag. Every store we went to, they said “Mai mii” (I don’t have). However, there was this old, run-down shop that had 4 tiny american flags for 200 baht (expensive for Thailand). It was the only American flag in the city so it mist do. It was so funny. Holding an American flag that was the size of my hand. Teacher kept saying, “Small! Small!!” Pretty funny.

7/4/18: 4th of July and here, just an ordinary day. First time outside of the country and honestly, didn’t really feel weird at all. It was funny to see social media blow and see all my friends rage and party. I didn’t really feel sad that I “missed out.” But to celebrate, I sang the National Anthem for all the students of Anuban Hang Chat School. Ohh god was it an awful rendition of the song. Lets just say if the video were to hit the internet, I don’t think I would ever be respected again. But, I tried, and the point was to teach students a bit of American culture.

Today, I was bold. I went directly to Teacher Parn to talk about how she wanted grading to be. We butt heads at the beginning and still during the conversation, but I have to be understanding and say yes to what she says, even though inside, I want to scream no. It ended up being a good talk even though I was still a bit confused. She then proceeded to follow up about three times to me after the conversation to drill in her point. I clearly got the message, but she wanted to make sure it was her way. I sighed, but I have to, in some way, do things how I operate or, I will not be a functional teacher. Another day of learning that being the bigger person is so important.

7/5/18: Today is the day of my evaluation from TTC.  They came to meet with me and to watch me teach. I was equally excited and nervous. Excited because it was nice to reflect in person to the people who have trained me, yet nervous because I’m still very uncomfortable with teaching. I got to see Adam Santiago, who is the program coordinator from Georgia. Such a good guy because we view our lives very similarly, so, it was nice to reflect with him. It was comforting that the many issues I have were the same ones he dealt with: classroom management. They watched me teach Prathom 5, which, in my perspective, the most rowdy grade. However, they were very cooperative and listen to everything I said. I was nervous as I could see Teacher Parn, the School Director, and 4 people from TTC in the background. Students were also nervous to participate. However, it went very well and as a reward, ate some bomb noodles outside of school for lunch with everyone. Being in an evaluative position like that was nerve-racking. It wasn’t quite like taking a test or a presentation. I am basically being judged for something I do everyday. It means more than a grade is a good way of putting it. I care so much about my students and I know I have to put myself in incredibly uncomfortable positions so I can be the best teacher.

7/6/18: Today was pretty normal other than realizing I’m gaining stress wrinkles in my face. Looking a photo from graduation and now, it looks like I have gained 20 years. But, I guess that is the norm now. I notice that I tend to be tense when I teach the younger ones because I’m always on edge to control the classroom. When a classroom does go haywire, I get really stressed out as sometimes, I’m the only one with 35 seven year olds who don’t speak English and sometimes, don’t care about school. Adam said something that was comical, yet true, “You either age, or die!” In the afternoon, my adopted family at the Bingsu Café I go to bought me shorts. Now, I don’t really know why, but they bought me shorts They ended up being awful. So, we went to Big-C (Thailand’s Walmart) to exchange. Then, get ice cream with their nephew (who is kind of cute, but I can’t flirt over language barrier or really, build any type of connection…ahahahah!)

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7/7/18: Today was simple: 1) went on a run, 2) lesson planned and had dinner with Bingsu Café family, and 3) played soccer with students at the park. My lesson planning consisted of my hand drawing a map for 4 hours so I can teach my older students how to give directions.

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7/8/18: Today was an adventure. Teacher Jack, Fisho and I went to the middle of Lampang to go to a temple. The name of the temple is Wat Santi Nikhom Samakkhi Tham. It was beautiful!

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Garland of Flowers (พวงมาลัย). It’s significance is to pay respect to the holy one, parents, and relatives.

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At Wat Santi Nikhom Samakkhi Tham, they have a walk-through Buddha hell! Low-key terrifying!

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Afterwards, went to teacher Jackie’s home to have a fresh coconut, meet his family, and meet some of his pets…

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7/9/18: Monday. I spent a lot of time over the weekend to present my awesome lesson to Prathom 6 today! Pretty excited to teach it. Turns out that not many of them understood the concept plus what I was asking them what to do. When students don’t understand, especially if you have a full class of students who don’t understand, that class gets out of control. After the students left, I felt disappointment, but didn’t really know where the disappointment was coming from exactly. The language barrier didn’t allow me to communicate to the class how much time I spent preparing the lesson, which I wanted to say, but couldn’t. It felt as they totally disregarded it…and I have to forgive them for it. They are students who don’t think about that kind of thing. Tough day.

7/10/18: Tuesday, which means I have to do a morning assembly. I woke up OK, and then thought about the assembly. I immediately got into a bad mood. Full of discouragement. In my head, I’m thinking to myself, everything I tell the students, they will 1) not understand, and 2) forgot about it within seconds. A feeling of exhaustion hit me today. Being strong is hard. I really don’t give myself credit how difficult this is. Also, I don’t give myself the time of day to really realize how difficult this is because I have to go, go, go! Then, I sat in the Chinese class during a free period with one of my classes. Was fun to study with them and joke with them during spare moments in time. That is what turned my mood around and felt better. After school, got my student Black an orange “Nomsom” (orange ice drink). He is in first grade here and smiles all the time. He greets me every morning and for some reason, really reminds me of myself when I was a kid.

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Then, I ran into Prathom 6 fixing the garden so Teacher Michael can eat Morning Glory (water spinach) for breakfast!

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7/11/18: Today, I had 2 very interesting epiphanies/moments. In my Prathom 2 class today, it is clear that one of my students has severe learning disabilities, possibly turret syndrome. I feel so bad for him and try to support him the best I can, but I can’t do much because he knows absolutely no English and his communicative skills are limited. I’ll be teaching and he will just scream in a high pitch at random moments. Students giggle and he does too. I have to be serious because it is quite annoying, but I do laugh inside a bit. Another moment in my class was my Prathom 3 class, there was a student with a strong odor. Everyone around him were plugging their noses…making it obvious that the student stunk. It was bad enough that students were calling me over, ranting to me in Thai about the smell. I felt bad for the guy and tried to play it off like it was no big deal, but it was distracting half the class from my teaching. So, I told them to move. I had to be professional and support the kid with the odor, but inside, I totally empathize with the other students…ohh I felt so bad.

At Lunch time, one chocolate milk brands came to school and handed out free chocolate milk! Pretty awesome!

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After class, I got to witness some of the older students do their CPR/First-Aid training. They have designated time for CPR and First Aid training. I thought it was so important and I thought to myself, I never had something like this till an employer forced me to be certified. Thought it was great, and quite hilarious to watch 5th and 6th graders do CPR.

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7/12/18: Normal day. I’m proud of myself because my organizational skills are improving…thanks to Google. I made a new email account for Thailand related stuff. I have all my teaching materials on the Drive, which makes everything super useful. My email is mdchenttc@gmail.com.

7/13/18: Today, I made a mistake. Everything was fine before Lunch. And then…I had Prathom 5 in the afternoon. Most students were fine, but a handful of them out of line felt like I have let out every animal at the zoo. Students were running around the classroom, screaming, talking, laughing, fighting, fidgeting with items on my desk, etc. I was so fed up I didn’t know what to do. In a single moment in time, one student wasn’t listening to me. I decided, in the heat of the moment, to “move him” to a new place. Something in me that is unlike me decided to throw his notebook outside of the classroom. I kicked the door open and threw his notebook outside. All of a sudden, Fisho was about to come in. I scared her. If I was a second later, I would have kicked the door in her face. At the time, I didn’t think about ti much because I needed to continue teaching, but when I saw Fisho that night, she explained how badly I messed up. I made a mistake and I truly learned from it.

Other than the mistake I made, I was excited/happy another Prathom 6 section was working hard in trying to understand the lesson. They were working together helping each other out. It reminded me of working together with my Math cohort. Brought me back to the good part of being in school…community of people who help each other out. Proud to foster that a bit in my own classroom.

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7/14/18: Today, I went to my first Thai wedding. One of the teachers at the school, Teacher PP, her son was getting married. She invited me, along with all the other teachers at the school. The wedding was at the Khelang school, which was the school I taught at during orientation. Funny to be back, and also funny that a wedding is at a secondary school. Pretty happy to have had the opportunity to be invited. What I was invited to was the Wedding Party. It was a bunch of tables set up, food and drinks served, and chatting with others while live music was going. Pretty casual. I never met the son before, but he was so nice. The two of them are so perfect for each other. Overall, it was funny to see other teachers, who I see everyday be strict and serious, let loose and have a little whiskey.

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7/15/18: Sunday. Tong, the father of the Bingsu Café family, is back from work. He is my mentor here. He really is a person I can go to, reflect with about my teaching, Thai culture, and my overall experience. Good to spend the day with him catching up. He goes off and works for a month, and then has 2 weeks off, then back to work. We had dinner together. Pad Gra Pao, Tom Yum Goon, Panag Curry, Pak Pak Boong are just some of the few dishes we had for dinner.

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Then, had nice weather on the bike ride home.

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7/16/18: Normal day other than I executed my first quiz…and it was to Prathom 1. It felt weird. I wanted everyone to do well, but then my co-teacher would yell at me saying, “No way everyone gets an A…!” Today, I made it on Thai TV. Pretty crazy and funny to watch myself. The episode can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTyrRobQxBE (I am between 27:45-29:55).

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7/17/18: Normal day, but then one of the van drivers (they don’t have school buses here, yet they have vans designated for specific areas around Hang Chat). She was kind enough to take me with her and the students. She wanted me to see where students live and to see her home. It was a fun little adventure.

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7/18/18: Today was exhausting because instead of having 3 classes, I had 4. My Friday trouble making class (Prathom 5/2) was changed to Wednesday morning. At one point in the afternoon, I crashed. Kept showing students more motivational Thai commercial videos. Then, in the afternoon, some of the Prathom 6 students participated in a soccer tournament against other schools. In short, they won. Fun to watch, and the students had fun watching them play, too.

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Thank you if you have made it to the end. Your support means the world. The experience means the world to me and to have your support as a friend to keep up with me makes me feel honored. I hope you are well and sending a big hug from Thailand to you!

Update #2 (June 4th-June 17th)

Here is my second update. I have now been in Thailand for a month! Pretty crazy, yet still adjusting. Here is my day-by day synopsis and this update, a lot of reflections about teaching.

6/4/18: Monday of the first full week I teach. Exhausted from the night before because I stayed up to write the previous blog post. First day of a full day of teaching: 4 classes. Everywhere between teaching Prathom 1 to Prathom 6. I taught students about hobbies and family.

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At lunch today, I talked to one of the teachers named Boom. A set of teachers here have completed university and teach at the school as training to become a fully fled Thai teacher. Boom is one of the few teachers who is in their years of teacher training. Awesome guy, enthusiastic, and barely knows English. But I really like his presence. It took 5 minutes, some google translating and charades to plan out that we were going to play volleyball in the afternoon. I was stoked because it was the first afternoon plan I’ve made so far. When he made the invite, I thought he was going to bring people. No one showed up, but the students were there. I ended up playing with them and boom. That was an unexpected surprise of pure joy I got to experience. Playing with the students was so fun because I could just be with them. In my classroom, there has to be structure at all times. Playing with students creates an environment where connections can be made organically.

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I then walked home and had dinner at a whole in a wall restaurant right next to my apartment. Flies everywhere and sanitary was an issue, but I went for it. They guy spoke zero English and said I was hungry. He made me papaya salad, which is a popular dish here in Thailand. It is known to be super spicy and what he made me was no exception. I then chased the sunset.

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6/5/18: Today was the first Tuesday of class becasue the previous Tuesday, it was Buddha’s birthday. Tuesdays are hard because I teach a full load (4 classes) and 3 of the 4 are right in a row in the mornings. My focus is shifting from being stressed out from all the goals I need to achieve to being the fun English class students want to be. I truly believe that students will want to come to my class, learn English, and remember me if I’m the fun teacher. I truly have so much fun with them. I laugh and they do, too. It is the small gestures everyday that make a difference. I played 1 1/2 hours of volleyball in my formal outfit. I was so sweaty. For now on, I will pack workout clothes to change into. Then, went to the market down the road to pick up Khaw Tan, fried rice cakes with watermelon sugar topping. So simple and so good! Then, got noodles near the only intersection in town. I got to play with the owners son. He didn’t say much to me, but he smiles. It made a positive impression that I will come back. Then, went to bed. But I heard something flying around. It was a mosquito. I spent 2 hours trying to catch. Eventually, I gave up.

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6/6/18: Wednesday = I only have to teach 3 classes!!! I get a bit of a break. During my free period, I went to get my clothes fitted for formal Friday. Every Friday, all teachers and students wears traditional Thai clothes with the respective color associated with the school. My school’s color is bright, deep pink. My favorite thing to do in my free time is to hang out with the students. Whether is is playing with them in the yard, playing volleyball, or showing students my dance videos in my classroom. Also, my favorite thing is to have lunch with the PE teacher. He speaks no English, but he is just one of those people in life that make you crack up no matter what he says. Especially when he talks about food and how spicy it is. He always says lunch is “mai pet” (not spicy) and in my opinion, everything is at least a little spicy. Now, I see myself saying it all the time. Some people are just influential on your life in the simplest of ways.

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I played volleyball again, went to dinner to the same place. At dinner, I ran into 3 people from my school. Starting to feel like a community. I went to go chase the sunset and along the way, I found another market I can go to on Wednesday nights.

6/7/18: Thursday! I truly understand the need for Friday in a different way…to just relax. Good day at school. Just exhausted. Played volleyball again with the kids. Really find a lot of value in that time I spend with the kids. It is starting to be my favorite thing and gets me through the day. To see the smile on their faces to have a teacher play with them is priceless. What I understand, a lot of Thai teachers don’t really have that capacity to spend extra time with students. So, when they see me spend 1-2 hours of my own time with them, it means a lot to them and to me. Then, I wanted to bike and eat dinner, but my back tire was flat. So, I had to walk it back to the shop for them to fill it up. I then went back to the same restaurant 3 days in a row to hang out with my friend who is 3 years old.

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The mom is so sweet (the owner of the shop). She bought me a shake from the shop next store. My original plan was to get bingsu to see Tong, but sometimes, plans change. And they change for a reason. After dinner, I headed back to my dorm. On the way, I saw teacher Jackie on a motor bike. He rode past me. Something in me told me it wasn’t time to go home yet. That interaction encouraged me to explore Hang Chat more. I then ran into a friend who I made previously playing volleyball at school. His name is Lui, and his sister Mai Thai, who is one of my students.

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We stopped for a moment to catch up. He eventually brought me to a community center where there were more of his friends and a couple more of my students. We played volleyball on this crappy, make-shift net, but it was fun! For some reason, it was a special interaction I had that night. I am starting to feel less alone.

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6/8/18: Friday! What a great feeling! Started the day with a whole bag of Khaw Tan because she makes them at her house. I ate the whole bag in one sitting. Then, my co-teacher, Teacher Parn, wanted to talk to me in the teacher room. I told her I was free after my last class. All day, I was thinking what the hell could she be talking to me about…I’ve been teaching for a week. I was nervous. My dynamic with her is not the best. From my perspective, she has a fixed mindset. It is clear that a lot of things I do as a teacher don’t fit in her framework. Our personalities also don’t mesh well together, plus the language barrier. I do things my own way and I don’t think she is totally keen on it.

In the meeting, it was a lot of me reflecting on my whole week of teaching. I expressed some students struggle to listen to me and at times, can get out of control. She responded by explaining how all Thai teachers deal with the same students and can control the students. In my head, I was thinking that I am the only teacher that sees all 650 students…and also how I can’t discipline students due to my lack of knowing Thai. Also, I have never taught in my life and I am still figuring it all out. She is basically implying I should be able to control my classroom. In one way, I agree, but I have so many hurdles to jump over that she dosen’t understand. So, that part of the meeting was very frustrating, but frustration fuels me to do something about it.

After that meeting…I needed to get away. I had one of the teachers, Teacher Jariya take me to Lampang so I could take a bus to Chiang Mai. There, I would meet up with the other English teachers and meet Malcom. We went to a Reggae bar and then club Zoe…holy shit that was intense. It reminded me of the clubs in Ireland. That whole night, I didn’t feel like I was in Thailand…it felt like America. Basically it was all tourists.

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6/9/18: Woke up exhausted, mostly from the first week of teaching. I got the best banana pancakes. I’ve been craving pancakes for so long. Breakfast in Thailand isn’t any different from lunch and dinner. I’ve been craving an American breakfast for so long and finally got it. Makes sense because Chiang Mai is very touristy.

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I then went to Sister Hostel, where I met Jackie (Pla’s Friend). It is her hostel and it is adorable. If you need a cheap, awesome place to stay in Chiang Mai, stay at Sister House Hostel (http://sister-house-chiangmai.chiangmaihotelspage.com/en/). We then got Burritos, which was another food item I have been craving since leaving home! It was great because we got the whole crew together.

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We then went to Wat Chedi Luang, which was stunning. Let the photos speak for itself:

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I then went back to the Hostel to meet Pla and Jackie. They were my friends for the nights. We went to this awesome bar and restaurant called Good View. It wasn’t very touristy, which was nice. We then went back to Zoe again because I was being jokingly spontaneous and said, “Let’s go to Zoe!” So, I went to Zoe two nights in a row and I am now officially clubed out for at least a month.

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6/10/18: Woke up and got to hang out with Courtney and Haleigh, two other English teachers from TTC. We were joined by Patrick and his girlfriend. They are visitors from Germany. Courtney was telling people’s fortunes using these deck of cards I have never seen before. Patrick knew exactly the same fortune telling cards and started telling my fortune. One of the questions that stuck out was I asked about my romantic relationship in the next year. I got the death card, which sounds bad, but he explained it as something might end, or a current relationship could change drastically. Ultimately, the sun will rise again and prevail. I don’t really believe in fortune telling, but it was a cool interaction.

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Then, I went with Jackie and Pla to Huay Tueng Thao, which is a large lake North of Chiang Mai city with rice fields with bungalows. I really enjoyed the simplistic beauty. I was very fortunate that Pla and Jackie took me there. I would have never known about this place if it wasn’t for them.

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Then, I went home and realized, it is time to do laundry. I realized that I only bought fabric softener. So, I had to run across the street to the market to figure out what was laundry soap over a language barrier. Also, trying to figure out Thai washing machines was an experience. Ready to teach!

6/11/18: Monday and interesting day. Rainy for the first time all day. My assistant teacher Pla is being switched to help Chinese class, so that means I am totally on my own. She helps me with some classes, but others, I’m alone. This morning, Prathom 1 really struggled. I introduced uppercase versus lowercase letters. They’re great at copying, but can’t recognize the letter if I ask them to. I will have to be creative so they can recognize them. I was really down after that. Then, I had Prathom 5 and it was the first class I truly was all alone. The boys in that class are the worst: going under tables, talking loudly, and playing sword fighting with their rulers. That class was the first time I really got upset at them and raised my voice. They still didn’t get the idea…because they don’t speak English and I do. Prathom 3 and 6 were much better. Then, I suited up for volleyball, but no one was playing. I was able to fully to a workout. I have to come up with circuits because there is no gym.

6/12/18: Tuesday! Wearing the same thing as yesterday because laundry won’t air dry in time. Had some good lessons in the morning! I was teaching the students about emotions and was talking about being in love. They decided to associate the vocabulary word with a heart. It was pretty precious!

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Then in the afternoon, there was a practice ceremony for Teacher Appreciation Day for Thursday. No one informed me about this… I stayed till 5 playing volleyball and was picked up to have dinner with one of the teachers. Her name is Teacher PP and she teaches Prathom 1. She is about to retire and why she finished half a bottle of brandy at dinner.

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We then went to karaoke. It is interesting…that whole Thai people are shy was evident at the karaoke bar. They have separate rooms for groups. I am use to have karaoke be extremly public at home. Here, you rent out a whole room and you sing to your friends/family only.

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6/13/18: Today was a hard day. On Monday, I was called back into the teacher room by teacher Parn for Wednesday morning. During the meeting, she basically expressed her worry about my teaching and that I didn’t prepare for my class. It just seems like they are coming down hard on me and the language barrier is part of the frustration. I have only been teaching for 2 weeks. I have never taught before. I am learning what works and what dosen’t and I feel this strong expectation that I need to have it all together. I forgot how much I need to talk things out when I get frustrated and I can’t really do that with her. It felt that everything I said to her, she disregarded it. She offered to help and I appreciated that. It’s just I have done so many good things for the school and she has not mention any of those other than saying students like me.

This strict expectation could be a cultural thing. I truly have been working hard and not been treating this as a vacation. I strategically plan my lessons so they are relevant, engaging, and truly fun. Right after the meeting, I had to teach Prathom 2. I was so shaken up by the meeting that I started second guessing everything I was saying. I never had a more out of control class. At one point, I just stared and was speechless. I was reflecting a lot today. It was a moment of darkness. But what got me out of it was the students. And I am not just saying this. They truly are the best. I went upstairs to Prathom 6 (my favorite level) and they were preparing arrangements for tomorrow’s teacher appreciation ceremony. I was just hanging out with them and I don’t know, they just totally made me forget about everything. I truly smile when I am around them. Here is a moment captured where I learned something important for myself: I love what I do and I don’t care if I’m not perfect!

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I then had to leave school early to go see a football game (soccer) with teacher Jariya and her two sons. It was Lampang vs. Buriram. I love her son Wayu and he loves me. He is 7! We arrived to the stadium early and got to hangout with Wayu. The game was awesome and I liked how small it was, yet how seriously people took it. People were literally playing drums the entire 90 minutes. Incredible. Here are some pics from the game.

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After the game (Lampang lost 1-3), the players came up to the gate. I was in a better spot and saw Wayu. I realized that he would enjoy my spot more than I would. And I had a realization, to sacrifice my life so someone younger and reap the benefits. He got a great view and was able to high five one of the players.

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Then all of us went to get noodles for dinner. Something in mw was feeling grateful for everything they have done for me. Despite having a tough day, I decided to treat everyone to dinner (2 kids, Jariya, her husband, and her brother). It just felt right. It was a tough day, but I learned a thing or two.

6/14/18: Teacher Appreciation Day! What an incredible ceremony. I ad fun shooting the ceremony with my camera. The photos speak for itself how awesome it was:

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There was a moment where I was asked to come on stage and felt a bit uncomfortable when students started bowing towards me. I know it is a sign of respect, but felt a bit weirded out by it.

After school, I got to speak to Marley. At first, it was weird to speak English to a peer who isn’t in my immediate world. I remember being in mid sentence and just not know what word I want to say next. But she is lovely and embraced me no matter what! Eventually, I was able to get back into the swing of things and pick up right where we left off. Then, I wanted to go get dinner, but my favorite place was closed. I decided that I wanted bingsu, (dessert before dinner)! They asked if I have eaten yet and said no. In a heartbeat, they brought food over and fed me. Loving the hospitality of my town.

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6/15/18: Friday and I got to wear my traditional shirt, which was a little too short…so I was constantly flashing students when I lifted my arms. Here is a selfie of me and Boom, my co-teacher friend.

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Good day of teaching and starting to learn competitions are fun for both me and students. Using mentos as an incentive. After school, I stayed for a while running a mini workout set of sprints, push ups, abs, and stretching. I then went to my usual diner spot and ran into a guy that has heard a lot about me of the name Ka. We talked for a while and had good conversation. I learned that he taught himself English over YouTube and runs a center where students can come and get extra help with English. After dinner, I ended up going to his center and met two students in Matthayom (7-12th grade equivalent). Their English was so good, they were interviewing me. I really appreciate that moment.

6/16/18: Saturday and got to sleep in. Got to do a fully fled arm workout without and weights. Then, I got lunch and went to Snow Chill Café to work on my blog. I was then invited by the family to have dinner with them. They are truly starting to become family. I then went on a mini bike ride. In a 15 minute bike ride, I saw a handful of students out and about. It makes me so happy to see them!

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I then went to walking street (weekend market in Lampang City) with Pla. It was mostly the same as last time, but this time, I got to see my favorite snack, Khaw Tan, made FRESH!! Ohh I was freaking out!

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6/16/18: This is the first Father’s Day I am away from home. Kind of a weird feeling, but I guess I’m starting to enter this part of life where I may be a part of family gatherings on a regular basis. It will be weird during Thanksgiving and Christmas for sure. Today, I woke up late and it was a torrential downpour. Eventually, it died down. Went to get lunch with Pla today and then went to Snow Chill Cafe to work more on the blog and lesson plan for the week. Again, the family incited me to have dinner with them. They really take me in even though there exists a language barrier. It means so much to me.

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General Update: I’m doing great, yet every day is still a challenge. I am starting to feel less alone, however, I still feel alone. I miss my friends, family, and of course, my dogs. I have been here a month. That is crazy. I have a long way to go but so far, this has been great! Building bonds with people other than just pure communication has been so empowering. Even though my school and I have had some speed bumps, I’m doing this for the students and they truly drive me every single day. When I’m having a difficult moment, everything turns around when a student comes running up to me and says, “Hello Teacher Michael,” with a big smile on their face. I can’t help but smile inside and out!

 

Update #1 (May 20th – June 3rd)

5/20/18: Arrived in Lampang. Didn’t know a soul. I knew that there were other people from my program congregating…I took my sweet time because, lets face it, I was scared. I saw Dr. Nirund (founder of Teach Thailand Corps) and Adam Santiago (program coordinator). They gave me a warm welcome and I felt more at ease. Here is a picture of all of us at the airport! Don’t I look great!?

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So, we all got crammed into what is called a ‘song-tau’ which is a taxi with two benches with the back open. I couldn’t keep my eyes away from looking out because I was so amazed. That was a true moment that I realized I wasn’t home anymore. We arrived at the hotel (Hotel Kim City) and again, noticed all the differences. I dropped my stuff off in my room and still in shock, I decided to walk around. I was terrified and it was hot. Here are some of the pictures I took from that adventure. They aren’t great, but taking photos is how I make sense of my surroundings, especially new ones:

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I walked down the street and back in awe. I wanted to connect with my surroundings so bad, but I knew absolutely no Thai. So, I would want to say something to someone or say hi and find myself not being able to say it. So, I waved my hands and nodded. I got weird looks. On my way back to the hotel, it was the most serene feeling. Doors were non- existent. It was a pretty exciting feeling that day, but also full of fear.

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5/21/18: This is hard. There is really no other way to phrase is. Just figuring out how to say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ is just a challenge on its own. I arrived to orientation early with shorts on. Dr. Nirund got made at me; I guess it’s one of those cultural differences. Then I came back and I was wearing flip flops. He yelled at me…”closed toed shoes young man!” So, I went back up again. First day of orientation was a lot. I’m scared to teach becasue I’ve never taught before let alone in a foreign country. The voice in the back of my head keeps telling me, “Michael…you have no idea what you’re doing!”

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Afterwards, I went on a walk to clear my head. I found a park with a half-mile loop around it. But it was so hot, no one was running. It was pretty though!

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Then, the group went to dinner at the Hangout Café. It was run by a British father who married a Thai women and wanted to open a place where people could literally hang out! It was fun! We played pool afterwards and it was nice to bond with other people in the program in a casual fashion.

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Then, it started to POUR! And I mean POUR!! We went home and all of a sudden I hear a ‘thud.’ It was Adam who slipped and fell off his motorbike. Luckily, he was wearing a helmet. ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET!

5/22/18: Second day or orientation = information overload. So much Thai language in the morning and info about teaching in the afternoon. Now, I am even more terrified than anything. After orientation, I went on my first run. It was a struggle. I was so dehydrated because it was so hot. There is no such thing as water fountains here so I had to wait to walk all the way back to the hotel. And Thai people don’t street run like Americans do. So, I had to walk to the park to then run. Afterwards, we went to Big C (Walmart on steroids in Thailand) for everyone to get their Thai phones. I got a tiny little Nokia that works inner-country only. I will be using my iPhone over Wi-Fi.

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5/23/18: We woke up early to go visit a school in Lampang called “Kelang’ (which is equivalent to 7th grade to 12th grade). We participated in the national anthem and a prayer to the Budha.

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We then heard from the school principal and introduced ourselves in Thai. Boy, talk about being put on the spot.

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When I was walking around campus, a lot of the girl Thai students would laugh and giggle at me. It was very uncomfortable because I think it was flirting. In my head, I’m in a professional role and therefore, uncomfortable. But in a way, was flattered. But not even just the girl students, the boys, too. I was crowded and followed around as if I was famous. Pretty foreign to me. The school representatives were so nice to me and appreciated me so much. They begged that i switch to teach at their school. Was so honored.

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5/24/18: Today’s Thai lesson was so much that it felt like I was in one of my hard math classes again. I shut down. I also think I shut down from being overwhelmed with everything. It just went on and on and on and… Then, we finally got a break in the afternoon. We split into our respective groups (one group of teachers is going to teach High School and the other to teach Elementary school). I will be teaching English at Anuban Hang Chat school to teach Prathom 1-6. We will be teaching in these groups tomorrow at Kelang. I realized by putting a lesson plan together in a large group is very difficult. A lot of opinions. Now I know why teaching is done individually or at most, with two teachers. We then went to the place called Escape for mediocre green curry. Then, I went to my first Night Market and they literally had everything…they even had puppies.

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5/25/18: I felt pretty down this morning. Last night, I was suppose to host a hangout in my hotel room for all the other English teachers. However, I declined and needed the night to rest because there is a lot going on right now. I was told in the morning, “You know, you should spend as much time with these people because one we reach our placements, we won’t see each other everyday.” That statement made me feel uneasy. In one way i agree, but in another perspective, I see the same people for breakfast, all day during orientation, hang out after orientation, and dinner. I just needed some alone time and I think that is ok. Today was the day…the day that we teach at Kelang in groups. The kids were fantastic. They need to have more confident in speaking English. They all can say “hello,” but that is about it. In Thai schools, students can not fail. So, regardless how bad they perform, the teachers must change the grades so they get a passing grade to move on. This is a huge reason why these students aren’t engage. So, it is our job to engage these students and motivate them to see that learning  English is more than just the grade. We played fun games such as charades, pictionary, warm-ip repeat-after-me song, etc.  The teachers were great at Kelang and hope my teachers are great in Hang Chat.

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5/26/18: Excursion Day!! And last day of orientation. Teach Thailand Corps planned these day out for us to see parts of Thailand to get us excited for our placements. We first went to a 1,000 year old temple. It was truly amazing. It was a bit touristy, but still amazing!

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After the temple, we then went to Thai Elephant Conservation Center (TECC) in Hang Chat. It was amazing and I’ve always wanted to see elephants, but the set up wasn’t ideal. They were sat on with training chains and training stick. I was conflicted the whole time because it is a conservation center, but I didn’t see them free and roaming around like I would have liked to see them. Here are some photos from the conservatory:

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We then went to Nation University in Lampang, which is the University Dr. Nirund founded. He liked the education he got from America and wanted to bring that structure to Thailand, especially the concept of Liberal Arts Education. We then went to his residence, which is on campus, to enjoy fresh mango and sticky rice. Holy crap it was the best I ever had!

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Afterwards, we went to the farewell dinner where everyone said their final remarks to send us off to our placements. We also lit up lanterns to make a wish for whatever we want. In Chiang Mai, on November 23rd, there is Yee Peng Festival where everyone sets off a lanterns together and I heard it is phenomenal!

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5/27/18: Placement Send-Off Day!! Today, we met our school representatives. I met Chaicha Na, Principal, and co-teacher Parn. Language barrier is strong. And I am the only English teacher placed in Hang Chat. I was told I would be teaching 19 classes. I freaked out a little bit, but realized that meant 19 classes for the whole week. Still…that is a lot of kids. Each class size is around 35-40 students. 35*19=665 students I see a week!

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The minute they picked me up and drove to Hang Chat, I was freaking out! My apartment was a bit of a shock. Shower, toilet, and sink has no separation what so ever. I am the only Faráng (American in Thai) in Hang Chat. No one speaks English. Only my co-teacher does. I am truly alone. It will be an interesting 10 months… Went for a walk after dinner. I picked a flower off a tree and gave it to a shop owner who smiled at me. This is one of my ways to make connections across language barrier. I then ate mango on my deck as I watched the sunset.

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5/28/18: First Day of School…and it really felt like the first day of school. The nerves I felt on the first day of Middle School, High School, and first day at Willamette University all came back. I was terrified. A moment kept reoccurring to me this morning which was the moment I was back in August 2014, I was standing in line waiting to get my ID photo taken while all the Opening Days leaders at Willamette were dancing and singing all around me. This kept coming into my head, however, I was comforted, because my four years at WU panned out to be the most incredible years of my life. That meant that the beginning was hard to make it all worth it…and that is what I kept telling myself. I stepped foot on campus and immediately got starred out. I was so scarred, I left school for a second. Then, I told myself, ‘come on, Michael, these kids are way younger and way more afraid then you are…’ and so I entered campus again. I ended up getting a lot of smiles from the kids. I ended up playing with them in the morning, but I couldn’t talk to them because of the language barrier. Assembly came and I had to introduce myself in front of 750 students who barely know English. I didn’t say much because I knew I wasn’t going to be understood. Then, I prepared my first lesson and then presented it. I thought it went well in my opinion. It was about hobbies and I had them write their name in the middle of the page and to draw their hobbies. Explaining that simple task took like 10 minutes, but once the understood what to do, they loved it.

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After my first lesson, the school took me to the bike shop. They were kind enough to buy me a bike to use during my 10-month stay. At first, I didn’t really see the need for it. Then, after school, I was able to zip downtown to do a chore and then all the way to the park for a workout. It really opened up Hang Chat for me. Then, that same night, Teacher Parn invited me to go with her to Chiang Mai. We had a lovely dinner with her relatives and then went to her partner’s, relatives church (he is a pastor). I slept in the office on a bamboo bed. It was an experience for sure…

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5/29/18: Buhda’s Birthday! We had the day off, and so I spent it walking 18km around Chiang Mai. I woke up and had breakfast with Parn and the family. Breakfast included roasted duck, spicy fish, and rice. Not typical, but it was good! Then I was dropped off at the Phae Gate and spent 8 hours exploring. Here are my adventures:

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I stopped for a while at Tikky Cafe for lunch where I had the spiciest Panang curry of my life. Every bite burned and everyone working there was smiling and offering items such as milk and bananas to help me cool down. I did finish the whole thing, but I needed an hour for my stomach to settle.

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Then I continued to walk and walk and walk. I finally got picked up to go back to Hang Chat and slept like a baby.

5/30/18: Back to school! I felt much more comfortable. The kids remembered me…well, they remembered what I look like. They were excited to interact with me, but boy are they nuts… My lessons went well, but Prathom 2 had a hard time with the lesson due to the language barrier. I learned that teaching vocabulary first is a good way to go…sometimes, you just need to fail to learn the simplest of things. I got a smoothies during break with Fisho (my assistant teacher) and then Bingsu with Fisho and her friend in the afternoon.

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Met a great guy name Tong at the shop who speaks English!! We had a great conversation. Then, I was lost where to find good food, but found this beautiful view point.

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I ended up going to a place that was really crowded. It is Thai version of BBQ. I watched Thailand play Germany in volleyball. Cool experience.

5/30/18: Today, I got the day off because I needed to go to Lampang to get my work permit and set up my bank account. Parn drove me to Yonok foundation (where Nation University is). She had a small intervention with me. My excursion to Bingsu happened during the final class time of the day. But I didn’t have class. Fisho was encouraging me and inviting me to go. As someone who is trying to build connections, of course I say yes. Parn said not to do that. I was frustrated because I didn’t leave on purpose, which is what she had the image of me doing. I felt slightly micromanaged, but I had to be strong and respond calmly. Got to the foundation, went to the Thai employment office, which felt like the DMV (we got a calling number slip), and had lunch with part the OG orientation squad. Good to be in company that can speak English. I went to open my bank account, then back to Hang chat on a crowded song-tau. I was feeling adventurous and decided to bike to the Kad Tung Kwain Market, which was 12 km away. It was one hell of a ride becasue I took back ‘roads’ which weren’t really roads because they were part of people’s properties, but it was beautiful!

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6/1/18: I got another day off because we had to pick up our Chinese teacher Liu in Lamphun (one province over from Lampang…closer to Chiang Mai). It was a big deal because the governor of Lamphun and a high end Chinese government official was present. There were around 80 Chinese citizens who came to Thailand to teach Chinese in schools. As part of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), it is a goal to teach 2 foreign languages in schools: 1) English and 2) Chinese. It was a day of mostly sitting around, but got some nice quality time with school officials and met some Thai professors from universities around the area.

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After the ceremony, we showed Liu around Lamphun, went to a temple, market, and tried black jelly (not my favorite, but I’m trying anything and everything while I’m here).

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I went home and took Liu and her friend who is also a Chinese teacher to noodles. I treated because I know what it feels like to be in a new place. You just want to be taken care of and I filled that role for her.

6/2/18: First day in Thailand that I got to sleep in! I slept in, watched a movie, Parn was kind enough to pick me up to get noodles, came back and slept so more, and talk to Joey! First America friend who I have talked to since being here and boy was it nice to hear a familiar voice that speaks English! Thanks for the call and staying awake at 4 am! I then went to Walking Street, which is Lampang’s night market. It was awesome. I love love love markets. Its so fun…and everything is SO cheap! I got new string lights because the ones I brought from home is not suited for the voltage here and they burnt out. I was so bummed, but excited to get new lights!

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New Lights in my room!

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6/3/18: This marks 2 weeks in Thailand! So much has happened, yet I still don’t feel adjusted yet. My friend Annelise who did a similar thing in Malaysia said it took her 4-5 months to get situated, and I believe her. It’s hard out here, but I’m embracing every moment!

I slept in again, and went to go get noodles with Fisho! It was pretty freaking delicious!

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And then, I went to get Bingsu again at the Snow Chill  Café because I felt so welcomed there. My friend Tong was there and we totally hung out most of the day! I went to station up and work on my blog post, but instead, enjoyed talking to him, helped his son catch butterflies, help the grandparents pick lotus flowers (I guess you can eat them?) and just enjoyed everyones company. This is my comfort zone that exists outside of my comfort zone!

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I then went to the Hang Chat Sunday market to get my 20 baht Pad Thai (equivalent to 70 cents) and was invited to join s a group of Thai soldier veterans for a bit.

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It is amazing…last week, I felt loss. Every day, it is hard to see progress, but when you look back at a significant period of time, you truly see the growth that you once couldn’t have foresaw. I can definitely say I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you to everyone that has supported me and continue to support me! Your support goes a lot further when the only person you rely on is yourself.