Spices and Salwar Kameez in Alleppey

Spices and Salwar Kameez in Alleppey

After a while in Varkala, Lex and I were ready to move on. One charming thing about India is the prevalence of train travel. We arrived at the station early enough to grab a bite here before traveling north to Alleppey.

While leaving Varkala was difficult, it's nice to know that almost everywhere in India, vegetarian food is close at hand.

It’s nice to know that almost everywhere in India, vegetarian food is close at hand.

This family was also awaiting the train

This family was also awaiting the train

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On the train headed to Alleppey...I think...

On the train headed to Alleppey…I think…

Ummm… we may have gotten on the wrong train. It was only temporarily wrong and we were able to switch at a station up the track. The wrong train didn’t stop us laughing.

 

We did not exactly rough it with our accommodation Alleppey.

We did not exactly rough it with our accommodation Alleppey. We stayed at the Punnamada Resort

There were even flowers on the bed

There were even flowers on the bed

We stayed on the edge of the backwaters so it was a picturesque spot for sunrise

We stayed on the edge of the backwaters,  a picturesque spot for sunrise

One of the hundreds of houseboats

One of the hundreds of houseboats

We watched two women fully clothed in saris jump into the water. At first I thought they were bathing, but soon it was obvious they were fishing for something. We observed as the women kept ducking under the water.

We watched two women fully clothed in saris jump into the water. At first I thought they were bathing, but soon it was obvious they were fishing for something. We observed as the women kept ducking under the water and coming up with something in their hands.

The door at Punnamada resort

The door to our room at Punnamada resort

View from the breakfast table at Punnamada

View from the breakfast table

After a leisurely morning, we borrowed bicycles from the hotel and rode into town.

Though there were many place to buy spices in Alleppey, this guy was just terrific at his job.

Though there were many place to buy spices in Alleppey, this guy was just terrific at his job.

Nutmace

Nutmace

Star anise

Star anise

Nutmace, star anise, and Alleppey cinnamon

Nutmace, star anise, and Alleppey cinnamon

 

 

After loading up on spices, Lex wanted to get a Dhoti, which is Indian sarong for men. It ended up being a much longer shopping spree for me attempting to buy a Salwar Kameez.

The store was extremely crowded

Just an idea of how extremely crowded the store was

When the shop keeper knew what I wanted he introduced me to Mini, who was rather mini, and a tremendous help

When the shop keeper knew I wanted a Salwar Kameez, he introduced me to Mini. She was rather mini, and a tremendous help. She made the whole experience enjoyable.

Salwar Kameez #1

Salwar Kameez #1

Salwar Kameez #2

Salwar Kameez #2

Salwar Kameez #3

Salwar Kameez #3

Mini told us this was the new style of Salwar Kameez. Sure enough, I did see plenty of Indian women wearing these. On the other hand it made me feel like a human bell.

Mini told us this was the new style of Salwar Kameez. Sure enough, I did see plenty of Indian women wearing these who looked stunning. It made me look like a human bell. No.

Now I think that #3 looks the best. I bought #1, which needs to be tailored. Maybe I should take it to Climax Tailors and have some work done there.

Thankfully, Lex did end up getting a dhoti…

 

Nearing sunset, we cycled home from the traffic to quiet small lanes. Once in the out of the city and in towns, many people would shout hello, smile, and wave. Sometimes I felt like a celebrity.

Hindu temple in Alleppey amongst the chaos

Hindu temple in Alleppey amongst the chaos

Back at Punnamada

Back at Punnamada

After the heat the pool felt fantastic

Post cycling in the heat, the pre-dinner swim felt fantastic.

My arm was feeling better. In the morning it was finally time for a yoga class. Ahhh.

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The reason we came to Alleppey, was to be out on the backwaters. Time to go on a houseboat.

The reason we came to Alleppey, was to be out on the backwaters. Time to go on a houseboat.

Adventures in and around Varkala

Adventures in and around Varkala People had told me that Varkala is a pretty chilled out place, especially for India. They were correct. It’s an excellent place to enjoy life and just take it all in.

It helped moving to somewhere with a balcony, pool, and a sea view.

It helped moving to somewhere with a balcony, pool, and a sea view.

Where I stayed for 6 days, Krishnatheeram.

Where I stayed for 6 days, Krishnatheeram.

Lex and I spent hours drinking coffee and laughing at Cafe del Mar.

Lex and I having our standard 3-hour coffee and laughs at Cafe del Mar.

We watched the sunset daily from somewhere on the cliff top

Watching the sunset daily from somewhere on the cliff top

Having dinner with Eyal, Lex, and Anna at Abba.

Having dinner with Eyal, Lex, and Anna at Abba

Looking down the beach at loads of people

Looking down the beach at loads of people. This wasn’t the kind of beach to wear a bikini. Tourists do, but locals stay on the beach and swim fully clothed. Even while I was wearing a dress on the beach, a man made a lewd comment and gesture toward me.

Going for walks along the cliffs and down to the beach

Going for walks along the cliffs and down to the beach

After days spent lazing in Varkala, it was time to take a little trip out of town. Lex and I rented a motorbike and headed north in search of some more remote beaches and local Indian flavor.

Crossing over the palm tree bridge to the beach in Edava

Crossing over the palm tree bridge to the beach in Edava

Locals were continually both fascinated and confused by Lex.

Locals were continually both fascinated and confused by Lex. They would say, “You look like Indian people,” and then probably think, but you don’t talk or dress like it.

IMG_2478 IMG_2493 We ended up getting a little bit lost… …but these boys were ready to give us directions. (My favorite part is hearing the brakes when the second set of boys pull up on their bike.)

They got on their bike asking us to follow them to the nearest food stall.

After trying to give us verbal directions, the boys got on their bike gesturing for us to follow them to the nearest food stall.

Lex having a masala chai at a local tea shop

Lex having a masala chai at a local tea shop

Quite accidentally, we ended up in Kollam, which had an India-meets-Coney-Island feel to it. IMG_2501

Roasting peanuts on Kollam beach

Roasting peanuts on Kollam beach – delicious

Other food stalls we were a bit too afraid to try

Other food stalls we were a bit too afraid to try

We bought a kite to give away to the first  kid who wanted one

We bought a kite to give away to the first kid who wanted one

Lex getting his fortune told by a bird

Lex getting his fortune told by a bird

Here is the bird fortune teller in action. I shudder to think how he was trained.

After Lex, I got my fortune told.

After Lex, I got my fortune told.

I got Ganesh!

I got Ganesh!

Although my picture was different, the written fortune was the same. We figured he probably just had one version in English.

Although my picture was different, the written fortune was the same. We figured he probably just had one version in English. “Don’t worry – be courage” the lesser known hit by Bobby McFerrin

This gives the sense of the Coney Island amusements

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this place was called Mahatma Gandhi Park. It gives the sense of the Coney Island amusements, though clearly in India

One of the funniest things at the park was a haunted house, which seemed to have been both designed and operated by a group of 10-year old boys. They were enthusiastic to lure us into their dark, cavernous, house of fright.  It was very cute and provided a lot more laughs than screams. OK, the one skeleton that popped up did scare me a bit. IMG_2524

cute kids everywhere

Cute kids everywhere

After a fun day out, it was time to head back to Varkala, but, to continue with the theme of the day, we didn’t really know how to get there. At the gas station when asking directions, people pointed in two completely different directions, which wasn’t very reassuring. We decided on what looked like the more direct route. After at least 15 minutes of waiting at the railroad crossing this happened… We ended up on a highway in rush-hour traffic and then it started getting dark. When stopping for directions, we were told a variety of ways, if people even understood us. One man corrected us on our pronunciation, “Oh, you mean Warkala! In English it’s Warkala. In Malayalam it’s Warkala.” Oh, I see. Now that we can pronounce it, how do we get there? After endless wrong turns, small village roads, near misses with buses, and hitting potholes in the dark, we arrived back in Varkala several hours later without even a scratch. Thank you iPhone, Waze, and Lex for being a tech savvy driver.

Back in the peace of Varkala

Back in the peace of Varkala

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More coffee and laughs at Cafe del Mar. Unsuccessfully trying not to crack up and Lex's pose

More coffee and laughs at Cafe del Mar. I am unsuccessfully trying not to crack up at Lex’s pose.

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For the final day in Varkala, it was time to shop and have clothes made by the tailors .

For the final day in Varkala, it was time to shop and have clothes made by the tailors

Burying and being buried in sand while fully clothed

Burying and being buried in sand while fully clothed

This tailor, Anthony, finished sewing our silk items by candlelight...and with a smile

This tailor, Anthony, finished sewing our silk items by candlelight…with a smile

Goodbye Varkala

Goodbye Varkala

It's time to take a northbound train

It’s time to take a northbound train

Finally Getting to India

Finally Getting to India

It all started back in college. For a period of time I was a textiles major. One of my teachers showed us slides and fabrics from a trip she’d just taken to India. Seeing the intricate swirly patterns and vibrant colors of silks and cottons, I fell in love and wanted to go there too. Not long afterwards, I discovered yoga and Ayurveda, which added fuel to my fire. Then seeing pictures of gorgeous landscapes, and learning that vegetarian food would be available everywhere, I knew I had to go.

Back in 2000, while traveling through SE Asia and Nepal, I was supposed to visit friends in Dharamsala and the Andaman Islands, but due to my mother getting cancer, I returned home to be with her. Now, for the 2 1/2 years I’ve been back in Thailand, I have also planned on going, but at the last minute decided to visit somewhere else. Even this trip almost didn’t happen, because I’d heard the Chiang Mai Indian consulate makes it rather difficult to get a visa, so I thought I might just stay in Thailand. Then I found out about a visa service that charges more and takes longer, but gets you a visa. I applied, booked my tickets, and collected my visa just hours before my flight. Finally, after 20 years of waiting, I made it to India.

One thing I’d heard from most every woman I know that has been to India, is that it is not the easiest to travel there. You will be stared at a LOT, and possibly groped. Though I’ve traveled in over 30 countries independently, I thought India might be a good place to travel with a man, preferably an Indian man. Since I didn’t have one of those available, I chose to travel to one of the ‘easier’ places in India – Kerala. My first stop, the beach town of Varkala.

In the cab on the way from the airport to my homestay, this was suddenly a traffic obstacle.

In the cab on the way from the airport to my home stay, this was a sudden traffic obstacle.

The kind driver pulled over for me to snap this shot.

The kind driver pulled over for me to snap this shot. I love the elephant!

After checking in and having a shower, I was famished. My first meal in India was a parotha and curry. A parotha is almost like a flattened out Indian croissant. With the coconut milk curry, this proved to be too rich to finish.

After checking in, and having a shower, I was famished. My first meal in India was a parotha and curry. A parotha is almost like a flattened out Indian version of a croissant – very buttery, (or  maybe I should say, ghee-y?) With the coconut milk curry, this proved to be too rich to finish.

After lunch I headed down to the beach.

Looking at the cliff on Varkala beach. In this picture it isn't obvious, but there was a huge amount of garbage on the cliffs and more was continually thrown from the top.

Looking at the cliff on Varkala beach. In this picture it isn’t obvious, but there was a huge amount of garbage on the cliffs and more was continually thrown down from the top.

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View of Varkala beach from the cliff.

View of Varkala beach from the cliff

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Although it was pretty on the cliffs, there were tons of shops selling almost the same things in each one. It was a good place to shop, but walking along the cliff I was constantly solicited with, "Hello madam. Where you from? Just have a look, looking is free."

Although it was pretty on the cliffs, there were tons of shops selling almost the same things in each one. It was a good place to shop, but walking along the cliff I was constantly solicited with, “Hello madam. Where you from? Just have a look, looking is free.”

I was exhausted from travel and in no mood for shopping, but besides all the shops, there were also tons of Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine) centers. My arm really hurt and a massage sounded good. There are many types of Ayurvedic massages, but most include quite a bit of oil. My massage was supposed to be energizing and deep. It was, but with the rapid strokes, it wasn’t exactly relaxing. I left feeling better, if a bit oily.

The first of many gorgeous sunsets from a cliff top restaurant.

The first of many gorgeous sunsets from a cliff top restaurant.

Upon waking in the middle of the night, this was the view from the balcony. I figure, along with the elephant, it must be auspicious.

Upon waking in the middle of the night, this was the view from the balcony. I figured, along with seeing the elephant upon arrival, it must be auspicious.

Morning out the window - sweeping the dirt.

Morning out the window – sweeping the dirt.

As I was eating breakfast, the Casa Eva Luna Home Stay owner – Esther, who was from Spain, though had been in India long enough to have Indian in mannerisms and speech – told me there was a puja (Hindu religious ceremony) at the temple. She called it a Pongali festival, though I’m not entirely sure what it was. The festival went on for several days. Esther invited me to go with her to the temple and had a tuk tuk coming to pick us up a few minutes later. I do not know much about Hinduism, and will not pretend to. However, I do know that there are many gods, goddesses, and religious rituals – pujas – which are usually colorful, involve food, and are sometimes extremely loud.

The following photos are what I saw and interpreted to be happening. To all Hindus, sorry in advance if my interpretations are incorrect, or in any way offensive.

Arrival at the temple

Arrival at the temple

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Hundreds of women preparing rice and masala spices for the puja.

Hundreds of women preparing rice and masala spices for the puja.

Esther, my guesthouse owner and her neighbor. I was grateful for her invitation to the puja festival.

Esther and her neighbor. I was grateful for her invitation to the puja festival.

Lots-o-rice

Lots-o-rice

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Truly a living goddess

Truly a living goddess

Intricately designed Hindu temple

A colorful Hindu temple

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Here a woman is whispering a prayer to this statue of what looks to me like a sacred cow.

A woman whispering a prayer to this statue of what looks like a sacred cow.

Huge scales

Huge scales

This tree was supposedly a fertility tree. I made a donation and was played a 'snake song'.

This tree was supposedly for fertility and abundance. I made a donation and was played a ‘snake song’.

At the base of the fertility tree.

At the base of the fertility tree. Is this Laxshmi?

A little bit scary symbols of fertility

A little bit scary symbols of fertility

Leaving the temple

Leaving the temple

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Endless beauty

Endless beauty

I know it's a bit difficult to see such frumpiness after the loveliness, but I had Esther take this picture to show my arm. See how bent the left arm is? That was as straight as it would go...and it hurt a lot.

I know it’s a bit difficult to see such frumpiness after the loveliness, but I had Esther take this picture to show my arm. See how bent the left arm is? That was as straight as it would go…and it hurt a lot.

My initial plans for Varkala were to be on the beach, go to yoga classes, hopefully surf, and learn some more about Ayurveda. Well, with my arm like this, and in being in a lot of pain, neither surfing, nor yoga seemed likely options. Feeling energized by the puja, yet disappointed about not being able to move my arm properly, I went to a cafe overlooking the sea and to ordered a lemon soda. The heat was intense, so I ordered a second while gazing out at the puja on the beach and rethinking my plans of what I’d do in India.

Beach puja

Beach puja

Upon arrival at the cafe, I couldn’t help but notice someone sitting at a table nearby. The was an energy about him and knew I had to meet him. It wasn’t like a guru or anything, but more like some kind of connection. It’s hard to not sound too new agey, but I was drawn to his presence.  He was sitting with two other people. My arm was increasingly painful, and that gave me an idea. I walked over to their table and asked if they knew of any good Ayurveda doctors in town.

One man happened to be a body worker, and started asking me a bunch of questions. They asked me to join them for a masala chai, and we all ended up talking for over an hour. Eyal, the body worker, offered to give me a treatment. He was traveling in India with his new wife, Anna. During the course of that first hour, for a variety of reasons, the man who I was drawn to, Lex, decided to miss his train and stay in Varkala an extra day.

After having a wonderful 24 hours together, Lex postponed his flight back to Canada and changed his ticket to leave India until 2 weeks later to spend the remainder of his time with me! I was ecstatic!

Maybe something happened at that puja. Maybe there was a reason that I hadn’t made it to India until now. Maybe my arm hurting was a sign from the universe to change my plans. All I can say is whatever it was, it made me very happy.

 

 

Air Pollution in Chiang Mai – Please Stop Burning

Air Pollution in Chiang Mai – Please Stop Burning

Chiang Mai is a wonderful city. Unfortunately, this time of year there is a lot of smoke in the air. The growing traffic congestion doesn’t help matters, but the main problem is the slash and burn agriculture practices. It is quite common in Northern Thailand to see fires burning on the side of the road and in the hills. Most of what is being burned is organic debris from rice fields, and farms. To a lesser extent there is some burning of trash mixed in too. Being in a valley, the smoky air gets trapped in Chiang Mai and makes the air quality rather miserable from mid-March to mid-April. Hot, dusty, smoky and dry are words to define this season. It isn’t always like this though…

Here we are on Canal Road coming into Chiang Mai from Hang Dong. Blue skies all around! February 7, 2014.

Here we are on Canal Road coming into Chiang Mai from Hang Dong. Blue skies all around! February 7, 2014.

In the center of the Old City, Chiang Mai. Skies are quite blue! February 23, 2014.

In the center of the Old City, Chiang Mai. Skies are quite blue! February 23, 2014.

The new building at Panyaden School, looking kind of smoky. March 14, 2014

The new building at Panyaden School, looking kind of smoky. March 14, 2014.

Pink full moon over the Ping river. March 16th.

Pink (due to smoky air) full moon over the Ping river in Chiang Mai. March 16th, 2014.

In the Old City. Kind of blue sky. March 17, 2014.

In the Old City. Kind of blue sky. March 17, 2014.

And this was yesterday in Chiang Mai. Gross! March 21, 2014.

And this was yesterday in Chiang Mai. Gross! March 21, 2014. OK, to be fair, this is a an ugly view of Chiang Mai on any day…

...so here is the lovely Wat Phra Singh. Look at that smoggy sky. March 21, 2014.

…so here is the lovely Wat Phra Singh. Look at that smoggy white sky. March 21, 2014.

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3 Kings Monument. March 21, 2014

3 Kings Monument. March 21, 2014

Wat Inthakin facing west. March 21, 2014...

Wat Inthakin facing west…

...And facing east.

…and facing east. Look at the hazy sky. March 21, 2014.

In front of Hug Academy, right in the center of the Old CIty. Smoke filled air.

In front of Hug Academy, right in the center of the Old City. Smoke filled air. March 21, 2014.

The south side of the moat near Chiang Mai Gate. Smog of March 21, 2014.

The south side of the moat near Chiang Mai Gate. The smog of March 21, 2014.

I was cycling around the Old City while taking these pictures and had to go home because my eyes were red and burning from all the particulate matter in the air. At least I wasn’t coughing, but I’ve been sneezing today. It’s time to wear my heavy duty mask while cycling.

Curious to see just how bad the air was, I looked at this website http://aqmthai.com/ to better inform myself.

This is what I found: In the middle of the Old City

This is what I found: In the middle of the Old City at Yupparaj Wittayalai School the PM level was 237. Yikes! Wait, what does that mean?

As you can see from the chart, most numbers are in white, but red means ‘unhealthy levels’ of particulate matter. The exact number of what is unhealthy seems to vary from place to place, but anything over 100 isn’t good. 237 is horrendous! Trying to get a better sense of the air pollution, I checked the Air Quality Index:

AQI - Air Quality Index, Thailand. March 22, 2014

AQI – Air Quality Index, Thailand. March 22, 2014. Chiang Mai is in the unhealthy zone at 153.

Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 7.56.57 AMWhat is that blue part? Oh, a measurement taken on top of the mountain – Doi Suthep. It must be above the smog. Note: it is only 2 points away from moderate.

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This explains a bit about the Air Quality Index

This explains a bit about the Air Quality Index

These graphs and charts aren’t fun at all, and the pictures of different faces are hardly original. To help keep some humor about the situation, a woman in Hong Kong devised the Bruce Lee Air Quality Index for her blog Expat Lingo. I like her ideas a lot. Perhaps in Thailand we could use a similar plan – the smiling to crying elephant? Maybe employ Thai comedian Khun Note Udom to liven up the AQI a bit? At least in Thailand, we know this air pollution is seasonal, and when the rains come, it will put out the fires and diminish the smoke.

Why is it so smoky?

This is a common scene just outside of town - the rice fields and mountain are stunning...and then there's the smoke. Please stop burning.

This is a common scene just outside of town – the rice fields and mountain are stunning…and then there’s the smoke. Please stop burning!

As for now, I sleep with the windows closed despite the heat. Each morning I wake up and walk out of my room, I immediately smell smoky air. Upon taking down my laundry, it smelled as if I had dried it over a bush fire, which, in a way, I had.

What is the solution? It’s a very complicated issue here. Stopping burning means using more labor intensive composting and tilling practices. It’s not an easy switch for farmers.  I am definitely not an expert on air pollution, or SE Asian farming. As a guest in this amazing country, I have no right to tell anyone how to do their business. Being an educator, I teach. It is my hope that the students will pass on the information and educate others in their communities. Children are the future. They are the ones who will make changes by leading the way to environmental sustainability.

As I was writing this very post, it started to rain for the first time in months. Hooray! Bring on the rain! Chiang Mai looks forward to having its clean air back!

Getting Rid of the Plastic Inside Me

Getting Rid of the Plastic Junk Inside Me

I did not sleep well last night and now I think I know why. I drank a bunch of my homemade kombucha at night. It must have caffeine in it, right?  I did manage to have an odd dream, which has come back into my consciousness at different points during the day.

The part I remember is that I went to squeeze a pore on my upper chest that always gets clogged. Instead of the zit type of pustules that usually emerge, it was these odd little plastic things. It was almost like a chain of stars and other colourful little plastic shapes. I got so much out. It was like a long string or chain that I didn’t know was inside, but it needed to come out. A chain of events? I was glad I got it out and felt better afterward. It wasn’t bloody or anything gross, it was just something inside that needed excavation and expulsion.

My Pisces horoscope by Rob Brezsny for last week said something about imagining the me I want to become. I feel like there is something I need to get rid of inside of me. Weight? An outdated persona? Something. In reality I have so much that needs to get done before school gets out, and I haven’t done a whole lot of good imagining lately.

Tonight I watched that Kumaré movie. I enjoyed it, and was relieved it wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be. I thought it was going to be mean and trick people. In the end, it was all about ‘the guru being inside of you’. In a way, that’s a lot like Buddhism.

So, what is it Bethy? It’s almost February 27, 2014. If you add up all those numbers to a single digit, it ends up as 9. This is the Thai superstitious number gao, which means moving forward. It’s time. Not sure how it’s going to happen, but it seems like with Mercury going direct on Feb. 28th, and a Pisces new moon the day after, that the energy is about to start flowing.

We can become what we imagine ourselves to be. Maybe, just maybe we have all these little superstitions to help us believe things to help us deal with ourselves. If we want to become better people, we need to visualize that happening. We need to believe that we can make it happen. We need to become better listeners.

Maybe You Really Are a Gorgeous Genius. Thanks Rob Brezsny

What is it? Author Elizabeth? Is it the funny book, or the serious one? Oddly, I’m leaning toward the funny one. Would it be empowering for women to be funny in a book? It’s certainly been done before, though I tend to think my story could be good and somehow different. Maybe a fusion of the serious and the funny. That way it would be real. Is that what jumps out when trying to imagine my future? What about the husband? The children? Is that the part I need to let go, or the part I need to imagine more clearly? What about teaching?

Pisces Horoscope for week of February 27, 2014 from http://freewillastrology.com/horoscopes/

“Avery, a character in Anne Michaels’ novel The Winter Vault, has a unique way of seeing. When he arrives in a place for the first time, he “makes room for it in his heart.” He “lets himself be altered” by it. At one point in the story he visits an old Nubian city in Egypt and is overwhelmed by its exotic beauty. Its brightly colored houses are like “shouts of joy,” like “gardens springing up in the sand after a rainfall.” After drinking in the sights, he marvels, “It will take all my life to learn what I have seen today.” Everything I just described is akin to experiences you could have in the coming weeks, Pisces. Can you make room in your heart for the dazzle?” – Rob Brezsny

OK Rob, I’ll make room for some dazzle. I’ll make room for what I see in my heart. Also, I think I need to read The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels. I’m supposed to go to Kerala, India on my holiday in mid-March to mid-April. I’ve heard the Indian consulate in Chiang Mai, where I should get my visa, is a nightmare. Thinking of getting it in Bangkok instead. So much of me just wants to pack it in and skip out on the whole thing. The other part of me knows that I’ve been wanting to go to India half of my life. Maybe it’s time. I haven’t even left Thailand for over a year now. It’s hard to leave this place I love, even for a vacation. Maybe with Mercury direct, planning that trip will flow more smoothly.

Maybe Kerala is the (temporary) somewhere. Is there a someone? Is there a something? Oh how I want to have time to imagine, not just for me, but for everyone. My sensitive Pisces soul knows I need to imagine. My daydreams are coming out at night because my waking life is so full. Dazzle away, person, place, or thing, I’m ready. I also ready to imagine for the good of us all.

 

Humorous Signs in Thailand

Humorous Signs in Thailand

Since I’ve been in Thailand, I’ve seen signs that have made me smile, laugh, or wonder what it was they were trying to say. Here is a sampling:

Let's start with cute graffiti

Let’s start with cute graffiti in Chiang Mai

What to order...hmm, how about Tokyo Aeademy

What to order…hmm, how about Tokyo Aeademy, or maybe League? Mama was funnier until I saw it a bunch of times – it’s a brand of instant noodles.

Here's a new food stall at Chiang Mai Gate - Fine Ease at Steak. No, they don't serve steak.

Here’s a new food stall at Chiang Mai Gate – Fine Ease at Steak. No, they don’t serve steak.

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Only deciduous trees, firs are prohibited in these parts

Only deciduous trees in this forest. Firs are prohibited in these parts.

Not Heineken, Mae Hong Son

Not Heineken, Mae Hong Son

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In a bathroom, looking down at you on the toilet

In a bathroom, looking down at you on the toilet

At a guesthouse

At a guesthouse

At another guesthouse...man, they just don't allow anything

At another guesthouse…man, they just don’t allow anything!

Why would you change from Chiangmai Garden to this?

Why would you change your name from Chiangmai Garden to this?

A reason people could be confused

A reason people could be confused

Why not?

Why not?

Oh dear!

Oh dear!

I wonder what they serve here?

I wonder what they serve here?

... Baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more!

… baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more!

In the bathroom, above the toilet

In the bathroom, above the toilet

Animal mummies

Animal mummies

Cute note from my student. Printed from her technological relic of the typewriter.

Cute note from my student. Printed from her technological relic of the typewriter.

Another attempt to encourage underage drinking

Another attempt to encourage underage drinking

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187% chocolate cake

187% ingredient chocolate cake

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Antarai!

Antarai!

It's nice they have a danger warning on this sign, but honestly, this looks more organized than most of the wiring in Chiang Mai

It’s nice they have a “danger” sign, but honestly, this looks more organized than most of the wiring in Chiang Mai.

This says, "No giants dumping trash in miniature toilets." (No, it doesn't)

This says, “No giants dumping trash in miniature toilets.” (No, it doesn’t)

Another bit of confusion

Another bit of confusion

No weapons...or ninjas

No weapons…or ninjas…

...or prostitutes

…or prostitutes

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Classic!

Classic!

This one is my all time favorite. Spaghetti vaggie.

This one is my all time favorite. Spaghetti vaggie.

To finish, a cute and very Thai truth, 'Smile is our way of life'

To finish, a cute and very Thai truth, ‘Smile is our way of life’

If you enjoyed these, let me know. There are plenty more to come.

Hidden Hike in Chiang Mai to Wat Palad วัดผาลาด

Hidden Hike in Chiang Mai to Wat Palad วัดผาลาด

Chiang Mai is a little city with plenty to do. One of the things I love, even after living here for over 2 years, is that there are still hidden gems. Last week I found one of them: the hike to วัดผาลาด.

Though I am an avid hiker, in Thailand I rarely go. This is mainly due to the heat, and the mosquitoes and snakes don’t help any. Lately it’s been cool to cold in Chiang Mai (10C – that’s 50F) especially in the mornings. This is the perfect weather for a hike.

My friend Lauren asked me to come along. It wasn't a long hike, but it was beautiful.

My friend Lauren asked me to come along. It wasn’t a long hike, but it was beautiful.

It, like many places in Thailand, had a sign that made no sense...

It, like many places in Thailand, had a sign that made no sense…

Nowhere near a car park. What did they mean? No short skirts?

Nowhere near a car park. What did they mean? No short skirts?

After a fairy short hike we arrive at Wat Palad. Nagas and waterfalls.

After a fairly short hike we arrive at Wat Palad. Nagas and waterfalls.

Buddhas blessing each step.

Buddhas blessing each step.

When I got to this point, I had to stop and take in the beauty of the whole wat grounds in the forest. The soft sound of water rushing by, the elegance and the serenity of if all really wowed me. After having been to so many wats in this city, it’s nice to know there are still lovely surprises to be had.

Looking down at a hazy Chiang Mai

Looking down at a hazy Chiang Mai

The beginning of the Wat in the forest.

The beginning of the Wat in the forest.

Decorative door with Thai astrological animals on the sides.

Decorative door with Thai astrological animals on the sides.

Door detail

Door detail

Reminiscent of the Bayon temple at Ankor Wat

Reminiscent of the Bayon temple at Ankor Wat

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Amazing Ganesh door

Amazing Ganesh door

Another effeminate looking Ganesh

Another effeminate looking Ganesh

A gentle reminder to keep a...

A gentle reminder to keep one of these

Seeing this guy meditate there felt so serene. It made me want to do another meditation retreat...maybe here if women can

Seeing this guy meditate here felt so peaceful. It made me want to do another meditation retreat…maybe even at this wat if women are allowed. It was a very special place indeed.

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Window twin details

Window twin details

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Interesting ideas

Interesting ideas

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Looking down the nagas

Looking down the nagas

Nagas on the hillside

Nagas on the hillside

Hiking back down amongst the blessed trees.

Hiking back down amongst the blessed trees.

The whole place was so spiritual, even Lauren wanted to meditate...for about 3 seconds.

The whole place was so spiritual, even Lauren wanted to meditate…for about 3 seconds.

Bamboo forest

I will most certainly go on this hike to Wat Palad again.

If you look closely, you can see the spider inside.

If you look closely, you can see the spider inside.

So often it looks like autumn in Chiang Mai

So often it looks like autumn in Chiang Mai

Here's a map, if you can read it.

Here’s a map, if you can read it.

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Acroyoga at School

Acroyoga at School

Sometimes things just work in synchronicity. My students had been learning about well-being and many different types of fitness, and a friend of mine asked if a visiting acroyoga teacher could teach at my school. I was already booked to attend his workshop the next day, so wanted to see if he would be good at not only teaching adults, but also kids. Olí, Oliver Chamorro Moreno, was amazing! I knew my students would love him. I got the okay from my boss for Olí to come be a guest teacher, and it was a go.

We started by introducing ourselves with a movement that our classmates needed to repeat.

We started by introducing ourselves with a movement that our classmates needed to repeat.

introductions

introductions

Oli style animal oriented sun salutations.

Oli style animal oriented sun salutations. These included lots of laughing.

Being lizards

Being lizards

...and a dog peeing...

…and a dog peeing…

...and frogs

…and frogs

Learning to trust each other

Learning to trust each other

Even more trust while holding on to only one hand

Even more trust while holding on to only one hand

trusting...

trusting…

...and stretching

…and stretching

learning breathe together

learning breathe together

and stand up together

trying to stand up together

This wasn't easy

This wasn’t easy

Sometimes we needed a little help. Thanks David.

Sometimes we needed a little help. Thanks David.

Plank

Plank…

...heading to child's pose...

…heading to child’s pose…

For an acroyoga partner pose

…for an acroyoga partner pose

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They can do it!

They can do it!

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Preparation for beginning  of basing and flying

Preparation for beginning of basing and flying

Oli and David show us how it's done.

Oli and David show us how it’s done.

learning to fly

learning to fly

Flying!

Flying!

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Getting a little fancy

Getting a little fancy

Students getting fancy too!

Students getting fancy too!

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Super fancy!

Super fancy!

It's so nice to see students happy for each other

It’s so nice to see students happy for each other.

Hearing about Amma and her superpowers.

Singing about Amma and her superpower…hugging

A sweet time at the closing circle was hearing the students describe how acroyoga uses many different ways of well-being. They realized it was not only physical, but a lot about trust, listening, and making connection.

Thank you Oli and David

Thank you, muchas gracias, and merci Oli and David. Also, khap khun kha Panyaden School for allowing such a fantastic workshop.

Happy New Year 2014 or 2557

Happy New Year 2014 or 2557

Happy New Year 2014

Happy New Year 2014 or is it 2557? Western year or Buddha year?

2014 started on a beach in the south of Thailand and this was my first glimpse of the new year:

Bonfires were welcome due to the chill in the air.

Bonfires were welcome due to the chill in the air.

Is it possible to have a Thai holiday without fireworks? I don't think it is.

Is it possible to have a Thai holiday without fireworks? I don’t think it is.

On January first, walking down the beach I stumbled upon this:

It looks like nothing...

It looks like nothing…

...until you look at it from another perspective. Maybe that will be a theme for 2014 - looking at things from different points of view.

…until you look at it from another perspective. Maybe that will be a theme for 2014 – looking at things from different points of view.

I couldn't believe how many perfect tiny sand dollars there were.

I couldn’t believe how many perfect tiny sand dollars there were.

This kind of beach beauty...

This kind of beach beauty…

...inspires sunset yoga.

…inspires sunset yoga.

A bungalow...

A bungalow…

...with a view

…with a view

Solar panels should get plenty of power in this sunshine,

Solar panels should get plenty of power in this sunshine.

Unfortunately, I got the worst food poisoning I have ever had in Asia and was out of commission for about two days. I just took it as a New Year’s detox. Thankfully, a new friend, Charlie brought me soda water and electrolyte beverages. When I emerged from my bungalow, there were loads of butterflies to watch.

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I heard chanting and wondered where the closest wat was. No wat, but rather blessing the opening of a new beach restaurant.

In my exhausted state, I thought I heard monks chanting from my bungalow and wondered where the closest wat was. There was no wat, but rather blessing the opening of a new beach restaurant.

Hibiscus upon walking up to the village

Hibiscus upon walking up to the village

Another butterfly plant

Another butterfly plant

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Butterflies, friendly dogs, and hammocks = happiness

Butterflies, friendly dogs, and hammocks = good medicine

Dan and Mila arrived just as I was getting better.

Dan and Mila arrived just as I was feeling better.

I met Dan on a beach in southern Thailand 14 years ago while playing frisbee in the water. We both lived in San Francisco, but wanted to move to Portland. After traveling in SE Asia, we both moved back to San Francisco. I then moved to Portland, and a few years later Dan did too. Now we’re back to how we met each other, on the beach in Thailand.

Dan continually sees the positive side to things, which makes it fun to spend time with him no matter how mundane the task. That said, some things are just fun, no matter how old you are…

...like a gigantic swing.

…like a gigantic swing

I could not stop laughing.

I could not stop laughing

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A new friend, Charlie, wanted to try it too.

Charlie wanted to try the enormous swing too.

Oh Thailand, I love you this much!

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Pictures that Captured 2013

Pictures that Captured 2013

2013 was a busy, fun-filled year. So many things were happening all the time that I didn’t blog very much at all. Here is a photo overview highlighting some memorable moments of 2013. It’s really a summary of what could have been about 20 blog posts organized chronologically for the year. Enjoy!

Starting out on January first with old friends, Cara and Katie, in Chicago.

Starting out on January first with old friends, Cara and Katie, in Chicago.

Upon returning back to Chiang Mai, I said goodbye to the rice field in my backyard and moved into...

Upon returning back to Chiang Mai, I said goodbye to the rice field in my backyard and moved into…

...this house.

…this house in the city.

My new backyard...

My new backyard…

kitchen

kitchen

and upstairs outside patio.

and upstairs outside patio

Moving into the city exchanged quiet solitude for active social life and lots more people visiting me at my home.

Visitors of all ages

Visitors of all ages

Seeking some of the quiet beauty, Kenny and I headed north to Chiang Dao.

Seeking some of the tranquil beauty, Kenny and I headed north to Chiang Dao.

Kenny chilling in the river next to the hot springs.

Kenny chilling in the river next to the hot springs.

The weekend of 3 friend's birthdays started with Kate's 40th at The Four Seasons ooh laa laa

The weekend of 3 friend’s birthdays started with Kate’s 40th at The Four Seasons in Mae Rim. Ooh laa laa!

The celebrations continued with Rose's birthday vinyasa with Vari at Wild Rose...

The celebrations continued with Rose’s birthday vinyasa with Vari at Wild Rose Yoga Studio…

...and finished with Anthony's 30th at San Kampaeng hot springs.

…and finished with Anthony’s 30th at San Kampaeng hot springs.

Still teaching outside the city in nature at Panyaden School all day Monday – Friday, living in the city has helped balance out my former semi-reclusive life with a lot more time with friends.

To make students aware of where their food comes from, we took a field trip to a rice mill.

To make students aware of where their food comes from, we took a field trip to a rice mill.

A plus about my house in the city is knowing the neighbors. An afternoon of haircuts by Guillaume, with Christophe, Rose, and Felicity, in my neighbor Christophe's backyard.

A plus about my house in the city is knowing the neighbors. An afternoon of haircuts by Guillaume, with Christophe, Rose, and Felicity, in my neighbor Christophe’s backyard.

After doing a fun run for Burmese refugees in the morning, I headed to Pai for a 3-day weekend in late February for some time to read and relax.

After doing a fun run for Burmese refugees in the morning, I headed to Pai for a 3-day weekend in late February for some time to read and relax by myself.

The school year ended mid-March before Chiang Mai gets too smoky and hot. This was one group of projects - making their own vehicle.

The school year ended mid-March before Chiang Mai got too smoky and hot. This was one group student of projects – making their own vehicles.

Friends of Panyaden (our school's PTA with me representing the T part) had an end of the year picnic at the 'sticky waterfalls'.

Friends of Panyaden (our school’s PTA, with me representing the T part) had an end of the year picnic at the ‘sticky waterfall’.

'The sticky waterfall' is an unusual type of rock formation that doesn't allow the rocks to become slippery. It is possible to walk up the waterfall, even for children. Pretty cool indeed.

‘The sticky waterfall’ is an unusual type of rock formation that doesn’t allow the rocks to become slippery. It is possible to walk up the waterfall, even for children. Very cool indeed.

Birthday flowers

An array of purple hues: birthday flowers, pretty lights, and lanna weaving.

Christophe and I went to Chiang Dao for his birthday, also in mid-March, but it was getting very smoky.

Christophe and I took a holiday in Chiang Dao for his birthday, also in mid-March, but it was getting very smoky.

To escape the smoke in the end of March, it was time to head south.

To escape the smoke of Northern Thailand in the end of March, it was time to head south.

Pong and I headed to a little island.

Pong and I headed to a little island.

Our bamboo beach hut

Our bamboo beach hut

and inside

Inside our bamboo bungalow

colorful crabs

colorful crabs

beautiful beaches

beautiful beaches

perplexing pirate ships

perplexing pirate ships

This is how cashew nuts grow. It's just the part on the end of a big fruit. They need to be harvested individually, the nut is then cut from the fruit, shelled, and dried. Quite a process. It explains why they're expensive.

This is how cashew nuts grow. It’s just the part on the end of a big fruit. They need to be harvested individually, the nut is then cut from the fruit, shelled, and dried. Quite a process. It explains why they’re expensive.

Caring for an injured hornbill

Caring for an injured hornbill

Thai style ceviche

Thai style ceviche

Cute girls on a swing

Cute girls on a swing

Our canine travel companion

Our canine travel companion

And the nightly beautiful sunset made me want to stay on that special place for a long time. Thai 'summer' school break was coming to an end, and almost 3 weeks on the beach with no internet, it was time to return to Chiang Mai.

And the nightly beautiful sunsets made me want to stay in that special place for a long time. Thai ‘summer’ school break was coming to an end, and after almost 3 weeks on the beach with no internet, it was time to return to the Chiang Mai heat of mid-April…

Just in time for Songkran, Thai New Year and water throwing festival. Alana laughing with Pong, who is  armed and ready.

Just in time for Songkran, Thai New Year and water throwing festival. Alana laughing with Pong, who is armed and ready.

This is who might soak you during Songkran.

This is who might soak you during Songkran.

Starting the new school year in May, my students wrote brochures on what they like to do in Chiang Mai province. This student gives clever tips on how to stay dry during Songkran.

Starting the new school year in May, my students wrote brochures on what they like to do in Chiang Mai province. This student gives clever tips on how to stay dry during Songkran.

Bekkah gives me a yogic lift

Bekkah gives me a yogic lift

Dogs on motorbikes never cease to amuse me.

Dogs on motorbikes never cease to amuse me.

Here are some of my ceramic pieces, glazed but not fired.

Rekindling an old passion, I took ceramic classes on the weekends. Here are some of my pieces, glazed but not fired.

My outstanding ceramics teacher Jern, showing me trimming techniques.

My outstanding ceramics teacher Jern, showing me trimming techniques.

High tea with Alana at the Chedi

High tea with Alana at the Chedi. More food than we can eat.

Pong and Rose having a laugh over kanom jeen at Chiang Mai Gate.

Pong and Rose having a laugh over kanom jeen at Chiang Mai Gate.

Backyard blooming lotus

Backyard blooming lotus in June

This stunning creature devoured most of my African Mask plants.

This stunning creature devoured most of my African Mask plants.

When I took my car to the mechanic because it was overheating, he fixed the engine problem. He was a better mechanic than driver, because he returned my car like this after he ran into my friend's car.

When I took my car to the mechanic because it was overheating, he fixed the engine problem. He was a better mechanic than driver, because he returned my car like this after he ran into my friend’s car. Don’t worry, he’ll fix it.

To learn about Thai culture and history, we took a field trip to a 700 year old temple in Chiang Mai

To learn about Thai culture and history, we took a field trip to a 700 year old temple in Chiang Mai.

Wat Jed Yot

Wat Jed Yot

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On those sultry summer days, a Thai tea really hits the spot.

On those sultry summer days in July, a Thai tea really hits the spot.

A week off in the end of July took me to these turquoise waters of the coast of Ko Adang National Park

Kru Jeab captivating her K2 students at Panyaden.

A week off in the end of July took me to these turquoise waters of the coast of Ko Adang National Park.

A week off in the end of July took me to these turquoise waters off the coast of Ko Adang National Park.

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Lovely Mon Chaem

Lovely Mon Chaem just north of Chiang Mai

One of the coolest insects I've ever seen. Anyone know what this iridescent orange turtle shaped beetle thing is called?

One of the coolest insects I’ve ever seen. Anyone know what this iridescent orange, turtle shaped beetle thing is called?

Planting rice with Kru Neung on Thai Mother's Day, August 5th.

Planting rice with Kru Neung and our students on Thai Mother’s Day, August 5th.

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We will eventually eat this rice at school.

We will eventually eat this rice at school.

The green season is sure is beautiful. View from Panyaden.

The green season sure is lovely. View from Panyaden School.

To make Panyaden even more beautiful we thought we'd attract some more birds by building them houses.

To make Panyaden even more beautiful, we thought we’d attract some more birds by building them houses.

My nickname has made it to Thailand!

My nickname has made it to Thailand!

Detail of the silver wat

Detail of the silver wat in Chiang Mai.

Surfing in Chiang Mai at Art in Paradise.

Surfing in Chiang Mai at Art in Paradise.

Pong gets some wine

Pong gets some wine

Good thing I had the bridge the little kid didn't quite make it.

Good thing I had the bridge. The little kid didn’t quite make it.

October outside of Pai

October in the countryside outside of Pai

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Spirit house Samui

Spirit house Samui

Fantastic Thai massage in the most unlikely spot - on the beach in Ko Samui.

Fantastic Thai massage from Pi Niam in an unlikely spot – on the beach in Ko Samui.

My day of luxury at Saree Samui

My day of luxury at Saree Samui

The lovely new detail to my gate.

The lovely new detail to my gate.

A day out at Huay Tung Tao with Rowan

An October day out at Huay Tung Tao with Rowan

Acroyoga in the park with Emily

Acroyoga in the park with Emily

Acroyoga in my living room with Emily, Zahara, Neko, and Vari.

Acroyoga in my living room with Emily, Zahara, Neko, and Vari.

Leading my students on a walking meditation.

Leading my students on a walking meditation at Panyaden

Taking the students hiking and playing in the river at our Doi Inthanon overnight field trip.

Taking the students hiking and playing in the river at our Doi Inthanon overnight field trip.

Moths of unusal size at Doi Inthanon National Park.

Moths of unusal size

Doi Inthanon

Doi Inthanon trip

Near the top of the highest point in Thailand

Near the top of the highest point in Thailand, Doi Inthanon

Hike at Doi Inthanon

Hike at Doi Inthanon

Making Krathongs at Panyaden for Loy Krathong

In November we made krathongs at Panyaden for Loy Krathong

Students dancing for Loy Krathong

Students dancing for Loy Krathong

Letting my Krathong go.

Letting my krathong go

Floating krathongs on the lake at Panyaden.

Floating krathongs on the lake at Panyaden.

The Yee Peng festival at Mae Jo University. 10,000 komloys let off at once.

The Yee Peng festival at Mae Jo University. 10,000 komloys let off at once.

Lauren and I made our own krathongs to float on the Ping river.

Lauren and I made our own krathongs to float on the Ping river for Loy Krathong

Kenny and I let off a komloy from a rooftop in Chiang Mai.

Letting off a komloy from a rooftop in Chiang Mai with Kenny.

Funny signs in Chiang Mai (there are lots of these - blog post coming soon).

Funny signs in Chiang Mai (there are lots of these – blog post coming soon).

Kate and I thinking we might have an Owen Wilson sighting as they film The Coup in Chiang Mai. Alas, we didn't see him.

Kate and I thinking we might have an Owen Wilson sighting as they film The Coup in Chiang Mai. Alas, we didn’t see him.

I had about 30 people to my house for Thanksgiving dinner. This is only a small part of the feast.

I had about 30 people to my house for Thanksgiving dinner. This is only a small part of the feast.

Some of the Thanksgiving friends, Abby, Mark, Jessica, Sara, and Balaram.

Some of the Thanksgiving friends, Abby, Mark, Jessica, Sarra, and Balaram.

Amazing insect

Amazing insect

'Iron chef' cooking competition at our Doi Inthanon staff outing.

‘Iron chef’ judges tasting our creations for the cooking competition at our Doi Inthanon staff outing.

No question that nature is the best artist. Unbelievable chrysalis.

No question that nature is the best artist. Unbelievable chrysalis.

Father's Day rice harvest, December 5th.

Father’s Day rice harvest with Kru Jan on December 5th.

Does Kenny have happy saliva? NAP fair in Chiang Mai.

Does Kenny have happy saliva? NAP fair in Chiang Mai.

Beautiful Chiang Dao at Yang Tone Farmstay.

Beautiful Chiang Dao at Yang Tone Farmstay.

Super smily girl in the hot spring.

Super smily girl in the hot spring.

Teachers and students raising money for the Philippines.

Teachers and students at Panyaden raising money for the Philippines by singing.

Our staff costume party. The theme was a childhood book character. I won second prize, probably because I spoke in rhyme.

Our staff costume party. The theme was a childhood book character. I won second prize, probably because I spoke in rhyme.

Cat in the Hat and Snow White/zombie.

Cat in the Hat and Snow White/zombie.

Silly breakfast shot at Good Morning Chiang Mai with Joe, Zsa Zsa, Johnny, Rose, Lorenzo, and Emily.

Silly breakfast shot at Good Morning Chiang Mai with Joe, Zsa Zsa, Johnny, Rose, Lorenzo, and Emily.

Fun day out in Warorot Market and at Thamel Tea House with Rose.

Fun day out in Warorot Market and at Thamel Tea House with Rose.

Fun to see Armando, who I met here two years ago, and meet his girlfriend.

Fun to see Armando, who I met here two years ago, and meet his girlfriend.

Lovely, yet chilly, Ayurveda and yoga retreat at Om Waters.

Lovely, yet chilly, Ayurveda and yoga retreat at Om Waters.

Yoga at Om Waters

Yoga at Om Waters

Angie, Dao, Heather, Balaram, Yan, Hannah, Sarra, Rose and Surya for our Om Waters retreat.

Angie, Dao, Heather, Balaram, Yan, Hannah, Sarra, Rose and Surya for our Om Waters retreat

Temple dogs

Temple dogs in sweaters

Having old friends Dan and Mila visit for Christmas.

Having old friends Dan and Mila visit for Christmas

Dan and PJ jamming silly songs in Chiang Dao.

Dan and PJ jamming silly songs in Chiang Dao

Happy birthday PJ in Chiang Dao.

Happy birthday PJ in Chiang Dao. Very chilly December 28th.

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Lots of love and gratitude to everyone who made 2013 such a wonderful year. Happy 2014!

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