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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Loi Loi Krathong

Loi Loi Krathong

“Loi loi krathong, loi loi krathong, loi krathong is here and everybody starts to cheer…” This is a song my students have been learning to sing in both English and Thai and play on the xylophone in music class. I had read about this festival and seen pictures before, but I cannot think of a better way to see and learn about Loi Krathong firsthand than at Panyaden School in Chiang Mai.

I figured my students knew a lot about Loi Krathong from celebrating it and from learning about it in Thai history class, but thought a little reading comprehension activity in English couldn’t hurt. OK, and admittedly, I wanted to know more about the holiday. I got the information from Wikipedia, slightly revised and edited it for my students, and then made some reading comprehension questions below.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loi_Krathong – my source for the following edited version:

‘Loi Krathong takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. In the western calendar this usually falls in November.

Loi literally means ‘to float,’ while krathong refers to the lotus-shaped receptacle which can float on the water. Originally, the krathong was made of banana leaves or the layers of the trunk of a banana tree. A krathong contains food, flowers, joss sticks, candle and coins. Modern krathongs are more often made of bread or styrofoam. A bread krathong will disintegrate in a few a days and be eaten by fish and other animals. The traditional banana stalk krathongs are also biodegradable, but styrofoam krathongs are frowned on, since they are polluting and may take years to disappear. 

A krathong is decorated with elaborately-folded banana leaves, flowers, candles and incense sticks. A low value coin is sometimes included as an offering to the river spirits. During the night of the full moon, Thai people will float their krathong on a river, canal or a pond lake. The festival is believed to originate in an ancient practice of paying respect to the spirit of the waters. 

Thai people celebrate Loi Krathong to honour the original Buddha, Siddhartha Guatama with light (the candle on the raft). The act of floating away the candle raft is symbolic of letting go of all one’s grudges, anger and impurities, so that one can start life afresh. People also cut their fingernails and hair and add them to the raft as a symbol of letting go of the bad parts of oneself. Many Thai believe that floating a raft will bring good luck, and they do it to thank the Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha.

Yi Peng

Loi Krathong coincides with the Lanna (northern Thai) festival known as “Yi Peng” (Thai: ยี่เป็ง). Many Lanna-style lanterns (khom loi (Thai: โคมลอย), literally: “floating lanterns”) are launched into the air where they resemble large flocks of giant fluorescent jellyfish gracefully floating through the sky. The festival is meant as a time for tham bun (Thai: ทำบุญ), to make merit

People usually make khom loi from a thin fabric, such as rice paper, to which a candle or fuel cell is attached. When the fuel cell is lit, the resulting hot air which is trapped inside the lantern creates enough lift for the khom loi to float up in to the sky.

The most elaborate Yi Peng celebrations can be seen in Chiang Mai, the ancient capital of the former Lanna kingdom, where now both Loi Krathong and Yi Peng are celebrated at the same time resulting in lights floating on the waters, lights hanging from trees/buildings, and lights floating by in the sky.’

How well will you do on the reading comprehension questions about Loi Krathong?

1. When is Loi Krathong celebrated? __________________________________________

2. What does Loi Krathong mean?

Loi –  ________________________________________

Krathong – ______________________________________________________________

3. What is a Krathong made of? _____________________________________________

4. What does a Krathong contain?  _________________________________________

5. Why shouldn’t we make Krathongs from styrofoam? __________________________

6. What  do Thai people do on Loi Krathong? __________________________________

7. Who is honoured for Loi Krathong? __________________________________________

8. What does floating the Krathong in water symbolize? ____________________________

9. Why do people float khom loi in the air? ____________________________________

10. How do khom loi float in the air? __________________________________________

Whew! You passed! So, now you get to see it in action:

How to make an environmentally responsible krathong – with banana stalks and leaves

Kru Ota helps add banana leaves

A final flowery product

Kru Jeab and her krathong

Kru Aor’s vision of cobalt and plum

Since hiking down to float Krathongs in the river wouldn’t be safe, we did the next best thing – float them in the pool.

Ready to float your krathong?

They float!

Homemade komloys created in math class. What a cool way to teach circumference!

Teacher Robert lets it go!

Getting ready to light another math class  komloy

Waiting for the komloy to fill with hot air

komloy + math class = fantastic

Now I know, some of you are surely thinking, wait a second, kids are holding a flaming paper object?! Is that safe? Well, not entirely. To give them credit the kids know not to touch the fire. When the komloy float, it’s not a problem. Sometimes though the hot air isn’t strong enough to fully lift the komloy before it gets let go, and if wind blows, they might get stuck in a tree…or on the school roof. Yes, that happened. The fire was put out in an instant and no damage was done. Also, the rainy season just ended and it’s pretty tropical here anyway. It’d be difficult to start a big fire. If komloys do come down, they are made of biodegradable rice paper and bamboo, so no damage is done. Usually they float so high, you never see them again.

And here is Teacher Robert voicing what many are probably thinking:

Afterwards, we took the krathongs back out of the water so kids could take them home and float them with their families.

Post pool krathong pose

This is the one I made

Back at Nugent Waterside, the place where I was staying, we celebrated too.

Jessica with my krathong in the foreground

Banana stalk and bread krathongs – the one in the back is hard dyed bread that the catfish devoured instantaneously.

Off to float the krathong

More komloy lift off…

I guess I just don’t ever get tired of watching these…

In the US, it’s just post Halloween. I’d take a couple weeks of Loi Krathong over a day of Halloween. Since I’m here now, that’s just what I’m doing.

Komloy Festival – The One I’d Been Waiting to See

Komloy Festival

It’s October 29th and again, the 15 days on my visa are up. I need to head to the border to renew my visa for another 15 days…again. Yesterday, before heading to Wat Doi Suthep with the Panyaden staff, I stopped by Kavil Guesthouse to buy my ticket for the minibus to the border – this time at Mae Sai, Thailand and Tachiliek, Myanmar. I was told to be there on Saturday morning by 6:45 am.

I was barely awake when I arrived and cute Noi, who works there said, “This man, he ask about Panyaden School.” His name was Armando. He was from Puerto Rico and traveling through Thailand and Laos with his 6 year-old daughter named Iroko. She was still sleeping while Armando and I talked. My minibus was super late, and I can honestly say I was rather pleased because I spent about 90 minutes in an interesting conversation with Armando. What an interesting person!

I opted for a seat further back in the minibus when my front row window got a bit scary with the driving. Otherwise, the border crossing was uneventful.

I arrived back at Kavil at about 6pm. I saw Iroko and asked where her dad was. I invited them both to go see the Komloy festival at Mae Jo University, but that we’d need to leave…like now. Just then, Armando appeared and we were off to go find a songthaew, and next thing we knew the 3 of us were headed to Mae Jo University. Perfect timing.

Komloy are giant floating lanterns lit off for good luck. They are flat like a hula hoop and made of a bamboo circle and covered in paper that inflates with hot air. On the bottom is a waxy wick the size of a hockey puck, this is lit and then you need to wait until enough hot air fills the lantern and it floats gracefully into the sky.

I lit one of these off at Wat Chedi Luang to ring in my 30th birthday years ago. It was impressive with just one. My birthday is in March, and I heard that on Loi Krathong, in November, thousands of these get lit off at once. Tonight, at Mae Jo University, was that night: 10,000 fiery lanterns aloft at once.

Armando and me

Lighting the komloy

The first floating komloy of the evening…but definitely not the last

Iroko and Elizabeth lighting the komloy

Making a wish and letting it go

…Iroko’s wish…

…Armando’s wish

Armando y Iroko

In this case the pictures and videos do the talking. I was delighted to be there with Armando and Iroko. It was a positively magical experience and my companions made it even better. These videos do better than words to capture the experience. Please watch on full screen mode. Sorry about the sideways action. Enjoy!

The pictures, while interesting, cannot begin show how absolutely stunning the evening was. Finally, I got to be a part of this amazing festival. Pure magic!

Thank you Mae Jo University, Armando, Iroko, all of you who let go of lanterns, and big thank you Thai people for having this festival. It is a sight that was more spectacular than anything I’ve see in a long time. No words can express my feelings here. Armando said something along these lines, “In other parts of the world people are celebrating death this time of year (Oct. 29), here they are celebrating life.” Iroko rode elephants in the morning and was here in the evening, it was one of her favorite days of her life. Although we are a lot older than her 6 years, Armando and I agreed that they were some of our favorite moments too. ¡Que maravilla! One is never too old to experience wonder. Lots of love!