Thursday, January 16, 2014

Whoa, such a long time between posts!

IN an effort to not linger too long on how much time has passed between my last blog post and this most current one, I’ll put it simply: a lot of time has passed. Therefore, it would be silly to try to catch y’all up on everything. So I won’t. The holiday season was, understandably, a very difficult time for me, which is probably the reason why I didn’t write much if at all in the month of December. Every time I sat down to write something, it just sounded boo-hooey and not truly indicative of how great this experience has been for me thus far.

But yay we made it through the holiday season! What a wreathy little hurdle that was. I think for any expatish American abroad, December and early January will always be difficult. I am glad that, looking forward, there are few such culturally-charged periods of time looming in front of me. Unless of course you count Groundhog’s day which is COMING AT ANY MOMENT AND I CAN TELL YOU WITH 100% CERTAINTY THAT HERE IN THAILAND WE’LL DEFINITELY BE HAVING INFINITY WEEKS LEFT OF HEAT!

I clearly spend a lot of time alone because I cracked up for a good minute after typing that “joke” out.

Anyway, since I said I wasn’t going to go into any great detail about the last month and a half of my time here in Thailand, I thought I’d make a handy dandy little map to show you where in Thailand/SE Asia I have travelled thus far, because a lot of my time has been spent travelling around this amazing region of the world.

As you can see, I’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of Thailand and even a little sneak-peek of our neighbor to the north, Laos. And though travel in SE Asia is dominated by long hours on over-packed buses that ramble through mountains and curved roads at speeds at Iwouldn’tevenwannaknow miles per hour, I can surely say that my experiences in travel have done nothing but strengthen my fascination and fondness for Thailand. Thai people are as different as any other group of people—Isaan Thai are different than Northern Thai and are certainly different than Central or Southern Thai—but their spirit of giving and helpfulness is pervasive wherever you go.

I think of the young Thai woman I met in a 7/11 in Khon Kaen who gave me wrong directions to the bus station and then ran after me for five minutes to correct her mistake after I’d left. I think of the hostel owner in Chiang Mai who offered me tea and let me move into my room early because I look tired. I think of the man in Nan who dragged a ragamuffin group of farangs into the mountains for a weekend of water rafting and, upon receiving our payment, told us he would be giving it to the members of the impoverished hill tribes nearby.

To say that all Thai people are kind or that all Thai people are generous is reductive and certainly not true; however, I will say that the lengths that most Thai people will go to make sure you know where you’re going or that you know what you’re doing or that you’re taking care of yourself as best as you can is simply astounding. And perhaps it is especially astounding because of the ways in which this kindness or generosity is extended to strangers—Americans are kind and generous too, but not often to people we don’t know. Here, it doesn’t really matter if you’ve known each other for five minutes or five months—if you need help or are completely lost, there will be someone there to help you in whatever ways they can.

As a person used to figuring a lot of things out on my own, this is obviously something I’m having to get used to. In the American context, asking for help is a sign of weakness. Here, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Whether it’s a teacher making and sharing breakfast with colleagues before school starts or students letting other students copy their work so that they won’t be embarrassed by failing, there is an openness of giving and sharing in this culture that is at times both beautiful and very weird.

But just so yall don’t think that Thai people are lovey-dovey and we’re-all-in-this-togethery all the time, here’s a funny anecdote from an interaction I had with an Older Female Teacher at my school:

OFT: Cody, do you like to play basketball?
Cody: Sure, yes! Do you?
OFT: My favorite thing is to play basketball. My least favorite thing is to lose, so I play by myself and always win.

Maybe I’ll update more regularly from now on. Probably not! But stay tuned anyway.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Bullet points & The Holiday Season

I've tried to start writing this specific blog post a few times. It's pretty difficult to find a starting place when you've let a month slip by (whoops!), especially when that month has been so full of experiences and thoughts that seem worthwhile of a blog post. Also, I finally started watching Friends, which has put a serious damper on my after school productivity. But I guess this is what every abroad-blogger secretly hopes for, that their lives will be full of so much chaos and, um, actual life that they won't need, nor will they have the time, to create a meaningful life with bi-weekly vignettes that, hopefully, convince themselves and family and friends back home that everything is hunky-dory-peachy-keen.

Thankfully, things are pretty hunky AND dory in my little slice of the globe. For the sake of bringing my faithful readers ( family) up to speed on what has been going on, I'm gonnnnna riddle this blog post with bullet points. If you're more in the mood for emotional, paragraph-length blog posts about my every single other blog post I've written thus far.

  • Winter has finally hit Isaan, which means daily temperatures now hover around 80 degrees Fahrenheit as opposed to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Teachers and students alike wear large, puffy jackets everywhere they go and complain about how cold it is. The other day, I told a group of students that it was -6 degrees celsius (~20 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts of the US and they quite literally started to scream. 
  • Not only is it Winter, it's the Holiday Season, which exists as much here as it does in the United States. Thai people love Christmas. Like, capital L love Christmas. Their malls are decked out with Christmas trees and lights and ornaments and have been for months now. I'm not sure they actually know anything about the holiday, but they celebrate it with a certain gusto that I haven't experienced in a while. 
  • As far as what it feels like to celebrate Christmas in Thailand as an's weird and a little awkward, if only because I'm not sure I fully understood how difficult it would be to hold onto ritual in a foreign country. There are no sweet potatoes for casseroles, no advent candles, no thick evergreen wreaths. And for the first time in my life, the world doesn't seem tuned to the same never-ceasing ethereal radio station with its looping silver bells and christmas shoes and croonings about snow and fires. But, in a strange way, I feel as though I am experiencing a more authentic Holiday season for all these small absences. As I reflect on what Christmas means to me as an individual, as an American, I've come to better appreciate the importance of taking this time to connect and celebrate friends and family. My days are not filled with watching Christmas movies on ABC family or running around trying to buy perfect gifts, but full of thinking about those I love. 
  • And even for as weird as this Christmas might feel, I'm eternally grateful to the Fulbright program for the amaaaahhhzing Thanksgiving Dinner they provided for all of us big-eyed young grantees. At the end of November, all of us trotted back to our home base in Bangkok for a week of meetings and a lovely Thanksgiving celebration, full of stuffing and pumpkin pie and perhaps the most delicious cornbread I've EVER had. At least the best cornbread I've had in the eastern hemisphere. So much to be thankful for, especially the other ETAs, who are so graceful and so strong. And the free wine they provided at dinner wasn't half bad, either. 
  • Speaking of the other ETAs, it seems like the only thing that is truly able to rejuvenate and reenergize me are the little adventures I get to go on with them, either when visiting their villages or exploring new parts of the country. This past weekend, a group of us, very spontaneously, decided to go camping in Loei at Puu Rhuea national park. It was freezing and it took forever and a day to arrive, but we saw the most beautiful coupling of a sunset and a sunrise, ate som tum and drank beer under a sky impossibly full of stars. I am grateful for the community of educators I get to be a part of. It's an odd crew, but a good ol' one. 
  • And finally, the teaching, which seems to come in such lurches. This time of year is peppered with days off, so it's difficult to find any sense of pacing or rhythm. Lessons feels haphazard and all over the place. Some of my classes are full to the brim with 30 + students and some of my classes that should have just as many have only three or four because the other 30 students would rather skip school to run in the jungle or play football or go to 7/11. Those who do come are great and SO ready to learn, but when I only see each class for ~40 minutes a day once a week, progress feels like an inchworm. Time is precious and I'm not sure I know how best to spend it yet. Trying desperately to figure this one out. 
  • Also trying to figure out where I fit in. The novelty of me being six feet tall and ghostly white and blue-eyed and English speaking has, for the most part worn off. I'm not saying I was hoping that my newness would carry me like a tidal wave into the hearts of my students and fellow teachers but I mean...kind of, right? Foolishly, I thought my speaking English would be my ticket into friendship, into closeness. It isn't and it shouldn't be and no Western stamp of value on a skill or attribute should ever be thought to be the thing that will win me intimacy in this country. So I pour myself into my study of Thai and it's not going as shabbily as I thought it would. Never having studied a tonal language before, I'm finding it hard to understand why the slight shift of my pronunciation of a word can drastically alter the meaning of the entire sentence, but I'm learning, as I should, as all of us who are doing work in Thailand should. We're cultural ambassadors, sure, but first and foremost we are guests in this country, and with that comes responsibility to not only learn the language, but to learn and appreciate the culture that this language symbolically represents. Plus I'd like to be able to order noodle soup at a restaurant without accidently asking for a shoe or mud in my dish. 

A lot of bullets, but a lot of things a rattlin' in this bird cage mind. No pictures this go around because I'm hungry and I've got a Friends episode locked and loaded and ready to go. If things sound muddled or confusing, it's probably because they are. But they're also good, challenging, but good. Will try to write with more consistency but I mean...


Monday, November 18, 2013

Loy Krathong & letting go

The only time I am one hundred percent certain of the date is when I log onto my blogspot account to write. I know today is November the 18th because the small text at the bottom of this post says that it is. Otherwise, it could be June or July or February for how well I am able to mark the passing of time here.

My body is so used to detecting the shift of months by the changing seasons that it hardly knows what to do with itself. This is goosebump season and thick sweater season and scraggly naked branches poking at the sky season. This is the beginning of the holiday season when everything is dull orange and maroon and then white and bright with gold and red. This is blue season and icy-water-stains-on-leather-boots season. This is what my body knows to be true about November and so it's struggling a little bit to understand how November here could be thick jungle leaf and warm rain, how the only water stains on any of my clothing are from sweat, not snow. It doesn't really make sense that it could be November 18th, but it is, and so I add it to the lop-sided pile of days that has made it nearly two months here.

It is quite the pile, though. A month of that pile spent feeling weird and awkward and then comfortable in Bangkok. The most recent stack, this new beginning in Yangtalat, in which my date-confused-silly-putty body has been twisted and turned and crammed into a series of strange-looking moulds and schedules all crafted by unknown hands. But learning to find some wiggle room, escape routes into the nearest cities, plotting months with visits to my silly-putty friends in their plastic-egg-shaped towns, and even managing to plan for and teach four classes a day to students whose abilities range from not being able to pronounce the word math to playing hangman with complex sentences.

But even for its beauty and even for how I'm learning to navigate this life, there are moments when I feel more stressed and worried than I ever have before: am I teaching my students the right things, are there right things and wrong things to be teaching, what role will my English teaching serve in their lives here, what difference can I feasibly make, is there a difference to be made or is it just about continuous exposure, what even does sustainable English education look like in this country? And to add to these classroom stresses, the obvious stresses about aching for creature comforts from home, of missing the playfulness of English and communicating with people in a way that doesn't feel like a tight-rope walk in which either party could at any moment lose their footing and fall into a misunderstanding nearly impossible to work one's way out of.

A lot of things to worry about, and I list them here more directly than I normally would because this past weekend, a group of us made an excursion to the ancient city of Sukothai to celebrate Loy Krathong, a festival in which thousands of people from all over Thailand and the World gather in various Thai cities to release small krathongs (boats made of flowers and banana leaves with candles lodged into their centers) into bodies of water. The lit krathongs look beautiful, small pocks of light floating in rivers and lakes, but people do not celebrate Loy Krathong simply for its beauty. It is a day of giving thanks to water, for its ability to not only accept change but to learn how to flow with it rather than fight against it. The release of the krahtong, then, is a symbolic releasing of one's own problems and fears, any negative energy that prevents you from living deliberately and gracefully in the present. Like the water, you're born anew, fresh, able to move on without the weight of things you cannot change.

The perfect holiday and reminder for a group of stressed and fitfully worried ETAs who may or may not forget to reflect on the importance of casting some things to the wind, to the river, to a yesterday whose date you might not be able to remember. Our presents, too chock-full of their own catastrophes to worry too much about things that have already drifted around the bend.

Below, some pictures from the weekend. As a Thai person raised in the Southern United States might say, sometimes you just gotta let go and let krathong (modified from Let go, and let God for you yanks).

A week left of teaching and then a nice chunky break for Thanksgiving with the fulbright crew in Bangkok, which thank goodness because I could use a bagel and some friendship.


Friday, November 8, 2013

The first week

It’s been a week since I moved to Yangtalat. Never has a week felt so large before. Large with emotions, changes. Even of the great first weeks of my life (moving into Stew at Middlebury, settling down in my new apartment in Madrid, orienting myself to Bangkok), this one is certainly significant in a distinct and separate way from all the others.

This week, I began my first post-graduate job as a High School ESL teacher. I moved into my first house, small and yellow with pink wood trim, sparsely decorated save for the quick moving splashes of green gecko that streak across the walls after mosquitoes or dark corners. I received my first worker’s ID number and scanned my thumbprint to clock-in and clock-out on an 8-4 schedule. I wear ties and ironed shirts every day. I feel like I am caught halfway between actually being an adult and playing some elaborate game of dress-up, in which I dress like what I think an adult teacher would wear and I say the things that I imagine they would say. A solid impersonation, probably just below my New Zealand accent for believability.

My school

 And of course with the grown-up-person’s job comes the grown-up-person’s solitude, going home after the school day to find that it is just that: me and the geckos. I live a three-minute walk from the school, so when school is not in session, it is deathly quiet. Well except for the screaming geckos and the rooster who lives on my roof. And the street dogs, but for the most part the only noise I hear is myself softly (…loudly) singing Whitney Houston songs or practicing Thai or reacting to American Horror Story. But I like this solitude. Every decision is wholly my own: what I eat, when I shower, if I shower, what I do after school is over. I’ve lived my life in places of great noise—to turn that down for a while seems like a happy escape. Or maybe a delusional experiment. I’ll have to keep you updated on that front.

My house

 AS far as teaching is concerned, my schedule seems manageable. I teach three-four classes a day to different levels of 10th  (M4) and 11th (M5) graders. Each grade of ~300 students is divided into 9 different levels of ability (1 being the worst, 9 being the best). So if I have a class labeled 4/1, that means I’m teaching a class of 10th graders who are not very proficient in English. By whatever standards of proficiency my school’s English teachers have established as “fluent,” which of course is up to great debate since many of the teachers don’t speak the greatest English, BUT I DIGRESS!

They’ve been well behaved and a little quiet so far, but I imagine they’re probably a lot zanier than they’re letting on. Which is good, because so am I. This first round of lessons has focused on introductions (Hello! My name is ____. I like to _____. I don’t like to _____) and getting to know me. I’ve got about half of them on board with calling me Kru G (Teacher G). The other half stares at me blankly when I ask what my name is, a silence I can only seem to alleviate with a vigorous pointing at my chest, after which point they say “…teachuh?” “YES TEACHER VERY GOOD!”

I know if someone yelled at me in Thai I would react in the same way. I know this because people are constantly yelling at me in Thai here. In response, I smile and they laugh and hold my elbow or pat my shoulder. This is how I’ve met almost all of the staff at Yangtalad Wittayarkan school. They are all very kind and are constantly asking me things like “You happy?” or “Do you love it?” to which I smile and bow and then they clap and walk away. Most days, I feel like a circus hippopotamus, waddling around in a bright pink tutu—hard to miss and always fun to laugh at. It’s hard to get used to what a laugh means in Thai culture versus that of its use in American culture—in the United States, if someone were to laugh at you when you spoke, you’d feel ashamed or embarrassed, but here it’s a sign that they think you’re doing a good job and that they appreciate you. 


And really, it is clear that a lot of teachers are going out of their ways to make me feel welcome and included into this new family, either by attempting to speak English with me or bringing me delicious rice dishes for breakfast or treating me to winding lunches of grilled shrimp and Som Tum. I can’t wait until the day when I’ve learned enough Thai to have meaningful conversations with all of them—they seem fascinating but because of the language barrier, it’s near impossible to delve very deeply into any of our histories or reasons for being where we are.

For now, I am content to be where I am, with supportive teachers and a group of fellow ETAs that are just a quick bus-ride away from Yangtalat. After spending a lot of time talking about how I’d be a teacher when I grew up, suddenly I am one, with attendance sheets and discipline issues and sweet smiles of young kiddoes trying to digest everything I say.

It’s weird, but I think I kinda like it. 


Friday, November 1, 2013

New Home & November starts

Halloween passed me by and I didn't even notice. It scampered away on its spooky little feet and before I knew it, I found myself in November. A new month and a new home, this time a few miles north and a crook east of the last one. This one, a bit more permanent than the last, as I am finally in my village in the Kalasin Province of Isaan. For those who haven't yet seen (or maybe just forgot), here is a visual aid for those wondering where in the sticky-rice-buddah-heaven my one-year-home Kalasin is located...

I arrived in Khon Kaen (a major city of our region) Wednesday on an early flight from Bangkok with the three other ETAs working in the area. Upon arrival, we were all quickly whisked away to our villages where we were stuffed with Isaan delicacies such as som tum and sticky rice and spicy p'laa (grilled fish). Every time I took a bite I was greeted with hearty applause from my teachers who thought me something pretty special for being able to eat so much food, especially considering its spiciness. Conversation was minimal given my lack of Thai and their lack of English, but I managed to pepper the silence with what little Thai I know (the color yellow, numbers 1-20, what is this?), which kept things moving at a crawling pace.

I can already tell that much of life here will be this crawling. Crawling to better understand this place and its people with its language and geography and culture that is so vastly different from all that I've experienced and thought I had learned in Bangkok. Like the regions of the United States, the provinces of Thailand are wildly different in regards to customs, beliefs and even dialects, which has made this first week a topsy-turvy one in which I find myself searching for any sense of balance. 

But already I see this process beginning in small moments: dinner at a roadside open-air restaurant where I ate grilled pork over hot coals with my neighbors late into the night, visiting my host teacher's home where I tried on traditional Isaan silk shirts and even met the women who made them. Life in Kalasin is so green, with leaves thick and wilting over the small winding highway that snakes its way past colorful kite stalls and men selling sweet potatoes from stands made of straw. There is music everywhere and chatter and roaring engines and the small song of geckos through bedroom walls--even if the noise would be considered mute next to that of Bangkok's, it is no doubt utterly symphonic. 

Tomorrow, I take my first adventure in Isaan, that of trying to navigate my way from my village (Yangtalat District) into the big city of Khon Kaen to reunite with the other ETAs here. It's only been a few days but it feels like forever since I've seen those falang ragamuffins and it will do this salty heart some good to speak some slangy English and maybe even eat a bagel or two. Then Sunday with lesson planning, Monday with an abbreviated campus orientation and then Tuesday, my first day of teaching secondary school in Thailand. 

If it sounds scary, that's probably because it is. 


Until next time,


Monday, October 21, 2013

Practice Teaching & The Last Week in BKK

At night when I can't sleep I go the window at the end of the hall and watch the trains go by. Our hotel might as well be a stop on the Sky Train for how close we are to the nearest station--from early morning to midnight, bright white trains zoom past our windows in a constant loop.  I like to watch the small dot people embark and scatter. I like digesting Bangkok from this 9th floor view and I like to imagine that if the trains were just a little faster, they could stitch together a thin white line that would wrap around the entire city. From this night window, the sounds of Bangkok are quieter and even the unrelenting rain with its thunder and crash is nothing but some damp whisper.

But, for the most part, I've gotten used to the clashing sounds of Bangkok. The whistles and trains and whirring AC machines and bells and yells in Thai about buying sausage or riding tuk-tuks. It's as if there is an orchestra buried deep in the pit of the city that is never quite finished warming up, creating dissonance with all its moving parts focusing solely on themselves.

I've gotten so used to all of this that it's hard to imagine that in just eight days I'll be leaving Bangkok for Yangtalad, my small village in the Kalasin province of Isaan in North Eastern Thailand. Then, I will be a teacher in charge of hundreds of students. I will no longer be living with a group of my peers in a cushy hotel with bottled water and laundry service, but in a single house on the outskirts of the jungle. I will no longer spend nights eating at restaurants and going to bars because the fanciest eating establishment in my village is the local 7/11. Clearly there are several large changes coming my way. I'm not sure how I will handle them but they are coming at us at such a speed that I'm not sure we have much time to truly prepare in any other way than to hold on desperately to a railing that may or may not even exist.

However, one of the ways in which we're able to ~**kind of**~ prepare is through a week of practice teaching at a local school in Bangkok. Starting today and carrying through Friday (with a random holiday on Wednesday because Thailand), we'll be teaching in pairs to a small group of students for ~2 hours a day. In true Thai style, we weren't told the age of our students nor their level of English proficiency before arriving at the school this morning and were greeted with a large, awkward ceremony in which photos were taken and flowers were presented to us and a lot of people bowed and said things in Thai and then laughed.

We then split off into our pairs to play games and teach key English phrases like "I like to read," (which was quickly shortened to "I like book") and "I like to eat pizza" (shortened, predictably, to PIZZA!). The students may not speak English well, but they are experts at blatant mockery and saying "We understand teach-uhh" mostly only when they very much don't. But they were also kind and eager once things started rolling, especially when they learned that I will literally do anything to make someone laugh.

And even though certain aspects of this first day of teaching were frustrating, it's important to remember that my job is not to teach English fluency, but rather to offer them a different perspective on what education is and what it can be. Thai students spend their entire lives in strict little boxes learning everything through rote memorization--as foreign teachers, our role is one of expanding these boxes and, hopefully, getting them to come outside of the box and sniff around for a while. And that's a really empowering position to be in because we get to expose them to the wonder of this precious world.

My job is to dazzle and fascinate and I know that eventually I will do just that; for now, however, I'll focus on getting these little tykes to learn that screaming the word PIZZA! when I ask them what they like to eat doesn't really count as knowing how to speak English.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

All Quiet on the Western Front

When you are foreign in Thailand, you are a falang (pronounced, fa-wrong--the humor of this pronunciation is not lost on me). When you are white and a foreigner in Thailand, you are a Westerner, which does not imply that you are a cowboy-boot-wearin-panner-of-gold, but someone who lives in the Western hemisphere. Never before in my life has my hemisphere contributed to my sense of identity but, here, the way that I talk and the things I like to eat are no longer American tastes, but Western ones.

I write all this because this past week has been a week of indulging in the Western things I’ve been missing from home: blockbuster movies in mall theaters with huge buckets of over-priced popcorn, bagels with lox, Krispy Kreme donuts, bitter coffee that isn’t flavored with granulated sugar and condensed milk. While I’m starting to find myself craving chicken satay and sticky rice for breakfast and even learning to prefer Leo beer to American fare, there are still small parts of me that feel empty, unfulfilled, pulled back to the places in the States that I have called home.

This was never more apparent than when a group of us traveled to Nana for dinner at a Tex-Mex restaurant someone had found in one of the many travel books we’ve been clinging to over the past few weeks. Nana, a small district located to the East of the city center, is, essentially, the Ex-Pat hub of Bangkok. Each street is divided into little ethnic neighborhoods: banners with Arabic script advertising bowls of hummus, a flag in French, murmurs of Spanish floating and caught in the power lines, and of course our destination, a small back alleyway that is as White and as English as any street in the United States.

Strings of Christmas lights hang above cobblestone and folksy acoustic guitar spills out of doorways where patrons drink Bud and Corona and talk about the Government Shutdown as something relevant to their lives. We make our way to a restaurant on the left side of the street, Charlie Brown’s. They serve salsa and tortilla chips on the table, pour strong margaritas from cheap pitchers. We order quesadillas and taco salads and bowls of black beans. The music is a mix of country and Top 40. The walls are decorated with pop-art paintings of sort-of-famous American celebrities. Like Mario Lopez and Santana. I feel warm and safe, more at home than I have in a long time. But the feeling fades almost as quickly as it arrived because the taco salad isn’t really a taco salad (more strips of lettuce and grilled pork than anything else) and the waiters are Thai and the environment is almost too carefully authentic. Of all the emotions I felt spending time in Nana (excitement, comfort, peace), the strongest one I felt (and the one I call back now) is one of disappointment.

Because Thailand is still in so many ways an alien place to me, I find few means by which to compare it to home. The food is nothing like the food back home. The people carry themselves in different ways and don’t remind me of anyone I’ve known. But going to Nana and interacting with a people and within a place that seemed so familiar seemed to highlight all the ways in which it was not familiar and was, in fact, still as foreign and as far away from home as any other place in Bangkok. Difference never seems as perceptible or intense as it does in a slightly askew imitation.

It's become clear to me that ease will not be found in Thailand by trying to find small Americas within it. There will be coffee shops and restaurants and back patio bars that will remind me of home, but they will be silkscreen, puffs of smoke. I can eat all the glazed donuts and bagels with cream cheese and over-stuffed falafel sandwiches as I want, but I will still be in Thailand, will still be struggling to discover how I fit into this new mosaic that I've found myself awkwardly jammed into. 

And just to make it clear that I don't spend my thaime (GET IT?>!!) here walking around feeling sad because I can't drink Sam Adams beer or eat pepperoni pizza whenever I want, here are some photos from a weekend jaunt we all took to Kanchanaburi where we stayed in small huts on a little creek and saw the bridge over the River Kwai and climbed a mountain and saw the most beautiful waterfall. 

Exploring as much of this country as I can seems to be the only way to better understand how this small mosaic piece fits into the whole. I think this past weekend was an amazing start.