Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Elephant Nature Park

Here is a picture post from the Elephant Nature Park that I went to a few weeks ago.  The park is wonderful and it is set up to help and treat elephants that have been injured and are accepted nowhere else.  The park cares for these animals in full, with all the proceeds going to the care.  They don't allow riding of the animals, or using them to paint pictures or any of the silliness at the other parks.  The entire visit is based around the needs of the animals - feeding them and washing them.  Thanks to my friend Marina, we we left Prem and went in search of adventure.  What a great day!  Here are the better pictures I took.

Feeding the elephants.

A month old elephant searching for milk from Mamma.

Namejs sharing a facial expression with an elephant unknowingly.

What great poses.

The boys.

Washing the elephants.

The family hear coming down with the Mahuts to wash.

After washing, the elephants fed again, and I loved zooming in to watch how they ate.  Their twirling trunks are amazing.

Family love

The cousins helping each other to scratch their tummies on a tree trunk.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Some pictures from Rayong

Eventhough I now have two devices with which to take pictures, and am travelling with friends who also have the same, I have been quite bad about taking pictures and uploading them.  My excuse was that I couldn't find how to on my iPad as it was only allowing me to pull pics from a phone whwn using my browser.  I realized I should look for an App, and perhaps it would solve th problem.  Thus, the magic has happened and I am able to post pictures. Although I have to say the process is still clunky with having to upload one picture at a time, and not being able to resize.

Last night's deliciousness: TomYam, mussels, cockles, crab curry, and roastd squid - nothing better in the world than fresh seafood!

The 'baylets' created along the shoreline.  Not our swimming area, as we spent most time at the pool, but beautiful nonethless.  We look forward to the beach at Koh Samet in the next hotel.

A Spirit House, an 18th floor birdseye view.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

October break begins

Today is the second day of my October break. It is most certainly a needed break both mentally and physically. I have been very lucky in that a friend of mine from work was very pro-active in organizing a holiday, and invited me along. She tried to involve me in the planning, but once she realized I really meant it when I said that I didn't mind where or when, she made the plans for me together with another friend.  I did have to take the time to chime in and pay for one of the hotels, but otherwise Iwas quite oblivious to where we were going until recently.

Friday, the boys' Dad arrived from Saudi.  They began hanging out in the afternoon, and after work I went to a pre-break after work drinks hosted by the secondary principal.  Nice company and some good conversations before all of us began heading off for our various destinations. I realize how lucky we are as international teachers with these breaks and the exotic locations we can take off to during our weeks off.  

After that the boys and I took their Dad to a local Thai restaurant by a pond, where we introduced him to the basics of Thai cuisine. As always the cuisine did not disappoint; from Pad Thai and Red curry to Shrimp TomYam and Papaya Salad. We had an enjoyable evening, and returned with a driving tour of the area. I packed efficiently and crashed, exhausted to prepare for our morning flight.

We flew out from Chiang mai around 10am. We flew on Bangkok Air which is supposedly a more expensive airline, but we found the flight to be less expensive.  The perks of the airline are that whilst waiting, you can sit in their lounge and you get free coffee and snacks! Plus an actul meal on the plane. I guess I should also explain who 'we' are.  I am travelling with one of our special needs teachers who is from Wisconsin originally, our English teacher, who is from New Zealand originally, and we are being 'hosted' by our History tacher, who is originally from the UK, but has lived and worked in Thailand for the last 12 years.  He has a home in Rayong which is in South East Thailand, and helped us to choose accommodations in the area, including th island of Koh Samet.

We arrived in Bangkok just before noon, and our friend had arranged for a taxi to take us the hour and a half further south for a very reasonable price.  We checked into the hotel, quickly changed and spent a good hour at the pool.  We followed that up with a drive to purchase the necessary beverages and snacks for the week ahead.  Then our friend and his wife took us to a local seafood restaurant - garlic shrimp and steamed fish to die for! I love Thai food! It is a bit diferent down South, but just as good.

We returned to our hotel and slept very well. It was one of the first evenings I managed to sleep the whole night.  This morning we had or breakfast buffet, and have spent the day by the pool swimming laps periodically, and then enjoying the sun. We will follow up soon with Thai massages... the holiday has really begun. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Time flies when you are crazily busy

I just looked at my last post and realized that it has almost been a month since I have written about my arrival in Thailand.  It also means that I have been in Thailand officially a month, as I arrived on July 31st. I honestly don't know where the time has gone, as it feels like I just arrived a week ago.  Yet somehow, I have survived my first three weeks back at school, managed to make it to my first payday, flown out to KL to sort out a visa issue with the boys, and worked my behind off to keep up with the requirements of teaching and being the IB Coordinator.

Wow, just writing that last sentence I feel exhausted.  However, I realize that my exhaustion has mostly been due to working until 5:30 most evenings this week due to necessary meetings, and then coming home, preparing dinner, and then getting back to work until I almost fall asleep at the computer.  I am enjoying the work, and finding that I am managing, but I just need to get myself sorted out for some necessary exercise and me time to balance life a bit more.  I have to find a yoga teacher with whom I feel comfortable, and I have to begin swimming again.  If I wanted I could also add a variety of other activities to my pursuits - bike riding, walking, tennis, squash, golf, and even going to the gym that is a few minutes down the path.  Desire is not lacking, but finding the energy and organizing my time properly to include has seemed to elude me in the last weeks.  I know it will come, and I probably have to ease back in more slowly than I would like to get back to my 6 times a week of exercise!  I may have to enroll new friends here for the timings factor.

As ever in a new place, the end of the first month means the honeymoon phase is over.  The realities of life and work are much more in your face, and rose tinted glasses begin to fade to let in some of the stark colors that you are peripherally unaware of.  As in every school, there are things that need to be solved, yet they are no worse, than any other place I have been before.  I am looking forward to being a part of the solution process, and working with the staff who are truly talented and knowledgeable teachers who have gathered from many locations around the world.  There is a lot to do in terms of curriculum mapping and organizing structures and processes that will help this growing school to continue to develop.  But they are all manageable processes, and what I find exciting is that the staff care about these thing too, and want to be a part of the process.

I am adjusting to finding myself in middle management with an ear to the ground about almost everything that is happening in the school, but not being able to share the knowledge due to confidentiality.  As I get to know people and spend time with others in the school, I realize that there are a lot of opinions on many items, and I have to temper my own statements and participation in conversations very carefully.  Last night at dinner I found myself uncharacteristically silent on many issues, and just listened.

That is all fine, but I know that I am going to have to branch out beyond the school community soon to have evenings that have no work related conversations.  I am happy that I have a friend here who has been hired to work in another international school, and we will be able to spend time together.  Then other friends have connected me with other people who live here in Chiang Mai.  I just have to start to organize to meet them.  Then I also have to find out if there are any Latvians in the local community.  Supposedly there is an honorary Latvian consulate, so I may be able to get some connections that way.  Anyone out there know of any other Latvians in the area.  But it still is only the first month here, and I do have to give myself the space to put these types of things into place.

The boys are settling in well.  Didzis already has a birthday party he is invited to this weekend, and has an International Award camping trip next weekend.  As always he has settled in quickly, has a large group of friends, and is finding himself a part of an active and happy group of kids.  Namejs as usual is taking a bit more time to settle in, because of his desire to carefully search out and select the people that he finds most like-minded.  He is not in a rush and seems to be observing and learning very deliberately.  It is interesting observing two very different approaches to moving and fitting in into a community.  I think about myself in this way, and I seem to use both approaches combined.

Today I have an acupuncture appointment organized by one of the other teachers here who was going this morning - I am driving her, so she arranged the appointment.  It is in the center of Chiang Mai, so we will have to navigate our way into town.  I am finding using a map to be much easier here than in KL, and thus far have not gotten lost driving.  I have regained confidence in my navigational abilities.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

First official day back at work

What a great day today.  We had our first day with all of the previous staff members. All of the new staff were introduced and we had a motivational speech by the head of school, and a team building day.  Most team building days I have experienced have usually included a large number of meetings in between and some cheesy activities.  However, our day today was nothing like that.  We were divided into house colors that we will be in for the rest of the time at the school.  I am in blue house, and my boys will also be in blue.  My first activity was orienteering where we began at the organic farm (yes, we have an organic farm!) and we were sent off to find markers in and around the farm using a map.  We had to work together to find them as they were not right in front of you, and they tended to be hidden well.  Below is a view of what we saw during the process.

After that we went on a bike ride on bikes that are available at the school for guests who visit the campus - they are called banana bikes.  We rode around the village that surrounds our school:

 We stopped at a potters center where they make terracotta pots:

This guy makes about 200 pots a day.  While we were watching him, he made 3 within 5 minutes!

This was part of our view on the ride:

We stopped to visit a net maker:

Then we stopped at a local temple: 


After returning to the farm from where we began the bike ride, we had lunch in the school cafeteria.  Then we continued to the next activity which was drumming.  The school had flown in a representative of a company in Australia who does team building through drumming activities.

We spent two hours drumming as a group with the leader not speaking the entire time!  Fantastic experience.  At the end of his instruction we divided into groups to create a performance of our own.  Each performance was so unique.  My hands now hurt so many hours later. 

The day ended with a BBQ by the school pool.  Great food and good company. 

And on another note, the maintenance staff put in a wall and a door for me today.  It still needs to be painted, but my bedroom now has the opportunity to be closed off from the rest of the apartment!

My Apartment and the "commute to work"

My apologies for not getting up pictures and information sooner, but this last week has been full on with orientation sessions, shopping galore, and the most amazing Thai dinners at local restaurants that have introduced us to the wonders of the Thai food late into the evenings.  I have been enjoying every minute of it, even though I am tired most evenings after coming home.  Tonight was our first full day with the rest of the staff at the school, and I will do a separate post about that.  But tonight is the first evening that I got home at 8:30 versus 10:30.

I will make this short as I am tired, but some might be curious about the apartment - I don't have many pictures right now, but here are a few.  (once again I am having picture issues.  I am still waiting to get my Mac laptop - once I do the picture issues will end.  But in the meantime, please just turn your heads or your device!)

This is a straight on view of the apartment with the kitchen and living room - this is the supplied furniture.  Once my belongings arrive it will look quite different.  I am also replacing the curtains because they will collect dust and exacerbate my allergies - plus the colours are not my favourite...

For the first time in years I will be able to recycle.  These bins are in our courtyard right outside my door - they are emptied daily.

The other day we went to the plant market, and purchased plants so that I would have a bit of a privacy screen for my apartment from the path that everyone uses to walk to work. I bought 17 plants for about $70/35Ls - and these are not little plants.  I will still have to buy pots, but for now they are fine.


Here is my daily commute to work:

My balcony from the path:

This is the secondary school building in which I work:

Just a few details I have found out - although I don't have my own classroom, I have an office that I share with the MYP Coordinator and CAS Coordinator, and I also have a secretary who will help me prepare documents for the DP students and events that I am responsible for. 

In general I am feeling very lucky to be here.