Well, I have returned to the United States until 9 June. As much as I love this wonderful city, San Francisco no longer feels like home. I have been counting the days until I return to Asia and find a teaching position.
In March, I completed the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL:) certification course in the small beach town of Ban Phe, Thailand. After traveling throughout Southeast Asia for two months, the transition to school was not an easy one. Two weeks of 8-4 instructional classes followed by two weeks of actual teaching in Thai classrooms to kids ranging from the age of 9-18 was exciting and challenging. Writing lesson plans every night for presentation on the next day was time consuming but time well spent. Our teaching class had 12 other individuals from all over the world. One other American, one guy from the Phillipines, girls from Belgium and England, guys from Kenya, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
The students are amazingly respectful and well-mannered. Each class is opened up by the students standing and saying "Good Morning, Teacher" (my new ringtone for my cell). The students display an enthusiasm and an appreciation for learning that I have never seen before. It's just really encouraging to go into that type of environment and to feel like you can make a difference in these kids' lives.
After completing the course, a friend asked if I would help out her friend who runs a school for musically-gifted Thai children. Sangtein opens up her home during the school vacation and invites 15 children to live with her and practice their music, singing and dance for one month. I was asked to come in for two hours every morning and afternoon and help the children improve their English skills. In return, I was given a four bedroom house in which to live as well as breakfast. lunch and dinner every day. Not bad!
From Ban Phe, I journeyed on to Cambodia to volunteer at the Journeys Within Our Community (JWOC), an NGO in Siem Reap where I volunteered two months earlier. The Cambodian children have smiles that can light up any room. My first day at JWOC, I was asked to help with the Sunday arts class. Seems easy, right? Try corralling 64 Cambodian kids and helping them make Easter baskets and participate in an Easter egg hunt. As difficult as it was, it was absolutely hilarious.
After Siem Reap, I traveled back to BKK but the political turmoil led me to decide to head back to some beaches. I selected Ko Lipe, a small island in the Ko Turatao National Marine Park. The 14 hour train ride followed by a van ride and a 90 minute ferry actually proved incredibly worth it once I arrived on the island with my friend Archy.
We found a bungalow on the beach for 500 baht per night (or $17 USD), ate fresh seafood each night at a quaint little place on the small road that leads from the beach. A whole fresh seabass, grilled with Thai herbs and spices for 200 baht. Mmmmm...and, BYOB!
Some of the best snorkeling I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing sits among the various small islands surrounding Koh Lipe.
One of the small islands is inhabited by thai monkeys. As soon as a boat pulls ashore, they come scampering out to see what's going on.
I flew back to the States on 29 April. Since then, it has been a happy and busy time though I have been longing to return since I got off the plane. Activities this past month have included a trip home to Boston to celebrate the college graduation of two of my sweet nieces,
attended the obligatory Giants game at Pac Bell Park with my good friends Ted and Joe
went snow camping and backpacking in Yosemite with my BFFs
celebrated my birthday
and went white-water rafting on the South Fork of the American River.
And, I got to see my wonderful ex-wife's new baby girl, Betty. :-) Congrats, Linda and Justin. You will be wonderful parents.
All in all, an enjoyable trip back, but now it is time to finish packing for my flight to Bangkok tomorrow. Two more months of traveling before going to Cambodia to shop my teaching resume around to secure a teaching job hopefully in Siem Reap. If not there, Thailand here I come to teach.
Thanks to all who shared their time with me this month. And, my sincerest apologies to those of you who I didn't have a chance to see. I will travel abroad with all of you in my heart.
Hsan - Take care of my apartment and don't throw too many parties.
B-Dub - See you in five weeks.
My family - I love you dearly.
My friends - Come visit me.
Goodbye and see you again.
Lia Sunh Haoy (Cambodian)
Laew phob gan mai (Thai)
Tam biet (Vietnamese)