Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Learning how to walk again: Sansai, Chiang Mai

Existing in Sansai, Chiang Mai 
840+ nametags made. 21 introduction lessons.  12 additional lessons. 200 Hand turkeys made with “I’m thankful for” written neatly. 40 hours of teaching. 4 lessons with the Director of the school. What is it? The first 2.5 weeks of teaching at Sansai Wittaykom school. This, coupled with numerous dinner parties, mistakes, laughter, bugs, games of badminton, volleyball and ping pong, trips to Chiang Mai city, festivals, parades, several Skype dates, informal Thai lessons, new friends, fabulous students, minor frustrations and way too much food, has been my life these past two weeks. This has been my life. Sometimes as I start to fall asleep, while the little beetles are crawling on me, I have these strange moments of confusion and then clarity. The first of confusion: am I really here? In Thailand? For a year? The second, that follows is a moment of clarity: yes, I am and not only that, I am meant to be here. It feels right. 

Humans are complex. We contemplate our existence. As a fellow foreign teacher reminded me the other day, this fact sets us apart from other species. We contemplate our existence. What is my purpose for living? Is it to learn? To get rich? To have babies? To get to heaven? To achieve enlightenment? For me, my purpose is to serve & help others primarily. Secondly, to grow and learn continuously until the day I depart from what I know as earth, and third to make meaningful, lastingly relationships and share my existence with people. Our lives are often a series of decisions, some that take longer than others, some that are a split second. One decision can change the course of someone’s life for a lifetime. One application. One plane ticket. One summer. Singular actions, days, even minutes – can change the course of someone’s life forever.

My first trip to Africa was life changing, the others that followed life-changing in different ways. Thailand too, although perhaps not in the same way, definitely has its life changing ways. I’ve already noticed my ability to laugh more at my mistakes, take my time doing things, not rush, try foods I do not want to try, and generally become comfortable with being constantly uncomfortable – both physically (heat, bugs etc) and culturally. My teaching schedule changes? No problem. Bugs in my bed? No problem. Dogs chasing me? No problem. Printer broken? No problem. This is Thailand, as we were told, and as ethnocentric as I first thought that was, the phrase helps me remember to remove my American perspective and to be as open, adaptable and loving as possible. Sometimes I don’t have to remind myself to do this, and other times I notice frustration bubbling and I need to remind myself to be calm. Be calm. Jai yen yen. Keep a cool heart.

I am slowly learning how to walk again. It is a slow dance of mistakes and learning experiences and keeping a smile on.

To Teach, My new favorite sport
The classroom has always been a place of comfort for me. The classroom has varied from a place to expand my own mind and feed my love for learning, to my minimal experiences in teaching non-formally and semi-formally in Ghana and the US, to now my first formal teaching job (although still quite different than what a US teaching job would entail). I have a set schedule, a roster of students, grades to assign and a curriculum to design. Exciting, overwhelming and exceedingly rewarding (though exhausting & challenging at times) teaching these two-plus weeks has been the highlight of life in Sansai for me. My class size varies from 30-42 students. I teach grades 7-12, some once every two weeks for an hour and others twice a week (3 classes). I question my curriculum, my teaching style and am constantly trying to perfect, a non-perfectable technique.  

The hand turkeys I had my students create really put a smile on my face and teaching about Thanksgiving was wonderful; it remains my favorite holiday. Not because of the history, but because of family, love and thankfulness.

Those moments of pure joy with students

The English Office
The English office is a place of comfort, where I sit at a desk of my own, write in my notebook, read, lesson plan, make posters/teaching aids and most importantly practice Thai with the teachers / they practice their English. The relationships I've been creating here are, as always, the most important to me. There are those I connected with immediately and others whom I'm getting to know. All in all, a wonderful experience day to day - very festive. I've yet to buy lunch for myself, because someone always wants me to try something they've gotten!

Kru Toi, my host teacher/mom

P'Jan! Also an English Teacher, we get along great! :)

Let’s light 1,000s of flaming lanterns and set them into the sky! It will be the most beautiful thing in the world, really!
Loy Loy Krathong was this past weekend. Words and pictures cannot truly capture the essence of this stunningly spiritual and beautiful celebration. Camping out on mats for several hours, thousands of people crowded onto a large field. We sat on our mats and waited for darkness to fall. We listened to Buddhist prayers and eventually, after much waiting, we set ablaze a tissue paper and wire lantern (in the right place, on the fuse) and watched as they filled with hot air and rose hundreds of feet in the air. The night was magical, ablaze with lanterns, the sight truly unreal.

Escaping the madness of crowds post the lantern take off was nearly impossible. We climbed through fences, jumped over barbed wire and were stuck not moving in the midst of sweaty people pushing and shoving. Eventually, with the help of my host teacher we made it through and got home safely. It was a truly fantastic evening. (By we, I mean a few other Fulbrighters who came together for the event).

The Lighter Ablaze

Words cannot describe how incredible this was to see.

Setting it off!

Post Take off in the field.

And with that,
Here are some more pictures of my various experiences thus far. This is my life here. Life is beautiful. As I posted recently on Facebook, life is too short to not find happiness in your life. Enjoy things. Positivity will bring about more change than negativity.

Student Smoke Lanterns for Loy Krathong


Wat Phra Singh - Stunning!

Loy Krathong Parade!

Adorable Child Photographer

Jessye Kass in Thai! Written at the Temple !

Love you all.
Jessye Kass  

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