Temples and Markets

Hey friends!

This past weekend for me was a busy one. I started off by visiting Wat Pho, which is a temple in Bangkok that boasts having the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand. I’d certainly believe it! At first I thought I’d just be seeing the giant (46m long) Reclining Buddha, which I would have been satisfied with just on its own. However, Wat Pho had lots of smaller temples, Buddhas, and beautiful decorations and ornamentation. There was someone praying/chanting over the loudspeaker while we were there, too, which was a neat thing to get to hear (although it did err on the rather loud side…). For part of the journey there we road on a Ferry. It’s so nice being on the water. I never imagined all of the different ways to get around that I would here! On the way back we took a tuk-tuk, which is a three wheeled vehicle with open sides and a cover. The taxis don’t like to run the meter when it’s raining and will overcharge you, so we crammed six of us into the tuk-tuk. It was very cozy and other tuk-tuk/moped drivers would laugh at the silly farang.


That evening I went to Asiatique with a few of my friends. Asiatique was the first international trading port of Thailand and now is a place with food, music, market, and some carnival rides. Admittedly, it is a bit of a tourist trap, but I did have a nice time. After surfing Pinterest for too long on Friday I had been missing fall and all of it’s flavors, decoration, etc. I was let down by the Starbucks near me, which didn’t have pumpkin spice lattes, but this restaurant actually had pumpkin soup! There was also a band there that was playing Ed Sheeran covers. It was just the slice of home that I needed.


On Sunday I went to Khlong Lat Mayom floating market. The idea of a floating market is that there are goods being sold on canoe type boats instead of being on a solid location. The particular market I went to only had a few boats, but anymore I think that these are mainly attractions for tourists. The market that we went to was much more local, and therefore better. We had delicious pad thai that was recommended by one of my friend’s Thai friends. I also had some coconut water straight from the coconut. It was really neat seeing all of the unique foods at the market. I didn’t have the nerve to try them yet…especially the seafood ones…but I’ll get there eventually. To make up for the lack of water element at this market we paid for a ride through the canals on some type of motorized boat. I’m glad that we did that because it really rounded out the whole day. I was very satisfied by the time we left.

As far as my day to day life goes, each day I’ve had three hours of Thai language lessons in the mornings and then after eating lunch at the canteen I have three hours of orientation over various aspects of Thai culture and teaching information. It makes for a bit of a long day, so after class I usually get some fresh fruit from the very friendly fruit lady, veg in my air conditioned room for a bit, and then try to exercise or study. Some people are more ambitious in the evenings and will check out various markets and restaurants/bars for dinner, but I’ve been slowly but surely eating through all of my snacks I brought here from the states for dinner (thanks, Dad!). I figure I need the extra room in my bags anyways for the stuff I buy in Bangkok. This week, however, we have practical teaching. This means that rather than having language classes we’ll be going to a school to teach middle school kiddos for a few hours each morning. I’m co-teaching with my lovely roommate. We’re going to do a whole unit on art and I’m SUPER EXCITED! But this post is already much longer than anticipated so I’ll explain all about it in the week to come.

Have a fantastic week!

Thai Mourning

Hey All,

In Thai current news, their beloved king just passed away. It is a great loss and obviously a very sensitive topic, so I’ll just leave you with what I think is a pretty informational article for anyone who is interested in reading more about it.




Nature Therapy at Erawan Falls

Hey all!

As I mentioned before, right now I’m staying in Bangkok for a month of orientation. It has been nice being here…most everyone speaks some English, there’s lots of things to do, and if I’m craving some American food I can get it. And I’m in Thailand! Really it can’t get much better.

Crazy moped guy riding in the rain.

However, staying true to my Midwestern roots, I’ve come to realize I’m really not a big city girl at all. First off, it’s scary being a pedestrian here (especially when the crazy moped drivers take to the sidewalks whenever the streets are too busy). An interesting thing about the moped culture here though is that they have moped taxis and it’s not uncommon to see a little old Thai grandma hop on the back sideways and ride off into the sunset. Their core strength and balance must be out of this world! There will also be full families riding around on mopeds. Fulbright highly recommends not taking them because the death and injury rates are pretty high, so I think I’ll stick to normal taxis for now…

But besides for the crazy streets, the thing I’ve struggled with the most is the lack of erawan-mapnature. By now I’ve found a few nice parks, but unlike my Iowa cities, I can’t go out and stumble across a lot of nature, I have to seek it out. This is why last weekend a group of fellow Fulbrighters and I went to Erawan National Park in Kanchanaburi.

In order to get there we had to take a taxi to the bus station and once we got there we took a song tow (basically a pick up truck with seats) to the hostel. I’m starting to get used to all of the different forms of transportation that are used to get to destinations. The hostel was very accommodating for the large group of us and had great food!

The next morning we took a song tow to the park. It was just the nature relief I needed! Erawan National Park’s main attraction is the seven tier waterfall. The falls are said to represent Erawan, the three headed white elephant of Hindu mythology. Locals and tourist alike crowd to it and have the20161001_105426.jpg opportunity to swim in all of the falls. There were a lot of fish in the crystal clear water that would nibble the dead skin off of your toes and give you a free pedicure if you let them! I couldn’t quite handle the sensation of that, but others enjoyed it. It was also just great to get in some hiking. I was rocking the “Thai glisten” as I’ve dubbed the flop sweat that happens so frequently here.🙂

That night we went out to a bar and enjoyed some good music and drinks. It was a rather touristy area, which meant that there were quite a few call bars. For those of you who don’t know, Thailand is sometimes known as “Disneyland for adults” for reasons I hope I don’t have to explain too much. Just across the bar we were at was one such venue.

I lament that the women in Thailand may not have other economic opportunities, but I definitely don’t judge them for what they do. The creepy old men on the other hand…

But anyways, the next morning we had some time to explore other areas and found some really neat temples. I didn’t feel that I had the proper attire to go in, but I got lots of pictures. The architecture seemed to have a lot of Chinese influence, so I wonder about the population of the area and if they were Thai or Chinese temples. Learning to read Thai is on my goal list, second to speaking it, so I wasn’t able to find out too much information in regards to this.

Well friends, that about does it for today. I’ll update on my my latest trip to Wat Pho temple and the floating market soon.



Peace, Love, and Pad Thai

Hi there, strangers!

How has everybody been? Have you been keeping busy or enjoying life in the slow lane? It has been a while since I’ve written anything, and while I could give you plenty of pretty valid reasons why, no one actually wants to read that. Basically, I’ve been busy. But now that I’m back it would make sense to start you off with a brief summary of what has been going on in my life!

FALL 2015: Student teaching was the name of the game this past fall. It was a lot of hard work, but that’s to be expected. I was placed in a great, yet challenging, sixth grade classroom. They really taught be a lot about teaching and I hope that somewhere during my time there they learned a bit of something as well.
WINTER 2015: I got to graduate a semester early, so with my extra time I went to volunteer at a permaculture farm in Costa Rica with my sister and her boyfriend. It was the start of a really eye opening experience, but unfortunately my grandma passed away and I returned to the states early.
SPRING 2016: Since I was back in Iowa with a lot of free time I decided to put my degree to good use and apply to substitute teach. This was quite the experience. Perhaps one day I’ll delve into it more, but to be brief: I cried, I laughed, and I learned a lot about life. It was one of those experiences where you truly learn how strong you are and how much you’re actually capable of handling. I only taught my third graders for about four months, but I still dream about them and worry about how they’re doing… I miss those little stinkers!
SUMMER 2016: I was ecstatic to return to Camp Courageous this past summer! It’s the camp for individuals with special needs that I worked at last year. Once again, it was a lot of hard work but incredibly rewarding.
FALL 2016: Congratulations, you’ve made it to the present! Most of you reading this will already know this (spoiler alert!), but I’m pleased to announce that I accepted a position as a cultural ambassador and English teaching for Fulbright Thailand. So currently I am in Bangkok for orientation and a month of Thai lessons. Then I’ll be going to southern Thailand to teach English in a rural province for the rest of the year. 

I know that I’ve probably left a lot of questions unanswered about what it’s like here and whatnot (or at least I’d like to think that you have a few questions), but I know that you’re all busy too and don’t have time to read a novel. So that’s enough for now, but I promise to be better at keeping this blog updated!


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What Students Remember Most About Teachers

Some helpful words of wisdom for student teachers that one of my peers shared with me. As the school year approaches I’ve been getting more nervous, but this definitely helped me to find a bit of peace and perspective.

Pursuit of a Joyful Life

Dear Young Teacher Down the Hall,

I saw you as you rushed past me in the lunch room. Urgent. In a hurry to catch a bite before the final bell would ring calling all the students back inside. I noticed that your eyes showed tension. There were faint creases in your forehead. And I asked you how your day was going and you sighed.

“Oh, fine,” you replied.

But I knew it was anything but fine. I noticed that the stress was getting to you. I could tell that the pressure was rising. And I looked at you and made an intentional decision to stop you right then and there. To ask you how things were really going. Was it that I saw in you a glimpse of myself that made me take the moment?

You told me how busy you were, how much there was to do

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Physical Environments

Dear Reader,

Please notice the picture above. It may be a bit extreme, and it’s not fitting for the standard elementary classroom, but nonetheless it is still the kind of classroom that I’m sure you’ve all seen once or twice. Do you think that this kind of class inspires inquiry or collaboration? I certainly don’t think so…as a student, my favorite classroom–the one that I first learned to really love school and learning in–was my second grade class. My teacher had her very own electric fireplace installed and rather than just relying on the harsh flourescent light bulbs she had multiple lamps throughout the room that shrouded our learning in a cozy ambiance. In the winter she put up a Christmas tree that we got to help decorate, which I question now since it was a public school and didn’t have a religious affiliation, but I loved having it there. At the beginning of each unit she would also spend a day or two letting us create all sorts of things to hang from the ceilings and walls that corresponded to what we were going to be learning.

Letting us create the decorations was one thing in particular that aligned well with what I learned in school. Giving students a say in what their room looks like is just part of having a student centered room where students are valued as learners and their input is desired. Such classrooms are much more meaningful to students than classrooms where the teacher dictates what and where everything must be. But I digress. Even though we did talk about that aspect of physical environments in my education classes, in consideration to the time spent on other material, it was barely discussed. I supposed it makes a bit of sense that classroom management and teaching material comes first, but does one have to be taught at the cost of the other? I think that we should put a higher value on the role that the physical environment of a class has in learning.

When I packed up my things at the beginning of summer for camp I didn’t consider room decor at all. Rather, I focused on bringing as little as possible (I figured that I’d only ever be in my room to sleep anyway). However, I soon realized that stark walls remind me a bit too much like prison cells and the lighting in the room was absolutely terrible. I was way too harsh, yet dim for my liking. Therefore, I found some of my old paintings to put on the wall and I got a lamp to put on my desk. With just a few changes it’s amazing how much homier the room now feels. Even other counselors have commented on it. But what does this have to do with classrooms? Well, it goes to show how the physical environment can affect mood of a room and be a factor in how someone determines if they want to spend time in the room. How awful would it be to spend your entire day in a room where you have no interest in being? And on top of that, how much more difficult would it be to learn or teach in said room?

Two of the alternative schools that I’ve studied, Reggio Emilia and Waldorf, have a big emphasis on physical environment because they recognize its importance. What they have going for them, however, is that they desire particular environments at the get go. Many of the public schools in the US were built awhile ago, back when schools were modeled after prisons, and may not be able to afford the renovations required to create the best learning spaces. Additionally, teachers aren’t given unlimited decorating budgets. Often they spend their own salary on buying materials and items for their classes. So what are we going to do, America?

This web page has a few examples of room arrangement that anyone can do in order to get a better teaching environment, but really, this is just the tip of the iceberg. What are some other ways that classrooms can be more welcoming environments for students and teachers? Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below!




United We Stand

Greetings Friends,

Happy Fourth of July to all of my American readers out there! Are you enjoying the classics today…fireworks, watermelon, and barbecue?  Last night I had my Fourth of July fun and got the opportunity to see a really fantastic air show (with various different jets and biplanes) with an epic firework display to finish it up. As I looked around at my fellow Iowans, I was moved by how alike we really were. Despite our ages, what we were wearing, what kinds of jobs we had, or anything else, we were all there at the same time, delighting in the same things, and celebrating what it means to be an American in the best ways we knew how. Sometimes I get caught up thinking that my family and I are the only ones who do X (whatever it may be) or celebrate in X way, but in reality, if I look past the subtle distinctions, I realize that we’re really not so different… I’m sure you’ve all heard this before, but just humor me for a minute.

Now that I’m a bit older (all of the teenie boppers there last night made me feel particularly old) I’ve become a bit better at noticing these similarities between people. For example, since I’ve been a caregiver while working as a camp counselor I could relate to all of the happy and tired parents that I saw. I also saw plenty of older people who reminded me of my grandparents, and those teens made me think of my brothers. As I looked around and realized that I could relate to so many people, I was reminded of a book that I started reading awhile ago…

The author of the book discussed how he valued diversity and felt that we shouldn’t forget to celebrate what makes us unique and the parts of us that are important to our identity. However, he also commented on how we shouldn’t forget to celebrate what makes us the same. He lamented a time when patriotism was much stronger in the United States and how that patriotism formed a bond between people from even the most different of backgrounds. Now, I understand that not everyone agrees with our current president, policies, or military actions and that the “American Dream” may not be as accessible to everyone as it was once thought to be.  But that doesn’t mean that we still can’t be patriotic. What if, instead of focusing on our differences all of the time, we were patriotic in the sense that we all recognize each other, fellow Americans, as people who share common experiences, have the same needs–the desire for love and belonging–and who want the best from our country and for our children (despite our differences in opinion about how to go about that)? Don’t you think that having at least one solid thing to tie us all together would help us overcome at least some of our disagreements? Don’t you think that by recognizing each other as neighbors, rather than strangers, we could all learn to be a little more patient and kind to each other? Now, I certainly don’t intend to sound preachy. Rather, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on patriotism (it is the Fourth of July after all) and explain why I intend to one day have a classroom where we are all celebrate what it means to be American together.

Toodles for now,


…please comment below on what being patriotic means to you!