Think Big Thoughts but Relish Small Pleasures

Think Big Thoughts but Relish Small Pleasures

I’ve always loved this quote by H. Jackson Brown, Jr. Living in Thailand and being a teacher remind me to ‘Think big thoughts but relish small pleasures’ daily. For example…

Gorgeous floating flowers in pots.

Gorgeous floating flowers in pots

Seeing a pineapple plant grow

Seeing a pineapple plant grow

Accidentally happening upon a charming rooftop restaurant in Chiang Mai

Accidentally happening upon a charming rooftop restaurant in Chiang Mai

This graceful little flower known as anchan in Thai, butterfly pea in English, and scientifically as clitoria.

This graceful little flower known as anchan in Thai, butterfly pea in English, and scientifically as clitoria

Seeing the creativity of students' recycled art projects.

Witnessing the creativity of students’ recycled art projects

Hiking with this little cutie named Manee

Hiking with this little cutie named Manee

Noticing the 'Wintry' and 'Summer' settings on the hot water heater for a shower

Noticing the ‘Wintry’ and ‘Summer’ settings on the hot water heater for a shower

Having a little think by the lake

Having a little think by the lake

Finding a student's drawing of/for me

Finding a student’s drawing of/for me

Blatant copyright infringement

Hilarious and blatant copyright infringement

The exquisite mangosteen - edible art

The exquisite mangosteen – edible art

Cutting into a papaya, and finding a star.

Cutting into a papaya, and finding a star.

Students making a game out of weeding the rice

Students making a game out of weeding the rice field

Students ploughing like buffalo

Having fun ploughing like buffalo

...and playing with the plough

…and playing with the plough

The lotuses that bloom in the morning

The lotuses that bloom in the morning

The serenity of the ubiquitous Buddha images

The serenity of the ubiquitous Buddha images

Planting rice at Panyaden on Thai Mother's Day

Planting rice at Panyaden School on Thai Mother’s Day

After four years of living and teaching in Thailand, I have learned a few simple, but profound lessons:

Noticing what children and nature teach us is worthwhile. Pay attention. Be present. Think big thoughts, but relish small pleasures.

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Justice vs Forgiveness

Justice vs Forgiveness

I recently attended a women’s circle in Chiang Mai at Wild Rose where we drew questions revolving around a theme. One of the questions I drew was: ‘What is more important, justice or forgiveness?’

Which one is it justice or forgiveness? Not the horrible injustices in the world, but the day to day ones we all feel. When someone has ‘wronged’ us, so often we want retribution. We’re angry. We want vindication. I realized that I’ve wanted that. Then I thought about it with a little more compassion.

I have been focusing on wise speech, and had shared this with my students:

Just think about it

Just think about it

It felt hypocritical to ask this of them, and yet, not live up to it myself. I’d said some things out of anger that didn’t make me feel good on the inside. I needed to let go of anger.

What we don’t always realize is that hanging on to anger keeps us away from joy.

A few days later, Phra Ajarn Jayasaro gave a dhamma talk at Panyaden about anger. He explained that anger is frustrated desire. He continued by saying, “Anger can only arise through a lack of understanding of the way things are.” In anger we deliberately turn away from some elements of truth.

I am paraphrasing some of what Ajarn Jayasaro said here: Every time we act on an angry impulse, we feed that anger. Every indulgence makes it more a part of us. We can’t just decide not to be angry, but we can decide not to abuse physically or verbally. We need to feed mindfulness. If we’re mindful, irritation gets nipped in the bud. If we consciously decide to use metta (loving kindness), that is what will grow.

His dhamma talk is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdXd–FRjSA

Seeing things the way they are isn’t always easy. Meditation helps, but it takes so much practice. We all make mistakes.

I just started reading a book called, Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Becky A. Bailey. She wrote, “Each moment is as it is because the entire universe is as it is. When you struggle against the moment…you are struggling against the universe. No wonder you feel tired!” 

I was tired. It is now time to try and see things as they are. 

The antidote to anger is love and metta. The more I focus on being loving, the more I feel loved. We get more of what we focus on.

I was pondering this while riding my bike home and stopped to take this picture. What do you notice? Where is your focus? The palm trees? The cloudy sky? The wires? The elephant? The tree with the orange blossoms?  Whatever you notice, how does it make you feel?

You get more of what you focus on

You get more of what you focus on

So, is it justice or forgiveness? For me, it’s forgiveness. Forgive others for the mistakes they’ve made. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made. Forgive and let it go.

Nothing like a little Chiang Mai graffiti to remind us what's most important: All your need is love.

Nothing like a little Chiang Mai graffiti to remind us what’s most important: All your need is love 

Forgiveness is a step toward love.

“Love is stronger than justice, love is thicker than blood. Love, love, love is stronger than justice, love is a big fat river in flood.” – Sting

Daily Bits of Joy ประจำวันปิติ

Daily Bits of Joy ประจำวันปิติ

Living in Chiang Mai gives me a dose of elation on a daily basis. In the morning, this is the beauty I see:

This tree greets me everyday as I walk into school.

This tree greets me everyday as I walk into work at Panyaden School.

Walking to the office includes bananas and Bodhi trees.

On my way to the office includes bananas and Bodhi trees.

My new classroom

My new classroom

The beginning of the rainy season viewed from my classroom. Ahh, a relief from the heat.

The beginning of the rainy season viewed from my classroom. Ahh, a relief from the heat.

Jubilant children running through puddles.

Jubilant children running through puddles.

Blooming lotus in my backyard. บัวบาน

Blooming lotus in my backyard. บัวบาน

Buddha image delighting in the lotus

Buddha image delighting in the lotus

All of nature reminding us to be mindful of each moment. Everything is temporary. Notice beauty.

ดอกบัว

ดอกบัว

Don’t Touch the Cobra

Don’t Touch the Cobra

This was the advice I received from the Buddhist nun, Ajarn Sundara, who visited our school. It was in response to my question about how to deal with a recurring thought.

‘Thoughts are like cobras in the mind. If you don’t touch them, they won’t hurt you.’ As odd as this might sound, it actually did make me feel better. Now when the thought comes, I don’t ignore it, but tell it kindly that I know what it is, and that I have no use for the thought anymore. To keep investigating it is like poking at a cobra. If I don’t bother with it, it will go away eventually. I have poked and prodded this serpentine nagging in my mind for too long now. 

I sense that the cobra is in the process of slowly slithering away. Without the cobra plaguing my mind, things are becoming clearer again. It feels like there is more spaciousness and more freedom to just be.

thumbs_IMG_5327Offering rice to Ajarn Sundara on Makha Bucha Day at Panyaden School.

 

Rice Farmer in a Past Life?

Rice Farmer in a Past Life?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIs it possible that I was a Thai rice farmer in a past life? There is no way to know for sure. For some reason the sight of rice fields both delight and a remind me of something from long ago. I never tire of the verdant waves in their paddies: from the young pale green stalks, to the darker and taller plants, the whole growing season is gorgeous. Even when the rice is a hay-like colour at harvest time, it’s still absolutely beautiful.

Not only do I like to look at the rice, but planting it is also a joy. Stepping in the muddy water and feeling the squishy soil between my toes is remarkably soothing. It’s slippery, messy and fun.

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About two weeks ago at Panyaden School we planted rice for Mother’s Day (August 12 – the Queen’s birthday). It will be harvested on Father’s Day (December 5 – the King’s birthday).

The process involves taking a few stalks of rice seedlings and plugging them in the mushy mud. After a while with the sun beating down, stooping over, and being covered in mud could get very uncomfortable. As for me, our hour-long planting session wasn’t nearly enough time.

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Surprisingly, way up north in Chiang Mai far away from the sea, the rice paddies make homes for fish, frogs, and even crabs. We noticed fish and tadpoles swimming, and watched a few frogs jump to safety away from our feet.

There must be something about being muddy. I have always adored ceramics, and while in Colombia, the mud volcano topped the list of attractions of the senses.

Ahh, the visually captivating rice fields of Northern Thailand fill me with reverie. Planting rice feels so natural and a perfect way to be connected with the land, the people, and the culture. I’ll stay here with my daily doses of rice field views in the place that feels like home.

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Honoring Teachers in Thailand – พิธีไหว้ครู ๒๕๕๗

Honoring Teachers in Thailand – พิธีไหว้ครู ๒๕๕๗

An assortment of wai kru flowers on phan พาน made by the students.

An assortment of Wai Kru flowers on phan พาน made by the students.

This morning I arose with the sunrise, before the sounds of traffic, even before the monks chanting, only the sounds of the occasional gecko and dog accompanied me. Again I felt overcome with gratitude for Thailand, especially since today was Wai Kru Day พิธีไหว้ครู. Wai Kru is the day to honor teachers. Students bring in flowers symbolizing respect, wit, humility, and perseverance to present to their teachers.

Students with their wai kru flower arrangements they made.

Students at Panyaden with their Wai Kru flower arrangements they made.

The same day our class was preparing the flowers for Wai Kru, there was a shooting at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon where a teacher was shot and another student was killed. That’s about 5 minutes away from where I taught elementary school for 5 years. My heart sank. Kids that I used to teach are in high school now, maybe some are even there. I found the juxtaposition of this and Wai Kru staggering. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Portland. It is still my favorite place in the whole US to live, but what is with the senseless killing? The thing that really made my stomach turn is how it’s become so common that no one pays that much attention anymore. Sigh.

It’s true, right now Thailand is in a military coup d’ état. What does that mean on a daily basis? Military presence around Chiang Mai, and there was midnight curfew around the country that was just lifted. Otherwise, things seem to be the same. 

Wai kru flowers

Beautiful Wai Kru flowers (and eggplant) for teachers

Wai Kru is a lovely ceremony and is just one more reason I think I’ll stay for a while longer. Sure, the driving is harrowing, it’s hot, there is pollution, snakes, spiders, and mosquitoes are abundant, but each day I am reminded of why I love it here. Today, is a fantastic day to be a teacher in Thailand.

Teachers with their wai kru flowers

Teachers with their Wai Kru flowers

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.

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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Wrapping Up September

Wrapping Up September

September is usually the time of year where students head back to school, the days start getting shorter, and the weather starts getting cooler. Here in Thailand, we are finishing first semester of school, which started in May, it’s the rainy season, but still warm, and due to the proximity to the equator, the change of day length is hardly noticeable. I’ve managed to work hard, and balance that with a lot of laughs.

Still love the view from my porch in the rainy season, euphemistically known as ‘the green season’. You can see why here.

Getting final projects done at school, with portfolios, and report cards is always a substantial amount of work, but we also had a final presentation for the students to show their parents what they’ve learned over past semester.

One of the topics my students learned about was the environmental impact that humans have caused on Earth. They chose a topic that they felt passionate about, and presented their findings through art work and an informative poster. The students used mainly recycled materials to make their art and posters. They not only stated the problem, but researched and gave suggestions for potential solutions. We turned our classroom into an art gallery and invited parents and guests to come see their art opening, have Q and A with the artists, and enjoy some homemade refreshments.

Dolphin slaughter in Japan

Oil spills

Air pollution – note the different sources of pollution, the acid rain, and the dead flower

polluted beaches

polluted oceans

Kru Goy and I are very proud of them

This was only part of the subject matter they taught our adult guests, they also had PE, art, math, and music. Each class got 15 minutes for the students to teach the activity. It was like ‘speed teaching’.

In maths class, the students challenged the adults to see who could make the perimeter of a shape the quickest using wooden pegs, string, and measuring tape. Um… the students won, but our string was all tangled – unfair! It was good fun anyway.

In music class the students played a song, then taught the adults to play the same song on a variety of instruments.

I was too involved having fun doing the PE and art activities to take any photos.

At the end of the day it was time for cleaning the classroom Gangnam Style.

Cleaning Gangnam Style

Sadly, we are saying goodbye to two wonderful teachers. We sure will miss you Kru Claire and Kru Yuzu.

Kru Claire as the princess looking for her lost friend.

Kru Yuzu, playing the lost friend

Outside of school, yoga, ceramics, and Thai classes, I’ve managed to find time to have fun with friends in lovely Chiang Mai.

Getting coffee and croissants for 25 baht with Claire, Yuzu, and Jessica at ‘the farang farm’.

farang farm foliage

Enveloped in verdant hues – more evidence of the green season

As long as it’s not raining, Chiang Mai looks about the same at night all year long. Here are some pictures taken from the sweetest sidecar in the city – Christophe’s Aum Mobile. Their blurriness gives them an ethereal sense of movement that I feel represents Chiang Mai nighttime.

Songthaew driving around the moat

Christophe shopping late night at the flower market

Rose in the Aum Mobile. Seriously, look how beautiful that vehicle is! (Obviously, look how beautiful Rose is too:) While Christophe drives with Rose and me in the sidecar, both Thai people and foreigners smile.

Tuk tuk drivers and passengers giving us the thumbs up.

Christophe and Rose in the sweet side car near the moat.

laughing in the sidecar…

…as we drive the wrong way down one way street. Mai bpen rai it’s Thailand.

After a night of laughing and sidecar adventures, I love that the gardenias (ketawa) still smell so good the next morning.

Now September is done, we’ve had a full moon in Aries and it’s the beginning of a new month – new beginnings abound. Unlike teachers in other places, it’s now our holiday here. I have the majority of October off and tomorrow I am heading to a place I have wanted to go for about 15 years and that is Burma (or Myanmar). When I was here in 2000 I thought I’d visit there, but the political situation left much to be desired, so I didn’t. Burma still has a lot of restrictions on travel and modern conveniences: no ATMs, limited and slow internet, and I won’t have a cell phone.

I’m signing off for about 3 weeks, but will return with photos and stories-o-plenty. Enjoy October in all its autumnal glory.

Projects and Beliefs

Projects and Beliefs

One of the reasons I like working at my school as much as I do is because students get to do work where they can design, create, and express themselves.

Starting in June students suggested long-term projects they’d like to work on. For practicality sake (we weren’t going to be able to hatch dinosaur eggs like one student had hoped), we arrived at seven projects: building a house, making clothes, building a boat, making cars, writing a magazine, painting a mural, and building a bridge. What these projects would look like was anyone’s guess. The results were even better than I’d imagined.

WIth guidance from teachers, and a lot of hard work by students, here is a sampling of the final products:

Skirts and dresses sewn by hand

balloon powered cars

A bamboo bridge

The view from across the bridge

part of the mural

happy house – a new play structure

And the hit of the day was the boat. It was made out of recycled plastic bottles, and as you can see, it floats!

The gondoliers got a workout that day

After the students had their turn, some teachers were ready to go for a boat ride.

All these projects took a lot of effort and perseverance (wiriya), but in the end, it was all worth it.

In my own class we have been searching inside ourselves to discover our own beliefs. Prompted by ‘This I Believe’ essays, I had the students write their own. They ended up the school’s blog. Here’s my students believe:

http://www.panyaden.ac.th/blog/student-essays/

Well-rounded, fun, mindful education – the way it should be, gives me hope for the future.