Thai basil chicken and loneliness

Cheers to a fellow PCV who is wise beyond his years and cooks up a mean meal 😉

so much to do, so little Thai

Today we will be learning how to cook the world-famous dish Pad Krapow Gai or Thai Basil Chicken. And how to combat loneliness. You will need:

  • 3-4 tbsp oil
  • 5 Thai bird’s eye chilis, thinly sliced
  • 3 shallots, thinly sliced (red onion works)
  • 5 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 8-12 oz chicken breast, diced  (thigh meat or ground chicken is fine)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup water or your choice of stock
  • 1 bunch Thai holy basil
  • 1 egg

You will also need:

  • the courage to force yourself outside
  • some new hobbies
  • a sense of humor
  • a journal
  • patience
  • more patience
  • friends
  • the ability to live in and enjoy the present
  1. Turn burner on to the highest setting and add oil. Once warm, add chilis, shallots, and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes (or until brown).
  2. Leave your bedroom. Go outside. Go on…

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Stormy Reflections

An imagined conversation with Alan Alda:

Lauren: Hi, Alan. Nice to talk to you. I am currently in a foreign city away from my friends, family and comforts and I’m feeling a bit lonely. Any suggestions?

Alan: You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.

Lauren: Okay, so I have. Against my comfort, my intuition told me to dive into Thai waters, to explore the wilderness of fruit trees and tropical storms. I can see myself in everything and everything in me. It is wonderful AND frightening to see the sky reflect the storms in my soul. What now Alan?

Alan: Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won’t come in.

Lauren: My assumptions, hm? Well, I assumed I was lonely based on the fact that I started a fake conversation with your famous quotes I found on Google, but maybe I’m not lonely… Maybe I’m just finding a unique way to entertain myself. Maybe I’m just bored? Ah yes, let the light shine through!

Alan: Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative place where no one else has ever been.

Lauren: Well, I’m not sure that anyone has ever had a fake conversation with you, while in Thailand, wearing a green flowered paa-sin, at 2:30 in the afternoon and eating an instant noodle soup before. Here, now, in this moment, I am in a place and time where no one else has ever been.

Alan: Be as smart as you can, but remember that it is always better to be wise than to be smart.

Lauren: You’re right for calling me a smart-ass (then again, that’s an assumption). Wisdom is telling me that personal reflection is healing for the stormy soul and that sharing it on social media makes one feel less alone even if no one actually reads what one is writing. Now, I think I should go write a poem or meditate or something…

Alan: When people are laughing, they’re generally not killing one another.

Lauren: True. I’ll keep humor in my heart to stop myself from killing this jumping spider hopping around my desk. I can’t just assume he is a he or that he/she desires to bite me. Maybe the spider is just as bored as I am and wants a companion. Maybe the spider just wants to be happy.

Alan: It isn’t necessary to be rich and famous to be happy. It’s only necessary to be rich.

Lauren: Looks like I’m doomed for unhappiness for the next few years if that is the case…

Although, I’d argue that “rich” in experiences, fueled by boredom and loneliness, that often breed creativeness and a search for humor, can challenge one’s typical ideas and assumptions and ultimately lead to a unique discovery of oneself and a clearer window of wisdom in which to view the world…

Thanks for the chat Alan. I feel like the storms have subsided for now. I’m going to go spend some time in the sunshine.

Phonics Project

*to see cute mugshots of first graders and their nicknames, scroll to the end

I never wanted to be a classroom teacher. As I knew it would be, managing a classroom is HARD WORK.

The reason I accepted a volunteer position that spends most of its time in a classroom is twofold:

  1. I enjoy the coaching – my main goal is to empower the current Thai teachers with extra skills to improve their English teaching.
  2. I also enjoy language – exploring how best to learn a language and analyzing language at its most fundamental core.

One thing I am currently enjoying is implementing the basics of Phonics across all the grade levels. I even have my 9th graders learning Zoo phonics (letter name, letter sound and animal movement for each letter) and playing games creating CVC words (C=consonant and V=vowel). I am using a lot skills from the LIPS program I used at my former Educational Coaching position that are multi-sensory and used in speech therapy.

Consider for a moment, what these kids are expected to learn:

  • In first grade, these students start to learn Thai
    • 44 consonant symbols
    • 13 vowels (which make about 26 vowel combinations)
    • each letter has a name, sound and a special position (vowels may go over, under, to the left or to the right of a consonant)
  • THEN these students are learning English
    • 52 new symbols (capitals plus lowercase letters, the former of which they don’t understand the concept since there are no capitals in Thai)
    • although we have 5 vowels letters, there are over 30 vowels combinations
    • learn which letters match (“A” and “a” do not exactly look alike)
    • each letter has a name, sound and with many “rule exceptions” to the latter

Needless to say, this is quite a challenging task compounded by the fact that the Thai teachers do not feel comfortable teaching the fundamentals of English, yet are given a curriculum that does a poor job of setting a foundation paired with standards that are morbidly unrealistic. Yes, children do have minds like sponges, but it’s difficult to soak up a foreign language when the content skips the basics and when your teachers are speaking in your native tongue.

I am lucky that even my counterpart in charge of teaching English from grades 4-9, is on board with starting from the basics. Below are my goals stated in a 2 year plan I must submit to the Peace Corps staff and the Thai government by the end of the month:

  • Year 1, Term 1
    • Phonics across all grade levels
    • Teacher trainings
  • Year 1, Term 2
    • Conversational English at morning assemblies and school-wide participation
  • Year 2, Term 1
    • English leadership roles: Morning English News, English Theater Project
  • Year 2, Term 2
    • Reading program
    • Thai Teachers training other Thai teachers

 




 

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