It’s our last night at the orientation site in Nakhon Phanom. Tomorrow morning we will be picked up by our principals, who will help us move in to our permanent teacher housing. The 10 WorldTeach volunteers are scattered throughout the province so it will be quite an adjustment from the past month! I am looking forward to having my own space and finally unpacking my suitcase. Perhaps what I’m most anxious about is being so far away from the city and its shops, restaurants, and markets. My village is about 40 kilometers, or 50 minutes, southwest of Nakhon Phanom. I’m sure I’ll be able to find rides into town when I want to visit the city volunteer teachers.
Here’s one of my favorite spots in the city, looking across the Mekong River to the mountains of Laos:
And here’s a picture of my new place:
I’m not sure what the internet situation will be like in my new village but once I find out I’ll be sure to upload more pictures! I hope everyone in the States had a happy Halloween =)
I have come to the conclusion that eating in Thailand is much like long-distance running. Stamina is built in practice, or during the daily meals at home. Trainees improve their endurance by incrementally adding chilli powder, spicy sauces, and larger portions until they reach new levels of stamina. Then the big day comes and the trainees’ endurance is put to the test at a Thai dinner party. Last night was one such test. We were invited to a neighboring village to celebrate the marriage of a Venezuelan man and a Thai woman who met in Australia and are now living in New Zealand…perhaps the most international couple I have ever met.
Anyways, the dinner party consisted of at least eight courses and I soon realized I left the gates too quickly. As in any long distance race, a good runner knows to pace herself and save a kick for the end. I definitely ate way too many fried shrimp, sliced pork strips, and stuffed chicken wings at the beginning of the meal to make a solid effort to eat much of the fish, rice, and vegetables that soon followed. By the time dessert had arrived, I was limping my way to the finish line and barely had enough energy left to lift my spoon.
Overall the food was delicious. My big takeaway from the night, however, was the importance of pacing when dining in Thailand. That said, I should lie down because I am just stuffed from tonight’s dinner.
My first birthday abroad was fun and very eventful. I spent the morning learning about Thai pronouns and critical thinking in the classroom-riveting, right? Things picked up at noon when we headed into town for lunch and ate delicious spring rolls with peanut sauce. Then the volunteer group went to a village called Renu Nakhon for a Pud Thai traditional dance performance. During introductions, the audience even sang me “Happy Birthday” after my friends forced me to disclose my special day! Here is a picture of the opening performance:
Pud Thai Traditional Dance
After the trained dancers performed, we were invited to try on the traditional garb and join in. It was pretty funny because we had no preparation but we were still well-received. The audience was amused by our efforts; unfortunately they took lots of pictures and video to capture this special moment. Here’s a shot of the WorldTeach volunteers with some of the school teachers, after the performance. We are holding sticky rice containers, which were presented to us as gifts. If you look closely, you can also see the white string tied onto our wrists, which were given to us in a ceremony earlier in the day to give us protection and happiness during our time as volunteer teachers in Thailand.
WorldTeach Volunteers in Thai Dance Outfits
It was a very special experience for us and we were grateful to be so warmly accepted by everyone. Today we tried on another type of traditional dancing outfit, which we will wear on November 2 for a fish festival and actually get to keep! Back at the orientation site, I was (semi) surprised with an actual birthday cake, candles and gifts! Our Thai host mother, Maeo, made me a pretty floral arrangement I will be taking to my new house when I move, and the volunteers gave me a yoga mat, which I am really excited about! I’ve been leading yoga classes for a small number of people every few days and am looking forward to practicing with a mat again. Even though I’m so far from home, it was a very happy birthday with my new friends here.
I was also able to talk to lots of family and friends yesterday, which also made the day special. Thanks everyone for thinking of me and keeping in touch!
Gifts on my birthday...and yes, I actually wanted one of these!