Despite the fact that we only had two days of class this week, the week was pretty eventful. The days I was in class, we began reviewing their English vocabulary for the upcoming exams at the end of term. Also, they finished their final drafts of the penpal letter. The letters are incredibly cute with handmade drawings, but many are still a little rough grammatically and in content. The Thai teachers had a training in Suratthani, the mainland, so we had school holidays Wednesday through Friday. During the day, I have been recording, writing, reading, and researching different class strategies for the English review. Also, due to the fact that I am leaving this week to go to the North, I tried to spend more quality time with the families I know here. I have become intimately acquainted with Grand Master Somsak and the Lofts. Also, Nikki invited Gregg and I to have dinner with her.
This is the template we put on the board for their letters...
Wednesday night, for the first time in almost two months, I had a home-cooked meal. That morning, I had helped Grand Master Somsak finish some English translations for reflexology. After about two hours and a lot of explaining, I think I managed to put together a cohesive document detailing his method. As a thank you, Grand Master Somsak had invited me for dinner and a cooking class with his close friend who happens to be a chef in a nearby restaurant. I was more than stoked about the idea. Gregg and I followed him up a wandering, uphill trail into the rural part of the island. We arrived at a Thai farm. There were ducks, chickens, roosters, cats, and even cows scattered across the plot of land. In the center, there was a wood house built out of humble implements. The table was set with several small dishes of prepared vegetables and I soon met my teacher, P’Tik. She was using her lunch break to make dinner and teach me. I am very grateful.
I quickly gave Gregg the photography and recording duties while I tried to understand the names of the ingredients and instructions. We made tom yam (a lemongrass and ginger soup), laab (a spicy, ground pork salad), green curry chicken, no-name chicken curry, and fried shrimp. Here are a few pictures of me learning to cook authentic Thai food and the tasty results:
Our dining area and a view of the farm
Grand Master Somsak: The Finest Thai Massage on Sairee Beach and Sweetheart of a Gentleman
Attempting to cook Thai food...
P’Tik: Awesome Thai Chef and my Instructor
Gregg, P’Tik, and Me with an amazing dinner that we prepared ourselves!
Thursday night, we were gifted another home-cooked meal at P’Jin’s house. Many of our students live in the same apartment complex as the Lofts, so we had the opportunity to play with the kids and help make dinner. It was so nice to just play with them in a non-school environment. At one point in our playtime, I had two children clobbering me. I would carry Tara or Charlie on my back while simultaneously carrying Fasai or Sun on my foot. I got quite the workout. Their laughter, screaming, and smiling just makes me happy. I made not understand their language, but there is a universal language for excitement and shrill screams of happiness. Meanwhile, P’Jin made laab, Massaman curry, and spring rolls. I had my first 100% grape juice since I have been here. I thought it didn’t exist! Here are a few pictures from that night as well:
Tara, Sun, Charlie, and Gam looking at P’Jin and Kevin’s Wedding Album with me
Pem, one of my tutoring pupils and 2nd graders, and I making the best face ever.
Dinner at P’Jin’s House... Bottom to top: Pork Laab, Spring Rolls with Sweet and Spicy sauce, and Massaman Curry
The lovely Kevin and Jintana Loft. Incredibly sweet people. I owe them so much.
Friday night, we were again granted great company and good food as we went to a dinner with Nikki and Petter. They are currently living on the top of one of the mountains on the island. It was quite a trek to get up there on a scooter. The pitch black night in combination with winding 80 degree angles on the roads made things interesting. I hid behind Petter’s back on the scooter not wanting to look down lest I have a heart attack. Once we were close enough to the spot, I walked up the hill because the scooter wouldn’t have made it with two people. The view from their bungalow was amazing. It was too dark to capture with the camera, but all I can say is that the vastness of the sky, stars, and sea is unfathomable. The skyline glittered with lights from the boats which were more numerous than I thought before. If Nikki didn’t inform me, I would have thought it was part of the glow from the mainland. A few of Petter’s friends from the dive school came, barbecued, and talked the night away. It reminded me of my friends from home and our dinner parties from time to time.
Saturday was pretty amazing too. As I finished my lesson plans for Monday, I thought it would be good to get in some traveling around the island and snorkeling. I am 100% obsessed with snorkeling. I had never been snorkeling before I came on this trip. Something about being a part of the ocean just resonates with me. After a long day teaching, nothing could be better than relaxing in the ocean pretending that I’m a fish. Gregg and I booked a snorkeling trip across 5 different locations. We visited Shark Bay, Hin Wong Pinnacle, Aowl Leuk, Mango Bay, and Nang Yuan. Though we didn’t see much in the way of larger marine animals (like sharks, sting rays, or turtles), we made some new friends and great memories. It is amazing how the ocean unfolds in front of you. One second you think that a cloud of water has nothing interesting. In the next moment, you could be seeing the sun-catching scales of a large school of fish feeding off a reef.
On the coast of Nang Yuan, a tiny island adjacent to Koh Tao. After 3 hours of snorkeling, I was totally exhausted.
Koh Tao has surprised me and enthralled me in many ways. I believed my purpose to be single-minded. I came here to teach. I left home to make a difference in the lives of children. I discovered this week that until I learn to appreciate the natural beauty and families surrounding a location as much as my commitment to one purpose, I could never really accomplish that very task. I can’t report many breakthroughs in the classroom this week. However, I can report a major breakthrough in my normally goal-oriented, analytical, and logical mind. That breakthrough is the sincerely deepened love of my heart for these people and this island.