Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Life (so far) in Isan

Mor Hin Khao (The Stonehenge of Thailand) 
(Click HERE for pictures)

                Every day that I put off another post, it gets more and more difficult to catch up! I’ll try to stick to the main gist of things just so anyone interested can catch up on what Zack and I have been up to. We’ve officially been at our permanent site in Chaiyaphum for two weeks. The first week I was at the school every day while the teachers finished up their end-of-term reports. The second week I spent each day at the SAO with Zack. Right now the students are on a summer break (it’s literally too hot to even move right now, which is the main reason why they take the time off). The students will return to school around mid-May, so until that time I am just trying to keep myself busy. I have been meeting with one of my co-teachers on-and-off at the school, but scheduling in Thailand is different than it is in the US, and that combined with my limited language makes it difficult to coordinate. Because of cultural differences, I'm having to learn to read-between-the-lines quite a bit!

The pratom students (grades 1-6) meditate
My beautiful co-teachers!
                Zack and I LOVE our host family. I have a ton of pictures of them in this blog’s album. Our family consists of Pii (older sister) Kai, her son, Nic, and both of her parents who we just call Khun Mae and Khun Paw (mother and father). Our house is surrounded by the houses of other various family members including aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins, etc. Pii Kai works at the SAO as the Nayok’s (similar to Mayor) Assistant. Kun Paw works all day at the family’s farm. I think that they own a couple of fields, but Zack and I have only been to one of them (see pictures in the album).

Our host sister, Pii Kai, and her son, Nic
                Our living situation now is quite a bit different than it was in Suphan Buri (during training), mostly because we are actually living in the house with the rest of the family. In Suphan Buri we had our own small, separate apartment. It’s nice being close to the family because we are included in pretty much everything, but we definitely have different ideas about personal space and how we choose to relax. Our family (like most Thai families) is very collective, while I prefer to retreat to my room and read a book or something. It points out to me how much I really do like my personal time and space! I am grateful in so many ways though for the time with our host family. Hopefully I can learn how to balance their needs with my own in a positive way. I am learning a ton, even though these learning moments can be ridiculously awkward at times and make me feel like I’m a child again. It’s important that Zack and I continue to learn all that we can though, because in just three months (which I’m sure will fly by) we will be moving to our own house here in our community.

                Since arriving in Chaiyaphum, we have already had the opportunity to bpai tiao (go on a trip) a little bit! This past weekend we accompanied the Balat along with her husband and some of his friends to Tat Ton Waterfall where we had a picnic lunch and Zack swam (I chose to just wade.) It was one of the most beautiful places that I’ve seen yet in Thailand. Later on in the day we went to Mor Hin Khao (also called the “Stone Henge of Thailand”) which was also unbelievably beautiful. I also loved driving through the little mountain villages on our way to Mor Hin Khao. It was really refreshing to be in rolling terrain. Even though I love our community, it lies on a plateau and doesn’t offer much in terms of sight-seeing! It’s great for biking though, and in our free time, Zack and I go on long bike rides through the naa (rice fields) on the narrow dirt roads that connect the various villages in our tambon (district).

One of my favorite biking places

                One challenge that we have experienced so far is trying to learn the local dialect of Issan (Northeastern Thailand) which is actually more similar to the Laos language than Central Thai. We want to continue to learn Central Thai, but at home everyone speaks Issan. As you can imagine, it is a little bit of a challenge for us, but we’re balancing it pretty well I think. We are trying to learn a few words of Issan here and there to show our interest, but really focus on continuing to learn Central Thai since it can be understood throughout Thailand.

Nothing like fried ants/ant eggs!
(A little taste of Issan!)

                Another interesting thing about Issan is the food! My host family does not understand why I have such a hard time eating ant eggs when I am able to eat chicken eggs just fine. Their rational makes sense, but maybe it’s a texture thing? Regardless, our host family loves to eat them regularly! It was also really interesting to watch Khun Paw “harvest” the eggs and ants. They come from huge red ants that have leaf nests up in the trees. When it’s all fried up, it reminds me a little bit of the game “Barrel of Monkeys” the way they all cling to and dangle from each other. Zack is really good about trying everything, which I’m not. I give myself credit though for the time that I tried the roasted bee hive with larva in it. Although I do think it’s good to try new things, I have definitely been avoiding anything with bugs (eggs or otherwise) in it since then. I’m convinced that it’s an acquired taste, and my host family doesn't seem offended.

                I think that’s it for now! All-in-all we are still both well and thriving J

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