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, September 22, 2007

Peanut Butter Sandwiches and Alphabet Soup

We use an incentive program to encourage Thai students to learn English. When they reach 20 stars, they are given a certificate. When they reach 30 stars, we take their picture, mount it on card stock and post it in the room. Bob rewards the top students by inviting them to a luch consisting of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along with Campbell's Alphabet Soup which he can find in one store in Bangkok. The Thai soups are extremely spicy so the alphabet soup seems strangely bland to the students! In the picture you can see that many of them brought their own dish of noodle soup from the school kitchen. Students are then treated to an American movie on DVD!

Multi-Purpose Vehicles

On the weekends, many villagers travel to the "city" in "dtek-dteks" which are normally used to transport workers to the rice fields. Once at the rice field, the front portion is disengaged from the bed and is used to plow the rice fields. For many villagers, these are the most common mode of transportation along with mortorcycles which are surprisingly cheap (by American standards). A brand new motorcycle costs only about a $1,000 and, of course, used ones are a lot cheaper!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Village Pick-up Truck

In addition to "dtek-dteks" the more affluent villagers have these versions of pick-up trucks which they drive to the city. What was surprising is that in the back of the truck was a brand new 29" color television. When we look in some of the modest homes, the only piece of furniture is a color tv proudly displayed so that everyone outside can see it through the open doorway.There are no chairs, couches, or tables. Everyone sits or lays on the floor to watch tv.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Village English Lessons

About 2 months ago, the village leader approached us with a request to conduct English lessons at the meeting hall (a covered cement slab with a raised stage area). We told him that we would be happy to teach a 1-2 hour session each Sunday afternoon. We were both excited to finally resume teaching adults after initiating a similar program one year ago in a neighboring village. We carefully crafted a lesson geared to adults that wanted to learn English. When we arrived for our first lesson, we knew something was wrong when 5 youngsters on bicycles quickly reversed direction and headed to the meeting hall. We turned into the dirt driveway and much to our surprise we saw 60 children (some of them barely out of diapers) running around. We did see a few adults, but they had simply brought their children to attend the Thai version of "Romper Room". We looked at each other and said, "We need a plan!" After a few minutes, we split the group into 2 groups. Anyone with a pacifier or diaper rash went with Carol. The others went with Bob. Actually the group has been a lot of fun especially after it pared down to 20 regulars who come every Sunday. The picture above shows a portion of these regulars who are very anxious to learn English.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Small gift, big smile!

The young children are so adorable. Bob gave a neighbor girl a small pouch with a doll on it. He told her the doll's name was Ying. The next day, she came over to his classroom, proudly wearing the pouch with doll around her neck and said in Thai, that Ying came to school with her!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Community Learning Center Update

Thanks to many people who donated to our PCPP grant on the Peace Corps website, the "CLC" is beginning to take shape. Five computers, tables, chairs, and storage cabinets have been purchased. In addition, two air-conditioning units (a rarity in rural Thailand schools) were purchased by a catholic priest who saw the center and was very impressed. English learning programs are being installed on the computers to facilitate language acquisition. Games that foster logical thinking have also been purchased. The next purchase is a set of bookshelves and display shelf that will house easy-to-read English books and pamphlets and books (in Thai) that give information about HIV/AIDS, post-secondary training options and career opportunities.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Teacher Appreciation Day

Each year, schools across Thailand honor their teachers. For three hours, speeches and blessings are given as the students sit on concrete slabs. During the final hour, students individually approach the teachers, kneel at their feet, bow three times and present flowers to the teachers. This display was very touching and unlike anything we had ever experienced in America.