Tuesday, August 26, 2014

One week so far! Rita Boyle

Hi there

Rita is here, well I’m back to fill you in on my first full week here in Chiang Mai which has been jam packed and literally flew by in a heartbeat....

 The last time we caught up I was on day one at Wat Muen Nyeun Gong School.  I assisted the main Teacher with two English classes, the format being, I read the lesson in English while the students repeat after me, then Teacher May, who is the main teacher explains what this is all about in Thai...This is where I get a bit lost -but having said that what better motivation to ramp up in some basic Thai language phrases.... then the students are given an exercise to test their knowledge to see if they really understand......Ah brings me back to my own school days...... As the students are working, I go around checking their work and helping if they need it.  Each class is an hour long. Lunch is from 11:30 -12:30 and is provided to all children and teachers in the school.  I am struggling a bit with the food as it is a bit too spicy for me but don't want to offend anyone so I am trying to adjust as quickly as I can.... Teacher May is constantly producing food for me to eat so I am sure it won't take me too long at all and at this rate after 3-weeks I’ll have to move into the gym when I get back to Dublin!  Food is a huge part of the Thai culture, so much so “how are you?” in Thai translates to “have you eaten yet?”.  Everyone in Thailand talks about food, where as in Ireland everyone talks about the weather, but having said that the Irish also like their food

As I will only have a max of two English classes a day, I spoke with Wad about helping CCT out with some back office work, so Wad is lining up another project at CCT office starting next week - you have to tune in next week to find out what it is

Just in case I had to prepare lesson plans and run a class on my own, I brought over some basic teaching resources, some flash cards and books, including on one on Ireland.  As I won't be needing these I went to give them to Teacher May for the school, but she wanted me to present them to them to the Headmistress in front of all the students after roll call the next day and that is exactly what happened.  The school made me feel very important, a bit like an Irish government minster visiting another country, they even took photos of me presenting the books, I don’t have any to share but will see if the can send me a copy....

On Wednesday, the school had an in school Science Day. They kicked this off with some talks from the teachers with a few experiments and then the children took turn to visit each of the five different demonstration stands, so well organized.  There was only one English class in the afternoon and this was on”The Weather”.  As part of the lesson I explained what the weather was like in Ireland and showed them where I came from on the world map.

On Thursday, the school went to an annual Science Exhibition that is sponsored by the Thai Government.  About 10 “Red Trucks” were waiting for us after roll call and once everyone had collected their packed lunch I have never seen so many children in one truck...... was a bit nervous for them but this is Thai culture and they are used to this so I went with the flow.  I had a great day at the Exhibition and feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to experience the biggest annual Science event in Thailand.

 On Friday the school had another day out - it is the exception not the norm to have two events in the same semester never mind week, so now I feel totally privileged to be there for both events.  Friday was all about the Temple.  First we went to the temple beside the school and the children prayed and listened to the “Holy Man”a Buddhist Monk.  Following this the “Red Trucks” were waiting to take us to Wat Umong Thera Jan (Chiang Mai).  This is a beautiful oasis just outside Chiang Mai, a mediation centre and beautiful Temple set in the middle of a forest with a beautiful lake.  A really lovely day with the school who have really made feel part of their family even down to including me in their school photo.  Next week it is back to normal routine.

 Over the weekend I did a bit of pampering with pedicure, manicure and Thai massage all very good.  I went to cabaret show with girls in volunteer house on Saturday night and that was great fun.  On Sunday we all went out for lunch and afterwards Alexis, Hannah and I went to Wat Doi Suthep and got to experience the monks chanting and meditating.  As it was Alexis’s last night we all went for something to eat at “The Gallery” and then it was time to start getting ready for school the next day........

That’s it for now - catch up again next week!


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Meet Nicola!

Hello, my name is Nicola, I´m 21 years old and I come from Germany. Four
days after finishing my B.Sc. in physic at TU Dortmund University, I
caught a the plane to Thailand. That is already fourteen days ago and
right now I´m sitting in the living room of your volunteer house and life
in Germany seems to be very far away. The most important thing you need to
know about me is, that through Cultural Canvas Program, I am the new volunteer at Wildflower Home, an
organization for Single Mothers in Chiang Mai.

Here I am, Thailand, Chiang Mai, 32°C and 49 % humidity according to
google. Maybe not the best circumstances for a body used to 18°C and light
rain. So what brought me here? It is the idea of learning from a different
culture and maintaining an intercultural dialogue on eye-level. I see the
six month in Thailand as a great chance to understand at least a bit of
its rich culture. And I hope to contribute with my ideas and talents, or
just a helping hand, my fair share to Wildflower Home.
Although I am a scientist and my heart beats for expressing nature in
handy equations, I always believed that there is nothing more enriching
than learning from different people. That’s why social work is an
important part of my life. It gives me the opportunity to help people and,
at the same time, to learn from their stories.
Furthermore I love to travel, whenever university allows it and my
voluntary service seems to be a good opportunity to see more of this
beautiful part of the world.

What have I done so far in Chiang Mai? The first week was basically a
short orientation in Thai culture and language and detailed overview over
my tasks at Wildflower Home. Of course we did a lot of sightseeing, too.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep was only one of the impressing temples, we
visited. I cannot remember that I have ever seen so much gold. But my
highlight was definitely the walk through the evergreen forest. The
biodiversity this forest has is inconceivable and fascinated me very much.
Call me a fool, but did you know that the nice rattan chairs in the café
around the corner used to have spikes?
For some unlikely circumstances I worked at Wildflower Home only for two
and a half days so far. That´s why I won’t write about the work there, it
is simply not enough time to get into it, but maybe next time, so stay tune to my next blog!
So six month of learning ahead and I can´t wait to try out more delicious
food, explore the city and, most important start (again) with my work at

Wildflower Home.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dia Duit!

Hi there,

My name is Rita and I come from Ireland.  I grew up in a small village called Cloughjordan in Co. Tipperary but I now live and work in Dublin. 
When I was growing up I wanted to be a teacher but somehow I ended up in the corporate world. However..... I soon discovered that teaching and training are part and parcel of every job so I have had lots of opportunities to put my training skills to the test -  IT systems training, presentations, and supporting new team members are just a few examples.
In my spare time I like to go to the cinema, reading - although lately it has been more “Hello” Magazines than a good novel or autobiography but must sort that out... I like to travel and I try to get to the gym two to three times a week to counteract my very sweet tooth!  I also like to get involved in volunteer work.  Past projects include, trekking in Peru to raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis, running a 10k mini marathon to raise funds for Diabetic Association and my favourite to date involved visiting six Nursing Homes in Dublin, with some colleagues, where we sat with the residents to collect their memories from which we created a keepsake booklet and then held a “Tea Party” where we presented them with two copies each for them to share with their family and friends.  It was a really great project where we learnt a lot from the senior members of our community while at the same time giving something back to them.
As I mentioned above I like to travel and have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit many countries both with work and on personal time, but there is still a long list of places to visit that are on the “to do” list - so my 2014 New Years resolution was to combine travel with some volunteer work.  I did some research on the internet...how did we ever survive before the internet......and under www.volunteerabroad.ie I came across EIL Intercultural Learning, l liked what I saw on their website so I gave them a call for an informal chat.  Cliona, the Volunteer Abroad Co-ordination, who I spoke with could not have been more helpful and so I took the next step and formally applied for a 3-week placement.  After a 45 min interview I was delighted to be accepted to be a volunteer with EIL,  the next step was to find a suitable role.  When a 3-week placement teaching English to children in Thailand came up it really grabbed my attention and so Cliona sent my CV off to Wad Rattanakit at Cultural Canvas Team (CCT) who partner with EIL and share the same values.  After an anxious week of waiting to hear back, I got finally got confirmation that I had been accepted and I was on my way.... well nearly, there was still some paperwork to complete and a two day pre departure workshop to attend. 
The pre departure workshop was great and covered everything from fears and expectations, checklists on what to bring with you, the do’s and don’ts while on placement right through to bringing your experience back to Ireland.  They even arranged for us to meet with past volunteers so that we could hear first hand what challenges they faced and how they dealt with them.  The key takeaways for me were to be open minded, respectful of the in country culture and embrace the experience.
So on Saturday 16th August the months, weeks and days of planning were over as I boarded a flight form Dublin to Heathrow to catch a flight to Bangkok, from Bangkok I caught an internal flight up north and after 19 hours of travelling I arrived at Chiang Mai airport where Wad was waiting for me with a big smile and he was very welcoming which put me at was straight away.  He took me to the volunteer house that I will be sharing with seven other girls from different parts of the world.  I briefly met two of the girls before I crashed for the night - jet lag really hit me but after a good nights sleep and I was all set for my orientation with Wad.  I really found this orientation useful as it went a level deeper into the Thai culture, the day was closed with a 1:1 lesson on Thai language -not sure how much I have retained but will find out over the next few days as I try to put it into practice......
On Tuesday I went to WatMuenNyeun Gong school where I am assisting the English teacher with P5 (9 - 10) and P6 (11-12).  I was introduced as “Teacher Rita” and will be mainly helping out with pronunciation, reading and writing.
Well that's about it for now....tune in next week to hear about how the rest of my first week in Chiang Mai went.
Talk to you later