Archive | July, 2010

My first real goodbyes

27 Jul

On Saturday I had to say goodbye to two guys from the group I started with. I was so sad I almost cried. And you all know how rare that is. It’s amazing how quickly such strong bonds can form. I really have come to love some of the people here in only a few weeks. It’s hard to think about not seeing Paul or Mike again. They live in Australia and England, and who knows if we’ll ever visit each other. I can’t even think about saying goodbye to the people I will spend my entire 10 weeks with. Luckily I have Molly and Rachel’s visit to look forward to, so leaving won’t seem so sad. I’m sure there will be tears though.

To clear up the confusion, I’m going to Malaysia this weekend to apply for a 60 day visa at the Thai embassy. Two other volunteers, boy Zoe and Julian, are coming with me. Zoe lives in Kuala Lampor, so we’re going to stay with his family. It will be fun to have a few days away from Chiang Rai. I love it here at Mirror, but there’s not much to do in town except hang out. Zoe promised that I’ll eat the best food of my life there and I’m going to hold him to it. I tell everyone that I make up for not drinking with eating. That is why I’m giving up treats for Buddhist lent. Well, I’m giving them up for the week to start. We’ll see how it goes after that 😉 Thailand is making me fat, so I need to nip my snacking in the bud. It’s hard to resist oreos though when they’re right there and they only cost $0.15. Plus I am officially addicted to peanut butter here. I discovered a bakery with real wheat bread, so I eat a PB&J nearly every day. Not good. Not good at all.

Teaching last week was super good. I taught for the first time by myself and it was so fun. We played a clothing relay race where the kids had to put on the clothes. The class loved it, especially when the boys had to put on a skirt or a dress. I’m amazed at how much you can convey with my very limited Thai, their very broken English and a lot of charades. It just proves that when it comes to communication, where there’s a will there’s a way. I think most people are just too afraid of looking stupid to try. I’ve found that the locals really appreciate it when you try your best. Particularly if you try speaking a little Thai. I taught some 4th graders about recycling on Saturday, which went better than I had hoped for. It’s a complex subject to teach any kid about, and the language barrier makes it that much more difficult. They really picked it up quickly though. I think they really understood it. I’m amazed at how excited I get when I can see the kids learning. I get pretty giddy.

The people here are so hospitable. It really is the land of smiles. They would give you the shirt off their back and the food off their plate if they thought you needed it. As a teacher you are shown an incredible amount of respect, by both the kids and the other teachers. It’s something that was totally foreign to me as an American.

Today is a holiday because of lent, so teaching was canceled. I gave blood in the morning with several other volunteers. A couple of girls had to go to the hospital anyway. One to get her tooth looked at and one to check out a reaction she was having to all the mosquito bites. Both turned out to be ok, which is good because they’re both here for another couple of months.

Although I’m sad to see old people leave, I’m excited to get to know everyone better and meet future volunteers. I cannot believe that I’ve been here nearly 4 weeks. My time here is flying by.

Mirror Foundation Tour

22 Jul
Sorry about the Blair Witch Project camera action, but at least you can get a sense of where I’m living.


22 Jul

A few of you have asked me if there’s stuff that we need here that they can donate. Here’s our volunteer wish list if you want to collect some stuff to send over. It’s expensive to mail, but you can probably send it with Molly and Rach when they come if you’re feeling generous. Anything would definitely be appreciated.

  • cardboard
  • cleaning supplies
  • whiteboard markers
  • poster board
  • stapler and staples
  • large scissors
  • play dough
  • TONS of craft supplies (stickers, glue, tape, markers, glitter, etc.)
  • butcher paper
  • that blue sticky stuff that you can use to stick papers on the wall
  • world maps
  • story books
  • learning games (matching games, memory games)
  • any sorts of learning toys
  • musical instruments
  • basically anything you would find in a kindergarten or pre-school classroom

Address here at Mirror:
Mirror Foundation
106 Moo 1, Ban Huay Khom
T. Mae Yao, A. Muang, Chiang Rai 57100 THAILAND


21 Jul

Things here are great. I taught at Phuko child care center yesterday and it was the first time I didn’t want to strangle the kids. The lesson went amazingly well. Not only did they pay attention (for the most part) but I think they actually learned what we were trying to teach them. It was just me and Ming and two Thai volunteers. I can say what I will about Ming, but his forced planning totally paid off. Hopefully the kids will remember how good it was and continue to behave for me next week. I tried to give blood yesterday, but the hospital was too busy. I ended up sitting on a bench reading most of The Alchemist. Today I taught at Jalae child care and the kids are 100% different than the Phuko kids. We got there and they were sitting in a circle quietly waiting for us. They’re amazingly well behaved. Even when they get bored with something, they don’t go crazy and start locking each other in closets.

These are the kids from Phuko saying the national anthem.

This is the cutest kid from Jalae. He wears a flower earring in his left ear.

A new group of 12 volunteers started this week. Mirror feels packed with all the new people. Teaching is going to be really light this week because there are so many teachers to fill the spots. I think I’m only going to one school per day for the rest of the week. There’s still tons of planning to do though. I teach at my first grade school tomorrow and I’m kind of nervous about it. The little kids are easy because you can just play with them if they get bored. You really have to teach older kids. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow, and then I have to go on my own with new volunteers the next day. Ahh! I don’t feel like I’ve been here long enough to be in charge of anything.

Half of the guys that came with me are leaving this weekend. I’m so sad. I can’t believe how close you can get to people in such a short amount of time. It’s also weird to think that I probably won’t ever see them again because they live across the world.

They put me in charge of putting together a video of all of the songs we sing, so please let me know if you can think of any. Kids songs with actions are the best. They LOVE the banana song. JoLynne, if you still have that camp songs book saved on your computer I would love it if you could send it to me. All the volunteers think my songs are horrible because the animals all die (i.e. the bumblebee song, monkeys and the alligator). I just told them we Americans just like to keep it real.

Pictures at last

12 Jul

Well guys, this is the briefest of brief overviews of my time in Thailand so far. It takes like a zillion hours to upload photos on this internet connection, so you only get a few. I will try to narrate as best I can.

This is my trip to a hill tribe village near Chiang Rai. Only a few of us got to go, but it was amazing. There was a festival going on and we just moved from house to house eating and drinking (Fanta for me, home brewed Thai whiskey for everyone else). I gained 1.6 kilograms in 2 days.

This is a Buddhist temple. Two artist rivals built two different temples, white and black. I wish I could have taken pictures inside because there is the craziest paintings on the walls. There are only 2 completed because it takes 3 years to paint the entire wall. It moves from Buddha and good to all kinds of crazy evil things – the two major ones are Osama Bin Laden and George Bush 😦 The white temple was beautiful, but I prefer the black temple because it’s more natural and has more soul. That sounds weird, but it’s the only way I can think to describe it. My pictures don’t do them justice.

This is in front of Pi Noy’s tattoo shop. He’s this Thai guy that one of the volunteers made friends with and now everyone hangs out there when we go into town on the weekend. We bbq-ed corn and other veggies with with palm butter and this sweet chili sauce that his mom makes. AMAZING. The corn was delicious, but it made me miss the awesomeness that is Utah corn.

WWII cemetery about 2 hours outside of Bangkok. These are the graves of the soldiers who died building the death railway from Burma to Thailand. There are inscriptions from the families of the soldiers on a bunch of the headstones. It seriously made me tear up. There’s not that much to it besides the graves, but it was really powerful to me.

I just thought this restaurant was hilarious.

Watching the tigers exercise at the Tiger Temple. It was the coolest thing ever. I think perhaps I’m getting over my fear of animals here in Thailand. There are tons of little ones just running around where we live. (Like geckos in our dorms that make the loudest geck-o noise ALL NIGHT LONG!)

This was at the death railway museum. Mostly I just thought it was the creepiest diorama I had ever seen. It totally freaked me out.

Bridge on the River Kwai. A beautiful spot but I definitely wouldn’t go again.

Finally in Chiang Rai

6 Jul
Well guys, I know I’m a bit of a flake, but things have been so crazy around here. I apologize for the extra long post, but I want to tell you a little bit about what I’ve been doing since I’ve been in Thailand.

My first real day in Bangkok was on Friday. I was still super jet-lagged and kind of sick, so I slept a lot of the day and walked around the area where my hostel was. Day 2 was better. I walked to the taxi boats on the river (after getting a little lost) and took a ride down to the grand palace. It was seriously the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. The closest thing I can think of to compare it to is Versailles in France, but even that doesn’t come close. I will post some pictures on my blog so you can see. It’s basically a giant complex of buildings that houses the old palace and a temple. Everything is so colorful and ornate I can’t even believe it. I think I took about a thousand pictures. It was breathtaking. Like literally, I was breathless looking at some of the stuff. I was totally beat when I got back to the hostel, so I just hung out and got something to eat with a girl I met. The next day I took a tour from my hostel to the river Kwai, a WWII cemetery, death railway, a waterfall and the tiger temple. I must say, I was disappointed with the River Kwai and the death railway. If you don’t know, it’s this huge railway from Thailand to Burma that the Japanese soldiers made the prisoners build during WWII. Thousands of people died during the construction. Anyway, the cemetery was the coolest part because there were inscriptions from the family members of the people who had died on each head stone. We took an hour ride on the train, which was somewhat miserable, but had some good views of the scenery.

The last thing we did was the tiger temple. It was kind of annoying because we got there at about 3:00 and it closes as 4:00. While I was waiting in line to have my picture taken with the tigers, a worker asked me if I wanted to watch the tigers’ evening exercises because someone had canceled. It was so awesome. It was an additional 500 baht ($15) but it was so worth it. They construct this fence cage and let about 20 people in. Then they release the tigers into the water to play. They are literally RIGHT there. The workers were in there playing with them, making them jump and climb trees and stuff. Definitely the coolest thing I did that day. I didn’t get to see anything else because it closed, but I’m so glad I did it. Tragically, my tour bus left me stranded there because we got done a bit late. I was pretty distraught, but I managed to pantomime my need for a ride to one of the other bus drivers for another tour company. He told me he’d give me a lift back to Bangkok and he called my tour company. About a half hour into our journey home, we stopped at a light about 7 cars behind my original tour bus and I had to run out and switch cars. It was insane. I was pretty calm about the whole thing, but now I’m so glad it worked out. I don’t know what I would have done if I has been stranded 2 hours outside of Bangkok with only about $15 and no idea how to get home. I guess that’s one of the adventures of traveling alone 🙂

That night I went out to the Sukhumvit area with some other people at the hostel. It’s a big area where there are a lot of clubs and bars and stuff. Usually it’s packed, but the night was pretty quiet (for Bangkok anyway). We had a good time though, except that the ATM took my debit card. Again stranded with no money. I was nervous because I had to have cash for the taxi to the airport in the morning. I paid for everyone’s drinks with my credit card and they gave me some cash, so all was well. We ended up going to bed around 3:00 am and I had to get up at 7:00 for the airport, so that sucked. I arrived in Chiang Rai yesterday and was picked up by the director and some of the volunteers. Immediately after I stepped off the plane, it was better than Bangkok. I don’t know if it’s just because I got used to the humidity or what, but the weather here is so much better. I think it’s partly because I’m out of the pollution of Bangkok too.

My first day in Chiang Rai we just got to hang out and settle in. A bunch of us went to a waterfall. It was the first time I’ve been in Thailand that I wasn’t hot. Although I’m acclimatized pretty well, it’s still freaking hot. We all played charades last night. I feel a little like I’m camping. Like there’s tons of games and stuff to get to know people, and the accommodations are about as nice as camping. Actually, not quite as nice as camping, but not too bad. Nothing I can’t get used to. I’ve started a video tour of the foundation. I’ll email that as soon as I’m done so you can have a better idea of where I’m staying. Very beautiful, but very natural (i.e. rustic). It’s definitely not about luxury and relaxation. Today all the new volunteers have been in orientation all morning. The most helpful thing has been learning some Thai phrases. I’m getting a little better, but it’s still tough because all the vowels sound the same.

The other volunteers are really cool. I’m sad though because my favorite ones are all doing the outdoor program instead of the teaching one. We get to hang out at night and in the morning, but I wish I got to work with them. There’s this one old Japanese guy who’s doing teaching that is so weird. He’s really nice, but he asks like 50 thousand questions that are so random. Sometimes I just want to tell him to shut up and let everyone else talk. Of course I don’t though. I just hope I don’t have to go teaching alone with him too often.

All the people I’ve met (the Thais, people in the hostel, other volunteers, etc) have been super cool. The thing about travelers is that they love to meet and hang out with new people. You don’t really feel like strangers because everyone is a stranger and it makes you all friends. I think the time here is going to go by so fast, but I can’t wait for Molly and Rach to come visit. There’s so much already I want to show you.

I made it!

2 Jul

It’s been about 48 hours since I left Salt Lake and I’ve been in Bangkok for less than 24. You do the math. Despite my horrifically long flights, the trip here wasn’t too bad. I watched plenty of movies and even slept a little. I arrived in Bangkok late last (Thursday) night. I had no trouble getting a taxi, although he did struggle a little finding my hotel. I’m staying at the Lub d hostel on Silom Road. From what I hear, this is a pretty nice place as hostels go. It’s actually much nicer than some of the hotels I stayed at in Europe. Besides the bunk beds. However, the beds are surprisingly comfortable. It’s no Marriott or anything, but I was expecting the worst. They are firm, but I don’t mind that.

I tried to go to sleep as soon as I got in last night, but between the jet lag and having a cold, I didn’t fare too well. The thing about the humidity is that my cough is a little better but my nose will not stop running. To be honest, I kind of feel like crap, so I just hung out and slept today. I ate at this Chinese restaurant. It was the best fried noodle thing I’ve ever eaten. I’m not sure what it was, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Thai because they brought me out chopsticks to eat with.

I have met some cool people hanging out at the hostel tonight though. Most of them are British or Scottish, but there’s a few Americans in the mix. Ok, like 1 American and 1 Canadian. Strangely, no Europeans. I’ve been answering millions of questions about Utah and America. The vibe here is cool. Very relaxed. And people are really friendly. There are a lot of solo travelers, so people make friends pretty easily. They usually bond through alcohol. I think these people who travel the world for months on end are so awesome though. I don’t think I could do it for that long, but I think I would like it for a while. I don’t really mind being by myself because you really do meet people.

Tomorrow I think I’m going to take the sky train to the Grand Palace. It’s supposed to be amazingly beautiful, but you have to wear pants so I’m dreading it a little. I was right about the heat, it’s like 1000 degrees here and a million percent humidity. I seriously feel wet all the time. I can tell I’m getting used to it a little though because I don’t feel like I’m going to die anymore. Seriously though, when I stepped out of my taxi last night my glasses fogged up. Silver lining: my skin has never been so soft.

I’ve only taken a few pictures so far. I only have some from tonight because I realized I didn’t have any yet. So, for your viewing pleasure, you get to see me hanging out with all the random people from the hostel.

Me writing this blog with Patrick watching me. I have to give Patrick a shout out. He calls me Chelsea from Utah in California because he thought Utah was in California.

Friends at the hostel.