Thursday, October 12, 2006

Some sights in Thailand

I spend a surprising amount of time traveling to other parts of Thailand for conferences, trainings, and the occassional bout of fun. Though we had a Peace Corps training at a beach location for 2 weeks, we spent most of the time at work and training! So I am still waiting for my big Thai beach adventure, which is going to be at Christmas time with my dear friend Kerry! The statues were pictures I took at a cool wat (temple) in Phrae province. The wat in the cave is amazing -- built about 100 years ago by King Rama V in Hua Hin, south of Bangkok. You have to climb down and down into a cavern. The roof of the cavern collapsed long ago, letting a shaft of light and rain come down into cave. So deep in earth long trees reach for the sky, and the wat hides like a secret.


Here it is, the pictures you've been waiting for. Well, maybe not. ;)
Remember my house? The white one on stilts? Well the stilts turned out to be useful
afterall, saving my bedroom and livingroom from the mud. But a lot of people were not as lucky. The woman in purple sandbaged her house, but the mud and tides prevailed. All that slush she is in is about 8 inches of silt and mud. Even now, 4 1/2 months later, most of the government's efforts is focused on flood rehabilitation in my community.


No, May is not the cool springtime we think of in the U.S. It's still hot. Really hot. Among the highlights for the month (pre-flood) were a big bike trip to with about 300 people from the northern provinces (I was the only farang in sight!), and lots of good cultural events. School break is from late Feb - April, so things start to quiet down in May when the kids are back to school.

Long time no see -- a view of March and April!

I just can't seem to get a grip on this blogging thing. That's why I leave computer science to the computer people. I'm a people person. So that is my main excuse for not updating you aall with pictures for the last six months. But I'm trying! So here goes, hope it works!

These pictures are from our famous festivals in March and April -- Songkran, the Thai water-fight new year; and The Elephant Ordination. You can kind of guess what happens here -- everyone dresses up in "Thai Puan" clothes, Thai Puan being the Lao ethnic group that lives in my area. We dance in street parades, alongside elephants, children, all the while throwing water at each other. It was the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad hot season, and these festivals are a brilliant relieft from all the heat!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Thai Instruments

Here's me learning to play the "saw-ooh" -- the Thai violin. It makes a horrible noise. My friend, Wineo, is a local school teacher who runs an amazing youth music program. He's giving me Thai lessons and music lessons 3 times a week. He and his wife have been wonderful.

Songkran -- the Thai New Year

If you ask me what my work has been these past couple weeks I can only say: survival.

No, no. There's no real danger. Just trying to survive the biggest 2 weeks of parties I've seen in my life. It's been nuts here. Songkran, the traditional Thai New Year was last week. however, this festival has been transformed into a week-long water fight, party, get crazy and drunk and go wild. As it's the hot season, all the kids are off school for a couple months, and everyone is fried from the heat, I think my community took this as a great opportunity to go completely crazy. People are getting ordained as monks daily (each ordination is a multi-day party too), so I'm going to parties like crazy. In fact, I just came back from a party this morning. Then there's parades, dancing, fairs... Who knew Thais were such partying fools?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Swearing-in Ceremony

Swearing in ceremony held at fancy hotel.

Conor, me and Becky. :)
My real boyfriends. On the left is Carl, who just the day before swearing-in decided he didn't want to be a volunteer. He is a fantastic guy and usually spends 1 month every year in Thailand (for the last 35 years or something like that) and he is a retired foreign service officer. On the right is Ron, on his second PC tour. Ron is a biker like me but has a spill 6 weeks ago and broke his hip. Amazingly, PC let him stay and he is only 80 km from my site, so I expect to see him. :)

Some of my friends

Me and Amanda -- the Madison girls! Amanda and I met twice before PC in Madison, and we've become really close. It's amazing how I really am a Wisconsin girl. It's like Amanda and I have Wisconsin ESP together.
Arnold, me and Pam. Pam is awesome -- this is her 2nd PC tour and she also did Crisis Corps in New Orleans. When I'm stuck in weird situations I often ask myself, "What would Pam do?" For fairness, Arn is awesome too. Just because :)

This is Conor. You met him before. Ok, cat's out of the bag. We've been dating more than 2 months now, and he's wonderful. Sorry to put that out there publically, C. You know, he's also shorter than me. So I must like him. :)
This is Dr. Dan. He's not really a doctor. But he has that special something about him.

Here's me and Bee. We weren't allowed to be friends until swearing-in, because she's one of the ajans. Now that we're sworn-in, we are friends!

Here is the last meal out with a bunch of PCT's the night before heading off to side. It was a really great night.

the fancy side of Peace Corps

The fancy side of Peace Corps includes carved watermelons.... (this is the Welcome Dinner for the Counterpart Conference, where our counterparts from all over the country came for a 3 days conference)
Group 1 in Thailand, 45 years ago!!!! There were more people than this in group 1, about 60 altogether I think. But it's cool to see how many women were in these first groups!!!!

Welcome dinner at the Counterpart Conference. The guy to my right hand is Arnold, one of the nearest volunteers to me. The guy on my left who you can't see is my counterpart. Say goodbye to cloth napkins, everyone.

A week in Bangkok

Crazy elephant in the middle of the night. I always feel sad when I see elephants here because they're usually abused, and they are the smartest, friendliest animals. :(

My friend Bee, one of our Thai ajans, in the most ridiculously fancy shopping mall I have ever seen in my life. Is this really the peace corps? I'm in a country where my closest neighbor lives in a shack (really), and then there's a shopping mall with only designer merchandise that is so fancy I felt like a real hillbilly in it. By the way, Bee is being very chic. She nevers looks this serious in real life. :)

Conor eating gui-dio -- noodle soup. Ok, it's late... very late. We went out to a fantastic club in Bangkok, the first club I've been too in ages. About 15 volunteers came and we had an awesome time doing the metro thing. The last time I'll do that in a long time!!!!!!!!

Weaving Cotton and Coronel Sanders

Some last pictures from Uthai Thani, but worth putting in. Here I am learning to fluff cotton. Cotton weaving by hand is so time consuming. I saw four steps at this cotton weaving facility -- picking out seeds, fluffing, spinning, spinning again. The easiest is fluffing it, which this lady let me do for a while. The hardest is spinning. I tried that for about an hour and probably created more of a mess than before I got there. So that's why there's no picture of me spinning.

Coronel Sanders happened to be at the same cotton weaving place. He's had a make-over, however. Facial, painted-in Asian eyes, painted black hair. Thais dislike facial hair and grey hair, so I guess this is the Thai cousin of Kentucky's Coronel Sanders.

Monday, March 27, 2006

my house!!!

So here is view of the living room. The house has pretty sparse furniture, but that's ok. I figure I'll buy a table and chairs, and a hammock and some floor pillows. But it's perfect -- not too fancy, not too rugged.

View when you walk in the door. The open door is the bedroom. You can't see it, but on the left hand side is the little living room.

Full on view of my house! The two downstairs doors are the kitchen and the bathroom. I'm lucky because the kitchen is already fully equipped (with running water and a sink!!) and the bathroom has a shower head (lucky!) but no hot water. The ground is dirt there, and there's a traditional table for lying on/eating on/lounging on you can kind of see behind the stairs. To the left and right of the house these are small gardens. I couldn't be happier about that. :)

Arnold at the bottom of the cave and me looking very goofy on the bottom. Yeah, we weren't dressed for the occassion but I am so excited to hike this place seriously!!!!!

An Indiana Jones Adventure

I spent Saturday with the closest PCV to me, Arnold, and his host father. We started off taking a bike ride through a local historical park, then we hopped in a car and drove to visit the nearby national park. Let me say, national parks in Thailand are extremely beautiful, but don't expect the paved pathways of Yellowstone. We decided to take a "brief" 6 km hike, which ended up being a tretcherous test of survival skills. Our desitination was Tarawasan Cave, which when we got there, was a huge pile of rocks and a sign inviting the visitor to climb down the rocks into the cave any which way you could. Oh yes, and it was 100 degrees outside and we ran out of water.


On the left: family eating on the floor, a very traditional way of eating. Furniture requires wealth and this therefore a luxury. So the floor is like furniture. And Thais are very clean, especially with feet. Shoes are never worn in the house, you never walk barefoot outside, and floors are mopped daily. Here is a picture of the nephew mopping the floor. You can see how the house is partitioned by furniture rather than walls.

Another note about cleanliness: taking showers is very important here, both for cleanliness and to keep cool. Yesterday I took FIVE showers. I don't get my hair wet, but it's just a like a quick cool-down, especially nice because it's the HOT SEASON.

traditional thai home

My first weekend at site I stayed with my counterpart's family. Unlike my homestay in Uthai Thani, his family is very traditional. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, all under the same roof. The house is wooden and on stilts; meals are typically eaten on the floor, there is one large, main room and everyone spends time together. The baby is the focus of attention and her feet hardly ever touch the ground. I had a wonderful time with them -- heat, bugs, lizards and all.

It's official -- I'm a Volunteer!

It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks. We left Uthai Thani 10 days ago for a final week of training in Bangkok, followed by swearing-in. We were sworn in on Friday March 26th, then immediately we all left for site with our counterparts. Now I'm here at site in Sukhothai Province. Here are some pictures of my house, also a little trek I took in the National Park this weekend.

Friday, March 10, 2006

These are four women from the Issan region of Thailand (north-east). It's sort of equivalent to the west of the U.S. -- rugged, hot, dry, kind of wild. (photo by Jennifer Forester)

Here's me a couple weeks ago in SiSatchanalai. These two women are local English teachers, and were an amazing help during my site visit.

These are the amazing kids who live in my homestay village. In the front is Da(falling tone), then Da (short tone), then Ai (rising tone). Yeah. You have to say the tones right. (photo by Jennifer Forester)