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Wander & enjoy the diversity...it feeds your soul “What is more miraculous than the moment?” Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh

TEFL Training, Teaching & Travel - this time in Northern Thailand

THAILAND | Wednesday, 17 October 2012 | Views [1113]

Oct 17th -- Nov 17, 2012

There are links for you to check out, if interested!  We also have over 900 pictures, but it’s difficult to load pictures - if you want to see more, let me know.

Travel info:

  • Route: Pdx -> SF -> Tokyo -> Bangkok -> Koh Samui: 20+ hrs flying time = 30+ hrs elapsed time.
  • Japan ANA airlines had stellar service, delicious food & individual media sets – great old/new movies.
  • Often there is an overnight layover if you are flying on to another destination from Bangkok.  It’s definitely worth the money for a night at the airport hotel http://www.bangkokairportonline.com/node/20!   Plus, you will hear amazingly loud squawking/humming bat sounds outside the hotel before climbing into the airport shuttle van, in the early morning.  

English Camp - northern rural Thailand – “Lying on the beach or teaching?” 

Why not just lie on a beach & share a freshly cut papaya or go on a tropical zip-line ride?  Why did we just volunteer to teach English…to a whole lot of kids – middle-school/high-school students?  During that first week of teaching 10 to 15 year-olds, we thought AND said, “What were we thinking?”  We are 2 couples (American & Australian) in their 60’s and one 30-ish Thai (from Australia) woman who organized & taught 45 classes (each), about 20-25 students per class (325+ total), taught 5 (45 minute) classes/day, led 18 assemblies, had mini-teacher meetings before, during, and after each of the 3 schools and drove over 1000 miles, in 3 weeks.  Yes, we did.  If we’d been younger, it might not have tired us out so much, but…I guess we found out the difference between what we thought we could do and what we really could do. The best part was doing it with people we really enjoy and being with the students who were, for the most part, eager to learn and fun to engage in activities!  Through our Australian friends’ school contacts, expertise in arranging the schedule, knowledge & experience in driving & about Thailand and overall good nature about traveling, we had an awesome experience!  Thank you for being who you are!

A little background:  I’ve been a nurse for over 40 years and my husband has worked in business, plus teaching college Business Ethics.  Although a true introvert, I have also taught classes of immigrants and refugees mostly in preparation for working in health care fields as ‘Caregivers.’  Both our daughters are also TEFL certified, but both also have a Masters in teaching ESL.  So, what else could we do as parents, but get our TEFL certificates!  Forget the Masters part, but four years ago my husband attended a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) training course http://www.islandtefl.com/tefl-course-koh-samui.shtml in Koh Samui, Thailand.  (A year before that, I completed my TEFL course http://www.teflcertificatecourses.com/index.php) in Guadalajara, Mexico.)  At the Thailand TEFL school, students lived close by in individual cottages with an outdoor restaurant (& pool).  This is where we met lots of interesting people (not just students) from around the world!  We met J & P, a British couple from Tasmania, Australia, who had just completed the course.  We had such an enjoyable time getting to know them, over our $2-3 Thai meals, an awesome snorkeling trip and lesson planning sessions, that we have kept in touch these past 4 years by e-mail and Skype. 

J & P had also developed a friendship with a Tasmanian neighbor, a Thai woman. They began discussing the possibility of teaching in schools where Im had college friends and in a third school where she had gone as a child.  They asked if we would consider joining them and because my husband & I seek out adventures and a place/cause where we can “make a difference,” we were interested!  Before leaving, there were a few details we wanted to take care of: 1) Sell our house & move to a smaller place that didn’t need much care (or money) while we were gone, 2) Find a dog sitter, 3) Save money to fund the trip (airfare, hotels, food) and 4) Coordinate an English Camp theme and create individual lesson plans!  YIKES!  Although we did have 2 years to figure this out, we were soon on our way!

After 2 days & 3 flights, my favorite movie was, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  I loved Judy Dench’s character saying, "Everything is ok in the end.  If it's not ok, it's not the end."  I’d been to India, could identify with several of the characters and knew those words were certainly appropriate.  Teaching a few hundred kids in Thailand may have some challenges, but as a mild to moderate risk taker, I like to see where my boundaries lie.  I was looking forward to this adventure even though our teaching schedule seemed a bit daunting!  

Saturday, Oct 20th – Koh Samui, Thailand

Before our 3 weeks of teaching, we revisited the island where we spent over 3 months, 4 years ago.  Instead of that long bus trip we took last time, we flew & arrived at our 5-day "Groupon" resort hotel - greeted by a tall, blonde, Dutch girl doing a hotel management internship.  Since our luggage (that meant no swim suits) hadn’t arrived, we walked the almost deserted beach & slept the afternoon away.  Lost luggage was a good lesson - we didn't miss much for 2 days!  That first night, we split a salad & Pad Thai at this overly priced & unbeknownst to us, place for the much younger & wealthier.   

There were nice benefits to this Groupon deal tho.’  While adjusting to a 14-hour time (ahead) change, we enjoyed daily free breakfast with free Wi-Fi, warm, ocean air; tropical bird sounds, a large Koi fish pond and delicious dark, rich coffee - yumm!  Sao, our Thai server brought us fresh fruit - mango, cantaloupe, & dragon fruit with our western breakfast – there is plenty of time to order real Thai food!  After the 2nd day with no luggage we decided to pick up bathing suits, flip-flops, & hats.  We also stopped at June's Art Cafe (http://www.juneartcafe.com/) restaurant by the beach & had one of their many healthy fruit drinks - a strawberry, mango, and banana smoothie.  It’s great to see June and have her delicious vegetarian food!  The best on the island!

First day priority was to see & feed the elephants again!  The trainer handed a water hose to his elephant – she put the hose into her own mouth & then sucked up more & sprayed herself.  She then turned around so her trainer could hose her down.  A baby just played with palm leaves while her mother ate.

That evening, a few sandy steps away was a more homey & reasonably priced restaurant where we could eat Pad Thai & green curry while watching the ocean a few feet away, listening to the waves & seeing the spectacular pink sunset!  Plus, our luggage came and we wondered what to do with all the stuff we brought! 

Sunday, Oct 21st

Catching up with emails from our daughters over a cup of coffee, feeling connected, makes it possible for us to leave home.  We were also up at 7am to swim in a world-class pool, all by ourselves just as the sun was peaking over the roof!  I had to pinch myself - it's so beautiful! The only hindrance listening to the early morning bird sounds was from the big caterpillar machine moving bolders in the ocean to set-up a wave barrier and another machine that was making "sweet" water.   Oh well…

Avoiding the resort’s $40 Sunday brunch, we revisited our favorite massage beach on the other side of the island.  We each had a pedicure & Thai massage (total $800 baht = $25) which was highlighted with a very windy, passing thunder/rainstorm!  Yeah!  Soooo wonderful!  On the way back, we stopped at Save House http://www.sawadee.com/hotel/samui/savehouse, where we'd spent 3 months, 4 years ago.  Although it looks pretty much the same, there was nobody we knew.  The fishpond was only half full – the owner said that the fish had multiplied - the water went bad - so they drained it.  The community feel that had been made up of caring Thai staff, TEFL students & tourists (mostly Europe-Sweden, etc) was gone.  You can’t go home.  Great memories - that ONLY come from staying long enough in one place to form trusting relationships, not superficial ones.    

Mon & Tues, Oct 22nd, 23rd

Revisited Free House (http://www.freehousesamui.com/Rest.html) where 4 years ago we had spent so much time hanging out – eating meals, reading, & buying papayas from beach walking vendors.  It looked the same, but our favorite waitress, Kung had left for her home 2 yrs before.  We ate at June's 2nd Art Café & had raw chocolate cheesecake & carrot-beet-ginger-apple juice - delicious!  We ended our Groupon vacation with a free drink & dinner - the only patrons in this big beachside restaurant that played their promo video of a resort party for 1500 people dressed in all white.  Our bungalow & the quiet ambience has been a nice treat, but...we definitely prefer the smaller "mom & pop" places.

Wednesday, Oct 24th, 2012

Samui -> Bangkok -> Chaing Rai:  We left the heavy rains on the island & headed north!  After enjoying our entry into Chiang Rai’s sweet little airport, I realized we needed to buy a taxi ‘ticket’ to go to our hotel.  Sounds simple right?  I left Chuck by the curb with our luggage, bought the ticket & went back out to find him missing!  I waited…& waited...then the taxi driver came & said something (in Thai).  I said, "I lost my husband!"  He said, "Toilet?"  “No, I lost my husband!”  I couldn’t walk very fast in my sandals, but ran to the end of the airport…and there he was, waiting on a bench!  He’d assumed I would be there, since I had walked that direction INSIDE the building, that I would be headed that way outside!  We had a little discussion in the taxi…thank goodness the taxi driver didn’t know English!  We found the Baan Norn Plearn guesthouse:  (http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g297920-d2536186-r152925240-Baan_Norn_Plearn-Chiang_Rai_Chiang_Rai_Province.html - peaceful, simple room & eating area - amongst gardens.  We walked to the Golden clock tower (http://laithaiphoto.blogspot.com/2012/02/golden-clock-tower-of-chiang-rai.html) & sat at a cute coffee/restaurant – enjoyed watching the pace of the city.  Tomorrow J, P, & Im arrive!

Thursday, Oct 25th, 2012

The guesthouse’s breakfast room had a self-serve buffet with a mixture of Thai & English food.  I cooked a scrambled egg over a little 2 burner stove, made toast, stirred the instant 3:1 coffee & tried to guess at the other Thai choices – lots of meat options.  A nice couple runs this converted kindergarten - the husband suggested a 'tram' (trolley) city tour.  The tuk-tuk ride is a great way to see a little of the city & the trolley tour was just like the one Chuck drives for a Portland city tour!  This 2-hr tour was mostly of Buddhist temples...but gave us a nice overview of Chaing Rai.  Finally, after many Skype calls between Tasmania & Oregon, it was great to see J & P & to meet Im.  We had tea & then off to dinner in our spacious 11-passenger van – which carried our stuff & us very nicely with lots of room to spare!  We also checked out our next hotel & had quite a Thai feast there.   Im of course, knew all the Thai dishes we should try.   Too much good food! 

Friday, Oct 26th, 2012

Breakfast time was also planning time – we’d each prepared our own lessons, but now for final decisions about schedules, goals, & measuring progress?  No, the goal for English Camp was to help the kids learn a bit of English in a fun way.  We then headed to the northern rural city of Sae Rae & to a restaurant where we met the school headmaster & 3 teachers.  What a delicious array of Thai vegetables & greens!  The teachers spoke very little English, except for Im’s college friend who was quite fluent and such a friendly & helpful liason.  A little surprise - as we walked back to our cars, the short, balding headmaster held Chuck's hand while they were talking – I guess this is a sweet sign of respect!  

We drove out in the country about 20 minutes past rice fields & well cared for houses to a large 3-story school surrounded by their own rice field – students harvest rice for their lunch supply.  The headmaster gave us a tour of his office - displaying 12 pictures of his school’s teachers that had died in a car accident 2 years before.  They had been accompanying a transferring teacher to his new school when the van went over a cliff.  The school built a shrine – a daily tribute is paid.  After discussing our teaching plans, we checked out our classrooms – all large whiteboards with markers!  Later, we all went out to a simple, chicken/cashew dinner at a roadside restaurant.  We also checked out the Burmese border crossing – but it had closed for the night (& we don’t have the necessary visa).  Back to the room to watch one of the only English movies on, a sci-fi for teens!  We all seem to feel a bit anxious about teaching - the school wants to add more students…, plus we will be sort of ‘on’ (like ‘on stage’) for about 7 hours!  Do introverts like us have the necessary stamina?  We'll practice our lessons in front of each other tomorrow.  Message to myself…"Take baby steps - one day at a time!"

Sat, Oct 27th, 2012

Mae Sai was a comfortable city & we stayed at the Navy Home Hotel. (http://www.booking.com/hotel/th/navy-home.en.html)  The beds were pretty hard, but interesting Western breakfast that included something that looked like bologna & wieners plus an egg, toast & instant coffee.  We were able to Skype both our daughters, which is always a treat!  Lydia, our Toy Poodle seemed confused hearing our voices.  The 5 of us ran thru ideas for Monday's lessons – should be OK.  Our weekends were for sightseeing, so we drove to the Golden Triangle area that borders Thailand, Laos, & Burma - our spacious van was great & riding up front gave a nice view!  Wonderful day, but ready for a "lie-down" as J calls it.  After a bit of food/snack shopping, we met in the common restaurant area & shared a variety of Thai & other semi-healthy picks!

Sunday, Oct 28th, 2012

Even though it was a Sunday, Im and her friend Keng (pronounced Geng) went to prepare the school for tomorrow!  The 4 of us headed west to the mountains & the Queen's gardens - absolutely gorgeous!  Loved the self-guided audio tour of her home & acres of flowering gardens.  After miles of winding roads, we surprisingly came to the beautiful “101 Tea Plantation, Doi Maesalong Nok” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IX29qMfouN4) had a tea demonstration & tasting - while looking out over mountainous countryside & acres of tea!  The hillside tribes were also selling handmade crafts.  Quite an extraordinary day!  After another evening of a simple, but tasty fried rice dish, we reviewed our lessons for tomorrow!  I never feel prepared until I have tested it with real students - then I can change it if necessary!   

Monday, Oct 29th, 2012 – First school in Mae Sai

Here…we go!  The students were waiting for us…plus several school dignitaries - the boss of the headmaster.  She spoke & received flowers, the headmaster gave a speech & Im & Keng gave an introduction - the 4 of us also introduced ourselves in rather poor Thai!  The students seemed to like our attempt!  We taught 3 classes before lunch, then ate lunch with the other Thai teachers, then taught 2 more classes (each 45 min), then ended the day with an assembly – taught them several songs.  It felt like a really long day, BUT it was GOOD!  We found that many students have quite good pronunciation & seemed to learn faster than anticipated - I had to fill the last 10 min with…repeats!  YIKES!  Need more material!

What worked & what we learned:

  • Competition slap game, repeating words multiple times with the whole group, testing individual pronunciation - many had difficulty, but if the words were on the board they did well.  When I erased the words, they couldn’t remember or pronounce them.  A competition game that worked well for Chuck was: while in 2 teams, asking individuals a yes/no question – but mixing up the questions with full sentences.

What didn't work: 

  • My lesson on "Greetings & Canada" was too easy – we were told that the students were pretty low level, but…many could read quite well & had good pronunciation, so...if we had known the students better, we could have matched up levels/interests with our lesson topics.  Tomorrow I teach prepositions - more vocab is better.  I also filled time with feeling words: "How are you?  I am fine, ok, so-so, good, tired, hungry, great..."

Tuesday, Oct 30th, 2012

Nouns & prepositions went better than I thought!  While I had divided the class into 2 teams, I could only work with 4 students at a time, making sentences with noun & preposition cards.  I needed at least 2 more sets of words (a classroom helper would be nice!) so more students are involved at one time!  It’s difficult to be fast-paced for 45 minutes (x’s 5 classes).

Wednesday, Oct 31st, 2012  - Our 3rd & last day at Keng’s school. 

My lesson was on ‘body parts’ & drawing “crazy monsters,” plus singing “Head, shoulders, knees, etc.”  This was the best lesson – students had fun!  The students have been great, but I learned:

1) I am not a natural classroom teacher - being an introvert, long days are tiring!  I prefer being a tutor.

2) I would prefer teaching only in the mornings, with possible shorter class time, 30 - 45 min?

3) I divided students into 2 teams (age range from 9 to 15), but the older students got bored when only 2 students at a time were drawing their monster part on the board.  So…quick improvisation, I gave the older, bored students a large sheet of paper and they created a GREAT huge monster!  It was so good that I was able to use it as a demo for the next 2 schools.  The next 4 classes, I gave each 2 students a piece of paper & pens to draw their own monsters – this worked so well the students didn't want to leave, even when the class was done...they were still drawing!

Thursday, Nov 1st - travel day - back to Chiang Rai

YEAH!  We drove to the Friendship Bridge, but with no visa for the custom station into Laos, we didn't crossover.  I had been reading about this bridge the night before, in a book called, “A Fortune Teller Told Me" by Tiziano Terzani.  Great travel book just given to me by a friend – perfect for this trip!  This bridge is NOT called the friendship bridge by the Laos people.  They call it the AIDS bridge for all the prostitutes that travel this way.  We went on to the Kong Garden View Resort Conference Center – simple, but nice rooms with a brownish pond, but peaceful setting.  We ate in Chiang Rai at a wonderful vegetarian restaurant where the 4 of us ordered 8 dishes, plus brown rice for a total of $7.00! I think I found a link about it & the name is: “Oasis” (http://www.happycow.net/reviews.php?id=5146).  Also, not to be missed - their lovely night market…bought bracelets from 2 tribal women – then I asked if I could take their picture – they were gracious & said yes.  The 8pm light show at the clock tower was kind of cool. 

Friday, Nov 2nd - Chaing Rai  (Travel Day #17)

Bkft of toast/egg by the pond, then off to visit the weird “White” temple with only white skulls, dragons, etc built by an artist who has life size picture/statues of himself around the grounds.  We visited our 2nd school in Phan & discussed our teaching plan with the teachers.  This large 3-story school is also rural, surrounded by rice fields with only 108 total students.  We also stopped by our next hotel, Shröder's Homestay – European-style furniture with private (cold) pool, gardens, kitchen/dining room (for Sun thru Thursday)!  Back to the night market (bought a paper nightlight lamp), ate at our favorite veg restaurant & saw a few Lady Boys performing at the pleasant open-air beer garden! 

Sat, Nov 3rd - Kong Garden, Chaing Rai  (Days till we go home - 13)

Leisure bkft in room, reworked my lessons, Skyped our daughters, & had lunch at a non-profit bakery where funds go to help children.  The cultural museum was closed, so we had reading time!  YEAH!  After a veg supper at Oasis, we also bought meals there to take to Shröder's the next day! 

Sun, Nov 4th- Chaing Rai -> Phan - Shröder's Homestay (Travel Day 19) 

Since Shröder's is in the country, we did more food shopping…and shared a meal that night – we ate so well!  Also, signed up for a Vipassana Meditation Retreat in Onalaska, WA for January (per Jane's recommendation).  I felt ‘nudged’ to do that…10 days is a long time to meditate, but she had felt the benefits from her retreat in Australia! 

Mon, Nov 5th- 2nd school, city of Phan  (Days till we go home - 11)

Here we go…Can we do it?  These students seemed more shy - hesitant to speak, but able to read what I put on the board quite well.  I've added ‘feeling’ words to the greetings lesson & also added ‘action’ words like: stand up, sit down, hands up, hands down, bow, turn-around, clap, jump & roar - showing them an action for ‘volume up & down.’  There is some repetition between us 5 teachers – but good practice for them.  Using 5 English speaking countries as part of our theme, a ‘Canada slap’ game worked well.  Students used fly swatters to hit the words on the board after I say GO!  Besides the words: hockey, flag, snow, skiing, maple, etc, I added: America, Canadian, sad, happy, so-so, Ok, hungry, good & excited!  The teachers got these 3 days off, so they made us lunch – it was GREAT!  During lunch, their English teacher sat across from me, so I asked her about fortune tellers (having just read about that in “The Fortune Teller Told Me.”)  She said that her wedding date/time had been determined by a fortune teller.  Her husband, also a teacher who was sitting beside her, did not believe and made a face indicating that it was nonsense.  The morning & afternoon assemblies worked well – the kids loved singing, “Hello, Goodbye” by the Beatles and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”  In the afternoon, we usually added an action song such as “Hokey, Pokey” and “Head, Shoulders, Knees.”  They laughed & had a good time if we danced and looked silly and especially if their own teachers did the dance with us!

Our late afternoons were precious – we relaxed – swam in their unheated pool or read.  But the highlight of this stay was the massage!  If you have had a Thai beach massage, you know some of them are not much more than smoothing you over with oil – relaxing, but not much else.  When these older women came to do massage in their special massage room, I knew this was something special!  First, there were 4 women: 1 to hold the Frangipani oil, 1 to maybe supervise, and 2 to work on Im and me.  We had older, grandmother types and it was fun to listen to their Thai chatter!  Plus, it was probably the best Thai massage I'd ever had.  Their banter reminded me of my own grandma Anna & her sisters - chatting away & occasionally laughing.  Although they could have been laughing at me, the experience was lovely, relaxing, and my sore muscles seemed to be melting away under their experienced hands.  The warmed, sweet smelling oil - very nice too!

Pot-luck supper again: cheese, crackers, fruit, muesli & tea...perfect!  My learning: We have enjoyed the schools, students, teachers, food, culture, & country.  If we taught for half days, I could do this for months! 

Tues, Nov 6th- Day 2, 2nd school & US Election Day!  (Travel Day 21)

Teaching 15 classes in 3 days is tiring, but…Rung (Im's teacher friend) helped me in my classes today.  It’s helpful to co-teach or to have a teacher assistant - especially, when you don’t know any of the students language.  I'd originally had students pair up to make a sentence with nouns & prepositions, but they were getting bored.  Rung suggested a competition - always a hit.  We changed it to 2 teams racing to tell me a sentence & it worked!  We also did Simon says, using a ball with ‘over, under, next to & on!’  I said the words or they choose a word as they threw it - the challenge was explaining those directions!

Mrs. Shröder (she’s Thai, her husband’s German) invited us to her birthday dinner of pork steaks, broccoli, mushrooms & Singha beer.  My husband & Im attempted talking in German & Thai to the owner’s sister visiting from Aachen, Germany.  She didn’t know any English, but we had fun trying to communicate.  What I noticed…they had a book on their coffee table, by the same author I was reading, Tiziano Terzani. 

Wed, Nov 7th- Last teaching day in Phan  (Days till we go home - 9)

Classes went ok, but I was exhausted & the students seemed tired too!  It’s a lot to ask students to listen & speak in another language for 3 long days!  By 3pm, even though they were having fun drawing monsters & learning body parts, they were speaking only Thai.  But, the singing & dancing assembly (5 songs) went well.  Between my ipod’s music with additional speakers and Phill’s computer to project the song’s words onto a large screen, we had a fun way to end the day!  And, as with the last school, we provided drinks & sweet treats.  Unexpectedly, they presented us with gifts too - a cute wooden crab!  

Although we’d had election updates during lunchtime, we finally found out that OBAMA had won!  YEAH!!  We listened to his speech – made us so proud of him & our country!  We celebrated with our team - drinks on the veranda watching a beautiful sunset & frozen dinners w crackers & cheese.  We finally found an English bit of the election on TV - after looking through 60 channels!

Thursday, Nov 8th...leisure day!  (Travel Day 21)

Our leisure day - late breakfast, pool time, reading, massage - same lady as Monday - she said there was something wrong with my left foot.  I had been having trouble walking sometime losing my balance - she said she would fix it...maybe she did?  Found a sweet, Indian movie to watch about a young couple that married & had to live with his parents, "A Very Long Time..."

Friday, Nov 9th...TRAVEL day!  (Days till we go home -7)

We traveled to Im's home school to meet the teachers at her grade/middle school.  The teachers were welcoming & the school & students utterly charming.  The school’s 1-story wooden buildings all have wrap-around wooden covered porches, the wooden floors appear original & the wooden desks look like they are from the 1930’s.  I will be teaching in their special music room where the walls are covered with handmade wooden instruments - many made by their music teacher, Mr. S.  There is also a big gong in the room.  What a pleasure it will be to finish our 3 weeks of teaching at this lovely school! 

After conferring with the teachers, we drove to meet Im’s family.  We were invited to a welcome home “String” ceremony for Im on Sunday afternoon.  A few of the school's music students will be playing their Thai instruments for this ceremony.  Im’s home is built on pillars with a large seating area underneath where the ceremony will be held. 

That evening we walked through a quiet, little neighborhood with a veg/fruit/fish market & had a good Pad Thai for 35 Bhat at Tesco.  Our cottage is quite comfortable with a sofa, platform beds, bath with a shower/stone floor & rock walls.  Only 1 window, but it’s quiet with nice gardens & breakfast is served under a big tree.

Saturday, Nov 10th...leisure day!  (Travel Day 23)

Too much food for breakfast – they must think we Americans/Australians eat a lot!  Although we never eat all that’s served.  We drove to the beautiful Laos border - markets, shops, National park with waterfalls & saw rice fields, rubber trees & drying sheets of rubber.  Another cheap lunch at the women’s stall – all vegetarian & so good!  It’s movie night with P's computer! 

Sunday, Nov 11th...Im's family dinner & “String Ceremony” day!  (Days till we go home - 5)

Off to Im's house for celebrating!  The "String" ceremony ritual involves tying strings around a person’s wrist for good luck and is a national custom.  This ceremony was performed by a senior person of the community (who may have been a Buddhist monk at some stage) who spoke, we were told, in Sanskrit?  We saw the “pah kwan” or the flower tray that had been placed in the middle of the floor mats - a central spot where we all gathered in a floor sitting position – they found pillows and short stools for those that couldn’t sit on the floor.  The elder women of the family & community had made the flower centerpiece with banana leaves and small rounds of white cotton threads tied to it.  The chief elder recited verses for about 45 minutes and then all the Thais ceremoniously tied strings around everyone’s wrists by swiping it away from the wrist to get rid of negativity & swiping it towards our body to bring in the positive.  They said in Thai, “Good luck today, this week, this month & this year.”  The elder women were in traditional dress…VERY moving ceremony.  I felt so grateful to have been able to be invited to witness this part of their culture.  Following the ceremony was a delicious meal: mushroom dish, greens, rice, & more.   

Monday, November 12th – 14th, 2012  (Travel days 25-27 & last school)

What a wonderful school to teach in.  The students are better in English than anticipated - most are eager to learn, it’s a quaint, old-fashioned school, and they have an impressive, dedicated teaching staff.  On our last day, it was sad to leave these fun students, kind teachers, & beautiful rural setting.  After the singing & dancing assembly, there was a formal thank you - they gave each of us a framed, colored drawing, handmade by different students – some included depictions of us!  We also received hand-woven shawls & teaching certificates.  Lots of pictures taken & sad good-byes!

Thursday, Nov 15 th, 2012 - (Travel day 28, 1 day before heading home!

Few hours drive to Chiang Mai, the walled city!  Stayed at Rachmanika Flora - nice room, easy walking to temples.  J & P treated us to some fancy drinks & we had a tasty veg meal + fun conversation for our last night!

Friday, Nov 16th, 2012  - Going home day! 

After a quick, emotional good-bye to Jane & Phill, we hired a private taxi driver (nice lady) to take us to the Maesa Elephant Camp (http://www.maesaelephantcamp.com/index.html).  It was fun to see them play games, paint pictures, work with logs, & we enjoyed the jungle walk.  Elephants go to school here with lunchtime off.  Mothers & babies do get separated when babies are 2, so the babies can focus on school.    Because it draws tourists, it also funds the care of elephants.  Their bigger paintings can sell for thousands of dollars too!

Saturday, Nov 17th...TRAVEL Days

Tip: If you need a horizontal, sleep break in Tokyo's Narita airport, take Benedryl & Melatonin after renting a "Dayroom."  It’s like a tomb, but with a shower.   The next 2 flights were more tolerable.  After a 30+ hour journey, our daughter kindly picked us up in our VW bug!  YEAH!  Is teaching part of our next adventure?


English Camp 2012 - Themes & Topics

Goal: Have fun learning English!

Assembly every morning: 15-min - Instructions for the day & teach a song.

1st Day – Introduce ourselves – In our best Thai – a chance for them to laugh at us!

Themes Day 1 – ‘All About Me’

1) 5-10 min – Introduce our English speaking country & 2) 30-35 min lesson of games, music, & competition; interactive listening, reading, & speaking activities – kinesthetic, etc. 

Goal: Help students enjoy learning English!

Teacher 1 - Canada & Greetings

Teacher 2 – USA & Hobbies                 

Teacher 3 – Australia & Who Am I?

Teacher 4 - New Zealand & Families

Teacher 5 – England & Food

Themes Day 2 – Here & There

45 min lesson – Goal: Everyone’s participation

Teacher 1 – Positions - above, below, next to, etc

Teacher 2 – Movements - turn left, right, straight on, etc

Teacher 3 – Instructions - Pick up, put down, come here, go away, etc

Teacher 4 – Directions - Stand up, sit down, turn around, etc

Teacher 5 - Locations  - map of school or town plus place names etc

Day 3 – Bodies & How Many?

45 min lesson – Goal:  Keep “teacher talk (TT)” time to a minimum & “student talk (ST) to a maximum! 

ST 75%/TT 25% - difficult to do in 3 days!

Teacher 1 - Body Parts: head, arms, fingers, legs, etc.

Teacher 2 – Feelings/facial expressions: sad, happy, smiling, crying, etc.

Teacher 3 – Time: simple clock, hours, minutes, etc.

Teacher 4 - Face Parts: lips, mouth, nose, eyes, etc.

Teacher 5 – Actions: swimming running, kicking, jumping, etc.

Assembly every afternoon: Practiced the song(s) from the morning & added an action song (or 2) like “Hokey Pokey.”

Day 3 – Party:  singing, dancing & thanks.  Brought treats for students that included drinks & individually wrapped sweets and salty snacks.

Tags: english camp, teaching english, tefl, thailand

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