Two in Thailand

After raising three children and watching them graduate from college, Bob and Carol decided to leave the educational field and pursue a dream that had been put on hold for 35 years (since graduationg from the University of Northern Iowa). "Two in Thailand" is the journal dedicated to that dream - to serve in the Peace Corps. This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed within do not necessarily represent the views of the Peace Corps or the United States Government.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Presents - Part 1

Part of the Peace Corps assignment is to share our culture with the people we serve. Thailand is 98% Buddhist, so Christmas Day is just another day in the classroom. Bob decided to arrange a Christmas "gift exchange" as part of his cultural exchange. He placed a Christmas tree cut out on the wall and had the students cut out snow flakes with their names when they brought a present. The fact that some students colored their snow flakes meant something was lost in translation!!! Since many students are very poor, a 25 baht limit (65 cents) was placed on the gifts. He told them they could wrap it "arai go daai" which means "any way they could" since he thought none of them had wrapping paper or decorative accessories. Bob was shocked because he forgot that presentation is everything in Thailand. For example, the schools have beautiful gates but the inside the classrooms, it's a different story. The wrapping paper and bows probably cost a lot more than what was inside the box. After Bob sang Christmas songs, the students opened their presents. The students had so much fun, that they insisted that Bob get in the picture with them!!!

Christmas Presents = Part 2

The students were so excited to get their presents. They drew numbers out of a bag and received the gift that had the same number. They easily shared what they had with other members of the class.

Christmas Presents - Part 3

Food is important!!! Having a snack is quite a treat. The students appreciate any present because their wants are minimal. If you don't have stores in your village plastering you with all the latest toys and gadgets,
a box of cookies or a can of food just might be what you wanted!!!!!

Christmas Presents - Part 4

Judging by the look on their faces, I could say it was a big success!!! By the way, you can tell it's winter in Thailand. At the time these pictures were taken, it was a "frigid" 76 degrees!!!! Burrrrrrrrrr!!!!

Christmas Eve Sunset

This reminded us of a Los Angeles sunset! LA has beautiful sunsets because of the smog. Here in our part of Thailand there is no trash service. So everyone burns their trash along with leaves and branches. The combination creates a heavy soot-laden smoke filled with particles from plastic bottles and plastic bags (Thailand should be called the "Plastic Bag Capital of the World" because everything is placed in a plastic bag including soft drinks). They even burn their trash late at night and during the early morning hours before sunrise. In fact, they seem to have a fascination with fire. Bob thinks they burn everything in sight because deep inside the psyche of many Thais there is a little pyromaniac. As a result, our window screens (which are only 6 months old) have become black. It makes us wonder what it is doing to our lungs!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Tacos in Thailand

One of the goals of Peace Corps is to share our culture with the country we are serving. Carol decided to fix tacos for the staff at both of her schools. Finding the tomatoes and lettuce was no problem. However, we had to travel to Bangkok to find salsa and cheese in a store frequented by farangs (foreigners). Thais do not eat cheese (or drink milk) and have no use for salsa. The taco shells were another story! (see below)

Mmmmm, Good!

The teachers actually enjoyed the tacos! Unfortunately, we only brought back three boxes from the U.S. when we celebrated the marriage of AnneMarie and Rion. So the teachers were served the toppings on half a shell. Carol was quite pleased because attempts to serve American food by other volunteers did not go over with the Thais.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A Visitor from Italy

On his way home from school, Bob found a young gentleman from Italy sitting down near the police check point (which checks for Cambodians and illegal shipments of weapons). He could not find a place to stay and the next "big city" didn't have any hotels.
He has been biking for 3 months through Southeast Asia. He started in Singapore and traveled through Malaysia, all the way up through southern Thailand and into the Thailand mainland. Nicholas (who speaks very good English) ended up spending the night with us. Carol fixed him a great Thai meal and we treated him to a hot shower and a bed with a mattress. This was a great improvement over his past experiences (sleeping on wooden floors or the concrete floors of a temple along with dogs and chickens). We wish him a safe trip to Laos. Note: Nicholas, you left a ring at our house. e-mail us and we will mail it to you.

Pii Sawn Nong Project 1

It is very important to initiate reading readiness at an early stage. Carol has been training 30 high school students to read (in Thai, and later in English) to pre-school students (dek deks). The program was enthusiastically received by the pre-school teachers who have very few supplies. Through a grant, Carol purchased a box full of books for the students. The high school students are also teaching ABC's to the students. Several other pre-schools learned about the project and want it initiated in their schools. Carol has declined only because of limited accessibility (and time) ---- however, the wheels are turning!

Pii Sawn Nong Project 2

Here are some more pictures of Carol's project. The students were trained by a lady from a group called "Thai Wisdom". The top picture shows the high school students and one of the pre-school teachers receiving instructions on how to read a book better involve the younger students.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Unique Thai Restaurant

One landmark restaurant in Bangkok is "Cabbages and Condoms". Instead of serving after-dinner mints, they give the customers condoms. A percentage of their profits goes to people in Thailand suffering from the HIV virus. We took Dorothy and Bill to this restaurant (see next two posts). By the way, Dorothy took all four of the condoms! She said they were souveniers for her children!!!

Beauty and the Beast

Thailand is a country full of beauty and surprises. One minute, you are beholding an object of beauty and the next minute you are caught by the surprise of the contrast!
The scorpion was found when I moved a large barrel to get a better look at the flower. It's actually a lot larger than it looks because the finger is closer to the camera. Despite the prodding with a stick, the scorpion held its ground. The surprising thing is that three Thai men that were with me did not want to kill it (contrary to what would have happened in America). They just covered it up again with the barrel. I don't know if I am ready to be a Buddhist yet, because I wanted to crush it because it was next to my house!