Itty Bitty Frogs and Toads

Itty Bitty Frogs and Toads

After the smoky and hot season in Chiang Mai comes to an end each year, starts the magic of the rainy season. While those who ride motorbikes might find it slightly inconvenient, we all love how it cools things down. That said, my favourite part is that the frogs and toads begin their nighttime serenade.

This is my backyard:

backyard from the second floor porch

View of the backyard from the second floor porch

View of the backyard from the guest room

View of the backyard from the guest room

Right outside the kitchen lies...

Right outside the kitchen lies…

...the fish pond

…the fish pond. I mean, the fish and tadpole pond

This fish pond is actually home to hundreds, possibly thousands, of tadpoles. This time of year they start turning into the tiniest frogs and toads imaginable.

Here is a frog next to a one baht coin. This coin is somewhere between the size of a penny and dime or  about the size of a two cent Euro coin. This means it's small...

Here is a frog next to a one baht coin. This coin is somewhere between the size of a penny and dime, or about the size of a two cent Euro coin. This means it’s small. Very very small.

...so that gives you an idea how very miniature these little toads are.

That gives you an idea how very miniature these little toads are.

When I water the plants in my garden, I fear stepping on them as they are smaller than houseflies. Usually, they let me know they’re there and hop away. I’m pretty sure they are prey for the fish in my pond.

It’s funny to say it, especially after living in Portland, Oregon, but I welcome the rain. Ahh, cooler temperatures (this means going from highs being around 40C {104F} to highs around 34C {93F}. It also means seeing and hearing the baby frogs and toads.

Today, while I was at school, one of my students showed me a frog hanging out in a drain. She knew I would appreciate it. Anyone who grew up with me could tell you that frogs are one of my very favourite animals. I’m so glad I get to see and hear them on a daily basis.

The delights of living in the tropics. The wind is starting to blow and I hear some thunder in the distance right now…singing frogs are not far behind.

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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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I Live Here

I Live Here

The other day, my friend Jean asked me for pictures of where I live. I realize I wrote that I planned on moving in, but have not posted pictures since I moved in my house. Here is where I live:

505 Easy Peacy – written by my Thai landlady

I live about 10 minutes outside the city, 15 minutes from the old city of Chiang Mai to the south near Hang Dong.

Nice kitchen

dining area

Guest room that has a brand new mattress and closet. Garden and rice field view. Come visit!!

Guest bathroom with tile floors that have a separating wall so the shower water doesn’t get all over the whole bathroom floor.

yoga/meditation room with view of rice field

Master bathroom with tile floors that have a separating wall so the shower water doesn’t get all over the whole bathroom floor – mentioned again as this is unusual in Thailand.

I didn’t like the stark white walls everywhere, so this was a temporary fix…

…but painting the wall and decorating made it better.

My favorite room in the house is the master bedroom, its purple decorative walls and rice field view…

…decorating to make it feel like my home

The fish pond in the front yard.

Entertaining Thai style in the front garden amongst the thai herbs, fan palm, plumeria, banana and mango trees.

Undoubtedly my favorite part of my house is the rice field view. Here are a few of the many pictures I’ve taken, as it’s a constantly changing landscape:

day after moving in view, Jan 7 before the rice was planted

Jan 29 sunset from my back porch

Egret in January

back when the rice was short I enjoyed watching the birds fishing Feb 5

Early February view from back porch

February 15 sunset view

The eventual greening of the rice and bird life make it a great place to sit and watch nature.

Everyday I wake up and feel fortunate that I live in this beautiful place. More gratitude to Thailand and its beauty.

Trying to Feel Like an Adult Human Being

Trying to Feel Like an Adult Human Being

I have been living out of a backpack a long time. Moving into a place where I’d be staying a while and hanging my clothes on hangers in an actual closet was a delight. Even if it’s just for a couple of weeks. While traveling, living out of a backpack is fine, but I’m no longer traveling. I’ve been working here for over a month. Shopping, especially at a mall, I usually find excruciating. I found an odd pleasure in buying a French press coffee maker, a towel, and drinking glasses. I think it’s because I’d like to settle in and call this place home for a while.

I now have a pay check, and a Thai bank account, next step is an address. I have spent quite a few weekend days looking at houses with several different realtors. For the record, foreigners can’t  own a house or land in Thailand, I will just be renting. I have seen a lot of ugly places with odd layouts that I didn’t take pictures of. Jim (who is a female), the cute independent realtor always shows me the pretty houses.

The main problem is many of Thai style houses don’t have a kitchen, or sometimes the kitchen is outside. Almost every bathroom I’ve seen has a shower with no curtain or barrier to the rest of the bathroom so the floors are always wet in the whole bathroom.

At first glance I fell in love with this house...

Having these guys as my welcoming committee didn't hurt...

I have never seen anything like this in any Thai house. Usually it's a shower that get the whole floor wet. I don't think I'd use it except for in December and January.

Nice and unusual plants

and not a bad view

interesting bedroom

I thought about this house a lot. The thing was, it was a little expensive and a one bedroom house. There were no kitchen cupboards, no closets, and really nowhere to put anything. Even though it was charming, it was too expensive and not practical.

This little house and big pond had potential...

nice kitchen nook

This house wasn’t very expensive and the price even got reduced. It was far from my school and pretty far from everything else too. Definitely not  cycling distance to work.

This beautiful house was even farther away, and too big for one person, but pretty nonetheless

the details were gorgeous

though this was about the extent of the furniture. I don't really like the bedroom either

This house would have been too big, and too isolating for me. It was so far away, I’d have hated the commute to work. If I were living there with a few people, it’d be one thing.

In the end, even though these were by far the best of what I saw, I still decided against all these houses. I’d like to find a house soon. I know I will.

House Hunt, Working with Children, Exhaustion, and Elegance

House Hunt, Working with Children, Exhaustion, and Elegance

Staying in guesthouse is fine for  while, but when you’re working, it becomes kind of a drag. The day after the Komloy festival, I went to go look at a few houses. Unfortunately, it seems that Thailand has taken after the suburban US with having gated communities and houses that all look the same. I don’t think that’s for me.

The Thai version of Pleasantville - the gated communities where all the houses look the same, very small yards, houses too close together, and everything is paved. I don't think that's for me.

The houses are fine on the inside...

...and this is more than your average Thai kitchen, which is often non-existent

I love the orchids, but the entire yard is paved and I'm on top of my neighbors. I am not going to live here.

I got back to Chiang Mai after looking at a few houses near Panyaden School, which is about 30 minutes south of the city. I really don’t think I want to make that commute everyday, and there isn’t public transportation there. I’ll need to live closer to school. I love Chiang Mai and it has plenty of peaceful spots, but it can be loud and polluted in other spots. After walking around the city looking for places to stay, I took refuge in Wat Chang Man.

Wat Chang Man

Naga detail - Wat Chang Man

Elephant (Chang) detail - Wat Chang Man

Luckily, two of my new colleagues, Amanda and Robert, said I could stay with them for a while. After seeing their amazing house, which is conveniently located very close to school, it will be hard to settle for something average.

Amanda outside her lovely house

the gate going into Amanda and Robert's house

Their living room

Entrance to master bedroom

the bookshelf

one of their bathrooms. Yes, Amanda and Robert's house is unique and lovely with a huge yard. I think I'll take some time looking for a good place.

The first week of teaching went well. Our curriculum (International Primary Curriculum) is integrated throughout the subject areas and centered around a theme. We started with a unit called “The Power of Water”, which seemed rather fitting considering the horrible flooding down in Bangkok. We even got 2 extra students from Bangkok who were staying in Chiang Mai for a while, until the flooding situation improved.

The power of water, "How far up do you predict this 'rocket' will fly?"

My students showing the power of water with a 'water rocket'

Panyaden is also a bilingual school, so I share my class with a Thai teacher. I lucked out and got an incredible teaching partner named Goy. She speaks English quite well, is a good teacher, and we’ve laughed together a lot already.

Goy teaching about why floods in Bangkok happened with 3D models

I love the hands on learning at Panyaden...so do the students

So far, I absolutely love my job. I was concerned about teaching children again due to the amount of energy it takes. Last spring I had mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr virus or glandular fever). Apparently 95% of the population has been exposed by age 40. How I missed out is hard to say. Regardless, it completely wiped me out for about 3 months, and I still have moments of exhaustion nearly 8 months later. I mention this because by the end of this week, my throat started hurting and I was extremely fatigued. Shoot! I hope this is short lived. I know the only thing I can do to make myself better is sleep sleep sleep.

It does make sense why I’ve gotten ill, I do have some stressors in my life: a new country where I can only speak a basic amount of the language, a new job, no place to live, no transportation, etc. Settling in takes a while. Patience. Take it slowly and enjoy each beautiful moment.

The view of Panyaden School and rice fields on the way back to Amanda and Robert's house