Friday, January 30, 2009

English Camp

On the 15th of January, PCC hosted English Camp for the M2 students (8th graders). It was incredibly fun! We invited Brad (Fulbright ETA at Mae Lao Whittyahcom in Chiang Rai) and Caryn (Fulbright ETA at San Sai Whittyahcom in Chiang Mai). Therefore, in total there were six native speakers. My roommates and I brainstormed and helped organize the events and theme for the camp. Our theme: “English Around the World.” Each of the six groups was then paired up with an American teacher, a Thai English teacher, a color, and a continent (all but Antarctica…sorry to scientists living there who feel unrepresented).

My group was green, represented the African continent, and assisted by P’Thuang (love her!). For orientation, I rocked the mic shouting and leading songs in English I had learned from past leadership camps in high school and college. Then, my group of 22 students was up-close and personally introduced to my hyped-up SOS personality. After two summers of being a member of the Student Orientation Staff at the University of Louisville, it felt nostalgic and refreshing to be in a similar role again. Each group, although I undoubtedly say my group was the best, created their own cheer, flag, and team-colored headbands. I helped my group create the Africa cheer based on inspiration from the movie Hook with Robin Williams –Rufio, Rufio, RU-FI-Oooooo! Our cheer, Africa, Africa, A-FRI-CAaaaaa! Sunuk (fun).

(photo: Africans unite!)

Day two of English Camp consisted of six stations (run by each of the Americans), a large scavenger hunt, and a trip to the night bazaar in the city. My station was called “Jungle Jams” and it required the students to write and perform songs about Africa set to instrumental music. It was an unexpected and excitingly successful station. The other stations included such activities as relay races, charades, obstacle courses, the Cha Cha slide (dancing), drawing, and speaking. The scavenger hunt, won by team Africa (go go green!), resulted in smiling and extremely sweaty faces. In fact, some of the students exerted so much energy running around campus for the scavenger hunt that they sweat through their headbands to the point where the permanent marker, displaying their American nicknames, was then hilariously displayed on to their foreheads. English Camp finished up on Saturday in the early afternoon with a production by all teams and a competition for Mr. & Ms. Universe. English Camp was a great success, agreed upon by all.

(photo: students included five or more of these words in their songs)

(photo: Cha Cha Slide with Alicia)

(photo: English in action! Blindfolded (and handcuffed) obstacle course with Kirsten)

(photo: Charades with Brad)

If you are planning an English Camp near you, I would be happy to share some of the logistical materials and resources we used to organize our camp. I also have some audio files for songs. Just get in touch:  Also, don't forget to watch the video at the top of this post.


How To: Create a Succesful English Camp
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English Camp 2009
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Thursday, January 29, 2009

C to the Rai

We headed for Chiang Rai on the 2nd of January. The bus ride from Bangkok was an eleven-hour journey. Settling in was easy enough. In fact, it was fun showing Kali the local scene, introducing her to the faculty at my school, and helping her prepare for her job at a school in town. Below are pictures of the house we live in and the school. I meant to post these ages ago.


(photo: Farang house --four bedroom, two-story house for foreign teachers located in the back of campus!)

(photo: Air Conditioning. Background: my Thai numbers and alphabet posters --Thanks Sumate!)

(photo: take your shoes off at the door please)
(photo: I have been describing our house as an open-air cabin, here you can see what I mean)

(photo: the bedroom. Backgound: that's right, Louisville IronMan poster!, ear-x-tacy stickers, yoga mat, and photos of family and friends)

(photo: going downstairs --a cat actually came into the house through that hole the other day)

(photo: kitchen with only a microwave for cooking)

(photo: first floor, front door)

(photo: looking into the bathroom. I actually took this picture to capture the creature --moth, colorful bat, kite, we're not sure-- chilling out on the bathroom door. We share our house with nature *wink.)

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays Kali and I organize a game club for PCC students after dinner. Thanks again mom for sending all of the great games! Sorry (insert: small encircled “TM”) has been a big hit with the M1 students. Game club attendance ranges from about 4 to 12 students depending on the night. We have played many games of bingo, great for teaching them English vocabulary. Typically the students who attend game club are from M1, the grade that I teach, so it’s really great getting to know them outside of class. Oh, and for prizes we have been giving away UofL T-shirts, pins, cups as well as USF key chains and pins. Thanks again to my boss at USF Athletics and the admissions staff at UofL for providing me with such personalized gifts for my Thai students!


(photo: Main entrance to the school.)

(photo: view from the courtyard of the main school building -four floors, two sides)

(photo: overlooking the pond, in the background is the gym/cafeteria)

(photo: basketball and volleyball courts)

(photo: football (soccer) fields)

(photo: ping pong area)

(photo: skyline in the back of campus)

So, remember the time I got helplessly lost in Chiang Rai the day I bought my bicycle. A man named Bomb was kind enough to drive me home, and this very man turned out to be the owner of a language school in town called New Zealand Educational Services (NES). To make a long story short, because of that eventful evening, Kali now has a job at NES School teaching about 20 hours a week. On Saturdays Kali and I co-teach (I volunteer) a group of five Thai women, each of whom are in their mid to late 40s and are nurses at Chiang Rai Hospital. I have such a great time on Saturdays because the women are very witty and interested in using conversational English in meaningful ways. Our first Saturday teaching the class went great. After the class, Kali and I ended up hanging out with Bomb and the rest of the staff at NES. That night we went with the staff to the Food Festival being held at the old airport in Chiang Rai.


(photo: Saturday group)

(photo: Kali and her new boss P'Bomb)

(photo: NES School staff --what a fun bunch)

(photo: Kali enjoying a bit of local cuisine --bamboo worms )

(photo: bathroom break! --gotta love it)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Celebrating the New Year in Bangkok

I was insanely nervous, anxious, and eager when Kali arrived about 1am on December 28th. We spent the subsequent days walking through various parts of the city, visiting the zoo, and eating delicious Thai food. Her ability to jump right into things without a complaint still amazes me. We witnessed the hustle (madness even) of Khao San Road, the tranquility of Lumphini Park, and everything in between.

(photo: Kali finally made it! Picture from our first dinner together in Thailand.)

(photo: Khao San Road --yes, those are tables set up with people drinking beer outside a 7Eleven. Yep, the street is so insane, travelers will drink anywhere)

(photo: Lumphini Park --Kali soaking in the sunset and watching a curious Thai child.)

Simply put, we had a fantastic time in Bangkok (Bkk). Admittedly, our cushy room at the D&D Inn was almost too comfortable considering our current sleeping arrangements in Chiang Rai. Regardless, we got great sleep during our stay in Bangkok and had an incredible New Year’s.

For New Year’s Eve we celebrated the coming of 2009 with my fellow Fulbright ETA friends, Kate, Karen, Zoe, and Caryn. For lunch we met with P'Tu and P'Nong (contacts through uncle Steven) and enjoyed some great middle eastern food. Sadly, P'Ko was out of town, but we thought about her all day.

We had some great Indian food for dinner then made our way to the bar and club scene. We started the evening at P'Ko's bar actually (sad she wasn't there). I’m sure the pictures of that night serve as my best memory, but I can definitely tell you it was a New Year’s Eve I will never forget.

(photo: Banglampo area --intrigued by the New Year's decorations after dinner)

(photo: P' Ko's Bar near Khao San Road --Zoe, Kali, Caryn, Karen, Kate, and I)

(photo: Khao San Road craziness --about 11pm on New Year's Eve. Notice the food carts vendors in the middle of the chaos just hanging out, trying to make a living.)

(photo: Dance club on Khao San Road)
(photo: Dancing and smiling my way into 2009)

Early early in the morning on New Year’s Day I woke to the sound of my phone ringing. It was my father calling to make sure we were safe. That’s when I learned about the tragedy that we were lucky not to have been a part of. Nearly 50 people died in a fire on New Year’s Eve at a dance club in Bangkok. It became the topic of conversation for the next few days we spent with friends in the city–very sad indeed.

So, when I return home you can now take me up on an offer to cook you amazing Thai food. The six of us went to May Kaidee’s Vegan and Vegetarian Restaurant for a cooking class! The class included a trip to the market with the owner of the restaurant herself, where she showed us what ingredients we would be working with. Then she taught us how to cook 10 Thai dishes. Zoe bought us matching T-shirts from Ubon (the province in Thailand where she teaches), so the last photo is pretty great.

(photo: the crew with Ms. May Kaidee herself after the cooking class)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Life in Fast Forward

Right now I am sitting on a bench in Mae Sai, Thailand patiently waiting for Kali to return from Myanmar. Today marks 30 days that Kali has been here and she is currently across the border extending her visa. Coincidentally, it has been one month and one day since my last blog post. Like the title of this post indicates, the last 31 days have swept off the calendar faster than I can turn the pages.

I am so happy that Kali is here experiencing Thailand with me. We have done many things so far, and continue to take life one day at a time –adventure by adventure. I want to share what I (we) have experienced in the last month, but I’m finding it a bit overwhelming to sum it all up at this very moment. So in bullet-form, here is what you can expect to read about in the coming post(s):

· New Year’s in Bangkok
· Thai cooking class at Mai Kaidee’s Vegan and Vegetarian Restaurant
· Kali’s new teaching job in Chiang Rai
· Renting Bella
· English Camp @ PCC
· Kali and I get adventurous on our trip to Chiang Mai (Akha tribe visit, hiking, elephant riding, white water rafting, bamboo rafting, zip lining, playing with tigers).
· Fulbright Mid-grant Report
· Running

It can’t be said enough:
1) To those of you who continue to read my blog (I hope you are at least mildly amused)… thank you.
2) To those of you I miss terribly… I love you.
3) To everyone… may your life be optimistic and full of happiness.