Life Back in the USA

24 Jul flahouse

It’s a pretty hot day here in the mid-west.  As I look out my window, all I see is the penetrating sun and the quiet streets as there is not much motion in the summer heat.

I am here still in the mid-west in small town USA.  I am grateful for my extended stay with family and earnestly, I am here longer than I expected.  This time is undoubtedly a crossroads for me and I am thankful to be able to explore options and choices for my “what’s next.”  I have had a few opportunities come my way, but so far nothing that has felt like the right fit for me.  So here I am, continuing to pay attention, explore, research, investigate, apply.

In the meantime, I am doing temporary work.  At first I felt like a fish out of water back from Thailand working in the mid-western office scene.  I practically had to wear a parka in the iced air conditioned offices after my months of Thailand’s deep thick heat. Even the little things caught my attention, like I didn’t know how the use the new fancy coffee machines.  Copier technology is WAY cooler than the last time I worked in an office.  And filing is now done… electronically.  Who knew?

While it has taken some time to get my “American office legs” back, I am grateful for the good things it has brought my way.  Of course I appreciate the income, but it has also helped me to regain my confidence back in the American workplace. My first temporary job, intended initially as just a three-day work agreement, extended to nearly six weeks.  I was thrown into the hot-seat of a busy title company, something totally foreign to me. I had to keep my eyes on all of the balls coming from all directions and with equal parts hard work and answered questions, I made my way to the other side… now knowing quite a bit about the title business and feeling successful and acknowledged for my efforts.

newwheelsA new big change for me… I now have wheels! Returning to the US, I was… hesitant to get a car for many reasons.  Part of what has kept me flexible and traveling these past years has included keeping things ultra simple and also keeping my personal expenses as low as possible. Abroad there was almost always a way to get around via public transportation.  Whether it was riding in the back of a red truck in Thailand, traveling the U-Bahn in Vienna, or catching the regular bus to Seoul, there was always a way.  Here in the US it is of course a different story. Public transportation in most cities is just not a priority. Where I am currently staying, it is literally non-existant.  And so a few weeks ago… I did it! I got a car. In many ways I am so relieved.  What a blessing it is to be mobile again as I continue to explore and make my way.

How are things wherever in the world you are?  It is always great to hear from you! Good-bye for now from quiet summer days and life back in the USA.

 

 

Decisions, Decisions

13 Jun babybirds

It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon here in smalltown mid-usa.  The temperatures are acting like summer and they are quite hot… but after my year in Thailand, in some ways I think I know better of what hot REALLY is!  There isn’t much to do today.  An SGI Buddhist meeting this morning.  The rest of the day a lazy and casual afternoon and then a bit of preparing for… work.

Yes, that’s right.  I said work.  After 5 years of international life and travel, I have myself a little work here in the USA. It’s a short-term assignment and in earnest that gives me some peace as I am still considering, exploring and open to new options regarding what I might like to do next.  It seems these last few days the decision of “what to do now?” has been weighing on me pretty heavily.

I attended a great SGI meeting this morning.  It’s such a comfort to me to connect with the friendly SGI Buddhist members down the street in the comfort of their country home.  To relax and read and discuss and learn.  And also to be offered a change in perspective from the one I entered with.

One of the greater themes of this practice is to never give up and to approach challenging circumstances with the spirit of “turning poison into medicine.”  The lesson today shared that when we face challenges and obstacles there are two choices… 1.  complain and be defeated or 2.  live in invincible spirit blazing your own way regardless of your environment.  That is quite a choice.

These past five years with the help of SGI, it’s practices and other groups and communities I have made that choice to find my way, miraculously at times, around the globe and through a myriad of my own personal challenges and triumphs.  And now that I am here back in the States I find a whole new set of challenges in considering and exploring what is next in the midst of my current circumstances, interests and priorities.

I reached out to my trusted friend and advisor, Reiki Master Elizabeth Ohmer Pellegrin, and shared some of my current concerns.  Her reply was to send me this video and suggest I watch it from beginning to end… It is nearly an hour but it went down quite comfortably and easily.  And while I can’t say it relieved me from all of my present anxiety it did offer a panacea or two worth taking into consideration.

The first idea that I am taking with me is that there is no such thing as a wrong decision… but that any decision we make can be turned into something useful for ourselves and our lives.  And that sometimes taking this pressure off ourselves can put us in a relaxed place to more easily make our decisions.  The other morsel that stood out among many was that we often have an urgency to make decisions for our lives.  And that instead a useful practice is to let it go for a few days, to wait and almost forget about it and see what ideas come to us.

I have to admit I have been wrestling with the possibilities of my considerations, priorities and what’s next in a way that is far from peaceful.  So for today, for now I am going to practice letting go of these attachments, letting go of some of my fears and worries around the circumstance and see what that offers.  And I will also continue on my SGI journey and trust in the path and journey that unfolds.

There was a short story shared in the SGI meeting today that I particularly liked.  It went like this:

“Suppose you are lost in the jungle.  You want to find your way out and reach the ocean but don’t know which way to go. What will you do?  The answer is, keep moving ahead along any course until you come to a river.  Then follow the river downstream, you will eventually reach the ocean.

Move forward.  As you struggle, chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and keep pressing ahead even if only a millimeter, two millimeters.  If you keep that up all your life, when you finally look back, you’ll see you’ve made your way out of the jungle.”

So here I am in the jungle of my current transition and in unexpected territory in many ways!  But for now the mission, the goal is to keep pressing ahead on the course that is before me.  And, to relax a bit, to practice being at ease and “turn over” some of the big decisions fighting their way in my mind.

The sun has just gone away outside my window and some grey skies and wind are rolling in.  We have had a lot of grey skies and storms here in these past few months.  I have enjoyed this and appreciate the comfort of being safe inside and watching the approaching rain, wind and storms roll in.

And in just a few minutes I will prepare a few things for my workday tomorrow. After 5 years of international travel and nearly 15 years in New Orleans, I find myself truly in unfamiliar territory pressing ahead in my journey out of the jungle.

Featured image:  Can you see them?  The two little orange beaks poking their way out of the nest?  We have a few baby birds arrive a few weeks ago nestled in a tree outside my mom’s back door.

Additional Note:  The blog page has a featured image at the top of every post. For some reason, this image cannot be viewed through the facebook and other links but only when you visit the main feed of this blog.  I have tried to troubleshoot this, but it seems it is just “one of those things.” So, if you don’t see a featured image… click here gypsywomancafe.com and hopefully you will see the photo.

Embracing Uncertainty

16 May bigblueskies

It’s been a month since I last wrote.  This time of transition has seen its share of quiet, uneventful days… some spent in grateful relaxation, others spent a little ill at ease wondering “what is next” for me.  As me and my life move through this shift that I imagine is… a bit of an end of an era… I am sure my blog too will change and adjust to reflect the landscape of my life and what’s at hand.

I am in bed working on my laptop.  It’s a quiet, rainy Monday morning.  You might laugh if you caught a look at me, draped up like it’s winter in the moderately cool late spring weather.  For me these 50 something days feel a bit like… winter… as indeed they were considered quite cold in Thailand in relationship to the plethora of days shooting past 100.

I am grateful to be home… and also antsy and edgy and some days not quite sure what to do with myself.  But sometimes transition can be that way.  What is different about this “time between” for me is it’s the first time I don’t have an itch to head back out on a new international adventure just yet and it’s also the first time, while I have ideas and options of what I might do short and longer term, I don’t have a real plan just yet.

And then… for those interested or even mildly curious… there is astrology.  We are currently coming out of a period where five planets were in retrograde… an intense time that hasn’t happened in ten years… and still now there are four planets in retrograde.  The long and short of this is, it’s not a great time to move forward with things and doing so might leave one feeling like all you are accomplishing is banging your head against the wall.  It is however a good time for reflection and consideration for changes ahead.

I received some beautiful advice from my appreciated mentor and Reiki teacher… she shared a quote that said, “Trust the wait. Embrace the uncertainty.  Enjoy the beauty of becoming.  When nothing is certain, anything is possible.”  And so, here I am wading around in that a bit… at times embracing, other time dodging the uncertainty.

Life remains unmistakably simple.  At times this is an appreciated respite after many years of busyness and personal stretching way beyond boundaries and comfort levels.  After such an intense period of growth in my life, I have to admit that it’s kind of nice to have a chunk of time with few expectations or commitments.  And that said, there is an itch for things to be different and for some simple, fresh change to softly enter my world.

But for now I am here and grateful for many things!  It’s so great to bask a little bit in moderate spring temperatures in the mid-western land of big expansive blue skies.  I have been a regular walker and some days the weather is so fresh and inviting I could practically take a bite of it.  I am also grateful for my mom and her little dog “GG” who have been my faithful companions over these recent weeks of reentering familiar/unfamiliar territory.

I am grateful for the local SGI group here in the area.  SGI is an international Buddhist organization that I participate in and time and time again provides a refuge of friendship, support and personal and spiritual development around the globe…. even here in my mom’s small mid-western town.  What a treat it is to be greeted by friendly, supportive faces with opportunities to study, grow and be reminded of the opportunities and possibilities in life on a weekly basis.

The wind is whirring outside today, not an unfamiliar sound in this unusually windy slice of the flat midwestern landscape. The rain and grey skies are lulling me to surrender to a lazy day ahead.  My mom’s dog is resting heavily at my feet with not much ambition to offer herself.

So for now, here I am restful and restless in this time of change.  Explorations and preparations at hand, but the calling still seems to be plenty of walks under the big blue midwestern sky and …embracing the uncertainty.

Featured photo:  Big blue skies in my mom’s midwestern USA neighborhood.

Quiet Days and Big Skies

18 Apr Big Skies

Wow, it’s a refreshing spring afternoon here in the midwest.  I have to laugh as I stay wrapped up in fleece and sweaters in this mid-60s F weather after my saturation in the Thailand heat.  I saw that a recent day in Chiang Mai was 44 degrees C (about 111 F).  While there are earnestly things I miss about my time and life in Chiang Mai, that number alone is a stark reminder of the joys AND pains of life in Thailand.

These past few weeks have been quite a simple time for me.  I am honestly just trying to rest up and get myself to a place of feeling more equilibrium.  I take the dog for walks. I relax and do Reiki for myself and others. I’ve watched some movies and more HGTV than I care to admit.  I am appreciating simple pleasures like unpacking my suitcases, washing all my clothes and having things feel stable and still if even just for now.

I am visiting with my mom in her friendly but small town in mid-western Americana.  Our days include plenty of shopping.  I believe I have sniffed out most of the organic products in all of the major groceries in her town and near-by.  My healthy-eating appetite has been simply saturated with products, stores and resources simply not available abroad.  I joined her recently at her regular Senior Sneakers workout class at the local community center – doing a little line dancing and weight lifting with my mom and her friends.  Additionally, my mom’s church down the street happens to have a great church wellness center with a caring and gracious staff.  This has become a place I love to go when visiting for yoga classes and other wellness resources.

Today I had the pleasure of connecting with the local SGI group.  This Buddhist practice has been in my life for the past 5 years and has ushered in supportive and wonderful community nearly everyplace I’ve been on the globe.  Genuine and interesting people and a dynamic and challenging practice and approach to life.  How grateful I am that I can turn to this local group whenever I am in town and feel their support and kindness and also develop and grow in my practice.

I haven’t been the most social of people lately and still feel like I am coming out of some Thailand/travel wormhole.  I swear for the first few weeks I felt like I was walking on the wrong side of the planet, as if I was literally walking upside down and might topple over.

As for the “what’s next” portion of this journey… I have opened some new doors and am taking a look around. In the meantime I am paying attention and doing my best to make wise decisions.

But for now I am here, in the land of surprisingly strong winds and big skies.  In some ways feeling a little out of my element, a bit like a foreigner myself, but grateful for the time to ease into a new life of some sort… the shape and breadth of which still to be clarified and discovered.

Jet Lagged and Adjusting

28 Mar Beltline Art

It’s a quiet Monday morning in the heartland of the USA.  In the bleak early morning hours, it’s quiet and dark as life seems to be slowly slinking past the stillness of winter.  And I am… awake.  Or mostly awake as my days and nights are still quite mixed up.  After a few too many afternoon naps, indulging that irresistible call to mid-day jet lagged slumber… here I am when the world around me is just considering rising and I… have been awake for some time.

I arrived here yesterday to a snowy Easter morning after a week of respite and connection with friends in Atlanta, Georgia.  It was an easy stop via a direct flight on Korean Air direct from Chiang Mai to Seoul then Seoul to Atlanta.  I have spent this past week in that strange place of adjustment.  The undeniable feeling of familiarity being back in my home country mixed with the unmistakable shift that occurs with a year and half since my last visit to the States.  My world is a bit mixed up.  I am still altered by and present to the vibrant, crazy and colorful world of Chiang Mai.  Life on the left side of the road and my modest Thai speaking of “sawatdee ka’s” (hello)  and “kop kun ka’s” (thank you).  I’ve already surrendered most of my colorful Thai baht that had become a comfortable companion now replaced by American dollars which feel a bit… foreign… and sadly monochrome in my seasoned traveled hands.

But that said, I can’t deny a need and appreciation for the comforts of home.  That sinking feeling into the familiar that allows me to relax and rest just a little more deeply and easily than life internationally.  Such a life provides a fresh perspective and appreciative for the comforts of American life and my current respite in my family’s home.  The deep sink into the bountiful hot-tub with, yes, jet-action.  Grateful for the easy supply of organic groceries and food items, but admittedly still revelling in the sticker shock after a year of modest Thai income and mostly super-affordable cost of living.

I am returning once again as a familiar face, but undeniably impacted by my cumulative journey of the past five years… and more recently my 7 months in Vienna, Austria and subsequent year of teaching in Chiang Mai.  My body, mind and being are pleasantly shifted and expanded in ways that are most notable to me but perhaps less visible to the outside eye.

But here I am, altered and at home in the mid-west. I am still acutely aware of the daily and moment to moment echo of my most recent foreign adventure. My surprise at the grocery store when I speak English and am easily understood. My adjustment to getting into the passenger side on the right side of the car. And my general feeling of strangeness in the midst of “regular American life.” But also appreciating little things like loosening the grip on my passport now in the land where I am wholly and easily “allowed to be here.”

So here I am, feeling “newly arrived” and a little foreign myself back in the central USA.  I have a kaleidoscope of experiences that now make the world beyond the US a normal part of my considerations, view and landscape.

I am grateful for the allowance of some time for rest and adjustment. Reconnecting myself in the most basic ways with the people, land and world around me. I am of course considering and exploring what is next for me… beginning to reach out, connect and plant seeds and see what opens up and unfolds.

But for now I am awake, yet still sort of asleep in the groggy morning hours after a night of sleeplessness and strange productivity.  While the neighborhood and people around me just begin their day, I am jet lagged and adjusting back at home in the USA.

Featured image:  A slice of the vibrant artwork lining the pedestrian pathways of the Beltline in the heart of Atlanta.

The Final Days

19 Mar ToBanMuanJai

Well, I did it!  I am officially complete with my year of teaching here in Thailand. Many good-byes have been said and there is packing to do.  My flight leaves Chiang Mai on Sunday and from there I am off to a new adventure.  The policies here in Thailand leave little wiggle room for departure.  My employer canceled our work visas this past week and from there we have just a few days to leave the country!  So, off I go.

In many ways it is a good time to leave.  March is the beginning of hot season in Thailand and temperatures are already up into the 100’s Fahrenheit where they will stay and exceed for months in the future.  And while I am told it is not bad this year, it is also the “smokey season” when farmers burn their fields and the city’s pollution is at a high.  But gratefully the mornings still leave a faint remembrance of the cooler season gone by with a few hour glimpse of refreshing breezes and temperatures.

So here I am in this strange time.  This time of packing, change and limbo.  At times it has created that rare pocket of space that feels like absolute freedom.  No commitments, no obligations… enjoying the open roads, freedom and blue skies of Thailand with no expectations to speak of.

Of course this time of transition and change doesn’t come without its tug and pull… being caught a bit in the birth canal of yet another new transition. Floundering between freedom and liberation and compulsion and fear.

I spent my Saturday morning on a as of recent regular outing to an outstanding Thai massage place in the rice fields just beyond the busy streets of Chiang Mai. While finding this place the first time was a bit traumatic… and required some emergency assistance…now that I know where I am going I love to go and appreciate the care I receive at a very reasonable cost.

On the way to Ban Muan Jai

On the Way to Ban Muan Jai

On the Way to Ban Muan Jai

On the Way to Ban Muan Jai

It is called Ban Muan Jai.  It is a modest, clean and friendly place run by a husband and wife both well-trained and experienced in Thai massage. This is the kind of place you go to not just for relaxation but to receive a treatment to tend to whatever is ailing your body.  It’s been a treat to travel there on the quiet roads just off the busy main way and to receive a long, attentive therapeutic massage.  Something I will miss once I leave Thailand.

Ban Muan Jai Massage

Ban Muan Jai Massage

And so here I am.  In the countdown.  In some ways this is a little bit of my favorite time.  Not too much to do except the final packing and taking the time to save this and discard that.  It seems this is somehow an important part of my transition process… having the time and space to slowly “un-nest” in a nesting sort of way.

I can imagine what might be ringing in your head… what’s next?  So what is next?  Well, I think it’s not time to tell just yet. But I will say that the feeling of late is that it’s time for a break and time for a rest.  Travel, while world opening, rich and transformational is also… stressful.  I have had a big ol’ wide heaping of life served up to me these last 5 years that has stretched and opened me up in countless ways…but I am wanting in one or another something different… for now.

And that said… we will see what happens!  I am the woman who started out on a 6 week trip to Germany and ended up in Thailand 5 years, 4 countries and 2 continents later.  And while I am wanting a feeling of stability for a bit, I also feel it’s important to be open and see what might unfold.

So hold tight for just a little bit.  I am on my way and will soon emerge in new territory and in one way or another will continue this journey that began 5 years ago by taking a leap and buying a plane ticket to Europe.  It may not look like international travel for a while.  But we’ll see what unfolds.

And in the meantime… I am grateful Chiang Mai.  I am grateful for your grit, color and beauty, for learning your ways, riding your streets, being opened up and challenged by your children, learning to laugh when I wanted to scowl and mostly for just being part of a wild world that allowed me to see a broader side of life, the world and myself.  Thank you!!

Taking Time to Smell the Roses

5 Mar

Well, it’s been a big week.  After a busy and at times hectic school year it is seemingly suddenly… finished.  It’s a bit strange really to go from a daily work life filled with the bustling energy of literally thousands of young Thai faces to suddenly… an empty campus and classrooms.

It is never easy to say good-bye.  In fact, I somewhat deliberately avoided using those words as they have a certain finality to them.  But a few of them snuck in… and along with them the inevitable shock of teary eyes and holding back tears. Ugh… a bit tough at times.

Honestly, it was a challenging journey for me this year.  While there were many things I enjoyed about Thailand, teaching and the students, there were things that were personally difficult.  In the end, much of that feels washed away and I am left with the satisfaction of completion and the sweet faces that were part of my daily life for nearly a year.

Last Day of Class

Last Day of Class

Students took their final tests on the last two days of school.  The second day of testing and the final day of school, I received an unexpected and beautiful surprise nearing the end of the day.  Engrossed in the final work at hand, I didn’t notice the door to our office open but suddenly heard a quiet “Teacher Teresa.”  I looked up to see a small sea of the sweet faces of many of the boys in my class with one of my more dedicated student helpers offering me a bouquet of roses. I was then greeted with an array of good-bye hugs.  The flowers were beautiful and shockingly fragrant and it was one of the loveliest acknowledgements I have ever received.

roses

Beautiful Bouquet of Roses

And so, here I am in post-school completion but still with a few weeks left and some final work to complete.  In many ways I feel free and liberated with the end of the school year and a lightness in my body and being as I revel in more free time and prepare to shift to what is next.  Appreciating my nerdy preferences to tend to all the final details as I once again transform my slightly expanded life back into two suit-cases.

I have worked busily and at times neurotically to neatly tuck my job and life into pre-departure orderly fashion.  While there is still work to do, there is also a light at the end of the tunnel.  A little more time to just relax, just be.  In the wake of a busy year filled with so much personal growth, huge energy and transformation… I am also taking a little time to appreciate the year that has passed and simply smell the roses.

Easy-Breezy

21 Feb colorsofthailand2

Ah, it’s a great Sunday afternoon.  After a super-busy week filled with… so many speaking tests… it feels really good to have some down time.  My apartment is not far from the Ping River, so my windows are open and I am enjoying a warm, yet luxurious breeze flowing through the room. This Sunday is especially luxurious because Monday is a holiday and I colorsofthailandhave a three-day weekend.  Ah, what a thrill.  Sunday is really a different day when the hustle and bustle of the workweek hasn’t started to creep in. And for that, I am grateful.

Things are still moving along at work getting closer and closer to the finale. With an extra day to relax, I feel I am doing a pretty good job of enjoying where I am while still being poignantly aware of the change and transition on the horizon.

As we shift away from “cold season,” the most “friendly” time of year to be in Chiang Mai, and (hopefully) slowly eek into hot season, the trees are starting to brim with color.  Strangely enough, some trees leaves are changing color and falling from the trees, sort of like autumn, while others are beginning to blossom and explode with color.  This is undeniably a colorful country reflected not only in the blossoms on the trees, but in the colors the people wear and the things they create.  The students where I teach easily sway into vibrant creativity and I am often amazed by the things they create.

IsitFall?

I had a typical Sunday morning… which lately has included a regular trip to the JJs farmers market.  This market, while not fully organic, is one of the higher quality markets in town.  I’ve come to enjoy my regular trips there and the simple pleasures of purchasing avocados and other favorites from local farmers.  After the market I made my way to my favorite Rimping grocery store and then a few practical purchase at the local Tesco/Lotus store.  Ever the American, I can’t deny I get a secret pleasure from such periodic shopping diversions…even for the simplest of things.  My big purchase for the day was a new fan, a necessary item with the heat starting to turn up.

My thoughts are filled with many of the practical things I must do before I leave.  Admittedly, I like closure… and I like the process of organizing myself and planning as I shift from one location to the next.  I am handling some practical things like going to the dentist, which is a super affordable “treat” (if the dentist can be a treat) here in Thailand.  I am grateful I was turned on to a high quality dental clinic, the Bangkok Hospital Dental Clinic.  It makes a big difference to be assured that I am receiving quality care… in addition to the affordable price.

My big plans for the weekend don’t extend much further than where I am right now.  I am soaking up the slow…  earnestly so glad to be here but also leaning into the upcoming change.

A short week and a lighter load awaits me at work.  In the meantime, I am gratefully and happily here, basking in the added reliable breeze courtesy of my new fan.

Current of Change

17 Feb constructionpingriver

It’s been a semi-steamy week here in Thailand.  Overall the weather has been just great.  Cool mornings.  And while many days still find the 90s (F) the coolness of the morning sets the whole day in better place.  It feels like there is alot going on my life lately… with the big “end of the year” ball rolling at work and with my time in Chiang Mai.

With our school year ending in a matter of weeks, the new school year starting the beginning of May, and changed Visa policies making it more challenging for teachers to get Visas, my employer has already hired teachers for the new year. On more than one occasion I’ve met the “new faces” getting a tour of our office space, including my replacement.  Just another stark reminder…as I have chosen to leave after this school year… that the end is coming.

Even though I have been traveling for 5 years now, with heaping servings of uncertainty along the way, transitions are always difficult for me.  I am clear it is time for me to leave, but there is always some apprehension as I depart circumstances that in many ways have been “home” with more uncertainty waiting on the other side.  It often moves my mind and body into a tailspin.  But, just the same, it also fun and exciting to wrap-up one place and head in a new direction.

In some ways things are a bit smoother at work.  Our big English Fair is complete which had our lunch and class times bustling with singing and dance rehearsal.  Although I tried to be light about the whole “dance performance” thing, at a school that takes singing, dancing and performing fairly seriously – it was at least a little bit of a big deal.  It was Friday night when the fair was held and all the classes took their turns performing on the big stage – professional lights, sound and all. My students’ first dress rehearsal was – a little rough.  But after a few more last-minute rigorous practices, they did a great job! It’s amazing how them getting on stage made me more nervous than being on stage myself.  During the performance where was I?  I was the geeky teacher to the side of the stage meticulously mouthing all the words and doing the dance moves. When they were finished it was big relief and fun to share that moment of happiness and success with the students.

Some completions here in Thailand are already coming to be.  I taught my last “2-skills” class last week.  At my school our classes are divided up between “4-skills” classes that we see every day and “2-skills” (speaking and listening) that we see just twice a week.  I have 6 “2-skills” classes – so a total of twelve a week.  These classes are larger (about 44 students or so) and fold into the regular English lessons taught by a Thai teacher.  While all my students are great, happy bundles of energy- collectively they will give you a run for your money.  In some ways these classes are fun because they are less serious, more light-hearted.  Lessons are generally simple and taught in a way that is fun and easy to digest.  The challenges come with the sheer number of students in the classroom and the low-level of English comprehension.  So, while the students may like you, they don’t understand most of what you have to say – and perhaps some “selective hearing” too.  At any rate, the “2-skills” classes were both my joy and challenge this year with a great big dose of enthusiasm and energy (not necessarily directed towards me or learning) that was sometimes fun and at other times hard to digest.  Of course finishing anything is bittersweet… it is still “something” to be complete with the lessons on that journey.

However, the year isn’t complete yet. We still have individual speaking tests to complete (over 230 students for me total!), reviews and final tests to go and then a few weeks of teacher wrap-up.  In all honesty, while there are many things I have appreciated about my time in Thailand, there have also been a number of things that have been challenging.  A few weeks ago I had a spontaneous “heart-to-heart” with one my supervisors.  What unfolded was my clarity of how rich this time has been for me.  I could feel the bounty and how much I have changed shape, grown and expanded from living and teaching here and riding the huge wave that is this bustling respected local Thai school.  And for that, I am so grateful.

And with that I will say good-bye for now.  Back to tending to my post-work haze – doing my best to glide comfortably in the current of my latest transition.

How are things in your world?  It’s always good to hear from you!

 

-Featured image above, bridge construction “Thai-style” over the great Ping River.

 

 

 

What’s Cookin’ in Chiang Mai

31 Jan Tomsumsoup

Wow, it’s been quite a week here in Chiang Mai.  Earlier this week we had an unexpected “Chiang Mai version” of winter. The temperature dropped down to about 50 F.  This was quite a shock to the system after months of temperatures in the 80s and 90s.  I heard it was even recording-breaking cold! We had a few days of good “bundling-up”, some cold (and one wet) morning rides to work, and one day you could even see your breath (the kids at school of course loved this!). I even broke out a short down winter coat and my wool long underwear from Germany!  “What’s all the fuss?  That’s not that cold!” you might think?  It seems at least part of it is the tropical humid weather makes the cold even colder, an icy cold that shoots straight through you. Also, buildings here have no insulation and no heat.  Plus, your body is used to (at least somewhat on my part) hot weather! For a few days, there were many empty seats in classrooms and students bundled in fleece blankets and fuzzy animal hats.  As much as I complain about the heat, I am glad to have things back to “normal” today with pleasant blue skies and a comfortable 81 degrees.

Things are a bit crazy at work lately.  In part because we are preparing for the annual NP Fair, put on by the Native English Program at my school.  For the teachers this has us creating booths for the fair as well as preparing students for song and dance performance extravaganza.  As the end of the years is winding in, it is inevitable that teachers are a bit exhausted (I personally am…) and students are… well, let’s just say… less interested in paying attention and listening.  But like it or not, here it all comes and the crazy dance continues of life and teaching in Chiang Mai.

Tom Yum Soup

The beginnings of Tom Yum Soup

This weekend I treated myself to a Thai Cooking Class.  It was something I was hesitant to do with all of my food sensitivities. More and more it is challenging for me to eat here… but I thought perhaps if I cooked the food I could at least control what goes into it and learn a bit more about Thai food and culture.

I chose the Thai Farm Cooking School in part because they use organic ingredients they grow at their farm and also because of their popularity and high rating.  Plus you they pick you up, take you to their farm out of the city – always nice to have a little break from Chiang Mai and some new scenery for the day.  You cook I think… six different dishes… and get a selection to choose from.

curry paste

Curry Paste

Overall, it was a great day! The other folks in the class were all really personable and it was fun to spend some time and talk with an assortment of people with their own travel experiences and stories to tell.  And I learned a lot about Thai Food!  I was able to make most of the foods with some adjustments.  With these adjustments (mostly no adding anything that included sugar), some dishes tasted okay… and some in earnest were completely flat.  This class helped me to get clear that most Thai dishes simply rely on the MANY sugary sauces for their good taste.  A bit of a bummer for me, but also an eye-opener to the extent of the high sugar content of the food here.

curry

Chicken Curry

One of the highlights of the day was making our own curry paste.  We each had our own impressive mortar bowl and pestle. We added the curry ingredients and pounded away for a considerable amount of time until our paste looked like “peanut butter” as we were told. This was the basis for the curry we made later, a dish that still tasted pretty good even though I left out all of the sugary sauces used to complete the dish.

Overall they did a great job of being patient with me and adapting to my food needs and requests.  I would recommend them for someone with food sensitivities as they seem pretty adept to it.  However, the inevitable truth is that many of the dishes just don’t taste that great when you have to leave out some of the main ingredients…

That said, I now know what many of the “foreign” veggies are that I see in the supermarket and also know what they are used for – which is great!!  And I feel more informed about some basic Thai food and dishes.

Today at the JJs Organic Market, one of the regular weekly markets here in Chiang Mai, I ran into an American woman who has lived in Chiang Mai for ten years and also happens to be an organic growing expert.  One of my concerns here in Chiang Mai is that you don’t REALLY know what is organic and what isn’t – even at an “organic” market.  It was such a relief to chat with her a bit about finding organic food in Chiang Mai.  One of the challenges here, as she pointed out, is that it’s hard to really get the truth about things.  Someone may say something has no pesticides but you can’t count on the fact that they are telling the truth… which makes it difficult to eat healthy.  She pointed me towards some growers at the market she worked with personally who she could confirm are organic growers.  She also gave me some simple tips like if the veggies look kind of “bad” that is a good sign that they are grown organically.  Bug bites, for example, she suggests are a good sign when looking for organic food.

She also warned that many street markets use harsh pesticides including formaldehyde!  I do my best to stay away from traditionally grown veggies here as I know harsh pesticides are used… but had no idea about the formaldehyde!  And so the adventure of healthy eating on the international landscape continues!

I have just a little sunny day weekend left and look forward to a Thai Massage later today as the weekend sneaks away and a new workweek soon begins.

How are things in your neck of the woods?  It’s always great to hear from you!

 

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