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Friday, January 20, 2012

This Must Be The Place...

Gili T. Sunset, Gili Islands, Indonesia
So I have been home for one month. Exactly. And I have been wondering what to do with this blog. Do I abandon it and let it float stagnantly in the abyss that is the interweb? Do I keep writing? I had one friend tell me, “Sorry, and no offense, but if you keep writing, I won’t keep reading. I don’t want to hear about your non-adventures in teaching in California.” Okay. Noted. Maybe I’ll continue writing, and maybe I won’t. It was a good thing, and now it’s over. Sometimes, you need to quit while you’re ahead, right? Oh, by the way, am I ahead? I don't even know what that means.
But, I feel like I need to write something. For myself, maybe, a kind of reflection and closure. Because that is what I realized I do unintentionally anyway: Look back and analyze. Sometimes too much. SO…

I left off with my departure from Thailand. That was followed immediately with a return trip to Bali for what I like to call a little decompression time. I have said this already (multiple times), but I have a thing with transitions- especially when it comes to big changes in my life, and I thought this would make it a little bit easier- going to one of my favorite places in the whole world (thus far) before coming home. My opinion? I was right- it was a good thing for me to do.
Nusa Lembongan
On the 12th, I arrived in Denpasar and then took a taxi to Sanur, where I had a day and night to myself before my friend/current (and former) housemate met me there. I had received an email from her a couple months before leaving, saying she would love to meet in Bali and then fly back to California with me. I responded by saying I would also love this, and she booked her tickets and it was a done deal! Then, once she arrived, we explored Sanur for a night and a day together until another friend, who currently lives in Korea, met up with us. Once all three of us were together, the Bali Adventure began. Some of what we did was a repeat for me, but that didn’t make it any less interesting. I still loved every minute on that island! Some new additions were an excursion to Nusa Lembongan for a night, where we rented motorbikes and went to this amazing beach a friend from Thailand told me was an absolute MUST-SEE. She was right. Dream Beach. It was breathtaking- the color of the water and the giant waves made this beach the most spectacular one I’ve seen in Indonesia. We also went back to the Gilis- the place where I got sick on the last trip and didn’t really get to experience. A friend from China who currently lives and teaches on Java came to meet us on our last day in Bali. This also happened to be Pat’s birthday, so we went out for a night of festivities- it was full of laughter and karaoke and a combination of people from various parts of my life (and some random karaoke participants, obviously.) It was a perfect ending to our trip.
The beautiful rice fields of Bali
Leaving Bali was kind of activity-filled and I didn’t really have time to sit and dwell on this final portion of my big adventure abroad. Ashley and I ate sushi (my first time in a year!) at this little Japanese restaurant in the Denpasar airport (it was actually REALLY good, and there are practically no good places to eat once you get inside customs, FYI) and were were having such a leisurely lunch we almost missed our plane. It was not frustrating but hilarious, especially when they pulled me aside because I had a “pocket knife” in my carry-on. We had already missed final boarding call, but it didn't matter. The airport security professional made me pull out EVERYTHING in every pocket of my backpack. At the end, when clearly there was no pocket knife to be found, she picked up my external hard drive and said, “What’s this?” I told her and she said, “Oh. We thought this was a weapon.” Seriously? Ah, Asia.
My housemate/friend Ashley being attacked
(In the most loving way possible for
Macacques, of course)
I had intense anxiety due to my excitement when we landed. Seeing my family as we came out of customs made my heart swell up. I was home. We walked out to the car and drove away from SFO, which was beautifully decorated for Christmas, and it just kind of kept sinking in. And yet, at the same time, it didn’t feel so drastic as I had imagined.
A lot (and nothing, if you can fathom this odd dichotomy) has happened since I have been back. I’ve seen most of my friends, and a lot of my family. This was mostly due to the time of year that I chose to come home and the little coming home party my sisters, best friend, and parents threw for me two days after I arrived. Some examples of happenings in my present life:
One of my nearest and dearest friends asked me to be co-MOH in her upcoming wedding, and of course I accepted and am so excited for her. Always blonde, the day after I got home I dyed my hair dark brown. And I love it! Huge change for me though- for someone who likes to gradually ease into things, especially.  My youngest sister turned 18! I've purchased running shoes. (Yes, you read that correctly. RUNNING shoes. But I also purchased a yoga mat in Thailand. We'll see what happens. Me and exercise? Oil and water.) I've tasted some delicious wine. I've eaten oysters and spent some time out at the coast. I just got back from a little trip down to Orange County, California to visit my dad’s side of the family, my main reason being to see my grandma. I spent almost all of Sunday with her, and loved every minute. It was actually nice driving the I-5 down and back to do this- it was nostalgic (aw, Hello stinky cows at Harris Ranch! I almost forgot about you!) and it gave me some time to clear my head and think about… well, everything.
We could learn a lot from these little nuggets.
Sacred Monkey Forest, Ubud, Indonesia
It’s really strange. People have been asking me how it is to be back. They’ve been asking me this since the DAY I got back. So it’s a silly question really. But this is the answer I’ve been giving: It’s kind of like I just stepped right back into my old life, and picked up where I left off. Nothing has changed drastically. It’s like it’s all been sitting right here, waiting for my return. And Thailand and my adventures abroad may very well have been a dream. I don’t say this and mean it in an insulting way, as if I think that time stood still for me and no one changed or progressed within their own lives while I was gone. I just mean it for my own personal universe. And in some ways, it’s very anti-climactic. And in others, it’s extremely comforting. And in still others, it’s somewhat distressing. 
A cold Winter's day from my living room window.
N. California
Another question I get a lot is: So what are you going to do now? Well. I guess the simple answer is: I’m going to keep living? Doesn’t that sound like a good idea? I am currently interviewing for positions, and as of today, I think I have my job secured for at least the next year. I have some new ideas about where I want to go and what I want to do in my career and in my life. And I don’t know that I want to teach in California. Ever. But maybe I do. I think this last part is a little hard to stomach for some. It was for me too, as I slowly began to admit to myself that maybe I didn’t want to jump immediately onto this path when I came back. It’s for a lot of reasons, but none of them have to do with not loving being an educator. Because I do love it. And I think I will just leave it at that for now. And this: People constantly tell me that it’s a shame that I might not teach, because “California needs good teachers.” I couldn’t disagree with this statement more. California has plenty of well-qualified, passionate educators. Lack of educators is not the issue. It’s California’s educational system that is keeping the teachers and consequently the students from fulfilling their potential. California’s educational system and the political/economic situation it is currently being banded by is what is the real shame. So I’m not giving up on my passion. I am just trying to brainstorm other ways to succeed, satisfy it, and make a difference. Meanwhile, I am also thinking about how to make sure I always get to travel and explore new places.
It's not like I didn't wash my bathers while I was in Thailand.
This was the grime that came from them when I washed
them here. DISGUSTING!
Things I have learned over the past year:
1.    1.  Always, always, always look back. Look back to process, to reflect, to learn, and to move on. Don’t forget where you’ve come from and what you’ve been through. Don't dwell on it. Rather just think about what it has taught you and where you're going to progress from your current point because of it.
2.     2. I am good at what I do.
3.     3. When I push myself out of my comfort zone, it’s good. Sometimes it ends badly, but sometimes it doesn’t. And I always come out stronger. After I look back, of course. AND, I still need to push myself more. I'm still a little too cautious.
An example of moving out of my comfort zone. Broken, rickety old bridge? No problem. Just walk out on the bridge and jump around a little. If it doesn't break, drive across and see what happens. We did and we were a-okay!
This was from my first meal. It just happened.
Not expected, but more of out of necessity.
And I loved it. And apparently, Taco Bell had been
waiting patiently for my return.
4.     4. I have learned A LOT about how schools become accredited, what it takes to make an educational institution succeed (and fail), and the value of a strong school community.
5.    5.  I have become and continue to need to be more open. Be open to change, new ideas, different people, cultures, and beliefs. You might not agree, but you can learn a lot about how others think and get yourself outside the box and put things into perspective.
....and last, but definitely not least:
6. The United Kingdom is called the United Kingdom for a reason- it is a country that consists of four other countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and N. Ireland. (Maybe this is well-known everywhere, but I didn’t know it. And I think a lot of other ‘Mericans don’t know it either.
6.     I’ve actually learned a lot more than this, about things like being happy, responsibilities and obligations versus doing something because you want to, other people, platypuses, myself, education, teaching, travel, food, the value of life, life versus living, flora, fauna, friends, family, hemispheres, cockroaches… just a lot. I’m just saying, I think my brain has a lot of new wrinkles in it. These were just the first 5 that popped into my brain as I was writing. And I am thankful for it all. I also tried something else new with the beginning of 2012. I didn't make any New Year's resolutions. 

Think About It.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Going, Going, Gone.

This is Plah Thu. Plah Thu is Thai for Mackerel, and she was named by Ink,
an 8th grader at our school. Plah Thu enjoys running like a crazy dog in the rain and has
kind of become a mascot at NICS. She is there all the time, and this is
a picture of her watching me as I drove away on my last day.
And so it’s official. My passport’s been stamped and I’ve left Thailand. “When you come back? How many days?” “Not come back. Going to Indonesia and then home to America.” And so he took a good look at my multiple entry visa, wrote something down, and I walked through immigration. And I didn’t look back. I sort of wish I had.
During takeoff, I didn’t look anywhere but out the window- out at the snaking, wide brown rivers winding through the dark dark green land, opening up into the sea- until we were high above the clouds and there was nothing left to look at but white.
Bell left our school halfway through the semester, and gave this to her
EP teacher at her new school to give to me. Melted my heart. 

I can’t seem to get my students out of my head. How do people do it? Maybe the more you leave, the easier it gets, but for me right now, it’s hard. It’s a little bit selfish… or maybe egocentric. I think in my mind, I matter a lot more to them than I really do, which makes sense. For one year, they were my life. They have seen teachers come and go, as they and we will all continue to have people enter and exit our lives. I don’t want them to forget about me. One thing about working with older children/young adults is that they get it. They know that they won’t be seeing you tomorrow, just like adults get it. But what’s hard for them to understand is why you’re doing it- were they not good enough, not smart enough, why couldn’t I stay for them? I learned this, painfully, on by last day of work before coming to Thailand, when I tearfully left the girls I nannied standing at their front door, also crying. It was so painful. My students are older than the girls I nannied, a little wiser because of their age, and accustomed to it, but I know it wasn’t easy for some of them. And it wasn’t easy for me to say goodbye to any of them. I really hope to see/visit them again, that this goodbye is not forever.
Goodbye, cozy little apartment.
My last night was spent with (almost) all the people nearest and dearest to my heart in Nakhon. For whatever reason, we pushed ourselves to stay awake until the wee hours of morning, and while we were all absolutely dragging, rubbing our eyes, yawning, and ready to go home, we didn’t because, at least for me, that meant goodbye. I wasn’t ready for that. Goodbyes are never fun or easy.
It didn’t seem real until I had my bags outside my apartment door. I  looked around my (now Bliss’s) apartment, wondered if I was forgetting anything… and then BAM! It hit me. I would never be coming back to this place as I know it now. I felt very alone, dragging my life- which pathetically fits into one carry-on that’s so stuffed it must be checked, one duffel, and one backpack- down the four flights of stairs. I said goodbye to my lovely landlady, who scurried inside her house and came out with a gift- “For you, my daughter bring back from Chiang Mai. You come back, maybe. I like you. You like my daughter. Okay?”
My Landlady. Couldn't have
asked for a better one. 

Living abroad is spectacular. It provides you with this whole different perspective. The people you meet, the life you live, the things you learn, the ways you grow. But really, just LIVING is spectacular, no matter where it’s done, as long as you remember to embrace every triumph, every failure, every experience, and extract from it as much as you can.
My View of Nakhon from "My" Balcony
I don’t know what it will be like when I go home, and all kinds of feelings are swirling around inside of me. Don’t get me wrong- I am definitely looking forward to it. While there are so many reasons to love Thailand, there are also so many reasons I am excited to be done with it. I miss my family and my friends from home dearly. But I have found this amazing new thing that I am not necessarily planning on giving up, and I wonder just how long I’ll be satisfied when I go home. I’m not really sure if that makes sense… I’m feeling a little anxious about getting “trapped”- there are so many places I would like to go in my life, places I never ever considered before. But there are also so many other things I want to do, like making a real home for myself, getting married, having babies… (not right now, but eventually!)… And as someone who likes a plan, I have to wonder: How will I possibly fit all of that in? Will I get to go everywhere I want to go, be everything I want to be, do everything I want to do in this lifetime? Probably not, but I will absolutely try.

Below are photos from the last day of school. My videos of the students' performances (which were hilarious- there was a rendition of Romeo and Juliet where Santa came in and brought the lovers back to life by breathing on them with his minty fresh breath that made our take on 'Twas the Night Before Christmas seem almost holy) are stuck on my memory card for now, so these will have to do.

Students at the special holiday buffet

My Plate... Mashed Potatoes! Turkey! And of course,
Chicken Satay and "Salad".

Teachers enjoying the meal

Pon. Cutest little Christmas Elf.

Mischevious Sua

Haha, oh Dome.

Teacher Meaghan is the only one who is enthused about
donning Holiday attire.

Put, always festive!

How many photos do I have of these two, Nangfar and
Ked, in this exact pose?

7th and 8th grade

Peet, all alone and being "grinchy"

Goett, with his father smiling proudly
in the background!

Me and my girls!

Me and Techit

Some of my 7th Grade Ladies


Friday, December 9, 2011

Fievel Goes West

“Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I've ever known.”
A friend of mine here in Thailand has reiterated this quote or a variation of it on a constant basis for the past week, at least. Clearly, it has made an impression on her, and I can see why. It is a very succinct, obvious statement that can get a person thinking about every single person they’ve bumped into, forgotten, loved, abhorred, or considered inconsequential.
Esan with my Ladies
There is only one thing I would add, and that would be that it isn’t just everyone we’ve ever known that makes us who we are; it’s also everything. Last night, I got home from a delicious Isan (Northern Thai) dinner with friends and sat out on my “balcony” for a bit. Just taking it all in. The night scene of this dingy little city in which I have been living, with no hot water and geckos surprising me when I move my curtains, lift a cup, or move my yoga mat (which has been sitting propped up in the corner between my vanity and the wall, gathering cobwebs and Thai dust. I totally thought I would use it with a little more frequency. So really, it doesn’t get moved. Thus, no surprise geckos from this region in my room.)
Today is Friday, and in three days I will be leaving Thailand.  Tomorrow, I will be leaving this city that I have called home for nearly a year. This place has changed me. These people have changed me. Living my life has changed me. I totally cried yesterday at the little goodbye assembly the parents, admin, and students had for us- I couldn’t even compose myself enough to say a little something special. This part of me, unfortunately, hasn’t changed.
It’s nice to be able to compartmentalize things- to put things neatly and squarely into a category. But things don’t always work out that way for everything, especially the big, important things in life, right? There is bound to be some crossover- some residue left behind that infiltrates into the new layer of sediment that is beginning to settle. As much as I want the past to stay in the past sometimes, it has a sneaky way of inserting itself back into my life at the most uncanny times. Life isn’t easy to sort out, compartmentalize, categorize. This is something that I haven’t just suddenly realized, but being here has made me reflect on it and learn to deal. It’s probably also just me getting toward the end of my second decade of life.
I’m dreading the packing I have to do today, trying to sort out what should be posted, what should go in my carry-on for BALI!, and what, in truth, I should really just leave here. This last one will be the most dooziest of doozies. I’m excited. Just like when I left home (until the day I actually boarded the plane), it didn’t really hit me that I would not be seeing my family, my friends, Taco Bell, oysters, stuffing, good wine… well, to be fair, I didn’t know I would be here a year. I thought it would only be six months. But I think what I’m trying to say, is this feels like that- I’m saying goodbye to the friends I’ve made here, but it doesn’t feel like the END. Should it? There are some people I know I am not likely to see again. That’s okay. We’ve made our impressions on each other, whether substantial or inconsequential, and that’s all it’s supposed to be. Then there are those you think you may never see again, and you end up bumping into them somewhere in the world, years later.
(Skeptical? Examples not from the movies? Okay. My aunt reuniting after years and two children later with her high school sweetheart, when he apparently couldn’t get her out of his head and tracked her down. On a friend level? Okay. Cue Denise Oki popping up in my freshman dorm at university, right next door to my room, after we had bonded at a leadership camp for a week a year and a half prior and then never contacted each other again. And then learning that even though we’re from opposite ends of California, our grandmas knew each other and played bridge together on occasion. Fate? Coincidence? Either way, our paths crossed again, this time more permanently, thank goodness.)
You never know what the world holds in store for you. Even when you plan like crazy. Who thought I would ever come around and hop on the “bananas are delicious” train? I never thought I would own and operate a motorbike, especially on a daily basis as my only mode of transport. I never really considered that I might be a teacher in a different country. I never considered that my teaching position would morph to also being Head of Section, after only teaching in the U.S. for less than a year. I also couldn’t even fathom the world that has now been opened up to me. There is so much to explore, see, and do.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"Rudolph's Out Sick Today"

Haad Yuan Beach, Koh Phangan- My getaway this past weekend...
I got to visit my favorite three beaches in Thailand one last time before leaving!

This entry's title is a line from... Well, I'll explain. So I just spent most of my free time yesterday writing a play for my homeroom class to perform during the Winter Holiday Assembly that will be taking place on the last day of school. What’s it about, you ask? Well, I sort of went out on a limb and gave Clement C. Moore’s classic poem a cut, a splice, and a twist and incorporated what they wanted me to incorporate… I am going to be honest. I have no idea how it’s going to turn out. And I’m a little terrified. Somehow, a rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” was worked in there. Not my idea.

We did a reading today where we assigned roles. Then, to help them understand it better and get a grasp of the language/tone, I did a one-man version, acting out each role. I was flying all over the front of the room, crouching low for parts where I played a child, sticking my belly out and deepening my voice to play Santa, and so much more. A couple of times, I shocked myself with the different tones of voice I was coming up with and the moves I was making. While doing this, I was thinking, “Please don’t let any adults walk by my classroom…” I looked like a crazy person. This assumption of mine was affirmed by the uproar the class was in. However, it did feel good to make them laugh. And I think they get the play. The things I do for the sake of learning and these kids!

Unfortunately, I have to leave a lot of the execution of this performance up to the kids- I told them if they want me to be here and need anything, I will help, but I am so busy right now. Pulling myself basically out of the performance is very hard for someone who likes to have their hand in every little facet of every little thing that occurs within their personal vicinity. (Yes, I know this is kind of a character flaw. I just like to make sure everything goes as planned. Thankfully, Thailand HAS helped me to curb this- a little bit…) Teaching involves a lot of multi-tasking. A LOT. Teaching different subjects, planning extra-curricular activities, participating in fundraisers, then there’s being a part of the staff, working together to create a strong frame for the school, and dealing with administrative aspects. I knew I would be choosing a profession where I took my work home with me, but I really didn’t grasp just how much. Grading papers, planning tests and projects, planning lessons, curriculum mapping… when I think about it I just imagine myself in the eye of this tornado of papers that is swirling around my head.
My Classroom Full of 7th Graders Hard At Work- NOT on Roots
and Suffixes. This is from a couple weeks ago, working on our name essays

Meanwhile, my 7th graders had their quiz on root words and affixes today. This happens to be one of my most favorite topics. Language is a code, and knowing Greek and Latin roots can help you break it! ß This is what I told my students, super-enthusiastically, of course. This little mini-unit was just an introduction to it, but after the quiz today, where they decoded unknown words like monochromatic, compassionately, and chronobiologist, I exclaimed, “See?! Look how big and scary those words are! And you figured it out!” Because they did. And it made me really proud.

It doesn’t help that this week seems like it’s just flying by. It’s only Tuesday, but tomorrow it will be Wednesday, and then it will be the end of the week! And then it will be finals. And then, I’m done. I will be done teaching in Thailand. I asked Teacher Meaghan yesterday about taking everything off my walls in my room. I don’t want to, because it makes me sad. I have to clean out my desk. It’s strange thinking about leaving, looking at everything and preparing to leave it all behind.

Some pieces from my Creative Writing Class:

** Editor's note: While writing this blog, I had violinists in one corner playing their amateur hearts out, narrators, children, reindeer, and Santa rehearsing in another corner, one student researching on his laptop, and another student working on his IT/Math final project... So many students in my after-school space and ears. Chaos! And somehow, we have just now worked the Pink Panther theme song into the play. And about five more have filtered in. And it's 5pm. Oy. Love it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"Thankful for a Good Time" - Pete, 7th Grade

It was EXACTLY one year ago, to the day, that I interviewed for a teaching position here in Thailand. And then exactly four days after that, I bought my one-way ticket to Thailand, leaving LAX the night of January 1, 2011, and arriving in BKK on January 3rd.  It is almost scary how fast a year seems to just happen.
Yesterday, for our bi-weekly quick-write warm-up activity (who doesn’t like hyphens?), in keeping with my American traditions because I’m a little sad I’m not participating in the gargantuan Thanksgiving feast taking place at home, I had the students write about things they are Thankful for.
I got some pretty good responses. In fact, I have been getting some pretty good writing in general from my students. Their writing and language abilities are so much more developed than when I went to Malaysia with them in the summer. It’s just incredible. Obviously, they still have a long way to go, but just their ability to express themselves through writing has come so far… the grammar and punctuation and spelling will come. Here are some little excerpts from their quickwrites yesterday:

This was the first one I read... Very poetic. And, I like the double-duty
animals serve in her life- "I am thankful for you because first I
play with you, and then, I get to eat you and you make my belly full."

YES! Me too. I love this.

Pretty sure "hernomy" means "harmony," which makes this so sweet.
I feel the same way.
Pretty deep stuff from a 13-year old. She just came out of
a pretty rough relationship though.

Her whole quick-write was about being thankful for the fact
that Fate is not something that can be controlled by individuals
and how she knows that with every bad thing, there is something
to be learned and something beautiful that comes from it. 

Trying to find the good in everyone, knowing it's there somewhere.

My Thanksgiving was spent among other foreign Nakhon friends (American, Australian, British, and Canadian), eating chicken with gravy and mashed potatoes at a local place that serves western food and delicious boxed wine. I got to cuddle with and rock my friend’s adorable three-month old to sleep while laughing, telling jokes, sharing stories about life and love and friendship and traveling, and just smiling. It was good. At one point, I called for everyone’s attention and made them each say what it was they were thankful for. The non-Americans weren't quite sure what to make of it at first, but they really got into it. By the time everyone had shared, people were wanting to share again, and other diners in the restaurant were asked to participate. Shout-outs were given to the ones who had brought us here, and those who we have fond memories of but are no longer teachers in Nakhon. There really is so much to be thankful for, and it’s so easy to get caught up in the daily grind of life. Last night, I think, was an opportunity for all of us to count our blessings, both silently as we listened to others and aloud within the group. For many, this was their first Thanksgiving experience. I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did.

And now comes the mushy part...

What am I thankful for? This year I am especially grateful. Last year was HARD. Emotionally, I was drained. I felt like I had lost my spark- whatever it was inside me that made me me. It’s even hard looking back on it now- I still feel the residue of those feelings of discouragement, the feeling that I was failing in more than one facet of my life, and… all that I thought I wanted, all I thought I had attained, it seemed like it had crumbled right in front of me.

I am thankful for my mom and my dad. Cliché, I know, but clichés are clichés for a reason. Every year I am thankful that they are my parents. I count on them for so much. As much as I don’t always want to take it, I have learned that my father’s advice is generally pretty good. He was trying to get me here for months before I even considered it an option. And my mom, I also count on her for so much, and over the years, we have grown into great friends. And together (I don’t particularly think about how), they made me and my smart, funny, and loving sisters, who I am also thankful for.

And then there’s all the other crazies- my aunts, uncles, my GRANDMAS, cousins… approximately half of whom (my mother's half), led by my best friend, thought it would be appropriate to call me at MY 4:00am today, then gave me grief for 1) not having the light on (“I’m in BED!”), 2) Looking like I just woke up ("Well, I DID!"), and then 3) screamed into skype that they couldn’t hear me (because THEY were all being too loud.) But I loved every minute of it. Our family is full of laughter and love. We’re strong. I am thankful all of them.

I am thankful for friendship. For the people who help me to be a better person, who love me unconditionally even when I'm crazy, and who I know I can count on, whether we are next door to each other  or on opposite sides of the world. People at home and here. I came here not really thinking about the relationships I would make, but I am leaving valuing them in the most important way.

Being Thankful in The Land of Thai: I am thankful for som tom, for my brief affair with Pizza Man (the restaurant, NOT the man himself, thank you),  Kao Pad Moo, Thai chicken eggs,  Tom Kha Gai, the little dog the students have named Plah Thu (Mackerel) that loves to run around our school in the rain, warm weather, the most beautiful beaches,  skype, being able to travel…

Not everyone gets to travel and see the world.  I am lucky and grateful, because this year, I have done this all while doing something I love: teaching. I love teaching because I love learning and I love kids, and I like being a part of those two things coming together. Watching as a student reaches that “Aha!” moment- it is excellence. I am so thankful for my students- they make me laugh, they make me love teaching that much more, and they challenge me to think outside the box.  It can be hard, and it can be frustrating, but it can be done. They help me to learn things about myself and about what it means to be an educator AND a human being. Lately, while they’ve been working independently on projects, I have been looking at them and thinking about the fact that after these last two weeks, it is likely that I will never see them again. I get it, but that doesn’t make it any less hard. I am thankful for the time I have had with them, and hope that I will get to see them as grown-ups someday, being amazing out in the world.
Another cliché: This journey has changed my life. And I am so thankful for that. I’m me, but better, stronger.