Tarot Cards read my stars

At the very beginning of my Peace Corps journey, a wonderfully warm and open volunteer, who I am now glad to call my close friend Libby Ferris, did a reading for me, that I still find relevant today. Taro readings are just another tool or lens to look at one’s situation and to explore the depths of oneself.

1st card: The Situation

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The tiny figure moving on the path through this beautiful landscape is not concerned about the goal. He or she knows that the journey is the goal, the pilgrimage itself is the sacred place. Each step on the path is important in itself. When this card appears in a reading, it indicates a time of movement and change. It may be a physical movement from one place to the next, or an inner movement from one way of being to another. But whatever the case, this card promises that the going will be easy and will bring a sense of adventure and growth; there is no need to struggle or plan too much.

The Traveling card also reminds us to accept and embrace the new, just as when we travel to another country with a different culture and environment than the one we are accustomed to. This attitude of openness and acceptance invites new friends and experiences into our lives.

2nd card: Internal Struggle

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The figure in this card is completely covered in armor. Only his glare of rage is visible, and the whites of the knuckles on his clenched fists. If you look closely at the armor, you can see it’s covered with buttons, ready to detonate if anybody so much as brushes up against them. In the background we see the shadowy movie that plays in this man’s mind–two figures fighting for a castle. An explosive temper or a smoldering rage often masks a deep feeling of pain.

We think that if we frighten people away, we can avoid being hurt even more. In fact, just the opposite is the case. By covering our wounds with armor we are preventing them from being healed. By lashing out at others we keep ourselves from getting the love and nourishment we need. If this description seems to fit you, it’s time to stop fighting. There is so much love available to you if you just let it in. Start by forgiving yourself: you’re worth it.

3rd card: External Struggle

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In our society, men in particular have been taught not to cry, to put a brave face on things when they get hurt and not show that they are in pain. But women can fall into this trap too, and all of us at one time or another might feel that the only way to survive is to close off our feelings and emotions so we can’t be hurt again. If our pain is particularly deep, we might even try to hide it from ourselves. This can make us frozen, rigid, because deep down we know that one small break in the ice will free the hurt to start circulating through us again.

The rainbow-colored tears on this person’s face hold the key to breaking out of this ‘ice-olation’. The tears, and only the tears, have the power to melt the ice. It’s okay to cry, and there is no reason to feel ashamed of your tears. Crying helps us to let go of pain, allows us to be gentle with ourselves, and finally helps us to heal.

4th card: The Solution

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The figure in this card has taken on the shape of an arrow, moving with the single-pointed focus of one who knows precisely where she is going. She is moving so fast that she has become almost pure energy. But this intensity should not be mistaken for the manic energy that makes people drive their cars at top speed to get from point A to point B. That kind of intensity belongs to the horizontal world of space and time.

The intensity represented by the Knight of Fire belongs to the vertical world of the present moment–a recognition that now is the only moment there is, and here is the only space.

When you act with the intensity of the Knight of Fire it is likely to create ripples in the waters around you. Some will feel uplifted and refreshed by your presence, others may feel threatened or annoyed. But the opinions of others matter little; nothing can hold you back right now.

5th card: The Result

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The figure pictured in this card is so preoccupied with clutching her box of memories that she has turned her back on the sparkling champagne glass of blessings available here and now. Her nostalgia for the past really makes her a ‘blockhead’, and a beggar besides, as we can see from her patched and ragged clothes. She needn’t be a beggar, of course–but she is not available to taste the pleasures that offer themselves in the present.

It’s time to face up to the fact that the past is gone, and any effort to repeat it is a sure way to stay stuck in old blueprints that you would have already outgrown if you hadn’t been so busy clinging to what you have already been through. Take a deep breath, put the box down, tie it up in a pretty ribbon if you must, and bid it a fond and reverent farewell.

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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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a kid again

Being a Peace Corps volunteer, so far, has been like being given the opportunity to be a kid again.

Remember those lazy days of summer, nothing to do. Maybe your cousin is staying with you and you two pal around together, doing nothing in particular, yet making sure that every chance you get to stand behind a wall to then jump out the scare your companion, you do it and later spend time thinking about how to improve upon your scare tactics. Remember swimming in the summer heat, perhaps in a concrete pool, perhaps in a blow-up pool, lackadaisically splashing around, attempting to float, doing hand stands, making silly jumps into the pool. Sometimes you just float there. Sometimes you grab the goggles from the deck and explore the pool’s depths, imagining an ocean of treasures on its blank surface.

Not only do these endless days of nothing bring me back to childhood, but my presence as a foreigner in a country of generous people, makes me the prime suspect for being a child: people feed me, check in on me, make sure I’ve had enough food, teach me new words, insist that I need to eat more food, hold my hand when I walk across a busy street, buy me even more food.

Today, I finally learned how to take public transportation by myself into the city, and I did need my hand held like a child in order to learn it.

The Thai public transport system is extensive, yet haphazard. You really gotta be in the know to know, ya know?

I learned that to catch a Song-Taew from my house, you need to stand along the highway of cars and semi-trucks speeding at 80 km/h, to pick out a small blue pick-up truck that should come by every half hour, but there’s no concrete timetable, and has, somewhere in written in Thai, the destination location written in tiny white script impossible to see from afar and you wave the correct one down and wait for it to slow from 80 to 0 real quick so that you can jump into the back of an open-aired, covered, 2 bench pick-up with no seat-belts and start on your way, yet when you want to stop, if the bell doesn’t work, you can use a coin to rap on the metal rods above your head and the driver will hear you above the din of the creaking motor and the zooming highway to pull over.

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And that was only the first of 3 different vehicles to arrive at the final destination.

Today, I learned this route along with my fellow compadre, Non-Don. Both of us will be expected to take this route alone in the future, me to get to the buses that can transport me down south to Phuket, Krabi and other exotic destinations, and Non-Don to get to school in Phunphin.

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Non-Don is a 12-year old boy, nephew of my host family, who is now living with us because he will be attending school in Surat Thani. His family is back in Trang, his mom, older sister and younger brother, living in a smaller, rural community. While his sister cannot leave her mom to do all the household chores and the younger brother is too young to leave his mom’s side, Don has been chosen to live with this aunt and uncle and go to a good city school.

Today, Don admitted to me he was scared to start his new school – new city, new expectations, new friends. I told him I was scared too; soon I would be entering a school to teach English to new faces, experienced teachers and old systems.

We didn’t talk much after this exchange of confidences, both of us quietly gazing out the open bus windows, wondering where the winds of change would lead us.

After sharing a table or two at the Swensen’s with a shy 14 year old girl Kit-Tah, Non-Don’s cousin, to eat our own ice cream delights (Non-Don did not partake because he self-described himself as fat), I wandered the mall with these two youngsters and privately reminisced on all of the countless hours I spent roaming mall floors at their ages, dropped off by my parents, fantasizing about material items and on the look out for cute boys exiting the cinema.

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As we sat waiting for Non-Don’s aunt, my host mom, to finish her business, I was again part of the kid group.

Out of the blue, Non-Don asked me about my mom. I felt this innocent inclination was probably telling of Non-Don’s yearning for his own mother. We shared a few pictures, I showed him a video of my dogs back home and we laughed while waiting to be summoned by the higher adult powers.

At home, we shared a bucket of KFC (yes, Kentucky Fried Chicken fast food in Thailand) and of course Non-Don and myself were the two left last eating. Encouraged by our clear shared love for fried chicken, Non-Don looked at me and confidently stated we could finish the bucket together. Although we instead decided to not stuff ourselves and save some chicken for our neighbors (also family), in this moment our bond was cemented.

I am grateful for these days of child-like wonder, where everything is new and I am still barely grasping the basics of life. I am blessed to have the opportunity to once again experience the freedom and simplicity that goes with a child-like mind. This is a life-lesson for me to never let big grown-up superiority complex get in the way of connecting with kids at their level, a  human level.

Thanks to these lovely ladies for putting up with the heat to hold my hand and to help me learn 🙂

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