Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Teaching Email

I was looking through a resource cd that Peace Corps had given us and I came across this email. I don’t know who wrote it, but it looks like it was originally a newspaper article. It gives a perfect description of what it is like teaching in Thailand and what the education system is like here…

From: M…., Douglas J.
Sent: Tuesday, December 19, 2006 5:21 PM
To: F…., Sam A.; E…., Matt A; R…. Tony; K…, Mike
Subject: Background Info


Though not so much applicable to business here it does give further insight to the educational system and some attitudes and behaviors that may be engrained early on in a person's life.........


ERIKA FRY finds that getting a teaching job in Thailand is easy, but that teaching Thai students who were never trained to learn is tough business

At 9:18 in the morning - only 18 minutes into the day's second of five periods, and only the second day into my (blessedly) four-day week - it was a bit demoralising to look around the room. The boys in the back had circled their chairs and were playing cards. Girls in the far row were sending text messages. A cluster at the front watched on as a boy, standing on desktop, batted at the imperfectly oscillating wall-mounted fan. A paper airplane, folded from the paper I had just passed out, whizzed by. And the one girl who had done the assignment she was supposed to do, was now doing the assignment the rest of the class was supposed to do - for them, writing out the same 5-sentence paragraph, claiming "I am 15 years old. I like to shop at Big C," while they cued up at her side.

The 30 or so other students looked bored and listless, compelled neither to work nor to cheat nor even to watch their new teacher self-destruct at the front of the classroom.

Having already exhausted a number of more reasonable, though completely ineffective techniques (the even-keeled "Please be quiet," the slightly more agitated, thus alarming "Quiet please!"; the silent treatment; the individualised shushing, the kindergartenish hand-cupping of the mouth; the desperate scrawling of "Please stop talking" on the board) I was now on the brink of childish foot-stomping and school-marmish sermonising, of unleashing all sorts of embarrassing lines that I never thought I'd think. How old are you? This is SO disrespectful. What do you come to school for??

I stopped myself, knowing (from the day before) that this loss of cool would at best bring a two-second pause in conversation, a few blank expressions and would more likely be lost altogether on an audience that was struggling with an assignment to write their age in English. And so I just watched the chaos, consoling myself with the knowledge that there were only 2.5 more days of this; that this was not my real job; that it was ridiculous to be anything but dispassionate and uncaring in this position.

I was teaching English to 14- and 15-year-olds in Thon Buri's Bang Mod school, a position I had taken only to see how easily I could get a teaching job, not how easily the teaching job could unseat me. By the end of four days, I had been schooled in both.


In October 2005, Perspective reported on a Bangkok teaching agency that was hiring English teachers indiscriminately. Among the many unqualified teachers employed by the agency were a handful of visa-seeking Nigerians that did not actually speak English and a number of lazy farang that did speak English, but that did not actually teach it and instead had students play football during classtime.

On a street, just around the corner from Khao San, the agency is ideally situated to attract backpackers that are strapped for cash or that want a brief stopover on their trek around Southeast Asia. Credentials were of no matter. The agency was looking for bodies, not for teachers.

While I could never pass as a non-English speaker, I could pass as unqualified, and went off to the Khao San area agency to see, a year and an investigative report later, if it was still so easy to get a teaching job.

Of course it was.

My first visit to the agency was a weekday afternoon and brought a scene every bit as seedy as the place's reputation would let one imagine.

The office, which was being renovated was dimly lit and unfurnished except for a metal folding table and a couple chairs. There was also a tired-looking loveseat in the corner with a woman, only somewhat dressed and looking strung-out, splayed out on top of it. She didn't move when I entered, but the jangle of the door behind me brought out an energetic woman from the back.

She was excited I wanted to teach and said I could start tomorrow. She asked for my passport (which I didn't have) and handed me a sheet of paper, titled "RESUME," which consisted of blanks for my name, age, educational background, and work experience. I filled it in hastily, giving an age that didn't match that on my ID card. I said I had a Bachelor's degree, but no teaching experience and besides babysitting jobs, no experience with children.

When I told her I didn't have my passport, she told me it didn't matter and that I could bring it another day. She informed me that with the job, I'd receive 300 baht/per hour, free housing, and assistance in getting my work permit and business visa. I could move into the place, which she then told me was several provinces away, later that afternoon.

I told her, that because of rent circumstances, I couldn't move and that I was only available for teaching positions in Bangkok. This logic puzzled her, saying that I could live in the provinces during the week and the city on weekends or that I could negotiate with my landlord to get out of the lease.

She pressed on with invasive questions about my living situation, asking the kinds of questions that because of privacy protections, are illegal to ask of hires in many countries (maybe even this one), while of course avoiding all of those that one might think in hiring a teacher, she should legally be obligated to ask.

She then said, as if it were a completely plausible, that I could continue to live in Bangkok; I would just need to allow 3 hours in the morning for the commute.

I told her I didn't think so, but to let me know when a position opened up in Bangkok.

Over the course of the next three months, she called four or five times, offering me similar jobs and conditions in the northern provinces. Everytime, I told her I could not leave Bangkok, but to give me a call when a job in the city came up.

And then one Monday morning (a holiday), a phone call came about the position at Bang Mod, a "good" secondary school just across the river.

She asked if I could come in that afternoon to get things sorted and to show me how to get to the school.

While the agency appeared considerably less seedy that afternoon - the office having been renovated and the loveseat removed - operations were no better organised than when I had first visited. I was told very little information other than I would be teaching English, that Bang Mod was a "good" school and that I would be replacing an Egyptian teacher that had left to pursue a medical degree in Canada.

She was ready to go see the school, when I asked what time school started, what I had to wear, whether there were any teaching resources, and other things that seemed somewhat critical for me to teach the next day.

At that point, she dug out a slim, but apparently all-encompassing guide to teaching 20 weeks of Mathayom 1-6 (a schoolyear for each is covered in 3 pages of rubric). The guide provided a lesson theme for each week and then suggested teaching methods, sample dialogue, vocabulary words and an in-class activity (which invariably and excitingly is for "students to read homework in class"). For example, in weeks 8 and 9 of Mathayom 1, the guide suggests a "Favourite Things" theme and a 12-word vocabularly list that includes "KFC," "Pizza Hut," and "Burger King." (Film and Sport also make the list.)

With any luck, at lesson's end students will be masters of dialogues, which in many cases are imperfect and dubiously useful: I'm from Korea and I love Harrods because I can buy all I want there and lots to choose from.

She didn't provide any materials on school conduct, grading policy, contact information, or guidance of any other form.


Tuesday morning I left my home 2.5 hours before school started, and arrived 20 minutes before class.

A math teacher found me looking lost in the courtyard and led me upstairs to the English department office. The room had a couple computers, a coffee machine and the desks for five Thai teachers and one for Mr John, my counterpart from the agency, a jolly man from Ghana who had taught at Bang Mod for a couple years.

Mr John had taught in Singapore and Hong Kong before coming to Thailand, and also at a couple of schools in Thailand, before settling at Bang Mod. He considered the school the best he'd been at, and enjoyed the suburban neighbourhood surrounds. He rented an apartment nicely situated above a canal, where he lived with his wife, just a 10-minute busride down the road.

He seemed a good teacher, with experience, enthusiasm and English-speaking ability. He had a crisp accent and a guitar which he brought to school on occasion to teach the students songs like Rod Stewart's "Sailing." (the lesson left the whole department singing and was his most wildly successful lesson, yet).

Mr John taught Mathayom 1, 4, 5 and 6, while I was assigned the 20 sections of Mathayom 2 and 3 (10 sections for each). I would meet with each section for one hour per week.

While this schedule would seem to present various difficulties - for students to remember homework and lessons, and for teachers to remember 800+ students week to week - Mr John saw the bright side of things, and gleefully explained that this meant that I had just two lesson plans - one for Mathayom 2, one for Mathayom 3 - to prepare each week. The students had English classes the other 4 days per week with a Thai instructor, though what the students learned in these classes or where these classes took place was never made clear to me.

Each Mathayom was levelled and split into 50-person sections which were ranked from 1-10. Top students were placed in Mathayom 2-1, whereas students that probably wouldn't have passed the previous year (if not passing were possible in Thai schools) were placed in Mathayom 2-10, Mr John explained.

He pointed at my schedule, the first hour of which was a 2-7 class. "That will be a fun one," he said, meaning that it would not be. Yet while classes are levelled, lessons are not differentiated for the different levels. So, if class 2-10 is learning to use KFC and Burger King in sentences, so is the considerably more advanced section 2-1. Not only did this policy seem silly and unfair to students at either extreme of the spectrum, it also openly stratifies students (making potentially messy esteem and exclusivity issues for students) for no apparent reason.

I told Mr John I thought this policy was strange, and he said maybe so, but that he liked it - after all, that is why I had to prepare just two lesson plans per week.

I then met the department head, a friendly Thai woman who explained I'd be responsible for teaching English reading, writing, and speaking skills. She offered me some coffee, gave me a few workbooks and a microphone set and just before the bell rang, sent me on my way down the hall.

For several minutes class went well. The students were quick to assist with things: setting up microphones, erasing boards, passing out papers. As soon as the bell rang, they would all, in great, charming promise of obedience, stand and chant "Good morning teacher!" in unison. They were friendly and inquisitive, and rapt with attention for the two minutes in which I told them my name, age, and nationality.

And then class began.


Theoretically, a Thai teacher was also in the classroom to assist me. This was true for about half of my classes, and depended on the assistant. When these assistants were there, their presence was critically helpful for clarifying directions and for disciplinary purposes. This was especially true with my most consistent of assistants, a small but feisty woman who carried a stick which she used to swat the backs of misbehaving students (she recommended I do the same).

Having not looked at the books, and wanting to fill time without completely wasting it, I asked the students to write a paragraph about themselves. I put a bulleted list of details that I wanted them to include in their paragraph on the board. I assumed this would be a familiar starting point to what, at age 14 and years into their English education, would be a tiresome, but easy exercise.

While there were nods of understanding with my instructions, a walk around the room revealed papers that read exactly as the board did:

Write a paragraph about you. Tell me:
What you like to do
About your family

In a few cases, the student had written their name, their nickname, and their age.

I tried again, attempting to model a paragraph, using myself. Despite bannering the board with the word EXAMPLE and giving what I thought were explicit instructions, the papers still read, exactly as the board did, this time:

My name is Erika Fry. I am 25 years old. I have one sister and two brothers. They are named Ellen, Jon and Chris. I like to go to the beach.

In a few cases, students had written their own name, their own age, but in almost every case, they had written that they too had three siblings named Ellen, Jon and Chris.

I tried again. Like a bad game of Simon Says: I left blanks, they left blanks. I encouraged them to use their books to find words, and they looked at me blankly.

Over my 20 attempts, my instructions got more precise, and the papers more original. I finally got a few written in paragraph form and which included correct, if simply phrased details like "I like to play computer games."

While almost all students in the top few classes were able to complete the assignment and to do so with good, unique sentences, a greater number of the students - even with the example written obviously on the board - were not able to hand in anything without having another student, or in some cases, the Thai assistant do the work for them. A huge number did not know how to spell their names. Whether out of laziness, carelessness, or just poor training, papers were full of simple mistakes and copying errors ("play" was more often "paly", "brother" was "bother"). Punctuation and capitalisation rules were lost causes.

Cheating - or students doing one another's work - happened in every class, and was done in the blatant, undisguised manner of something routine.

When I scolded against it, students were baffled, and then quickly resumed writing the other person's paper.

Seeing this classroom culture of copying - and void of creativity, critical thinking, or even basic level English skills - makes the students' textbooks seem absurd and incredibly mislevelled. Had I taught the lesson where the students were at in their books, I would have been teaching the same students that struggled to spell "play", vocabulary words like "habitat" and "commercial hunting" for a lesson on species conservation.

Meanwhile, whether driven by disinterest, frustration or habit, half the students didn't even try. It was not long after sitting down from the "Good Morning Teacher!" ritual that students began talking, wandering around, and generally misbehaving.

While some misbehaviour, particularly with a new teacher and a class of 50, is to be expected, the scale of these behaviours and the non-response of Thai students to discipline and of the Thai assistants to attempt to discipline, seem to indicate just how ingrained they are.

Of the students that got around to including in their paragraphs the sentence about what they liked to do most in school, most answered "sleeping".

Yet in a system replete with instructors who are not trained to teach, it is not surprising that the system is replete with students who have not been trained to learn.

This was not the beginning of the year, nor was it a school in a particularly poor or rural region. These are students, mid-year at a "good" school in Bangkok, and products of a system with 50-person classes and untrained teachers put out by agencies.

At no point, by either the agency or the school, was I given orientation or an introduction to school rules, conduct or grading policy. On my fourth day, one of the Thai assistants showed me the computer lab and the cafeteria.

Later that afternoon, I called to tell the energetic woman at the agency that I just couldn't teach any longer. She did not seem surprised or disappointed or even mildly stressed by the fact that I was calling her at 4 o'clock on a Friday and she had a new teacher to find for Monday.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

For Future Reference

Bare feet, wood floors, and The Twist do not mix.

I was really not in the mood to teach English the other day so I decided to teach the kids how to do The Twist. I already had Chubby Checkers loaded onto my computer so I brought my laptop in and showed the kids how to "get down."

The speakers on my laptop suck, so the sound wasn't the greatest, but the kids had fun. We did The Twist for a good half-an-hour before Kellie pooped out (it's a workout!). Plus, I could tell that I had blisters on the bottoms of my feet.

I went straight home after class because my feet were killing me. I got home, took off my shoes and I had raw patches on my feet (plus a countless number of blisters)!

So, for future reference, if you are going to do The Twist, please do not do it in bare feet and on wooden floors!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Germ Phobes & Picky Eaters Beware!

I was talking to some other volunteers the other day and we decided that we are becoming decidedly less “picky” about our food. I think nothing of sitting down at a table with a bunch of random Thai people and eating out of a communal bowl of soup (we all just dip our spoons into one bowl and eat away); or digging into a bowl of sticky rice when 5 other people are also using their hands to eat out of that same bowl (you eat sticky rice with your hands by rolling it into little balls and then scooping up other food with it). And I didn’t even flinch when one of my coworkers served me pieces of fish using the fork she had just eaten off of; or when another coworker dug her fingers into the eye sockets of the fish we were all eating from, scooped out the eyeballs, and ate them. I have even heard it mentioned (and I’m not going to name names) that some volunteers have even eaten cereal after the ants had already gotten to it (they found out when they poured the milk into the bowl and the ants floated to the top…no sense in wasting both the milk & the cereal). Yep, we are definitely becoming less picky when it comes to food.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Happy Birthday Grandpa!

I was prepared to make sacrifices when I joined the Peace Corps. I knew that I was going to miss my family, my friends, American food, my TV shows, shopping, etc. But I don’t think I was prepared for how difficult some of these sacrifices were going to be.

My Grandpa turns 90 today (the 12th of September). The family threw a huge party for him this past weekend…that I obviously missed. I talked to my Mom and she filled me in with the details. About 150 people came and everyone was talking and laughing…having a great time. My sister & cousin Nat were running around taking pictures of everyone and everything. And at one point “they got all the grandkids together to get a group picture with Grandpa.” I think that this is where it really hit me…because not ALL the grandkids were there…I was over here in Thailand. Some things just make you homesick and this was one of them. I am fine now…I have come to the realization that days like this will come and go and I will have more in the future.

Happy Birthday Grandpa! I’m sorry that I couldn’t be there to help you celebrate…but how about we do it again for #100?!?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Another Mouse

Before I started this blog I would send emails to family/friends about my time in Thailand. One of those emails was about a mouse that was in my room at my host family’s house. The mouse was really loud and kept waking me up. Well, I have another mouse but this one is fairly quite…

About a week ago, I was laying in bed reading a book. It was about 10:30 at night, and I just wanted to finish the chapter before I went to bed, and I heard a loud rusting in my living room. I got up to see what it was.

Apparently I had caught a mouse in one of the glue traps I had set out for the scorpions. Now the glue trap is fairly small (about 5x3) and the mouse had only gotten two of its legs stuck so it was dragging the trap around trying to get loose. Now I had seen this before & usually they end up completely stuck as they try to get away. So I went back into my room and figured that I would go back in the morning and throw it away.

At about 2:30 in the morning, a loud noise in my room woke me. The mouse had dragged itself & the trap into my room and had lodged itself in the corner under my desk & had managed to unstuck itself…the trap was now empty & I now had a mouse in my room (although I had no idea as to where it actually was).

The next day I developed a plan. My bedroom door had about an inch space between it and the floor, but I had a screen door (that I didn’t use) that had a little “flap” that would stop things from getting in. So I set another glue trap at the very opening of the door & closed the screen right to the trap (so the only way in/out was to go over the trap). And I waited.

That evening I caught a slight movement out of the corner of my eye & turned to see the mouse walk up to the door/trap, smell the air, and then run away. It was smart. It knew that the trap was there. But I left it & hoped that eventually it would forget.

By Saturday I still had had no luck in trapping the mouse (although every day I would see it walk up to the door then run away). I figured that it was living someplace in my desk…there are two drawers that I cannot open because they don’t have handles so I figured one of those drawers. So on Sunday I went into town and bought some rat poison at the grocery store. Now I would NEVER use rat poison in the States. But in Thailand there is a decided lack of humane mouse traps (they consider the glue traps humane but I think they are horrible because the mouse basically starves to death…I figure at least the rat poison is fast).

So Sunday evening I sprinkled some of the poison in my living room right outside my bedroom and in my kitchen (because I figured that if they were in my bedroom they were definitely in my kitchen). And for the first time in a week I left my screen door open (didn’t want anything impeding the mouse from getting out of my room).

I was again reading in bed and it was again about 10:30 when I heard another noise in my room. I looked over and saw the mouse running under my desk again stuck to the trap. This time it took it 5 minutes to get loose (sigh of frustration here).

The next morning no dead mouse. But one of the “piles” of rat poison in the kitchen was missing (I had left two piles in different corners & each pile had about 4 pellets). I decided to leave the glue trap where it was (under my desk) and I went off to work.

This brings us to last night, I went to bed with no “mouse episodes,” but I at about 12:30 the rain woke me up. I lay in bed trying to fall back to sleep when I heard another rustling under the desk. I didn’t have to look to know that they mouse had gotten stuck to the glue again. Eventually, the sound of the rain lulled me back to sleep. I woke the next morning & the glue trap had disappeared! I searched my room for it & it’s gone…added to that, the other pile of rat poison was missing from my kitchen. And still no dead mouse. I’m kinda afraid to go home because I know that I am going to get surprised by a dead mouse somewhere (probably in my bed). And I still don’t know where that glue trap went…

Thursday, September 6, 2007

"Playboy" Means Living a Good Life

I was eating lunch with some of my coworkers the other day and they asked me what the word “Playboy” meant (the server was wearing a Playboy shirt). Now, Playboy is EVERYWHERE in Thailand. You will see a 7 year old girl wearing a Playboy Bunny barrette in her hair and you will see a 60 year old lady carrying a Playboy purse. I have seen teachers wear Playboy shirts at school and I have seen government workers wear Playboy shirts in official meetings. Playboy is EVERYWHERE.

I didn’t really know how to answer the question…for one thing, we were in mixed company & Thais are pretty conservative and they were asking what the word meant (just like they would ask what delicious means in Thai). I told them that Playboy was is the name of a magazine in the United States that has pictures of naked women in it.

They were pretty shocked and there was a very awkward pause before they told me that they thought it meant “to live the good life.” Looking at it from a business standpoint, it’s was an excellent marketing strategy on Playboy’s part given the conservative nature of the Thais, but it feels like they are lying to them…doesn’t it?!?

Anyway, I think I am going to ask my brother to bring a Playboy over with him when he comes to visit…but I think I might feel a little awkward handing a “nudie” magazine to a bunch of Thai men. (I feel weird enough when I am stuck in the room when they are watching porn at the office but to actually give them the stuff?!?). I might have to think about on that one.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Gun Control

One of my coworkers just bought a gun. Which is perfectly fine but for one slight problem…he can’t figure out how to use it because the instructions are in English. He stopped at my desk to ask me to translate but my Thai has limitations and apparently “ammunition” is one of them. So he is carrying his instruction manual around with him, stopping at coworkers desks trying to figure out what it says.

I hope I’m not the only one who can see the amusing potentials of this situation (no I’m not talking about someone dying or bullet holes where they’re not supposed to be). One of the other volunteers suggested holding an English class & using the instruction manual as the textbook then celebrating the end of class by going to the shooting range (I don’t even know if they have them here in Thailand). I think I should try to get Mr. Heston to come and help with an English camp…do you think he would be up for it? Thoughts?

Another English Camp

Tara, one of the other volunteers in Nan, asked me to help with an English Camp she was having at her school. Her village is about 30 minutes from mine and there isn’t a songtao that runs between the two so getting there could be a little difficult. Originally she told me that they would meet me in Nan and then go up to her site, then a few days later she told me that they would come and pick me up at my site because they had to drive through my village anyway.

I had given her directions to my house but when you can’t read the street signs or house numbers finding someone’s house can be a little difficult. I had my phone on waiting for her call saying that they were in my village but couldn’t find my house when I heard my front gate open and Tara was shouting my name. They did have problems finding my house but her phone wasn’t working so they stopped at a little store and asked them where their farang lived (this is in essence asking where your white person lived). They told her that she (me) lived down the street and that I was at home (the keep tabs on me & what I’m doing).

So they picked me up & we went into Nan to do a bit of shopping & then headed up to her village. And I just have to say that I am so jealous. Her house is so cute and she has a WONDERFUL counterpart! Her sister & friend were there visiting and Tara’s counterpart took us all to dinner…we ate some amazing Thai food and then we went back to Tara’s house and watched a movie.

As for the English Camp, it was pretty much like every other English Camp I have been to. A lot of Thai kids running around & staring at you like you are a creature from another planet.

After the camp, Tara’s counterpart invited us all to her house & they made us dinner (and taught us how to make some of the food). Before we ate, they had a blessing ceremony for us (mainly for Tara’s sister & friend). After dinner (the food was delicious) her counterpart drove me home (which was nice to have someone drive you & not say find your own way).

I had a great time…I just have to repeat that I am so jealous of her site & her counterpart. And having her friend & sister there made me more excited for my own family to come & visit.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Random Pics

Can you guess what these two posters are warning you about?

These signs were posted in a laundrymat in Chaing Mai...do they make sense to you?

Perfect biking weather!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Bai Tii Ows

I didn’t really know what to expect when my counterpart asked me to go on a trip with her & the daycare teachers to Chaing Rai. I had heard about these trips (called bia-tii-ows- in Thai) from other volunteers, but had yet to experience one for myself.

Now, the only thing my counterpart really told me about the trip was that it had something to do with training for the daycare teachers and that we would leave Thursday and come back on Friday.

I showed up to the office on Wednesday and my counterpart asked me to go to a meeting that was being held upstairs. When I went up, the daycare teachers were there & they had a guest lecturer speaking to them (she spoke too fast…I have no idea what she was telling them). We broke for lunch & my counterpart then told me that we would be leaving from the office at 4:00 the next morning.

Things become much more complicated when your only form of transportation is a bicycle. My office is a 4 minute bike ride and a 10 minute walk from my house. It is very difficult to carry a suitcase (large or small) when you are riding a bike; plus, I didn’t want to leave my bike out overnight. So that left walking…at 3:30 in the morning…in the rain.

They rented 2 vans to take us on our little trip & I was very surprised when in addition to the daycare teachers, 2 office workers, the nayoke (mayor), and two village council members joined us on the trip. I had no idea why they needed to attend a training for the daycare teachers.

I don’t’ remember too much of the drive up…I slept most of the way. Once we got to Chaing Rai, we drove around for a while and then finally stopped at another SAO (the government office where I work). We went up to their meeting room & their nayoke gave a speech about their area & then they took us to their daycares to see how they have things set up. We went to 3 different SAOs/daycares & that was the entire “training” that necessitated the trip.

After the “business” was done, we went to the Northern-most tip of Thailand. There you will find a border crossing into Burma and a fairly large market. As soon as I stepped out of the van, I was approached by beggars…you could tell that they were from Burma & were really poor (their clothes were filthy the women had babies strapped to their backs, and they were all very thin) and I felt really bad for them until I realized that they were not approaching the Thai people I was with for money…only the “rich” white person. The market was pretty interesting. They had a lot of jewelry and foods (the Thais like to bring snacks back as gifts for the people who couldn’t come – I brought chocolates back for everyone).

The next day we went to a Wat (temple) which was absolutely gorgeous. (I got a few pics but then the battery on my camera died).

We then went to Payao & went to their reservoir. And that is when the drinking started. They ordered quite a few beers with lunch and then we all piled into the vans & on the drive home they stopped every 10 minutes to buy beer & every 5 minutes to pull over to the side of the road so that they can go to the bathroom. And after every beer stop, they got louder and louder and my headache got worse and worse. Now Payao is the site of 3 other volunteers and while I was there the thought ran through my head that it would be absolutely crazy if I ran into one of them. Well I didn’t in the city, but as we were driving home, we were driving through a village & everyone was looking for a place to buy more beer when I noticed Matt walking across the street! It was so crazy to see another volunteer without having planned it beforehand!

Anyway, we got home at 7:30 in the evening and by that time my counterpart was PASSED OUT in the front seat of the van (and there was no waking her). I’m glad that I had Saturday to recover. All in all, the bia-tii-ow was an interesting experience…one I’m not too sure I want to repeat in the near future.