New Year’s Eve

Today was another relaxing day in Loei.� We met up with Mod's brother and his wife for a drive into the mountains.� We stopped at Ajaan Nut's mother's house for coffee.� Nut and her family were there, so it was fun to chat with them for awhile.� I really enjoyed meeting Nut's mother.� She, like the rest of her family,�is a very impressive woman.� She was a university professor in Loei for many years.� (She taught English & education).� A couple of years ago, she designed a house and had it built.� The house is really beautiful; I'll post some pictures soon.� Now she lives in the house and grows plants and fruit.� She sells some of the plants to resorts.� She is a very kind woman.� When I left she told me she loved me and invited me to come back to stay with her.� She even invited my�parents to come during their visits to Thailand!

After visiting Nut's mom, we headed to a restaurant for lunch. Unfortunately, all the restaurants were full!� Loei is a popular vacation spot; we saw many resorts on the mountains and all of them were full.� Some of them even had tents outside for people willing to camp!� We decided to put off lunch for awhile and head to a local winery, Chateau de Loei.� The winery wasn't too exciting.� We just drove through it and saw some vineyards.

We meant to go to the flower festival, but everyone was starving so we skipped it.� We were really happy when we finally found a restaurant that wasn't out of food.� We had Isan food.� I think Mod's brother & his wife haven't had much experience w/ farang.� They were shocked that I could eat sticky rice and som tam.� They kept telling me that I can travel all around Asia since I have no problem eating different foods.� I didn't tell them that I refuse to eat insects, organ meats, luk chien (a weird, white sausage) and palah. 🙂

After lunch, we came home to rest for awhile.� I went for a walk and found a beautiful botanical garden on campus.� Tonight we went to a party at Poom's (that's mod's sister) friends' house.� It was a nice party.� The food was good and the people were very friendly.� Unfortunately, most of them didn't speak English, so I was a little out of the loop most of the time.

In the middle of dinner, we heard the news that there have been some bombings in Bangkok.� One of the guests at the party is an officer in the army, and he got some text messages about where the bombings were.� I just got home and turned on the news.� There have been 7 bombings and 2 people have died.� That's all the information I have now.

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Greetings from Loei

emily_and_poom.jpgMod & I arrived in Loei at about noon today.� The drive here was really beautiful.� Lots of big mountains and flowers.� It's nice to get a change of scenery!

We had a very nice day.� We had lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Mekong river.� Then we went for a walk along the riverside.� There were some little shops near the river selling clothes & Thai handicrafts.� I bought a skirt there.� I was so happy that it fit!� It's the first skirt I've bought in Thailand that doesn't have an elastic waistband.

Mod's sister is very nice.� We're staying at her house, which is on a university campus.� It feels very peaceful here.� The weather is nice and there are some windchimes outside.� I'm really happy I came to Loei.

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Internet Issues/New Year’s Plans

The Taiwan earthquake has affected the internet here in Thailand.� This is the first time I've been able to pull up the castillomania website.� CNN says things will be back to normal in 2-3 weeks.

We're on New Year's break right now.� There were no classes today (Friday), and classes are cancelled on Monday & Tuesday as well.� Almost everyone has left Khon Kaen.� New Year's is an important family holiday.

I'm going to Loei province with Mod tomorrow.� I hear that Loei is really beautiful.� There are many mountains there, and it is the coldest place in Thailand.� Sometimes the temperature can get all the way down to 0 Celcius!�

Last week it was cold in Khon Kaen.� I thought about buying a jacket, but decided not to because I knew it would get hot again.� I was right.� It's hot again in Khon Kaen.� I might as well have bought one last week, though, because I'll need one in Loei.� I bought one today.� I had to buy a men's jacket because the XXL women's jackets�were too small!

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How to Perform a Play in English without Knowing English

�How to Perform a Play in English without Knowing English�.That was the name of the presentation I gave today to an auditorium full of Education students.Ok�it wasn�t the official title, but it was definitely the title in my head.I was asked to give this presentation for the Student Development Class.In case you�ve forgotten about Student Development Class, it�s a surprisingly expensive required course in which students take turns singing karaoke.They also write and perform plays in English once a year, hence the presentation about how to perform a play in English without knowing English.

Now, I know it isn�t impossible to give performances in languages you don�t actually know.I used to accompany vocal students at NAU who were always singing in Italian, French, and German.But those students took diction classes where they learned the pronunciation of those languages.They didn�t learn how to sing in French by sitting in on a 2-hour lecture about French by a French person who doesn�t speak English.

As I�m sure you can tell, I went into this presentation with a bad attitude.My attitude got much worse as the event unfolded, however.Before I go into that, I should clarify what I knew about the presentation before I went into the auditorium.I knew that I needed to fill a length of time ranging anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours with a talk about �English�.I couldn�t talk about pronunciation, because Daniel was covering that.I was brainstorming for weeks, and I couldn�t come up with anything useful.You just can�t learn a language by listening to someone talk about the language for a couple of hours.Eventually, I settled on talking about nonverbal communication.I wrote some notes on the subject and could really only scrounge up about 10 minutes worth of material.The jist of my talk was this:Last semester, I couldn�t hear anyone�s lines because the audience screamed and cheered through most of the performances.Make sure your actions are good enough that no one needs to hear or understand your words.(Don�t worry!I made it sound nicer than that!)

So this afternoon I asked what time I needed to give my presentation.The answer was �sometime between 3 and 6�.When I went into the auditorium, there was a table with 3 chairs and microphones.There were also 3 name cards.From far away, it looked like 2 of the names were in Thai.The one in English was Daniel�s.I was really offended that they asked me to do this presentation and then didn�t set up a place for me.This led to angry venting (in my mind, not out loud) about how I�ve been working for KKU for 7 months and my name still isn�t on the office door.We were sitting to the side of the stage waiting to be introduced when Sarantip told me that we needed to speak for 2 hours.This information just made the anger inside boil up more, but I managed to keep it in and say �I�m sorry.I can only talk for 10 minutes.�When we were all asked to take our places on the stage, I saw that one of the name cards was actually for me.It was just written really small in funny font.I felt silly for being so angry.

The presentation was pretty bad.It�s disheartening to look out at a bunch of blank, uncomprehending faces in your audience.It feels like there�s no point to speaking.And really, there was no point.I didn�t have anything useful to say, and the students didn�t understand me anyway.

I try to avoid writing about my frustrating experiences in my blog.I don�t want to sound unhappy or negative, and I certainly don�t want to dwell on things I don�t like about working here.But I have to say that I really hate these events where I�m expected to talk for hours on end about nothing, and with no preparation.I like to think I�m a flexible person, but I�m just not that flexible!

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Christmas Eve

When I first came to Thailand, I expected to feel lonely and depressed on holidays and other special days.The first special day that came around was my birthday in August.When my students learned it was my birthday, they made the day really special for me.I ended up having one of the best birthdays of my life.Since then, I�ve learned not to worry about the holidays so much.Thai people really know how to celebrate, and they�re happy to observe non-Thai holidays (especially if they�re fun holidays!).

Today is Christmas Eve, and it�s been a pretty full day.Daniel & I were invited to have lunch with Ajan (professor) Nut at her house.We met her at the Education department.All of our students were there working on decorations for the big party they�re putting on tomorrow.

Lunch with Ajan Nut was really nice.She has 3 daughters and 1 son.All of them are really impressive kids!They attend a bilingual (English-Thai) school, and two of the girls have studied abroad in Australia.Their English is really good.They all play musical instruments and draw as well.I enjoyed talking with them.

After lunch, I came home to wrap up some presents for my students.Daniel & I actually bought little presents for every one of the TESOL students.Shopping was kind of a pain, but it will be fun to give out the presents tomorrow.�� Mom, I put that Christmas wrapping paper you sent to good use!

Tomorrow I�ll go to work, but I won�t have to work very hard.My students are putting on a big Christmas party, so I�ll go to that.I�ll teach a listening & speaking class after the party (we�re gonna listen to Christmas songs!).Then I�ll go to another Christmas party at Betsy�s house.I think it will turn out to be a really nice Christmas!


Click here�to see pictures of my day.

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TESOL Student Uprising!

My first year students are sweet, good-natured kids who always have big smiles on their faces and never cause any trouble.So I was surprised today when they told me they managed to scare off one of their teachers in the Humanities & Social Sciences Department.

The TESOL students take English classes at the Department of Humanities & Social Sciences in addition to the classes they take with me & Daniel.This semester the first year TESOL students didn�t like their English teacher in the Humanities department.According to my students, they were bored in class and didn�t feel like answering the teacher�s questions.He kept asking questions and they remained silent.Eventually he threw his book on the table and stormed out, saying �I can�t stand TESOL students!�(This is only one side of the story; I suspect they did something else to provoke his response).The Humanities department assigned a new teacher to finish out the semester.They like the new teacher, so they�ll probably be well behaved for the rest of the semester.

The TESOL students have a reputation in the Education department for being rude and rebellious. Some of them occasionally come to class in jeans instead of their uniforms, and they�ve been known to talk back to teachers.I don�t care about the uniforms, but I don�t like it that they�re rude to their other teachers.

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Living Large in Khon Kaen

If I were earning my salary in the United States, I would officially be in poverty.In Thailand, however, I�m obscenely overpaid.This is because NAU negotiated salaries for instructors in our program.The reasoning was that any instructor that has graduated from the MA-TESL program at NAU probably has student loans and/or other financial responsibilities in the United States.If we were paid the standard salary given to language teachers at KKU, we would not be able to pay our bills in the U.S.

I�m grateful for my salary; it would be really hard for me to be here if I earned less than I do.Still�I feel embarrassed by it sometimes.For example, today I needed to go to the bank to transfer some of my baht over to my bank account in the U.S.A student came with me to translate.That was great, except that now she�s seen my bank book and knows that I make almost twice as much as Thai teachers at KKU.She didn�t say anything about it, but I felt embarrassed.

I also feel embarrassed by how much I pay for my apartment.My rent is less than $100 a month, but that�s high for Khon Kaen.When people find out where I live, they often remark about how expensive it is and how they can�t afford to live there.Of course, most of the people making these comments are students who live in dorms that cost 300 baht (about $7.50) for an entire semester!

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David Castillo, BSBA CIS

So, for those of you who I haven't told yet, I am soon to be the proud claimant of a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration, emphasis in Computer Information Systems along with an extended certificate in Web Technology. I received notice today from the CIS deptartment that my application for graduation was officially accepted and the request was forwarded to the registrar's office. My understanding is that the registrar is simply responsible for verifying Liberal Studies compliance and then I am done. So for those of you who have been holding your breath for my graduation…well, if you're not dead, then you can start the celebrations. For all intents and purposes, I AM GRADUATED!!!

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The Hospital

Medical care is very cheap in Thailand.� It costs about 30 baht to go to the hospital (that's less than a dollar!), so people go to the hospital for every little thing.� I didn't realize this at first, and I would get alarmed whenever a student told me she couldn't come to class because she was in the hospital.� I always got worried and excused their absences.� Now I know better.

I want to write about a situation involving the hospital and excused absences, but I can't.� It would be bad for students to stumble upon�blogs about themselves, don't you think?

Anyway, people use the hospitals a lot.� I've heard that it takes a long time to be helped and that doctors don't make much money.� I've actually never been to the hospital, though everyone was urging me to go 2 weeks ago when I had a cold.

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The Thais are Freezing!

The weather has FINALLY been cooling off!� I'm not going to jinx my good fortune by declaring that we've entered the winter season, though.� The last time I did that the weather changed and we had a month of�temperatures in the mid nineties.� So I'm not saying it's winter, but we've had a few days of cooler weather.� During the day the temperatures have been in the 80s, and in the evenings it gets down to 75!� It has been very nice!� I've been enjoying the weather by sitting on the deck at Peace Time (one of my favorite restaurants) and sipping coffee while reading�a book.

I feel very comfortable, temperature-wise, but many of my students do not.� At the graduation party, many of them were bundled up in big jackets and they were shivering.� One of them asked "Does it get this cold in Flagstaff?"� I started laughing before I realized she wasn't joking!� I shouldn't have assumed that all of my students have seen the pictures of snow-covered buildings�at the NAU website.� I told her that the weather now is about the same as the summers in Flagstaff.� She looked horrified.

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