Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The smells of Thailand

Before we left a few people warned us of "the smells of Thailand".  Moe and I did not think much of it at first.  Our first few weeks here we still had not thought much of it.  We drove around in cars.  We walked through well populated areas that were quite clean.  We ate at western restaurants that were air conditioned and clean.  For the most part we stayed in a very centralized area and did not go far past that except for with trained 'Thais'.

However, this has recently changed.  We have moved further out from the city (the house where we are house-sitting). We ride our motorbike much more often.  We explore the local markets for food and clothing. We take back roads to school and other places.  And let me tell you..... it smells!

There are places that are so odorous it is hard to breathe.  Thankfully (at least while on the motorbike) they only last for a few seconds until you get through them.  There are pockets of grotesque smelling things flowing through the air.  Passing food stands is a Do so at Your Own Risk type thing.  Some places smell lovely and make you want to eat there.  Other places smell awful and make you wonder why there are actually people eating there!

Right around the corner from our house-sitting house is a terrible pocket of smells.  I must say there is probably a reason it smells so bad, but currently I have NOOOOO idea why it is there.  Every night that we walk to the market we must endure this smell, not just once, but twice.  Sometimes I re-think eating dinner because I do not want to bare the smell!

So I must confess that Thailand is smelly!!!! Again, only parts of it :) But those parts are wicked!!

Well thats all I have for you for today.  I am hitting the hay. It has been a long day! Monday, I got news that a student left the school.  Today I got a new student to replace the missing one.  SO I had to retrace many of our steps and make sure that our new kid was comfortable..... Hopefully it worked.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Oh Happy Day

Today was a wonderful day.  I started off the morning by sleeping in! I had homemade bread and bacon for breakfast. Moe and I went house hunting with a real estate agent and found 4 houses that we could see ourselves living in.  They each had different pros and very little cons.  Moe posted pictures on his facebook if interested in seeing all the options!  I continued the day with some light school work. We had a great dinner at a place down the street.  Then we got to skype with many loved ones that we miss so much! It was a great day!!

Now for our House Hunters International Knechtel family reveal....... We chose........ House Number!!!!!!!!!  (Yes I purposely wrote it out so you had to read it and not cheat by looking for the number!)

We put money down on it today. Monday we will send over copies of our passports to get the contract written up and then Monday evening we will sign the contract.  We love this house.  It is right on the Ping River. It has GORGEOUS views.  One of the best views I have seen of the city thus far was from the roof top view.  Yes our new house has steps that lead up the roof for a gorgeous view of the city and mountains!

not a great picture but mountains none the less
This is the view when you first walk in.  There is a couch and 2 chairs to the left.  The kitchen is huge and has a stove, oven, refrigerator, and cabinet space (all of these things are hard to come by!)

This is the patio off of the kitchen.  There is a patio area off of each floor! It is beautiful.  And yes the river is always this brown.  

This is one of the bedrooms.  The other is almost identical.  The third bedroom is bare and will soon become Moe's office. The first 2 bedrooms are on the second floor and the third is on the third floor!

This is the bathroom on the second floor.  It has two separate rooms, one for the shower and one for the toilet and sink! This is wonderful because most showers get the entire bathroom wet. Thankfully we will never have this problem!

It is important to say that this house is potentially within walking distance of school. It is an easy drive to school that is for sure.  We will only have two easy left turns to make and then the right turn into school! It will be wonderful.  It is also centrally located to everything else that we could ever want or need.  In addition it is right down the street from the Principal and a few other school members that could help us if ever there was an issue.  So this is our house.  We will 'officially' move in on September 1st but were told that we could move our stuff in earlier if we wanted....and we do!  

Just a couple other updates.  Moe has been graciously waking up every morning to take me to school.  We leave about 630-645 in the morning to beat the crazy traffic.  He then comes and picks me up about 4ish to head home.  He has been wonderful.  

Back to my classroom.  I have been assessing the students this first week to figure out where they are academically. It looks like and I have been told that my students are on the low side of things. I am honestly quite exicted about this because I feel like I will have the chance to help them grow and achieve more than if they were already very smart and on top of things.  I am looking forward to this challenge.  It has been difficult though because I dont know what is normal and normal pacing for things.  This is definitely going to be an interesting year and a learning year for sure!

Air conditioning is something that is different here as well.  When things or places say they are air conditioned they really mean they have AN air conditioner.  For example, although my 'school' is air conditioned the hallways are open and the cafeteria is open and the bathrooms are open...sort of.  So really it is just the classrooms that have air.  I have realized that one of the things that makes me sad is that the bathrooms are not air conditioned.  They also are rarely ventilated well!  Cement walls with stall barriers that go to the ceiling!  Every time I use the bathroom I instantly start sweating. It is very sad.  Using the bathroom should not cause so much strife.  And the really sad thing is that this applies to school and home and public restrooms.  Which by the way, most 'public' restrooms require you to pay 5 baht to use.  By paying 5 baht you also receive a few squares of toilet paper to aid in your duties.  It is very unique ;) So bathrooms are not my favorite place here! 

Ok I think that is enough for one post.  I am getting tired after such a good day! I will end it by watching an episode of NCIS before bed.  Good thing the internet is here or we would be in big trouble! We watched So You Think You Can Dance today from Thursday.  We love that show and like that we can keep up with it!  Anyway, I am rambling.  Love you all. Night! 

OH yeah, one last thing. Moe has finally started up his own blog about his adventures.  Sometimes we might talk about the same stuff, like today and our new house! But that is because it is extra important!  Other times we will have different stuff.  So if you want to follow him too that would be lovely.  Here is his link:

Quick update and address

Hey all.  School has started and been wonderful.  I have a total of 17 kids.... thinking I was going to only have 14 means I have a LOT of students.  It is crazy how much room 3 kids take up! My classroom feel cozy even though there are still a few things I wish I could change. But I will try to wait until October break for those things.  A couple noteworthy things about school.  Each morning the kids come to school and have morning recess.  A bell rings and all the kids line up. I go down and pick up my kids and have about 3 minutes to get upstairs before the National Anthem starts playing over the loud speakers.  Once it starts playing everyone must silence, stand, and be still (generally with hands to their sides).  This is protocol for everyone in the country. In addition to morning recess, the school has 2 more planned recess times with an additional time at lunch for those who finish early or what not.  PLUS the kids have 2 P.E. classes a week.... so they get plenty of play time!!  But after each recess time the kids in grades 3 and up all just run back to their classroom. No one lines up before going in or waits for everyone to be together.

Oh and recess duty.  I have 3 recess duties which is fine since their are so many recesses! I took my whistle out the first time and asked Deyla if I needed it. She simply smiled, somewhat chuckled, and said "No." Recess duty means make sure no one dies. I have been given few other rules to go off of and have trusted that the kids know what they are supposed to do! It is so different here.

Anyway, I LOVE having such a diverse group of students. I have 2 born in America although one is a first gen. American.  I have 2 Australians (and I love their accents!!) I have 6 Koreans and 7 that were born in Thailand. It is so fun to learn about their culture and upbringings and everything.

We have played lots of games and done lots of projects and crafts together.  We have had lots of fun and seem to be getting along nicely.  I am very excited about this year.  I am still nervous about the planning and organizing that still needs done but am trying to stay positive.

Well that is all for now. I will share more tomorrow. I promise this time! We are now going to look at a few houses.  I am sure Moe will post pictures.  Hopefully we can get this whole housing thing figured out soon too!  Hope you all are doing well.

Oh and I finally got an address. If you need/want to send us something, it is best to send it to the school. This is what most teachers/staff do!  The address is so simple it is crazy

Brittany Knechtel
Chiang Mai International School
P.O. Box 38
Chiang Mai, Thailand 50000

(If you dont want to include CMIS, apparently you dont have to!)

Love you all. Enjoy.

Monday, August 13, 2012

School is almost here

13/08 The last day before school starts. I am surprisingly not nervous….I guess I need to wait until tomorrow for that to set in! Well here are some highlights of our lives!

We have moved out of our tiny little hotel room.  We are now house sitting for a friend until her parents come home from the States Aug. 30th.  So we are now comfortable with a couch and dining table and a real kitchen.  We can cook and do as we please!  We are also still scrambling to find a place of our own by Aug 30th!! Since we moved I can no longer walk to school L Moe has had to drive me. 

We have gotten better at riding the motorbike.  We got official helmets and everything.  We look pretty legit! We did take a wrong turn on the way to school the other day but it was ok. We knew how to fix it.  Moe has also learned to drive in the rain and in flooded areas.  I think I jinxed us by saying it hasn’t rained much because the last few days it has POURED! We went out to dinner last night and we followed our friends in their car. As soon as we got there it starting pouring; it poured all through dinner and all the way home.  They were gracious enough to let me ride in the car and Moe followed with his new poncho.  It was during this time that we trekked on roads that had lots of water on them. Moe did wonderful. I am so proud of him.

Today we decided to go to the market which is around the corner every Monday. On our way there we got hit by a ton of rain.  We finally had an umbrella but it didn’t help a whole lot! We were both drenched by the time we got there.  BUT the rain did stop and we were able to enjoy the market.  We got dinner there and a few fun items for ourselves.  I definitely love this market shopping stuff. It is so fun to see all the different items and browse and buy!

Back to school updates! I have learned so much about school and Thai culture and education. But I still feel there are areas where I know nothing! We had our all staff meetings Wednesday and Thursday. I met lots of teachers and staff members.  I can remember some of them but for the most part I have no idea! I know the teachers around me and in my department so I think that is all that matters.  My goal this week is to remember/get to know the specials teachers! (those people are probably important to know too, eh?!)

We had new student orientation on Friday and it went lovely.  I finally felt prepared for it.  My classroom was and is at point where I feel comfortable with it.  It still isn’t perfect but it is livable.  I had six new students show up.  I showed them around the room, let them explore, talked to parents, and then we went on a tour.  Thankfully, both 4th grades went together so Deyla lead the tour and I followed.  There were many things she said or talked about that I was learning right along with the new parents! It was lots of fun though. The parents were great and the students were excited. I can’t wait to meet the rest of them!

As I said before school starts tomorrow. I am very very excited.  I am nervous about messing up school protocol but not really about being with the students! (that’s what it’s all about right?!?) We have lots of fun things planned. I am a little nervous about all the curriculum things that I still know nothing about.  I haven’t really planned anything educational, just fun get to know you stuff!

Two more fun things: I got a back pack the other day.  I have been wanting one to use when ride the motorbike to school. I feel much safer with it than I did with my one shoulder bag…. even though I sort of feel like a small child being taken to school. 

Also today I went with a few other girls to get my nails done! I got a manicure and bright pink sparkly nails. Total cost…160 baht, which is a slightly more than 5 dollars J I was very very happy to do this. Deyla and I decide we might have to make this tradition after each report card date! I definitely agree with her.  I did ask about getting massages and will have stories to tell once that happens. 

So that is all for now. I will try to post tomorrow about the first day of school.  Hope you all are doing well!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Summary Post

Here I am again apologizing for not posting in sooooooooooooooooooooo long.  I really need to get Moe to do this so that he can keep up with it. Between work, finding a house, Thai cultural training, and everything else we have going on I AM BUSY!  Every day I have come home pooped but with more work to be done.  It has been fun, challenging, intriguing, and most definitely a learning experience.  

Since it has been so long I will share some high points of our adventures.

Moe and I have gotten very adventurous with our transportation.  We rode together on the motorbike to dinner one night.  After dinner we rode to Rimping the grocery store and bought some more water and a few items.  We put the 6 pack of water in the basket and I held onto a bag.  We felt and looked very Thai!! (However they normally have like 10 packs of water plus 10 bags.  It is very very impressive how much they can carry on a motorbike!)
We also have used songtheaws and tuk-tuks on our own successfully now.  It has been fun and we feel much more capable and comfortable using public transportation.  We walked to a popular spot close by and got a tuk-tuk to take us to Burger King one night for dinner.  It was lovely to have fast food even though it wasn't that fast, but yes it tasted exactly the same!  Another night we walked to the same area and got a songtheaw to take us to Big C Extra, the Walmart comparable store.  Moe was able to barter with the driver to get the price where we wanted it! Here is a picture of me riding.

At the exit of Big C Extra there is a line of songtheaws waiting to take people home.  We had a cart full and were looking around.  A driver, who looked to be in charge, came up to us, spoke in English and asked where we wanted to go.  When we responded CMIS, he was shocked. He said that he has worked their doing maintenance for 10 years and knew right where it was (most people have no clue!).  He then made sure his other driver knew where to go.  The other guy offered a price of 120 baht.  Moe declined and asked for a better price, 60 baht.  The guy offered 100.  The guy speaking to us in English said that we should take the 100 because it was a good price.  Only the drivers on the street can do cheaper because they can pick up more people and go on bigger routes.  It was quite nice of him to share with us and help us be informed.  We took the price and got home safely and quickly.

Another thing I have been busily working on is my classroom.  Moe has been helping me when possible and been wonderful.  Here is the progress we have made so far from one viewpoint.  I will hopefully get my class list tomorrow to begin being more productive!

Last Thursday and Friday were holidays.  Something related to Thai Buddhist events and what not.  (Its too difficult to explain on here though very interesting.)  Anyway, we got to go into a temple on one day.  We were hoping a little more would be going on but we got to see the prayer room, library, and something else I cant remember.  It was quite fascinating.  Everyone was very welcoming and kind.  

Inside temple during prayer time

Something about gate leading up to heavens...

 I probably should have paid more attention but we have gotten so much information it is hard to keep it all straight.  

I know this is a lot of stuff but I have one last thing.  I will save my other big thing for tomorrow... hopefully I can post two days in a ROW!! Although we have not yet found a place of our own we will at some point this week be moving out of this small hotel style room.  A fellow co-worker who grew up here has been house sitting for her parents while they are in America.  They were supposed to come back last month but delayed their arrival until August 30.  She promised someone else that she would move into her new place by... well now.  So we will be house sitting for her at her parents house until they get back.  They have a dog, named Oreo, a maid and most importantly a KITCHEN! It will be nice to be able to cook soon.  We just need to get all our stuff packed and moved.  Good thing we only have 4 suitcases...well sorta.  

Well that is all. I think that covers most of what we have done recently.  We miss you all. We would love to hear updates from you.  While I love writing to you all, I hate always talking about what we are doing :)  We love you and want to stay knowledgeable about your lives as well.  Please email or facebook or skype us whenever you wish.  We are still working on figuring out an address for anyone who said they wanted it.  We will let you know as soon as possible.  Love you all.  Sa-wat-dee-kaa.  ('Goodbye' from Brittany)

p.s. hope this makes sense as I am so tired I did not re-read/check it! :)  Mai-pen-rai = doesn't matter.... very much theThai way!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Monday and Tuesday.. ugh

7/30 & 7/31  Monday and Tuesday’s blur of events!   Today's post was originally going to be much different.... lots has happened the past two days both good and bad.  I have a lot of bug bites... that is bad.  It is very unfortunate! But that is not the point of todays post.  It is just bothering me a lot right now!  Also, the Olympics also bother me.  They were just showing gymnastics which I have been dying to watch.  I was very happy.  Even though the commentary is in Thai I was still happy.  Then they decided to switch to the VERY beginning of womens soccer.  Now we are watching the national anthems and introductions rather than gymnastics which is currently happening.  UGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ANYWAY,  yesterday we went house hunting again.  We were meeting up with the real estate agent who showed us a couple places last week.  We wanted to see one of the places again and she wanted to show us a new place as well.  We were very excited and were hoping to make a decision yesterday.  To make a long story short, we did. We found the perfect place.  Both Moe and I were happy.  It was the location and price I wanted with the character and space that Moe wanted.  We talked to the owners, made some requests, and set up a meeting to put money down today (Tuesday) to reserve it and move in next Monday the 6th.  We were both ecstatic. Everyone we talked to and showed pictures to said how lucky we were and was equally excited for us!
the beauty....$475 USD
Today we went to my classroom to do a few things before our meeting with the real estate agent and the owners.  While there Moe got a phone call from Gift, the real estate agent, saying that the owners had accepted money from someone else and the house was no longer available.  Both Moe and I were shocked and appalled.  We immediately called Principal and asked if this was normal and if there was anything that could be done.  He contacted a Thai office person to contact Gift and figure out exactly what happened.  (Listening to Thai people speak English over the phone is very difficult!)

What we found out and think happened was that the owner was not playing nice with Gift.  We think the owner already had shown the property to someone else who was very interested and planning on putting a deposit down.  The owner was sort of saving us as a back-up plan in case the other person fell through.  So even though we had a meeting and made verbal commitment that did not matter and she accepted money earlier in the day.  Everyone we talked to was shocked to hear what happened.  They said that it isn’t normal and should not have happened.  But it did and we have moved on.  We can look back and second guess every decision and said ‘what if’ but that gets us nowhere.  So we have decided to move on!

SO instead of meeting Gift to put down a deposit on a house, she showed us a new house.  I was not incredibly impressed with the house. It had a weird water feature right when you walked in and a pond next door.  The master bedroom was nice but for me that was about it.  Moe liked it though so that has made things complicated. 

water feature... the top bar is the hand railing... it is huge!
both rooms have seating areas. this is the spare room

We have been trying to decide if we want to settle with one of the houses we have already seen or want to start all over and begin searching again.  It is so tough to figure out but know that it will all work out.  Moe and I have definitely been working on our communication skills and are working on being honest about how we feel ;) So we now are aware of all of the emotions with house hunting… the good and the bad.

Now for other good news.  Yesterday I went to the Market with Deyla for fabric for my bulletin boards.  I was excited because I haven’t been to this market. It is ‘the’ market here and has anything and everything you can imagine.  Shops line the streets and there are shops everywhere.  Each ‘store’ might have 3 or 4, or more depending on the size, shops in it.  Here are 2 pictures of the largest ‘store’. The bottom level has food vendors selling any food you can imagine, fruits of all kinds, veggies of all kinds, meats of kinds, and some places sell full meals to eat on the go.  The second and third floors are clothing and other thing vendors.  Backpacks, clothes, toys, cosmetics, and random items are sold here. 

The fabric store was also very fun.  We supposedly went to the cheapest one but there were quite a few of every type of store that who really knows.  They had sections of fabric that were 68 baht a meter which is roughly 2 dollars.  I have lots of bulletin boards so I chose 3 different fabrics and got 3.5 meters of each for a grand total of 22 US dollars.  It was lovely.  Here are the pictures.  The first fabric is squares and the camera did not like it… sorry. 

While we were at the classroom today Moe and I put up the fabric on the boards and I very much like it!! I probably should have gotten something more fun but I guess I have to have fun things on the board instead.  I am very thankful for a helping husband. 

Well that is all for today.  Tonight we did nothing but talk about housing, eat Thai dinner and watch Olympics…sort of.  We have little plans for tomorrow too. I need to keep working on my classroom, so I will probably do that.  Hopefully Moe can drive around on the motorbike and find our new house!