Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The raging debate

I have been debating with myself whether or not to take some card making tools/materials to Thailand. On one hand, I'm in a foreign country and I know that I should explore, travel, meet new people, and try new things. (And these are things that I most definitely intend to do no matter what!) On the other hand, there's a long rainy season, card making is a hobby that I enjoy, I don't know how easily I would be able to get materials over there, sometimes I just need a little alone time to recharge, and cards are good gifts/a good ministry. Do I dare take up any space in my suitcase with such things? Or... should I ship them? Or... should I just not do anything and find a new hobby? Hmmmm. The debate rages on.

$21.00 later...

Another $21.00 later to send our missing documents to Thailand, and we are good to go! Now we just have to wait for the Ministry of Education in Thailand to approve everything. We should hear from them by the end of May, and will be able to apply for our visas come early June. This whole process is taking much longer than I expected. It is a great exercise of patience.

Say a little prayer for me!

Well, Mike sent all of his stuff to the state of Virginia today to get his license renewed. Pray for two things: 1. That they approve all the work so that he has the right amount of credits/points to get his licensed renewed. 2. That the department of education in Virginia processes his paperwork quickly so that his license arrives before we leave!

We are both a bit cynical when it comes to the department of education. Each state makes you jump through their own hoops, they are so gosh darn picky, and ridiculously expensive! Mike has had his fair share of ups and downs with the depart. of ed. in MN when he first tried to get a MN license. He sent in all of his paperwork and although they knew that his praxis tests were different so that they wouldn't be able to grant him a 5-year MN license, they didn't tell him until he pressed them. Their response was that they were not at liberty to tell him such things. They couldn't tell him that the praxis tests in the state of MN are different than in the state of VA and that he needed to take another test? I just don't see how that is "classified" information. Puh-leeeease!

So we're hoping and praying that the department of ed. in VA is not as much of a stickler as MN, and that everything goes through without a hitch.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Biggest loser

This has nothing to do with Thailand, except for the fact that I've decided that I need to shed a few pounds that accumulated over the winter before we go. I'm tired of my skirts (the ones I want to bring to Thailand) not quite fitting the way I want... or at least the way they did 2 years ago. Funny how I feel like my metabolism hit a brick wall once I turned 25-26 and it decided to slow down to the point where I don't feel like I can eat everything that I want to anymore without having to work ridiculously hard to shed it.

Anyway, today I felt like a contestant on the biggest loser. I took this weight training class at the YMCA called BodyPump. It was ridiculous...ridiculously HARD. I thought my biceps and my triceps were literally going to fall off. I just imagined Jillian yelling at me and saying, "C'mon! Don't quit! Get that barbell off your chest... you are not done! This is not time to rest! Squat lower! Get that knee to the ground and make it count!"

This hour long class has my arms, legs, and abs feeling like complete goo. It's great for me to have a class/instructor that holds me accountable to actually continuing even when I feel like my muscles just can't go on. That's what I need because if I just lift on my own, I wimp out when I start to feel that uncomfortable burn and don't do as many reps as I should/could.

Now I just need to be held accountable to go to this class again on Wednesday. ;)

Culture Shock

A friend from church, HF, loaned us her copy of the movie, "Anna and the King." A very fitting movie to watch as Anna is a teacher (to King Mongkut's 58+ children) in Siam. It was interesting to see a bit of the Thai culture and religion displayed in the movie (despite that the movie "takes place" during the 1860's), as it clashed with Anna's Christian and English ways. Everything from bowing to the king, never having her head above the king, to learning how "time" is on a completely different schedule, to understanding what is valued in Buddhism, and to what keeping face really means.

I know that Mike and I will feel like Anna at some point in time... enthralled with Thailand, the people, the culture, yet at times, struggling to understand why things are the way they are. It certainly will be an adventure.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Singin' in the rain

We just got home from going to LHS/CAB's spring musical, Singing in the Rain. It was simply delightful and wonderfully amazing. I have always been blown away by the talent that they have at such a small school, and just in awe of some of my former students and their ridiculously awesome singing/dancing/acting abilities (like AS, EJ, & SB). I have been to several of their musical productions/plays (they do 2 a year) and each time, I am fully impressed beyond measure. This year was no exception! The singing was wonderful, the tap-dancing to die for, the kids fit their characters to the "T" and they really just seemed to enjoy themselves. However, this play was bittersweet with it being their last production since the school is closing after this year (and then opening again in a different location and under a new name, which is a whole different story in itself...).

We sadly say our goodbyes to the school, but will always remember the ministry and impact that LHS/CAB has had on each of us. It was my first teaching job. I don't think I would have ever gone into teaching and decided to get my license and masters degree had I not taken a part-time position at the school when they most needed a Spanish teacher. It was also Mike's first non-homeschool school environment as well. I don't think he would have become a teacher either had he not spent 3 years at LHS. It's hard to see a place that Mike graduated from, a place that I taught at, and a school that has been "home" for many of my former, yet beloved students, end it's journey in a certain way, but we are confident that the new school will be a new beacon of light in this world.

I feel like this musical, Singing in the Rain, was the one to end on. Despite the difficult circumstances of knowing the school was going to be closing at the end of this year. Despite the uncertainty of whether the new school would be an option or not, and what students were going to do/go... they are still keeping their head up and singin' in the rain.

May we all have that attitude, knowing that Christ brings us through trials to refine us, to burn off the dross, and to teach us to trust him, rely on him, and abide in him. And despite the rain, we learn to keep singing glories to our king on high.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Gross churning feeling

As I mentioned in my last post, I found other people's blogs about living in Vietnam. There this one blog that I particularly enjoy, which narrates the adventures of an ESL teacher and his family through the ups and downs of living in Vietnam. One of his posts talks about getting sick and how whether you are careful or not, if you stay long-term in a certain country, you are bound to get the gross feeling stomach and the runs. Now onto the real point of this post though... He then talked about grapefruit seed extract and how when he starts getting that gross churning feeling in his stomach, he puts a few drops of the extract into his water and it usually helps him out.


So I thought that I would investigate further to see whether it was something that we should invest in or not. I found out that grapefruit seed extract apparently has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties that assist our bodies in fighting micro-organisms. It does this by raising the bodies pH, as disease causing microforms are not able to survive in an alkaline oxygenated environment. In lab tests, it has killed E.coli, salmonella, and staphylococcus aureus.

However, I did read a poor review of the extract, saying that it wasn't organic, and that there are many synthetic chemicals in it. I've also read that it is terribly bitter.

With all that being said, we bought some of the capsules so that we wouldn't have the nasty bitter taste in our mouths when we do get the gross churning feeling in the pit of our stomach.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Confession: before we even knew where God was going to place us, I had my heart set on Vietnam. We even ate at a Vietnamese restaurant right before going down to the recruitment fair. I had read other people's blogs about their adventures throughout Vietnam and knew that I wanted to go there. I even dreamed about it and felt so sure that that was surely the place that God would have us go. But God's amazingly generous and sovereign hand showed us the way. Was I slightly disappointed at first? Yes. I had my own agenda. I had my heart set on dreams that were not meant to be. My heart's desires were not in line with what God's desires were for us.

We had a friend over for lunch after church the other day. We were discussing going to Thailand, as well as the new and unknown adventures that he will be taking with his family. After he finishes his PhD, his family will most likely relocate to a different state, depending on where he gets a job. We talked about how easy it is to have your heart set on one thing because it may "feel right" to you. However, God knows the plans that he has for each of us... and they are certainly plans to prosper us. We also talked about the peace that comes with knowing that you are following God's will. That's where Mike and I are at right now... complete peace with going to Thailand because we know that God has truly blessed us with this amazing opportunity to love and serve His people in another part of the world.

We pray that you know the wonderful peace that comes in trusting in our Savior. He is so good.

Not quite

Well, we are not quite finished. I recently sent all of those documents to Thailand. I had a check-list to help me determine which items needed to be signed and sent directly to the school and which items could simply be scanned. Apparently, I didn't quite follow that check-list correctly, as all of the scanned documents also needed to be signed and sent directly to the school. So the school is missing 7 documents from us. Bummer. That means the process will be delayed for another week. I don't know how long it takes for the MOE of Thailand to approve all of our documents and give us a letter and application to apply for our 90 day visa, but hopefully it won't take too long in order to compensate for my mistake. :) Thankfully I can pay the post office a large sum of money to have my documents arrive in Thailand within the next 3-4 days.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mental picture...

So I thought this would be a great mental picture for y'all:

Think of Mike in the swimming pool with a bunch of Kindergarten students that have arm floaties or kickboards. Now picture him teaching them how to kick their legs, put their face in the water, and jump off the diving board into his arms.

Isn't that just the sweetest? It melts my heart just to think of it.

Technology advancements

We love This website allows us to watch full episodes of some of our favorite shows (mainly Fringe and House) with limited commercials. The only catch is that sometimes you have to wait a full week until the newest episode is posted. However, we are excited that we will be able to keep up on the storyline of some of our favorite television shows. Isn't technology amazing?

Speaking of amazing technology, we are planning on getting a Skype account, but we have also discovered the beauty of having a built in camera on the Mac and a gmail account that essentially does the same thing. We have already tested it out on Mike's family! Staying in touch has never been easier than now.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


As of late, there has been a bit of political instability/unrest in Thailand. I've been busy reading some articles to to become better informed of what really is going on in Thailand. So here is what my understanding of the current situation is:

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. This means that there is a king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is the head of the state. The constitutional monarchy has a parliamentary system in which the monarch is head of state, but a directly- or indirectly-elected prime minister is head of government. In Thailand, the prime minister (PM) is elected and then has a set timescale within which he must gain a vote of confidence. A vote of confidence is when the members of the parliament are given the opportunity to vote whether they are confident in the government or not. If the PM does not receive the vote of confidence, the parliament either requires the PM to resign, or a request for parliamentary dissolution and the calling of a general election.

So right now, the PM of Thailand is Abhisi Vejjajiva. He became the PM in 2006, after a coup that removed former PM Thaksin Shinawatra from power. These current protests have been long in coming between these two rival groups since the 2006 coup. Thaksin Shinawatra was elected in 2001 and won by a landslide. His supporters were drawn largely from the impoverished countryside because he focused on reducing poverty and providing universal healthcare. Essentially, he was changing Thailand's balance of power. In 2005, Thaksin was re-elected. However, in the meantime, there was growing hostility towards Thaksin. Members of other political parties that were anti-Thaksin made claims that Thaksin was against the king, that he only promoted those who were loyal to him, that he was corrupt, that he wasn't paying taxes, etc. This led to the planning of the coup starting in February 2006. In the meantime, due to the opposition that he faced, Thaksin dissolved Parliament and called a general legislative election for the house of reps. Those that were opposed to him decided to boycott the April election, which resulted in Thaksin's party winning the majority of the seats. Thaksin resigns as PM but continues to be caretaker PM until a successor is elected. The courts decided to invalidate the elections anyway and new elections should take place in October, but the election was cancelled after the military coup in September. The coup was perhaps carried out to avoid bloodshed, to completely remove Thaksin supporters from gaining any political ground.

New elections were held in December of 2007, in which Samak Sundaravej, member of the People's Power Party (PPP), became the new PM as of January 2008. He was also a well known cook and hosted a cooking show on television. He wanted to continue being a chef while simultaneously being the PM too. In September, 2008, the court decided that it was unconstitutional for Samak to maintain his television career and disqualified him from office. He was replaced by Somchai Wongsawat (brother-in-law of Thaksin... weird!), member of the PPP, who was later found guilty for vote-buying and prohibited from politics for the next five years.

This is where the current PM, Abhisit Vejjajiva, member of the Democratic Party (DP), comes into play. During Somchai's time as the PM, several members of the DP became members of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which seized the government house, the Don Muang airport, and the Suvarnabhami airport. At the height of these sieges, the PAD declared that the only person that they would accept as the PM of Thailand was Abhisit Vejjajiva. The PPP was then apparently coerced to defect to the DP, allowing Abhisit to become the new PM in December, 2008.

Now that we are more up to speed...In March, 2009, Thaksin apparently broadcasted from his country of exile, that the coup had been masterminded to eventually conspire to get Abhisit to become PM. This lead to protests against Abhisit, mainly by anti-DP/pro-Thaksins, causing the ASEAN summit to be cancelled and a state of emergency to be declared on April 11. Riots and raids have been taking place over the last week as the people want dissolution of the government.

This article does a nice job of answer basic questions; I found it particularly helpful.

So what does this mean for us? Nothing. From other reports that I have read, this has not influenced tourism or internationals at all. Eventually, there will have to be some sort of communication and the issue will be resolved/somewhat resolved. So we will just wait and see how everything pans out.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Last week we received a postcard in the mail from one of my girlfriends from college, KA. She works for Campus Crusade in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and has been doing working and doing some amazing things there. We are so thrilled to see how God works through the different ministries that she is involved with in WI. KA is a prayer warrior and a woman of God who is great at pointing you back to the cross. The postcard that she sent us reminded us of these two (but not only) qualities of her... she told us how she was praying for us and even more specifically, praying that we would draw near to our Father in this process.

I am thankful for her reminder to draw near to God. I am thankful that she is partnering with us in prayer in this new adventure. It is so easy to think we can do it on our own and forget that we should rely on our Savior to help us through, instead of our own strength. Thank you KA for pointing us to the cross.

Friends, will partner with us in prayer too?

The waiting game

Well, we have submitted our paperwork to ICS, so what happens for here? ICS will send our paperwork to the Ministry of Education, who will then give approval for us to actually work in Thailand as teachers. After that, we will receive an approval letter from the MOE, along with a non-immigrant visa application. We'll get the privilege of paying $170, filling out the application, and sending our passports (or taking them) to Chicago (the nearest Royal Thai Consulate in the US) to get the (90-day) visa stamp in our passports. Essentially, it's just a waiting game. Upon receiving the visa stamp, our paperwork is officially done and we are legally ready to work in Thailand for about 3 months, until we have to apply for a long term visa.

Now the real debate comes... should we mail our passports to the consulate in Chicago (eek?!) and wait to have the visas processed (not really knowing how long it will take), or should we drive down to Chicago, walk in to the consulate and watch them process the visas? I remember going to Chicago to get my student visa when I was going to live in Spain and we were in and out in probably 20 minutes. It was very efficient once we got there, but we also had a 7-hour car ride down there. Plus, I guess there really wasn't any guarantee that they wouldn't be busy and would be able to process my visa in just a matter of 20 minutes!

The only trouble is that we don't really have any vacation time from here on out. Memorial Day is really the only break we have from now until the end of the school year, unless we took a personal day. I guess for now we'll just wait for our approval letter and visa application from the MOE, and mull over whether to go to Chicago or not.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Top 10 reasons to go back to high school (or not...)

Some reasons why I am almost counting down the days until I teach high school students again:

1. When they are asked to use scissors, they don't use them to cut their own hair.
2. There's a completely different type of student-teacher relationship that develops as they mature and are able to form and discuss their opinions on a variety of topics, ask thoughtful questions, and seek guidance.
3. I won't have a hoarse voice at the end of every day from singing with/to my students.
4. They study more difficult grammar and study it more in depth... and I'm a grammar lover.
5. When they want my attention, they don't just keep saying, "Teacher, teacher" over and over again since they know I actually have a name.
6. They don't raise their hand in the middle of when I'm talking just to tell me that they are going to sleep at their grandma's house that night.
7. Usually, they don't fall out of their desks.
8. If I remember correctly, when they are asked to use glue bottles and the glue isn't coming out, they don't unscrew the cap and dump glue everywhere.
9. They usually can hold their bladder to go to the bathroom at an appropriate time... or at least to get to the bathroom so they don't pee/poop their pants.
10. They typically do not sneeze or cough right in my face, wipe their boogers on me, or touch me right after they have picked their nose.

However, there are certainly plenty of things that I will miss about teaching the little ones too:

1. They are typically quite sweet and innocent
2. All the "I love you's"
3. All the cute pictures they color for me.
4. How they attack me in the hallway just to give me hugs or high fives
5. How quickly their little brains pick up on the foreign language (it just amazes me!)
6. Hearing them sing all the songs that I have taught them and know what the songs means! (Which means actually putting my masters thesis/developed curriculum to use!)
5. Maybe this is mean... but how gullible they can be and how you can totally fool them.
6. The funny and yet so honest things they say; little kids do not mince their words! The other day, for example, I wore my glasses to school (something I rarely, if ever, do) and one of my kindergarten students said when she saw me wearing glasses, "Mrs. Aust! I didn't know you were blind!"
7. When they get so excited about doing new activities in class and their overall love for learning.
8. How ridiculously goofy I can be with them and they totally don't get embarrassed... they love it!!
9. They haven't necessarily reached the "I'm too cool for you, everything you do, and school in general" stage yet.
10. There are some students that are still actually shorter than me (usually third grade and below... sometimes fourth grade if I am lucky).

Fit for a king

Well, as I blogged about earlier, we will be living out of two studio apartments that are connected by a door (similar to two connected hotel rooms). We are still a little unsure of what it will be like, but that is okay; we are ready for an adventure and adapting to many new changes! One of the new changes that we will experience will be going from sleeping in a full size bed, to sleeping in a king size bed. Yes, those tiny studio apartments have king size beds... so we will have TWO of them! We bought two sets of king size sheets the other week, since that is on the list of suggested things to bring. Apparently, fitted sheets are hard to find there. Anyway, yet another reason to perhaps ship some things to Thailand... those things are kind of heavy! I know, I know, sheets. Sheets! I bet you're thinking, "Sheets aren't heavy!" Well, king size ones are. I think we got the ones that are made out of the heaviest cotton possible too. ;) jk. In all seriousness though, bringing 2 sets of sheets means less space for my eight precious books, a few teaching books/materials, my baseball glove, clothes... and a belt.

Yes, a belt. The other night Mike was talking about some of the things he is kind of on the fence about bringing to Thailand because he knows that he would easily be able to buy it there. So... top on the list was a belt. I don't know if anyone else finds this particularly funny, but I did. Seriously, a belt is like "yea big" and he's probably just going to be wearing it on the airplane ride anyway. My hubby cracks me up. :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

To ship or not ship, that is the question

We thought we would share with you a little glimpse of the school where we will be working. It is called, International Community School (ICS) and is located in the heart of Bangkok. Please go to: to learn more about the school. At the school's website you can also see some pictures of the facility. At the top of the website, click on "About" and then the drag down chart will show "Photo Gallery." The first picture that pops up will probably be the current staff of ICS. On the far right side of the page, there are other pictures of the facility that you can click on. If you are interested in seeing any other "albums," on the right side of the screen you will find other links for "Athletics, Fine Arts, & International Night," but we thought the facility would probably be the most interesting to our readers.

Today marks the official 3-month mark until departure. Times is going so quickly! We have already started packing up things that we don't feel that we need from now until our return. We did pack up our sweaters, so we're praying that God thinks that winter is supposed to be over too. ;) There are still plenty of things that I feel like I could pack up in boxes, such as pictures/paintings/more books/scrapbooking & card making materials, but some of those things take the feel of "home" away from our little place, and other things I wonder if I would use or want before June and we have to officially be moved out of the apartment.

This past weekend, Mike made me stand in front of our bookshelf so that each of us could pick out the 8 books that we are going to take to Thailand with us. Needless to say, for two book lovers, it was a ridiculously hard task! We were only planning on taking two suitcases each and then our carry on bags, but after the difficult book selection, we may have to ship some stuff to Thailand afterall...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

It adds up

Passport and pictures... $120

FBI background checks...$86

ACSI license...$75

Virginia license renewal...$25

Adapted PE video class to get credit for Virginia License...$380

Drake bribe to make them correct the PE class material in 1.5 weeks vs. 10 weeks... $75

Postage to courier documents to ICS...$31.50

AP training...$700

College transcripts...$11

Will/healthcare directive/power or attorney (written by a lawyer)... $250

90-day work visas...$170

Time in Thailand...[priceless]

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I'm done

I'm done being mad (see white as snow post).
I'm done being a student.
I'm done driving out to St. Paul all of the time.
I'm officially done.

I even have a picture to prove it. Yee-haw.

This means that we finally have all the documents required to get the go ahead from the Ministry of Education and government in Thailand to obtain our work visas. So I sent them off this afternoon. I hope they arrive safely! :)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Dirty, scummy, nasty

I learned a new trick and it really works well! For all those dirty, scummy, nasty tile and bathtubs out there that are covered in soap scum (like mine was <-- notice the usage of the past tense), give them a little wipe/rub down with a used dryer sheet. My mother-in-law, CA, informed me of this new little trick. I didn't really believe her at first, but then tried it on my own today-- and it worked wonders! I don't think my tub has ever been cleaner! 

Speaking of dirty, scummy and nasty... that was totally my mood this morning. This morning I realized that I broke our external harddrive for our computers. My heart sank as I thought about all the pictures, teaching files, and music that we lost. Mike and I are very much about "restitution" and so my next thought was how to make it right. I talked/cried to Mike in the afternoon about the problem and how I was going to "fix" it.  Mike always is so gracious and loving towards me... he consistently is Jesus' hands and feet to me, even in challenging times. Instead of being upset this afternoon, he quietly and lovingly calmed me down, encouraged me, uplifted me, and pointed me back to the cross. 

All of today's events reminded me of our loving Savior. How he quietly and lovingly cares for us and embraces us, encourages us, uplifts us, and points us back to the cross... no matter how dirty, scummy, and nasty sinful we are. And when we trust in him, we will never be cleaner, because he works wonders in our lives.