Today I'd like to share with you a few more of the (delicious!) exotic fruits I've had the opportunity to sample while here.  The title of this post, 'earth of fruits' is some Engrish I came across on a bowl; I'm pretty sure they started with 'world of fruit' and just substituted a synonym!
As I mentioned in the photos, all these fruits came from southern Thailand, and absolutely none of them were familliar to me.  I mean, I'd heard of dragonfruit and mangosteen before coming here, but these were totally new!  Our monoculture in America is clearly not the way to thrive!
Okay, I'm back home after my quick trip out of town.  On the way back I picked up Glai-haan from the vet, and was super-happy to hear that they think they can save her foot!  I have to keep it clean and give her pills (NOT fun for either of us), and later they'll remove the sutures, but for now I'm just happy.  I really hit the ground running, as I'd made plans to meet up with a few of the students from the Community School who were interested in continuing their lessons.  I haven't really had much time to unpack, do laundry, or anything like that.
On the way home from our coffee-shop tutoring session I stopped at the market for some mangosteen, my absolute favourite fruit!  Last year it was cheaper than this year, because of the lack of rainfall, and it'll probably be even more expensive next year, as the Rainy season was supposed to start in May and now, July, it's still not really begun!
So, though my cat is ill and I'm worried, the world continues to turn and classes need to be taught.  Today we did that old camp favourite, the Chicken Dance, and had a good time swinging our partners around by the elbow.
Today I went in to the vet (in the city; the nearest good-English speaking vet is 3 hours away in the big city) and found out that far from being okay, Glai-haan's foot is in serious danger of needing amputation.  When she got caught in the chair the circulation was cut off for such a time that there was nerve damage, and the tissue started rotting...the vet could see bone when she prodded at her foot-pads.  I feel awful, like the worst pet-owner ever, because I didn't take her to the vet on Monday when it happened, but went on to the community school and then thought she was fine.  I even congratulated myself for not being one of those hypochondriac pet owners who take their animals to the vet at the slightest hint of anything being wrong!!!
Because I need to go out of town at the end of the week I'm checking Courageous into the vet for a week.  Courage can stay at my house, but I can't ask my neighbor to take care of such a sick animal while I'm away.
Today I had bonus fun with bp 4 practicing our sentences (grammar) on a string!  The students had such a good time I thought I'd try and snap a few photos so I can always remember their smiles!  It's funny, but from pictures you'd think that was the only class I taught...but no, it's just that I teach bp 5 and 6 earlier in the day (and think, I should get out my camera!) and when I travel to bp 1, 2/1, 2/2, and 3 I'm the only adult there, so there's no-one to act as photographer.  I'm hoping that those classes teachers will become more active in helping me teach, though, so they can use more student-centered teaching tactics in their everyday classes.
Just a quick update; classes have been going well, and so have been lessons at the gor-sor-nor.  Yesterday I was freaking out because Glai-haan hurt her foot, got it stuck in a chair, but today she's limping but otherwise seems okay, still eating, playing and jumping on things normally.  I'm pleased that this week in school Kan and I are setting a routine and sticking with it; we start the day with a song (the Greetings Song or something) and then go into calendar time before beginning the day's lesson.
Okay, since last we talked I had a horrible flu-bug, and though I've been ill here a lot that was mostly GI stuff, so the cannot-breathe, blinding headache, respiratory bug threw me off totally and knocked me out for 2 weeks!  Not fun!  Especially as this month the gaw-saw-naw (gor-sor-nor?)--Community Center--has been running a class in communicative English!  Natrada had to teach it alone when I was ill, but since being well I've been busy!  The Community Center has class in the library for two hours every evening, which is keeping us busy, but it's near the town hall and the market, so I can get fresh mangosteen which is delightful!  Last Thursday Natrada went to Chris' training and I stayed to teach school and the gaw-saw-naw, where we began a new unit.  I love the enthusiasm of everyone who comes, and as you can see, we have quite a range of ages.  You can't see, but the difference in levels of ability is also quite wide.  We all enjoy the class and having fun together, though!
Friday and Saturday I was cleared to help with the Chris' training, though, the first in our 'Full Circle English' training.  The idea is to present Student-Centered Teaching techniques at the trainings, then put together small groups of teachers and a PCV to visit those classes and see how individual teachers put those ideas into practice.  Oftentimes we'll go to a training and get great ideas, but then we don't actually use them, or we're inconsistent with our use.  Hopefully, with this training and mentorship program, we'll be able to really make some positive improvements.  There will be more follow-up trainings, but it's the big group to small group to individuals who then become leaders that makes the circle complete and keep on rolling.

Aside from the training and gor-sor-nor, I've been busy making materials (pictures next time!) and...having kittens!  I took two of Kailei's 6 kittens home with me this weekend!  I'm very excited.  I took the grey one, whom I think will grow to have stripes, and who was so curious she wandered over to the carrying box all on her own, smile.  The second one is kind of mixed, and was particularly unafraid, so they are Curious and Courageous, respectively.  In Thai 'glai-haan' (high and rising tones) is 'brave' or 'courageous', and 'yaak-ruu-yaak-hen' (middle with a rising tone on 'hen') is 'nosy' or 'curious', so that's perfect!  Neither of them have a full tail, but that doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would.
I had to go to Bangkok for some medical fun a few days ago, and decided that I didn't want to spend my birthday on the 10-hour bus ride back from the city.  Therefore, I flew back from my appointment and spent the day in the metropolis of Chiang Mai with friends instead!  The evening before my actual birthday they treated me to dinner, there were lovely flowers, and a basket of goodies!  So exciting!  Some of my favourite things like quinoa, hi-chew, Nescafe 3 in 1 (the ubiquitous instant coffee I've become attached to) and Tim tams, a delicious cookie that I've intended to share in care packages but that I can't really resist!  Plus, I've been having fun making popsicles with fruit juice, coconut milk and condensed milk, but I had no popsicle molds so was using old take-out food containers, and they found some really great popsicle molds for me!  Super thoughtful gifts!
We had gone out to one of our favourite farang-food restaurants in the city and we all feasted, so we walked back to our respective hostels and took pictures on the way to let our dinners settle a bit, smile.  We used the timer on the camera to take the photo; pretty good, right?

Chris, Kailei and I were thinking about going to a movie the next day, but my day doesn't begin until after I've had coffee, so before we met up I headed to Into The Woods, a really great coffee shop I like that was near our meeting place, to enjoy the start of my actual birthday.  I read the latest Lemony Snicket book and was about to start on my second cup of coffee when who walked in, but Kailei!  We didn't intend to meet there for breakfast, but it really is a great place for coffee!
After we met up with Chris, we took a song-taew out to Central World, one of the massive malls that Thailand seems to have an abundance of.  Seriously, the malls in big cities here flabbergast me.  I'd never been to Central World, but there's a movie theater on the top floor (and there are 5 floors aside from that) and before leaving I went to the international market in the basement for granola bars and popcorn, smile.  So!  We got to the theatre but weren't sure what to see, we ended up seeing Tomorrowland, and I loved it!  Really, I'd see that movie again, and on DVD so I can hear what Brad Bird has to say about it!  As it was the afternoon we got to see the movie for 120 bhat ($4), and as we discovered when we had difficulty finding the was an IMAX movie!  So it was a really great deal--good movie, good experience, and I tried the cheesy movie theatre popcorn (I also discovered that movie theatres have an internationally similar smell), smile.

After the movie we went our different ways; Chris had friends to meet up with, Kailei wanted to do some serious browsing...and I wanted lunch!  I knew I wanted a special birthday lunch, though, so I went out to Pantip Plaza and walked down to Butter is Better, another favourite farang-food place (originally recommended by our program head, Chadchaya!).  I love Butter is Better because it's all 50's diner-styled, with posters for Singin' in the Rain, Sinbad and Hitchcock movies on the walls as well as records of Bobby Rydell, Buddy Holly, and other famous artists of the day.  I went in and found a nice table along the wall...then looked up to see Carter and Elizabeth at a booth across the room!  I joined them at their table, which was fortuitous, as I ended up getting an ocean of treats; blintzes, hash browns, coffee and a peanut butter milkshake!  It was just so crazy to run into the Moultons there without planning, just like Kailei in the morning!

Now, I knew that I wanted to get home that night, and as the passage of time did not stop when I entered the movie theatre despite the fact that I was whisked off to a fantasy land ('Tomorrowland', one might even say!), but I still wanted a Thai massage.  I was planning on going to a place near Thapae gate recommended by a friend, but I was running a little late, so when the owner of a massage parlor literally next door to the restaurant asked me if I wanted a massage, the answer was, "Yes!"
It was a nice little parlor that did a full range of spa treatments, manicures and pedicures as well as waxing, threading, facials and massage stuff.  When I said I wanted a Thai massage and some focus on my shoulders (where I carry my tension) I was led up a super-tight spiraling staircase to the second floor where there was soft Thai music playing and the lights were already dimmed.  I changed my shirt but my pants were fine for a massage, and then Pim got to work.  Pim was my masseuse, she'd been doing Thai massage for about 4 years, and she's Akha, one of the native hill tribes of Northern Thailand.  She also gave my shoulders one heck of a massage; she may only be 155 centimeters tall (I asked), but man, is she good at her job!  At one point I was sitting with my hands behind my head, her arms looped through them, one foot in front where my legs were crossed, and the rest of her twisting my body back and around so my spine would crack!  I got the giggles imagining the pretzel shapes she was making with me, and she asked me why I was laughing...I loved the part when she had her heels in my kidneys and was pulling my arms back while I sat up straight!  Very nice!
After my (excellent!) massage it was time to go, so I took another song-taew, grabbed my bag from the hotel, walked up to the bus station, and hopped on the next bus headed back towards site.
It was a full, fun, and overall wonderful birthday!

Last night there was a housewarming party for one of the caretakers at the school I teach at, Lung-Pet.  He bought this gigantic house out in Fang, a good 45 minutes from the school, for him and his whole family so all the teachers as well as people from the community went out to celebrate his good fortune.
Before we left on break Kan told me about her intention to change her name.  Now, in America, this is a huge hassle (often associated with another huge hassle--marriage), but here in Thailand it seems to be a much easier and more common practice.  Kan is actually changing her name for luck, because her old name had an 'unlucky' letter in it.  ...When she first said that I demanded to know how she was unlucky; she's got a great career, a nice husband and sweet son, she's healthy...  However, if you're born on a Tuesday, your horoscope says that letter '' is unlucky for you!  Also, her husband teased her about it, like a running gag.  So now break is over and Kan (who is keeping her old nickname) is Natrada!
I'm mentioning this because, as it's the first week of school, we're doing projects that involve introducing ourselves and writing our names and nicknames.  For most classes this involves making up a spelling for one's Thai name, and in addition to that I was confused when one student wrote that his name was Pat and his nickname is Somchai.  I thought it would be reversed, but apparently his original name, his government name of record, is Pat and now (he's in 5th grade) everyone calls him Somchai!  I was just imagining of kids were allowed to re-name themselves like that in the US...I think we'd have a lot of PrincessBallerinaMoonSparkles and TigerTankSpidermen!


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


    January 2014