YoungLife Thailand

We have become good friends with the Vechprasit family in the last couple of years. They also happen to be the folks heading up YoungLife Thailand. And they’re our neighbors, too! How random, right 😉 Well, in acknowledging just how too well things have aligned themselves for us to be more intentional in the relationships we make while here, our family has entered this new (school) year with the commitment to be as supportive and involved as possible with the literally down-the-street YL crew.

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What does that mean? It means as much as we are trying to assimilate to life abroad we are also more fully embracing being native-English speakers and engaging with the youth in this language area they themselves are learning at school and in anticipation of their future work opportunities. It means baking monthly birthday cakes. It means baking cookies in this humidity and heat. It means going on camps and day trips. It means really trying to learn who we are as individuals, as a couple and as a family — and using both the strengths and weaknesses tools for love and generosity and hospitality. It means stepping out of our respective comfort zones and being challenged to grow in ways we could have never concocted ourselves. It’s been tiring and beautiful and always always always worth it.

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Recently Dan went on a one-day trip to Ratchaburi with a looooooot of high school students who he has never met before from a school he has never stepped foot in and proudly wore the awkward badge of farang. To say I was and am proud of this man of mine is quite the understatement.

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And, really, if you know my more introverted people-watching better half who prefers not being in the limelight on a personal level, you can definitely understand just how outside of his comfort zone this trip was. But you can also probably imagine how much he rose to the occasion and gave it all he got. What a guy!

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We just celebrated our four year anniversary…and where we are now versus where we were all those years ago when we were in the “technically not dating but kind of seeing each other but are just friends and maybe more but not that but yeah maybe that and I don’t know” stage is so much better. We really have no idea what we are doing 68% of the time, but it’s so much nicer being bewildered and still committed to whatever may come together.

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The Reading Program

For the past 6+ weeks, I’ve been running an after-school reading program available to kids who may not get extra help at home because their parents aren’t strong English speakers or readers. The intent of the program — as “club” as I’ve started calling it, to build the kids’ confidence and not have them feel labeled as special learners — is to expose the students to more English, reinforce phonics and enunciation, guide them through basic storybooks, and boost their morale about their learning.

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reading club strategies

reading club books

I’ve got two different groups that meet two times a week, and they are so different from each other! Group A are kids who can speak English on a conversational level but struggle with reading comprehension and may lack motivation. Group B are kids who are completely new to GES, have very low English levels and look terrified every time I bring out a new book.

And they are all precious to me.

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reading club memo

 

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I have snacks and play educational cartoons like Word World to shake things up from regular school and make things more fun. We usually open up with letter-centered or blended sound-focused poems to loosen up their tongues and then I start working on individualized lesson plans with them. It’s tiring and keeps my mind whirring; I’ve maxed out my Thai and am having to learn more of this language to better communicate with the kids. I walk a thin line of having to motivate but still push without damaging spirits. It’s teaching much about myself: how I respond to emotions, how I find motivation to keep pushing forward and how I communicate expectations.

Did I mention that this is the first year that they are trying this new program out? Yeah, no pressure…right? If anything, I feel like I’m in it with these kids and am learning so much right along side them. Plus they let me squish their cheeks and they are free with their hugs whenever I see them around campus. It’s a win, folks.

 

Leslie

 

 

 

 

 

Adventures in Faux Teaching

So for the last two weeks I’ve been subbing for the high school English teacher (sidenote: she’s a freaking superstar…totally set me up for success in her lesson plans and prepared materials.) while she was away taking an intensive course for her Masters degree. She’s a high school English teacher. A high school English teacher…in a school in Thailand with Thai students. Like, she has to have a gift to be in this position, am I right?!

I draw on a computer and make marketing plans for a living. What’s this business about red pens and papers?

Grading tests while students read "SIr Gawain and the Green Knight."

Grading tests while students read “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.”

Can you see how this could possibly be a stressful, stretching period of my time overseas? I was up for the challenge. Sort of. Dan was super supportive and was so convinced that I was up for the challenge that I begrudgingly agreed so that I wouldn’t be a complete Debbie Downer. I am thrilled to say that this afternoon was my last day in a long time — cross your fingers — that I will be reviewing grammar, teaching literary terms and leading class discussions on novels and short stories with 10th, 11th and 12th graders. (Though I must admit that I enjoyed watching clips of Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail in British Literature to illustrate how the Middle Ages may have possibly kinda been like.)

Anyway, please enjoy how my formerly temporary typical day unfolds:

12th graders posing ever so sweetly & quietly (lies!) for me. The truth is told in the face in the background.

12th graders posing ever so sweetly & quietly — lies! That face in the background comically speaks truth.

Following a bevy of boys to the flag pole. They have a gift of walking but not quite moving forward.

Following a bevy of boys to the flag pole. They have a gift of walking but not quite moving forward.

Homeroom students who were on flag duty. I snapped this when the national anthem finished, obviously.

Watching littles walk by on their way to the library.

Watching littles walk by on their way to the library.

Dodging big kids and letting them pass as the warning bell ring-a-lings.

Dodging big kids and letting them pass as the warning bell ring-a-lings.

Shoes are not allowed in the classrooms. So sneakers galore!

Shoes are not allowed in the classrooms. So sneakers galore!

Oh hey! My view for roughly  the next four hours. They would have you believe they're writing, but can you spy the ones who look asleep/zombified?

Oh hey! My view for roughly the next four hours. They would have you believe they’re writing, but can you spy the ones who look asleep/zombified? (The girl in the very back made Dan literally laugh out loud.)

I made the 11th graders read in small groups before we discussed study guide questions for their novel.

I made the 11th graders read in small groups before we discussed study guide questions for their novel.

The final bell rang! And these happy faces greeted me as I came trudging down the stairs -- my favorite 9th graders. Yes, I play favorites...which is another reason why I'm terribly suited to be a teacher.

The final bell rang! And these happy faces greeted me as I came trudging down the stairs — my favorite 9th graders. Yes, I play favorites…which is another reason why I’m terribly suited to be a teacher.

What did I learn from my adventures in faux teaching? Well I learned that though I adore high schoolers, my strengths are more akin to that of a motivational speaker who lives in a van down by the river than that of an academically centered teacher who cares about important things like grades and tardies. (Can you tell that I wasn’t the greatest of students when I was growing up?)

BUT, I am also happy to report that I am walking away from this time of subbing with many new relationships with these kids and a greater respect for teachers, especially for Dan and what he must be experiencing as a first year teacher here. And hopefully I won’t be so dense as to forget all that I’ve learned the next time he comes home after a long day of staring at blank faces after teaching a lesson he spent hours preparing.

Leslie

First post from Nonthaburi

Finally, we are making a post on this blog from Thailand! So sorry for the delay. I know we have been here for a week already and haven’t yet reported on Bangkok. Don’t worry, we are alive and this crazy city is too.

First to explain our lack of communication. No Internet yet. We should be up and running on Tuesday, maybe Monday night your time. So how am I posting? “We” got an iPhone, and Dan got a primitive Nokia P.O.S. So, if you have iPhone too you can iMessage and FaceTime with us. Just send an email at first because we won’t be throwing our phone number on the Internet.

Ok, no more boring stuff. Our first nine days here have been great. The food was one of our most anticipated things to be excited about, and it has not disappointed. It’s everywhere, it’s exactly what you want it to be if you can just say what you want (otherwise it’s just what you got but still delicious) and it’s easier and harder on the digestion system than we thought it would be. Taxis and tuk-tuks are everywhere, and they can be just as exciting of a ride as you may have heard. Seat belts are advised if available.

We have been to BigC (Thai Walmart) half a dozen times getting household essentials, practiced our bartering at JJ market and the floating market. Leslie went to the beach at Hua Hin with Angi, Sabrena, Jenna, and Esther. We fed an elephant that just happened to be stomping through the city. We ate on top of the tallest building in Bangkok. Dan visited Kao San Road (a backpacker haven that I don’t wish to return to).

Our time has been busy playing tourists and settling into our new home. We are learning lots everyday. Language and culture lessons happen every time we venture out. Even greater lessons we learn each time are those of patience, humility, and grace. Life is hard in a foreign land, but we have been shown a tremendous amount of forgiveness and patience.

God is working overtime in our lives these days. We have been leaning on Him heavily to stand us up tall and we both know He is our only hope of any success in this chapter or the next.

Dan