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.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Closing Ceremony at Pii Sawn Nong Project

Carol's Pii Sawn Nong (older teaching younger) project came to a close this week. It was highly successful and combined service-learning with need to introduce language at a younger age. The older students made crowns for the youngsters and sang songs before saying good-bye for the school year. Carol heard the teachers (shown in the bottom photo) that the parents (or grandparents) commented that the children were going around the house singing the ABC song! The project will hopefully be continued next school year due to the great response it got from the teachers and villagers.


Each elementary school has a kindergarten and nearby there is a preschool the for the younger children in the village. Basically, there are limited funds for either, so it's mainly a babysitting service. Many of the parents go to work in the larger cities only to return to the village on weekends, which means the grandparents raise the children during the week. Many grandparents can be seen riding their bicycles with 1-3 dek-deks (youngsters) hanging on and coming back at 3:30 pm to take them back home. This dek-dek is climbing a bougainvillea outside Bob's classroom while waiting for a ride home.

Peers Educating Peers about HIV/AIDS

We are helping the high school students prepare posterboards for their presentations to the younger students at their school. In these pictures they are preparing rough drafts of the storyboards they will use. This is an offshoot of the HIV/AIDS Camp we conducted for 120 students from 5 different schools. We plan to reach a larger audience by employing student leaders to spread the word about being free from AIDS. Next school year, these students will visit every student at their high school (grades 7-9). There are over 500,000 people in Thailand that are HIV positive. We feel this is an important project because AIDS is the leading cause of death among young adults in Thailand. Each year, over 20,000 people in Thailand die as a result of this epidemic. Thailand has been very pro-active in fighting this epidemic and Peace Corps supports the efforts of HIV/AIDS education. In addition, medicines are also readily available at a fraction of the cost (compared to the U.S.) due to the efforts of the Thailand government.

Jumbo Shrimp

Now this is what I call "jumbo". We were in Pattaya (a seaside village) and walked by a restaurant with live crabs, lobsters, and a variety of fish and shrimp. Could not resist the "photo op" of these shrimp with Carol's hand as a reference. Bob has even eaten a much smaller variety where they are served alive!

Friday, February 09, 2007

A Typical Meal at Home (Where's the Beef?)

This is a typical meal at home (except there is usually rice instead of noodles). We have a steady diet of vegetables, rice, and fruit. A delicacy is crickets which Bob's co-teacher buys for him. Bob entered the Peace Corps weighing 186 pounds. He now weighs 164 pounds. He probably eats as much as he did in America but there is little fat in the diet. He will admit that he gets cravings for pizza or tacos, but the cravings are not as frequent as when he first arrived.
A few of the volunteers have lost 40-60 pounds and have hopefully learned a new way of eating!

HIV/AIDS Conference in Ayutthaya

Carol brought her principal and health care worker to Ayutthaya to attend a 4-day workshop on HIV/AIDS education. The group picture at the bottom is several Peace Corps volunteers posing with Carol, her principal, and health worker.

The Nutcracker

Carol and her principal and health care worker perform a dance for the HIV/AIDS Conference. She didn't explain this picture to me so I can only guess that the are either dancing T-cells or just got back from a bar in Ayutthaya.

Feeding Elephants

Feeding elephants seems to be away of generating income for the owner.
You pay 10 baht for a bag of treats and get the pleasure of a pair of hairy nostrils sticking to your hand. Carol and Erica (another Peace Corps volunteer) can't seem to resist the offer.

Boat Ride in Ayutthaya

Carol's teachers are urging her to hurry up and get on the boat which is headed to a wat across the river in Ayutthaya.

Monks in Training

Young men are expected to be monks for a minimum of three months after their education. These boys seem to be getting early training. There is an older monk (hidden behind the rail) who is giving them instruction about Buddhism.

Chinese Wat in Ayutthaya

While Carol was attending an HIV/AIDS conference in Ayutthaya, she was able to visit a Chinese wat (Buddhist temple). The Chinese wats are very colorful and ornate. The pictures do not do justice to the intense colors and detail.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Adding Organization and Color to the Classroom

Classrooms tend to be bare. Usually, the only thing on the wall is a picture of the king. Bob has been trying to get the teachers to display student work, while Carol has been doing that along with adding her own creative touches to the room as well as organizing student supplies to maximize "time on task". She painted the walls at one school (first three pictures) and at the other school she put up orange "PP" boards (shown behind the 4 students) and you guessed it! ...... Purple "PP" boards on the opposite wall.

Carol Introduces Paired Learning

A common practice in traditional Thai teaching is the teacher up front with students either listening or shouting in unison the words or facts being taught. Often, one student will stand and read while others simply idle the time away. These are pictures of her paired learning partners that engages all students.

Blowing up Condoms

We had a game where questions were inserted into condoms for a game where students had to break the condoms and answer the questions. We thought the students would be too shy. No such thing! Another amazing difference is that in America, there would have been dozens of parents complaining to the principal or school board! There is very little parent intervention in Thailand. How does that sound, Mary Jean?

Young Entrepreneurs

We drink a lot of Diet Coke (although we can only find it at one location 30 miles from village) and bottled water. Carol was walking in the village and found these youngsters searching for metal, cans, and bottles. She brought them to our house where they discovered the mother lode of plastic and aluminum.

No Class Today!

Classes are cancelled frequently in Thailand. This is quite frustrating for Americans teaching in Thailand because we have an agenda! In Thailand, cultural activities take precedence over academic education. Classes may be cancelled because the students must offer food to the monks, as shown in these pictures. Classes are cancelled so students can sell products to raise money for school supplies. Carol had class cancelled because the students had to cut bamboo poles for Scout Camp. Bob has had classes cancelled because the students have to clean the campus or help unload trucks. Last week, parents came to school for a meeting. During the meeting, the principal mentioned that the village must raise $1,250 (about 50,000 baht) so that the students could eat on tables and chairs instead of the dusty concrete slab they have been using for several years. The teachers attended the meeting while the students sat in their rooms. We are having to adjust to this educational bias because we cannot change the culture, nor do we wish to change it! We can only hope to lead by example and present teaching academics as a positive, rewarding activity along with creative approaches.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Presentation to New Peace Corps Volunteers

We were both honored to give 2 ninety minute presentations to the new volunteers who arrived on January 12, 2007. It seems strange that we are now considered "veteran" volunteers when we seem to be learning so much every day. Our presentation was on the differences between American and Thai education. We two Powerpoints, "Top 10 Reasons to Teach in Thailand" and "Top 10 Reasons to Cancel Class" which included feeding the monks and teacher must set up karaoke equipment for faculty party. The new group really impressed us with their enthusiasm and inquisitiveness. They are going to do great in Thailand.