Tag Archives: Thai food

Wonder: In all its forms…

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.

First Impressions


With almost a week behind me since I left home, there is so much to write about I don’t think I could cover it all.

When I arrived in Koh Tao, there were a number of expectations I had due to an agreement with the company I am volunteering with here. Many of these expectations were not fulfilled due to various situations. I am making the best of it. Fatima, another volunteer, has been the main reason that I have gotten some sense of an orientation with the town and school.

There are so many wonderful little things about Koh Tao that I have discovered. First off, the people here are incredibly kind, generous, and friendly. From the time that I arrived at the airport hotel, people were always curious about why I was traveling alone. I have answered honestly and told them I am going to work with the children of the Koh Tao School.

Here begins the contradiction. The Koh Tao School is a part of the local culture which is a direct opposite of the Western tourists here on the island. While there are a limited number of transports to the island per day, there are almost an equal number of tourists to the local population. The locals live in very basic living conditions while the tourists live in luxury. For example, I arrived after a four day water shortage and electricity had been off for two days. The children of the Koh Tao School hardly have resources for themselves- i.e. pencils, notebooks, and socks with no holes. These children are still incredibly happy and curious about all that their Western volunteer teachers have to offer. Many times, some of the tourists will walk in to the school and ask to help teach. Nevertheless, one half of the island struggles to meet basic needs while the other goes out to party perpetually. Every night, one can see the difference between the living conditions of the locals in cottages, villas, and sometimes in their own stores. Home and store becomes one. Meanwhile, the tourists are out on the beach, at bars, drinking, dancing, and partying.

A cohesive curriculum for teaching English at the school is nonexistent. Because we are teaching primary school, years 1-3, keeping the students’ attention is of utmost importance. Each volunteer from the gap year companies makes his or her own lesson plans and tries to teach using games. Mainly because of the language barrier, we are unable to really command the classroom in a way that would allow for us to teach rigidly to a plan. Volunteer teachers come and go, thus many times lessons are repeated sheerly because they were successful last time and somehow never remembered.

Despite all the obstacles, there are bits of beauty and kindness everyday. Every night, the volunteers go out for dinner together and watch the fire dancers on the beach. Below, I have included several pictures because I’m not sure there is a way to capture the beauty of this sport.


Another beautiful aspect of the Thai culture as expressed in the Mother’s Day Festival today is respect. Sunday is Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s birthday and it is also celebrated as Mother’s Day in Thailand. Since it is on a weekend, the school celebrated today. With everything from music, dancing, and ceremony, it was the expression of how seriously the Thai view respect for one’s elders and parents. At one point, children that have no mother came up to sing. It was quite moving as some of the teachers cried alongside those students.

These are a few of the younger students dressed in traditional Thai dancing costumes. A few of the grades presented dances. These little girls were among the cutest! I wondered how those heavy earrings stayed on their ears sometimes.

Following the festivities, each child takes his or her mother on the stage, gives them a chain made of jasmine, and then bows to them. This is a picture of one of the teachers, Eve, and her daughter, Nam King. Nam King is bowing to her mother in respect and love.

Also, the food is killer. For lunch, I had a healthy papaya hot and sour salad- shredded papaya with lime juice, carrots, and beans. Every fruit juice stand and pancake stand is fantastic too. The pancake stands make these delectable crepes. My favorite so far is banana and nutella. They spread the crepe, slice bananas, spread nutella over the filled crepe, and then drizzle sweetened condensed milk to top it. After being cut into bite size pieces, this is a sweet worth every calorie.

Overall, I’m excited to begin leading class soon. Because Friday was a holiday, I only got one day in class. Next week, the real fun begins!