Friday, June 7, 2013

Webster, Art and Colorguard

Erica wrote about our adventures on Thursday and her experiences with a familiar American activity.

On Wednesday we had the opportunity to visit Webster University and were able to observe a class on Thai culture. The school has people from many different countries integrated together. It is  abranch campus of the main University in St. Louis, Missouri. In the small class we observed, there were students from Thailand, Burma, the United States, and Russia. In the class, we learned about the basic history of Thailand including the history of the current dynasty. The students also gave presentations on their experiences with "culture shock." When we departed from Webster, we went directly to the Hua Hin Artist Village. It was a neat place with a small, open studio for each artist. We were able to walk around and see each artist’s work and even buy some of it. There was a large variety of art including acrylic, watercolor, jewelry, clothing, pottery, large paintings, and smaller paintings. Not only was it interesting to see Thai art, but we all left having had purchased some authentic Thai masterpieces.

One day this past week while we were all walking to dinner I saw a Thai student practicing outside of the band room with a flag. It was identical to the flags my old marching band uses. It made me think back to the good old days of being in color guard, one year as a captain, and how much I had enjoyed it. A few days later, I was able to arrange a meeting between myself and the color guard here.  Although most of them spoke little to no English, we were still able to communicate through the language of the guardies. I taught them how to do some tosses, and they asked me to make a routine for them. The next day, I came prepared with a routine. It was funny in that teaching them the routine was not much different than it was when I was in band in the United States, even though there was a large language barrier. By the end of our time working together, the color guard got the routine down, including one of the new tosses. It looked great!



Continuing to Learn New Things

Here is another post written by Kelly.

After we had our morning classes on Tuesday, Erica and I got a Thai massage.  It was wonderful!  I have only ever had a Swedish massage before and this Thai massage was very different.  The best way to describe it is as an active massage.  They did a lot of stretching and manipulation.  The Thai’s also don’t possess the concept of a personal bubble, so the masseuse had no problems getting up on the table with me and using her hands, elbows, and feet throughout the massage.  They were very thorough and worked on all my problems areas.  I felt so relaxed afterwards; it was very nice.  They were even able to get my neck all better as it had been messed up from our marathon of a plane ride to get to Thailand.  I would definitely go back!

That afternoon Tim in our Thai lesson how to spell our names in Thai.  So, Kelly in Thai looks like this:
I’m glad I learned my name, at least now I can read something in Thai.  I found it interesting that the letter for K isn’t the first symbol in my name in Thai.  The first symbol is actually for the sound A, then K and two Ls with the Y hanging out above the last L.  It is strange to me, but it works and looks really cool!  Tim also went over with us some cultural comparisons between America and Thailand. 

We had our after school English camp again today.  I taught and played Pictionary with my group.  They really got into it.  The kids here seem so artistic; maybe having writing class to make all their caricatures correctly helps.  I am glad we are doing the English camp as it allows me to have more informal and personal interactions with both students and teachers.

We're Playing in the Rain!

Laura contributed this post...thanks Laura!

After a long and eventful weekend, we returned to Salesian on Monday, rested, finally adjusted to the time zone and prepared for another week of school and the first day of our after school program! One of our fearless leaders, Dr. Kingston, was still in Bangkok finishing her teacher workshop so Dr. Hartigan planned our schedules for the day.  I spent the morning in the anuban again, Meg was in first and third grade EP math, Kara, Jess and Winette were in fourth grade EP math and second grade EP social studies, and Erica and Kelly were in first and second grade EP math. Everyone was finished with school by 11:30am and we had until 4:00 in the afternoon for free time.

The first day of the after school camp was an adventure. It took awhile for everyone to find their classrooms and teachers but we eventually settled in and were off expanding young minds once again! During the after school program, we plan “camp” activities for the students to participate in. Winette, Kara and Jess planned to sing songs and play Simon Says, Meg and I planned an outdoor kickball game and water balloon toss and Kelly and Erica planned to have the students make cootie catchers. The program went extremely well for our first day in spite of the teachers having not known about it until earlier that morning. Unfortunately, the torrential rain cancelled our outdoor activities so improvising was necessary. Thankfully, us education majors are good at thinking on their feet!
Since the rain cancelled the children’s outdoor activities, our teachers decided to take full advantage of the materials. We certainly couldn’t let an entire basket of filled water balloons go to waste! Soaked from head to toe, we had a blast giggling, laughing and dodging the indestructible balls of fury. Afterwards, we headed to the basketball court for a quick game of three-on-three with Winette as our referee. Kelly, Laura and Meg (team Gannon) defeated team solid shirts (Erica, Jess, and Kara) with rookie MVP Meg leading the team into victory. A rematch has been demanded - next time in soccer. The Thai's, as a people, do not like the rain. They believe it is a surefire way to get sick. On the other hand, we Americans, unlike the Thai’s, are praying for more rain so we can play outside again without having heat strokes.

For dinner, we were interested in how Thailand interprets American food so we went to Market Village and enjoyed french fries at the Sizzler. Admittedly, Tim was missing his “man time” but he is having a blast with his seven new adoptive daughters. Dr. Kingston returned later Monday night with lots of exciting stories for us. We are having a blast in Hua Hin, Thailand and the end of our time here will come all too soon but in the mean time, we’re living in the moment and enjoying every second of this experience!

Sabai, sabai

Sorry about the delay in posts...we've been very busy teaching this week! This post is from Meg.

There is a Thai saying that goes, “sabai, sabai.” The lackadaisical people of Thailand use this saying to shape their lifestyle on terms of, “it’ll get done when it gets done,” or “just go with the flow.” Our adventures on Sunday tested our patience, physical strength, and our ability to integrate with a sabai, sabai way of life.

For starters, Saturday we were given the option to go visit the palace of King Mongkut, the fourth king of Siam (Thailand). This king is known to us, and probably you, as the king from The King and I. I whistled a happy tune as we unanimously agreed that we would be “getting to know you,” King Mongkut.

Come Sunday afternoon, we are waiting in the van when Dr. Hartigan told us that our van driver said we could not go to the palace because it was closed but that we would be going to someplace similar to Monkey Mountain. Dr. Hartigan reminded us to “be flexible”…oh and , “sabai, sabai.” So surely, little disappointment was had and we continued our venture.

After about 45 minutes in the car, Father Dheparat directs us to look up at the georgeous palace we were supposed to go. Surrounded by lush greenery, King Mongkut’s palace was located on the very top of a small mountain. It was stunning to see but, sabai, sabai; I was sure that the other site we were about to visit would be just as unique.

Another 15 minutes goes by and we park and get out of the car. As a prepared traveler, I brought a bottle of water to keep myself hydrated in the lovely 100 degree weather. As we are walking down the block, to a location I still was unsure of, a cute little monkey comes walking along. Suddenly, this precious little creature sprouts wings and ringmaster’s costume. The shrills of the wicked witch guide this vicious creature to admire my water bottle. A hoot and a holler and the monkey taps at it and I clench on closer. The shrills crescendo as he climbs up my leg to embrace romance with my only source of hydration. So I throw this little brat my water bottle and he continues on his way up a light post while I suddenly age 15 years. But I mean, sabai, sabai. It’s not like we’re going on a hike or climbing a mountain in this heat or anything.


We walk about five more feet and I glance up to see these stunning, old, windey, brick roads that work their way uphill through an abundance up trees and other indigenous plants. After catching my breath from such a stunning sight, I realized we were walking up this antique path. But ya know, sabai, sabai. However, I do not believe I was thinking that in the moment. I was thinking something more along the lines of, “Heat…Water…I hate monkeys…Am I going to survive?...Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret…I just referred to myself as Margaret, this is important, ok??!”

My cheeks were developing a lovely rouge tone as we continued our upward climb to an unknown destination for what felt like 4 hours but was probably closer to twenty minutes. Right when my life stops flashing before my eyes, we get to the top and reach what appears to be either a palace or a temple. I could tell we were at some place historic, wherever we so happened to be. Inside, while walking around the museum, one of the museum workers points to a grand bed and said “The king was very short.” Ok, so that was some king’s bed.  Looking around I see pottery in the cabinets that is labeled as being from the mid-19th century. Still regaining composure I try to wrap my head around when that was, “1850s? 1950s? 1776? 1942?” I began to wonder if we had made it to King Mongkut’s palace after all. Either way, sabai, sabai; everything was pretty.

The view was absolutely breath-taking. I could see the road we drove up earlier. I asked Dr. Hartigan if this was the palace we were originally supposed to go to, King Mongkut’s palace. He said it was. Sabai, sabai.
Avoiding the descent downhill, we waited as long as possible. Eventually, the park did close and we were forced to return to the van. The park’s staff was conveniently scattering the path with rice for the monkeys, which actually was helpful; instead of the monkeys being focused on the bottle of water that Father Dheparat bought me, they were focused on the rice. I still clung onto my new water bottle and purse with all my might.

In the van, we soon became zombies of exhaustion. Halfway through the drive back to campus, Father Dheparat instructs the driver to pull over to a small café because apparently we all looked like we needed a snack. Who would have thought? Being a hospitable Thai, Father Dheparat paid for all our snacks. And for whatever reason, Father waited until after we were done eating to tell us that we could’ve taken a cable car to the top of the palace. And for whatever reason, he was the only one laughing. Sabai, sabai.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Elephants and Waterfalls

Our first stop on Saturday was the Hutsadin Elephant Foundation. It is a non-profit foundation that was started by three local businessmen to care for abandoned elephants. With the aid of a mahout (an elephant keeper) we had the chance to walk, feed and wash Tong Nam, a pregnant elephant in the foundation’s care. She came to them pregnant, so they are not able to precisely determine when she will give birth. We did have the opportunity to see the baby move around while washing her!
We fed her pineapple and bananas. While we pulled the bananas off one by one to give her, if she was given a pineapple with the stem still attached she could rip the stem off perfectly. She also ate banana tree trunks while we washed her. We sprayed her with cool water from a hose and scrubbed the dirt off. She was flapping her ears and wagging her tail, which according to her mahout meant she was a very happy elephant!

The foundation also had an elderly female elephant for whom they are providing hospice care. She is 89 years old and blind, but was very sweet and enjoyed a washing as well.

Lastly, we got to meet their baby elephant Song Kran. She has been raised at the foundation and is the star of their elephant show. She can paint, play soccer, give hugs, kneel to pray, and take donations in a little basket! She gave everyone a hug and liked us so much she wants to come back to Gannon with us.

After the foundation we drove about an hour to the Pala-u Waterfall. The Waterfall is actually 15 levels of small waterfalls, but climbing anywhere above level 5 is not recommended for novice hikers. We chose to hike to level 3 where there was a pool we could swim in. Getting there was not easy! In America, hiking trails are generally well-defined. Here we had to scamper over rocks and use ropes to pull ourselves along steep parts. The resulting swim was well worth it. The water was cool and fresh and the canopy above was green and lush. I think we would have spent all day there if we could.

Today was the perfect day trip: equal parts cultural, engaging and relaxing. Both the Hutsadin Elephant Foundation and Pala-u Waterfall are must-see destinations for anyone visiting Thailand.

**I have put the link to the Hutsadin Elephant Foundation website on the sidebar under Pages. Please check them out, they're good people doing good work!**

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Thai Nightlife

Jess, our Physical Therapy major, contributed this post about her teaching experiences and Thai nightlife.

Okay, so it has been almost a full week since our arrival in Thailand and Friday was a really amazing day to be with the kids. Our co-teaching team of Winette, Kara, and I has been really successful. By the end of the week we had a good system to be sure to keep the students engaged for the whole class time, with the only negative point being that none of us ever want to hear “Old McDonald had a Farm” ever again. We had an opportunity to return to some of the classrooms that we had attended earlier in the week and we found that they remembered most of the things we taught them. It was a really exciting experience and I notice that we are building as a team and discovering what works best to give the students a better learning experience and determining a way in which we can use the class time most effectively. We also have been able to communicate with some of the teachers to develop lessons that coincide with their regular subjects. It is really cool to be in the classroom, having to apply lessons and think on our feet, especially if the students are not engaged or if the material is not challenging enough.
After a long day of teaching, Jeff, one of the teachers in the High School, took the whole group to the Hilton Sky Bar to relax and enjoy a beautiful view. Other teachers from Salesian School also joined us and we had an opportunity to further talk to them about their experiences. We watched as it rained for the first time since our arrival and then went to dinner. At dinner we ordered “Thai style”: everyone ordering a dish and then sharing the meal so that everyone would be able to try several new dishes. We even ordered the soup we made during the cooking lesson! Dinner was delicious (like most Thai food in my opinion) and then the group split up, some going to the night market and Winette and I went with Jeff and Aek, another teacher at the High School, to a club near the Hilton where we were able to see live music. There was a Thai band performing there that did both Thai songs and covers of American songs. The group was really good and they had amazing voices. The woman singer noticed that we were familiar with all of the songs and talked with us between sets. After the band performed one of the saxophone players from the jazz festival came in and played. Apparently he is very popular around this area and the place was packed. There was a man and a woman at the front that were dancing really fancy and it was a really cool scene to enjoy. After music and a lot of dancing we left and took a taxi back to the Salesian School to end another awesome day in Thailand.

New Experiences

Erica, a Chemistry/Pre-Med major, wrote this post about our experiences on Wednesday.

Today we all took a Thai cooking lesson, went to an elephant safari, and saw the Big Buddha. The cooking lesson began with a trip to the market where we bought and learned about the ingredients used in popular Thai dishes.
We made green curry with chicken, Tom Yum Goong soup, pad thai, and a dessert called khanom lot chong (coconut cream and jack fruit). My favorite was definitely the pad thai, although all of the dishes were delicious. I am anxious to try to make some of the dishes for friends and family when I get back to the U.S.
After the cooking lesson, we went to an elephant safari where most of us took a ride on elephants. It was amazing to be sitting on top of such a powerful animal. The height alone was enough to scare me a little bit, but it was a memorable experience. I have come a long way from when I was a child watching animal planet and dreaming about being around such a peaceful animal. The experience of riding an elephant is one that will never be forgotten.
The Big Buddha, which is actually a large statue of a monk on top of a temple, was next on the agenda for the day. The size of the monk statue was slightly overwhelming at first. We were lucky enough to see some monks at the temple while we were there. We learned that there are two types of Buddhist monks: those who are monks for life and those who are temporarily monks. All Buddhist men are expected to be a monk for some period of time during their lifetime, especially right before they get married.

                Our day was filled with a good amount of cultural, as well as culinary, education along with some adventure. The experiences we have had so far will be among the days that will always be looked upon and reminisced about by all of us for the rest of our lives.