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.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I Can See Clearly Now

Bob often commented that no students wear glasses in his two schools or in Carol's schools. At first, he thought it was a genetic or cultural difference. However, he noticed that when he was in Bangkok, many students wore glasses. He eventually realized that students in our villages are too poor to buy glasses. Although the government contracts with optometrists to provide an eye exam and a pair of glasses for 1,000 baht ($30), the families still cannot afford eyeglasses. Bob applied for a grant and was awarded enough money to supply 20 students with eyeglasses. The students were loaded into the back of pickup trucks and driven one hour to the "city". The teachers and principals came along to provide transportation and to witness the event. At first, Bob thought that the students would be too shy to wear the glasses, but the very next day he saw students wearing their new glasses on campus. We are sure that this was only the "tip of the iceberg" since it only represented 1% of the entire school populations, but it was a beginning! Bob invites anyone "with connections" to solicit funds so another 20 students can benefit from the gift of sight. We also need to realize, that eventually the eyeglasses will have to be replaced.

Mother's Day in Thailand

Mother's Day is held on the Queen's birthday. A big ceremony is held during school to honor the mothers. Many speeches are given as well as songs and skits to honor the mothers. It is genuinely emotional with many tears being shed. The students realize how many sacrifices their mothers make and don't seem to take everything for granted. Some of the mothers work in Bangkok (about a 5-6 hour bus ride) and made the effort to be at the ceremony. The mothers are seated (8-10 at a time) and their children come up and kneel at their feet, bow three times, and exchange emotional hugs. For the students whose mothers are not in attendance, female teachers are seated and serve as substitute mothers. Although this was just one more instance of classes being cancelled, it plays a major role in preserving culture and promoting respect -- something sorely missed in America.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Family Reunion: Thailand

The Blasidell Family holds a reunion every two years. Reunions usually take place in home states. Previous reunions have been held in California, Iowa, Delaware, and North Carolina. This year it was our turn to host the reunion. Since we are serving with the Peace Corps we thought a reunion in Thailand would be interesting! But what crazy family would travel half-way around the world to eat, drink wine, and celebrate?

Well, 14 members of the family showed up in the "Land of Smiles, Heat and Humidity" to celebrate the meaning of "family". The first 4 days of the 11-day reunion were spent eating, shopping, eating, visiting famous temples (Wat Po and Wat Phraa Kaeo), eating, visiting the floating market, eating, visiting the Rose Garden, eating, and visiting the ruins of Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Siam (see pictures above). We enjoyed spending time with family and are anticipating the next reunion in 2009! The next several sets of photos captures our time spent together after we left Bangkok to visit our schools and spend time at Cha-am.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Lunch at Ayutthaya

After touring the ancient ruins at Ayutthaya, we miraculously found everyone eating at a small restaurant. No meeting place was planned which made this a little scary.... we all think alike? The restaurant workers, who also had no plan, found Adam!!!

Snack Time!

Family reunions are also a time for treats and snacks! Matt and Kristin try a coconut drink at the floating market, while JC and Jessica eat fried crickets!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Monkey Mountain

On the way to our village we stopped at a place that the family called "Monkey Mountain". The mountain is overrun by greedy little monkeys that will steal the bag of treats (sold by local vendors) right out of your hand. They tend to be very aggressive as one family member discovered when they put the meaning into "finger food".

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Family Reunion: School Visit #1

The family loaded into two vans and headed north for the first of 4 school visits. In retrospect, this was the most rewarding part of the trip and we wish we could have spent more time visiting the schools. The visit made us aware how special the children are and how we are blessed to have this assignment. It also was quite rewarding for some of the younger members and released the spirit of the "inner teacher" lying within.

When we got at the first school where Bob teaches 5th and 6th grade, we passed a room full of pre-schoolers. They were so precious! They even performed a song for the family. Afterwards, Kristin posed with some of them at the doorway.

The Lineup

When we got to the pavilion, the students were sitting in desks that had been moved from classrooms. They were anxiously waiting for the foreign visitors. After we introduced ourselves, we invited the students to come up and ask questions. At first, the students were too shy, but once the ice broke, the flood gates opened and we were inundated with questions which we gladly rewarded with gifts the family had brought from home. It was Monday which is "yellow shirt day" in honor of the king who was born on a Monday, so we wore our "2007 Blaisdell Family Thais" reunion t-shirts that Theresa and Kevin brought from North Carolina (also known as Virginia to Bob and Carol).

Monday, August 13, 2007

What is your favorite subject?

After the students came up to ask us questions, we went out and asked the students questions, This was a giant step forward for the students because one year ago they were scared to death to even try to speak English ... especially to a native speaker! Bob taught them that the answer to "What is your favorite subject?" is "English".

Here's to the biggest kid!

Q & A's brought out the "inner child" in all of us. The big "kid" is Charlie (Tom) who is Carol's brother. Charlie is giving them advice on getting their merit badge in "Chemical Engineering" by discussing the benefits of polyunsaturated fats.

Group Pictures

After the "Q & A" session, several family members posed with groups of students. Bob later gave copies of these pictures as incentives to come to the front of the classroom and read a paragraph in English. Many hands went up and all pictures were given away!

Put Your Right Leg In.... Grandma, we said RIGHT Leg!

Before we left, we got everyone involved by singing and dancing the "Hokey Pokey". However, Blaisdells have always been "directionally challenged"!

Family Reunion: School Visit #2

The family quickly loaded into the two vans and travelled three kilometers to the next school where Carol teaches. We met in the Community English Resource Center that Carol has supplied computers and furniture through a grant she wrote. They will soon be getting air-conditioning through a contribution that she and the principal procured from the local government office. In the second picture, the family is being introduced to the students to the amusement of Kevin!

Dancers Perform

In honor of our visit (along with the accreditation team's visit), the students entertained us with song and dance performances. Adam, JC, and Matt posed with the four dancers. They are wearing sashes around their necks that were given as welcome gifts.

School Principal Honors a Great Lady

At the conclusion of our visit to the school, the principal thanked the matriarch of the Blaisdell family, Helen Blaisdell (Carol's mother) and presented her a hand-woven mat made by the students.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Family Reunion: Third School Visit

Our family travelled 20 kilometers to visit the third school which is Carol's other assignment. The students were sitting on the floor in anticipation of meeting the "farangs". The village leader recited a mantra and then a ceremony was conducted which blessed the family with good luck.

Lindsay Plays to the Audience

Lindsay announced that she was single and enjoyed leading on the boys.

New Club formed at High School

The girls screamed and swooned when Adam was introduced. Before we left the third school, the Adam Fan Club was quickly formed. Adam is shown with some of the members and poses with the Club Officers in the second photo.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Family Reunion: School #4 Visit - Part 1A

Our final school visit brought us to a remote village where few students had seen a "Westerner" other than ourselves. We met with over 100 students under a pavilion where we introduced ourselves and proceeded to prepare for the interviews. We sat down and individually answered their questions as they hurried to the tables where 16 "farangs" sat. During our introductions, a loud crackling thunderbolt hit directly above the pavilion. Was this a "sign"? We certainly hope it was God's drumroll to our introductions and visit.

Family Reunion: School #4 Visit - Part 1B

The members of our family loved the interaction with the students! They commented how different they were from American students -- respectful and very appreciative!

Family Reunion: School #4 Visit - Part 2

When we had finished the visit of the last school, our family said that the expression on the faces of the students was the most memorable part of the trip! Although, it was hectic visiting the four schools, it was the most rewarding aspect of the trip for many members of the family.
Note: Dorothy brought a polaroid camera and you can see two of the "instant" pictures we gave to the students in the top picture.

Family Reunion: Karaoke

After a busy day visiting the 4 schools where we teach, we settled into our hotel and discovered a bar with karaoke next to the hotel lobby. Karaoke is very popular in Thailand. It gives the worst singers a chance to show they have the right stuff to be the next "Idol". We thought that Thailand had some of the worst singers! We were wrong! The Blaisdells gave a new definition to bad singing. After three hours of listening to the "Blaisdell Sisters and Friends", the workers were glad to close the bar! We gave them a big tip to make up for the torture they endured. But the next day, next to the sign that said. "No Durian" was a sign that said, "No Blaisdells!"

Family Reunion: At the Beach

The last 4 Days of the Family Reunion was spent at Cha-am where we had three condominiums, each with three bedrooms. We recuperated from a hectic agenda the previous 6 days and enjoyed the food and shopping. Matt and his mom pose for a picture while Jessica downed a treat with tentacles dangling from it.