Teacher recalls her year in Thailand:
exams, speeches, techno dancing
By Jessica Wilson
CHIANG MAI, Thailand--Friday, Feb. 11: Last weekend I went to Mae Sot, a city on the Thai side of the Burmese border. Some church families live there, so I got to visit them again. (I met them briefly on my way back from Mae La refugee camp back in November).
I spent Friday afternoon and night with Lawan Thongsatitpoo's family. Lawan is a graduate of Legacy and is a teacher here at the school. She is from a Karen village just outside of Mae Sot. We visited some of her neighbors (they all wanted me to come visit them), and she showed me where she went to elementary school.
Everyone in her village is friendly. Someone even made me papaya salad (which happens to be one of my favorite Thai foods).
Saturday I had a lot of fun visiting at a church member's house. Htoo Hpa, the woman whose house I stayed in, fixed us good food and taught me how to count to 10 in Karen.
Her family members can speak English well.
I think in the future her kids will probably come to Legacy. Right now they are still a little bit too young and must finish school first.
Their whole family is giving. It's inspiring to be around people who are genuinely selfless. They are wonderful examples of how to live. Even though they may not have much, they will give you everything they do have and will help you in any way they can.
On Sunday we had to leave, but, before we took off, Ryan Foster and I had to check out the thriving Burmese market.
It was amazing. Tons of people stood under a hundred huge umbrellas selling vegetables, clothes, flowers and any kind of animal or animal part you could ever want to buy.
There were so many smells, so much noise, so many interesting things to see. It makes me sad that America doesn't have as many markets like those, because they are so much fun.
We walked around for a bit and then had to catch our bus home.
We arrived in the evening and had just enough time to prepare for the next day's classes before heading to bed.
Techno-dancing in the street
Friday, Feb. 18: Across the street from Legacy is a public-health space. Every night at 6 o'clock the women from the village get together there, play really loud techo-dance music and do aerobics for an hour.
This phenomenon isn't specific to my village. Everywhere in Thailand (or in Chiang Mai, at least) are enormous outdoor aerobics classes at 6 p.m. People are really into it. It reminds me of the '80s!
Every evening the students look over our school fence and watch, and some of them dance along a little bit. The whole time I've been there I've said that I was going to go across the street and exercise too, and I finally did it last week.
The women are nice. Some speak a little English, so they ask me things like where I'm from, how old I am and if I have a boyfriend.
After I went the first night, the students told me they wanted to go too. Quite a few of them came with me the next night, and it was great. I think they liked it a lot. I have been going every day since. Sometimes the students go with me. The only problem is that 6 p.m. is dinnertime at the school, so they either have to eat in a hurry and jump around on a full stomach or eat later. Also, some of them have kitchen duty so they can't go. It rotates, though, so everyone who wants to go will get a chance. We're going again next week.
Final exams and student speeches
Friday, Feb. 25: This week was the last week of regular classes. It's hard to believe that the school year is already coming to a close. It seems like I just arrived, and I think it hasn't sunk in yet that on Friday I taught my last classes at Legacy.
Our final exams are next week, so a lot of studying is going on. Exams are Monday through Thursday, and the awards ceremony is Sunday, March 6.
I sense a lot of end-of-the-year excitement. The second-year students have to give speeches at the ceremony, so I have been working with some of them on writing their speeches. I think they'll do a great job. They've put a lot of effort into what they are saying.
They are a little shy when it comes to speaking in front of a group of people, so I know they will be nervous, but I know they'll do a good job too. I'm sure they'll practice a lot this coming week.
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