Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-haaaaa!  I'm all caught up with photos and posts from the time my computer broke and had to be sent away (December of last year)!  Sorry it took so long, and I just wanted to post this to let you know that because I post-dated events, you might have to scroll down to the last month you saw and back up from there.  When it's May and I add an event from January, it doesn't show up on my RSS feed, see?  But I promise that, if it's possible AT ALL, I'll never get more than a month behind in blogging ever again!
Thank you for your patience...your call is very important to us...and thank you for sticking with me!
Today I took the opportunity to bike out to where a new volunteer, Carissa, is living and working.  We met at a coffee shop about halfway between our villages, then we biked up to her house and did some sightseeing.  A friend of the family had been visiting her homestay family and offered to be our guide, which was super nice, because after biking up to the coffee shop and then the crazy hills up to her house, I would have given up at the slightest chance of being lost on the way to the waterfall!
We had a great time, and after hiking down we had lunch right by the river flowing from the falls.  It was a great way to spend time getting to know Carissa, who is AMAZING, and I'd never realized there was this fantastic natural spot so near my site!  I mean, it was a destination on its own, not somewhere you could just pass on the way to somewhere else, but still, it wasn't a 3 hour bus ride and song-taew rental away!  Super cool!
This was the week we were to practice leaving site on our own and getting to a consolidation point, practicing our Emergency Action Plan, in case anything dire occurs and we need to leave our villages for safety's sake.  I was pleased to go to the EAP practice, because last year I went and then immediately left for the hospital where I was diagnosed with Bell's Palsey, if you remember, so I never got to have all the speeches and that, so I was already looking forward to the event.  However, because our EAP took us into the metropolis of Chiang Mai we 126's decided to ask any 127's if they wanted to go early and get to know one another, maybe see some of the town, before having our practice consolidation.  A number of them said "Sure!" so we had a lovely time visiting Doi Inthanon before our EAP drill!
I think we visited the mountain on the 25th, and despite the fact that it was April in Thailand (when it feels like we're closer to the SUN than everywhere else), about halfway up the mountain it started feeling nice and cool, and by the time we reached the summit I was glad I had a jacket with me!
After exploring the more forested part of the mountain, we hopped back on the song-taew we'd rented for the day and went part of the way down the mountain to the most lovely waterfall!
After our adventures on the mountain and at the falls, Emily remarked that it was the most fun she'd in Thailand, and I corrected her by saying, "...yet!"  It was great sharing an adventure with the next group of PCVs and meeting them before our EAP session.  One of the things that keeps us safe/comfortable here is having a strong community of volunteers from whom to draw inspiration, strength, and who understand what we're going through as volunteers, and volunteers abroad.  Furthermore, when we were crossing the falls at the top it felt like a trust exercise, because we were watching out for each other and lending helping hands and all that.  Super fun!
...Also, because I can't resist a good promontory, I enjoyed the acoustics and scenery with an aria. The 127's, who had never heard me sing, were all impressed that I'm 'more powerful than a waterfall!', smile.   I've now sung deep in the caves of Mae Hong Son as well as from the heights of Wachirathan Waterfall!  There's a short video of this, if you're interested, but to put it on this site I'd have to pay, and that's not happening, smile.
The EAP itself was nice, and it was great to see our PC staffers.  I think I mentioned before that we've been going through some staffing changes; the American staff rotates out every few years, and it's just our luck that we're at one of those gaps in staffing so are saying goodbye to loads of people and hello to others!  Aside from that, some of our Thai staff have moved on to different jobs, so there has been a lot of turnover recently.  My point is, it was good to see the staff we did and get the latest news, go over "what to do in the event of __________" scenarios, and all that.
After the EAP a few of us decided to take advantage of the holidays and simply stay in Chiang Mai for a few days before school started.  We were all unsure as to our schedules in the coming semester, but there was nothing we could do about it so we decided to relax for a few days.  Carter, Elizabeth, Kailei and I rented an apartment that had a small kitchen and was near a Rimping (an international market with foreign things like cheese, tortilla chips, and pretzel bread, smile) and we had a great time relaxing.
I celebrated the end of vacation with a new haircut!  Kailei and I went to a wonderful salon in Chiang Mai, where my stylist Bee not only gave me a lovely haircut (with bangs!), but also a scalp massage that nearly made me drool in the chair!

As said, after a few days at the camp down in Chiang Dao we left that camp to come up and do another kind of English Camp, an abbatow training for adults.  It was a good time, and because we had a smaller group we could do slightly more intensive dialogues!
After taking a week off for Songkran, we volunteers got to help for a few days at the English Camp down in Chiang Dao!  We only went for a few days before we had to help at another camp, but again, we were only there to be Native Speakers and assist with games.  These students were older, bpratom 5 and 6 I think, and there were about 130 of them, so we did a lot of activities in smaller groups!
I'm sorry I don't have photos from this event, but we played most of the same games, just made harder and more challenging for older students.  It was a good time!
This week we had an English camp in MaeSao, and I got to work with Kruu Djii, whom I adore, again.  It was a great camp with some really competent teachers, so we volunteers were there basically to enhance game time and be Native Speakers.  We also helped with planning a little bit, because sometimes plans for a fun event are very vague (I think that's a world-wide trend, though, not something specific to Thailand!).  We had a really fun time with the 4th graders (about 70 of them), and because the camp was so far from our individual houses we got to stay at a nice resort place in Mae Ai.
It was a wonderful week of camp, even though I lost one of my animal flashcards!  We had a great time singing, playing, and learning together.  I really like how, in my district, there is an English Camp in April.  We rotate teachers each week and it's a great time to get used to teaching and meet people from all over the district!
PictureKailei and I, enjoying the decorations outside our banquet. ...This must have been a Tuesday, because I'm wearing my proper 'Tuesday' shirt!
So this week we had our Mid-Service Conference, and in addition to the medical review, information about writing grants and other ways  we can be more useful to our communities, we get to have some further language courses.  The other day in the middle of one of those classes (Structure II!) we were talking about different uses of the word 'naa', and in order to use it properly to indicate duration, you need to use the classifier for a given word.  If the word is 'page', the classifier is the same as the word, and then our class got sidetracked for a moment about how the word and classifier for 'page' is the same as the word for 'face', because it is the face of a page!  Neat!
There are always fun surprises like that in language, aren't there?  You find out that a more complex word can be broken down into two more simple words you know already.  For example, the word for diarrhea, 'tong sia', literally means 'stomach broke'.  Fun, right?  And I already mentioned how 'butterfly' is literally translated as 'ghost shirt' and gives you a fun mental picture, smile.
Aside from language classes, information about committees and organizations like Books for Thailand, the Brighter Thailand Foundation and other sources of funding, or sessions about how to go about moving on to a third-year project, we simply had a good time getting together and seeing one another.  Not only have we had some major staffing changes this year, but It's rare that our entire group gets to see one another as we're scattered throughout the country.

Today was Graduation Day at Ban Ai!  We celebrated the promotion of the bpratom 6 students who would be going into mattyom 1 (so, like the promotion of students into middle school), and the mattyom 3 students who made it into secondary school (middle to high school graduation)!
So, later this month we have our Mid-Service Conference, and I think that when I have to leave, I'll miss all the little things I've come to love about Thailand.  I love all the bright butterflies, how here it's perfectly natural to see super-bright insects and butterflies that in CA you'd have to go to a greenhouse or butterfly park to see.  I'll also miss smiling at butterflies and knowing that the word 'butterfly' 'pii sua' translates literally as 'ghost shirt', because of the way a drying shirt on the line flutters in the wind!  So I'll just take a moment  here to share some photos of things at my house that have become part of my landscape in the last year and that I will miss when I go.
Today when I got to class there was a large amount of dead leaves and grasses on the classroom floor, and while we do get some tracked in and sweep daily, this seemed more than usual.  Looking up I realized it was because birds had begun building a nest in the overhead fans!  This will not do because when it gets hot, those fans are the only things keeping us from MELTING, so later in the day we had the students help clean the fans.
I thought this was worth sharing, because this sort of thing never happens at home!  I think that's because I grew up in a city and not the country though, I'm sure rural classrooms at home have Nature invade from time to time as well.  I also liked the way we dealt with the problem, the students helped clean the classroom, which reinforces the sense of community and the fact that it's their school.  At home I think people would be worried about liability and students falling off ladders, but things are much more pragmatic here, and I like it.  I like the trust that exists between students and teachers, teachers and parents, schools and the greater community.  Smile!
Oh, we also took the opportunity to do a lesson with bpratom 3 on positions (on, in, under, by with the song and hand motions), because we had a bird's nest in the fan!  Teachable Moment!


    These are the personal opinions of Spook, and do not reflect those of the Peace Corps.


    January 2014