Tuesday, November 18, 2008

last week at Step Ahead

on the bus to Phuket with kids' camp
with Sibel (left) and Monika (middle) who studied Thai with Ton and me
Scary. That's all I have to say.



I just can't believe how time flies. It's only 2 1/2 more days until I go to Bangkok to meet up with Bronson, Evelyn and Lisa, then on to Chiang Mai to visit the German Christian school, and then back here for them to meet some of my lovely friends in Khao Lak. So this is my LAST week of teaching at Step Ahead, which I can barely grasp. I've gotten my classroom in order and saved teaching files for whoever will come teach here next (we still don't know; still praying for more volunteers at Step Ahead!). But my room is an absolute mess and I haven't started packing for Bangkok, much less for Austria and home. But what have I been doing for the past few days? Well, I've been looking at old pictures from the past year here, I've been reading a really interesting book about Thai society and culture that really makes sense after living here, I've talked to my mom on Skype, I've had dinner with my friend Gaan several nights in a row, I've made no-bake cookies (but sadly, without peanut butter), I've played volleyball and swam out to the raft- which I'm glad to see that La Flora put back out to sea, since it had disappeared during the rainy season, I've learned a few new songs on the guitar,  I've watched a Thai pop concert with Momay and Benz, and I've caught up with an old German student of mine who got married last month! And my plan for the next 3 days is to finish teaching my classes, visit my former students at the hotels and let them know about my good-bye party, prepare a sermon to teach at my church on my last Sunday, learn some Bavarian songs from Monika, and learn Thai boxing from my friend Ake at La Flora. Yes, Thai boxing. I'm so excited about it. I never really thought about doing it until I met a Norweigan girl this week who said she learned Thai boxing from Ake for 3 days and loved it. She said it's very good exercise and that she feels like she could really defend herself, if necessary, with what she learned. So when am I going to pack? Good question. 

  My emotions have been all over the place as I prepare to leave, from utter despair (sometimes I feel that way when I think about leaving Thailand) to absolute joy when I think about the people and places I'm going to see in Austria and at home. But it is going to be so hard to leave this place.  



Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Farewell to Paul, Kids' Camp, and... doing new things

with friends on a camping trip; weekend before Paul left

with Paul, Dao and Jeab at Paul's farewell party

working on the church mushroom farm (our first day to all work together)

Volleyball friends at La Flora Hotel! (left to right: Chon, Hot, Note)

Benz hard at work on the bag project- Thai Totes

me and Nui, our new housekeeper, trying our hand at sewing

helping with kids' camp

Adorable! I had one sleeping on each arm on the way back from our trip to the zoo and aquarium in Phuket.

Updated Picasa albums: http://picasaweb.google.com/briswann

   October has been a month of LOTS of changes. On the (somewhat) minor side, John took the car up to Bangkok to use it for the Pattaya project, so now we're really doing it Thai style, driving the motorbike everywhere (and getting awfully wet, since the rainy season seems to have come late; we've had torrential downpours everyday for the past week). We got a new housekeeper at the beginning of the month, P'Nui, after P'Jeab left. P'Nui is absolutely wonderful; she works hard and she has a lovely personality. On the major side, Paul left. :( We had a big good-bye party for him; 60+ people showed up from classes and from the community, like our friends that we play volleyball with at La Flora, friends from church, and even the managers of a few hotels where we've been teaching. I was happy that several students from my Seaview class showed up, even though they hadn't even met Paul before! Paul shared an encouraging testimony about his time here, and it is clear to see that he's had a big impact in this community in just one year!

And now, things are going... hm, well different. Everything feels a little bit different. Everybody notices that Paul's gone. The past week-and-a-half have been so hard, as I can't stop thinking about how soon my own time to leave is coming, and somehow, this has the opposite effect on me from what it should have: I feel sad and... procrastinate more on doing things that I need to do! But there have been some positive changes/ things that I've noticed since Paul's been gone for this past week:
1) I drove the motorbike for the 1st time on the main road, to Pak Ping Church. 2) I listened to a whole sermon in Thai without translation, and though I didn't understand any of Ton's stories, I understood all of his main points and felt that I'd gotten the gist of it. 3) I realized that I feel really, really comfortable around Thai people and don't miss farangs much. I mean, of course I miss my family and friends, but I don't just miss being around Westerners in general, if that makes any sense. 4) I hit almost every ball over the net in volleyball yesterday (if you saw how I played when I started, you'd know why that's significant). :) The sports guys at La Flora are so sweet! I think they feel sorry for me since Paul left, so they've been taking extra care to make me feel welcome, getting me towels and letting me know I can hang out there anytime I get bored at Step Ahead. (P'Ake said, "Chabah bpen kaeg leuy:" "Chabah is a guest here.") 5) Fri.-Sat. was the first time I've helped with a kids' camp! It was really fun. It poured down rain in Tablamu and we had to stay the night at a different place than planned. On Sat. we went to the aquarium and zoo in Phuket. Nong Poom and his friend fell asleep on each of my arms on the way back. They were so cute. 6) I've spent quite a lot of time w/ P'Maeo, one of the preschool head teachers, which I think has been good for both of us. 7) I tried my hand at sewing yesterday to help w/ the bag project and discovered that I am NOT good at it. It was still a fun time w/ Benz, P'Chompoo and P'Nui, though.

   Another thing that happened this month: a group of us went on a camping trip to a beautiful waterfall on the weekend before Paul left. It was great! We went hiking, played soccer, swam in cold water, grilled and played/ sang songs until midnight.     

Friday, September 26, 2008

September... a delayed post!

with the kids at Happy Home in Cambodia
Playing Simon Says with giving directions at Chong Fah (I made a mistake as soon as we started the game!)
Games with the kids at church

Poi Pet, Cambodia

New pics: http://picasaweb.google.com/briswann

Somehow I forgot to actually post this entry...but here is a brief summary of September! I went to Bangkok and Cambodia for my visa and passport and came back. I got to visit an orphanage called Happy Home in Poi Pet, and although it was such a short visit, I was shocked by the difference between Thailand and Cambodia (if you look at my pictures on Picasa you'll see why.) I survived the crazy political situation in Bangkok and Phuket. There have been protests going on against the government for months. The old prime minister has stepped down, but Thaksin's brother-in-law has replaced him, so the protestors are still unhappy. (Thaksin is the old PM who was ousted two years ago due to charges of corruption.) The airport in Phuket was closed because of protests when I was supposed to fly to Bangkok, but things were semi back to normal when I flew back to Phuket.

While in Bangkok (and a bit before), I suffered from some major dizzy spells that lasted for more than a week and was diagnosed with BPPV (vertigo), which also explains my extreme motion sickness. The first few days back here, I still felt dizzy and very tired and had a hard time teaching because once or twice, I felt like I'd have to throw up while I was standing in front of the class! But praise God, I've been feeling A LOT better lately.

Classes at Chong Fah and Ramada were really good; it's been so fun to have some variety in teaching by getting outside of Step Ahead to see other places.

Monday, September 1, 2008

End of class term and Julia's visit, & political instability in Thailand

Julia and I made Kaiserschmarrn (Austrian pancakes) for our students on the last day of class
students from Chong Fah
out to dinner with John. Julia and I bought the same dress. :)
Paul making friends with a water buffalo at the Moken Villae
German class
with the Ramada class
Helmets are very fashionable
Benz & Julia at the sticky rice restaurant- girls' night!

  I just can't believe how fast this past month went by, and Julia's already gone! :( We had so much fun together; I'm really going to miss her. This is what I find so difficult about being here: people are always coming and going constantly. It makes me tired.

 Yesterday it was uncertain that Julia would even be able to fly out of Phuket, because there have been some major protests against the government going on in Thailand, and the demonstrations have escalated over the past week. The protestors succeeding in shutting down the main airports in Thailand for a few days (though not for international flights from the main airport in BKK. I was supposed to fly from Phuket on the same day as Julia, and then it looked like we'd have to take a bus instead. So we bought bus tickets, but praise the Lord- late Sun. afternoon we found out that Julia would still be able to catch her flight to Bangkok! I couldn't get on my flight though, so I'm leaving in about an hour to catch the overnight bus. I'm not really looking forward to going to BKK and Cambodia because I'll traveling by myself again. I've been a bit worried about the situation here too, but Kim Quinley assured me that it's still safe to travel to BKK. I think I'll have a good time once I get there; there's always lots to do in BKK. But I also have a lot of things to take care of.

  The end of our class term was great; I think that these classes (except maybe my evening class) have been the best ones for me at Step Ahead the whole time I've been here. For our last day of German class, Julia and I made Austrian pancakes and ate breakfast w/ our students. Then they offered to cook lunch for us on Saturday at Step Ahead! One of the guys from Baan Khao  Lak (hotel) is the restaurant supervisor, and I think he can cook really well! But unfortunately, he ended up having to work, so we went out to eat instead to save time. It was still a lot of fun. On Friday night, some of our students from Chong Fah invited us to hear live music, and Julia, Paul and I were so impressed! I didn't expect the music to be that good, but it really was cool.  They were kind of a reggae/ country band, and they let us request songs. On Friday we also went to the Moken village again to teach, but this time it was me, Julia, Paul and Benz, and we had so much fun together. I'm starting to really love that village and the sweet kids. 

  It's raining now. Julia was very lucky to have so much sunshine during her stay here! Now I think it'll rain just about every day, as it normally does in the rainy season.  


Sunday, August 24, 2008


Our lovely German class!
Kata Beach in Phuket- the water is much clearer than I expected!
Julia and I teaching the Moken kids (sea gypsy village)

at Khao Lak Lamru National Park


  I think we've been watching too many episodes of the Office. We've been in a mischievous mood, and so we decided to play some pranks on Ton last Friday evening. P'Jeab invited us 
over for dinner. While Ton was in the kitchen, I stole his bag and hid it upstairs. Then I took his cell phone out and hid it in my purse, and Julia called it. He was looking around for a while before he realized where the ringing was coming from. I took his phone and hid it and called it two more times that night, but the best time was right in the middle of an intense Ligretto game- with 8 people playing (we taught the Thais how to play.) I hid his phone in a laundry basket and called him during the game. He totally fell for it again! The problem is that Julia and I can't keep a straight face, so we were trying our best not to crack up but mostly not succeeding. But Ton didn't even notice until we were getting ready to leave that his bag was missing. 

  Somehow the cell phone trick didn't really get old, because his reaction is soooo funny to watch, and he takes it well. So we did it again on Sunday, but one time while Julia and I were talking to the mayor of Takuapa and his friend, a psychiatrist (who had been invited over for a special dinner at Step Ahead). I thought I'd be pretty sly and call his phone (which I'd hidden on the stairs) while talking to the mayor, so that I could keep a straight face. But it didn't work; especially when the psychiatrist, whose name is coincidentally also Ton (!) started looking around for his cell phone. He must've had the same ring tone. Ton said, "you two again!!" and put us both in a headlock. But the pranks didn't stop there. We also got him a small brush and bottle of shampoo (because he loves his long hair), which we wrapped in shiny gold paper and gave to him, and we put a fork and a toilet paper roll in his bag on Tuesday. Julia made a blunder in Thai that led to another prank also. She learned how to say "how old are you" which translates literally as "age, how much?" But when she wanted to ask Ton how old he was, she just said "Ton, how much?" We burst out laughing. And then I said "10 baht" (about 30 cents or so). So the next day I put 10 baht in an envelope and asked Momay to write "how much? 10 baht" on the outside, and  stuck the envelope in Ton's bag.  I don't know who's going to help me pull pranks when Julia's gone!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Day's Work

In class on Wednesday, we were talking about jobs, and one girl said she does odd jobs in the low season, such as picking fruit to sell. She told me what kind of fruit she picked, but I'd never heard of it (even after nearly a year in Thailand, I'm still discovering foods and fruits that I've never seen or heard of before.) In the evening, before we left for cell group, my student showed up at Step Ahead with a HUGE bag of fruit- her whole day's work! It was about 2 1/2 kilos. I don't know the name of the fruit in English. But I sure was impressed by her generosity.

Julia and I confused our German students with a whole bunch of vocabulary about the reception at a hotel, but then when we played hangman at the end of the hour, they had so much fun that they stayed after for almost half an hour to continue playing!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mother's Day

Ton practicing songs with the kids before service
Julia, Dinay and I enjoying a good lunch!
Giving flowers to a lady who couldn't come

Have you ever seen kids so cute?? Seriously. 


  I'm so behind on blogging! I can't really catch up, but I'll tell about a few things. Well, first of all, Megan left (we miss you, Megan!) and Julia came to help me teach German. German class has been so great this time! The students are all still attending class each time (unusual b/c they usually drop off around the middle of term), and they are the sweetest and most fun students! Julia and I could nearly laugh until we cried sometimes in class. I've also started teaching at Chong Fah Resort, which has a really nice swimming pool that they let us use. That is my biggest class- 18 students, which is a bit chaotic, especially since we meet in the restaurant! It's fun though. Oh, but I saw my first cobra since I've been in Thailand- it slithered across my path right on the steps leading to the hotel! I thank God that I didn't step on it, because it literally went right in front of my feet. 

  We've played a LOT of volleyball at the beach w/ our friends who work at La Flora (hotel) and then a few random Germans. We made friends w/ 4 Germans actually, and ate dinner w/ them once  and had them over at Step Ahead for lunch. The guys at La Flora gave me a Thai nickname- "Chabah"- which means hibiscus flower! I like it. Some people told me it's an old name and that Thais always like to give farangs old names (and names of flowers), but I don't mind. I like the way it sounds; it's better than some of the other funny names I've heard here, and it doesn't mean "frog" or "rat" or something similar. :)

   A few Sundays ago we had a special service at church for Mother's Day (the queen's birthday). Ton did special songs w/ the kids, and they each presented jasmine flowers to their moms. Well, I was lucky enough to be a stand-in mom for a really cute little girl whose mom wasn't there! I was happy to do the job. She hugged me for a long time, and I just wanted to cry because she was so sweet. Actually, the whole service, I think, was the nicest one I've been to since I've been here. Some of the moms of the kids from our Saturday kids class came too, which was cool. 

   Last weekend Julia and I went on a short trip to Phuket to see Pia and for Julia to see some of the city. The other girls who are either staying at or hanging around Amber's house are so sweet and so much fun! We went shopping at the night market and had a girls' night on Saturday. On Sunday Julia and I went to Kata Beach, where the water is surprisingly- amazingly- clear. We didn't swim; we just walked around and then found a really nice coffeehouse called "Summer." Then we got on the wrong bus (because when I asked the bus driver, he said that the bus DID in fact go to Bang Niang...), got off, and got on the right bus to go home.