morning of the race

the other side

Earlier this month I ran a half marathon!! Okay, so that’s not that exciting in itself.. But!! the race was in Cambodia, through Angkor Wat! So cool. The couple of months leading up to race day were pretty busy, so it’s safe to say I was just winging it without training (Okay that’s clever if you know Thai.. hehe. “Wing” is the word for run soooo.. get it?!). The race was more of just an excuse to go check out Cambodia than anything!

So let me tell you about Cambodia! Cambodia is another Peace Corps country.. And even while in the airplane, I could already tell there was a much more visible need for Peace Corps’s presence compared with Thailand. And that impression was supported once we landed. The race took place in Siem Reap, which is one of their major cities. And just compared to Thailand’s major cities.. it’s just really different. It was pretty small, yet still had an element of posh to it since it’s a tourist city (because of Angkor Wat).

I don’t know if it’s just Siem Reap, or Cambodia as a whole, but they preferred the US dollar to their own currency. Their currency was like monopoly money!! Like 40,000 riel was $5. Also (okay this almost for sure is just for the city) almost everyone could speak English!! And not just like the few phrases to get by. I was so impressed!! Almost everyone could hold conversations. I feel like in Thailand it’s not like that. Sorry.. I can’t help but compare the two countries. This was just the first time I’d been out of Thailand since getting here (~8 months)! And keep in mind a lot of this is just generalizations and my random thoughts/opinions.

At first I did a lot of imagining what life would be like as a PCV in Cambodia versus Thailand.. And then it put me in a funk so I had to stop haha. I just think for a lot of us here in Thailand, we feel like being in a developed country is not what we were expecting, so going into Cambodia it really brought that back – my initial expectations for the life of a PCV. And we actually did get a chance to meet up with two of the Cambodia PCVs the second night we were there and hear all about what their experience is like. It was pretty neat! But there’s really no point in making the comparison.. and by the end of the weekend I was happy to be heading back to Thailand! It was the first time I realized I have a sense of home with this country.

Another weird experience was not speaking the local language. I guess it didn’t even cross my mind before making the trip. And I know I said everyone in the city pretty much spoke English, but there was just this guilt I felt while I was there that I couldn’t speak their language. Like, I was no better than all the other tourists!! Haha🙂 It was like I didn’t have any credibility for living in Southeast Asia for 8 months. It sucked. Plus I just feel like it’s more respectful to put effort into learning the local language than making people cater to you and your native tongue. From now on, whenever I have international trips, I’m definitely at least going to learn some go-to phrases.

Siem Reap is definitely a cool scene though. There’s a hoppin area called Pub Street and an area called Old Market a big night market! And there’s art everywhere!!! I wish there was art for sale in all the markets in Thailand… haha. And a French influence was definitely present. One day when we were wandering the streets, we found this cute little French art and vintage postcard, etc. shop! I wanted to buy everything.. But instead I just bought another sticker to add to the collection on my laptop case.

Most importantly, the food scene was bomb! I never have an answer when people ask me what food I’m craving or missing from America, but Siem Reap just knew. There were tofu burgers, sweet potato fries, veggie burgers WITH BEETS, bougie ice cream, gluten-free baked goods (not for me, but still impressive!!), smoothies everywhere, and Indian food on every corner!! It was amazing. I know all the big cities in Thailand have western food, but not like this. The culinary world of Siem Reap just gets me haha. Oh and even the traditional Khmer food was tasty!! It was like a blend of Thai food and Indian food.

Okay maybe I should touch on the race a little since that was kind of the main event of the trip.. So there was a full and half. There were three other PCVs running the full and then three of us running the half. The full started at 4AM.. yikes. And the half started at 6. I’m so proud of all of us!! It was a really good time. And I didn’t realize how much I miss the race atmosphere! Nothing like race culture. You can feel the energy at the registration/expo. And just the sense of support from everyone! The race itself was pretty chill. There were a few patches of kids lined up for high-fives. Always my favorite part🙂 And we got to run all around Angkor Wat! So that was a nice distraction during the run haha. Unfortunately (at least for the half) we didn’t really get to explore it that much. We mostly just kept to the perimeter. But it was still definitely really cool!

All in all, it was a great trip! And who knows, maybe next year I’ll go back for round two!! Only I’ll make sure to train this time🙂

the riel

the riel

downtown Siem Reap

downtown Siem Reap

race route

race route

registration!

registration!

morning of the race

morning of the race

at the start!

at the start!

high-fives!!

high-fives!!

along the run

along the run

cooooool, yeah?? pardon the blur, my phone got pretty sweaty

cooooool, yeah?? pardon the blur, my phone got pretty sweaty

after the finish

after the finish

post-race pose

post-race pose

Peace Corps Thailand 127 !

Peace Corps Thailand 127 !

traditional Khmer food.. nommmm

traditional Khmer food.. nommmm

night market

night market

Pub Street

Pub Street

wedding photoshoot

honeymooning

Yes, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted (I feel like that’s the way this going to keep happening, sorry!).. but I’m happy to report that that’s because I’ve been busy! And being busy means time has been flying and I’m even closer to being reunited with you lovely people. Not that I’m wishing my time away. In fact, these past few months have been a sort of honeymoon period for me and Thailand. Sure there are always low points, but looking back, there’s definitely been an over all trend of sunshine, lollipops and rainbows!

SAO friends :)

SAO friends🙂

I’d say it all began with my SAO’s trip to Chonburi/Rayong. I’ll admit the first few hours I was second guessing my decision to go on the trip, what with the overnight bus blasting karaoke until midnight. I was super looking forward to catching up on my podcasts on the ride down, but even with my headphones turned up to full volume, I couldn’t hear a word of Ira Glass’s sweet voice. But then once we finally got to our destination and all had a chance to freshen up, everything was the best it could be!!! The stray cats that popped up at different stops of our trip were super friendly (unlike the cats in my neighborhood), I was able to bond with my coworkers and see them all in a setting outside of the office, and one of my little office friends (the bpalat’s daughter) was on the trip too and I hadn’t seen her since bpit term (summer break)!! I’m sure we were both glad to have each other as buddies on the trip! 

all the cats

all the cats

I only look panicked because it started to make a move

I only look panicked because it started to make like it was about to bolt

Actually, I’m really glad that some of the SAO staff brought their kids, otherwise I wouldn’t have had anyone to go play in the Gulf with!! I guess Thai people don’t like to swim (also people avoid the sun like crazy here), but the kids still wanted to play in the water, so I went with them. It was so much fun! Jumping waves and building sand castles! Oh and they taught me a new beach game – mud wars… … .. haha. Not that big of a fan of that one haha.

laughter transcends language

laughter transcends language

I really feel like that trip helped me bond with my coworkers and become more comfortable being myself with them and my community. Amazing how much being able to be yourself can really change everything!

Work has been going fairly smoothly. Oh yeah, hey I’ve been working in the schools regularly since my last post. There are three that I go to. Two are elementary and one is a high school. In one of my schools, I don’t have a co-teacher, so things can get pretty chaotic and non-productive.. but at the other elementary school, everything clicks!! My co-teacher is amazing and super helpful and has amazing ideas and is totally on board with the activities I plan for the students.

lesson about communication

lesson about communication

(basically Auburn propaganda hehehe)

(basically Auburn propaganda hehehe)

first day at the high school

first day at the high school

Oh and I forgot to say, I moved into my own place too!! It’s in the other village in my community (other than where I lived the first two months with my host family). Housing was a long, frustrating process that I won’t get into.. except to say that it was another classic example of not getting to make decisions for yourself here. But the actual moving in ceremony was so amazing! It was so overwhelming with all the love and support from everyone. There was a traditional ceremony with a pedestal thing made out of banana leaves, etc. Man, Thais are so crafty!! Especially with banana leaves.

house warming

house warming

My favorite part of the ceremony was getting all the little white string bracelets tied on my wrists by coworkers, friends, and new neighbors, each with a blessing. Nearly cried. Another interesting thing about that ceremony was that I had to hold a freshly soft-boiled egg in my hand and a couple kanoms (snacks) during one of the blessings. Then the man leading the ceremony cracked open the egg and sliced it in half with one of the white strings and I had to eat the big half and then he gave the smaller half to one of my coworkers to eat. So random and I loved it.

So even though this house is not where I wanted to live, it’s actually been working out really well!! It’s within walking distance to one of my schools and my landlady is also someone who works at the SAO, which is nice because I already know and trust her. I just have this inner struggle of accepting that my house fits the bill for “posh corps” with its first world features.. But I have to say, my favorite thing about living in the house I’m in is that my closest friends at the high school all happen to live in the same village I moved into! I like to call them the Ace Gang. Yes, that is inspired by the Georgia Nicolson books haha..

Ace Gang :)

Ace Gang🙂

About the Ace Gang.. My besties are high school seniors. Is that weird??🙂 I like it because it’s an opportunity for me to act as a mentor/big sister. And no matter what else I’m doing here in Thailand, I know I’m making an impact on their lives. There are three girls who make up the core of the Ace Gang – Pim, Boom, and Wiiw. They are so awesome!!! It started with us playing badminton together after school. Then one day I offered to help them with their English homework, which led to them coming over on a regular basis to chill, play UNO, etc. They even came over a couple weekends to give me cooking lessons – som tam (papaya salad) and Thai style fruit salad. Just warning you… fruit salad here is not the same. It involves like a pound of sweet mayonnaise dressing… I told them in America, fruit salad is literally just fruit cut up. They had confused looks on their faces when I told them that haha.

yeahhhh....tasty, no?

….tasty, no?

bike ride

bike ride ’round the village

Another cultural exchange was one night when they came over and I had just received a package from home. It was so perfect!! It had American magazines, beauty products, and oatmeal creme pies haha. They were all about it!! They flipped through the magazines. I showed them how some pages have magical perfume samples! They loved it. And I let them try on the fun new mascara. But the best was when I gave them each an oatmeal creme pie to try…. I’m pretty sure they were “greng-jai”*-ing me by saying they liked it.. but their faces said otherwise haha. (*greng-jai is a Thai cultural construct about doing whatever it is you can not to make other people uncomfortable.. so like if you’re hot you don’t tell someone to turn the air on or stuff like that) I love being able to share stuff with them!!

homework party

homework party

The Ace Gang is also a big reason I like Wednesdays so much! On Wednesdays, I go to the high school, so it’s really fun to see them at school. And have friends!! Actually, the teachers at the high school are all really warm and fun and lovely too🙂 And I’ve sort of just been adopted by the foreign language department there and I love it. They’re such great people and I feel like I can be fun with them!! One of them even invited me on a trip with her to her home town one weekend because there was a festival there.

high school foreign language department at their English camp :)

high school foreign language department (plus me!!) at their English camp🙂

dressed up for Buddhist Lent

dressed up for Buddhist Lent

Phi Ta Khon festival is a ghost festival that happens every year, and Loei province (where my teacher friend is from) is known for it. I’m so glad she invited me! I got to get my culture on. The festival is rooted in Buddhism. Someone tried to explain it to me. Like about how Buddha went into the woods and then came back with all the ghosts… I’m not sure. But there was a huge parade with people dressed in costumes with these intricate handmade ghost masks as well as traditional Thai dancers and actually a lot of people dancing around with strapped on .. man parts.. .. Haha. Thailand is so confusing. But it was a lot of fun! We visited a couple wats too. Actually I think the prettiest wat I’ve been to in Thailand so far would have to be one of the ones I went to on this trip.

baby ghost

baby ghost

some of the things you see during Thai festivals

some of the things you see at Thai festivals

the most beautiful wat

the most beautiful wat

also this place exists... it's a Hello Kitty themed resort... we stopped to take pictures on the way back from Loei

also this place exists… it’s a Hello Kitty themed resort… we stopped to take pictures on the way back from Loei

The next notable thing I can think of from this large chunk of time I haven’t been posting.. is Reconnect Conference!! All of us PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers) from group 127 came together for about two weeks back in central Thailand for a conference to catch up and refresh language skills and work on stuff with our counterparts. The main topic we got trained in was teaching sexual reproductive health at site. The conference definitely re-inspired me to make my two years count and do the projects that I initially felt passionate about. Or at least put some real effort behind it. I know that my current routine of teaching in the schools and participating in random English camps and such is totally valid as Youth in Development (YinD) work, but I want to do more!! And Reconnect gave me the little motivational push I needed. Plus it helped having our counterparts there so they could be reminded too about what the YinD program is about. All in all, I’d say it was a productive couple of weeks.

Ross doing his thing

Ross doing his thing

And I know this is just a secondary effect of Reconnect, but just seeing all the other PCVs after so long was so good for me!! I was also able to spend a lot of time with the TCCS (English teacher) volunteers, which was really nice since YinD and TCCS were mostly split during all of PST (pre-service training). I tried my hand at Zumba (unsuccessfully), yoga and basketball during the conference too. They were organized every day post-session. It was fun breaking out of my usual exercise routine and my usual pack of friends. Basically, I left Reconnect feeling a new strong bond with all my fellow volunteers. Good stuff.

Hmm.. other exciting stuff that’s happened… Oh! My original counterpart just got married!! And now she’s preggers!!🙂 She’s going to be a super fun mom, I can feel it! I went to a candle wax festival thing in Ubon Ratchathani province about a month ago. Really impressive stuff! I’m telling you, the Thais are so crafty!!! I ran a half marathon at Angkor Wat in Cambodia! What an experience. I’m going to write a separate post about that though🙂 And last noteworthy thing, Bike for Mom was last weekend!! It was the queen’s birthday on the 12th (also Thai Mother’s Day) and nationwide there was a biking event to honor her – Bike for Mom. Every province had an event!

wedding photoshoot

wedding photoshoot

from the festival in Ubon.. told you it was impressive!!

from the festival in Ubon.. told you it was impressive!!

Bike for Mom

Bike for Mom

So I guess the takeaway from the past few months, for me, would be that the key to happiness is letting yourself be yourself. I’ve found it’s the best way to let people really get to know you and love you for who you are. It’s helped me bond with my community members as well as other PCVs. And I give it credit for this honeymoon period.

P.S. Sorry that this post is all over the place..🙂

P.P.S. BONUS PICTURESSSSS..

sometimes when you walk around Thailand at night, you run into elephants

sometimes when you walk around Thailand at night, you run into elephants

neighbor kids catching their dinner (it's a lizard..) (but really)

neighbor kids catching their dinner (it’s a lizard..) (but really)

HEY!! Did you know if you use Chrome and you get the dino screen when the internet doesn't work that it's actually a game????!!! Press the space bar!!

HEY!! Did you know if you use Chrome and you get the dino screen when the internet doesn’t work that it’s actually a game????!!! Press the space bar!! (the high school kids taught me this)

dancin in the street (learning a traditional Thai dance with my landlady and the local traditional dance team)

dancin’ in the street (learning a traditional Thai dance with my landlady and the local traditional dance team)

random street cat charity in BKK.. of course I donated

random street cat charity in BKK.. of course I donated

me with one of my favorite ajaans (teachers) in her fancy condo in BKK.. she's moving to DC for two years this month!!!

me with one of my favorite ajaans (teachers) in her hiso condo in BKK.. she’s moving to DC for two years this month!!!

me with my landlady on some random orchard island.. grazing

me with my landlady on some random orchard island.. a day of grazing

releasing some little shrimpies!! not sure the significance haha

releasing some little shrimpies!! not sure the significance haha

across the Mekong from the capital of Laos.. one day I'll get there

across the Mekong from the capital of Laos.. one day I’ll get there

my office loves <3 out to dinner on the Mekong

my office loves❤ out to dinner on the Mekong

me with my lovely counterpart!!! once again right across from Laos

me with my lovely counterpart!!! once again right across from Laos (dunno what I would do without her)

my prep for Bike for Mom - oiling my chain (Deet would be proud!!)

my prep for Bike for Mom – oiling my chain (Deet would be proud!!)

another beautiful wat close to my site

another beautiful wat close to my site

wat things

wat things

family outing to a waterfall

family outing to a waterfall

convinced a couple of coworkers to come on a run with me :)

convinced a couple of coworkers to come on a run with me yesterday🙂

took my 6th grade students from my Tuesday school on a field trip to the high school last week

took my 6th grade students from my Tuesday school on a field trip to the high school last week

and then saw my Monday school kids there too!! BINGO

and then saw my Monday school kids there too!! BINGO

and of course my squad <3

and of course my squad❤

crafty Thais, at it again!!! the high schoolers made all these dresses by themselves from recycled materials!!! #greenfashion

crafty Thais, at it again!!! the high schoolers made all these dresses by themselves from recycled materials!!! #greenfashion

sunrise run at site last... gotta love it

sunrise run at site… gotta love it

C’est tout!! Enough for now, but I’ll get on that Angkor Wat race post soon! :)))))

I LOVE YOU ALL SO MUCH.

phuphaman

cave monks

This past weekend was a holiday weekend so I got to go visit another volunteer, Annie, at her site!! And it was a magical weekend filled with mountains and exploration! One of the special things about her site is that it has a big bat cave! Another thing is that she has kittens!

kitten!!

kitten!!

When I first got there, we were whisked away to a memorial celebration for one of the village women who passed away last year. It was such a party, as most Thai events are. We managed to stave off doing karaoke, but only for one night.. Anyways, the next day we set out on some bikes and I got a tour of Annie’s community and met many of the faces she sees every day. It was the best! In the afternoon, after a brief torrential downpour, we set out on our bikes and hit the mountain trails! I forgot how much I love mountain biking and how it makes you feel like you’re flying! It was definitely one of the highlights of my weekend. Then we hiked up to a mysterious cave dwelling we think was occupied by a monk or two. We opted not to go in the cave entrance just in case.. Also it was really small and made me a little claustrophobic just looking at it.

what we found at top of hike

what we found at the top of hike

yikes, right??

yikes, right??

Then it was getting close to dusk, when the bats all leave the bat cave, so we biked over to where the bat cave park is so I could see it and the onlookers and then biked back to her coworker’s property to get a better view. We climbed up a little lookout stand and waited for the bats! When they came out, it was just like a little stream of black on the sunset. Apparently they normally fly closer to where we were watching, but for some reason that night they went a different direction. I still thought it was pretty cool!

If you look really closely, you can see a cluster of bats in the sunset!!!

If you look really closely, you can see a cluster of bats in the sky (to the left)!!!

After all of the day’s exploration, we went back to the memorial ceremony/party thing for round two! Yeah that’s another thing about events here – a lot of times they’re 3 days long or a week. This night we were not so lucky and got stuck dancing and singing karaoke until 10🙂 Annie is a talented singer, so I just rode her coattails so it was okay haha.

The next day, we went for a hike with some of Annie’s friends from her village. We were both pleasantly surprised that it was a legit hike when we got to the trailhead, since they were all wearing jeans and a few in flip flops. It was about a 4 hour hike (round trip) and had a lot of steep parts and rickety stairs and platforms. And at the top there was a wat (temple)!! Soooooo cool. And in the wat there were stairs leading up to a cave! Naturally, Annie and I went to check it out. After a couple minutes into the cave, there was a type of prayer/meditation spot and then it didn’t go on anymore unless you wanted to crawl in a really tiny space. Nope. So we took a moment of silence and then went back. After a quick picnic at the peak, we made our descent and then went to go pick up another volunteer who met up with us that weekend!

climb

climb

the whole world!

the whole world!

mountain top wat

mountain top wat

up to the cave!

up to the cave!

meditation spot at the end of cave

meditation spot at the end of cave

mountain top picnic

mountain top picnic

soaking in the view

soaking in the view

Then the three of us went with the same crew from the hike to a “water park” about 40K away. We wanted to err on the side of being culturally appropriate, so we wore clothes over our swimsuits. Bad idea. After being in the pool for maybe 2 minutes, one of the lifeguards came up to us and told us we couldn’t wear our shirts in the pool. But white shirts would be okay.. So awkward haha. We tried to explain that we didn’t want to be inappropriate which was why we were covering up more and then also that white shirts would just be see-through anyways. And then he called in backup and we explained to him too that we didn’t know and it was our first time there and we didn’t have white shirts to change into and we didn’t just want to be exposed in our two-pieces. And then he told us he could speak German??? Still not sure why that was relevant haha. And we asked why we couldn’t wear our shirts and he said he didn’t know but his boss said so. And then eventually they gave up and essentially said that they would look the other way. Poor lifeguards, but we had driven 40ishK to get there and it just seemed so silly not to be able to go swimming since we were covering up. Now we know.

it's so hard to follow what is and is not appropriate in this land..

it’s so hard to follow what is and is not appropriate in this land..

Then that night we celebrated Cinco de Mayo with black bean tacos and the one avocado we could find in Kohn Kaen! And it was delicious.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!!

Anyways, what I learned this weekend is that if I were to be a monk I would be a cave monk!!

Bonus pictures:

mountain top yoga posing.. I'm one of those people now! :0

mountain top yoga posing.. I’m one of those people now! :0

crackin open some coconuts from her yard #hiso

Annie with a machete.. fresh coconut water from their own coconuts! #hiso

Annie is yoga master!

Annie is yoga master!

water blessings

len naam

Let me tell you a reason why Thailand is the best – it has a holiday where the whole country shuts down for about a week and basically has one massive water fight AKA Songkran. There’s deeper meaning behind it too. It’s historically Thai New Year and the water signifies cleansing and blessings for the new year. Oh also it happens to be the hottest month of the year, so the water is much welcomed.

Here’s what my Songkran experience was like! First of all, there was so much build up in my community. It’s all anyone could talk about! How excited they were, reminiscing all the years before, who was going to be Miss Songkran (me.. haha), what shirts to order for everyone so they could be matching for their water team, etc. Also it seemed like everyone was dying their hair rainbow!!

rainbow hair!

rainbow hair!

Songkran is officially April 13th, lasting until the 15th, but our community got started early. Our SAO hosted Senior Day on the 8th for all the elderly in town which turned into a mini-Songkran celebration at the end. It was my first taste! We went around the rows of seniors with silver bowls of fragranced water and poured a little in each of their hands. They, in turn, would pat their wet hands on you and say different blessings along the lines of wishing you luck and happiness in the new year. Then.. the firetruck came out!! And everyone danced in the water like it was rain! And all the little kids that were there ran around filling up cups with icy water and splashing them on everyone or pouring the freezing water down our backs. I was definitely the main target of these attacks, haha.. perks of being a farang, right??

water blessings

water blessings

dancing in the rain

dancing in the rain

Then on the 13th, I went with my host family and their extended family that was in town to one of the schools to feed the monks and pour water on the seniors hands again. After that I got shuffled off to a coworker’s house do get made up into a pretty, pretty princess! Once I was all dressed and the glue for my false eyelashes had a chance to dry, it was off to the parade!!

after we fed the monks (me and all my mehs :) )

after we fed the monks – me and all my mehs🙂

#powerbrow #powerlashes??

#powerbrow #powerlashes??

Never in my life have I felt so popular, haha. There was a constant stream of selfies with strangers and all of my coworkers kept giving me so many compliments! Maybe I should always wear 10 pounds of makeup.. hmmm… Anyways, it was really fun! And I gave a tiny speech in Thai to everyone but then the microphone was cutting in and out so I just said “bo bpen yang” which is basically “nevermind” but it’s the way to say it in Isaan (my region) and the crowd went wild (haha)!! They loved it and thought it was the best thing ever. It made me smile🙂.  Everyone here loves it when I speak Isaan and not just central Thai.

pre-parade

pre-parade

For the actual parade, I sat on a float for a little bit and then walked the second half. It was kind of a bummer though since everyone else got to play in the water but all of the princesses (a lot of the local female youth were also dressed up as traditional Thai beauties as well) were off limits because of our hair and makeup. But luckily my SAO boss let me change after the parade so I could join in the fun! Hooray for more firetruck rain dances!

sitting with some princesses!

sitting with some princesses!

post-firetruck

post-firetruck

And then the next couple of days were spent on the side of the road with a huge bucket (think one of those big trash cans) filled to the brim with water waiting on truckloads of people to drive by so we could nail them with water🙂

Over all, it was a blast.

peanut butter pok pok

One of my favorite things is being crafty. There’s just something so satisfying in making something yourself even when you could just buy it. Usually my craftiness takes form in hand-making gifts or Halloween costumes, but occasionally I try my hand at getting crafty in the kitchen! My latest venture was home-made peanut butter!

So in Thailand, peanut butter isn’t really a thing. And I’m really not one of those huge peanut butter fanatics but since french toast is super easy to make here and bananas are abundant, I realized all I needed was some peanut butter to create perfection. But peanut butter, like I said, is really not a thing here. The closest place I found any was still a drive away (difficult for PCVs since we aren’t allowed to drive) and it was only a tiny jar and relatively super expensive. And this is why my counterpart and I decided to make our own peanut butter!! (**I really have the best counterpart. She’s always down for anything!)

So I don’t really have a recipe to share.. we just kind of winged it. But here’s what we used:

  • peanuts
  • liquid sugar (next time maybe use honey)
  • salt
  • oil

If you have a food processor, use it! If not (we did not) then try a blender. Our blender was not exactly helpful, so we mostly used a mortar and pestle (pok pok!!) to get the job done. And it kind of worked!! It’s just really chunky.. That’s a thing though, right? Anyways, it’s still delicious.

blender not accomplishing much..

blender not accomplishing much..

pok pok

pok pok

PB&B french toast

PB&B french toast

breakfast of champions <3 yummmm

breakfast of champions

not sure what these signs actually say haha

new normal

So I’ve officially been sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Trainee no longer! Hooray! It was sad to say goodbye to all of the friends I’ve made and the Thai training staff, but I’m happy to get to site!

Swearing In Ceremony

Swearing In Ceremony

Panuwat Sandwich! Love these Ajaans and will miss them so so much!

Panuwat Sandwich! Love these Ajaans and will miss them so so much!

I’m now in a small village in Nong Khai province. It’s in the Isaan region, super close to the border of Laos. Isaan is known for being one of the most fun regions of Thailand and for having really spicy food. And also eating bugs and rotten fish…🙂

Anyways, it was about a 10-hour road trip from Sing Buri, but I have arrived! Been here for a little over a week now. Feels like longer. Also it feels like PST (pre-service training) was all a dream. And even though it’s only been a short amount of time being here, I can already tell it is so different!

roadtrip pit stop photoshoot :)

roadtrip pit stop photoshoot🙂

What is this doing in Thailand?? road trip pit stop #2

What is this doing in Thailand?? road trip pit stop #2

For instance…. right now I’m staying with my counterpart and her parents, and that’s just what it feels like. During PST, my home-stay situation was much more like I was a child in the family, but here it’s more like I’m an adult. Also I already have coworker friends!! Back in PST all that existed for me was training and then family time. It’s weird to have a social life again! I guess I didn’t realize that I had already created an idea in my head for the next two years that was looking a lot more like how PST life was, but that idea has since been shattered. I feel much more like an independent person and have a bunch of coworkers my age and they’re all really great at including me in their social lives. I’m so happy!! Thinking about it, the next two years would probably be a lot tougher without having these friends. So I’m really grateful and couldn’t be happier!! Plus just this weekend I had a conversation with my counterpart about what she’s passionate about and her vision for her community and I’m SO PUMPED. Can’t wait!

making these for my welcoming ceremony the next morning haha

making these for my welcoming ceremony the next morning haha

all the flowers

all the flowers

A little bit of clarification about what it is to be a YinD (Youth in Development) volunteer.. So in Thailand, Peace Corps currently has two active programs – TCCS (Teacher Collaboration something.. basically they’re the English teachers) and YinD (me!). TCCS volunteers I think co-teach with Thai teachers teaching English. YinD is way more vague, but slowly becoming more concrete to me. Now that I have an actual community with actual, specific self-identified needs, I can better picture where I come in. My counterparts identified needs in conversational English, sex-ed, drug awareness, female youth empowerment, and getting the youth more involved in sports/fitness. The first two or three months at site are typically mostly spent introducing yourself and getting to know the community members and then once school is back in session, things apparently really start to get rolling.

However even though right now is supposed to be a lull, my office is poppin! I love how active they are!! This past week there was some evaluation thing at one of the local preschools so we even went to work there on the weekend and then the actual evaluation thing lasted two days. It was pretty neat! Although I feel bad that the main teacher was so stressed out about it. Then this week there was also a big football (aka soccer) cup for two days too. Super fun!! And I learned a little bit of traditional Thai dancing one day too at the district office. And then when I’m just at the office, right now since schools are on break there are a couple kids who hang around the office, so I’ve been doing Thai spelling words with this one 9 year old and it is my favorite thing ever! It was her idea but that is definitely one of the areas I love studying, so it’s perfect! And I surprisingly can communicate with her fairly well even though she doesn’t know like any English. Everyone else (with the exception of my two counterparts – especially the one I’m living with) is still really difficult to communicate with, but it’s getting easier! They’re patient with me.

making these for the Football (soccer) Cup!

making these for the Football (soccer) Cup!

rainbow watering the field!!

rainbow watering the field!!

spelling words

spelling words

When I’m not at work, I’m still working on building relationships with my coworkers. They are really great. A lot of times we all go exercise together after work!! It’s the greatest. We all kinda do our own thing but are still all together. A few of us run laps around the soccer fields while the others play badminton and then maybe some of us will do some body weight workouts too or ride our bikes around and one time I brought my frisbee for fun and basically it’s just really perfect! And I really think this routine and having a workout buddy is good for my mental and emotional health too not just physical. And then we’ve all gotten dinner together a few times and even went on a mini-trip into the city this past weekend too! Also supposedly a trip to a water park may be in the works for next weekend…!

bike adventure

biking through the village

hot pot with friends yayyy

hot pot with friends yayyy

dinner by the Mekong River

dinner by the Mekong River

nearly walked to Laos!

nearly walked to Laos!

not sure what these signs actually say haha

not sure what these signs actually say haha

One of my favorite things so far was going for a hike with my counterpart and her younger sister. We went to a historical park with some ruins! Really cool. And great views. Also made me miss America. It felt so normal like something I would be doing back home.

vista point

vista point

onward!

onward!

Also I’m really excited because my counterpart and her mom seem really down to teach me to cook! Yay! Can’t wait to get some good recipes under my belt. I made french toast the past two mornings and it felt so unnatural to be eating something other than rice/eggs/veggies/fish/fruit for breakfast. What is food if not Thai food??

sticky rice

sticky rice

OH! Also random thing – I’m trying to do the whole video of one second from every day for the next two years! Get excited. So far I’ve only forgotten to do it like one day..🙂 haha

And just to wrap this up and keep with the norm.. here are some highs and lows..!

Low:

  • rushed goodbyes (3/18/15)
  • overwhelmed with paperwork that needs to be turned in.. worried something will fall through the cracks (3/19/15)
  • apparently I don’t know how to throw a frisbee anymore???? who am I ??? (3/25/15)
  • I miss the kanoms from central Thailand.. womp womp (3/26/15)

High:

  • finally running again!!!! (3/20/15)
  • running/biking/badminton with coworkers (multiple dates)
  • writing letters (multiple dates)
  • some people think my name is “Happy” instead of “Abby”🙂 (3/21/15)
  • hiking (3/21/15)
  • read the most bizarre book of my life today to the kids at the preschool – the Frogs Who Wanted a Ruler or something like that.. (3/23/15)
  • rain🙂 (3/24/15)
  • wahh my older counterpart drives the same exact car as mine back home – red Honda Fit/Jazz stick shift!!! made me super miss driving though (3/24/15)
  • getting help from my 9 year old language buddy to write a letter in Thai to send to my old host family (3/24/15)
  • emailing with Ting Ting… always a pleasure (3/25/15)
  • perfect moment too hard to fully put into words.. bonding with coworkers post-football cup day one – “Come and Get Your Love” was on… (Deet and Guardians of the Galaxy!!!) .. everything is going to be just fine.  (3/26/15)

And just a couple bonus pictures:

massive kanoon/jack fruit

massive kanoon/jack fruit

Thai version of an ice cream sandwich :)

Thai version of an ice cream sandwich🙂

PST in pictures

Since I’ve been mega slacking in posting pictures, here’s two months’ worth! Enjoy!❤

My first dtlaat (market) experience!

My first dtlaat (market) experience!

This was from my yard. Jing-jing.

This was from my yard. Jing-jing. #spoiled

Ruins in Ayutthaya

Ruins in Ayutthaya

feeding the fishies with my fam

feeding the fishies with my fam

family photo shoot

family photo shoot

let the cha-yen (Thai tea) addiction begin

let the cha-yen (Thai tea) addiction begin

Thai Day "Grease" performance

Thai Day “Grease” performance

special hot pot dinner

special hot pot dinner

attempt at Taco Night.. ..

attempt at Taco Night.. ..

created "Color Land" for practicum - teaching colors in English

created “Color Land” for practicum – teaching colors in English

Wat Po Hom students <3

Wat Po Hom students❤

Playing "Color Land" with the nieces :)

Playing “Color Land” with the nieces🙂

Another hand-crafted game - memory/random English vocab

Another hand-crafted game – memory/random English vocab

my niece getting a puppy totes counts as me getting a puppy, right???

my niece getting a puppy totes counts as me getting a puppy, right???

#sothai

#sothai

friendly cat in our language class = best day

friendly cat in our language class = best day

Lopburi bpai-tiao photo shoot

Lopburi bpai-tiao photo shoot

so many monkeys

so many monkeys

jing-law??

jing-law??

best entertainment/study materials

best entertainment/study materials

Peace Corps Office in Bangkok

Peace Corps Office in Bangkok

Japanese Bobtail????

Japanese Bobtail????

from the BTS in BKK

coconut ice cream with sticky rice....... <3

coconut ice cream with sticky rice…….❤

bread.

bread.

My boys!!

My boys!!

the Wat Po Hom kids at our Life Skills Camp!

the Wat Po Hom kids at our Life Skills Camp!

Thai cows have much longer ears than American cows.

Thai cows have much longer ears than American cows.

Taylor's fourth? fifth? flat tire.. bad luck

Taylor’s fourth? fifth? flat tire.. bad luck

dek deks are the cutest

dek deks are the cutest

my happy place - Khukwan Coffe T & Ice

my happy place – Khukwan Coffe T & Ice

one of the last days of practicum - Barking Dog

one of the last days of practicum – Barking Dog

is this real life?

is this real life?

at Khukwan.. #spoiled #poshcorps

at Khukwan.. #spoiled

at our language school

at our language school

pano of my cluster's language school

pano of my cluster’s language school

My Meh's rice field <3

My Meh’s rice field❤

Thai food, man.

Thai food, man.

seriously, all the food

seriously, all the food

Suphan Buri Zoo - afro bear!

Suphan Buri Zoo – afro bear!

fed some giraffes

fed some giraffes

action shot ! playing soccer with some Ajaans after class

action shot ! playing soccer with some Ajaans after class

love following Rollie's boss especially for posts like this :)

love following Rollie’s boss especially for posts like this🙂

#poshcorps jingjing

#poshcorps jingjing

puppy at Khukwan!

puppy at Khukwan!

AND AN OWL

AND AN OWL

something fishy is going on here....

something fishy is going on here….

at this point we totes figured out that they were surprising us with Site announcement a day early :)

at this point we totes figured out that they were surprising us with Site announcement a day early🙂

random and wonderful

random and wonderful

YAY.

YAY.

me and the bro-in-law at Khukwan

me and the bro-in-law at Khukwan

Feedback Fairies :)

Feedback Fairies🙂

Going Away Party with the fam

Going Away Party with the fam

Aj. Thanaporn is just the best

Aj. Thanaporn is just the best

Aj. Preecha <3

Aj. Preecha❤

SO MUCH LOVE. First ajaan.

SO MUCH LOVE. First ajaan.

Janelle!

Janelle!

selfie with sister #3 and niece on my last night at homestay! :(

selfie with sister #3 and niece on my last night at homestay!😦

my Thai home forever <3

my Thai home forever❤

lol

oof

PST is all wrapped up! I can hardly believe it. What a journey. And to think, it’s still really only the beginning. Sorry to only give you highlights again but PST was a whirlwind. But yeah, it’s over!!

Low:

  • goose attack biking to Sports Day (2/7/15)
  • learned what it feels like when I don’t have time for self-care.. (2/10/15)
  • camp week, man (2/19/15)
  • electrical strip in my room is dead again, meaning no fan, meaning sweating myself to sleep (2/19/15)
  • heat index 108 (3/1/15)
  • ouch.. accidentally pierced my foot by stepping on my earring (3/5/15)
  • let the goodbyes begin (3/13/15)

High:

  • found fellow squiggle game lovers (2/6/15)
  • random and confusing bike ride with Pa (2/8/15)
  • playing hand-made games with Thai nieces (2/8/15)
  • letters from Mog!! (multiple dates)
  • email from Noodle (2/11/15)
  • marriage equality in Alabama?!??!??? Jing law!?? (2/11/15)
  • teaching the Wat Po Hom kids how to play Ultimate (2/12/15)
  • writing session with Pii Wit – yay literacy!! (2/14/15)
  • medical session with Rit complete with cupcakes (2/16/15)
  • night swim with Touchy, Nong-Bam and friend (2/18/15)
  • Cotton-Eyed Joe and freeze dance at camp (2/20/15)
  • “Cups” with my Wat Po Hom girls! (2/20/15)
  • played soccer with a couple other trainees plus a little body weight workout – finally got some endorphins pumping through my body! I’d forgotten what it feels like to run!! (2/20/15)
  • Bangkok Trip (2/21-2/22/15)
    • smoked salmon sandwich
    • getting to know and hang out with some really cool current PCVs who happened to be staying in the same hostel as my group
    • seeing other PCTs outside of PST.. we’re all actually humans!!
    • the coffee shop people!!
    • #1 best part – talking with cab driver Saturday night!!! He was so impressed with language skills that he gave us candy! Best ever.
  • got nominated to give speech (in Thai) at the swearing in ceremony!! I feel honored even though ultimately I didn’t get chosen (2/23/15)
  • bike basket has arrived!!! (2/24/15)
  • Thai horoscope with Aj. Nada (2/24/15)
  • initiated bike ride with Pa! (2/25/15)
  • I found my happy place – Khukwan Coffee T & Ice (2/26/15)
  • got the Wat Po Hom kids to write notes in my notebook since it was our last day – going to miss them (2/27/15)
  • once again stepping out of reality at Khukwan Coffee (2/28/15)
  • dunno how my Meh knew I was about to need some new toothpaste, but she randomly gave me a new tube today!! (2/28/15)
  • Glorious day!! It’s raining!!! (3/2/15)
  • gave the Khukwan Coffee ladies my sign I made them today (3/2/15)
  • ice cream man at the tessaban (3/3/15)
  • playing MASH (3/3/15)
  • peanut butter crackers (3/4/15)
  • showing the ajaans and my fam my baby pics from Mog (3/5/15)
  • “Farang John Silver’s” – Ross-ism (3/5/15)
  • “hi-so” – Aj. Panuwat (3/6/15)
  • playing football with the ajaans after training today! (3/6/,15)
  • bike limbo at the tessaban entrance (3/6/15)
  • our coffee ladies said they missed us when we went in today!!!❤❤❤ (3/6/15)
  • Aj. Araya hug❤❤❤  oh and when she safety-pinned my shirt for me! Always taking care of me🙂 (3/7/15)
  • Aj. Preecha pinky promised to come visit America in 2 years! Pinky promise is ironclad. (3/7/15)
  • “I should take my revenge in the afternoon.” – Aj. Preecha (3/7/15)
  • Mano-ed with host fam about possible future visiting (USA and at Site) and getting their addresses for penpal-ing! (3/7/15)
  • Today was so #1. Final bpai-tiao with the fam. (3/8/15)
    • surprise stop at Khukwan before hitting the road (extra special because I just told Pi Wit last night about that coffee shop and how it always brightens my day!) #bestbestbest #allsmiles
    • Suphan Buri aquarium and zoo
  • relieved to hear that I’m still coming across as being super positive all the time even though for me I feel like I’ve been not so much during PST.. YAY! (3/9/15)
  • can’t help but laugh at this phenomenon of the rarity of the black-ink pen in Thailand – I was at 7 today and literally the only pen they had with black ink was one of those multi-color pens with a blue and red cartridge too.. I don’t get it! Also I don’t know why it bothers me haha. Anyways, I just thought that was ridiculous and funny (3/9/15)
  • site announcement !! (3/11/15)
  • Pa was super sweet and fixed my bike for me today (3/11/15)
  • got some free postcards at the post office today — people are so generous here!!!! (3/11/15)
  • this is silly.. but I’m really enjoying developing my handwriting style when writing Thai (3/13/15)
  • apparently listening to NPR podcasts make me miss America.. (3/14/15)
  • peanut butter crackers jing jing! miracle cure! (3/14/15)
Our Ajaans performing Peace Corps version of Just Fine by Note Panayanggool

just fine

A lot has happened since being here! My opinion of Thailand is still that it is amazing and I’m loving it more each day! I feel like there is too much to say about the past four weeks so I’m just going to stick with highs and lows for now. I’ve surprisingly been pretty good at keeping up with a journal for this experience and each day I make sure to include a “high/low” section at the end.. So here are a few highlights!!

Lows

  • thinking I knew a lot of Thai and then realizing I knew nothing as soon as my host family scooped me up to take me home (1/17/15)
  • giving up being a pescatarian (1/17/15)
  • comparing myself to other PCTs who are more advanced in the language and getting the reaction from my host family that I should know more (but really we’ve only been here for three weeks.. frustrating) (multiple dates)
  • tummy mai sa baai (1/27/15)

Highs

  • getting a shout-out on the radio from my DJ Bpaa (1/18/15)
  • got my Thai nickname – Naám Sôm (translates to Orange Juice) (1/18/15)
  • open questions with our Ajaans (1/20/15)
  • drawings from Ross (multiple dates)
  • peanut butter M&M’s with Emily (1/24/15)
  • connected with my Thai family on multiple social medias (1/24/15)
  • “nam jai” from Boris the police officer at lunch today – he paid for me and two other PCTs’ lunches (1/28/15)
  • had a moment biking with two other PCTs where I felt like I was in Now and Then in the scene where the girls are biking together listening to their old school radio – best ever! (1/28/15)
  • conquered the squatty potty!! (1/29/15)
  • THAIDAYTHAIDAYTHAIDAY. Best day ever. First time I really felt homesick though.. Just an over-all heartwarming day! Loved seeing the Ajaans goof off and be adorable. Plus the song they sang us at the end (Just Fine with altered Peace Corps lyrics) was so sweet it made me tear up. (1/30/15)
  • coconut ice cream with sticky rice (1/31/15)
  • dance party pre-language class in the morning (multiple dates)
  • had lots of time to read today (2/1/15)
  • practicum was so wonderful today!! We taught colors and had stations – mine was “Color Land” (basically Candy Land) – and I think the kids really enjoyed it!! Plus they seem to be liking frisbee too. Making me extra excited for the next two years! (2/4/15)
Our Ajaans performing Peace Corps version of Just Fine by Note Panayanggool

Our Ajaans performing Peace Corps version of Just Fine by Note Panayanggool